ANNOUNCER: This is the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.
GWEN IFILL, "WASHINGTON WEEK" MODERATOR: Hello and welcome to the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.
I’m joined around the table by John Dickerson of "Slate" magazine and CBS News, Pete Williams of NBC News, Nancy Youssef of "The Daily Beast", and Michael Crowley of "Politico".
We’ll start by talking about the ceasefire that went popped. That’s in Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels claimed control of a key transport hub and set Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko back on his heels again.
Did we see that coming, Michael? I think so.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: I think we did. And, you know, I talked to some -- well, Mike McFaul, a former ambassador to Moscow. It’s no secret. Soon after the "ceasefire", quote-unquote, was inked, he was very skeptical and --
IFILL: I talked to him, too. I remember this. We didn’t expect it to go anywhere.
CROWLEY: No. And, you know, his diagnosis is, unfortunately, it sounds quite possible to me, and it’s depressing, which is that, while we’re likely to see a series of agreements, ceasefires, truces, that are broken, the pro-Russian separatists backed by the Russian military in Eastern Ukraine --
IFILL: It’s like the third ceasefire already?
CROWLEY: It’s --
IFILL: There’s one in September, and there’s one before that. So, yes.
CROWLEY: I think that’s right.
And so, what happened in this case was fighting broke out again. And the pro-Russian forces took more territory and we’re probably going to have some other agreement. But what’s happening is the facts on the ground are evolving in Vladimir Putin’s favor. His pro-Russian forces are digging in. They’re claiming more territory.
But, really, the West doesn’t want to escalate any further. The Europeans don’t want more sanctions. President Obama does not want to send arms to Kiev. We don’t want to cut off Moscow from the SWIFT international banking system, which would be another option.
But the Russians have indicated that they would flip out, it almost sounds like they’re more worried about that than the military supplies. So, I think we just may see more of this muddling through with gradual strengthening of Putin’s position, and frankly, a victory for Putin over the West.
IFILL: There are so many issues from Iran to Afghanistan to --
IFILL: Ukraine, thank you, to ISIS, where there are no simple answers. In fact, every week seems to bring a setback. The interesting thing that came out this week, the president mentioned this week in his speech at the conference, at the anti-violent extremism conference, which a lot of people are talking about that, is this idea of foreign recruits for ISIS. And today, we saw where Great Britain is worried about three teenage girls who have gone missing.
There seems to be a pipeline that nobody knows how to stop.
NANCY YOUSSEF, THE DAILY BEAST: That’s right. So, according to the U.S. military, they killed 6,000 ISIS fighters and the estimates are 4,000 fighters have come in, many of them foreign. Now, the good news for the U.S. is that there had been only about 150 from this country, compared to 6,000 from France and 1,000 from U.K.
And the interesting thing that came out about women in particular, is there are about 550 women who have believe to have gone. This is according a "Guardian" piece today.
And there is a relentless Twitter campaign that goes on. The women that are there will reach to other women and try to recruit them and tell them how great it is, and that they’re fighting a holy cause. It’s a relentless campaign to recruit women --
IFILL: Are these women actually frontline fighters?
YOUSSEF: No. So, what they are sometimes are brides to ISIS fighters, that they are sort of, if you will, back home, that they produce children to continue the Islamic State. That -- no, they can be frontline fighters, but it’s pretty rare. More often that they are used to be brides and support, if you will, for the men fighting.
IFILL: And there is no way. We saw it in Paris, after the "Charlie Hebdo" shootings and killings, that we saw that the woman who escaped was another example of someone who just kind of went back into the fight.
YOUSSEF: Yes, it’s interesting, though, how aggressively they’re pushing for women in particular.
IFILL: Wow. It’s amazing.
OK, let’s come back home with a couple of domestic issues.
You, Pete, are up at the Supreme Court, preparing to cover what is going to be another big, kind of pivotal challenge to the president’s health care law on March 4th, the arguments. What are we watching for?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Well, you know, three years ago, the Supreme Court rescued Obamacare in its early stages, before really took effect. Now, the question is, will it be allowed to continue? Three years ago, the question was the constitutional authority. Now, it’s a much narrower question, but a pivotal one, which is, do you get the subsidy if you got your insurance on the federal exchange.
The challengers are saying that there’s three little words in the statute that say you only get the subsidy if you’re -- a program was established by the state. I guess that’s four letter words. And the government is saying, no, no, that’s way too technical a read of it. And that’s what it’s going to come down for the Supreme Court.
But the subsidies are critical, because it makes it possible for many more people to afford it. The subsidies now, you get about a 72 percent discount if you get a subsidy. So, it makes insurance affordable. Take the subsidy away, fewer people can afford it, and then you only had the people in it who are really sick and the whole thing starts to go into what they call a death spiral.
IFILL: I talked to Sylvia Burwell, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services so we can ask her, so what’s your plan B? What’s your back up plan? And no matter how many different ways I praised it, how many euphemisms I came up with, she wouldn’t say that there was even a plan B, because she couldn’t imagine that a court would allow people -- allow something to happen that would take away something from people that they already have.
WILLIAMS: That’s right. They -- you know, as a journalist, you’re always looking for that punchy quote in the government brief that says, if you don’t do this, it’s going to be horrible. And it’s not there, because they don’t want to really give the court the idea that that could happen.
But, the friend of court briefs that have been filed by the insurance industry, the insurance industry is saying to the Supreme Court, don’t do this, some -- the states are divided on this, interestingly. But even some states that don’t have their own exchanges, that have the federal exchanges are saying, you know, don’t take the subsidy away. The subsidy is the critical key that makes insurance affordable.
IFILL: OK. Now, finally, this puzzlement. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani weighs in again on his assessment of the president of the United States. He said, "I do not believe and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought through love of this country."
The former mayor has been busy peddling backward and forward on this ever since and forcing people who actually want to run for president right now to say whether they agree with him. Chief among them, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was actually at the event where Giuliani spoke.
What did his answer say?
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: Well, he didn’t say much of anything. Scott Walker said Rudy Giuliani can say what he wants to say, I know I love this country.
IFILL: Except that he didn’t say much of anything. Isn’t that a sign of something?
DICKERSON: Yes. I mean, so this was a sort of political belch by Rudy Giuliani.
DICKERSON: People were either at the table or either embarrassed, or they pretended it didn’t happen, or somebody says you shouldn’t do that in the table, nobody said that.
Now, it’s interesting, because we have seen -- there was famous scene in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 2008 campaign, where John McCain and Sarah Palin were at a rally and woman it was a really heated rally. There were people screaming at Palin and McCain to be tougher and that the country was going on a tubes and Obama is going to steal this election away, and woman got up and she was kind of pre-associating attacks on Obama, in one point, she said that he’s an Arab, which McCain interrupted her thinking she was going to say --
IFILL: Isn’t Waukesha not far from Scott Walker’s hometown or maybe Scott Walker’s hometown?
DICKERSON: He’s from Wauwatosa.
DICKERSON: Or he leaves in Wauwatosa.
IFILL: There are a lot of W’s in --
DICKERSON: In Wisconsin, exactly. Thank you.
We’re not in the Kenosha, though, which is anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, Waukesha.
IFILL: John McCain.
DICKERSON: And McCain stopped her and said he’s a good man, he’s a good family man. And I just disagree with him on policy.
Marco Rubio said a version of that. He said, of course, he loves his country, I just think his policies are all wrong.
That’s the most interesting here. Rudy Giuliani, you know, he can say whatever he wants.
DICKERSON: There is an opportunity for some candidates to even go kind of -- to go sort of one step further. Nobody wants to do it, of course, because there’s a sliver in the Republican Party who has always felt that way about the president, that he is kind of other from his background, from his views, from his ivory tower. Whatever it is about him, they think he does not come from -- or is not a part of the American story.
IFILL: Is there a risk of still running against the president when he’s not on the ballot?
DICKERSON: In a Republican primary, no.
DICKERSON: But, you know, let’s look at something like a Jeb Bush, who has argued explicitly, several times, that he is running for the general election. I think Republicans have looked at their own party, some have said, and said, you know, we’re a little too coarse on some of these things, and particularly when you say, an African-American president is -- you know, didn’t grow up the way we did, that gets awfully close to lines that Republicans don’t want to cross. And so -- but right now, it sits where it is and it will go on until we have the next thing to be exorcised about, which should be in about five minutes.
IFILL: Bright and shiny things.
So, we’ll leave thankfully there.
Stay online and check out what else our panelists are writing and covering. And my latest take, the Hillary and Jeb chronicles.
And we’ll see you next time on the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.