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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on al-Baghdadi raid, House impeachment process

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including what the death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi means for President Trump and how the impeachment inquiry might shift after the House takes a formal vote on it this week.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We turn back to the top story of the night, the death of one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, this time with our Politics Monday team.

    That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR. She co-hosts "The NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you, Politics Monday.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Hello.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amy, the lead still is — we heard the announcement yesterday — is the U.S. troops went in, in this raid, and killed the leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi.

    Clearly, there are national security implications here, but, politically speaking, is this — what does this mean for the president?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Politically, this is a win for President Trump at a moment where he hasn't had a lot of wins, where, every day, he is getting a drip, drip, drip of bad headlines related to the impeachment inquiry, and where he was taking a lot of heat from members of his own party even on his Syria policy.

    So now he has this thing that is sort of universally a positive. Now, is it the kind of thing that can broadly sway public opinion? You know, the way the White House is treating this, it's like they want it to be his bin Laden moment.

    They sent out this picture of President Trump in the Situation Room that was very reminiscent of the picture of President Obama in the Situation Room during the bin Laden raid. But it's different.

    Baghdadi is not this outsized figure in the American psyche. ISIS, although frightening and concerning to people, it's not 9/11, and it didn't affect the American public on American soil in the same way.

    So with bin Laden, you had an outpouring. You had people going to the streets to celebrate his death. With Baghdadi, it was a news cycle.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    With the White House reminding everybody, Amy, of the death of journalists and the others at the hands of ISIS.

  • Amy Walter:

    Of course.

    And, look, this is a president who, as he campaigned and in his tenure as president, has talked about pushing back ISIS, eradicating ISIS. That has been something of — he has focused as much about making that campaign promise and checking the box on that campaign promise, which he now can say he's had two big successes with ISIS.

    There's, of course, a lot of controversy over the pullout in Syria and whether or not we will see a return of ISIS to this area, but, at this moment in time, this was a very big success.

    To Tam's point, too, about Osama bin Laden, you know, when that happened at the end of April in 2011, then President Obama saw which was then a pretty significant bump in his approval rating, about five points.

    And by the time June rolled around — so this was late April, May — he got a little bit of a bump. By the time June rolled around, his approval was back to where it was before the Obama bin Laden raid.

    In other words, this polarization that we have today was just as significant in 2011. And so even what we think of game-changing events, the assassination of Osama bin Laden, even that did very little to move public opinion for very.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    May have only a temporary effect.

    And it comes — the timing of it, Tam, was, of course, interesting because it is as the House of Representatives continues this impeachment inquiry. Today, as we reported, they announced that they are going to take a vote this week on Thursday.

    I interviewed Vice President Mike Pence, who said — you heard him, I think, say that the American people don't care about this impeachment inquiry, they want the Congress and the president to focus on what matters for the American people.

    Does he have a point?

  • Tamara Keith:

    This move by House Democrats is the next phase in the impeachment inquiry.

    And part of what they will be voting on is public hearings, having public hearings, making evidence public. And so part of Pence's argument is true that the American public is not spending every day checking every headline.

    When this goes from being closed-door depositions to — with some leaked details, but it's a little complicated, to public testimony, a very much more public process, that could have an effect on public opinion.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you think?

  • Amy Walter:

    That's a very good point, because I have talked to a number of candidates and incumbent members of Congress, asking them, what is it like when you are going around your district? Are people asking you about this?

    And this includes Democrats, as well as Republicans. And time and time again, even among the Democrats, they say, really, it's not an issue that people in my district are talking about. They're much more — they're much more focused on their bread-and-butter issues, right?

    But what I think is really interesting about this decision by Pelosi to say, OK, we're going to open this process, what she was essentially saying to Republicans is, you all have made this process argument now for a few weeks, saying that this impeachment inquiry is illegitimate because it's been behind closed doors, because we're not following the same rules and procedures that have been there in previous impeachments.

    Well, OK. Now we're going to do that. We're going to take a vote on Thursday. Now will we see Republicans in kind respond with allowing more of their — of the folks in the executive branch to testify?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    Will they comply with subpoenas, et cetera?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Which, so far, they have resisted.

  • Amy Walter:

    Which, so far, they have resisted.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Spoiler alert: I can't imagine the White House suddenly saying like, oh, great.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now we will go.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You voted on this. Now we're totally going to cooperate.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right. That's right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And we aren't going to have any concerns about executive privilege.

    Or, on Friday, there was this move by the White House to ask someone who had been in the administration not to testify. And they cited — they cited an immunity for top-level aides to the president not to have to give congressional testimony.

    Do we think that the White House is going to reverse that position just because there's an impeachment inquiry officially? No.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Because…

  • Amy Walter:

    No, because that — I mean, I talked to a member of the House Intelligence Committee a couple of weeks ago and asked him that very question of, all right, if you take this vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry in the way that Republicans would like you to do, why don't you just do that, call their bluff?

    And he said, well, unfortunately, they're moving the goalposts as we speak. I think they would just move it again.

    So I am curious to see the reaction of individual members to this vote and what they are going to do with this going forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting, because, as you — again, as you heard, talking to Vice President Pence, one of his argument — their arguments is, this process has been behind closed doors.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now it's going to be out in the open.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we will see how the argument shifts.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Politics Mondays. So much going on.

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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