MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue their pointed exchanges.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): Senator Obama has been very timid and unenthusiastic about doing anything with the economy.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): When somebody asks you who you want to answer the phone call at 3 in the morning, you tell them what you want is somebody who will actually read the intelligence.
MR. RUSSERT: All the while, John McCain moves to unite his party and travels the country on his "Service to America" tour.
The next Democratic primary, Pennsylvania, April 22nd. Who would be the strongest Democratic nominee? Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey says Barack Obama. Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Ed Rendell says Hillary Clinton. Casey and Rendell square off on Obama vs. Clinton.
Then, 40 years ago Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. shot dead in Memphis, Tennessee. We reflect on his legacy with Tom Brokaw of NBC News; Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, author of "April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America"; and Ambassador Andrew Young, former aide to Martin Luther King Jr.
But first, just 16 days until the Pennsylvania primary. Here to talk about what's at stake, the man for Obama, Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. And the man for Clinton, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.
Gentlemen, welcome both.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D-PA): Good morning.
SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Good to be with you, Tim. Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor, let me start with you. Here's the Clinton campaign spokesman in Pennsylvania, "We operate from the assumption that Pennsylvania is Clinton country. ... We can build a team here that is unbeatable." Congressman John Murtha, who supports Hillary Clinton, "I think Hillary Clinton's going to win it by a double-digit figure. No question in my mind about that." "Unbeatable," "double-digit," you guys are pretty confident.
GOV. RENDELL: No, not, not true, Tim. Anytime you're outspent 3-to-1, you can't be overconfident. Look, this is a great state for Senator Clinton. She's well-known here, well-liked here. This is almost a partial hometown in Bob Casey's part of the state, the northeast. She's got some great advantages. But Barack Obama has a huge amount of money. We're being outspent woefully, and he's a great campaigner. So I'm saying that we will win this state, but we'll win it somewhere between 5 and 9, 5 and 10 percentage points. But any victory over a man who outspends you 3-to-1 and is a good a campaigner as Barack Obama is, is an impressive victory.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Casey, less than a month ago this is what you said, you "won't take sides before his state voters head to the polls. `I said I'd be neutral throughout our primary, which I will maintain. ... The winner of this nomination will be the president. So, when that much is at stake ... we need people in the middle to bring people together.'" You changed your mind.
SEN. CASEY: I did, Tim. And the reason was because I was, when I said that, an undecided voter. I became a decided voter. And at that point, you have to make a decision when, when a competition is going on in your state. Do you sit on the sidelines as a public official when you have a strong feeling? And I'll tell you, I have never been more inspired by a candidate for president in my life. This is a candidate, in Barack Obama, who can bring about the change that we need in this country. He's someone who's inspired people of all ages. And I think the people of Pennsylvania are getting to know him now. I think we can make progress. It's certainly an uphill fight, but I'm very excited about his candidacy. I think he can win in November, and I also think he can become a great president.
MR. RUSSERT: Can he win Pennsylvania?
SEN. CASEY: It's going to be tough in the primary, we're--it's certainly uphill. But I think what he does in the spring will lay a foundation for the fall, and I think he's connected. Tim, we were in western and central Pennsylvania on a three-day bus tour. I had to go back to Washington to vote. But in those communities, small town Pennsylvania, small town America, people were waiting in line in the cold just to shake his hand, just to be able to get close to him. And I think he's inspired people. We're going to need that kind of inspiration to take on the the tough challenges the country faces. It's part of being a good leader.
MR. RUSSERT: Some are suggesting in Pennsylvania that your endorsement was also part of your own political interest to broaden your coalition. "For Casey, Obama's base of college students, African Americans and upper-income voters is vital to broadening his appeal beyond the smokestack set."
SEN. CASEY: I'll leave that to others to analyze, Tim, but one thing I know for sure is this is a candidate, in Barack Obama, who, who has made a--not just a commitment to change, but has demonstrated it already. You know the problems we have, Tim. We're, we're facing a $10 trillion debt that the president left behind, a war in Iraq, a divided country in a dangerous world. All of that means that we've got to politics, politics a different way. Barack Obama, I think, is uniquely qualified not just to lead in a general sense, but to take on the special interests. They have not funded his campaign. He's raised money like no other candidate in American history. I think he's ready to bring about change.
MR. RUSSERT: And yet you were asked less than a month ago, Senator, "Who's the stronger candidate going into the fall election against John McCain?" Casey: "I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question."
SEN. CASEY: Well, I, I think we'll--we're going to see in the next couple of months, but I, I really believe, at the end of the day, because of what I've seen from this candidate, because of the speech he gave recently on race, a tough issue that he took on head on, did something that politicians don't usually do, I don't think there's any question he can run a strong general election. But I think Senator Clinton can also win in the fall.
MR. RUSSERT: Will, will Obama be a stronger candidate in the fall than Hillary Clinton?
SEN. CASEY: I think he will.
MR. RUSSERT: And Reverend Wright's comments have not hurt him in parts of Pennsylvania?
SEN. CASEY: Oh, I'm sure they, they might've, but I think what you saw there was a leadership test, and, in my judgment he got an A plus because he was honest about it, he was honest about his own, his own feelings. He was honest about the debate, and he lifted the debate on a very difficult issue. And I think it was a, it was a real demonstration of the new kind of leadership, the new kind of politics he brings even to tough issues.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor Rendell, The New York Times asked Democrats all across the country last week who will be the strongest Democrat, the "best chance at beating John McCain?" Look at this: Obama, 56%, Clinton, 32%. Those are Democrats across the country.
GOV. RENDELL: Well, Tim, I don't think they're doing the electoral math very well. We elect a president of the United States, as we learned in 2000, by the electoral college. And no Democrat can win the electoral college without carrying three of the four big states--Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Michigan. Assuming Senator Clinton wins in Pennsylvania, she will have demonstrated, and she's running way ahead of Obama against McCain in all four of those states, and those are crucial and that's why she's the strongest candidate in the fall, without question.
SEN. CASEY: Tim, let me, let me just respond to that. I think the governor's making a point that the, the Clinton campaign has made. You cannot predict a general election based upon a primary. It's a basic rule of, of politics. And they could make the claim that, that she's run strong in some big states in a Democratic primary. But that is no predictor whatever of what happens in the fall, in my judgment.
GOV. RENDELL: But, Tim, it's not just, it's not just the primary. If you'd see the matchups in these polls, in Ohio, Obama trails McCain by six points, Senator Clinton's ahead by five points. In Pennsylvania, same thing. In Florida, Michigan, the same thing. She runs better and is more likely to carry those big states that you can't win--a Democrat cannot win the presidential voter in the electoral college without them. And that's what the superdelegates are--have to consider: who's the best candidate to put together the electoral map in the fall.
MR. RUSSERT: The, the Obama people counter, Governor, that they have a chance to win Virginia, they have a chance to win Colorado, they have a chance to win--they have a chance to win states, broaden the electoral college map, that Senator Clinton can't do.
GOV. RENDELL: Yeah, but I don't get that because some of those states are Arizona and New Mexico, and Senator Clinton won Arizona and New Mexico. She won Arizona pretty handily. So I don't understand that, that math that they're saying that they're the best candidate to carry those states. They didn't carry half of them in the primaries.
MR. RUSSERT: So Senator Clinton could not win, then, Missouri and Connecticut and Colorado and the 28 contests that Obama won in the fall?
GOV. RENDELL: Oh, Tim, don't, don't misunderstand me. I have disagreed with people who said that Senator Obama can't win Pennsylvania. He can, and if he's the nominee, Bob Casey and I will be working together with every ounce of energy we have. But Senator Clinton is more likely to carry Pennsylvania. She's more likely to carry Michigan and Ohio and Florida and the key states that we have to win. Senator Obama was losing, just 10 days ago, was losing New Jersey to Senator McCain and even in Massachusetts. No Democrat can survive with making those two states toss-ups.
SEN. CASEY: Tim...
MR. RUSSERT: First--go ahead.
SEN. CASEY: If we judge candidates based upon polls months ahead of time, they'll be--some of us wouldn't be sitting here. And I think there's no question about it, both of these candidates are very strong. They're both very transcendent figures that can overcome a lot of divisions, and I think Senator Obama has the ability, as a general election candidate, to get votes that Democrats have never gotten before. He's already proven that. He can attract Republicans and independents. And he will need that to govern and to bring about change.
MR. RUSSERT: Before you can run in November, you must be nominated. Let's look at the state of the race. Thus far, elected delegates: Barack Obama, 1416; Clinton, 1252. Superdelegates, 224 Obama, 255 Clinton. Total, 1639-to-1507, a net advantage Obama, 132. Contests won, it's 28 for Obama, 14 for Clinton. The total vote, cumulative thus far, 13.4 million, Obama; 12.7, Clinton; 49-47.
Senator Case, if Barack Obama goes into the convention ahead in elected delegates combined with superdelegates, having won more contests, and has the popular vote lead as well, can he be denied the nomination?
SEN. CASEY: Oh, I don't think he, he could or should be. Look, this, this is a race, in the end, about delegates and votes. He's been, as you point out, in terms of popular vote and delegates, and in terms of number of states won. By every relevant measure, he's ahead in this race. And I think that's where it will, will be when we get to the summer. I don't--I hope we don't go to the convention, though.
GOV. RENDELL: I, I disagree.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor, Governor...
GOV. RENDELL: I disagree.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor Rendell, let me ask you a simple question. If Barack Obama, at the convention, is ahead in elected delegates, ahead in contests won, and ahead in cumulative popular vote, could the superdelegates still nominate Hillary Clinton?
GOV. RENDELL: Sure. It depends on what trends are happening. And number one, Hillary Clinton's ahead in electoral votes, states carried with the most electoral votes, number one. Number two, popular vote, I think the popular vote will narrow decidedly in the next seven or eight contests. And if you count Florida and Michigan, in truth, Hillary Clinton would've won the popular vote.
MR. RUSSERT: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. Stop there. Stop there, Governor, because Senator Clinton tried that yesterday, in terms of the goalposts. This is what she said in Oregon about Florida and Michigan.
SEN. CLINTON: Now, some say their votes should be ignored and that the popular vote in Michigan and Florida should just be discounted. Well, I have a different view. The popular vote in Florida and Michigan has already been counted. It was determined by election results. It was certified by election officials in each state. It's been officially tallied by the secretary of state in each state.
MR. RUSSERT: Two people had a different view of that recently. Here's Hillary Clinton back in October: "You know, it's clear this election they're having in Michigan is not going to count for anything." And here's February 24th, 2008, Ed Rendell. "You can't make any argument in Michigan because Hillary was the only person who was on the ballot. I'm as avid a Hillary supporter as there is, but I don't think we can make an argument in Michigan."
GOV. RENDELL: I think that I was talking about seating the delegates. You can't seat the delegates in Michigan because she had no one on the ballot against her. You certainly should seat the delegates from Florida, where she won by 300,000 votes, where the Florida Democrats did nothing wrong. It was the Republican governor and the Republican legislature that brought that primary into January. The Florida Democrats wanted to bring it to February 4th.
But we can settle this, Tim. We, we can settle it, Bob, you and I can settle it right now. Let's revote in Michigan and Florida. We're willing. The Clinton campaign is willing to test our popular vote mandate. Let's revote in Florida and Michigan. What's wrong with that?
MR. RUSSERT: But, Governor, I want to make sure I got this down. You've said you can't seat the delegates in Michigan, but you can count the popular vote, even though Obama wasn't on the ballot?
GOV. RENDELL: Right, because, Tim, you're running against yourself. That's the hardest thing. You can ask any politician. What's the hardest contest to run against? It's Bob Casey vs. we don't like Bob Casey. Hillary Clinton got 55 percent of the vote in Michigan. But I'm willing to, I'm willing to...
MR. RUSSERT: Why not, why not have a revote?
GOV. RENDELL: ...put that aside...
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah. Senator Casey, why not have a revote in Pennsylvania and Michigan?
SEN. CASEY: Well, I said this...
MR. RUSSERT: Florida and Michigan?
SEN. CASEY: When we were being interviewed the other day, I said, "Look, these delegates are going to be seated, and we know that's going to happen." It's really a question for the states themselves, their state legislature, political leadership, the Democratic National Committee, and the campaigns. But all while we're talking about, about, about rules because the rules have been followed by the Obama campaign, and delegates and states, there're a lot of people in Pennsylvania who're scratching their heads, saying, "Why ain't they talking about the issues, about shipping jobs overseas, health care, trade, the things that people in Pennsylvania care about?"
MR. RUSSERT: Well, because we're trying to determine who's going to be the nominee in the, in the fairest way there. But I, I--here's an issue. Barack Obama was in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and talking about kids and sex education. Let's watch.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): ...teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual, but it should also include, it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I've got two daughters, nine-year-old, now nine years old and six years old. I'm going to teach them, first of all, about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby.
MR. RUSSERT: "Punished with a baby." Is that an appropriate word?
SEN. CASEY: Well, I--look, you can talk about better word choice, but what he's talking about is something he, as he always is, he's being very honest. He's honest about the idea that if a, if a teenage girl has a baby, that is a terrible burden and it's difficult. And I think he's responding...
MR. RUSSERT: But it's not a, it's not a punishment.
SEN. CASEY: No, I think he's talking about the burden. He's talking about the burden there. But here, here's the thing. If you listen to that whole answer, it showed again why he's a leader. He talked about approaching these issues in a different way. Usually on these tough issues, people in Washington fight with each other, they point fingers at each other. Barack Obama's going to be the kind of president who'll be honest about differences, respect people that disagree with him but also try to reach a common ground. I think he's demonstrated that on issue after issue. And, again, it's about being a strong leader. Not having the loudest voice, but I think being a strong leader.
MR. RUSSERT: But he should not have used the word "punished."
SEN. CASEY: I think if he had answered that question again, he would--he'd, he'd use different words. But I think the point he was trying to make was a very important point, that we've got to remember that if a teenage girl has a baby, it's usually, in most instances, a difficult burden.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor Rendell, these were the headlines in the New York Daily News and across the country on Saturday. Here it is, the "109 Million-Dollar Couple: Bill and Hill make more than $15 million a year since leaving the White House." Fifteen million dollars a year, $109 million in seven years. How is that going to play in Lancaster, Altoona, Erie, PA?
GOV. RENDELL: Well, you know what's going to play well is that they paid a higher percentage of taxes, $33 million, than anyone--than the average in their income bracket, they gave almost 10 percent of their income, $10 million, to charity when the average person in that bracket gives about 3 percent. I think Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the taxes they paid and with the money they gave to charity, demonstrated their commitment to the public good, no ifs, ands and buts about it, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: But the, the median income in Pennsylvania is $46,000 a year.
GOV. RENDELL: I know. But Pennsylvanians understand that Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, all of their lives until he left the White House, were devoted to public service. If people want to pay for the president to give speeches, if people want to pay to buy either of their books, I think the public understands that. What they're looking to see is not just charitable commitment in the last year before they're running for president, but what have they done over the last eight, nine years in terms of giving to charity. Ten million dollars, that's pretty spectacular.
MR. RUSSERT: The concern is that tens of millions of dollars of that income was not speeches and books, but private partnerships, perhaps involving dealings with foreign governments. And...
GOV. RENDELL: No, over $80 million of it came from speeches and books and...
MR. RUSSERT: That, that still leaves $29 million, Governor. And, and here's what USA Today had to say about another $500 million that was raised: "Donors have pledged more than $500 million for construction of the library and for the Clinton Foundation. ... That's an enormous amount for someone to be raising from friends, business partners, foreign governments and interested parties who are either barred from making campaign contributions or limited to the $2,300 maximum. Because of the former president's unusual position and the sheer size of this conduit into a potential presidential administration, the complete list of donors should be made public." Do you believe that the $500 million given to President Clinton for his library and foundation, that those donors should be made public so voters know who's funding that?
GOV. RENDELL: I think that's a issue for the foundation to, to determine. But look at what the foundation's done, Tim. The way you act, you'd think that that money was used for some nefarious purpose. That money's been used to save 1.4 million Africans from the plague of AIDS. The Clinton Foundation is heralded all around the world for its incredible good works. And so I think that what money raised for that goes for incredibly good public purpose, and I don't think it's a particular issue. I mean, it's up to the president whether he wants to make those names available. He can if he wants to. But the foundation's work is so important that regardless of what happens to Senator Clinton in this campaign, I think all of us should want that foundation to continue to raise money and do its good works not just around the world, but here in America as well.
MR. RUSSERT: So you don't think anyone who makes contributions 10, $20 million could be seen as perhaps currying favor in a future Clinton administration?
GOV. RENDELL: No, it goes to the foundation for works that, again, we all should be praiseworthy of, just like the Rockefeller Foundation or the Ford Foundation or the Pew Foundation.
SEN. CASEY: Tim, let me just follow up on that. Look, I think voters'll make a decision about these income tax returns one way or the other, but it does, it does get us to the question of how broken our government is in Washington. The--one of the reasons why people are so attracted to Barack Obama's candidacy is because they know that beating John McCain and stopping a third Bush term is not going to be enough. We have to break the stranglehold of special interests to make progress on housing, to make progress on, on health care, to do a lot of things. And I think the way Barack Obama has raised money from small donations, from more--almost $1.3 million people now, demonstrates clearly not just the kind of leadership but the, the new approach to politics, and that's going to be critical.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, stop there. He has taken money from state lobbyists, he has taken money not from federal lobbyists, but people who work for federal lobbyists. He has taken money from individuals in huge business sectors. It--I mean, he's raised a lot of money from very influential people as well as small donors.
SEN. CASEY: Sure he has.
GOV. RENDELL: Power executives.
SEN. CASEY: Sure, sure he has, Tim, but I think when you, when you, when you line up, when you line up the, the way he's raised money with, with the way most presidential candidates in both parties have for generations, there's no comparison. A lot of people of very limited means have funded his campaign. I think it, it shows that he can bring about a new kind of politics.
GOV. RENDELL: I, I disagree, Tim. I think certainly he's raised a lot of money in a new way, but for him to claim that he hasn't raised money in the old way, as you said--nuclear power, utility executives, oil company executives, a lot of people in those sectors have bundled money for the Obama campaign. And I think it's a little disingenuous to say, "I don't take money from special interests." He certainly has gotten a lot of money from the public, and, and he's to be praised for that. Senator Clinton, by the old standards, has gotten a lot of money from the public. Not, not anything to match Senator Obama, but they've both taken money from people connected to industries and, and organizations.
MR. RUSSERT: In the Ohio primary campaign, an aide to Senator Obama had met with Canadian officials and talked about the NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, that became a very big story. We now have a situation with Mark Penn, a key adviser to the President--Senator Clinton. "Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist Mark Penn met with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. on Monday to discuss a bilateral free-trade agreement, a pact" that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton "opposes.
"A spokesman for Colombia's president said he didn't know if Mr. Penn was representing Sen. Clinton or Burson-Marsteller"--the company he works for--"which signed a $300,000, one-year contract with the Colombian Embassy in March of '07 for Penn to work on behalf of the trade deal." The Colombian government has now fired Mark Penn.
Governor Rendell, should the Clinton campaign fire Mark Penn?
GOV. RENDELL: Well, there are a lot of issues in which you can raise that question, Tim. Yeah, I think you've got to make it very clear when you're someone who's a consultant who you're representing and who you're not representing. And I would hope that Mr. Penn, when he talked to the Colombians, made that clear. It doesn't sound that he--like he did, and that's something the campaign should take into question. But, you know, this business and Senator Obama, etc., look, I know that Hillary Clinton cares about the free trade issue because in 2004 I testified before a committee which she chaired--myself, Governor Granholm from Michigan, Governor Doyle from Wisconsin--about unfair trade practices, China manipulating currency and, and stealing intellectual property, and she was very, very strong on the need for free trade to be fair trade.
MR. RUSSERT: Give me Barack Obama's path to this nomination. If he loses in Pennsylvania, what happens?
SEN. CASEY: Well, I think he can make progress there. And I think, as I said, I think that helps him throughout the primary season in other states as well as I think it helps him in the fall. I think, of course, we've got North Carolina and Indiana there. I don't profess to know what will happen there, but I think he'll do well in both those places. Whether he'll win both, I don't know. And then you've got a couple of other contests. This isn't going to be over, I don't think, the morning after Pennsylvania, but I do think we'll have a better, a better sense of it then.
MR. RUSSERT: But he has to win some primary before now and June.
SEN. CASEY: Oh, sure, and I think he will.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor Rendell, in all candor, what is Hillary Clinton's scenario? What is her way to the nomination? She must win Pennsylvania big, fair enough?
GOV. RENDELL: Yeah, she--well, but big for Pennsylvania, Tim, when you look at history, is somewhere between four and eight, nine points. That's what's big.
MR. RUSSERT: And then she--and then two weeks later she must win Indiana and North Carolina.
GOV. RENDELL: I think she can split in those, and I think she'll win West Virginia and Kentucky by huge amounts, Puerto Rico by huge amounts. And, again, I think--Bob says polls don't matter and to some extent he's right, but the superdelegates are going to look at the polls, who runs better against John McCain in the crucial electoral states. And if, in late June, Hillary Clinton is still running far more strongly against McCain in those states than Barack Obama, then I think the superdelegates have to, to look long and hard at making her the nominee.
MR. RUSSERT: But if, at the convention, there are more elected delegates for Obama and the popular--not counting Michigan and Florida, because it is contested--is Obama, and more state contests for Obama, what do you think? You've been in politics a long time. What would African-American delegates, young delegates, Obama delegates, do in Denver if the nomination went to Hillary Clinton after they had won more delegates, more states in the cumulative popular vote?
GOV. RENDELL: Well, again, it would depend on where the popular vote was, what percentage it was. It would depend on what the electoral college map looked like. If she still--if she wins Pennsylvania, she'll have an insurmountable lead among states with electoral votes. I think you can make an argument. Will some people--if Senator Clinton were to win the nomination, will some people stay at home? Sure. But Senator McCain is going to lose some of the far right wing in his party. If Senator Obama became the candidate, are there some women--and plenty of women say to me they're, they're not voting at all if, if Hillary Clinton's not on the ballot--I think most of those voters will come home.
And Bob Casey and I in Pennsylvania will work either way to make sure that Clinton or Obama voters come back to whoever the nominee is. Will there be some falloff? Absolutely. Will it be disastrous for the party in the, in the fall? Not necessarily. I think, because of this long campaign, Senator Obama's a much better candidate. Compare his debate performances in the last two months compared to the middle of last year. I think Senator Clinton's a better candidate. She's become humanized. People have seen her for the person that she is. And, and the more they see of her and the more vulnerable she's been and the more she fights back and stands up for herself, the more likable she becomes with voters. So I think this is, in the long run, going to help us. Whoever our nominee is, we're going to get behind, and we're going to win big in the fall.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Casey, but this is...
SEN. CASEY: I agree with that.
MR. RUSSERT: But this is risky. If Obama was denied the nomination, if he had more elected delegates, cumulative popular vote and contests won, what would happen in Denver and what would happen to the Democratic Party?
SEN. CASEY: Oh, I think it's, it's a real concern. But I don't think it's going to happen, Tim. Superdelegates, elected officials like me are not going to decide this. The people have been deciding it, and they will.
MR. RUSSERT: And so they--superdelegates will side with the candidate with the most elected delegates?
SEN. CASEY: I think they will.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll find out. Bob Casey, Ed Rendell together again. Thanks very much.
Coming next, the night before he died, Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to have a premonition.
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be joined by NBC's Tom Brokaw, host of tonight's History Channel documentary "King"; Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, author "April 4th, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America"; and Ambassador Andrew Young, former aide to Martin Luther King Jr. and co-chairman of GoodWorks International. Coming up next, right here, only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 40 years after his assassination, after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: Tom Brokaw, Michael Eric Dyson, Ambassador Andrew Young, welcome all. Let's take you all back to the evening, April 3rd, 1968, the Mason Temple, Memphis, Tennessee. Here's Martin Luther King Jr.
REV. DR. KING: I've been to the mountaintop, and I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
MR. RUSSERT: "I'm not fearing any man." Less than 24 hours later, this was the scene at the Lorraine Motel on the balcony. There's--on the far left of your screen, that's Andrew Young, pointing to where shots--a single shot rang out. Then there's Andrew Young kneeling over the body there of Martin Luther King Jr., and shortly thereafter, days later, Andrew Young standing next to the open coffin bearing the body of Martin Luther King Jr.
Ambassador Young, take us back to the evening of April 3rd and the day of April 4th, your memories and the lasting lessons in your mind.
AMB. ANDREW YOUNG: Well, my memory of April 3rd was that Martin was ill. He was running a fever. And it was raining, and so he decided not to go to Mason Temple because he thought there might not be a big crowd. And then, when we got there, it seats 11,000 and it was packed out. So we called him, and he decided that he would come, and he said, "But, Ralph, you make the speech, and I'll just make a few remarks at the end." Ralph made a great speech. It was the best introduction I think I'd ever heard him give Martin. And Martin, of course, made the speech that you just heard.
But the next day, he was a different person altogether. He was almost childishly frivolous. He was laughing and joking. His brother had come to town. There was a gathering of friends. And it was almost as though a weight had been lifted off of him. And, and then a shot rang out.
But really, I think we've got to go back to the march on Washington to understand what his life was all about. And the march on Washington, while we talk about the dream, the march on Washington basically said that America had presented the negro with a bad check and that he saw the Constitution as a promissory note for equality and justice of opportunity for all Americans. And he was going to Washington again in 1968 because he realized it was not just the negro that was being shortchanged economically in our democracy. And so that poor people's campaign was raising the question of whether or not America could survive with people on lonely islands of poverty in the midst of this ocean of material wealth. And that was the thing that was driving us to Washington. He knew we couldn't change it, but he felt that he had to make that witness. He always used to say you have no choice about, you know, being born or dying. The only thing you have a choice about is what you die for. And we tried to tell him, "Let's wait until after the election." And he said, "No, we've got to go now," that the bonus marches in the '30s went and they got run out by Douglas McCarthy and teargassed, and the same thing might happen to us. But Franklin Roosevelt used that to introduce the New Deal. And the next president must deal with poverty in America.
Now, 40 years later, it's almost like we're Rip Van Winkle, having slept through a revolution. And yet today--or yesterday, Martin Luther King III called on all of the candidates to take up that call, and we've had a very good response from all three of the candidates, Democrat and Republicans. Even Newt Gingrich over in the American Enterprise Institute was taking up what he called "the Obama challenge." So I think we've got something to talk about other than polls and statistics and what might happen when. We have a real issue, and that is poverty in America and how do we deal with the economic injustices that are affecting people at the bottom of our economy.
MR. RUSSERT: Michael Eric Dyson, in your book, "April 4th, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America," you write this: "[This book] aims to understand just how dominant death was in King's life--how he fought death and faced it down all the same, even as he used death to rally his people in the fight for justice. By probing how King embraced death's inevitability to shape his social agenda, we may better understand how he secured his legacy on the bloody battlefields of racial transformation." Very much echoing what Ambassador Young said, he understood death, he accepted it, but it's what you do when you're alive and trying to change people lives.
DR. MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Absolutely right. I think Ambassador Young hit it right on the--the nail right on the head. And he was right there. He's an American hero along with Dr. King.
But Dr. King understood that the white supremacists, the people who were defending the status quo were dead-set against him. And so he's trying to clip the wings of Jim Crow. But as he rose higher in the pantheon of the American consciousness, people began to embrace Martin Luther King Jr., initially being distant from him, but certainly embracing him. Especially when more radical elements within and militant minorities within African-American culture emerged, Dr. King became an American hero in many senses, but he also always fought against those perceptions that he was somehow undermining and subverting American democracy and not reinforcing it. And so he was threatened every day of his life. Can one imagine, Tim, that every day you get up some credible threat of death is before you? And so publicly he articulated his resistance to death. He said he had--any man who hadn't found anything he was willing to die for wasn't fit to live, and yet he battled personally against the kind of existential anxiety that inevitably falls upon a person who's confronting that death. But his bravery and courage was despite the legitimate challenges and the credible threats, he moved on and used his death to say, "If I die, this movement will not die. If my blood mixes with the soil of our common history, what will sprout from it will be the possibility of transforming America." And he said nothing could be more redemptive. That's an extraordinary man and arguably the greatest American we've produced.
MR. RUSSERT: Tom, it was a long struggle. You have a special tonight, 8 PM on the History Channel, called "King." I want to show you a clip from that. This is 1956, way back then. Let's watch.
(Videotape from "King")
MR. TOM BROKAW: Despite the dangers he faced, King held fast to the boycott and his nonviolent philosophy, a revolutionary strategy that stunned even his followers. King's tactics paid off more than a year after the boycott began. The Supreme Court outlawed segregation of public buses. The boycott was over, and a new movement had begun.
REV. DR. KING: And the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged to return to the buses tomorrow morning on a nonsegregated basis.
MR. RUSSERT: Fifty-two years ago.
MR. BROKAW: He was 26 years old, Tim, when he started that. And what I think is lost in our memory is that how hard it was, what he launched that day, and how long it went on. It went on from 1956 to 1968. He was, as Michael indicated, under death threat all the time.
But there were three big, big elements that came through as I reviewed all of this. One was that the twin motors of his intelligence and his eloquence really drove the movement, and he stuck to nonviolence. The other part of it was that he had the same language and the same tone when he spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington as he did in the backwoods of Alabama. And, as that played out on national television, it elevated all of us. And then finally, they were so much more strategic than anyone realized. They were constantly thinking about how they were going to pick their next fight and against whom. That's in part why they want to Birmingham, for example, because they knew they could count on Bull Connor to react the way he did.
MR. RUSSERT: The police commissioner.
MR. BROKAW: The police commissioner.
MR. RUSSERT: To overreact with dogs and fire hoses.
MR. BROKAW: Absolutely. And then he went to the Birmingham jail and wrote, I believe, one of the great statements of the last 50 years, a letter from a Birmingham jail, his epistle to--in response to the white clerics who were criticizing him for going too fast and too far all at once.
MR. RUSSERT: I went through the five appearances of Martin Luther King here on MEET THE PRESS. This one is from April of 1960, and it's particularly appropriate in light of the discussion we've had of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and some of the things said in black churches. Here's Dr. King talking about the differences between white churches and black churches and what happens 11:00 in the morning on Sunday. Let's watch.
(Videotape from MEET THE PRESS from April 17, 1960)
MR. FRANK VAN DER LINDEN: Dr. King, how many white people are members of your church in Atlanta?
REV. DR. KING: I don't have any white members, Mr. Van Der Linden.
MR. VAN DER LINDEN: Well, sir, you said integration is the law of the land and it's morally right, whereas segregation is morally wrong and the president should do something about it. You mean the president should issue an order that the schools and the churches and stores should all be integrated?
REV. DR. KING: I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies that 11:00 on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour in Christian America. I definitely think the Christian church should be integrated, and any church that stands against integration and that has a segregated body is standing against the spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it fails to be a true witness. But this is something that the church will have to do itself. I don't think church integration will come through legal processes. I might say that my church is not a segregating church; it's segregated, but not segregating. It would welcome white members.
MR. RUSSERT: Dr. Dyson, 40 years later we still have segregated churches.
DR. DYSON: It's so true. The quote Dr. King was citing there was from Listen Pope, who was the dean of the Yale Divinity School, a white man. So even in his acknowledgement of this segregated social hour, Dr. King was acknowledging a tradition that has been acknowledged by white liberals.
But here's the tragedy. In black churches, things are said and done that may offend or somehow surprise the broad swath of white Americans, but the white church kicked the black church out, so to speak. The black church began in racial politics. When the white church subordinated its theology to its politics, black people had to leave because they didn't want to worship equally. Black people then celebrate God in different ways, but they also--many, many similar ways to white America--but they also articulate the rage, the grief, the pain, the suffering, the agony. And they try to transmute that pain, suffering, grief and agony in light of their commitment to God.
When you heard Jeremiah Wright, what you heard was the latter-day Martin Luther King Jr. When you hear Barack Obama, you hear Dr. King up to 1965. In black churches, Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We have been subject to American genocide." He also went on to say that he didn't want to be treated the same way the Japanese brothers and sisters did when they were put in the concentration camps. And the sermon he was going to deliver, Tim, the next Sunday, were he to live, found in the effects after he was murdered, was a sermon called "Why America May Go To Hell." That's the Martin Luther King Jr. with which the broad swath of America is not familiar, and they don't understand within the black church, the articulation of a theological tradition that responds to hatred, doesn't respond in hate but prophetic anger and then, ultimately, love, love enough to speak justice to the nation. Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public, and Martin Luther King Jr. did this when he did--when he talked specifically to black churches.
MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Young, we went back--you were here on MEET THE PRESS back in 1977 and said something that is rather prescient. Here is the question, "Do you think the Democratic Party might be ready by 1984 to nominate a black vice presidential candidate?" Andrew Young, "Or presidential candidate, but the black presidential candidate or vice presidential candidate is going to have to do the same thing that a white Southerner had to do. He's going to have to get out here and raise some money, run in about 30 primaries, fight off all kinds of opposition, and just demonstrate that he is a better politician and strikes a chord of leadership and response in the hearts of American people that transcends race." Well, it wasn't--didn't happen in '84, but in 2008, is that a description of what you witnessed in Barack Obama?
AMB. YOUNG: That certainly is, and he's done a wonderful job of going around making a case, really, for the American dream. But I still say that that '63 speech was about America presenting the negro with a bad check, and it's the question of economic justice that we're going to have to address in this election. And you can't come together as a people if you don't address the problem of whites and blacks. It's not just blacks anymore. It's Native Americans, it's the Irish-Catholics in the inner cities, and I think that Martin Luther King III is pointing us in that direction. And I hope he will talk about a study group that will begin to get us all thinking about how we can do things like making sure that every family has a checking account. To be in a free enterprise system without access to capital is as bad, if not worse, than being in a democracy without the right to vote.
MR. RUSSERT: Tom Brokaw...
AMB. YOUNG: And I think that...
MR. RUSSERT: Go ahead. Ambassador, thank you.
To Ambassador Young's point, King's message, moving beyond race to poverty, to economic justice in a biracial way.
MR. BROKAW: You cannot separate them, Tim, racism and, and poverty. And it exacerbates racism, as a matter of fact. And we have been witness in the last several years to a lot of bloc politics in this country. There's enormous tension, for example, between Latinos now and African-Americans in the inner city, and it's rooted in economic opportunity. And that has to be resolved as well. And in many parts of America, that includes Asian-Americans and very poor white people that get overlooked in rural America. So to--for Martin Luther King III to put this on the agenda is, I think, the appropriate gesture as a way to not only memorialize his father but to continue his legacy. And there has been a response. Newt Gingrich gave a, a very eloquent speech at the American Enterprise Institute just a week ago saying it was a courageous speech that Obama made and Republicans have to figure out how to respond to it.
MR. RUSSERT: And Obama, Clinton, McCain have all embraced this idea of someone in the White House dealing specifically on the issue of poverty.
MR. BROKAW: But we ought not to have any illusions about how tough that is. It is complex, it's going to take a long time, it's going to take good will on the part of everyone. It's not just transfer payments. It's about education and training, and it has to grow from the ground up as well as from the top down. It has to grow within those communities.
DR. DYSON: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Also, also amongst African-Americans, Michael Eric Dyson, you write this in your book about blackness on page 229. "Blackness has never really been about genetics anyway. ... What disturbs or assures us about race has very little to do with blood or biology. ... Race is about how you use language, understand your heritage, interpret your history, identify with your kin, figure out what your meaning and worth to a society that places values on you beyond your control. And it's also about what people see you as - or take you to be."
DR. DYSON: Absolutely. And as Tom Brokaw was saying and Ambassador Young have said, this racial reality that we're dealing with is not simply about how we're born and what we know when we're born. It's about the cues we get from a society that tells us, "This is good, this is bad. This is productive, this is not productive. This is healthy, this is not healthy." And I think ultimately what Barack Obama is showing America is that if we have the will to move beyond the narrow precincts of our prejudice, we can get to a grander, more glorious vision of us as Americans. Not by denying that racial past, but by going through it. And the issue of poverty, as Ambassador Young has said and as Mr. Brokaw has said, is extremely important. But Dr. King also spoke against black bourgeois capitulation to the dominant cultures' withering assault upon poor black people. What we're seeing now is not simply white vs. black, as both of our distinguished guests have also said, but it's also about the internal mechanism of assault upon black people.
Martin Luther King Jr. had more reason than anybody else to throw off on the poor people and beat them down, and instead he lifted a hand--he lifted them up by reaching his hand over and across the aisle, so to speak, of class. And that's what black America must do now, get rid of the class prejudice, join with other Americans of all good conscience to make sure that we can speak to the structural forces that prevent the flourishing of poor black and brown and red and yellow people in this country. That's what Martin Luther King Jr. died for. Against every bit of advice from all of his, his advisers, he went to Memphis. That was a stand against common sense and status quo, and yet that has transformed our understanding of poverty and Dr. King's legacy in America.
MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Young, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave an interview the other day where she talked about Europeans came here by choice, Africans came here in chains and used the word birth defect to describe some of the difficulties still in the minds of African-Americans. How deeply rooted is that and how difficult...
AMB. YOUNG: Well, I don't...
MR. RUSSERT: Go ahead, please.
AMB. YOUNG: Let, let me--I, I, I love Condoleezza Rice, I think she's doing a great job. But there--four and a half million people came here during the slave trade. There are five million Africans who have come here voluntarily since 1970, and they are the second most educated group of American immigrants. One of the hopes of the world I see is that those Africans who came here by choice with education who have made money are beginning to go back in Nigeria and Rwanda and Ghana. They're transferring billions of dollars back in remittances. In fact, the involvement of African-Americans on the global economy, by their own choice, is one of the phenomena in the world that I think is going to help us deal with both globalization and poverty at home.
But I don't want to get away from this race issue, because it's not just a black issue. The single mothers in America, whether they be white or black, are experiencing an economic crisis, and it was on before the subprime mortgage. But we're bailing out Bear Stearn at some $30 billion. President Bush and this economy--this administration should not wait until November. We've got to start dealing with poverty now.
MR. RUSSERT: Right.
AMB. YOUNG: And he's named a financial literacy commission with Chuck Schwab and John Bryant.
MR. RUSSERT: Yes.
AMB. YOUNG: So we're talking about a bipartisan...
MR. RUSSERT: We got to go.
AMB. YOUNG: ...international concern.
MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Young, we thank you. We got to go. I'm sorry. Time is up.
But, Tom Brokaw, tonight, 8 PM...
MR. BROKAW: On the History Channel.
MR. RUSSERT: On the History Channel. "King" is the name of your documentary, there it is on our screen.
Ambassador, good luck with GoodWorks International.
Michael Eric Dyson, "April 4th, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America." Thank you all.
DR. DYSON: Thank you so much.
MR. BROKAW: Thanks, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: We remember 40 years later.
On our MEET THE PRESS Web site this afternoon, a special Take Two Web extra, a look back at the highlights from Martin Luther King Jr.'s five historic appearances here on MEET THE PRESS from 1960 until 1967. A very young man. That's this afternoon, our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com.
And we'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Happy birthday to the National Press Club here in D.C., 100 years of service to the journalism community.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.