AMY WALTER: Hello.
I'm Amy Walter.
This is the Washington Week Extra, where we pick up online where we left off on air.
President Obama delivered an uplifting and optimistic farewell speech this week in
It was equal parts inspiration and contemplation about the past eight years
in the White House.
And he remained pretty cool and collected for most of the speech,
but at the end he teared up when he talked about Michelle and his children.
Julie, you've covered this White House.
You also know that a good chunk of his speech he was also somewhat sober about the
problems facing the country going ahead, whether it's polarization, racial discord.
Tell us a little bit about what he intended from this speech and what you think it tells
us about the role he's going to play as a former president.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, I think he did intend it to be optimistic and to sort of
have his trademark, you know, hope and democracy, and to be inspirational for people to
not lose their sense of possibility even as there is anxiety about what comes after him.
I think he intended it to be a little bit of credit-taking.
He did cycle through some of the, you know, great things that he thinks he did - pulling
the economy out of a recession, the Cuba opening, the Iran deal, sort of what he
considers to be his trademark achievements.
But I do think there was much more of an
edge to the speech than I expected, maybe even than some of his aides expected.
When you read through the transcript rather than - you know, after I watched it I read it
again, and there's a lot of - I mean, he's actually ticking off threats to democracy, you
And one of them is complacency and one of them is racial division and political
But he's really - it was - it was really - it struck me how much of a warning
it was to people that - you know, one of his lines was you can't just sit back and elect
someone and then be outraged at what they do.
And that really sounded like a critique of what has just transpired and sort of an
attempted wake-up call to people that, you know, they really need to - if they want to
see something different happen in this country, they have to be involved themselves.
AMY WALTER: So what does that mean, though, do you all think, for what role he's going to play?
KAREN TUMULTY: That is exactly what occurred to me.
He was - now, he was one of our younger presidents, which means he is now one of our
younger ex-presidents, which means he's got a lot of his life ahead of him.
And a lot of those are the exact same issues in one form or another that he has promised
to devote his post-presidency to as well.
So he was both - he was both trying to sum up
these eight years, but also lay the predicate for what he's going to be involved in going forward.
AMY WALTER: Well, there was also another thing that happened this week as sort of a
On Thursday, the president surprised Vice President Joe Biden when
he presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From video.)
I am pleased to award our nation's highest
civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
AMY WALTER: There wasn't a dry eye in the White House after that moment.
You saw Joe Biden going to get his handkerchief out and dab his eyes.
Tears were streaming down his face as the medal was put around his neck.
Michael, have we ever seen a president and a vice president have a relationship like
this, the bromance as they called it?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: So I can't be authoritative on the history of the relationships.
I'll tell you one thing that strikes me is, remember the terms that George W. Bush and
Dick Cheney ended on.
I mean, I think they were barely speaking to each other.
AMY WALTER: Mmm, that's right, that's right.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Very acrimonious final denouement between them, particularly over
whether Bush would pardon Scooter Libby.
MANU RAJU: Clinton and Gore.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: And Clinton and Gore, that's right, in fact I think had kind of a shouting match.
AMY WALTER: That's right.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Reagan and Bush.
MANU RAJU: Reagan and Bush, yeah.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: It's not been great.
AMY WALTER: There we go.
I think we answered the question.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: OK, thank you.
This little history class was good fun.
But I'll tell you something that struck me about that, seeing that people haven't
focused on, which is Biden's remarks about Obama after - when he takes the podium and he
has the medal, and he goes on a little riff about I've watched this man under pressure,
I've watched this man tested, he maybe didn't have the biggest crises of any president -
World War II, for instance - but he had these very unique crises, weird things, terrorist
attacks, you know, Snowden.
And he talked about what it's like to see a man under
pressure and what it brings out in him, or a woman.
Of course, in the context of presidents we're talking about men, unfortunately, only.
And it just made me think about Donald Trump in those moments, under extreme pressure,
and what will it reveal.
AMY WALTER: So you think he was saying that purposely?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: I don't know.
But I just - that's all I could think about, was
imagining a different person standing there listening to that speech.
And what will those moments bring out in Donald Trump in these wild, weird times, with
terrorism and foreign governments interfering in our elections and technology in a way we
And honestly, that's what I took away from that sequence more than anything.
AMY WALTER: Well, and we know that Donald Trump likes Mike Pence.
He tells him all
the time how happy he is to be there.
What role do you think Mike Pence is going to play?
I assume he's going to be the emissary to the Hill.
MANU RAJU: And he absolutely is.
He's got all the relationships up there.
The Republican leadership trusts him.
Actually, Mitch McConnell has asked Mike Pence
to come as regularly as he can to the weekly Republican lunches every Tuesday.
That's a role that Dick Cheney had, and that's something that Joe Biden actually did not
do because Democrats didn't want him there; they wanted to keep it separate.
So he's going to be very, very influential.
Already some of his Cabinet picks -
Trump Cabinet picks have been influenced by Mike Pence.
So we'll see.
He could be one of the more powerful vice presidents that we've seen in history.
AMY WALTER: Well, we want to go to one other topic for you, Manu, because during this
week's news conference Mr. Trump signaled to congressional Republicans that Obamacare
must be repealed and replaced on the same day.
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: (From video.)
It'll be repeal and replace.
It will be essentially simultaneously.
It will be various segments, you understand,
but will most likely be on the same day or the same week - but probably the same day.
AMY WALTER: And so while Republican lawmakers are fast-tracking the repeal, is there any
sense of what the replacement looks like?
And we're already starting to see a little
bit of that tension between the speaker, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump.
MANU RAJU: Yeah, because last month Paul Ryan said there will not be a replacement ready
by next football season.
And then last night and at a press conference this week, he
said we're going to do it simultaneously.
Because of the things that Donald Trump has been saying, but also pressure from the rank
and file in the House and the Senate, Republicans who are getting nervous about just
repealing the law, we need to have a replacement.
They're worried about taking the
political hit, even if they were talking about initially of having some sort of two-,
three-year transition period from the time it was repealed until the time that it was
So now what they're talking about doing sort of tactically is that they have
to move through this budget process to repeal most of the law, and that is something
they can do under the procedures to fast-track the repeal and avoid a Democratic
filibuster under the rules.
You can do it on a party-line vote.
But replacing it, you can't do a full-scale replacement under the budget rules.
So what they're talking about doing is adding some provisions of a new health care law,
new health care reforms, in that repeal bill that could pass the muster of the Senate
So that will just be a piece-by-piece effort to replace.
And then on the - side by side, issue new regulations when Tom Price, if he's confirmed
as health and human services secretary, to help deal with some of the changes that they
would make from repealing the law and maybe do something else legislatively.
Now, that's just the tactics.
We're not even talking about the policy.
AMY WALTER: (Laughs.)
About the actual policy.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Like changing a tire.
MANU RAJU: Yeah, exactly.
The policy's really what's going to really divide them.
So it's going to be very difficult to see how this plays out.
But Paul Ryan said he wants
to do it in the first 100 days now, so it's changed in his timetable because of Trump.
AMY WALTER: Because of Trump.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, and I mean, we don't know the policy.
We also haven't
even mentioned the politics of that.
I mean, one thing that Donald Trump has continued
to do, even as he has not talked about or addressed any of the specifics of what
replace would look like, he has said that he will go and campaign in the districts of
the Democrats who are up for reelection in 2018 if they oppose it.
So it's like we don't even have the bill yet; we're already talking about campaigning
against Democrats for killing it, which kind of gives you a preview of what we're going
to see here.
It's going to be repeal, do a little maybe replacement thing if we
can - if we can figure out what it is.
When they go to do the bigger bill, I mean,
you can imagine a huge partisan clash on that.
And then it's going to be -
KAREN TUMULTY: Or, counterintuitively, under that kind of pressure, it may be that the
only way they can do it is to come up with something that is bipartisan and that is
perhaps a little bit less of a departure from the Affordable Care Act.
MANU RAJU: And that's what some Republicans -
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: And he has also telegraphed that he won't - (inaudible) - that.
MANU RAJU: And that's what some Republicans fear, passing an Obamacare-lite after going
through this entire exercise.
So that's one aspect of it, too.
The conservative wing would not be happy with that.
AMY WALTER: So we'll be talking about this basically for the next foreseeable future, right?
MANU RAJU: Yes.
AMY WALTER: This isn't going away anytime soon.
That's it for this
edition of Washington Week Extra.
While you're online, read about the Hollywood
celebrities who have chosen to take on real-life roles as political activists.
Plus, test your knowledge of current events on the Washington Week-ly News Quiz.
I'm Amy Walter.
See you next time.