Video: McClellan book: Too little, too late?

NBC News
updated 5/30/2008 9:55:17 AM ET 2008-05-30T13:55:17
Russert on Politics

Tim Russert is NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and host of Meet the Press.  He regularly offers MSNBC.com’s readers his insight and analysis into questions about politics past, present and future.

Msnbc: Tim,what’s the bottom line on the Scott McClellan book? Is this anything more than just an embarrassment for the Bush administration?

Russert:  Well, it certainly is that and a hearty and healthy debate about Mr. McClellan has transpired.  But will it have an effect on the presidential campaign?  Will Iraq be front and center?

Certainly Barack Obama has seized on the book saying, “This is what we’ve thought all along about the lead up to the war,” seizing on the word “propaganda”.

John McCain will counter saying, “That’s old news. What are we going to do now?”

I do think it confirms a lot of doubts and suspicions opponents of the Bush administration have had for years.  Whether it influences independent voters in a general election, we just don’t know.  That’s the simple answer.

Msnbc: The DNC rules committee meets Saturday to determine what to do about seating Michigan and Florida delegates, but is it likely to do anything that would dramatically affect the outcome of the Democratic race?

Russert: The DNC lawyers have already sent a memo saying the states must be punished and must lose at least half their delegates.

Let’s assume they do seat half of them.  It would be a net gain for Hillary Clinton of anywhere from 20-30 delegates.  That still puts her more than 150 away from Barack Obama.

Then we have the Puerto Rico Caucus on Sunday and Montana and South Dakota primaries on Tuesday.

Iamge: Hillary Clinton campaigns in Florida
Joe Raedle  /  Getty Images file
As Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton speaks in Boca Raton, Fla. on May 21, a supporter holds up a sign reading, "Count Florida Michigan Hillary For America."
So, either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, it’s the opinion of everyone I’ve talked to who’s the least bit objective, that Obama will have enough elected delegates and superdelegates to reach the magic number for the nomination.

Msnbc: Down the road, if the convention as a whole doesn’t like what the rules committee does, it can change it.  And if we have an apparent nominee before the convention, he appoints the credentials committee which can overrule the rules committee, correct?

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Russert: Exactly, but my sense is people have pretty much decided they don’t want to fight to the convention. They’re going to have a deal, they’re going to have a settlement and then Obama will have control of the convention.  I don’t think Hillary Clinton wants to exercise, as it’s called, “the nuclear option”, and to take the fight all the way to the convention.

Msnbc:  Then doesn’t the question become not what does Obama do, but what does Clinton do?

Russert:  She has said repeatedly that as soon as the party has a nominee, she would support the nominee.

Now, she may say “we won’t officially have a nominee until the convention,” but my sense of her and her husband is they will recognize reality and begin to take steps to begin negotiations with Sen. Obama and start uniting the party.

Sen. Clinton does hope to have a big victory in Puerto Rico.  If she gets the delegates in Michigan and Florida seated, she will attempt to count the popular vote in those states in her overall category, so that even if Obama has more delegates, she can have an asterisk saying she “won” the popular vote.  It won’t get her the nomination, but it will position her so that if things don’t work out for Sen. Obama this fall, she can offer “I told you so” as she gears up for 2012.

Video: What to do about Florida and Michigan?

Msnbc: If things go as you expect they will, do you think Clinton will have any leverage to negotiate for pulling out?

Russert:  Well, she has gotten 17 million voters and she has a strong base of support – particularly with women over 50.  The Obama people realize that in some polls Sen. John McCain is getting 15 to 20 percent of the Democratic vote.  They need to get the voters back into the Democratic fold.  They want a unified, peaceful convention. They want Bill and Hillary Clinton on the stump in September and October. 

The big issue is whether or not Hillary Clinton has an interest in the vice presidency and whether or not Barack Obama has any interest in offering it to her.  That will be discussed and analyzed and debated for the next several weeks.

Msnbc: What will you be doing Sunday, on Meet the Press?

Russert: This is it – the DNC meeting about Florida and Michigan.  We’ll have the headlines and highlights and the players involved in those negotiations. We’ll have a look at Sunday’s primary in Puerto Rico with new, exclusive polling data.  And, Scott McClellan, the former White house press secretary. He’s also going to be on Meet the Press to explain what he wrote and why. I’ve been comparing what he wrote in his book and what he’s said from the podium.  It should be an interesting discussion.

It may be June, but it’s still going to be a pretty interesting Sunday morning, on Meet the Press.

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