GWEN IFILL: It’s the week of the: Will he or won’t he? Will Vice President Joe Biden run? Will Republican Paul Ryan enter the fray to be speaker of the House?
To discuss all that and more, we turn to Politics Monday, Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.
So, I’m going to put it all in front of you here. Start with Joe Biden. What do we know?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: I don’t think that anybody knows anything, and that’s the reality.
GWEN IFILL: OK.
AMY WALTER: OK.
I think, if I could just boil it down to the way I’m looking at both of these, is, one I think is much more consequential than the other. And that is Paul Ryan’s decision, a go or no-go. And what I am hearing more and more of is a pessimism among Republicans, that they don’t think he is going to do this job. It’s a thankless job. And they don’t think he is going to be able to get the entire Republican Conference around him to support him.
What does this mean? This means that the Republican Conference is now officially ungovernable, that there is a risk now that it may not ever be able to be fixed, that we have two big deadlines coming up very soon, the debt ceiling, highway transportation bill, real stuff, real big, consequential stuff, with a Republican Conference in the House that nobody can lead.
GWEN IFILL: Interestingly enough, in the Hillary camp, which you cover, Tamara, there has been more and more of those, Joe Biden has got to make up his mind, Joe Biden has got to — he should make up his mind. Are they nervous or are they just assuming that they know the answer and they just want him to get on with it?
TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Last I checked, I don’t think they think they know the answer either.
This is just one of those things where, this has been dragging on for months now. We have had heightened Joe Biden awareness back in August. And now we’re in this new flurry of leaks and non-leaks and people close to Joe Biden say yes and people close to Joe Biden say no. And off the record, people say it’s all wrong.
This is just — I think a lot of people, including people in the Clinton campaign, would just like the wondering to be done.
GWEN IFILL: One way or the other.
AMY WALTER: One way or the other.
GWEN IFILL: I agree with that. It would be nice not to talk about this one more week.
AMY WALTER: The hardest thing, I think, for her is that it is probably having an impact on fund-raising.
There are a bunch of people sitting on their checkbooks saying, listen, I’m not going to write a check until I know what Biden is actually doing.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk about other things having an impact on the campaign.
We’re expecting on Thursday for Hillary Clinton to finally testify in front of the Benghazi committee. There has been quite a dust-up in the days leading up to that between the committee chairman, the ranking Democrat, basically disagreeing about what the purpose of this is. And Hillary Clinton is happy to jump on board.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
For the first time in a long time, Hillary Clinton is now on the offense. When this first came up, we thought, OK, this is going to be a very tough day for Hillary Clinton. We’re going to talk a lot about e-mail. She is going to be put on the defensive. Republicans now are going to be able to get at her in a way that they haven’t before.
And now it’s been turned completely around, that it’s Republicans now on the defensive.
GWEN IFILL: One of the things I noticed, they put out like a five-minute video today in which she touted her time as secretary of state, what an effective secretary of state she was. We’re watching a little bit of it here.
Is that part of the offense, Tamara?
TAMARA KEITH: I think she goes in there and she acts like secretary of state. She is the stateswoman. She has to be very careful in that hearing not to come off as dismissive, even though she thinks that it is a partisan witch-hunt.
She has to come in there and take it very seriously. And the challenge for her is, this could be six or eight hours’ long. You think that Republican debate at three hours was a long time?
GWEN IFILL: Wow.
TAMARA KEITH: Try a daylong hearing, multiple rounds of questioning, on a whole range of areas, not just the Benghazi attack. It is going — it’s going to be a marathon. And, by the end of the day, she, like any other human being, is likely to be tired. And the pressure is still going to be on her to be statesmanlike.
GWEN IFILL: Two more things I want to get to.
One is the latest dust-up between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush about who was responsible for 9/11, whether he was blaming Jeb Bush’s brother George W.
What is that about? What is driving that dispute?
AMY WALTER: What is driving that is Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s campaign is all about his ability to get media attention.
And the way he gets media attention is, he says something dramatic or he attacks somebody. The media covers it. Then the media asks his opponent to respond to it. And that person responds. And then we go back and around.
GWEN IFILL: Ah.
AMY WALTER: And guess who wins on that? Donald Trump, every single time.
And that’s why I think Jeb Bush jumping into this, both over Twitter and then in the media, is a mistake. If you are on Donald Trump’s territory, you are going to lose. If you are fighting your campaign on your territory, you are more likely to win that fight.
GWEN IFILL: One more thing.
So, Saturday nation, we saw — we wait for “Saturday Night Live” during a campaign season just to see what they are going to do with the people we cover every day. And this was what they did with Bernie Sanders.
LARRY DAVID, Actor: We’re doomed.
LARRY DAVID: We need a revolution, millions of people on the streets. And we got to do something!
LARRY DAVID: And we got to do it now.
LARRY DAVID: Ehh.
GWEN IFILL: Ehh.
GWEN IFILL: That’s Larry David from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” doing a spot-on Bernie Sanders.
AMY WALTER: I think we need him to be on the trail now 24/7. In fact, if we could get Larry David and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, put them on the road, I think that would be a big hit.
TAMARA KEITH: It would sell a lot of tickets. It would be huge.
GWEN IFILL: It would be huge.
Bernie Sanders himself, who did reasonably well at this debate. Even though Hillary Clinton did well, he also didn’t do poorly for himself. He benefits from getting the opportunity to show off his sense of humor, because he seems like a really cranky guy sometimes.
AMY WALTER: Well, and what he highlighted, Larry David did, in this ‘Saturday Night Live” skit, was his ability, Bernie Sanders’ ability to win over younger voters. Right?
Here is this guy who is in his 70s. And he has the Larry David mannerisms and all of this. And yet it’s young people who are attracted to him.
GWEN IFILL: Right.
AMY WALTER: He’s like, get off my lawn, but don’t you love me?
GWEN IFILL: Well, a lot of people do.
AMY WALTER: Exactly.
GWEN IFILL: And that is what Hillary Clinton is also worried about.
Amy Walter, happy birthday to you.
AMY WALTER: Thank you very much.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you all.