Thursday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. ET

Washington Week With Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill
Journalist, Moderator, "Washington Week With Gwen Ifill and National Journal"
Thursday, December 18, 2008; 3:00 PM

Each week, the country's top reporters join moderator Gwen Ifill for an in-depth discussion of the week's top news from Washington and around the world. The longest-running news and public affairs program on PBS, "Washington Week and National Journal" features journalists -- not pundits -- lending insight and perspective to the week's important news stories. Now, Ifill brings "Washington Week" online.

Ifill will be online Thursday, December 18 at 3 p.m. ET to take questions and comments.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Ifill is moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." Ifill spent several years as a "Washington Week" panelist before taking over the moderator's chair in October 1999. Before coming to PBS, she spent five years at NBC News as chief congressional and political correspondent. Her reports appeared on "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," "Today," "Meet the Press" and MSNBC. Ifill joined NBC News from The New York Times where she covered the White House and politics. She also covered national and local affairs for The Washington Post, Baltimore Evening Sun, and Boston Herald American.

"Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal," airs on WETA/Channel 26, Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. (check local listings).


Gwen Ifill: Hello everyone. Happy to be back and taking your questions.


New York : Happy holidays to you, and I hope you're feeling much better.

Here's something that is a major irritant from watching the news shows of the past few weeks. Remember how the networks thought that 'covering' the run-up to the Iraq war required that they saturate the airwaves with generals, former generals working for military contractors and similar 'objective experts"? Well, we have something similar now, in that several weeks after a Wall Street bailout which seems to have resulted in a transfer of tax dollars to large financial institutions without any discernable benefits to the public, all we get on the news shows, for the most part, are people who actually concocted this 'plan' or who are wholly in favor of it. Seems to me that the burden of proof on this issue is on the financial manipulators who put the money in their pockets. What happened to hearing both sides? Where are the Wall Street critics, from the left and the right, on our national media shows? As scarce as hen's teeth, apparently. Or should I be sure to tune in Friday night for the answer?

Gwen Ifill: Seems to me like you answered your own question. Thanks for the easy start!


Kansas City, : Hi Gwen, LOVE the show!

Will Washington Week ever go to an hour-long format? I always feel like it's over too soon!

Happy Holidaze!

Gwen Ifill: It's over too soon for me too. Unfortunately, that decision is the hand of the 300+ PBS stations that air us.


Decorah, Iowa: Does Obama's cabinet choices make a team of rivals or a nest of political independent rivals?

Gwen Ifill: Hard to know before they have even been confirmed yet. I'd like to at least see them in the same room at one time before I start leaping to conclusions about how well they all get along.

And even then, I don't much like leaping.


Raleigh, N.C.: I would think that the current economic problems would have a very significant impact on public television; with all due respect, donations to public TV aren't going to be high on families' or companies' priority lists when the rent is due. Anything you can tell us about that?

Gwen Ifill: It's true that when the rest of the media world catches a cold, public broadcasting gets pneumonia. I wish I could tell you all is shiny and bright in our world, but you would never believe me.

So keep your local stattion in mind when you are thinking of year-end tax-deductible stocking stuffers.


Arbyrd, Mo.: What is your interpretation of the President-elect's invitation to have Rick Warren as pastor at the Inauguration? Does Mr. Obama risk alienating one set of voters who invested much in his campaign in "reaching out" to another set of voters who disdain the first? What are the benefits? What are the risks?

Gwen Ifill: The President-elect certainly does not seem to mind stirring up hornets' nests. But the P-E does have reason to be grateful to Warren for inviting him to Saddleback at a time when it helped him reach an audience who would not ordinarily have listened to him. Perhaps this is a return of that favor -- which you will recall was a huge one at the time, and a risky one for Warren.


Arnold, Md.: There has been a lot of talk about the election of Sen. Obama as being the beginning of a "post-civil rights" era. As a black woman, and highly respected national journalist, what's your take on this?

Gwen Ifill: I don't think there is such a thing as a post-racial world. Not yet. And most of the smart people I've spent the past year talking to for my new book -- including the President-elect -- don't believe it either.


Cathedral City, Calif.: Does anyone know the situation between Hillary and Caroline -- is it frosty, friendly, non-existent?

Gwen Ifill: I seem to recall that Senator Clinton struck up a friendly relationship with Jackie Kennedy. Remember the pictures of the Clintons and the Kennedys sailing together back in the day?

What I don't know is how chilly that relationship may have become after Caroline and Uncle Teddy endorsed Obama.


New York, N.Y.: Hi Gwen! I keep hearing that there are other economic bubbles which are yet to burst comming along down the road, any ideas as to what may be in store?

Gwen Ifill: crystal ball....on....the...fritz.


New Albany, Ohio: It seems amazing to me that even as we are suffering a huge financial crisis Caroline Kennedy is promoted as a very attractive candidate because she can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Demorcratic table if she is appointed to the Senate. Does money rule in politics regardless of what is happening in the rest of the world? If we get helpful legislation because of it, is it worth it?

Gwen Ifill: Yes, money rules in politics regardless of what is happening in the rest of the world. Have you checked lately on how much Barack Obama raised and spent to get elected President?


Schaumburg, Ill.: Do you think there will be any problems confirming any of Obama's choices?

Gwen Ifill: Too soon to say. There have been a few burps here and there about Eric Holder (AG) and Bill Richardson (Commerce) but nothing that sounds nomination-threatening so far.

So Far.


"post-civil rights" era: I don't think people mean that we have 100 percent equality. To me, the election WAS a pivotal point and from this point forward it's less about a wholescale civil rights fight for basic rights for all minorities, but focused work on sigular issues, demographics, neighborhoods, need groups.

Gwen Ifill: There is a distinction to be drawn between "post-civil rights" and "post-racial," don't you think?


Rick Warren: I am a devoted Obama supporter who really buys into his approach and openess to the 'other side or view.' But Rick Warren... well it really bothers me. I have too many friends and family members that he has openly expressed and sponsored discrimination of, that it takes some joy out of the day. I was planning on going, but I don't want to hear Warren and his words that will likely include something discriminatory. I just don't understand why Obama would do this.... why not Rev. Lowrey for the invocation??

Gwen Ifill: I gather there is a lot of unhappiness about Rick Warren because of his views regarding gays and lesbians. What the P-E said today is that his supporters ought to be able to agree to disagree. But he had to know that a less well-known minister would have caused less heartburn.


Anonymous: Is there any real significance of Obama not having anyone from the South in his Cabinet, or other high-level positions? With only USTR left among Cabinet-level posts to fill, I don't hear anyone from the South mentioned (Southern California doesn't count, and I wonder about the mayor of Los Angeles being a wise choice, given the personal scandal in his recent past). Maybe someone from Miami, New Orleans or Houston, since all are heavily involved in international trade?

Gwen Ifill: I don't know if there is any significance to it. But if you think about it, he has managed so far to assemble an otherwise pretty diverse candidate without making a big to do about. Somewhere along the way he was bound to neglect some constituency or region.


Fairfax, Va.: Did you want the Meet the Press job? What do you feel about David Gregory as the new moderator?

Gwen Ifill: I hope David will love his new job as much as I love mine.


Washington, D.C.: Well, I'd be willing to bet that Obama got a higher percentage of the G and L vote than he did of the evangelical/Rick Warren following Christian. While I DO agree that he (Warren) and I can disagree, I don't think his place is at the invocation of P-E Obama. I have to say, it's really a major let down.

Gwen Ifill: And naturally you are entitled to your opinion. You will recall when Bill Clinton did this, they called it Sister Souljah-ing -- putting off the base to appeal to other voters.


Saginaw, Mich.: Gwen,

I love the show, and I would vote for a full hour.

But sometimes I'm busy on Friday nights, and the rebroadcast on Sunday seems like old news by then.

Can I get the whole show online these days?

Gwen Ifill: The entire thing is online and available by video podcast.

check us out at


Breaking News: WaPo says Ron Kirk (Dallas) for USTR--does that satisfy the South? Ron Kirk Likely to Head USTR (44, Dec. 18)

Gwen Ifill: Texas works for me. And some parts of Illinois (Ray LaHood) might too.


Caroline Kennedy is promoted as a very attractive candidate because she can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Demorcratic table: Come on poster. She's an accomplished attorney, published author on Constitutional law, First Amendment rights expert, not a rich soccer mom.

Gwen Ifill: I think she is all that AND a rich soccer mom -- that is, if her kids play soccer.

But could she find her way to Binghamton?


Post racial : The significance of Obama is that he changes the image of black people dramatically for white people who have no real contact with black people. These must be the ones who are telling the pollsters that they don't consider the new president to be "black." In their view, he doesn't fit into the pigeon hole of working poor or working class, or wealthy celebrity, which is the way many black people are depicted on television (except for the old Bill Cosby Show!). A working/middle class achiever who becomes upper class through the meritocracy and his equally succesful achiever wife; that's the 'new' dynamic here, which isn't actually all that new at all. But for some people it looks like a major change in racial perception.

Gwen Ifill: Boy, I can't resist the plug. Check out "The Breakthrough": Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

Available at a bookstore near you inauguration day. We talk about ALL this.


Washington, D.C.: What do you think about Time's Jay Carney going over to the administration to work for Biden? Linda Douglass "crossed over" to go work for Obama. What's she going to do in the new White House? And why do major news figures like these two leave journalism for political jobs?

Gwen Ifill: I wouldn't be too quick to lump everyone's ambitions and callings together with one glib explanation. There has always been crossover -- more often the other way. Rememeber, Diane Sawyer worked in the Nixon White House. Pierre Salinger. William Safire. I could go on.

_______________________ Washington Week


Reston, Va.: Gwen, do you think there will be any political fallout from the list of Clinton Foundation donors that was just released?

Gwen Ifill: I haven't seen the list yet, so I don't know.


Richmond, Va.: I'm an atheist and I admire Rick Warren, for bringing Christians back to kindness and helping, those words of Jesus. He's reminding politicians not to take Christians' votes for granted, and that the bible teaches helping, not hate.

Gwen Ifill: Hmmm. I bet a lot of Christians out there don't think they needed Rick Warren to tell them about kindness and helping.

I'd wish you Merry Christmas, but you'd probably take offense.


Bronx, N.Y. : For the record, Ms. Susan Rice is born and bred in Washington DC, a southern city.

Gwen Ifill: Washington DC is indeed the South if you are from the Bronx.


Hurt, Va.: Gwen, Are you related to Diane Ifill from Brooklyn, N.Y.?

Gwen Ifill: Not that I know of


Albany, N.Y. : All this cabinet-gazing and charting, it reminds me of the articles that come out at the end of baseball spring training wondering who the last two players on the bench will be. Truth be told, a lot of these cabinet picks will have little effect on the way the country is governed. We just don't know. All this proves is that there's way too much time between the election and the inaugural. All the reporters should get together and send a nice gift to Gov. Blago in appreciation for his efforts to liven up this dead season.

Gwen Ifill: I'd be the first to chip in!


Alexandria, Va.: Have to ask this... are you going to any inaugural events, and if so, whatcha going to wear? Inquiring minds want to know..

Gwen Ifill: I'll be lucky if I am still upright after covering 4 million people on the Mall all day. We ink-stained (OK, digitally-stained) wretches leave the gowns and 4" heels to others.


Juneau, Alaska: Is Caroline Kennedy an accomplished attorney? I thought it was reported that she hasn't practiced law.

Gwen Ifill: Good point. My understanding is that she has a law degree but has in fact not practiced law.


Gwen Ifill: Thanks everyone. Be sure to check out our all star panel tomorrow night... Janet Hook from the LATimes on the Congressional status quo.. Michael Fletcher from the Washington Post on the new Obama cabinet... John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times with the latest on the economy... and John Dickerson of Slate on unfinished election business in four States. (Caroline Kennedy isn't the only wild card.)



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