Special: Two Republican Candidates from Florida, Compensating Families of Killed Hostages, U.S. Contractors Fueling Arab Wars & Mammogram Funding

Apr. 24, 2015 AT 9:13 p.m. EDT

Two of the Republican candidates eyeing the White House in 2016 are from Florida, and CNN’s Jeff Zeleny details the competitive friendship between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Hannah Allam explains how the families of the hostages killed by drone strikes in Pakistan are compensated. Plus, The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti details the complicated impact U.S. defense contractors have in Arab wars. And NPR’s Juana Summers breaks down the debate in Congress on mammogram funding for women over 40.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

ANNOUNCER: This is the Washington Week Webcast Extra.

MS. IFILL: Hello, and welcome. I’m Gwen Ifill. We had so much to talk about on the regular broadcast that we just had to stick around just a little bit longer.

Joining me, Hannah Allam of McClatchy Newspapers, Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times, Juana Summers of NPR, and Jeff Zeleny of CNN. They could all be at cocktail parties right now, but they are instead here with me.

Per usual, Hillary Clinton threatened to overwhelm all other political news this week. But don’t fool yourself: the dramas unfolding on the Republican side of the aisle can be just as dramatic. Consider Florida, which has not one but two big names – one announced, one unannounced – in the 2016 hunt. What’s more, they were once close friends. They may still be, for all we know. And both were in New Hampshire this weekend on the first leg of what promises to be a series of endlessly repeated visits. How are they faring?

MR. ZELENY: Endlessly repeated visits. There’s no question that people inside the Bush campaign – Bush family members, operatives – they are keeping a closer eye on Marco Rubio now than they were about a month or so ago. They have been impressed by his rollout. He’s been in the race about a week and a half, and you know, he’s gone up in early polls. Early polls mean absolutely nothing, but –

MS. IFILL: Nothing. Just saying that.

MR. ZELENY: You know, he has to seize onto something. And the contrast with Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton is really interesting, and that’s something that worries the Bush campaign a little bit. In these national head-to-head polls – which, again, don’t mean very much –

MS. IFILL: Well, let me just – let me just argue with you. They mean that people know who you are, and it’s possible a lot of people had no idea who he was.

MR. ZELENY: But before that they didn’t. Exactly. And they like initially what they see.

MS. IFILL: Yeah.

MR. ZELENY: Of course, that’s before they’re defined and whatnot. But Marco Rubio fares the best head to head with Hillary Clinton. This generational difference of every election is about the future, that certainly benefits him. But the – I saw one blog today said that the Bush campaign is in panic over Marco Rubio. I don’t think that’s quite true because, you know, the Bush name still is very helpful in terms of raising money and other things. But it is an interesting drama. And the Clinton campaign is watching both of them.

MS. IFILL: Of course.

MR. ZELENY: Because without Florida – if you take Florida out of the Electoral College map, that means that it’s a lot closer of a time on Election Night. You know, it’s not guaranteeing that one of them will become the nominee or even win Florida, but Florida’s been in – you know, always important. So the Clinton campaign is watching both of them.

MS. IFILL: Big cattle call last weekend in New Hampshire, next weekend in Iowa. What are you watching for?

MR. ZELENY: I think we’re watching to see if Rand Paul – sort of how he operates in real time. The theory of Rand Paul’s candidacy has long been interesting, but the world is changing around him. And we talked in the broadcast about Yemen and, you know, the drones; I mean, Rand Paul has to answer to all these in sort of real time. And the – so how he – how he evolves as a candidate to me is the most interesting thing. Has a lot of real appeal out there, but he has a lot of landmines, you know, by real issues that he has to face in the Senate.

MS. IFILL: Well, and a lot of people who – other senators who want to take him down, which is always fun to watch.

MR. ZELENY: Are happy to take him down, exactly.

MS. IFILL: Hannah, I want to talk to you about another side of this, the hostage story this week, which is one that – the president mentioned it in passing, but there wasn’t much conversation about it, which is that they’re going to compensate the families of these Americans who were inadvertently killed. How does that work?

MS. ALLAM: Right. Well, at least – not the al-Qaida members, but sure.

MS. IFILL: Not the al-Qaida.

MS. ALLAM: Definitely.

MS. IFILL: The hostage.

MS. ALLAM: The hostage they’ve announced that compensation for. And you know, they’ve given these so-called condolence payments for years in different conflicts. I can’t think of a time when they’ve given one to an American. It’s certainly rare, perhaps unprecedented. We don’t know much about it, but certainly it’s raised criticism among people, among advocates for – you know, against the use of drone strikes because of the high civilian toll. And there’s – you can look across in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and certainly in Yemen and see there’s been a very uneven pattern of how these condolence payments are given. Not all lives are equal. And there’s been certainly the son of Anwar al-Awlaki of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, who was inadvertently killed in a U.S. strike, and his family has not received compensation. He was an America. He wasn’t believed to be linked to al-Qaida. He was from that family and he was 16 years old. Why there no compensation for him is what’s – one of the questions being raised.

MS. IFILL: You know, it’s really interesting about – there was a report that our colleague Yilki Driessen (ph) posted today that said that, in fact, the Weinstein family had, through intermediaries in Pakistan, paid a lot of money in – or at least raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in money that they though was a ransom, which obviously did not. So maybe – I’m speculating about whether this is repaying them that money that they put out. I don’t know.

MS. ALLAM: I don’t know. I mean, certainly that’s – the hostage policy issue has dogged this administration for quite some time, and it’s not going away. I mean, they’re in the middle of a review right now of the policies and, you know, contacted I think 82 families for their input. And these are Americans who had been taken since 2001. I’m not sure how many participated, but one of the key issues is the payment of ransom. And you know, maybe now we’ll also talk about compensation because we have, you know, this incident, the Awlaki incident, and you know, murkier circumstances, but young aid worker Katie Mueller.

MS. IFILL: That’s right.

Well, let’s talk a little bit about what else is happening in that area of the world. Mark, you wrote about this and I thought it was interesting. You wrote about who’s profiting from all these wars in the Arab – in the Arabian Peninsula, and it turns out they’re U.S. defense contractors.

MR. MAZZETTI: Right. So I mean, the U.S. has been selling arms to prominent Gulf States for years – Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. What’s different now is they’re actually being used. These nations are using their militaries across the region unlike really ever before. And so – and the intelligence officials, the American intelligence officials, believe that these proxy wars that are going on are going to last for a long time. So what you’re seeing is Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman are establishing presence in these – in these very rich countries with the assumption and the expectation that arms sales are going to go up.

Now, the other interesting thing is that where are – where are budgets going down? That’s in the United States. The Pentagon budget is shrinking, so these companies are looking to expand their territory outside of the country, and these are very willing buyers.

One other interesting element, of course, is that there’s long been restrictions about what we give to Arab countries, primarily because of the Israel factor, that Israel has to maintain an edge in the region according to American law. But the alliances are all scrambled now in the Middle East, where you know, Israel is on the same side as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, against – the real prominent enemy in their minds is Iran. So you’ve seen a greater willingness of the United States to really beef up the arms sales to these countries.

MS. IFILL: That’s very interesting, very interesting way of – and there’s nothing illegal about any of this. It’s just very interesting when you start to trace with alliances.

MR. MAZZETTI: It’s capitalism. (Chuckles.)

MS. IFILL: It’s capitalism at its best.

Juana, you’re working on a story which I find interesting about the – the next big fight we’re all watching to see is what the Supreme Court does next week on gay marriage, but it turns out there’s another interesting bill that’s being debated on Capitol Hill about payment for mammograms?

MS. SUMMERS: If you think back to about six years ago, when Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act originally, there was a federal task force that released a recommendation that kind of tilted conventional wisdom on its head. They said they didn’t give a blanket recommendation for women between 40 and 50 to get mammograms regularly, and that’s something that a lot of women had heard. And this was actually so controversial that, as Congress was debating the health care law, they effectively put a provision in that said let’s ignore this task force, but just to ignore that 2009 recommendation. Now that task force is in the process of updating federal recommendations, and it’s – so far it’s sticking with that guidance and saying no mammograms for women between 40 and 50, not really needed, that’s something you should consult with your doctor about but it’s not a necessity. And that has a lot of women who advocate for people who are survivors of breast cancer, including survivors of breast cancer on Capitol Hill, really, really concerned that this will mean that more younger women don’t actually go consult with their doctors, don’t get mammograms, and even if they do that insurance companies might take these new recommendations as a signal that they don’t have to pay for it.

So currently these recommendations are just a draft. They’re going to be wrapping up that draft and public comment period in the middle of May. And so it remains to be seen whether or not these will actually take force, but if they do there’s a chance that Congress might actually have to act to ensure that women still have access to those. Millions of women currently are able to receive these procedures without paying for them. And if that does happen, this is an issue that Democrats on the Hill are going to have to work to unfurl from the overarching issue of Obamacare, which is something that Republicans continue to vote repeatedly to unfurl different parts of.

MS. IFILL: So if you begin to take a piece out of it, then you see a weak spot, then you can open it up for your enemies to go in there and broaden that.

MS. SUMMERS: Exactly. I think this is under the radar, but could become a really interesting political fight. And obviously breast cancer and cancer writ large is something that touches just about every American.

MS. IFILL: I love under the radar, so we’ll be watching that story and see where it goes.

Thank you all very much. Stay online all week long for the latest developments on these and other stories from the best reporters in Washington, our panelists. We call it News You Need to Know. That’s of course at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek. And we’ll see you next time on the Washington Week Webcast Extra.


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