MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama goes on. Will harsh words about race and gender hurt the Democrats in November? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these candidates? With us for the Obama campaign, former senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley; for the Clinton campaign, New York Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey. Bradley and Lowey on Obama vs. Clinton.
Then, five years ago this week the United States went to war with Iraq as the Bush administration exuded great confidence.
(Videotape, March 16, 2003)
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: My belief is, we will, in fact be greeted as liberators.
MR. RUSSERT: Voter concerns about the economy heighten. How will these issues affect the presidential election? Insight and analysis from David Broder of The Washington Post, David Gregory of NBC News and Michele Norris of NPR's "All Things Considered."
But first, the next Democratic primary is six weeks away, Pennsylvania, April 22nd. Then May 6th it's Indiana and North Carolina. And that has only heightened the intensity of the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And here to talk about those candidates are Nita Lowey for Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley for Barack Obama.
FMR. SEN. BILL BRADLEY (D-NJ): Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's bring our viewers up-to-date on the latest delegate count. Yesterday in Iowa Democrats got back together again, and some of the delegates that were for John Edwards decided now to go to Barack Obama. He's at 1409 elected delegates. Clinton's at 1250. That's a net gain of 10 for Obama yesterday in Iowa. Ironically, which is a--one more than Hillary Clinton gained in Ohio.
Now, superdelegates. It is 217 for Obama, 253 for Clinton, an advantage of 36. Since Super Tuesday Obama has gained 47 superdelegates, Clinton has lost seven. Contests won, it stands at Obama at 28, Clinton at 14. And the total vote thus far, cumulative vote of all the primaries and caucuses, 13.4 million for Obama, 12.7 million for Clinton; 49-to-47.
Congresswoman Lowey, let me start with you. If those trends continue and Barack Obama goes to the convention with more elected delegates, more contests won and more popular, cumulative vote, could he possibly be denied the nomination?
REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): Well, I'd rather put it differently. I'd like to say that millions of people haven't expressed their view. They haven't voted as yet. And we're looking towards Pennsylvania, where most polls indicate that Hillary will win. Out of the total number of delegates, 20 percent are superdelegates, 80 percent are pledged delegates based on the primaries and the caucuses. And frankly, the superdelegates, according to the two commissions that developed this system, which some of us think is a little weird--they're still counting in Texas and Iowa--according to the system, the superdelegates have to look at the whole picture. They have to use their judgment. They're elected people, they are people who are leaders in the party, and they have to look at the qualifications of both.
Now, you and I know that no one since 1960 has won the presidency without winning Iowa. We know you have to win Iowa, we have to win Pennsylvania, you have to win Florida. There are key states that are critical to getting the number of votes in the electoral college. And I think right now, frankly, it's a tie. And I would hope, Tim, that between now and the time we go to the convention we can have a really constructive discussion. The economy's a disaster, gas prices are going up, food prices are going up, people are worried about losing their houses. If we can have a constructive discussion and both Obama and Clinton can present the Democrat agenda--the Democratic plan to the country, I think we'll be extra strong. So rather than looking at this period as a negative, we can contrast the Democratic plan to deal with the--what's going on both domestically and internationally with the Bush-McCain plan. And you see where we are now.
MR. RUSSERT: The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll asked Democrats if a candidate loses among pledged delegates but wins the nomination by getting superdelegates, would it be legitimate nomination? Nearly four in 10 Democrats said it would not be legitimate if a candidate won the nomination on superdelegates after losing pledged delegates.
REP. LOWEY: I'm just curious, Tim. During the--you know, polls can do many different things. It's hard enough for us to even understand how the process is going and why they're still counting in Texas and what is happening in Iowa. After all the money spent in Iowa, now Obama and Clinton have to go back to Iowa for these additional delegate procedures. So I just think that this is a very close race, and superdelegates have an important role and an important responsibility.
And by the way, if, in fact, those people believe that they should abide by the wish of the pledged delegates, I would hope Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry would vote for Clinton because look what happened in Massachusetts.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Bradley, if, in fact, a candidate goes to the convention with more elected delegates, should he or she be the nominee?
SEN. BRADLEY: I think so, Tim. I mean, right now, as you said, Barack Obama has more delegates, more votes, has won more states. Last night in Iowa he won 10 more votes. If you take what happened in Mississippi and Wyoming, he won more net delegates in those two races than Senator Clinton did in Ohio and Texas combined. So I clearly think that we're heading into a period where, certainly after last night, she's got to win more than 60 percent of all the remaining, all the remaining states.
And if you think about Pennsylvania, of course, that's what the Clinton campaign is focusing on. They think they're unbeatable there. But there are 10 races. And if you then look at what happens, as you pointed out, in North Carolina and Indiana, there are more delegates at stake in North Carolina, Indiana combined than Pennsylvania. So this is a 10-state race, all the way to the convention. And if, at the end of the day, she has--he has more delegates, pledged delegates, then I think he should get the nomination.
As Nita said, every superdelegate is going to make a decision. I think a lot of superdelegates will honor what their constituencies said. Some went out and endorsed Senator Clinton early. They thought she was the presumptive nominee. And their district went for Obama. I think a lot of those individuals stand a very strong chance of switching to Obama. And every, every superdelegate makes the decision about what's good for the country, what's good for the party, and what's good for themselves. And if you go against a district that is overwhelmingly Obama, you might ask for a primary the next time. It's politics.
But I think, in the end, that they should follow the pledged delegates. And of course, if Senator Kennedy or, or Senator Kerry, I mean, you know, somebody can challenge them in a primary. I don't think they'd win, but they can have a shot.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about Florida and Michigan, two states that had contests early on contrary to Democratic Party rules, and therefore the results were not honored by the Democratic National Committee. The delegates were disqualified. What should happen in Michigan and Florida?
SEN. BRADLEY: Well, I think the rules are the rules. I mean, Michigan and Florida both knew that they wouldn't be seated if they moved their primaries up. They, they decided to do that anyway. I mean, if we want to make sure that Michigan and Florida are seated, well, then don't let that determine the outcome. Make it a 50/50 division and go into the convention and everybody'll be there.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you disenfranchising the voters of Michigan and Florida with that position?
SEN. BRADLEY: Well, you know, I think that this is the--not the voters, per se, but the party of those states made a decision, and there are consequences from decisions.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Lowey, I'm a bit confused by the Clinton position on Florida and Michigan, particularly Michigan. This was Senator Clinton on Wednesday. Let's watch.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): If you're a voter from Florida or Michigan, you know that we should count your votes. The results of those primaries were fair, and they should be honored.
MR. RUSSERT: But back in October, Senator Clinton said this about Michigan: "You know, it's clear, this election they're having in Michigan is not going to count for anything."
So there seems to be a dramatic change in her view as to, certainly to Michigan.
REP. LOWEY: I just think, for me, it's very clear. The voters--never mind the party, the voters in Florida and Michigan shouldn't be disenfranchised. And frankly, McCain is very strong in Florida. And not to make the voters, millions of people participate in the process, by counting their vote--and I do think that we're all adults here, and the people in Michigan and the--well, Michigan seems to be closer to having a revote, and I think Florida may go that way after Michigan makes the definite decision. But it's the voters that count, and I do believe the voters should be given the opportunity to express their preference.
MR. RUSSERT: But you wouldn't count the Michigan vote that already occurred when Obama's name wasn't on the ballot, or in Florida, where there was no campaign?
REP. LOWEY: I think the adults that are sitting at a table figuring this out in both states are going to come to a decision to have a revote. The mail vote, according to most of the people I speak to in Florida, the write-in vote will not work. And I think they will have a revote, and there are already people who've agreed to pay for it.
SEN. BRADLEY: I mean, Tim, where this is headed, potentially--and I hope it doesn't get there--is a Credentials Committee battle. Last time that happened was 1972, and the Credentials Committee made a decision not to seat the Illinois delegation of Mayor Daly and to say that the California primary was a winner-take-all, not a proportional. And if either one of those decisions had gone the other way, Hubert Humphrey would have been the nominee. So I think this is very important time, and the basic message there is let's honor what the pledged delegates say.
REP. LOWEY: I, I just want to say one other thing, that Florida is critical for any Democrat who will aspire to go to the White House, and that has to be our key goal. We've got to win this election for the country. And then we get caught up in this morass of he said this one and the Republican legislature in Florida said that one. We have got to count the votes of the Democrats and the Republicans, who's ever voting in Florida. But in our primary, we have got to count the votes of the Democrats so that we're competitive in the campaign between--the real campaign between McCain and Hillary--well, I hope it's Hillary Clinton. I expect that it will be.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about a couple other issues, one is transparency. Senator Bradley, you were on Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour" on PBS last week and talked--made some points I want to replay and come back and talk about it. Let's watch.
(Videotape, March 5, 2008)
SEN. BRADLEY: I think Barack Obama has a much stronger chance of beating John McCain in the general election. I think Hillary is flawed in many ways and particularly if you look at her husband's unwillingness to release the names of the people who contributed to his presidential library. And the reason that is important, are there favors attached to $500,000 or million dollar contributions? And what do I mean by favors? I mean pardons that are granted, investigations that are squelched, contracts that are awarded, regulations that are delayed. These are important questions. The people deserve to know. And we deserve, as Democrats, to know before a nominee is selected because we don't want things to explode in a general election against John McCain.
MR. RUSSERT: Talking about the $500 million that former President Clinton has raised for his foundation and for his library. What are you concerned about? What evidence do you have that something might explode?
SEN. BRADLEY: Well, I don't have any evidence. I mean, I've seen a few stories in the newspapers. But this is a matter of full disclosure, and I don't see any reason why there shouldn't be full disclosure. Barack Obama has revealed his income tax returns for the last eight years. He's revealed all of his earmark--all the earmarks that he sponsored. He is someone who's not taken money from lobbyists. He's someone who has sponsored something called a transparent budget, which gives every American an opportunity to access how their tax dollars are spent. And I think it's reasonable in a new kind of politics to have this kind of transparency. And since President Clinton has played such a role in the campaign and obviously will play a role in a, in a, in a Clinton administration, I think the public needs to know who the contributors were to his, to his library.
MR. RUSSERT: Congresswoman Lowey, should Bill and Hillary Clinton release the list of $500 million in donors to the library, the tax returns over the--since they left the White House, and her schedules and records from the National Archives relating to her activities as first lady, so people can make a true judgment about her experience as she's portraying it?
REP. LOWEY: Several points. First of all, it's my understanding that there are 20 years of tax returns in the public view from both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Secondly, in terms of earmarks and transparency, the Democrats have cut earmarks in half, and now there has to be a certification next to each earmark that the person who's submitting them will not have any financial interest in that earmark.
In terms of the Clinton and the work he's done and the fundraising, I've been to several countries in Africa, I've seen the work of the Clinton Foundation and the positive work he's done for HIV/AIDS. I do believe that the Clintons have a long record of releasing their tax returns and, as I understand, that on April 15th they will release their other records. And with regard to the National Archives, that is going--it's being gone over line by line and it will be released. Was there anything else? I don't remember.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, to the specific then--if the tax returns were income, but the $500 million he's raised for his foundation library, should those donors be made public?
REP. LOWEY: I do believe that, at the right time, they will be made public. Let me just say one other thing that I think is very important.
MR. RUSSERT: But at the right, should it be before the primary season is over?
REP. LOWEY: I do believe that we have to have a really constructive debate, a constructive discussion. You know, the kind of information that we're releasing, it reminds me, with all due respect, Senator Bradley, of--with the Bradley-Gore primary. And, and if we don't keep this positive, all we're doing is providing fodder for the McCain-Democrat race that will take place later on. This should be a real discussion of what we're going to be doing for the economy, what we're going to be doing for food prices, gas prices, what we're going to do about the housing/energy crisis. And I do think there is more information, and Clintons have been vetted certainly more than Senator Obama.
SEN. BRADLEY: You see, Tim, I think it's a matter of putting the names out there, letting the public see the names, letting the press do its work. And that's what you have to do if you respect the people. I mean, I think this is--clearly, this race boils down to the old politics vs. the new politics. The old politics is slash and burn, go after some demographic segment, throw anything against the wall in order to win the news cycle that night. If it's plagiarism, it's plagiarism. If it's drugs, it's drugs. If it's race, it's race. If you say, as far as you know, he might be a Muslim. That is what you do to win the news cycle. On the other hand, I think Barack Obama is the new kind of politics. And the new kind of politics says that you trust the people, you tell them the truth, you put country ahead of party, you speak to everybody, you convey the strong message that, you know, we can have a better world, that America can do great things again. That it's all right to believe in your neighbor, in the people, in humankind. And his message and his way of doing it, with all the transparency and openness that I've talked about, is what is drawing so many people to his candidacy and why last night you had 10 more delegates shift in Iowa.
REP. LOWEY: With great--with great respect, Senator Bradley, we're talking about openness, we're talking about transparency. I do believe that's important. I also believe that having a qualified person, someone who has the experience--and I've worked with Hillary Clinton for more than 16 years. We've worked on education, we've worked on health care. And you talk about transparency. I'm not discussing today why Senator Barack Obana--Barack Obama didn't associate--disassociate himself from his pastor six months ago, and those remarks, because I think we have to have a constructive debate, and Hillary Clinton has plans for dealing with the economy, plans for dealing with health care, plans for dealing with the energy crisis. People are suffering, and that's what this debate should be about.
MR. RUSSERT: I want to talk about health care quickly, Senator Bradley, because you were in the Senate back in 1993, when first lady Hillary Clinton was in charge of health care. In your book, you wrote that they were naive in the way they approached it. Carl Bernstein says that--quotes you as saying that Hillary Clinton suggested they were going to demonize anyone who came out against it. In your mind, do you believe that a bipartisan health care plan could have been achieved in 1993, and, if so, why didn't Hillary Clinton do that? Or do you believe that she did her very best and that there was obstruction from the Republican Party, that no one could have gotten a bipartisan plan?
SEN. BRADLEY: Well, I think that she did her best, but she made some very significant mistakes. I think she's the first to admit that now. Was there a possibility of a bipartisan plan? Absolutely. The chairman of the Finance Committee was someone you know, I know, or you knew and I know, Senator Moynihan, and I was in the committee one day where Senator Dole actually wrote a note and passed it to Senator Moynihan, and he showed it to me, and it says, "Are you ready for the Moynihan-Dole health care bill?" And I think there was very clearly an opportunity for a bipartisan response. And if you think about it, that's the only way that it's going to last, unless you have a filibusteral-proof Senate. You have to have an ability to bring both parties together. And if you look at what Senator Obama has done from the beginning, reaching out to independents, even to some Republicans, he's saying, "I want to be the president of all the people," and he's recognizing--he's had a narrative from the very beginning, and the narrative was, "We can do great things in this country again, but thing that's preventing us are--is the culture of Washington. And to overcome the culture of Washington, I need the people. And I need the people not just for their votes, but when I'm elected." And I think that's what's carried the day.
REP. LOWEY: Tim, with regard to health care, this is exactly the point I'm trying to make. With all due respect, why should we go back? Right now, Senator Obama has a health care plan. Hillary Clinton has a health care, care plan. We know what President Bush and a McCain/Bush presidency will all be--be all about. It won't make improvements in health care. So why don't we have a constructive debate about Senator Obama's plan, Hillary Clinton's plan. They're really not that different. And the public will understand that there will be a change in their life as a result of a Democratic presidency.
SEN. BRADLEY: You know, I, I agree with Nita on that 100 percent. I mean, the, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is much greater than any difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And I do think that their plans are very similar and that, if a Democrat is president, that will stand a much better chance because we're actually going to make an attempt to pass health insurance for all Americans.
REP. LOWEY: And...
MR. RUSSERT: Congresswoman Lowey, mustn't there--Reverend Wright, Jeremiah Wright, a pastor of Barack Obama who married Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, some videos have surfaced, Senator Bradley, where Reverend Wright has said some very inflammatory things. Here's two of them, one about the state of black America and then secondly after September 11th. Let's watch.
REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT: (2003) See, government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing "God Bless America"? No, no, no. Not God bless America. God damn America--that's in the Bible--for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating your citizens as less than human.
(September 16, 2001) We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.
We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards! America's chickens are coming home to roost!
MR. RUSSERT: On Friday, Senator Obama sat down with Keith Olbermann on "Countdown" and said this, after removing Reverend Wright from his religious leadership committee:
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I did not hear such incendiary language myself, personally, either in conversations with him or when I was in the pew. He always preached a social gospel and was sometimes controversial in the same way that many people who speak out on social issues are controversial. But I, I--these particular statements that have been gathered are ones that I strongly objected to, strongly condemned. Had I heard them in church, I would have expressed that concern directly to Reverend Wright. So I didn't become familiar with these until recently.
MR. RUSSERT: What impact do you think Reverend Wright's going to have on this campaign?
SEN. BRADLEY: I think in the long run he won't have an impact. I'll say that, when you hear these excerpts--I don't know where they came, in speeches that he made--when you hear these excerpts, it's easy to be angry. It's easy to be angry about the words that he used in a couple of these occasions. But, you know, he's someone who's making a speech somewhere. The question is what has Barack Obama done with regard to these incendiary statements? He has condemned them. The first time he heard about them was when his presidential campaign was beginning. He condemned them, and he has condemned them again just as long ago as two or three days, so--and the other point is, the pastor's now retired as--on his way to retirement. And so I think that what more can you do, but condemn the words and condemn the person for saying them?
MR. RUSSERT: You think this will have an impact on the campaign?
REP. LOWEY: I think we should just accept what Barack Obama has said and move on and consider the serious issues that we both have to deal with. And it's the Democrats' responsibility to present a plan to give people some sense of optimism and hope. So...
SEN. BRADLEY: Yeah.
REP. LOWEY: ...I just agree that we should move on. He's dissociated himself, and let's move on.
MR. RUSSERT: Congresswoman Ferraro, Geraldine Ferraro of New York, who was selected for vice president in 1984, said some very controversial things as well. Here's what she said: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is, and the country is caught up in the concept."
Congresswoman Ferraro, when challenged on that, said, "I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"
REP. LOWEY: I would like to suggest that we move on from that as well. Hillary Clinton has dissociated herself from those remarks, and now it's time to get back to the real issues of the campaign. These are, are specific incidents that don't really help the Democratic Party, and you can't always be responsible for the enthusiasm of your supporters. And I'm satisfied that Hillary Clinton has disassociated herself.
MR. RUSSERT: But you don't find Congresswoman Ferraro's comments acceptable?
REP. LOWEY: I'm not even discussing them. I think that we should move on. This race is not about Geraldine Ferraro. This race is about Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. And I think my voters want to know what they are going to do for them and not only domestically but internationally, where we face extraordinary challenges.
MR. RUSSERT: But if someone said if Clinton was a black woman she wouldn't be here now, or if she was a man of any color she wouldn't be here now, the only reason here--she's here is a white woman, you would take offense?
REP. LOWEY: Tim, Senator Clinton can't be responsible for everything one of her enthusiastic supporters say, and I'm sure it'd be the same for Senator Barack Obama. Let's move on. They've taken positions on both of these comments.
MR. RUSSERT: How does this race end?
SEN. BRADLEY: I think this race ends with the superdelegates supporting the individual who has the most pledged delegates, and then it's a matter of going on and doing the business that the country wants us to do. I think that, you know, if you look at this--the way I look at this is, in some sense, is if you look at the Clinton campaign, the way it's operated, it's been a campaign of fight and divide. If you look at the Obama campaign, it's been a campaign of unite and fight. And fight for the things that the American people really want, which is health care for all Americans. They want to know if they work 40 years they'll have a secure pension. They want to know that their kids have a chance to go to the best public school in America--every public school should be great--and that they have a chance to send their children to college. And that we have to have a plan to deal with an economy that's deteriorating dramatically. I mean, we have major financial institutions in danger, we have foreclosures taking place all across this country and we need to be focusing on those issues. There are things that can be done, and the next president, whoever the next president is, is going to have a very difficult time not only with Iraq, but with the economy. And so let's do the politics, let's move it forward, but then let's get down to what the American people want us to deal with.
MR. RUSSERT: Take your 30 seconds. How is this going to end?
REP. LOWEY: I would just like to say, the next few months can be really important for the Democrats if both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have a constructive discussion of these issues which you've referenced today. Hillary Clinton is the best qualified, she has the most experience, she understands and is presenting a plan on the economy, on health care, on housing, on the energy crisis, on gas prices, on food prices. I do believe that the superdelegates will look at the large states like Florida, like Texas, like Michigan, like Ohio and make a decision based upon her qualifications and who can win. It's essential that the Democrats take the White House so we can reverse the policies that President Bush and a continuation of those through Senator McCain.
MR. RUSSERT: Congresswoman Lowey, Senator Bradley, thanks very much.
SEN. BRADLEY: Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the Iraq war, the economy and the race for the White House through the eyes of David Broder of The Washington Post, David Gregory of NBC News and Michele Norris of NPR's "All Things Considered." Coming up next, right here only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Our political roundtable--David Broder, Michele Norris, David Gregory--they are all coming up right after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we're back.
Welcome all. Let's go back to that delegate count again and talk about it. Here it is on the board. As we can see, Obama, 1409; Clinton, 1250. Again, he--a net gain of 10 in Iowa yesterday. That's 159-delegate lead amongst elected delegates. Superdelegates, Clinton still with the lead, a plus 36; put them all together, Obama leads Clinton by 123 delegates when you combine elected and superdelegates.
David Broder, we have the following states coming up: Pennsylvania, Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana, all there, 566 delegates at state. Hillary Clinton would have to win 65 percent of those delegates in order to come even on elected delegates, not as much if she can win more superdelegates. What's the state of the race?
MR. DAVID BRODER: It's very unlikely, Tim, that she catches up in terms of the pledged delegates from the primaries and caucuses that remain. I think she's got one other possibility because both Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and most of the unpledged delegates--superdelegates that The New York Times was able to reach in its survey today said that they think that the superdelegates who are now uncommitted ought to follow whoever is the winner of the pledged delegates out of the caucuses and primaries. She has one other game that she can play, which is that, after the last primary in Puerto Rico, there will still be two months before the convention meets. During that time there will be events and there will be a ton of polls. Her hope has to be that either something happens to Senator Obama or that the polls indicate that she would be a better candidate against John McCain.
MR. RUSSERT: You see it, then, going all the way to the convention, not having a preconvention caucus of the superdelegates to try to unify the party?
MR. BRODER: I don't know whether that will happen or not, but given the, the ability that Senator Clinton has showed time and again to come back from what seemed to be defeat...
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Right.
MR. BRODER: ...I think it'd be a hard case to make that she ought to drop out.
MR. GREGORY: Tim, I think what David is saying, too, is that these superdelegates are going to have to get into a position where they're going to buy the Clinton argument that they are free agents, that they don't follow the will of the people or follow the will of the districts of how their districts went. And that's, that's a debate that she appears to be losing, at least right now. Unless something changes that dynamic, it becomes this kind of fairness idea, that if he's got the pledged delegates, if, if he's got that--the momentum that comes with that, that they ought to, that they ought to toe that line.
MR. RUSSERT: One other game that the Clinton people are talking about, Michele, is popular vote.
MS. MICHELE NORRIS: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: That even though they're behind 700,000 votes now, the cumulative vote, that if they can get do-overs in Michigan and Florida, win Pennsylvania big, that she may be able to surpass Obama with the popular vote total, even though she loses elected delegates, and go to the superdelegates and say, "Here's my portfolio, I got more votes."
MS. NORRIS: Right, surpass him or at least get close enough to make that argument. Now, Nancy Pelosi did dismiss this idea when she granted that interview. She said this is a delegate race. But the Clintons are trying very hard to buy time, and that's exactly what they have now. And she's changed the atmosphere in this race. Barack Obama is very much more on the defensive, and she has a team of people who are really working hard, working these superdelegates and asking them to just take a breather, don't do anything rash. In fact, don't do anything right now. Just, you know, assess the race, look closely at this so they can come back and, and try to make this argument. I will say one thing, though, that what I'm hearing in Pennsylvania is there's a worry that all this talk about the superdelegates could depress turnout, and they're going to be, you know, looking at that very closely because there's a sense that some of the party officials on the ground there fear that the people are seeing this as a race that the voters don't matter anymore, that this will be decided by this sort of House of Lords, this sort of star chamber that determines who lives or who dies.
MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, talk about events happening. You had this situation with Geraldine Ferraro that I talked with Nita Lowey and Bill Bradley; with Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Also, Tony Rezko, the fundraiser for Barack Obama. On Friday, Senator Obama went to Chicago Tribute and Chicago Sun-Times, sat down with both editorial boards and reporters for about an hour and a half at each place and went through exactly his relationship and the money he raised. Here's one of the headlines: "Obama says Rezko played a bigger" fundraiser "role. In a 90-minute interview with [Chicago] Tribune reporters and editors, Obama disclosed that Rezko had raised more for Obama's earlier political campaigns than previously known, gathering as much as $250,000 for the" "three offices he sought." That'd be state Senate, House of Representatives and U.S. senator. "Obama also elaborated on previous statements about his private real estate transactions with Rezko, saying they were not simply mistakes of judgment because Rezko was under grand jury investigation at the time of their 2005 and 2006 dealings. `The mistake, by the way, was not just engaging in a transaction with Tony' Rezko `because he was having legal problems. The mistake was because he was a contributor and somebody who was involved in politics.'"
David Broder, does that issue create difficulty for Barack Obama?
MR. BRODER: I think it's not a big issue at this point. But this trial is in the very early stages, and we don't know what will come out. It appears that Mr. Rezko's real connections were down in Springfield with Governor Blagojevich rather than with Obama. But the one thing we know for sure, Tim, is that between now and the first day of the Democratic convention there will be events and they will impact on these candidates.
MR. RUSSERT: We have Bill Bradley calling for Bill Clinton to release the list of $500 million in contributions to his library and foundation, the Clinton tax returns post-presidency, which will be some significant income.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: And the archives' information about Hillary Clinton's role in the Clinton White House. All that might be fertile ground, certainly, for journalists; perhaps for voters.
MR. GREGORY: Right, because this is a campaign that's not about policy, it's about the personalities involved. It's become about race and gender and, and this sort of amorphous idea of preparedness for crisis. It's not about what they stand for. Congresswoman Lowey was saying, "Well, let's talk about health care and the economy." I mean, truth is, there's not a lot of difference between them on that, and voters are not going to make up their minds about the question of mandates on health care.
I think who you have to watch here is John McCain because he's in the position to begin running his general election campaign against the both of them in front of these Democratic primary voters who are going to look and say, "Well, let's see how McCain is running against Obama. How's he standing up on this issue of Reverend Wright? How's he standing up on the issue of Rezko? Does he look tarnished in some way?" Because it's the Republicans who the Democrats are going to say "we really have to worry about," and that may inure to Senator Clinton's benefit.
MR. RUSSERT: Michele, you have Geraldine Ferraro...
MS. NORRIS: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Reverend Wright, gender, race. Much--must each of these candidates address these issues in bigger detail in terms of the impact on society and culture?
MS. NORRIS: Well, I think, I think they have no escape from this because it keeps coming up. And Barack Obama dealt with this directly yesterday, saying that this is sort of a generational shift, that certain people who are, come out of the 1960s and talking about Jeremiah Wright, carry with them--I think he said that men of ferocious intelligence who came out of the 1960s, whose, whose ambitions were stymied, carry with them the anger and the baggage of that in trying to explain some of the rhetoric there.
You know, I should say, though, where Jeremiah Wright is concerned, it's interesting. If you--or introduced to him for the first time just based on the clips that you showed on this program and that have been in heavy rotation, particularly on cable news and on talk radio, you don't get the full measure of, of, of this man and who he is and a sort of full understanding of why Barack Obama may have been attracted to him. Barack Obama is in a difficult position because he has said repeatedly "Words count." And so he can't diminish these words or, or easily step away from them.
But if you just focus on the words, it seems that you ignore something very important. When Jeremiah Wright makes these statements, the amen chorus in that church was very loud. His words resonate with a large number of African-Americans, and the blunt language that he used makes people uncomfortable, you know, when he talks about America's inglorious record on race. And yet many people find, find something that they relate to in those words, and that's what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may want to start focusing on, is this chasm that both Ferraro dustup and the Jeremiah Wright dustup seems to point to in this country.
MR. RUSSERT: And yet many African-Americans have said to me in the last 48 hours that their concern was that Obama be seen not as a new kind of African-American leader and that we get caught up in those kinds of climates, comments and hyperbole, which will frighten white Americans and create difficulty for Obama in uniting the country.
MS. NORRIS: That's part of why he was so fresh and new is that he was a voice that was without anger.
MR. BRODER: Well, and I said, I said to Michele a moment ago that what's striking to me is that I don't know Reverend Wright except for these clips, and that's not a basis for judging his whole approach or personality, but his tone seems so far removed from the tone that Obama has tried to strike, not just in this campaign but throughout his political career, that it raises a question in my mind: What was it about Reverend Wright that attracted Obama when he had, as a newcomer to Chicago, choice of any of the number of churches or pastors to go to?
MS. NORRIS: You know, when you talk about tone, though, it's interesting. You're talking about his tone and not his words. The, the sort of fire from the pulpit...
MR. BRODER: Yes.
MS. NORRIS: ...is, is not something that is unusual in an African-American church. That is, that is some--and in fact, in many churches in America. And so what you're dealing with in these, in these statements is in part the words, but also in, in the way that they were delivered. And you're right in noting that is very different from, from what Barack Obama hears. But it's not altogether different from, from what many people are hearing at this moment in churches all across America.
MR. RUSSERT: David Gregory, you brought up John McCain. He's in Iraq this morning as we talk here this--on our program. In a generic test, the Democrat is ahead of the Republican by 13 points in a general race, but when you match Obama, McCain; Clinton, McCain, the race shrinks two or three points. And yet when you ask, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" in terms of the, the economy, 43 percent of Americans say they are worse off. What should be a Democratic race in terms of the issues is much closer when you match mano-mano, McCain, Obama; McCain, Clinton.
MR. GREGORY: It really is striking, and I think it, it says something about the strength of the brand of John McCain as a public figure and his popularity and his, his reputation as a maverick. But it doesn't change the fact that he is still going to be tarred as a George Bush Republican. And the proverbial and literal hug that he gave him in 2004 when John McCain was trying to court the conservative wing of the party is going to hurt, his proximity to Bush on the issue of the surge and the war generally. I mean, McCain's got a difficult argument to make, which is, "Don't just listen to me supporting the surge and being the most stalwart defender of the war and talking about troops being there for 100 years. Remember back to when I was opposed to Rumsfeld, and I opposed the management of the war." He's asking a lot of the voters, a majority of whom are against this war.
MS. NORRIS: But you know, can I just add one thing?
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
MS. NORRIS: But he, he has time, though, to, to go to your point earlier. While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue to squabble over these other matters, he has time to help make that argument.
MR. GREGORY: He does. Yeah.
MS. NORRIS: He buys time every time that...
MR. RUSSERT: The Democrats had hoped that their nominee would now be going around the world...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...coming back, raising money, trying to define John McCain. What has happened is they're fighting each other, McCain is in Baghdad today, going to Europe, trying to function as a quasi-president, if you were, at least a legitimate presidential contender, which he is.
MR. BRODER: This, this, this visit that McCain is making to Baghdad is potentially a very important moment for him. As much as he's identified with Bush's policy on Iraq, he's even more identified with General Petraeus' operations in Iraq. And Petraeus said in an interview with The Washington Post this week, he is very disappointed in the lack of action on the political side by the Iraqi government. That opens the door for McCain to begin to separate himself...
MR. GREGORY: Yep.
MR. BRODER: ...from Bush's policy if he is prepared now, as a potential president of the United States, to really put pressure on the Iraqis to get their act together.
MR. RUSSERT: "Either you reconcile politically or I, John McCain, as a nominee, could break from President Bush."
MR. GREGORY: Right, and do something specific to say that troops will come out if you don't meet these particular benchmarks. Bush has said that we don't have endless patience, but he has not backed that up.
MR. RUSSERT: The war is five years old this week. Vice President Cheney was on this program exactly five years ago, and I asked him a question about what he expected in--at the war as it carried out. Let's watch.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.
MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly and bloody battle with significant American casualties?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators.
MR. RUSSERT: I also asked Vice President Cheney about General Shinseki and the need for hundreds of thousands of troops for some time to come and the strife between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. The vice president said that, of all the places in the world, he thought that Iraq was one place where they would come together.
Five years later, Michele, American people have some concerns about the war, although they haven't given up. Look at this: "Do you believe victory in Iraq is not possible or still possible?" Fifty-three-40; majority not possible, but 40 percent saying still possible. And then this. "Should we withdraw most troops by 2009 as promised by the Democrats?" That's 53; remain until the situation is stable, 43 percent. Those numbers show a very divided country tilting towards withdrawal.
MS. NORRIS: Mm-hmm. Tilting toward withdrawal, but you know, when you look at those statements, I'm curious what victory means, and I'm curious what stable means. You know, what stability in, in Iraq means. And, and if you listen to General Petraeus, he's saying, repeatedly, that you can't kill your way out of this, that you've got to negotiate, that you've got to actually work with people on the ground. That's a different kind of war than most Americans thought of when they were first, you know, sold this idea. And so, you know, it, it, it--on the one hand, when you hear Democrats talking about a precipitous withdrawal, that, that very much goes against what General Petraeus is saying and what the generals on the ground are saying.
MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, will the war be the issue with the economy in the general?
MR. BRODER: It'll certainly be a major issue for a lot of the voters. I think, depending again on where things stand in November, which we can't predict, it will certainly factor. What we've seen in the public opinion polls, as you point out, is a growing segment of the American public that is prepared to give this a little more time. But the majority is still saying, "Let's get out."
MR. GREGORY: I think it's interesting, I was in, in the Middle East a couple of months ago, and you talked to key Arab leaders, and they described Iraq as a slow burn, which is pretty ominous language. And the, the, the, the predominant concern is now Iran, which a lot of critics of the war think has been unleashed by the invasion of Iraq. I think the difficulty for the politics of this, particularly for John McCain, is that the country has basically stopped listening. There was a, a paper this week by the Pew Foundation saying that most, most Americans were unaware of the actual death total in Iraq. For John McCain to make the argument that there is another chapter here to be written about the Iraq war, "Trust Petraeus, keep troops in there for a long period of time to finish off nation building," will require him to get the public to pay attention, to keep this violence down, but to also make Americans believe that it is still possible to win something once you define what the something is. And it's going to be very different than what Cheney-Bush described as a kind of light for the nations in the Middle East and beyond.
MS. NORRIS: I, I think it may be difficult, though, to keep the public focused on this.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. NORRIS: I mean, I have one word for you: foreclosures.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. NORRIS: And if you look at the projections for the next quarter and what we expect to see in the number of foreclosures in this country and the mortgage meltdown and what that's...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. NORRIS: ...going to mean, I mean it's now at the point where it touches--if it doesn't touch you directly, you know someone who's caught up in this. And...
MR. GREGORY: And it's not just homes, by the way. It's going to be--it's going to be your cars, it's going to be your ability to get money from banks.
MS. NORRIS: Right. And it's ability...
MR. RUSSERT: Four...
MS. NORRIS: ...credit, because people are now tapping into credit to try to catch up.
MR. RUSSERT: Forty-three percent of Americans who said they were worse off now than they were four years ago, that's the highest number, David, since 1992, when the Clinton campaign coined the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid."
MR. BRODER: This is getting scary. The people who understand economics far better than I do will tell you the more they know, the more concerned they are about where we're headed economically.
MR. RUSSERT: In terms of large companies...
MR. BRODER: Large companies and...
MR. RUSSERT: ...no longer being liquid. Banks...
MR. BRODER: ...and, and, you know, and...
MR. RUSSERT: ...traders...
MR. BRODER: ...and, and a kind of a potential--we've had one rescue this week of Bear Stearns, but if they don't time these interventions, this thing could really tumble.
MS. NORRIS: And how often can they do that?
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. David Broder, Michele Norris and David Gregory, we're going to see you tomorrow night, 6 p.m. on MSNBC. Here's the graphic: "Race for the White House with David Gregory," premiering tomorrow.
MR. GREGORY: Thank you, boss, very much.
MR. RUSSERT: We look forward to seeing it.
MR. GREGORY: I look forward to it.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS. Happy St. Patrick's Day, especially to my favorite honorary Irishman, "Big Bill" down in Texas.