Special: Obama Highlights Climate Change in Alaska and Joe Biden's 2016 Path to Victory

Sep. 04, 2015 AT 5:44 p.m. EDT

President Obama became the first sitting president to visit the Arctic Circle this week as part of his trip to Alaska promoting his climate change agenda. Peter Baker of the New York Times calls Obama's trip his “legacy lap" and something to cross off his bucket list. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden continues to weigh a 2016 run for the top job. Jeanne Cummings of The Wall Street Journal reports on what would make the campaign different than Biden's two previous campaigns. Plus, The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty explains the niche John Kasich has filled in the Republican race for president as he runs on his record in government.

Get Washington Week in your inbox


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 to the Washington Week Webcast Extra . I’m joined around the table by Peter Baker of The New York Times , Jeanne Cummings of The Wall Street Journal , and Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post .

The president made history this week as he hiked melting glaciers, met with native fishermen and –women, and talked climate change, all the while becoming the first sitting president to set foot on the Alaskan Arctic. Is this part of the president’s legacy lap, Peter?

MR. BAKER: It’s part of his legacy lap and his bucket list at the same time. Obviously he’s focused a lot on climate change. For the rest of the year he’s got this international treaty that they’re talking about finalizing in Paris, and Alaska provides a picture-perfect backdrop to talk about these issues. The glaciers that he went to visit have begun shrinking dramatically. The towns and the people he met with are seeing the impact in a very real way that people here on the East Coast or in the West Coast may not be seeing yet, and it allowed him to make his argument. It also gave him a chance to see a part of the world that he’d like to see before leaving office.

MS. IFILL: Was it his 50 th state? I think –

MR. BAKER: No, he was on his 50 th state earlier in the year. He did South Dakota.


MR. BAKER: Because he was counting Alaska as these stops at Elmendorf Air Base –

MS. IFILL: Stops over on his way.

MR. BAKER: – on his way to and from Asia. This is the first real trip to Alaska as president. He went to Africa earlier this year, his home – his parents’ home country – father’s home country of Kenya. He stopped at Stonehenge when he was in Britain earlier this year – stopped the helicopter, said let’s go see Stonehenge, and said cross that off my bucket list. So he’s got a few more, I think, to come in the next 18 months.

MS. IFILL: There’s a lot to be said for being president and not running for election again.

MR. BAKER: Not too bad, yeah.

MS. IFILL: Why not do all the things you want to do and do it in the big copter?

OK, I want to move on back to politics a little bit, because it’s been very interesting to watch all of the things that are happening around the center. We spend a lot of time focused on Donald Trump, focused on Hillary Clinton, but meanwhile there’s quite a robust – it’s been a fun summer, but now it’s about to get real. (Laughs.)

But let’s talk about Joe Biden a little bit more. We talked about him a little bit during the broadcast, but what – let’s talk about the path that some of these candidates have. Now, we know what Hillary thinks her path is. We know what Donald – actually, I don’t know what Donald Trump thinks his path is. I think he thinks he just keeps talking and keeps winning, which so far is working. But let’s talk what Joe Biden’s path would be. He’s did – he’s run twice before. He did not win. And this time he would have to take on Hillary Clinton, which is not a small thing.

MS. CUMMINGS: Well, if you look at his past, he came in fifth in Iowa. He has no machine out there to create a caucus. If you look at New Hampshire, that was Bill Clinton’s comeback state and Hillary Clinton’s comeback state.

MS. IFILL: That’s true.

MS. CUMMINGS: And Bernie Sanders could do very well in New Hampshire, too, so not a lot of room for Biden. Biden’s people indicate South Carolina might be a stronger starting point for him. This is basically Rudy Giuliani’s strategy, and we don’t have him as president. If the two split – Bernie and Hillary split – that might give him room. But if Hillary wins two and then goes toward South Carolina, she could be a hurricane coming at him. And there also is no guarantee he could win South Carolina because the African-American vote down there is dominant. As Karen has noted, many have not endorsed. But back in 2007, there were many black lawmakers from the South who said to Hillary Clinton and the Clintons –

MS. IFILL: I’ll be with you next time.

MS. CUMMINGS: Yeah, I’m sorry but I got to be with Obama this time. And they’re going to be calling in those debts.

MS. IFILL: What do you think that – is this a case where Joe Biden, who we see sounding so inwardly sad – outwardly sad – and his staff or his boosters are on different pages?

MR. BAKER: It’s a mix, actually. I think that there are clearly some people around him who are gung-ho, let’s go Joe, right, why not? You were the vice president for the last 18 (sic) years. You were loyal to Barack Obama. You helped put in his agenda. Why shouldn’t you be the one to defend it and carry it forward? And then I think there are some others around him who care a great deal about him and think he probably ought not to run, but are worried about telling him that as overtly as that, and are kind of sort of letting him kind of test the waters and feel his own way to a conclusion where they hope he doesn’t run for his own sake, for his family’s sake, and so on, but recognizing that just simply telling him no might not get him there.

MS. IFILL: On the Republican side, Karen, one other person I’m kind of keeping an eye on, because he seems to be bubbling up here and there, is John Kasich. John Kasich, who’s the governor of Ohio, obviously. He was a former House Budget chairman. He has got a – he’s got apparently a very engaging campaign style on the road. Is anyone taking him more seriously, less seriously? Is the debate – a lot riding on him in the debate?

MS. TUMULTY: He did pretty well in the last debate, I think, and he’s also got – he’s got an interesting niche here. He’s running, essentially, as somebody who’s running on his own record in government, which –

MS. IFILL: What? (Laughter.) What is this? This governing thing you speak of, what is that? (Laughter.)

MS. TUMULTY: It’s the antithesis of the Donald Trump outsider strategy. You know, we’ll see, but there is a – I was just talking to one of his advisers yesterday, and they say that he is absolutely determined in this next debate that he is not going to be drawn into whatever kind of back and forth is going on among the candidates, attacking each other – that he actually expects this time he could be the target of some of these attacks, but that he wants to project this sort of optimistic, you know, his vision for the country and his record.

MR. BAKER: Sounds like Jeb.

MS. IFILL: That’s what Jeb thought he was trying to do.

MS. TUMULTY: Right. He truly is.

MR. BAKER: Right, but he has a different – his last name’s not Bush. He’s not under attack right now. So if you think of the Republican Party – primary as two different primaries, the one who would be the establishment candidate and one who will be the outsider candidate, right, it’s Kasich against Jeb. If Jeb Bush fails to sort of convince the party, Kasich thinks he might be able to be the guy who steps forward and says I’m the guy, I’m a big battleground governor, take a chance on me.

MS. CUMMINGS: The downside to Kasich’s strategy is it’s a one-state strategy so far. He’s got to win New Hampshire. Everything’s in New Hampshire. It’s like we – I sent a reporter up and her lead was you’d think he’s running for governor of New Hampshire.

MS. IFILL: Well, that’s where he’s on the air and that’s where his numbers have gone up, and –

MS. CUMMINGS: And it’s where he travels.

MS. IFILL: And if you assume that Scott Walker was the odds-on favorite in Iowa and if he was another middle-of-the-country governor, that made sense. But if Scott Walker appears to not be doing as well as expected, maybe there’s another opportunity.

MS. TUMULTY: And there was a Des Moines Register poll out. The Des Moines Register we all watch very closely because it’s the gold standard of Iowa. And Scott Walker has gone from being the frontrunner to being, you know, way far back in the dust.

MS. IFILL: Yeah, which is remarkable in such a short amount of time. Well, we’ll be watching all of that, and so will you, I hope. Thanks for watching.

While you’re online, check out everything else our panelists are covering 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 .


Support our journalism

Washington Week Logo

© 1996 - 2024 WETA. All Rights Reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization

Support our journalism


Contact: Kathy Connolly,

Vice President Major and Planned Giving

kconnolly@weta.org or 703-998-2064