Special: LGBT rights in the states, Bill Clinton faces Black Lives Matter hecklers, Sanders' Political Revolution and Garland nomination update

Apr. 08, 2016 AT 4:05 p.m. EDT
North Carolina and Mississippi are the latest states to adopt controversial LGBT laws, leading to backlash from the business community. The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty explains the legislation and its impact on the presidential campaign. Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife in New York, faced Black Lives Matters protesters upset with a crime bill passed during his presidency. Bernie Sanders trails Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. LA Times' Doyle McManus explains what's next for his political revolution as he hopes to push the Democratic Party platform to the left. And as Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland continue meeting with Democratic and Republican senators, CNN's Manu Raju explains why a confirmation vote is still unlikely as some Republicans are facing primary fights for even considering his nomination.

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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, I’m Gwen Ifill. We pick up online where we left off on the air. I’m joined by Jeanne Cummings of The Wall Street Journal , Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times , Manu Raju of CNN, and Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post . You would really kill to know what we were talking about off the air, but I’m not – (laughter) – I’m not going to do it.

Instead, we’re going to start with Karen, who did what she does best this week: writing a story that explains the political backdrop behind policy fights. In this case it’s happening in the states, where Georgia and North Carolina have made LGBT rights a real issue for Republicans in 2016. Explain how, Karen.

MS. TUMULTY : Well, in a couple ways. In North Carolina, the governor, Pat McCrory, signed a bill that would undo some legislation that cities had passed that would have protected people from discrimination based on their gender, based on their – you know, their orientation at birth. And essentially, this brings up the whole, you know, where should transgender people be allowed – which bathrooms should they use. Well, what happened is that there’s a real – North Carolina is, you know, a center of commerce, a center of banking. And all of a sudden there’s a big backlash from the national and international business community, including PayPal announced that they are canceling a facility that they were going to be expanding there that would have employed 400 people. So you’re –

MS. IFILL : And the NBA is making hints about the All-Star Game.

MS. TUMULTY : And so what you’re seeing is tension between the sort of corporate wing of the Republican Party and the – and the social conservative wing.

MS. IFILL : But Nathan Deal went the other way in Georgia.

MS. TUMULTY : He vetoed a bill that would have done essentially the same thing. But difference? McCrory’s up for reelection, Nathan Deal is not. And in Mississippi you also have legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate – I mean, allow businesses where they have religious objections to homosexuality to, for instance, refuse to provide services to gays – to, you know, bake gay wedding cakes, whatever. So what you’re seeing, essentially, is a backlash to the Supreme Court decision of last year legalizing gay marriage. But I think beyond that there is – there is a real concern on the part of a lot of leaders in the South of sort of how are you going to mobilize Evangelicals to come out and vote in this election, and –

MS. IFILL : Does that percolate up to the – to the presidential race at all?

MS. TUMULTY : It’s been really interesting.

MS. IFILL : Not yet.

MS. TUMULTY : The Democratic candidates have been out there denouncing this. The two leading Republican candidates have basically been silent upon any of this, again, not wanting to wade into what is looking like, you know, a war in some places between the corporate wing of the party and the social conservative wing.

MS. IFILL : Let’s talk about another internal fight in the party, and this is involving the Democrats. And of course, the person we’re all looking at in this case is Bill Clinton. There has been a consistent running theme with the Black Lives Matter movement to hold Democrats’ feet to the fire on Black Lives Matter issues. They’ve shown up at Bernie Sanders rallies, put him in a corner. They’ve showed up even backstage at Hillary Clinton events, put her in a corner. And yesterday, or earlier this week, we saw Bill Clinton confronted by protesters at a Black Lives Matter – well, actually, at a Hillary Clinton rally where the Black Lives Matter movement folks were holding up signs saying, you know, Hillary Clinton called young black men “superpredators,” which she has since apologized for. He got very – we’re watching it now – he got very unhappy about it. The finger-waving came out. The red face came out. And I wonder whether that’s helpful, Jeanne.

MS. CUMMINGS : Well, I think it is – I don’t think we know yet. I think we have to see how it plays out, because what he was doing – now, Clinton was defending his own record there as much as he was his wife, and that explains some of the passion.

MS. IFILL : Right, the crime bill, things like that.

MS. CUMMINGS : That’s right. They complained that that created extended prison terms and broke up black families, and so they had a number of grievances that they were raising with him. And what he tried to do in his remarks was take them back into the ’90s – take them back to when crack cocaine was really a serious threat in the urban areas and that gangs were, you know, roaming in some cities, and that the primary victims of that crime were black people. And so his point was that he – his legislation actually saved black lives because crime went down during that period.

MS. IFILL : Do I give the – do I give the Clintons too much credit if I suggest that perhaps he is speaking to a part of the Democratic Party and a part of politics at large right now – white men, disgruntled white men on both ends of the party who see some reasoning in that, and also to a lot of black voters who think the same thing?

MS. CUMMINGS : Well, the thing to – that’s why I say it’s hard to judge how this will turn out. This was a rally in downtown Philadelphia. The crowd cheered him, and that was a mixed-race crowd. And they cheered him. And so a lot of those people cheering were, indeed, African-American voters. And so I think we’ll see. Some have said, you know, it’s a Sister Souljah moment, that he was – you know, that he was bringing in some truth to try to break through stereotypes. I don’t know that it amounts to any of that. He’s not the candidate.

MS. IFILL : There was certainly come pique. We know that for sure.


MS. IFILL : Whether he was speaking, something he meant to say or not, there was some personal pique.

Doyle, want to talk to you a little bit about Bernie Sanders because after the nomination – yesterday I saw him asked at a town hall meeting, I think it was on The Today Show or something, by someone who identified as a Bernie Sanders supporter, what are you going to do if you don’t win? What happens to your movement? And he said that’s an excellent question, then I didn’t hear an answer.

MR. MCMANUS : Well, he sort of answered it, actually. And even the fact that Bernie Sanders, asked “What if you don’t win?” says – he said that’s not just an excellent question, he said and it’s a fair question. Most candidates wouldn’t go near that question with a 10-foot pole. And in this case, Bernie Sanders then said, of course: of course, we plan to win and we are confident we’re going to win. But, he then said, leaving out the “if we don’t win,” but what he meant was, if we don’t win, we’ve started a political revolution, lots of young people have turned out, and we will work to continue the political revolution. It’s no secret – never been a secret, not even a secret now if you ask people in the Sanders campaign – that his campaign has always been about two things. The one they thought was least likely was that he would actually win the nomination. The one they thought was more likely was that he could revitalize a grassroots movement on the left wing, the progressive wing – the Democratic wing, as Howard Dean used to put it – of the Democratic Party. And I think they’ve actually been surprised at how successful they’ve been on both. We know they’ve been surprised at how successful he’s been in primaries. He’s said that himself with an air of what seems to be genuine surprise.

So, anyway, we can already tell pretty much what he’s going to do. First, yes, he’s still running to win the nomination. In fact, they’re even talking about at least theoretically if it’s a tie or close to a tie, you know, will there be contested delegates, will there be unpledged –

MS. IFILL : Tie or close to a tie where?

MR. MCMANUS : – Democrats, superdelegates at the conventions. They’re actually talking about a potential delegate fight. That’s off – that’s off –

MS. IFILL : That’s a lot more distant than for Republicans.

MR. MCMANUS : They’re talking about getting into the platform and trying to push Hillary Clinton to the left. They’re talking about making a strong case that she is going to need Bernie Sanders voters and Bernie Sanders’ endorsement and Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement. And they are going to keep their list of 2 million plus supporters and try and keep – knit together this whole grassroots thing they have done for the next cycle and the next cycle and the next cycle.

MS. IFILL : Well, it could be argued they could have a lot of leverage if they play their hands right, which is why I think he kind of backed away from calling her unqualified this week.


MS. IFILL : OK, Manu, bring us up to date on what’s happening. We’ve seen – on the Supreme Court front. We’ve seen Susan Collins meet with Merrick Garland. We’ve seen Mark Kirk say he thinks there should be hearings. Maybe a dozen Republican senators, all in all, saying I am willing to meet with him, including Lindsey Graham most recently. But I don’t really see any movement in the big story about the possibility of hearings for confirmation.

MR. RAJU : You’re right, because those two senators who have called for hearings – Susan Collins and Mark Kirk – are the same two senators who called for hearings immediately after Justice Scalia died. We really have not seen a whole lot of movement. The White House tries to make a lot out of a little, the fact that some senators are willing to have courtesy meetings and tell them, well, I’m not going to vote for you and I don’t think that we should have confirmation hearings. That doesn’t really – the meetings don’t really amount to much.

MS. IFILL : Chuck Grassley’s having breakfast with him just to tell him that he’s not going to do anything.

MR. RAJU : Exactly, just to tell him. But what has been really fascinating here is obviously there’s a big, intense pressure campaign on the left. But there’s also a very intense pressure campaign on the right. And if Republicans start to, you know, wobble a little bit, they’re going to get whacked. And we saw this happen in Kansas. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican senator up for reelection, has a primary in August, floated over the recess, saying, well, maybe we should have confirmation hearings; ah, not a bad idea; yeah, I should do my job.

MS. IFILL : Ooh.

MR. RAJU : He did say that. And what happens? He gets whacked by the outside groups. They start attacking him, and now he may face a primary challenge, even though he walked that back and said no, I don’t even want to meet with this person – (laughter) – and we shouldn’t have hearings. And when I asked Jerry Moran this week – I said, well, what do you think – you know, were you surprised by the backlash, he says, I don’t even want to talk about this anymore. So like – so this is – it just shows you that these guys do not want to cave or defect at all because they know that this will hurt them on the right. And really it goes to the larger calculation for the Republican Party is that they believe that this is an issue that will bring out bases for both parties, and independents will be narrowly divided, or evenly divided, and a lot of voters just simply won’t – this won’t be the issue that they vote on. Which is why Republicans don’t feel much reason to move on this.

MS. IFILL : Sounds like the only concession Republicans have made is maybe we shouldn’t look so rude.

MR. RAJU : Yeah, exactly. And that’s why a lot of senators who are up for reelection say, well, we’re meeting with them, you know, we’re being – but let’s wait until the next president to decide.

MS. IFILL : Let’s keep going. OK, well, now we know that, and we’ll talk about it some more. But it doesn’t seem like the finish line is changing. Thank you to everyone.

We are out of here, but there’s more online, including my blog about another Supreme Court confirmation fight nearly 25 years ago. And it is – it is as shocking now as it was then. And we’ll see you next time on the Washington Week Webcast Extra .


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