Week in Politics: Immigration, Executive Privilege This week the White House saw its immigration legislation fail and faced criticism from a loyal Republican senator for its Iraq strategy. Also, a Constitutional showdown with Democrats over executive privilege is looming.
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Week in Politics: Immigration, Executive Privilege

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Week in Politics: Immigration, Executive Privilege

Week in Politics: Immigration, Executive Privilege

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With the Supreme Court decisions and the death of the immigration bill on Capitol Hill, this has been quite a week in Washington. John Dickerson, Slate's chief political correspondent has been watching. He joins us now. Hi, John.

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Chief Political Correspondent, Slate): Hi there.

BRAND: So let's start with the immigration defeat, a big setback for the Bush administration. Why did the White House gamble on raising the immigration issue again and, you know, just to see it fail?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, a couple of reasons. One, the president believes that something needs to be done, and this is something he believes in very strongly and they thought they might have a chance. You know, it died the first time in early June, and then when it came back, it seemed like this fragile coalition might hold together. And so they thought it was worth risking.

BRAND: Well, does this mean that he has absolutely no political capital now in Washington?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, it certainly seems hard to find it. There was a period in the immigration debate where even his supporters were saying he basically has no power to convince anybody anymore. And it certainly looks bad with defections on the war in Iraq from his own party, a big loss on immigration, and the normal atrophying of an administration that happens in its waning days means it's certainly hard to figure out where he would get his political capitol.

BRAND: And he lost more, as you mentioned, with defections from his own party regarding Iraq. Let's listen to Republican Senator Richard Lugar this week.

Senator RICHARD LUGAR (Republican, Indiana): The prospect that the current surge strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the president are very limited within the short period of timeframe by our own domestic political debate. And the strident polarized nature of that debate increases that risk that our involvement in Iraq will end in a poorly planned withdrawal that undercuts our vital interest in the Middle East.

BRAND: John, this is from a loyal Republican senator, a long-time supporter of the war. It seems like this indicates a sea change.

Mr. DICKERSON: It does. It's an incremental sea change because we're not exactly sure how this all ends. And we'll look to this funding defense policy bill in July to see where we might see some real action. But Lugar is not a bomb thrower. He's not a crazy person. He's, in fact, quite respected for his views on foreign policy. And so, for him to break with the president, it was indeed a sea change.

BRAND: Any reaction from the White House?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, the White House essentially - national security adviser Stephen Hadley went up to meet - up to the Hill to meet with Lugar and some other senators to talk about this defense policy bill that's coming up in July. Essentially, the argument is patience, patience. The president gave a speech and made that case, too. But Republican senators are losing patience.

BRAND: Okay. Also this week, the White House exerted executive privilege. It refused to cooperate with congressional subpoenas of documents connected to the story about the firing of the federal prosecutors. What's going to happen next?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, it's, you know, I mean, it's a constitutional showdown. That sounds overly dramatic, but that's where we are. And the White House has said they're not going to turn over these documents. They're not going to have these officials testify. And in response, you know, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that this was Nixonian stonewalling. So nobody's budging and so it looks pretty ugly.

BRAND: Finally, John, let's turn to the Democrats. They held a debate last night at Washington's Howard University, and what stood out for you last night?

Mr. DICKERSON: Not very much stood out. They all agree on the issues. They talked mostly about poverty and economic conditions and the criminal justice system, and they all essentially agreed with each other. And so there was no real conflict. And so it was somewhat interesting debate but not - didn't change the state of the race very much.

BRAND: Okay. Slate's chief political correspondent John Dickerson. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thank you.

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