Special: Al Gore and Joe Biden Weigh 2016 Bids and A Potential Political Solution for Syria

Aug. 14, 2015 AT 9:20 p.m. EDT

As rumors swirl about more Democrats jumping into the 2016 campaign, Karen Tumulty and John Harwood discuss a potentially growing field. Harwood says that once a person has the desire to be president, it's hard to shake it. But while Biden is preserving his options, it's unlikely he'll actually jump into the race. Plus, is there political solution for Syria on the horizon? POLITICO's Michael Crowley discusses potential solutions to solve the "wound from which ISIS festers."

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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. Let’s pick up online where we left off on air.

I’m joined by John Harwood of CNBC, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post , and Michael Crowley of POLITICO . This is our chance to pitch ahead for those of us who are not spending August at the beach or in the mountains. We call it “Who’s Got Next?”

So I want to start with you, John and Karen, because we promised the viewers in the regular broadcast we would talk about the trial balloons we saw this week. And we saw two, one of which has been kind of out there bobbing around on the edges and one of which came out of left field and we don’t even know if it’s real. Let’s start with Al Gore, Karen. What is that?

MS. TUMULTY : I think that is August boredom on the part of the news.

MS. IFILL : Of people who used to work for him?

MS. TUMULTY : Well, not even – I didn’t – in fact, of course, immediately what I did was started sending out emails to everybody I could think of who used to work for him who might be in this loop, and I didn’t find any enthusiasm there either. (Laughs.)

MS. IFILL : Most of them are now working for Hillary, which may have something to do with that.

MS. TUMULTY : Right, exactly.

MS. IFILL : And what about Joe Biden? Joe Biden has been said to – I think everyone who’s sentient knows he would love to run for president, but the question – there are many questions about whether he can. And how he’s on vacation. They first called it a retreat, which I always thought in August was called vacation, and there is some discussion about phone calls being made on his behalf.

MR. HARWOOD : You know, the desire to be president, once it afflicts you, you know, it doesn’t go away, right?

MS. IFILL : That’s true.

MR. HARWOOD : So he’s run for president twice. He’s had a successful run as vice president. He is advancing in years. And he’s got to make a decision, is there a reason to do this one more time? Now, it’s an especially fraught time because he’s just been through this family tragedy, losing his son to cancer. And I think what’s happening now is that people working for him, loyal to him, are doing the research and work they need to do preserve his options in the event he decides to do it. But I think that’s a very unlikely event. I think, given the fact that it is late in the campaign, Hillary Clinton has a very strong position despite email troubles, despite poll dips and that sort of thing – very strong position within the Democratic Party. And I think he’s got to decide, given all that against me and all that’s going on in my family, do I really want to do that again? I think the answer is likely to be no, but he hasn’t said no, and he’s – I think he’s trying to think it through one more time.

MS. IFILL : I think the first part – comment you made, which is once you’ve run for president or once you’ve even tasted the possibility it’s hard not to try it again, that explains some of the people even in the current Republican race who have run before, or Newt Gingrich, who ran three times.

MR. HARWOOD : Well, somebody said the only cure for Potomac fever was embalming fluid. (Laughter.)

MS. IFILL : OK. I want to go to you, Michael, to the diplomatic side of the Potomac, which is John Kerry, speaking of someone who ran for president once. But he has now got, if it works, under his belt the Iran nuclear agreement, and if it works this reopening to Cuba. What else does he have? Or does he just rest on his laurels for the rest of the administration?

MR. CROWLEY : No, he’s not a rest-on-his-laurels kind of guy, to the dismay of some of his detractors, who think that he never stops trying even when the odds of success look dim. And I think in his mind Cuba was not his thing. Actually, he – the secret talks with Cuba started unbeknownst to him and he was sort of looped in late in the process. So I kind of wonder when he was there in Cuba, he’s thinking, like, this wasn’t really my deal. I raise the flag, but you know, it’s not –

MS. IFILL : I don’t think he minds raising the flag.

MR. CROWLEY : Yeah, no, he enjoyed it, I’m sure. But remember he tried the Middle East peace process and struck out on that, and I think that was a big setback for him. I think, by the way, he would still like to do it. I don’t think the president is that excited about it. But what he would love to do and what would be great for world peace and national security in the U.S. would be to find some kind of a political settlement in Syria that ends that civil war, because of course that is the wound from which ISIS festers. And not to mention approaching 250,000 people dead, chemical weapons, these barrel bombs, children being maimed, it’s horrible. So there is some hope now that with the Turks getting more involved in Syria, we have a dialogue with the Iranians, the Russians evidently are sending new signals, the Arabs, the Saudis, all these countries that have stakes in this war, have complicated roles, potentially are coming to some kind of an outcome where there is a consensus that Bashar Al-Assad can leave power, and there’s some transitional process that –

MS. IFILL : We’ve heard this before.

MR. CROWLEY : – holds the government together, the country doesn’t collapse into chaos, the radicals don’t take over, and you maybe bring the plane in for a landing.

MS. IFILL : That’s a lot of ifs.

MR. CROWLEY : We have heard this before. It’s a lot of ifs. It’s very complicated. If you gave me half an hour, I could tell you why there are plenty of reasons the Iranians could make things worse, not better. But it’s a horrible situation. It’s a huge problem. Again, it’s where ISIS and other radicalism is breeding. And I think there’s a desire on the part of Kerry to have another go at it and see if there’s some way you can patch something together that starts to bring this thing –

MS. TUMULTY : And if all that fails, he could run for president again. (Laughter.)

MS. IFILL : I was just going to say why haven’t we had a Kerry trial balloon yet? Just hold your – you heard it here first. It could – it could happen.

MR. CROWLEY : He’s been asked about it a couple times, and –

MS. IFILL : I know. I’ve asked him about it, and he didn’t look –

MS. TUMULTY : He hasn’t totally slammed the door.

MS. IFILL : He didn’t look happy about the question.

MR. CROWLEY : Not totally, not totally.

MS. IFILL : Thanks for watching, everyone. While you’re online check out everything else our panelists are coming in News You Need to Know, every day at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek. And we’ll see you next time on the Washington Week Webcast Extra .


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