ANNOUNCER: This is the Washington Week Webcast Extra.
GWEN IFILL: Hello, and welcome to the Washington Week Webcast Extra, where we pick up
online where we left off on air.
I'm joined by Michael Duffy of TIME Magazine, Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times,
Beth Reinhard of The Wall Street Journal, and Phil Rucker of The Washington Post.
Just when you thought the year could not get any weirder, one of this cycle's
presidential candidates jumps from the debate stage to Dancing With The Stars.
I have to admit I thought it was a mean Twitter joke when I first read that former Texas
Governor and two-time presidential candidate Rick Perry would be joining the cast of the
popular dance-off this season.
But Phil Rucker, it turns out, got it from the horse's
What was he thinking, Phil?
PHILIP RUCKER: Well, he's not a very good dancer.
He's actually only danced four
times in his life - or publicly, rather, in his life.
But he wanted to -
GWEN IFILL: You'd like to think he dances in private, right?
PHILIP RUCKER: We don't know what he - (laughter) -
GWEN IFILL: You don't know.
PHILIP RUCKER: But he wants to promote veterans issues, and he has a deal going with the
show's producers that he can talk about veterans when he's on the show.
And he's in the middle of rehearsals trying to learn all these different dances.
But the thing he said that was so striking in the interview is that it's not much
different than politics.
He said politics is basically reality TV now; you have to
And the onus is on the politicians to perform.
GWEN IFILL: You don't have to have rhythm to do politics, as we have witnessed many times.
PHILIP RUCKER: Well, but he's developing rhythm.
GWEN IFILL: Developing rhythm?
PHILIP RUCKER: He said the tango, cha-cha, he's learning it all.
GWEN IFILL: Has he watched the show before?
PHILIP RUCKER: He said he had watched it about a half-dozen times.
His wife, Anita,
has watched it a little more than him.
But he's hardly a fan.
He did go back to look
at tapes, though, and Geraldo Rivera.
He said he would never want to dance like Geraldo.
Or dress like Geraldo.
GWEN IFILL: Who was kicked off after the first episode.
Not that I watch the show, I'm just saying.
PHILIP RUCKER: He was.
BETH REINHARD: You just heard.
GWEN IFILL: I read that somewhere.
BETH REINHARD: I guess the back problems that plagued him in the last campaign are
solved, I hope, for his sake?
PHILIP RUCKER: We'll find out in that first season premiere.
GWEN IFILL: I know you'll be there watching.
I'll read what you write.
PHILIP RUCKER: OK, deal.
GWEN IFILL: Hey, Beth, let's talk about some down-ballot questions this week.
We were watching at least earlier this year very closely what was going on with John
McCain in Arizona and Marco Rubio, who changed his mind and decided the Senate was a good
place to be after all, in Florida.
They both won by pretty healthy margins.
Neither of them are exactly in the Trump camp.
What does that mean, if anything?
BETH REINHARD: Well, they had flawed opponents.
Marco Rubio ran against someone who was not known in Florida.
He's obviously very
well-known as a former House speaker, as a presidential candidate, as a Senate candidate.
And, indeed, he crushed his opponent, and has also been keeping his distance from Donald
It's interesting that you mention John McCain.
When Trump gave his speech in Arizona and one of the warmup speakers said, hey, how about
our hometown senator winning his primary, the crowd booed.
That tells you
something about the disconnect between the Trump support and the Republican Party.
GWEN IFILL: Let's talk a little bit about the debate prep.
We heard today - this
is Friday, September 2nd - about who the debate moderators are going to be.
But I'm also curious about how these folks prepare for these debates, not just the - not
the moderators at all - I may know a thing or two about that; it's very hard - but the
candidates, the candidates.
How do they do that?
Who do they show up?
Who plays the other people on the stage?
How do they pull this off?
DOYLE MCMANUS: Well, like everything else in this campaign, Gwen, you're talking about
an asymmetrical situation.
They seem to be going about it in two different ways.
So let's start with Hillary Clinton.
She's doing it the classic way.
You start with all the briefing books, you start with all the questions and the answers.
Hillary Clinton, the wonk extraordinaire, basically has that all down.
So the main thing is, yeah, you need somebody playing the other candidate, and you've got
a whole murder board of people figuring out what kind of questions is the other candidate
going to throw you.
As far as I know, we still don't know who's playing Donald Trump
in the Hillary Clinton debate prep.
That's been one of the best-guarded secrets.
But the real problem is, which Donald Trump is going to show up?
Is it going to be - and last week's news in Mexico and Arizona was a good example - is it
going to be the statesmanlike Donald Trump of Mexico City or the ferocious attack dog of
My money is on the attack dog, which means that Hillary Clinton has to be
ready for the sucker punch about her family finances or Bill Clinton's peccadilloes
that comes from nowhere.
GWEN IFILL: I keep thinking back to the Rick Lazio Senate debate, when he decided he was
going to be the attack dog and go after her.
She walked away looking like the victim.
There's an antsy thing to running against a woman.
DOYLE MCMANUS: True.
MICHAEL DUFFY: Well, you have to be careful about overdoing it because you don't want to
alienate women who are watching or men who find that sort of thing unchivalrous.
And Hillary Clinton in a debate - let's not underestimate her - as they used to say in
Little Rock, is murder.
You know, in a courtroom, you just didn't want to
So that's the other thing that's going to happen.
Whoever is going - whatever is going on behind the scenes, we're going to get - all of us
- truckloads of, "Well, she's not a very good debater;" "Well, he's never been" - you
know what I mean?
The expectations game is going to be very in full swing as we get
close to that first debate.
GWEN IFILL: We are talking about a 90-minute debate without commercial interruption,
which she may have done before.
Certainly he hasn't.
PHILIP RUCKER: That's right.
And what Trump is counting on is that she's going to come in totally prepared, have her
comments scripted, timed out, the tone all prepared in advance, and that he's going to
come in looking authentic and unscripted and real and kind of straight talk.
And in fact, the Trump advisors were telling me and my colleagues this week that one of
the reasons he's not preparing is he doesn't want to have anything memorized because he
wants it to all feel natural to the viewers.
That seems risky.
I don't know if that'll work.
But that's the contrast they're going for.
DOYLE MCMANUS: The big risk that Trump is running here, if he follows that non-strategy,
is not with Hillary Clinton, it's with the moderator.
Because Trump did well in debates
with four or six or eight or 16 people on the stage, and you could never - you never had
to pin him down.
He could never be pinned down on specifics.
But in a 90-minute debate where he's half of it and there's one moderator, if he says,
well, here's what I want to do about 11 million immigrants, for example, that moderator
has a moral duty to say, now wait a minute, I'm not sure you answered the question, and
go at him a couple of times.
And that's a problem.
GWEN IFILL: Does he have a moral - does he or she have a moral duty, or is that
something that the other candidate is supposed to do?
This is a - this is a question for the ages about moderating debates.
DOYLE MCMANUS: That depends on the format.
But I actually think if a candidate
completely evades the question or tries to smother it in bafflegab, I happen to think
the moderator has to say I'm not sure you answered the question.
GWEN IFILL: I think we have just a little under a month before the first debate.
And the one thing we know for sure after a week like this is about 82 things will happen
between now and then which will change our expectations mightily.
Thank you all very much.
We're off to brush up on our cha-cha so we can watch - (laughs) - Rick Perry.
You can, too, right after you take this week's political news quiz.
You can find it at
And we'll see you next time on the Washington Week Webcast Extra.