MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Barack Obama challenges Hillary Clinton on the Iraq war.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): We need to ask those who voted for the war, how can you give the president a blank check and then act surprised when he decides to cash it?
MR. RUSSERT: And she tries to separate herself from the field.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): Now, I’ve noticed that the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting a lot of attention from the men in this race.
MR. RUSSERT: The Republican presidential candidates parade their views in front of the Values Voters Summit and prepare for another debate tonight. The caucuses and primaries are just 10 weeks away, but we still don’t know the exact dates. Is this any way to elect a president? Insights and analysis from presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; the National Review’s Kate O’Beirne; the author of “For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton, the White House Years,” Sally Bedell Smith; and PBS’ Judy Woodruff.
Then, some much needed humor in our politics. Another candidate enters the race.
MR. STEPHEN COLBERT: I shall seek the office of the president of the United States.
MR. RUSSERT: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, right here, only on MEET THE PRESS.
But first, the race for the White House heating up; the primaries and caucuses just 10 weeks away. Here to put it all in perspective, an extraordinary group of ladies.
MS. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.
MS. KATE O’BEIRNE: Thank you.
MS. SALLY BEDELL SMITH: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Let’s go right to it. Barack Obama in Reno, Nevada. That caucus will be January 19th.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, let’s watch what Senator Obama said about senators who voted for the war in Iraq, including Hillary Clinton. Here he is.
SEN. OBAMA: They didn’t read the intelligence. They didn’t speak out or stand up to the president. The majority of Congress that voted to give the president the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. So let’s be clear: Without that vote there would be no war.
MR. RUSSERT: Sharpening the difference, Barack Obama, Doris Kearns Goodwin. He says it’s a new season. Are we going to see more of this and will this resonate with primary voters?
MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: I think it has to, for his sake. I mean, I think it’s a complicated situation for him because on the one hand he’s presenting himself as a centrist who can bring people on either side of the party together, as he did in Illinois. But on the other hand, his supporters are saying, ‘We want you to be out there aggressive. We need something to define you and Hillary.’ And the biggest definition is this vote in Iraq. Because then he can argue that experience is not the only thing that matters. It’s judgment that matters.
But then she responds terrifically by saying, you know, all these men, they’re paying a lot of attention to me, and it’s great when you’re my age that they’re paying attention to me. And she laughs and can take a self-deprecating humor to it. So I think they’re both getting in some slogs at this point.
MR. RUSSERT: Is this the Obama we’re going to see in the last 10 weeks, trying to define those differences?
MS. WOODRUFF: Tim, he is walking a delicate line between, on the one hand, trying to be above the fray, the nongunslinger political candidate. On the other hand, as you just saw in that piece, he has got to begin to differentiate himself from Hillary Clinton. And it’s, it’s going to be a balancing act. The hope in his campaign right now is that he stays within striking distance; we know he’s running behind in the polls, but that he somehow pulls off an upset in, in Iowa. Then, maybe, at least is, is—does well enough--(clears throat) excuse me—in New Hampshire to stay in the game. (Clears throat) Excuse me. But then--(clears throat) excuse me—he is in a position to pull off a surprise. Because right now people are beginning to question—the people who’ve given his campaign money are beginning to question whether he is really in the game. And so he’s got to begin to make some of these differences.
MR. RUSSERT: That clearly is strategy. Win Iowa, go to New Hampshire, get those independent voters in his camp, go to South Carolina where half the Democrats are African-Americans who will then sense pride and the opportunity in having the first African-American president. But as Doris mentioned, Hillary Clinton is responding this way, talking about gender. Let’s watch.
SEN. CLINTON: Now, I’ve noticed that the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting a lot of attention from the men in this race. And at first, you know, I didn’t know what to make of it. And then a good friend of mine said, “You know, when you get to be our age, having that much attention from all these men...”
MR. RUSSERT: This is the kind of headline this has generated, Kate O’Beirne. “Clinton shows femininity to court key constituency.
“Everywhere she goes, Hillary Clinton asks voters to help her make history as the first woman president.
“Yet Clinton is increasingly portraying herself more as motherly and traditional than as trailblazing and feminist, sometimes playing up the difference between men and women.
“Analysts also see a political calculation: She’s less popular among older, married women who are more likely to prefer a more traditional role for women. Clinton’s focus on women this week was a bid to consolidate her support among female voters, who account for much of her lead in many polls.
“On the campaign trail, voters see Clinton, who has long been a lightning rod in gender politics battles, trying to soften one persistent image of her as a strident career woman in a pantsuit. Through the years, she’s tried to overcome that persona, which dates in the national mind from Bill Clinton’s ‘92 run for the White House, when she derided the idea of staying home baking cookies.”
The gender card being played?
MS. O’BEIRNE: I think so, Tim. As you know, her campaign really believes that her candidacy will so enthuse women voters that she’ll be competitive places where another Democratic candidate might not be. Now, women voters don’t reliably vote for other women. Christie Todd Whitman’s races are instructive. Christie Todd Whitman, of course, won statewide in New Jersey twice as governor. The major of women in New Jersey never voted for Christie Todd Whitman. So it’s not a sure bet, so she has to, I think, soften her image to the benefit of an awful lot of women who don’t consider themselves feminists. And that self-deprecating humor, I think she demonstrably has a sort of softer appeal than certainly she had during the ‘90s, and I think she’s a more effective campaigner than she was during her Senate race in 2000. She now is talking about how inspirational her candidacy is. The women who over age 90 who come to her events, born before women were allowed to vote, so anxious to see a woman in the White House. But I can’t help thinking, for every 90-year-old woman welcoming her candidacy, her historic candidacy, there’s a 90-year-old man who just couldn’t stand Eleanor Roosevelt. So that’s the flip side of what she’s trying to do.
MR. RUSSERT: Sally Bedell Smith, your new book, “For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton, the White House Years,” you write about her 2000 campaign in this way. And let me read it for you and our viewers.
“Hillary’s speech was heavy on issues and light on political ingratiation.
“Her approach reflected the campaign strategy devised by her cadre of consultants, led by Mark Penn. On the basis of focus-group research, they concluded that Hillary needed to emphasize competence and mastery of policy. For all the sympathy generated by her stoicism during the Lewinsky scandal, voters mistrusted her, and white suburban women were among her harshest critics. In videotaped discussions, they judged Hillary ‘threatening and unwomanly,’ ‘ruthless and greedy for power,’ ‘very controlling’ and ‘self-serving.’”
Very much the same strategy we’re seeing played out in 2008.
MS. SMITH: Well, I think that’s, I think that’s true. They’ve always thought that competence and fact—the fact-based aspect of it was the most important and that they would perhaps lose on personality because, really, when you—the—well, what I focused on in my book is this unique political bond that Bill and Hillary Clinton have. He is a natural when it comes to politics and she is not. And they constantly collaborate on her strategies and positions on issues and so forth. But, you know, she, she is, you know, she, she has, she has qualities that just are different from his.
MR. RUSSERT: Very much so. And Mark Penn, ironically, is still involved with Hillary Clinton. He has a new memo out this week called “Women Changing America,” to interested parties from make—Mark Penn, chief strategist. He says, “So perhaps the most important impact of women’s support for Hillary will be felt if” she’s “the party’s nominee. In our own polling, 94 percent of young women tell us they are more likely to turn out and vote if the first woman nominee appears on the ballot. Often, we have seen increased turnout for members of certain groups that make up a small part of the electorate. Women are 54 percent of the electorate, and even a 10 percent increase in turnout among women on top of the current polls would give Hillary a significant edge in a general election, opening up a wide number of states.”
Not surprisingly, Barack Obama’s pollster, Joel Benenson, said “Hold on, here’s my evidence to the contrary,” and this is what Obama said.
“Penn’s assertion is entirely baseless and refuted by a number of public polls. Moreover, these polls also indicate sizable defection among Democratic women should Senator Clinton be the nominee.
In a recent Cook/RT Strategies Poll, in a head-to-head match-up against Rudy Giuliani, Clinton won only 7 percent of Republican women voters.” Indeed, “indeed more Democratic women crossover to the Republican side to vote against Clinton--9 percent—than Republican women crossover to vote for her.”
The battle of the polls...
MS. WOODRUFF: Are we able to keep track of all this?
MR. RUSSERT: But it’s all about women in the primaries and, and in the general elections. Hillary Clinton needs a huge gender gap in order to win this White House.
MS. WOODRUFF: And, Tim, women are central to her strategy. They are a central part of her strategy. Her campaign believes that she is already doing very well with women in the Democratic primaries, women—especially women in the working class, middle class women, and, and projecting ahead to the general election, if she were the nominee. They think she has the—what they call the ability to be a transcendent factor to bring women out in somewhat larger numbers on the margins, not to sweep, I think, 24 percent of the Republican women’s vote, which I think is the figure that Mark Penn used, but to, but to bring even a marginal 2, 3, 4 percent, which in a close election, as you say, Tim, could be huge. Women are 54 percent—were in 2004, 54 percent of the electorate. And if, if the argument is made, as Kate said earlier, “You have the ability, when you go to the polls, to make history next Tuesday. You can wake up Wednesday morning and a woman will be president,” they believe there’s a small percentage of women out there who will buy into that.
MS. GOODWIN: I think that will take greater hold once the general election takes place.
MS. WOODRUFF: Yeah.
MS. GOODWIN: When it’s really clear that you might have a women president for the first time. The thing that I think that’s interesting between where Hillary is now and where she was when she ran for the Senate—from that first thing you put up—when she was running for the Senate, there was still that idea that she was the first lady, and there’s a gap in what we feel about what our first lady should be and what an independent candidate should be. There’s a sense in which the first lady should still be the first lady. So that sense that she was unwomanly and she was too powerful and he was wishy-washy connected to her, that’s less so today now that she’s running on her own. Even when Eleanor was first lady, women would come to the White House and say they got dust on their gloves because she wasn’t cleaning the White House. She shouldn’t be running around the country. But now she’s running in her own right. There’s an independence under her, and I think some of that anger about her has been softened because she’s her own person now, rather than the first lady.
MS. SMITH: She, she...
MS. O’BEIRNE: She’s better at what she does, though. Sally quotes her during her 2000 race, saying, “My god, Bill made this look so easy.” And, and I—that really made sense to me because, despite the partnership, he had always been the one out there. We all recognize his, his natural gifts. She has studied it, she has worked at it, and she’s just really better at it, I think, now though.
MS. SMITH: Well...
MR. RUSSERT: Sally Bedell Smith, there’s a wonderful quote in your book that she was unsentimental as Bill was mushy. She once wrote to a college friend, quote, “Unthinking emotion is pitiful to me.” And then a friend named Ann McCoy—a friend of hers from Arkansas—said, quote, “You get a hug from Bill and a solution from Hillary.”
MS. SMITH: Right, well that speaks to their vast differences in political styles. But when it comes to their approach to politics, their interest in policy, it, it is the glue that has held them together through many, many turbulent times. And, and it’s, and it’s, and it’s why I focused on this issue for my, for my book, because we are facing the unprecedented circumstance, and it hasn’t kind of come into view, that we could have two presidents in the White House who are married to each other. And the record of that is really in those eight years, that we, we need to look at the dynamic of that relationship and how it effected policies and politics and the whole conduct of the Clinton presidency. That is the—Hillary Clinton is running at least in part on her record as first lady, although they’re being rather vague about what that record is. And this is a book that offers the complete picture of how that played out and how it could play out with their roles reversed. They have deeply collaborative habits that go all the way back to Arkansas. I mean, this is a couple who are, who are—they’re so political, that when they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary they sat home. They didn’t go out for a romantic dinner. They sat home and they watched the presidential debate on, on television. They, they pick their vacation spots because swing voters like outdoorsy places. So this is, you know, this is something that’s absolutely...
MS. GOODWIN: Isn’t that what we all do? (Unintelligible)
MS. SMITH: Well.
MS. WOODRUFF: (Unintelligible)
MS. SMITH: (Unintelligible).
MS. O’BEIRNE: (Unintelligible)
MS. WOODRUFF: But we’re not normal.
MR. RUSSERT: Doesn’t everyone watch C-SPAN on a Saturday night?
MS. SMITH: Well, not really. But, but it has—but it, but it, seriously, when you think about the notion of two presidents, two extremely strong power centers in the White House, what are the implications? What if you’re contemplating being secretary of state, and you think of the notion of Bill Clinton being a goodwill ambassador around the world? Or what if you’re thinking of secretary of the treasury, and you understand perhaps the only difference that Bill and Hillary Clinton have is over free trade, and how do you get in the middle of that argument? That’s just not your ordinary marital spat.
MR. RUSSERT: You do focus on the relationship in your book, and you also invoke Eleanor Roosevelt. There’s a particular focus early on in your book about Eleanor, and you write this: “After Bill published his memoir in 2004, he came close to defining their marital dynamic in a discussion with public radio interviewer Terry Gross about the marriage of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who worked in tandem in the White House but led separate private lives after she learned about his affair with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. Musing about Roosevelt, Bill Clinton said...” And here’s his actual words with NPR.
(Audiotape from “Fresh Air,” June 24, 2004)
FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON: He and his wife had a very complicated relationship. They loved each other very much. They had a bunch of kids, but they had big pockets of estrangement between them then and pain, and they, they rendered enormous service to this country because they stuck with what they had in common. I mean that’s fascinating to me.
MR. RUSSERT: Doris.
MS. GOODWIN: Wow. That’s one of the most interesting things I’ve heard Bill Clinton say. I mean, what it does is create the parallel, and I think rightly so, between Franklin and Eleanor and he and Hillary. Because Franklin and Eleanor, ever after she found out about Lucy Mercer, she could forget, but she couldn’t fully forgive. And when I was working on the book, I kept wanting to say to Eleanor, “Just forget about it. He loves you! I know he loves you.” I’d say to Franklin, “Franklin, stop it! I know you love her!” But they had this indissoluble bond. They had this connection to one another that was able to override the fact. They also had a similar dynamic in their relationship, just as Hillary’s more methodical, more disciplined, more focused, less spontaneous, so was Eleanor. He has the better political feel, as did FDR. But in the end they create a sort of a unit, just as you talk about in your book, that transcends these real hurts. But the fact that Bill Clinton is talking about those hurts so openly, I thought that was fabulously interesting.
MR. RUSSERT: Go ahead.
MS. SMITH: But, but at the same time, it, it strikes me that Eleanor Roosevelt was almost more independent of Franklin than Hillary is of Bill. They—there’s a—there’s kind of a codependency that, that continues. He—for example, he reads all the books and underlines them for her. I mean, she relies on him for so much. When they were in the—in the White House before, he was the one who said to the Time magazine editors before he took office, when they asked him “Who’s going to be in the room when you have to make a big decision?” He said, “Hillary.” He didn’t say the vice president. And I think that dynamic is now reversed. She’s very dependent on him. She—Mark Penn, in the, in the Senate race in 2000 used to use whole phrases from Bill Clinton’s speeches in her speeches. And, and so they, you know, they, they, they still have, whether they’re miles apart, they are still in constant contact. So she’s very, very dependent on him.
MS. GOODWIN: But, you know, Sally, once you become your own person running, as Eleanor after he died had to become her own person, she said she learned how to be a better political figure because she couldn’t depend on him. And I think, to a certain extent, she’s going to have to become more independent as this goes on, and I think she already is.
MR. RUSSERT: And Doris Kearns Goodwin, Peggy Noonan points out that Hillary’s been—Hillary Clinton’s been quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, saying “Women are like tea bags, you never know how strong they are until they get in hot water.”
MS. GOODWIN: I mean, that’s the worst imagining, that we’re like tea bags. I mean, you sort of flop around on a piece of, of cup. But I think what that means for Eleanor is that when she found out about that affair, when they had been married 12 years, suddenly she sought to find her own identity. She became involved with women activists, she knew—she suddenly learned that she could speak in a way that she didn’t think before.
Hillary, you point out incredibly in your book, when the impeachment is going on, she’s planning her Senate race. And, and somebody comes and tells her that they’ve not voted to convict him in the Senate, she says, “Well, what about Erie County?” I mean, incredible...
MS. SMITH: Yeah.
MS. GOODWIN: ...that she could be that focused...(unintelligible)
MS. SMITH: Yeah. I mean, there was, there was another moment when, when—which I thought was the most revealing of all, when Bill Clinton had just confessed on national television that he had, in fact, been lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. There had been bombings in Africa. They had to go, they had to go to Martha’s Vineyard. Hillary had been humiliated before the world. She was obviously angry. He had to write a speech to give to the American public, and she put aside her anger and she sat down and worked with him on that speech. So it shows again how this glue has kept them together. It’s very unusual.
MR. RUSSERT: Judy Woodruff, when Senator Clinton goes out and talks about being a woman and historic, particularly with younger women, it is a fine line because of her being a victim in her own marriage. And it—how does she deal with that, in terms of saying to young women, “We’re feminists. We’re in this together,” and people say, “By the way, explain exactly your thinking on this.”
MS. WOODRUFF: Well, she’s not going to talk about it in those terms. I mean, we know that. We, we can only assume anything. And we really—because we really don’t know. They have drawn a, a veil, a, a—there’s a barrier. We don’t know. I think all—what she can do is focus on her positives and, and talk about what she, what she can do as a woman, as a candidate. I think it’s interesting we’re sitting here talking about Hillary Clinton being more maternal recently, talking about being the one woman on the stage with all the men. Imagine a political candidate trying to have it both ways. Because, on the other hand, people have been criticizing her for going out and stressing her national security credentials. “I’m strong enough to be the commander in chief.” That’s the balance that I think is very, very interesting that she’s trying to walk right now.
MR. RUSSERT: Kate O’Beirne, the one thing that Hillary Clinton has done is united the Republicans. Every major Republican candidate is running against Hillary Clinton. They talk about her more than Iraq, Social Security, any other issue. As much as she might fire up women and organize them and galvanize them to vote for her, what will she do to the Republican base or to men?
MS. O’BEIRNE: Well, the field of Republican candidates is clearly counting on her enthusing Republican voters who otherwise, given the state of the party, the disappointment with George Bush in many respects on the part of a big of his base—look what happened to Republicans in 2006. Democrat—a generic Democrat has to be so favored in 2008, given this climate, they are hoping that Hillary Clinton is not that Democrat, that she’s the one Democrat who will enthuse otherwise sort of dispirited Republican voters. They could be exaggerating that to an extent, I think. I mean, clearly there are an awful lot of conservatives who could never support Hillary Clinton based on the issues and her history in the White House. But I think she’s doing a pretty effective job so far. I don’t think—it might be more difficult for them to scare Republican voters with a crazy, wild-eyed liberal Hillary Clinton than they might think.
Now, we are reminded in Sally’s book—Sally talks about the ‘90s, there’s been this sort of curious amnesia, Sally calls it.
MS. SMITH: Yeah.
MS. O’BEIRNE: Because everything’s been so eventful since the Clinton presidency--9/11 and Afghanistan and Iraq—people sort of look back on the ‘90s as blessedly peaceful. That’s not going to last through, through 2008. We’re reminded in Sally’s book about Madison Guarantee and Whitewater and Travelgate and Johnny Chung and Monica Lewinsky. And I think there’s a major question about whether or not voters want to go back to the ‘90s.
MR. RUSSERT: That’s what Barack Obama and John Edwards have been trying to seize on, that they’re stronger general election candidates. People want to turn the page. Whether that will work or not, the voters in Iowa will start deciding in January.
Rudy Giuliani has been taking Hillary Clinton on front and center. Let’s watch what he said on Tuesday.
(Videotape, from “Hannity & Colmes”)
MR. RUDY GIULIANI: Honestly, and most respectfully, I don’t know Hillary’s experience. She’s never run a city. She’s never run a state. She’s never run a business. She’s never met a payroll. She’s never been responsible for the safety and security of millions of people, much less even hundreds of people. So I’m, I’m trying to figure out where the experience is here. It would seem to me that in a time of difficult problems and war, we don’t want on-the-job training, you know, for an, for an executive.
MR. RUSSERT: Doris.
MS. GOODWIN: Well, it’s true, I think, that mayors and governors have more executive experience in daily lives of their, their constituents. But, on the other hand, since she’s been an integral partner with Bill all this time—she was right by his side as governor, she was in the White House—I think the greatest experience that she might have is almost like they get the chance--(to Ms. Smith) and I think you said this—to do it all over again. She can learn from the mistakes they made in the transition, the mistakes they made in not compromising on health care. She was by his side, she edited his speeches, she was the closer. She was a team member. So the real question is she’s had more on-the-job experience as president and co-president in the White House if she can learn from what went wrong as well as what went right. So I think he’s wrong about that.
MR. RUSSERT: But in the campaign, she will focus on the successes and try to avoid any discussion that she was a participant in the failures.
MS. GOODWIN: I think that’s something she’s got to learn. Kate’s right, I think she’s getting better. The country wants to hear her able to talk about what she learned that made her not do things the way she wants to. It’s not just the partisan divide. Those failures were their failures in part. There’s no problem with learning from that. Then her experience is unmatchable. Who else has sat in that White House for eight years and learned from what went wrong?
MS. O’BEIRNE: Although...
MS. GOODWIN: So I think that’s something she’s got to figure out.
MS. O’BEIRNE: Although the biggest thing she was responsible for, the one thing she really managed was, of course, the disastrous health care reform. And Republican candidates are certainly going to be reminding the public that that was her signature accomplishment during the Clinton years.
MS. SMITH: And, and I think by examining that, that whole process, you can see how the intersection of their personal life and trying to get this policy put into effect, and how that spilled over in so many ways and, and really impeded—there, there were many moments along the way when, when they could have achieved three-quarters of a loaf, but because, again, that marital dynamic, they, they couldn’t.
MR. RUSSERT: He said—the president held up a pen...
MS. SMITH: He held up the pen...
MR. RUSSERT: ...”I will veto. I will veto.”
MS. SMITH: ...and she encouraged him to do that while others were saying, “No, don’t do it.”
MS. O’BEIRNE: Compromise.
MS. SMITH: But getting back to what Doris said about, you know, all the range of things, it was—a lot of it wasn’t even known in the White House, much less by the public. I mean, she had, for example, staff members going every week to the White House counsel’s office to work with people from the Justice Department to screen candidates for the federal bench and attorney general. That’s a familiar subject these days. And so people used her as a back channel. There were lots of ways. And so what I think what Doris is sort of addressing is the notion that we have to think about accountability and transparency. And if we’re going to have two presidents in the White House, who’s going to be in charge, what’s the balance going to be? Is it going to be 50/50, 60/40, 51/49? And how do you—you’re in a meeting and what do you say when somebody who sat behind that Oval Office desk says, “Well, I did it my way. How about this way?”
MS. WOODRUFF: Whatever happens, Tim, she’s already had a big effect on this race. The other candidates all—you go to their Web sites, they all have pages about where they stand on women’s issues. They, they tout who the prominent women are who are supporting their campaign. Mitt Romney has Meg Whitman, who’s the chairman of eBay, and, and I could go on with, with many examples. And, finally, Tim, I mean she’s influenced the way we cover the campaign. You have an all-women panel here this morning. We could call you an honorary skirt.
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah. This is the not the first time. I’ve done this before.
MS. WOODRUFF: I know you have.
MR. RUSSERT: And we’ll do it again.
MS. WOODRUFF: All right.
MR. RUSSERT: I was talking about the Values Voters Conference here in Washington—Summit here in Washington. The Family Research Council had—Tony Perkins said that Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton are indistinguishable on social and cultural issues. There was a straw vote taken amongst conservative activists, Christian activists, and this is how—there they are there casting their straw votes—and this is how it came down online and in that hall combined. Mitt Romney, 27.62 percent; Huckabee, 27.15; Ron Paul; Fred Thompson; undecided; San Brownback, who’s now withdrawn; Duncan Hunter; Tom Tancredo; Rudy Giuliani, 1.85 percent, ahead of only John McCain. And of voters just in the hall alone, look at this, Mike Huckabee, 51.26. He gave them a stem-winding, Baptist preacher presentation yesterday. Mitt Romney at 10 percent; Thompson, 8; Tancredo, 6; Giuliani, 6; Hunter, 5; McCain, 3. What does that tell you, Kate?
MS. O’BEIRNE: Well, Mike Huckabee, as you well know, is a former Baptist minister, and that was his flock, Tim, and it showed. Mitt Romney is making inroads among that constituency, and I think that was reflected in the overall vote, including those voting on Internet. Rudy Giuliani, I don’t think that reflects how he may have helped himself by going to the Value Voters Summit and making the kind of speech he did. Colleagues of mine who were there said that he was very respectfully received, and their analysis was he may not have helped himself all that much with respect to the primary, but he may have made himself more acceptable on the part of those voters for the general.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you a bite from Rudy Giuliani. Doris Kearns Goodwin, you will recognize some of this language. Let’s watch.
MR. GIULIANI: Please know this, you have absolutely nothing to fear from me. Yeah, I find it difficult understanding those who try to make me out and activist for liberal causes.
MR. RUSSERT: Who’s pro-abortion rights, pro-gay rights, pro-stem cell research, pro-gun control, but doesn’t want to be portrayed as a liberal activist. But you have nothing to fear, but...
MS. GOODWIN: But fear itself. But, you know, the other thing he said that was so interesting is, “You may—I may not always agree with you, you may not always agree with me, I don’t always agree with myself.” You know, again, that ability to just speak to them straight. I think you’re right, Kate, he did himself a good deed by that. Because mainly what he has to avoid is a third party coming into the fold. And if they’re not sure about that, and they came out of that meeting not being sure, you know, I think the correct question is they always keep saying that, you know, you can’t have a moderate to beat a liberal. You can’t have a moderate Giuliani to beat Hillary. But I don’t think that’s true historically. I mean, Eisenhower was a moderate, he beat Stevenson. Nixon ran as a moderate, and he beat McGovern. Dukakis lost to George Bush Sr., who was a moderate. So I think these evangelical conservatives and the Republican right wing have to figure out if they really want to win, do they want a moderate, or do they—they don’t...
MS. O’BEIRNE: You know, well...
MS. GOODWIN: Well, what? You know them better than me.
MS. O’BEIRNE: ...the challenge—the reason why the base is so discomforted by Rudy Giuliani—one thing he does benefit from, I think, is some number of them say, “Look, he doesn’t share our values, but he shares our enemies.” And that’s gone a long way, I think, in reassuring many conservatives about Rudy Giuliani, that there’s something in common there.
MS. GOODWIN: We hate together.
MS. O’BEIRNE: Republicans have won five out of the last seven presidential elections with a coalition—building from a coalition of economic, social and national security conservatives, and then reaching out to independents. That has been a successful formula. Rudy Giuliani is looking to change that formula, somehow put together a coalition with far fewer social and cultural conservatives and think he can make it up somehow. That is, in a, in a dicey year for Republicans, that is a risky strategy, and that’s where a lot of this...
MR. RUSSERT: But he thinks he can...
MS. O’BEIRNE: ...nervousness comes from.
MR. RUSSERT: ...put, put in place states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and New Jersey, states that have traditionally gone Democratic. He believes, because of his social and cultural issues and his emphasis on the terror issue, he can make those blue states red.
MS. O’BEIRNE: Exactly. I, I, I don’t see the evidence of that. As recently as, as 2006--look at Pennsylvania, when Bob Casey Jr. ran against Rick Santorum; when the cultural, the social issues—in this case, abortion—was negated because it was a pro-life Democrat running against Rick Santorum, look what happened. An awful lot of people who had voted for Rick Santorum in the past went back to voting for the Democrat. An awful lot of evangelicals and ethnic Catholics are voting on cultural and social issues with the Republicans, not necessarily national security and economic issues. And in all those polls that showed Rudy Giuliani’s strong against Hillary Clinton, John McCain is equally strong against Hillary Clinton. Both benefit from being the best-known Republicans in the field, I think.
MR. RUSSERT: Ten seconds.
MS. WOODRUFF: And, Tim, right now he benefits, frankly, because the Christian conservative vote, a quarter of the Republican base, is divided. And they’re divided Thompson, Romney and, and Huckabee.
MS. O’BEIRNE: Mm-hmm.
MS. WOODRUFF: And so if he’s got most of the rest of the 75 percent, and he can just have a chunk of that 25 percent, he may be in good shape.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued, ladies. Judy Woodruff, Kate O’Beirne, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Sally Bedell Smith, “For Love of Politics, Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years,” thank you all.
MS. SMITH: Thank you.
MS. WOODRUFF: Thanks, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, political humor, a long tradition here on MEET THE PRESS, we continue it today. Get ready, America. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert says he’s running for president, sort of. What does he stand for? We’ll try to find out. He’s here, only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert on 2,000--Decision 2008, after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Mr. Colbert, welcome.
MR. COLBERT: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: This is what the world watched on Tuesday night.
MR. COLBERT: Well, after nearly 15 minutes of soul searching, I have heard the call. Nation, I shall seek the office of the president of the United States! I am doing it.
MR. RUSSERT: We’re no—we know you’re doing it...
MR. COLBERT Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...but why are you doing it?
MR. COLBERT: I’m doing it, Tim, because I think our country is facing unprecedented challenges in the future. And I think that the junctures that we face are both critical and unforeseen, and the real challenge is how we will respond to these junctures, be they unprecedented or unforeseen, or, God help us, critical.
MR. RUSSERT: You’ve thought this through.
MR. COLBERT: That’s a generous estimation. Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: The press reaction to your announcement has been mixed. Here’s one headline.
MR. COLBERT: OK.
MR. RUSSERT: This was on Thursday. “Electile Dysfunction: Colbert Running For” president.
MR. COLBERT: That’s good work. That’s good work.
MR. RUSSERT: Are they, are they questioning, shall we say, your stamina?
MR. COLBERT: I don’t know. I think a lot of people are asking whether—they say is this, is this real, you know? And to which I would say to everybody, this is not a dream, OK? You’re not going to wake up from this, OK? I’m, I’m, I’m far realer than Sam Brownback, let me put it that way.
MR. RUSSERT: Authenticity’s important to the voter.
MR. COLBERT: Absolutely. You got to, you got to convey to them that you mean what you say, and that you’ve put some thought into what you do.
MR. RUSSERT: Many people in your family, and you used to be Colbert (pronounces it Colburt).
MR. COLBERT: Right, yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: You are now Colbert (pronounces it Colbare).
MR. COLBERT: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: I would be Russert (pronounces it Russare)?
MR. COLBERT: Russert. Russert (pronounces it Roosare). Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: OK.
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: “Sesame Street.” There are two characters...
MR. COLBERT: Is this...
MR. RUSSERT: ...Ernie and...
MR. COLBERT: And Bert. Ernie and Bert.
MR. RUSSERT: B-E-R-T.
MR. COLBERT: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Then why aren’t you Colbert?
MR. COLBERT: Are you saying that I don’t have the right to drop the T in my name? Are you saying that? Last time I checked, this was America. Or does that mean not a thing to you anymore?
MR. RUSSERT: Then why not call him “Ber”?
MR. COLBERT: Because that’s his choice. You’ll have to ask him. I dare you.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you...
MR. COLBERT: Ask him. Right now.
MR. RUSSERT: But why did you change your name?
MR. COLBERT: I changed my name because I knew that there were people out there who, who needed T’s.
MR. RUSSERT: Not comfortable in your own skin?
MR. COLBERT: Oh, I’m extremely comfortable in my own skin. I’m comfortable in other people’s skin.
MR. RUSSERT: Why are you running only in South Carolina?
MR. COLBERT: Because I believe that it’s the greatest state of the union, I believe there are things that—I believe I can make a difference there. I think it is time to focus on South Carolina. Florida tried to jump South Carolina’s primary date for both the Republicans and the Democrats. I want to put the focus back on South Carolina. I want it to be a permanent thing. I don’t want Iowa and New Hampshire to be the only people in the United States who get to control who is a bellwether state. And if Iowa and New Hampshire don’t like that, they can take some of that Iowa corn and stick it right up their Dixville Notch.
MR. RUSSERT: You—yet another attempt at humor, Mr. Colbert. You say...
MR. COLBERT: Oh, I’m serious.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you...
MR. COLBERT: I’m serious.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you, are you a son of South Carolina?
MR. COLBERT: I am.
MR. RUSSERT: You know a lot about the state?
MR. COLBERT: I do.
MR. RUSSERT: What’s the state amphibian?
MR. COLBERT: The state amphibian?
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah.
MR. COLBERT: It’s my dog Cookie.
MR. RUSSERT: No, no, it’s not.
MR. COLBERT: She swims, and she goes on land.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s the spotted salamander.
MR. COLBERT: That’s the easiest—what’s the state flower, sir? What’s the state...
MR. RUSSERT: Go ahead. Go ahead.
MR. COLBERT: The confederate jasmine, also known as the yellow jasmine.
MR. RUSSERT: Well done.
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: What’s the state motto?
MR. COLBERT: Dum spiro spero.
MR. RUSSERT: Which means?
MR. COLBERT: While I breathe, I hope. Come on! I thought you had better researchers! You can’t nail me with harder things than this?
MR. RUSSERT: The mandatory presidential campaign book. All the candidates who have them. Yours is out, “I Am America (And So Can You!)” On Iraq, this is what you say. “Once again, God won the war. He just doesn’t occupy very well.”
MR. COLBERT: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: God’s on our side in Iraq?
MR. COLBERT: I, I would say he’s not on their side. Do you, do you think he’s on our enemy’s—do you think he’s on our enemy’s side?
MR. RUSSERT: I’m only asking—I’m asking the questions.
MR. COLBERT: Because you’re implying—these are your words. Not mine.
MR. RUSSERT: These are your words from your book.
MR. COLBERT: But your words are certainly in your question. You’ll have to grant me that.
MR. RUSSERT: So God’s not an occupier?
MR. COLBERT: He just didn’t occupy very well in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: You know, if you look at the voting blocks that exist in South Carolina and around the country...
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...I’m quite surprised the way you treat them in this book.
MR. COLBERT: What do you mean?
MR. RUSSERT: Senior citizens? This is what you call them, old people.
“Sorry, but retirement offends me. You don’t just stop fighting in the middle of a war because your legs hurt. So why do you get to stop working in the middle of your life just because your prostate hurts?”
MR. COLBERT: Well, Tim, I, I just don’t understand pensions or Social Security. Why do you get paid after you stop working? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
MR. RUSSERT: Abolish Social Security?
MR. COLBERT: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Abolish Medicare?
MR. COLBERT: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Abolish all pensions?
MR. COLBERT: Abolish tipping waiters and waitresses because I’ve gotten my food. They get paid by the hour. Why am I giving them extra money? That’s all pensions and Social Security are. It’s a tip at the end of your life.
MR. RUSSERT: Senior voters gone. Now fathers. Again, your words, your book. “The father.”
MR. COLBERT: Mm.
MR. RUSSERT: “America used to live by the motto ‘Father knows best.’ Now we’re lucky if ‘Father Knows He Has Children.’ There’s more to being a father than taking kids to Chuck E. Cheese and supplying the occasional Y-chromosome. A father has to be a provider, a teacher, a role model, but most importantly, a distant authority figure who can never be pleased”?
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you a presidential candidate who speaks to your children?
MR. COLBERT: Oh, absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think candidates should speak to their children?
MR. COLBERT: If they have them. I don’t think that you have to have children to be a presidential candidate. It might actually help to, you know, move in a quickened light.
MR. RUSSERT: The mother, another source of...
MR. COLBERT: Yeah. I love my mother. You’re not going to, you’re not going to attack me for loving my mother, are you?
MR. RUSSERT: You attack all mothers in your book. Again, your words, Mr. Colbert. And here they are.
“Scientists have proven, one assumes, that every flaw in a child can be traced back to a mistake made by the mother. As adults we’re all imperfect, so that means all mothers are incompetent. But some mothers are worse than others. Take women who work. If you work outside the home, you might as well bring coconut arsenic squares to the school bake sale.”
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: Doesn’t Hillary Clinton work outside the home?
MR. COLBERT: I believe she does, yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you talking about her?
MR. COLBERT: I’m talking about all mothers who don’t spend all their time thinking about their children and nothing else.
MR. RUSSERT: Women should be out of the work force?
MR. COLBERT: No, they can be in the work force as long as they bring their children with them. That’s, that’s all I mean to imply.
MR. RUSSERT: Gay marriage.
MR. COLBERT: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: This is, again, from the Colbert Bible.
MR. COLBERT: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: “The biggest threat,” you say, “facing America today—next to socialized medicine, the Dyson vacuum cleaner and the recumbent bicycle.”
MR. COLBERT: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: That, to you, that means it’s a serious threat to our culture.
MR. COLBERT: Right. It, it, it’s...
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
MR. COLBERT: Excuse me?
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
MR. COLBERT: Why is gay marriage?
MR. RUSSERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. COLBERT: Marriage is the basic building block of society. And if gay men get married, that threatens my marriage immediately because I only got married as a taunt toward gay men because they couldn’t.
MR. RUSSERT: So it makes you feel insecure.
MR. COLBERT: Well, I just don’t know else—why I got married other than to rub it in gay people’s faces.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you consider Senator Larry Craig as your running mate?
MR. COLBERT: I would.
MR. RUSSERT: Have you had conversations with him?
MR. COLBERT: Define conversation.
MR. RUSSERT: Have you spoken to him?
MR. COLBERT: No, no.
MR. RUSSERT: Have you met with him? Have you been in the same room together?
MR. COLBERT: Yes. And my...
MR. RUSSERT: And how...
MR. COLBERT: Sorry, my lawyer’s telling me to say no more.
MR. RUSSERT: How did you express your interest in developing your relationship?
MR. COLBERT: Forcefully.
MR. RUSSERT: Vanity Fair...
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...wrote this...
MR. COLBERT: The fine news magazine.
MR. RUSSERT: This is what they said: “Unlike many of his friends, Colbert did not return to Charleston,” South Carolina, “after graduation,” from Northwestern, I might add, “instead staying in Chicago. He cut a distinctly un-southern look: he wore black turtlenecks, had what he describes as a ‘Jesus beard,’ and grew his hair out.” Now, NBC News MEET THE PRESS...
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...has researched this.
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm. Oh, I know all about your researchers.
MR. RUSSERT: Take a look at this picture. That is you!
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you deny it?
MR. COLBERT: I, I don’t deny it. What good would it do me?
MR. RUSSERT: All right. Do...
MR. COLBERT: I—my time away, my time away...
MR. RUSSERT: Do you, do you know, do you know, do you know a gentleman named Chip Hill?
MR. COLBERT: My time away from the South—I’m familiar with Mr. Hill.
MR. RUSSERT: You’ve known him 30 years.
MR. COLBERT: I have, yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: He’s godfather to your child.
MR. COLBERT: Yes, he is.
MR. RUSSERT: This is what Mr. Hill had to say: “When he was growing up, Colbert, according to Chip Hill, used to joke about how he ‘wanted to major in mass psychology and start a cult.’”
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: I want to see that picture again. That’s a cult leader.
MR. COLBERT: Look, I don’t deny that my time away from the South has been a time in the desert for me, and...
MR. RUSSERT: Do you have Manson tendencies?
MR. COLBERT: Inclinations is as strong as I would go. I don’t actually have a group of people who, who I can snap my fingers and have them attack people.
MR. RUSSERT: But you would like to be a cult leader?
MR. COLBERT: I, I did, at the time, want to be a cult leader. I find that being a TV pundit is, is much more powerful, and you have to be less reliable.
MR. RUSSERT: But would being president be, in your mind, a cult leader?
MR. COLBERT: I don’t want to be president. I want to run for president. There’s a difference. I’m running in South Carolina.
MR. RUSSERT: You’d like to lose?
MR. COLBERT: Hm, I’d like to lose twice. I’d like to lose as both a Republican and a Democrat.
MR. RUSSERT: And what statement would that make?
MR. COLBERT: I think that statement would make that I was able to get on the ballot in South Carolina. And if I can do it, so can you.
MR. RUSSERT: In your office in New York City...
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...you have a large...
MR. COLBERT: You’ve been in my office.
MR. RUSSERT: ...a large poster of a president, don’t you?
MR. COLBERT: Richard Nixon.
MR. RUSSERT: Yes, indeed.
MR. COLBERT: 1972. Now more than ever.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, let me show you and our viewers what you said about that. And “Here’s something Colbertophiles might not know or might not want to know: He loves Richard Nixon. He has a 1972 Nixon campaign poster on the wall of his office. He points at it and says, ‘He was so liberal! Look at what he was running on. He started the EPA. He gave 18-year-olds the vote. His issues were education, drugs, women, minorities, youth involvement, ending the draft, and improving the environment. John Kerry couldn’t have run on this!” What I would give for a Nixon.
MR. COLBERT: It’d be great. It’d be great.
MR. RUSSERT: You, you love Richard Nixon.
MR. COLBERT: I have great warm feelings for Richard Nixon. He was the first president that I was aware of, and I was a little upset with him because, when I would come home in the afternoons from school, instead of “The Munsters” or “The Three Stooges” on TV, it was Senator Sam Urban. And while his eyebrows were hilarious, they weren’t quite as good as Herman Munster.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you be Nixonian in your approach to the presidency?
MR. COLBERT: I’d be Nixonish or Nixonoid. Is that like being Nixonian? Define Nixonian. Powerful?
MR. RUSSERT: (Unintelligible)
MR. COLBERT: Paranoid? Fun-loving and gay? Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Is this a self-analysis?
MR. COLBERT: No, I don’t put myself on the couch.
MR. RUSSERT: But you are Nixonian.
MR. COLBERT: If you say so.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you just did.
MR. COLBERT: Again, if you say so. I don’t even listen to what I say.
MR. RUSSERT: Richard Nixon had a very difficult relationship with the media, as you well know.
MR. COLBERT: I have a very difficult relationship with the media.
MR. RUSSERT: That’s my point.
MR. COLBERT: Because I’m a member of the media, and I don’t trust us.
MR. RUSSERT: You don’t, you don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore. Do you remember that?
MR. COLBERT: I do.
MR. RUSSERT: And I remember the White House correspondents? dinner, April of 2006.
MR. COLBERT: I blacked out for most of that, but go ahead.
MR. RUSSERT: Stephen Colbert...
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...at the presidential podium, the seal in front of him...
MR. COLBERT: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and this is what he said to the Washington Press Corps. Let’s watch.
MR. COLBERT: Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction.
MR. COLBERT: Yeah. That sounds familiar.
MR. RUSSERT: And why did you say that?
MR. COLBERT: Be—I just had so much respect for the way the press supported the goals of the administration for the first four years. And I was just so distressed that, at any point, they started standing up to the administration asking questions, and, and I just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t go back to the good old days of 2001 to mid-2004.
MR. RUSSERT: Which, which did you prefer?
MR. COLBERT: I preferred when they didn’t ask any questions at all. I mean, it was easier for the president to get things done, and that’s what he’s there for.
MR. RUSSERT: What do you watch, yourself, as a person preparing a run for the presidency?
MR. COLBERT: I watch my show to get a pulse for the nation. I have to watch Jon Stewart’s show because he tosses to me at the end of his show. I like “Grey’s Anatomy,” that’s a pretty good show. I like Conan O’Brien.
MR. RUSSERT: These men you’re describing, aren’t they liberal?
MR. COLBERT: Jon’s—I would say Jon has had some misguided statements. I don’t think Conan’s liberal. I don’t think Conan’s made any political statements.
MR. RUSSERT: If you are trounced in South Carolina, I mean...
MR. COLBERT: All right, all right, here’s the attack. Yeah. All right.
MR. RUSSERT: Simple question.
MR. COLBERT: Yeah, I’m trounced.
MR. RUSSERT: What happens then?
MR. COLBERT: Well, it’s proportional voting on the Democratic side. All I need is enough votes on the Democratic side to get one delegate, and I’ll feel like I’ve won. Because if, at the Democratic National Convention, somebody has to stand up and say, “The proud state of South Carolina, the palmetto state, the home of the greatest peaches and shrimp in the world, casts one vote for native son, Stephen Colbert,” I’d say I won.
MR. RUSSERT: So you will not allow that Democratic convention to claim their nominee. There will be no unanimous acclamation.
MR. COLBERT: No...
MR. RUSSERT: You’re going to stop that.
MR. COLBERT: Listen, why else run as a favorite son if you’re not going to broker a convention. And if I get, and if I get a delegate, it will be a brokered convention. Unless they offer me to speak there, then maybe I would turn over my delegate.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, we want to thank you for joining us and sharing your views.
MR. COLBERT: Thank you very much.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s going to be a...
MR. COLBERT: It’s been an honor.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s going to be an interesting campaign to cover.
MR. COLBERT: Thank you very much. Can I—am I allowed to ask people for money on your show?
MR. RUSSERT: You have an 800 number you want us to give out?
MR. COLBERT: I have a Web site.
MR. RUSSERT: I’m not going to do that.
MR. COLBERT: No?
MR. RUSSERT: But I am going to ask you to be safe on the campaign trail.
MR. COLBERT: Thank you very much.
MR. RUSSERT: And you can read an excerpt of Mr. Colbert’s new book or campaign manifesto, “I Am America (And So Can You)!” on our Web site. Plus, watch our MEET THE PRESS Take Two Web extra. Stephen Colbert goes out of character and reflects on his job and family. A rare conversation with the real Stephen Colbert on our Web site this afternoon, mtp.msnbc.com. And we’ll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That’s all for today. You can now watch the rebroadcast of MEET THE PRESS Sunday evenings at two new times, 6 PM Eastern and 2 AM Eastern, both on MSNBC. We’ll be back next week. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.