Romney, 2016ers preview week ahead full of Washington drama

Story highlights

  • The Sunday political talk shows offered a glimpse into what will shape up over the coming days
  • One of the hottest back-and-forths was between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush over Trump's comments about the 9/11 attacks

Washington (CNN)If this weekend was any indication, the political calendar features a full week ahead.

The Sunday political talk shows offered a glimpse into what will shape up over the coming days, and it'll be rife with intra- and inter-party squabbles. From Jeb Bush and Donald Trump's back-and-forth on September 11 to Hillary Clinton's much-anticipated Benghazi testimony on Capitol Hill, here's what we can expect for the week ahead.

Trump vs. Bush

    Donald Trump: U.S. wasn't safe on 9/11
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    One of the biggest flaps over the weekend was between the GOP front-runner and former Florida governor over Trump's comments about the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and former President George W. Bush's responsibility for them since they occurred on his watch. Jeb Bush slammed the real estate mogul for attacking his brother, telling CNN's "State of the Union" that he "responded to a crisis" and "united the country -- he organized our country and he kept us safe. And there's no denying that."
    Trump expanded on his previous comments questioning the extent to which George W. Bush protected the country since 9/11 happened while he was president, saying that he wasn't "blaming anybody" but reiterating that the "worst attack in the history of our country" occurred during the elder Bush brother's tenure. Trump said the attack could have been prevented, including by his own immigration policies.
    There's no sign the spat will cool down on the trail this week -- in fact, it is likely to grow. It has already sucked in other Republican presidential candidates. Ben Carson on Sunday didn't directly weigh in on the 9/11 attacks, but the retired neurosurgeon said that he believed the U.S. could have used oil independence as leverage to get Arab states to turn over Osama bin Laden and discussed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that followed.
    And both Jeb Bush and Trump are pushing their attacks further rather than backing off. "Jeb is fighting to defend a catastrophic event. I am fighting to make sure it doesn't happen again. Jeb is too soft-we need tougher & sharper," Trump tweeted on Monday.
    The former Sunshine State governor has responded by calling Trump "pathetic" and saying he has "grave doubts" about Trump's fitness to be commander in chief.
    We'll likely hear from Trump again on this at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Monday night.

    Speaker's race

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    One of the biggest will-he-or-won't-he parlor games in Washington isn't about the presidential race at all -- it's about whether Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, will run for House speaker. House Republicans are strongly united behind him, though a few key conservatives are signaling he may still face opposition if he gets in. Ryan has said repeatedly that he is not interested in the job, but amid increased pressure he has told colleagues he's considering it.
    On Sunday, Mitt Romney, who chose Ryan as his running mate in 2012, told Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union" that while Ryan would be an important leader on the Hill, he's also a future presidential contender.
    "We need Paul in two spots at once," Romney said. "You know, there haven't been a lot of people that have gone on from speaker to the White House, so I'd hate to lose him as a potential contender down the road for the White House."
    Lawmakers are returning to Washington this week after a week-long recess, and the House GOP will huddle behind closed doors for two meetings on Wednesday to discuss the leadership race and potential changes to procedural rules in the House. All eyes will be on Ryan.
    If Ryan doesn't run, the speaker vacancy could set off a free for all in the Republican conference. A handful of senior Republicans have already indicated they will run if Ryan does not, and even more have stood by bemused as others float their names.
    And if Ryan does run, conservatives and a group of the right flank called the House Freedom Caucus could still exert their influence to demand procedural changes from Ryan for their support, which he would need to get enough votes to secure the speakership.

    Clinton on Benghazi

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    The marquee event on the Hill this week will come Thursday, when Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi after months of lead-up. Republican comments in recent weeks have turned the tables on the committee, putting its members on the defensive in advance of the former secretary of state's testimony.
    Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, said Sunday that the committee's work is pure, despite others' comments saying that the panel is driven by an agenda to damage Clinton.
    "I have told my own Republican colleagues and friends, shut up talking about things that you don't know anything about. And unless you're on the committee, you have no idea what we've done, why we've done it and what new facts we have found," Gowdy told CBS's "Face the Nation."
    Clinton, for her part, has long said she looks forward to the testimony and demanded it be public. She has latched onto Republicans' comments implying a political motive for the committee, spinning it to her advantage and playing down any potential for fireworks on Thursday.
    "I've already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don't know that I have very much to add," Clinton told Jake Tapper.
    Democrats on the committee have also threatened to leave the panel after the hearing if Republicans overreach, saying their presence shouldn't lend legitimacy to what they call a partisan fishing expedition. During Clinton's testimony, the two sides will be in a delicate dance trying to accuse the other side of politics and gamesmanship while not seeming overly political themselves.