updated 3/3/2008 10:54:23 AM ET 2008-03-03T15:54:23

Guests Mary Matalin, Dee Dee Myers, Ron Fournier

TIM RUSSERT, HOST:  The race for the White House—a big debate last Tuesday.  Now looking forward to Texas and Ohio.  Big shootout—Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton.

Here to put that race into perspective, an extraordinary panel.

First, she was White House press secretary with Bill Clinton, the author of a new book, “Why Women Should Rule the World,” the one and only Dee Dee Myers.

Thank you.

DEE DEE MYERS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Thanks for having me, Tim.  Good to be here.

RUSSERT:  Ron Fournier, who for two decades has been writing for The Associated Press and now punches out with his columns.

Ron, welcome.

RON FOURNIER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Thank you for having me.

RUSSERT:  And Mary Matalin, a familiar face.  She worked for George Herbert Walker Bush, for Dick Cheney, and for George W. Bush.

Mary Matalin, welcome.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  We’re pretty old, aren’t we?

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  Right, that’s the point.

RUSSERT:  And thank you for leaving Carville at home.  I appreciate it.

MATALIN:  It’s my pleasure.

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSERT:  All right.  Let’s go to it.

Let me start with your book, Dee Dee...

MYERS:  Great.

RUSSERT:  ... “Why Women Should Rule the World.”

Why?

MYERS:  Why?  Well, my—first of all, my point isn’t that women should, you know, supplant men completely, but there’s plenty of the room at the top for women to rule alongside men.  I love men, as you guys well know.  You know, I’m married to a man, my dad’s a man, I gave birth to a little baby man.

But I think women have different life experience.  We have a different biology.  We see the world differently sometimes.  We have different values, different strengths, different skills.

At times, not every woman’s one way and every man’s another.  But I think by bringing those different talents and those different qualities to the table, we look at problems differently, we find better solutions, new ways of doing things.  And I just think it’s in everyone’s self-interest.

This isn’t about political correctness.  It’s about doing what’s in our self-interest.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to weave a lot more of your book into our discussion.

MYERS:  Great.

RUSSERT:  I want to go back to the debate on Tuesday night, when a woman in this contest, Hillary Rodham Clinton, brought up what she felt was mistreatment by the media during the course of this campaign.

Let’s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time.  And I don’t mind.  You know, I’ll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious.

And if anybody saw “Saturday Night Live,” you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.  I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues, but I’m happy to answer it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Ron Fournier, you wrote that night on The Associated Press wire the following: “Poor Hillary.  After trying to save her sinking candidacy with awkward turns of flattery and sarcasm, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton resorted to a new tactic in Tuesday’s night debate: self-pity.”

“’In the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time,’ the New York senator said, sounding more like a put upon third-grader than a presidential candidate.”

FOURNIER:  Written like only a man can.

MYERS:  Yes.  Don’t get smart.

RUSSERT:  But you felt strongly about it, didn’t you?

FOURNIER:  I did.  I mean, it’s—first of all, it was emblematic of how her strategy this last couple of weeks has been changing, how she’s kind of struggling in pretty desperate times to try to find the right course with a pretty tough rival, and a movement more than a man right now, Barack Obama.  And this night it just struck me how she was playing the victim card and looking for sympathy.

Now, the interesting thing politically—I’d be curious what you guys think, that this is something could actually be effective in a state like Ohio, where she really needs women votes.  And I wonder if women kind of feel the same way.  You know, they feel like they’re the ones always called on first in class, and more is expected of them from their husbands and from their employers and from society.  I think that’s where she was trying to—I guess she was trying to hit.

RUSSERT:  Mary, what do you think?

MATALIN:  You know, I don’t—strategically, the Democrats don’t have the same level of distrust that Republicans have to the press.  It’s an article of faith for us.  We just saw McCain taking advantage of “The New York Times” foible.

So I didn’t get it strategically.  And it didn’t work on the woman thing.  And as you said somewhere else, subsequent to that, she was raising her hand—I want to answer that question first.  She was jumping in on the Russian next president question.

So, you can’t have it both ways.  And it was strategically off her game.  It didn’t make sense and it didn’t look right.  And obviously the audience didn’t like it either.

RUSSERT:  What do you think, Dee Dee?

MYERS:  I think that it was—I think she brought up a good point.  I don’t think it was well played.

I think if she just raised it and said, I think it’s interesting that in so many instances I get the first question.  Because if she doesn’t raise it, no one raises it on her behalf, or no one pays attention to people who do raise it.

I do think she’s had to clear a higher bar.  And as soon as she mentions something that she feels frustrated about, she’s accused of playing the victim card.

The minute she pointed out that, you know, there was six on one going against her in that debate back in Philadelphia, she was accused of playing the gender card.  I mean, she can’t win for losing.  She can’t point out—she can’t even act like a regular male candidate to that, because a regular male candidate could have complained that, you know, all the other candidates were ganging up on him because he was the front-runner.  But the minute she said it was the gender card, the minute she complained that the press is treating her unfairly, she’s playing the victim card. 

I don’t think men have quite the same hurdles to clear.  I don’t think she played the point well, and I’m not sure how it played—how it fit into a broader strategic frame, but I find it interesting that everything she said is judged in a slightly different view.

FOURNIER:  I’ll say whether you’re claiming you’re being victimized because you’re a woman or because you’re the front-runner, when you’re claiming you’re being victimized and you’re on the defensive...

MYERS:  I don’t think people use the word “victim” about a man candidate who complains about the press.  I mean, Bill Clinton famously complained about the press.  George Bush complains about the press.

I mean, I think you’re right that Republicans take it as an article of faith.  But I think when men do it, I don’t hear anyone saying you’re acting like a victim.

FOURNIER:  We use a different word.  We call them defensive.

MYERS:  Yes, but that’s a different word.

FOURNIER:  Which is another word for weak though, and not being on the offense.

MYERS:  Well, it has a different connotation than been playing the victim card, or whining, or mood swings.  You know, we’ve heard all these kind of terms associated with Hillary’s—look, I think they’re flailing around.  Clearly, they don’t know how to run against this phenomenon called Barack Obama.  And certainly he’s a big, huge part of Hillary’s problem.  There’s no getting around it.

But I just think it’s interesting.  The terms that are used to describe her campaign are terms we wouldn’t use for a man.

MATALIN:  But here’s why it was ultimately, I think, ineffective for all the reasons aforementioned as well.  She’s trying to connect with—and when she’s been successful, she knows who her audience is. 

That audience—or that comment was 500 of us.  OK?  That was such an inside think.

MYERS:  Right.

MATALIN:  Because the people don’t care about that.  They kind of know that the press is—it’s like background noise for them now.  And they tune in, and they can tune in any time they want at any time in the information age.

So she was—it was such a detachment from what her successful strategies have been, which were in New Hampshire, which were in her comeback states.  It’s not about me, it’s about you.  That was so about her.

MYERS:  Right.  Right.  No, you’re right.

MATALIN:  Which is really what people don’t like about women in general.  Let’s face it, we can be a little—not that men aren’t self-absorbed.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  But I think men are allowed to be self-absorbed.  Look at your husband.  Look at my husband.  I mean, come on.

MATALIN:  They aren’t (ph) for self-absorption.

RUSSERT:  Oh boy.

MYERS:  But everyone thinks he’s cute when he does it.

RUSSERT:  Do you like being in the middle here, Ron?

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take a quick break.

Dee Dee Myers is with us.  Her new book, “Why Women Should Rule the World.”  Ron Fournier of the AP.  And Mary Matalin.

A lot more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUSSERT:  And we are back talking about the race for the White House with Dee Dee Myers.  Her new book, “Why Women Should Rule the World.”  Ron Fournier of AP; Mary Matalin, who worked for Bush, Bush and Cheney.

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSERT:  It sounds like a law firm.

MYERS:  Yes.

RUSSERT:  NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement—Dee Dee, you were there in the Clinton White House.

MYERS:  I was there.

RUSSERT:  A top priority for the president.  He pushed hard, he got it through.  The big Al Gore/Ross Perot debate.

Hillary Clinton now campaigning in Ohio and trying to finesse that, suggesting, well, I was never really for it, I always had some reservations.

This is the exchange I had with Senator Clinton and with Senator Obama on Tuesday.  And what a difference 15 years makes in terms of Democratic thinking towards free trade.

Let’s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Let me button this up.  Absent the change that you’re suggesting, you are willing to opt up of NAFTA in six months?

CLINTON:  Well, I’m confident that as president, when I say we will opt out, unless we renegotiate...

RUSSERT:  Simple question: will you as president say to Canada and Mexico, this has not worked for us, we are out?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about.  And I think actually Senator Clinton’s answer on this one is right.  I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  What a change. 

MYERS:  Well, not really, because when—during the NAFTA debate within the Clinton White House, the then first lady was always quite skeptical of it.  She wasn’t an enthusiastic backer of NAFTA inside the White House in my memory.  And, in fact, she had a lot of questions, she had a lot of reservations, not only about the content of NAFTA, but about the strategic placement in terms of that versus health care and, you know, what constituencies were we going to have to tap in order to pass NAFTA that might come back to haunt us if we tried to pass a difficult health care plan.

RUSSERT:  But it was more—she wanted health care...

MYERS:  It was both.  It was both.

RUSSERT:  It was both.

MYERS:  It was strategic and it was substantive, absolutely.

RUSSERT:  It was substantive.

MYERS:  And when she says that, everyone goes, yeah, yeah, right, but it—first of all, it’s true.  And second of all, you know, we pass a lot of bills, treaties in this country, and then 10 or 15 years later, they don’t always work exactly like we had hoped.  And so you have to go back and re-look at it and rethink it.  And I think that’s what she’s doing, but she’s not being given much latitude to do that.

RUSSERT:  Well, because in ‘04 she said, on substance, NAFTA’s been good for New York and America.

MYERS:  Right, which, you know—but at the time, I mean, she had some really serious substantive reservations about it.

RUSSERT:  Mary, what did you think of Barack Obama saying not only there, but two other debates, well, on this one Senator Clinton’s right, I agree with her?  Trying to almost unify the party in response to questions.

MATALIN:  Maybe unify the party, but they look at the numbers.  They’re not going to have any problem unifying.  They can taste this.  They think they’re not going to lose, so they’re not going to have any unity issues whatsoever.

I think what he’s doing is buttressing his claim to the new paradigm candidacy.  This is how we talk in the new paradigm of politics.  We don’t have to shout, we don’t have to talk in sound bites.  I’m no good in debates because I don’t want to answer a question in 90 seconds.

And that whole tone, and she’s right on that but she’s wrong on this.  Every time he says she’s right on something, it gives him more credibility to attack her in his new paradigm way.  It just fits in with his—it makes her look even more of what we’re justly saying, complaining about, the double standard.  It makes her look even more...

MYERS:  Right.

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSERT:  I didn’t say that.  Mary Matalin said it.

Ron, what do you think of Obama’s strategy?

FOURNIER:  He—I mean, I think Mary’s got it exactly right.  He is speaking in a way that people want now to hear about not just politics, but everything in their life.  People are frustrated by things not getting done and people bickering and fighting over each other.

They want some sense of (INAUDIBLE).  And he is providing that right now.

RUSSERT:  Here’s one of the more interesting moments for me in the debate, when we replayed Senator Clinton’s description of the Obama campaign and his presence with the big rallies and the celestial choir.  Here—let’s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Let’s just get everybody together.  Let’s get unified.  The sky will open.  The light will come down.  Celestial choirs will be singing.  And everyone will know we can do the right thing and the world will be perfect!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I thought Senator Clinton showed some good humor there.  I would give her points for delivery.

CLINTON:  I was having a little fun.  You know, it’s hard to find time to have fun on the campaign trail, but occasionally you can sneak that in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Dee Dee?

MYERS:  I thought it was funny.  You know, I’ve heard a lot of people be quite critical of it, but my first reaction was, you know, trying to get at the, you know, hope thing with a little humor, even if it’s—she has to be careful of sarcasm.  But, you know, we’ve seen that a million times, and I think maybe it’s working better than a lot of people thought it would initially.

FOURNIER:  My first reaction was, this is the Hillary Clinton that I saw in Arkansas, that I’ve heard a lot of friends talking about, that I’ve seen her in off-the-record settings.  She’s a very funny, engaging woman.

I tell people if I had a choice of having dinner with Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton, hands down—do you agree?  Hands down it would be Hillary.  Not even close.

RUSSERT:  Why?

FOURNIER:  She’s a lot funnier.  She can engage back and forth.  She’ll ask you questions.  She’s not just a one-way street like her husband can be.

MYERS:  He can be.

FOURNIER:  He’s great at telling a joke.  She’s great at being jocular and teasing back and forth.  She’s a lot more engaging, a lot more complicated, interesting person than he is.  As much as I admire his intellect, she’s a lot more interesting.

RUSSERT:  And Obama, whether taking offense or not, the way he handled that—being mocked—was not bad, good points for delivery.

MATALIN:  Because one of his signature characteristics is irony, wit.  He’s wry.  And that was a—just short of sarcastic. 

But it’s—I love sarcasm.  I love it.  It’s so ironic.

MYERS:  Really?

MATALIN:  Yes.  It’s hard—I didn’t—I have never seen that in her.  And I thought she pulled it off well.  And as a gist of the speaking issue, it’s difficult to pull off sarcasm, irony, wit with just—and she’s pitch-perfect.

MYERS:  Right.

MATALIN:  And she got better as she went along.  And it was out of character.  It’s striking.  I thought it was fabulous, and, of course, his response is—he’s smooth.

MYERS:  Yes, he carries better than anyone I’ve ever seen on—tonally.  You know, just as you guys were saying earlier, that he concedes her point.  You know, if you want me to denounce and repudiate, or whatever, great.  I’ll do both in the debate the other night.

And so I think he takes the steam—rather than, you know, slamming back the volley that comes over the net, he lobs it.  You know, he takes all the steam out of it.

RUSSERT:  It’s interesting watching Hillary Clinton on the stump.  When she first started out in the campaign, she was kind of distant and sometimes stern.  Now she seems much more relaxed and comfortable.  And that just comes with experience?

MYERS:  Yes.  But, you know, you’d think somebody like Hillary Clinton has given so many speeches and done so many rallies over the years, but, you know, these campaigns are tremendous learning experiences.  And as Gail Collins said in “The New York Times” this week, Obama has the greatest learning curve of any candidate in the history of the world, which may be true. 

So I think Senator Clinton as gotten better across the course of this campaign.  She just hasn’t gotten better, as fast, and as—you know, on quite the upward trajectory has managed to do it.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take another quick break and be back with a lot more Dee Dee Myers, Ron Fournier and Mary Matalin right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUSSERT:  And we are back talking about the race for the White House.

Public financing—Barack Obama made a pledge a year ago, if I’m the nominee, I’m going to work it out with the Republican nominee, use public financing.  Now he’s raising a zillion dollars with a million contributors.

Let’s watch what happened on Tuesday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Why won’t you keep your word in writing that you made to abide by public financing of the fall election?

OBAMA:  Tim, I am not yet the nominee.  And what I said is that, when I am the nominee, if I am the nominee—because we’ve still got a bunch of contests left, and Senator Clinton’s a pretty tough opponent—if I am the nominee, then I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that is fair for both sides, because, Tim, as you know, there are all sorts of ways of getting around these loopholes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Ron Fournier, does Barack Obama have to engage in public financing, or does he have an out?

FOURNIER:  He wants to keep his word.  And he’s talking about there’s all kinds of loopholes he wants to avoid.

He’s creating a big one there.  He’s trying to get an opening to get out of his promise.  He promised not to...

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSERT:  Will that hurt him, if he breaks his word?

FOURNIER:  I think any candidate who’s running on the authenticity mantle to be a straight shooter, I’m a different kind of politics, when they break their word, yes.  If it doesn’t hurt him, it should.

RUSSERT:  When he checked that questionnaire, Mary Matalin, and said, yes, I will take public financing, he did say that he wanted to have an arrangement, an agreement with the Republican in terms of independent committees and others—“527s” who could launch negative ads.

Does he have an out if McCain won’t go along with that?

MATALIN:  This so doesn’t matter on every conceivable level.

RUSSERT:  Really?

MATALIN:  People only—again, people who care about financing are, you know, in one—it’s just not an issue out there.  People know that money finds its way into politics no matter what, and it doesn’t matter on that level.  Because if he takes public financing, the—there’s billions of dollars going into and already setting up 527s on both sides.  So it’s a completely irrelevant point. 

Money is not going to come out of politics, so he probably—we would be strategically best to say I promise, but it’s not going to change the occasion.  One wit (ph) about how much money gets into and is used by as a magnifying force for both of these sides.

RUSSERT:  What about the issue of credibility?

MYERS:  Yes.  I do think that it matters.

I—you know, it’s interesting.  If you go around the country and you talk to voters, they sound like us now.  They’re paying really close attention and they’ll say, well, I think, you know, if Clinton does this and this in Ohio, she might be—you know, they’re talking in very tactical terms.  They’re paying very close attention to all the things that traditionally...

RUSSERT:  We will pay for these sins, Dee Dee.

MYERS:  Yes, it’s so true.

So I do think that people are paying attention.  And this is less a barometer of how much money gets into the campaign and more a barometer of credibility.  And I’ll tell you, if Hillary Clinton had done this, people would be all over her like white on rice, attacking her for playing this game.

RUSSERT:  But I asked Barack Obama.

MYERS:  No, you did.  But...

RUSSERT:  I was all over it.  Well, I asked him first.  I asked him first.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  No, I think that you did ask him.  And we’ll see if that—if others pick up on it.

I think they’re gauging the reaction to it.  They’re using this period before they’re the nominee, as if that matters, to see how much—how price the will be, if they can figure that out before they decide.  Because when you’re raising a million dollars a minute, you don’t want to give up that advantage.

RUSSERT:  Never thought he’d be in this position of being able to have access to so much more money.

MATALIN:  But I think it doesn’t matter to the large audience, even though we’re talking to informed voters, and they are more interested at different levels than ever before.  It’s just so not about them.  OK?

Their issues are kitchen table issues.  Not to be cliched, but public financing in campaigns is just not something you sit around the table and talk with your kids about.

MYERS:  But change you can trust.

FOURNIER:  It’s not about public financing.  It’s about, do we trust the guy?

MYERS:  Right.

FOURNIER:  People are looking for more out of a leader than their policies.  If the opposite were true, John Kerry would have been president.  They’re looking—they’re sizing up the man or the woman.  And if he has a record of making a promise and then breaking it, it’s going to be something...

(CROSSTALK)

MATALIN:  ... that record.  I just—they can’t—he’s just a new cat.  He’s a new thing.  OK?

They’re not going to say, oh, we can’t trust him, because he gave a pretty solid answer on wiggling his way through it.  It didn’t sound political.  It sounded fair.  I’ve got to sit down with McCain, you’re putting the cart before the horse. 

And people just want to believe.  When they want to believe in—when they want to believe in this, they’re not going to take one of these kind of issues and say, OK, we were fooled again.

MYERS:  No, but McCain might serve it up to him too, though.  He might continue to make an issue of it throughout the campaign.

I also wonder, how much are they really sacrificing in terms of money?  I mean, can’t they direct their donors to the DNC?  Won’t that money go to—why not just say, yes, I’m going to keep my word and move forward?

FOURNIER:  Exactly.

RUSSERT:  Well, in 1996, the Democratic National Committee bought tons of ads about Bob Dole and defying Bob Dole.

MATALIN:  Right.

RUSSERT:  Not the Clinton campaign.

MATALIN:  Right.

FOURNIER:  And with one email, all this money that’s coming into his coffers now would go to the DNC.

MYERS:  Exactly.  Give 50 bucks to DNC to help Barack Obama—boom.

RUSSERT:  So what’s the reluctance?

FOURNIER:  I don’t understand it.  I don’t...

RUSSERT:  Loss in control.

FOURNIER:  It might be.  Yes.  Obviously, you don’t have as much control over the money in the advertising that goes to the DNC, but my guess is that’s what ends up happening.

RUSSERT:  Mary Matalin, I asked Hillary Clinton about her $5 million loan to her campaign.  And I said because of that, would she release her tax returns?  She and her husband have a joint return.  He’s had a lot of overseas dealings.  And isn’t it fair for voters to know exactly where he got his money from?

So, I mean, she said, well, we’re going to put them out if I’m the nominee, maybe before.  But clearly doesn’t want to release her tax return.

MATALIN:  Now, this I take all of Dee Dee’s points—your point about there’s a double standard for her.  This is her Achilles’ heel.  This is the White House Transportation—billing records.  It’s just—his library records.

It just is—she will not be able to get away with this.  This is just the worst possible issue for her, and it is emblematic of her candidacy and what people don’t like about her and what they are done with.  They want transparency, and she—and it’s weird that she didn’t have a better ready answer on that one, too.  That was...

MYERS:  Yes.  They—I mean, I understand their tax returns are complicated.  They both have complicated estates.

Eventually, she said she’s going to do it, so why not do it now?  You know, I think what hurts—it hurts her more to have those things, you know, secret than...

RUSSERT:  Lingering.

MYERS:  Yes, lingering, than to have them on the table.  Although, as we’ve learned, documents involving the Clintons can be quite complicated...

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  ... and can provide little pieces of information that lead in all kinds of directions.  So...

RUSSERT:  A woman...

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  Having been there.

RUSSERT:  We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUSSERT:  And we’re back talking about the race for the White House with Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary to President Clinton.  Her new book, “Why Women Should Rule the World.”  Ron Fournier, who’s written for The Associated Press about politics for 20 years.  Mary Matalin, George Herbert Walker Bush, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, all veterans of the Matalin advice machine.

MATALIN:  Bush, Bush and Cheney.  How may I help you?

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSERT:  So, Dee Dee, how hard is it, do you think, in 2008 for a woman to have equality in the highest levels of politics and the national government?

MYERS:  Right.  I think women have made tremendous progress on a lot of fronts, and I think the country and the world has gotten used to seeing women in singular positions whether it’s, you know, cabinet secretaries or United States senators or members of the House leadership—obviously the speaker of the House is a woman.

But there are still some threshold tests that are difficult for women.  So—and I think one of the interesting things about Hillary’s campaign is it has exposed some of the obstacles.  They’re still there, they’re still a little bit bigger bumps in the road than we expected.  And they’re not just—I mean, the way we talk about women I think is part of it.

You know, John McCain was asked by a supporter at an event a couple of months ago, “How do we beat the”—“B” word?  And he kind of laughed it off and said that’s a good question.

You know, so that was—that was acceptable to talk about Hillary Clinton that way.  No one was outraged.

Then there are, I think, the much more—the harder to solve problems, because we can be aware of language and try to solve it.  For example, I don’t—I think it takes a lot more for a woman to be considered credible as a candidate for president.  And even Hillary Clinton, who has a pretty darned good resume, looked at the information of the polling and the focus groups a year ago and they said, you know, we need to shore her up on the credentials front.  We need to make sure people are comfortable with her as commander in chief.

And I think that’s one of the reasons that they chose to run a campaign on experience and not change.  They said the first thing we have to do, step one here, is we’ve got to make her a credible commander in chief.  That’s the ante.

I think Barack Obama didn’t have that burden.  He came to it with a much—I don’t think a woman with his resume could get out of the starting block.  As talented and as fantastic as Barack Obama is and has proven himself on the trail, I don’t think he could have gotten there if he was a woman.

RUSSERT:  It is interesting.  When I thought for a woman running for president, I always though the biggest obstacle would be, is she tough enough to be commander in chief?  I think after this campaign, no one questions whether Hillary Clinton is tough enough to be commander in chief, Mary.

MATALIN:  Their strategy was flawed from the outset, because she could have, and rightly, had clinged (ph) to the change mantle.  No one doubts her experience.  Somebody else...

MYERS:  I don’t know if that—I don’t know, you know, that that was—I think part of what they did in the early months of this campaign was proof of that.  And without laying down that marker, I don’t know that she would have been there.

FOURNIER:  What if it also includes her vote on Iraq?

MYERS:  Quite possibly.  But I do think...

RUSSERT:  Showing toughness and...

MYERS:  Look, I think you’re absolutely—then, OK.  Now that she’s proven she’s tough enough, she has another problem.  She’s not soft enough.

MATALIN:  Wait.  Let me put this into reverse.

Say she had been—started out with this change message.  Then she reveals—so no one’s looking at how smart—how smart—and she reveals through these 20 debates how incredibly smart she is.  And then she’s not—she set the bar up here for experience, for inevitability, which means you can’t have any chinks in your armor, as opposed to, wow, that was impressive.

Nobody was impressed because she said that’s what she’s going to do.  While she left the change thing to him.

MYERS:  Right.

MATALIN:  And everyone—now the big takeaway from your debate was not that she was bad—she’s always been good, and she was just as good as she always is, with a few laughs—but the whole takeaway is he’s gotten so much better.

MYERS:  Right.

MATALIN:  It’s not a double standard so much as you measure progress.  And she started out here and stayed there.  She didn’t give herself a growth trajectory. 

So, you know, I—call it double standard.  I think it’s more of strategic flaw.

RUSSERT:  It was kind of a unique candidacy in that her husband was a former president, Ron Fournier.  How much of the issue of co-presidency and how much of the issue of Bill Clinton on the campaign trail affect Hillary Clinton’s campaign?

FOURNIER:  I think he was the 100-pound gorilla for her the entire time.  And I’m one of the people who actually thinks he was more of a problem for Al Gore in 2000 than he was an assert.  And I think it was the same problem here.

For all the assets and, you know, the incredible things he brings to the table, including being so popular among Democrats, there’s this lingering—it was the one thing, if nothing else, that kept reminding people that she’s not new.  She’s part of the old game, she’s part of the ‘90s.

Every time she tried to pivot to change, there would pop Bill Clinton talking about racial issues and talking about this guy who’s just the roll of the dice.  He was talking about  Barack Obama the same way you talked about Bill Clinton in 1992.  And it was just—it was—you know, I think it was jarring to a lot of people.

RUSSERT:  What, in a dismissive way?

FOURNIER:  Yes, dismissive.  You know, change is scary.

MYERS:  Yes.

FOURNIER:  Change is not good.  Hope is not good.  It was the same battle that was fought in ‘92 between Bush and Clinton.  And ironically, it was between Clinton and Obama this time.

RUSSERT:  Dee Dee, co-presidency, presence of Bill Clinton?

MYERS:  I think one of the big surprises of the primary has been that he wasn’t the asset people thought he would be in the primary.  I think people always saw him as more complicated once we got to a general election, if she became the nominee.  But he ended up being a much more complicating factor, both because I think, you know, his attacks on Obama weren’t very effective.

In some ways he shored her up.  But even though he’s popular in the base, I think when he came back in such a public way, people said, oh, do we really want to go back to all that?

And I think you’re exactly right, he reminded—he brought Hillary back to the past.  She’s part of that thing of the ‘90s.  And it was difficult for her to separate herself from all that and to become truly her own person.  So I think it became much more of a drag on her campaign than in the primary that people expected a year ago.

RUSSERT:  In ‘92, you had a deal with two for the price of one.

MYERS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  That seemed to be reemerging in this campaign.

MYERS:  Right.  And of course, it was complicated when he was the candidate and she was the free—you know, two for the price of one.

It’s even more complicated—and that didn’t work out that well, by the way.  We did that for a couple months and then, you know, we quickly dropped it and pretended it never happened.

In this campaign it was always problematic, two for the price of one, because it suggested that he was the power behind the throne, that she really wasn’t the architect of her own campaign and her own destiny.  That somehow he would be calling the shots.  And some people though that was good, but more people thought, why do I want a president who’s not president?

FOURNIER:  The other complicating factor is he’s not what he was.  He reminded me of a hall of fame football player who returns for two years, comes back, and doesn’t have the legs.  He just didn’t have the political touch.

MYERS:  Yes.

MATALIN:  You know, and on that point, people, particularly in this transitional age in which we live, they want their presidents to be presidential and statesmen.  And the irony is, the crazier he got was showing (ph) how much he really does love her.  It wasn’t—I know people call the calculation, but I’ve seen them together.  They really have—he loved her.

And when he got crazy and unpresidential, it was out of love for her.  And that’s not what—people out there—I think it would have been OK if he remained president.  And it would have been a better asset.  But it’s ironic that what made him crazy is what people don’t like about her staying with him in the first place.

MYERS:  Right.  And it’s not in his nature to just sort of remain above the fray.  You know, he sees a fight, he’s going to jump in the middle of it.  You know?

RUSSERT:  The red face and the...

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSERT:  Another quick break.  We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUSSERT:  And we are back talking about Dick Cheney.  And Mary Matalin says, no, that’s off the table.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSERT:  But I do want to talk about foreign policy.  The other night at the debate, I had to jump ball.  I wanted to ask a question about the next Russian president, and wanted to see who was willing to answer it.  And it was fascinating watching the dynamic.

Let’s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  On Sunday, March 2, there’s an election in Russia for the successor to President Putin.  What can you tell me about the man who’s going to be Mr. Putin’s successor?

CLINTON:  Well, I can tell you that he’s a hand-picked successor, that he is someone who is obviously being installed by Putin, who Putin can control, who has very little independence, the best we know.  You know, there’s a lot of information still to be acquired.

RUSSERT:  Who will it be?  Do you know his name?

CLINTON:  Medvedev—whatever.

RUSSERT:  Yes.

CLINTON:  Yes.

RUSSERT:  Senator Obama, you know anything about him?

OBAMA:  Well, the—I think Senator Clinton speaks accurately about him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  That was fascinating.

MYERS:  Yes.

RUSSERT:  I was looking right at both of them.  And as soon as I finished the question, Senator Obama turns to Senator Clinton.  But she jumped right in—give me the ball.  She wanted it.

And actually the substance of her answer is exactly right.  And we all have problems with foreign names.  I mean, that’s why I jumped in with the correction.  And then Senator Obama’s reaction was, well, Senator Clinton is absolutely—“speaks accurately about him.”

What did it tell you?

MYERS:  He looked less confident talking about foreign policy, less sure of himself on those issues than she did.  If she had gotten his name right.  You know, if she had said his complete name and pronounced it perfectly, that would have been I think a substantive and substantial difference between them.  But the fact that she punted his name a little bit allowed him to kind of hide—you know, like we’re both the same.  And I think it was too bad for her.

RUSSERT:  When she said “whatever,” I had never seen Hillary Clinton—“whatever,” and started laughing.

MYERS:  Yes.  Right.

RUSSERT:  Like, you know, I gave it a best shot.

FOURNIER:  You talk about double standard, I did two things when it happened.  First, I quickly Googled his name so I could spell it, because I had no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

FOURNIER:  And secondly, I thought to myself, what if Barack Obama had messed up the name?  We’d still be talking about it.  That would have been a three-day story if he was not able to pronounce the name, because it would have fed into this inexperience narrative that we in the press often jump on.

RUSSERT:  But I think about that today.  Rather than throwing (ph) a jump ball, if I had just directed it.  But I didn’t—I was very curious how they both would react to it and whether she would be able to demonstrate superiority of knowledge, or whether he’d jump in and say to everyone, hey, look at me, I actually know this.

MATALIN:  And again, just body language.  What was revelatory was at the first debate, he almost—and even as late as the State of the Union, when he turned—he always seems intimidated by her. 

This time he did not.  In the last couple of debates, he like stepped up to the plate.  They were equals.  And then that body language of automatically deferring to her was a throwback to she intimidates him in some way, which is irrelevant, except for, well, you’re going to be sitting across from whatever his name is, or you’re going to be sitting across from Musharraf, or have you met any of these sheiks in the Middle East?  And you don’t—you’ve got to toughen up on this.

RUSSERT:  Or if she had said, “Barack, why don’t you take that one?”

MATALIN:  Oh wow.  That would have...

MYERS:  That would have been fascinating.

But, you know, just to give Barack a little break, I wonder what we would all be saying if he jumped in and grabbed every question first.  You know, would we be saying, god, he’s elbowing her out of the way and that’s really—you know?  I mean, I don’t know if it cuts both ways a little bit.  I don’t want to argue against my own argument here, but I sometimes think that he is—there’s a polite quality to what he’s trying to do as well.

I think it’s more of a, let’s let her go first on the hard questions.  But occasionally there’s a kind of gentlemanly quality to what he’s trying to do, I think.

RUSSERT:  Let’s go back to New Hampshire, Dee Dee, with the tears, the famous moment.  And then there was the “Saturday Night Live” comments about, “I always get the first question.”

Does Hillary Clinton sometimes want to take advantage of those kinds of situations, even perhaps not even consciously?

MYERS:  Well, you mean what might be perceived as gender difference?  I’m not sure what you mean.

RUSSERT:  Well, it was sort of—in New Hampshire, people look back now and say the fact that when she got emotional it “helped her politically.”

MYERS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  Clearly, the comments about “Saturday Night Live” being picked upon by the press was something that she had thought about.

MYERS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  I mean, that was not a spontaneous line.

MYERS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  So, is she trying to use those kinds of issues to help her candidacy?

MYERS:  Well, I think those are two very different situations though, actually.  I think one was—the New Hampshire moment was in response to a question where she let her frustration show.  And I think a lot of women have had that experience, where they get very frustrated and you kind of well up a little bit, and you’re trying to fight it back, but—and I think her response—and that’s why I think women in particular responded to it, because they said, I’ve been there, I know exactly how she feels.

And it was women, by the way, that responded not to just that moment, but to the entire kind of five-day period in New Hampshire.  And they said, enough, not like this.  You know, enough.

The “Saturday Night Live” thing was more accumulative.  And it was like you said, it was a planned way to try to bring attention to something that she feels obviously has been working against her, and no one’s paying any attention to it. 

So I think they—but I do think—I mean, in a broader context, she would have been well served to show us a little bit more, to connect why she wants to be president to why she’s working so hard.  To show us a little bit more of her—of her soul.  And I think people—it’s one of the reasons I think voters don’t trust her, is because that they—because you hear that, “I just don’t trust her,” because we don’t see enough of who she really is.

I think it’s there, but I don’t think she’s comfortable letting it show.

RUSSERT:  Ron, as someone who’s covered politics for 20 years, it’s the first time there’s been a woman who’s a serious candidate.  Do you have to go through a mental process, a checklist, saying, I’ve got to make sure my words are right about this, am I using words that I would use to describe a woman that I wouldn’t use for a man?

FOURNIER:  That’s a good question.  Yes, I think so.  I can’t think of a specific instance, but I know I have—I have been having doubts about that column that you read earlier—did I think hard enough about how this might play with women, am I just looking through a man’s perspective?

And on that issue, I do think she played the gender card in the debate.  But, you know, Barack Obama, in effect, plays the race card.

We all default to our inherent shields we have.  And last week when “The Drudge Report” had up the photo of Barack Obama in the African garb, it was his campaign that pointed everybody to it in saying, you know, that’s a racist—look what supposedly the Hillary Clinton campaign is doing, is playing the race card, when, in effect, they were.  They were using the fact that it’s hard to criticize—it’s harder to criticize a black man in this country then it is to criticize a woman.  They’re using that fact, and that is a fact, to their advantage.

RUSSERT:  Mary, uncharted waters, in many ways, for the media trying to cover this.

MATALIN:  Yes.  And it’s uncharted for campaigns, too.

We always fight the last campaign using the same strategy.  That’s why I think she’s so—hers is so out of sync, because it’s an old campaign.  It’s a new campaign in its presentation.

And sometimes it’s so plotting.  And I feel like she has to carry too much of the campaign.  I haven’t been inside, I don’t know who (ph) they are, but what she is frustrated about is the double standard in the press.

It is like, can I get you another cup of coffee, Senator Obama?  But your campaign, you send (INAUDIBLE) or some raging, rabid press guy out there to beat up on the press.

You’ve been on the other end.

MYERS:  Right.

MATALIN:  You don’t have the candidate do that.

MYERS:  Right.

MATALIN:  So there’s something just not functioning in the whole thing.  And we’re trying to make it be—it’s a woman thing, it’s a race thing.  We’re in a different paradigm.

The politics is in a different paradigm.  And she’s got an old campaign that isn’t particularly effective, or she—and it makes her—it drags her down and doesn’t give her enough space to come up with these—the celestial—you know, she’s got to carry a line like that.  Whoa.

MYERS:  And I think Harold Ickes summed it up when he said, “She’s better than her campaign.”  You know?

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  Yes, I think we all agree with that.

RUSSERT:  Another quick break.  We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUSSERT:  And we are back.

I want to show you one last exchange from the debate on Tuesday.  This was over any statement or vote you’d like to have back.  Hillary Clinton about the war in Iraq.

Let’s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Each of you have talked about your careers in public service.  Looking back through them, is there any words or vote that you’d like to take back?

Senator Clinton?

CLINTON:  Well, obviously I’ve said many times that, although my vote on the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq was a sincere vote, I would not have voted that way again.

RUSSERT:  To be clear, you’d like to have your vote back?

CLINTON:  Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Dee Dee, she had—up until then, she said, I wouldn’t have voted that way again.  But always had a hard time saying, “I made a mistake.”

MYERS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  “I want my vote back.”

MYERS:  Right.

RUSSERT:  She finally, I think, broke that glass ceiling.

MYERS:  Well, it’s amazing how when you get to what feels like, you know, the edge of elimination, how it focuses the mind.  So, yes, I think that’s something she was uncomfortable saying, and now she realizes, why not just say it?  She believes it.

She’s been reluctant—she’s reluctant to admit mistakes.  We’ve seen that of her over many years.  But I think it’s too late.  I think Obama owns—if you’re voting on the basis of that war vote, you’re probably going for Senator Obama.

RUSSERT:  Ron?

FOURNIER:  I agree.  It’s another example of that shield she puts up in front of herself.  If she had just been honest, more open—maybe that’s a better word than “honest”—and said several months ago the obvious, I wish I could have that vote back...

RUSSERT:  It was so—I mean, Edwards and Biden and Dodd, all the senators, all said, I made a mistake, bad vote.

MYERS:  Yes.

RUSSERT:  But she was reluctant, because I think, Mary, she was afraid it would show weakness on this whole national security issues, bad judgment, and it could affect people would view her as a commander in chief.

MATALIN:  Weakness and political calculation, all the things that are her Achilles’ heel.  But I just wish somebody would say she’s had better answer in the past.  I was wrong, how many times do I have to say it, but it’s done, we’re making progress.  You’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb to say we’re not making progress.

But that’s not what’s on the table.  What do we do, you know, January of 2008?  What do we do in Iraq?

Just pivot out of it.  Iraq is yesterday.  It’s an end poll-wise.  It’s not even the number one issue except for a handful, 12 percent of the left wing wacky Democrats.

People—even the Democrats have dropped it from a number one issue to a number three issue.  Just pivot out of it.

Again, she’s carrying everything on her shoulders instead of just being free to use her brain which if she got in office, what’s she going to do, re-litigate Iraq?  Why did we go in there in the first place and was my vote wrong?

MYERS:  Right.

MATALIN:  She’d say, what are we going to do about Iran on day one?

MYERS:  Right.  And she’s not even—even in a general election, should she get there, it’s not going to ever be about the vote.

The idea that Barack Obama is a better contrast to John McCain I think is just not really true.  It’s going to be about, how do we go forward from here?  It’s not going to be about what happened five years ago.

RUSSERT:  What happens if things do not work out on Tuesday in Texas and Ohio, she realizes that she cannot catch up to Obama in the delegates?  What does Hillary Clinton do?

MYERS:  She gets out of the race on Wednesday.  I truly believe if she does not win both, she will get out of the race on Wednesday, she’ll throw her support enthusiastically behind Senator Obama.  And she will leave this race better than she entered it, as a statesman, as an elder of the Democratic Party, as her own person, even more so than she’s been as a United States senator.

She could go on—she could run again for president.  I don’t know why she wants to put herself through it again.

She could become majority leader of the United States Senate.  I think she could do—she will be a tremendous leader of the party.  And I fully expect that that’s what she’ll do if she doesn’t win both Texas and Ohio.

RUSSERT:  How would President Obama relate to Majority Leader Clinton?  It would be an interesting dynamic.

MYERS:  We’ll see if he can bring people together.

FOURNIER:  You sound sarcastic.

MYERS:  No, I just think people will be watching, you know?  Tim Russert said the world will be watching.

RUSSERT:  Uphill struggle for Senator Clinton for the nomination?

FOURNIER:  Yes.  She’s got to win them both on Tuesday.  And chances are...

RUSSERT:  What if she wins both barely, but only has a net gain of six or seven delegates?

FOURNIER:  Then she still has an awfully tough argument to the superdelegates, who are already peeling away, and I think a majority of whom are unlikely to stick with her through thick and thin.  There’s a lot less loyalty there than people realize.

RUSSERT:  Mary?

MATALIN:  I disagree.  Maybe I’m just superstitious having been whacked around for so many years by the Clintons.

If she wins both, and not by much, she’s not advancing her candidacy so much as continuing to illustrate and illuminate why can’t he close the deal?  So...

FOURNIER:  I agree that she’ll keep on going if she wins both.  I think it’s still not...

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  Yes.

RUSSERT:  Seven weeks until Pennsylvania—April 22.

MATALIN:  And I’d just point out to the Democrats, we’re done.  Ha-ha.  Uh-oh.

RUSSERT:  Mike Huckabee is still in there, Mary.

MYERS:  And, you know, John—we talk about can’t close the deal.  John McCain still hasn’t gone on to the top (ph).  So...

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSERT:  All right, Dee Dee.  I’ve got 30 seconds left.

“Why Women Should Rule the World.”  Why should people read it?

MYERS:  People should read it because it’s—I think it’s an argument about why more women will make the world a better place, and I think it’s a call to women to take—to own our own accomplishments.  I think women don’t do that enough.  And women to say, you know, I’ve done this—not to brag about it, but to really—and women to need encourage and bring each other along.

I think we’ll make the world a better place.  It’s good for men, it’s good for women, it’s good for children.

RUSSERT:  And there are two women at this table, two women who don’t have any difficulty in doing what Dee Dee just said.

MYERS:  Thank you.

RUSSERT:  Dee Dee Myers, Ron Fournier, Mary Matalin, thanks all very much.

“Why Women Should Rule the World” and men drool (ph).

Transcripts

Watch Tim Russert Saturdays, 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET and Sundays, 12 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,