updated 6/9/2008 10:47:25 AM ET 2008-06-09T14:47:25

Guests: Jim Webb, E.J. Dionne, Mike Duffy

TIM RUSSERT, MSNBC ANCHOR:  The primaries are finally settled.  It‘s a Republican, John McCain, against Democrat, Barack Obama.  What are the key issues that will be debated and define this race.  They are outlined, actually, in a book, “A Time to Fight, Reclaiming a Fair and Just America.”  The author is our guest, Jim Webb, United States senator from Virginia.


SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VA:  Thanks for having me.

RUSSERT:  When you see the race of John McCain, Barack Obama, what do you see?

WEBB:  There‘s a lot of rhetoric that‘s been thrown back and forth about who is the change agent and these sorts of things but I see, first of all, a clear juxtaposition of two different styles of where the country needs to go.  Whether it‘s in foreign policy or the temperament of leadership or how intellect is being applied to issues.  I think people are going to get, more than any time in recent memory, the opportunity to see these issues very clearly debated.

RUSSERT:  Take Iraq.  How do you see the differences as laid out, articulated by the two parties.

WEBB:  Well, I know - I‘ve known John McCain for 30 years, I have a great admiration for him on many levels and I agree with him on a lot of different things.  But in that particular area I think you are seeing the potential of a third Bush term in terms of how he is signaling that he is going to conduct foreign policy.

The Bush administration is characterized by an unwillingness to engage our adversaries on a diplomatic level and you on the one hand see over and over again using the military tactically, taking them into all of these different environments but not taking advantage of what they have done on a diplomatic level and what you‘ve seen from Barack Obama is a clear signal that he wants to bring the diplomatic elements to the fore, not stepping back from using the military and that is a totally different direction from what we‘ve seen.

RUSSERT:  In your book and in the lead-up to the war you wrote some other opinion pieces.  You opposed the war.  Why, back then?

WEBB:  Well, I actually wrote a piece on 9/11 talking about what we needed to do in terms of how to address the issues of international terrorism.  And we saw over a period of months, the issue of international terrorism morph into this war against Iraq.  And I think Scott McClellan‘s recent book kind of validates what a lot of us were feeling viscerally from a distance.  I was basic saying it would be a strategic error for the United States to become an occupying force in that part of the world at a time when our concerns were broader than the region and in fact that‘s what happened.

I think we fell into what I call a double strategic mousetrap.  On the one hand we tied down our maneuver forces, the Army and the Marine Corps on the streets and the cities of Iraq while the people that we should be addressing, the forces (ph) of international terrorism were able to recenter their mass and remain mobile.

But also it caused us a great deal of lessening of statute around the world in terms of how we approached our foreign policy, how we deal with the rest of the world economically, culturally and with respect particularly to countries like China with whom we are losing balance.

RUSSERT:  When Barack Obama talks about having an orderly withdrawal of troops from Iraq, John McCain has branded that surrender.  How does the Democratic Party in 2008 deal with the issue of Iraq and yet cast itself as a party that does not stand for surrender or as, quote, weak on national defense policy?

WEBB:  Well, I think what we need to do is get back to the traditional formula of how we conduct foreign policy.  And this isn‘t a Democrat or a Republican issue.  I was talking about this before I started to run for the Senate.  Brent Scowcroft was talking about it.  People who had worked for the president‘s father were trying to articulate it.

The notion - and in fact the Baker-Hamilton Commission was laying out the idea that when you do something militarily, you have to have in consonance the same sort of diplomatic effort.

So technically, mechanically, you could remove United States combat elements from Iraq within a year, my view, having spent five years in the Pentagon and having worked on the issues.  But you should be doing this with the right sort of diplomatic umbrella and we‘re not going to see that, obviously, from this administration.  We‘re not hearing that from John McCain and it is doable with the right kind of leadership.

RUSSERT:  If you withdraw American troops and the country just turns - spirals downward into genocide, what do you do then?

WEBB:  Well, I kind of look at it from the other way around, and that is will there ever be stability in the region with the United States as an occupying power in Iraq?  And I don‘t believe there will.

And right now we have a document that‘s being negotiated between this administration and the Maliki government that‘s supposed to define our long term strategic relationship with Iraq.  We in the Congress should be very carefully participating in the formulation of this document.

We don‘t want to destabilize the region.  We don‘t want to do something that is irresponsible, but what we do want to do is proceed forward in a way where we can responsibly remove our combat forces in Iraq, maintain the stability in the region and still address international terrorism and address our larger strategic issues.  And I think that‘s doable.  It‘s a leadership issue.

RUSSERT:  While you were opposed to the war, your own son, went to Iraq and served his country.  How difficult was that as a father?

WEBB:  Even if it was a war I supported it‘s difficult as a father.  The hardest thing for me at the time was being in the middle of a campaign and with the political positions that I had taken being debated and a lot of people wanting to personalize that at the time my son was going through some very hard combat in Ramadi but we have a family tradition, citizen soldier tradition in my family.  We Americans have a tradition where we try to separate politics out from a sense of duty to country.

And so it was not surprising to me that my son would want to step forward and serve and I‘m proud of all the people who have done that.

RUSSERT:  We‘re going to take a quick break.  We‘re talking to Jim Webb.  He‘s the United States senator from Virginia.  His new book, “A Time to Fight, Reclaiming a Fair and Just America.”  We‘ll be right back.


RUSSERT:  And we‘re back talking to Jim Webb, senator from Virginia, member of the Democratic Party.  “A Time to Fight, Reclaiming a Fair and Just America.”

Forty years ago today, where were you.

WEBB:  It‘s incredible.  You mentioned this when I got here.  This is the 40th anniversary of the day that I became a marine.  That I officially took the oath of office to be a marine, when we graduated from the Naval Academy.  And as I write in the book, it was an incredible year, 1968, as we know, and just a few months of that event we had seen the assassination of Martin Luther King, we had seen the Tet Offensive.  And the night before we graduated Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles and that summer we had all of the turmoil in the Chicago convention.  So yeah, it‘s been quite a 40 years.

RUSSERT:  You did go to Vietnam and decorated for your combat and heroism.  You write at the end of your book some riveting words that you talk about prepping the tree line and you talk about what it is like to be in the middle of combat and you keep recalling a question asked of you in your training, “What do you do now, lieutenant, what do you do now?”  And the answer is always, “You take care of your marines.”

WEBB:  No - there‘s an incredible speech that was given to us right before we left by a marine officer who had been enlisted in World War II and served in Korea and Vietnam talking about the long-term responsibilities of commanding troops, that you have to accept responsibility, you have to accept the consequences of your decisions and when you put that into the moral ambiguity that attends any war and particularly guerrilla wars, wars of attrition, where you‘re fighting inside populated areas all the time, that‘s probably the most profound moral environment I‘ve ever been in, where there‘s no win, there‘s no win.  And yet you have to make decisions, this isn‘t like sitting in a college seminar discussing ethics.  This is the real world and you have consequences coming up and you have to take care of your people.

RUSSERT:  And sometimes seconds to make a decision.

WEBB:  I‘m sorry I missed .

RUSSERT:  Sometimes seconds to make a decision as to what to do and how to react.

WEBB:  Yeah, sometimes immediately to make a decision.

RUSSERT:  What is it about the Scots-Irish that have such a proud tradition of service to the country and the military?

WEBB:  I think this is a culture that went - one of the very few European cultures that went directly to the wilderness.  They settled along the Appalachian Mountains, Northern Pennsylvania all the way down to Northern Georgia, Northern Alabama after the Revolutionary War, kind of swung west, became the dominant culture of the non-slave holding South.

But literally for hundreds and hundreds of years because of the border wars along Scotland and England and in the situation in Northern Ireland, they developed a tradition of service.  And there‘s a concept I write in another book, “Born Fighting” called the notion of Celtic kinship where the interesting thing about the culture, and it‘s still in play today that every individual believes they are equal to every other individual.  I have no envy of wealth, I don‘t care how rich you are.  You, measured as a human being, I will measure you as an equal, but you also have to be willing to step up and serve.

It‘s just simply a part of the culture.  And it‘s continued to exist.

RUSSERT:  It is interesting when we look at it in political concerns.  There is the thought giving that that white demographic bloc does not have many things in common with African Americans but you have written and spoken about how, in fact, the Scots-Irish, the whites along Appalachia and African Americans have an awful lot in common.

WEBB:  They have a tremendous commonality of history.  They have a shared history in this country and neither of this ethnic groups really was able to take advantage of things that a lot of other ethnic groups were.  I‘m not sitting here saying that they should claim victimhood or anything else.  But there was a - the story of the South was never white against black.  It was always a small veneer manipulating white against black.

And what I‘ve written about for years, these are like tortured siblings.  They‘re like cousins that have been played against each other politically for a very long time.  If they could set those artificial manipulations aside and realize their commonality of interests then they could remake American politics.

RUSSERT:  Barack Obama clearly a difficulty in Kentucky, in West Virginia with that voting bloc.  Can he find a way to reach out with them and unite them with blacks to form a Democratic coalition that can be successful?

WEBB:  I think he can and I think that first of all, he has taken the same kind of shots that we see in this - the Karl Rove era where a lot people want to consciously cut him away from the working class people.  They say Barack went to Harvard, Barack doesn‘t understand these things, but people - listen to what he‘s saying and watch how receptive he is.  He has the intellect, he has the judgment and I think he can do well down there.  He is going to have to get down there and listen to these people but the interests that they talk about are very similar in terms of trying to help people out.

RUSSERT:  You spent a lot of time in your book, “A Time to Fight” on economic fairness.  Explain that issue.

WEBB:  Well, I think that you probably have to go back to Teddy Roosevelt‘s period before you would find an equally dramatic period where we have calcified along class lines and maybe even more so now than then.  Where we‘ve been breaking apart into what I call three Americas.  The people at the top have never had it so good.  The people at the bottom in many cases are in danger of being formed into a permanent underclass.

And then the people in the middle, who have always been the wellsprings of American advancement have gotten knocked off the rails with the internationalization of the American economy, the - a lot of the things that have happened in terms of how you basically keep your job, how you pay for your healthcare, etc.

Productivity among American workers is at an all time high.  Wages and salaries are at an all time low as a percentage of national wealth.

And then if you look at the top one percent - this isn‘t like the old poverty issues the way we used to define them.  It is the people at the very top sort of having moved away from everyone else.  Half the stocks in this country are owned by one percent of the people.  Corporate executive compensation is off the charts.

When I graduated from college 40 years ago today, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker makes.  Today they make 400 times.  And that‘s only true in America.  If this was a global phenomenon you‘d see it in Japan.  You don‘t, they make 10 times as much.  In Germany, the average German CEO makes 11 times as much.

So there are issues of unfairness in this society and one thing I write about in the book is for all these people who like to talk about economic Darwinism, I think you ought to sit down and think about this.  Government policies can create and sustain aristocracies.  And there are times - this was Andrew Jackson‘s main message - where government needs to come in and level the playing field.

RUSSERT:  We‘re going to come back and talk about just how we can do that as a political culture.  “A Time to Fight” is the book.  Jim Webb is the author.  We will be right back.


RUSSERT:  We‘re back.  Jim Webb is the senator from Virginia.  The author of “A Time to Fight, Reclaiming a Fair and Just America.”  We‘re talking about economic fairness.  What do you do about these CEO salaries as a government?  You can‘t enact legislation to cap them, can you?

WEBB:  I wouldn‘t want to do that.  I do think that it‘s fairer in some of these issues, for instance, when we‘re talking about hedge funds to examine whether this compensation should be considered as a capital gain or as a direct income which is an issue that came before .

RUSSERT:  To change their rate of taxation.

WEBB:  Yeah.  I believe quite frankly that we should look at the capital gains tax right now.  Right now it‘s a 15 percent flat tax where people‘s salaries are taxed incrementally, progressively and I think there should be some progression in capital gains.  Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor likes to say - or reputedly like to say that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary because he makes his money off of stocks where his secretary earns money.

And if you have a situation where half the stocks are owned by one percent of the people, the stock market right now isn‘t really reflecting what the average worker does and there ought to be a way to tag that along with your income - I‘m not saying the same percentage as ordinary income but to make it progressive in the same way you make other income.

We‘ve got a situation now with oil where moving into Iraq, oil was $24 a barrel.  When we voted to go in, when they voted to go in in October ‘02.  It‘s up, as you know, like $130 and we had testimony in the Congress that as much as $50 a barrel is due to speculation.  People buying futures and they can buy with only three or four percent on the margin in order to buy into an oil future and this environment, if you listen to people like Senator Levin and others, Maria Cantwell, the senator .

RUSSERT:  Washington State.

WEBB:  . from Washington has been very good on this.  That we stopped regulating this back in about 2000.  And these are appropriate areas for the protection of our economy that I think the government could come in and regulate.

RUSSERT:  Can a Democratic candidate for president pledge to lower gasoline prices realistically?

WEBB:  I think what a Democratic candidate can do is to pledge to bring measures of fairness back into these issues and to push them hard.  Some of the most frustrating votes that I‘ve seen on the floor have been votes for instance to continue all of these billions of dollars of breaks to the oil companies at a time when the profit margins are off the charts.  More than any corporation in history.

And if that‘s not a windfall profit, I don‘t know what is.  They didn‘t work any harder to get it.  They did it - they made this money because of the skyrocketing price of oil.  So if there were the right kind of representation in the Congress you would have a stronger hand in terms of protecting the average consumer on issues like that.

RUSSERT:  In 2000 and 2004, Al Gore, John Kerry did not win the White House because they couldn‘t win Florida or Ohio.  Barack Obama may have difficulties in Florida, maybe difficulties in Ohio, but he is trying to broaden the states that are available to him as the Democratic candidate, including your state, Virginia.

You are a Democratic senator, you have a Democratic governor, Tim Kaine, you have a former Democratic governor named Mark Warner who is going to try to run for John Warner‘s seat - he is running for John Warner‘s seat.  Why is it that the Democratic Party in Virginia appears to be having more success in Virginia than the national Democratic Party?

WEBB:  I think the bottom line on the Democratic Party in Virginia has been affirmative leadership and willingness to work with both sides to get things done.  In my own personal experience, I‘ve sat down with John Warner, we‘ve been partners and colleagues.  He‘s a Republican, I‘m a Democrat.  We‘ve figured out where we could agree and where we could not agree.  The story on the G.I. Bill which I started on 16 months ago.  We just got 75 votes in the Senate.

We did that by talking to people across the line, trying to bring them together.  In Virginia that is the form of leadership of the Democratic Party and at the same time the Republican Party in Virginia - they don‘t give John Warner his full respect.  They have sort of gone the other way.

So you‘ve got a bit of a microcosm there of where I think the two parties have been going over the last eight years.

RUSSERT:  Can Obama win Virginia?

WEBB:  Obama can win Virginia.  I think he‘s going to be very competitive in Northern Virginia, very competitive in Richmond, Southside he is going to win.  He‘s got a good shot on Tidewater.  There are a lot of veterans there who will be encouraged to gravitate towards John McCain.  And we‘re going to take him into the mountains.  I think he‘ll do a good - I think he really will be well-received once people get to know him.

RUSSERT:  Should he pick Mark Warner, Tim Kaine or Jim Webb for vice president?

WEBB:  I am happy to give Barack any advice he wants to receive.

RUSSERT:  That‘s a trifecta.  Second door, Webb.

Laughter is the answer.  I understand.  The book, “A Time to Fight, Reclaiming a Fair and Just America” is the book.  Jim Webb, United States senator and a real writer is the author.  We‘ll be back with E.J. Dionne and Mike Duffy, two political analysts and writers and journalists about the race coming up.


RUSSERT:  And we are back.  From the “Washington Post” columnist E.J.

Dionne.  “Time Magazine” editor Mike Duffy.  Welcome both.


MIKE DUFFY, “TIME MAGAZINE”:  Good to be here.

RUSSERT:  Well, the primary is over.  It is Barack Obama versus John McCain.  How do you see the race?

DIONNE:  I think on the fundamentals Obama has a huge advantage because of where Republicans stand.  A lot of these polls where Republicans are 20 points down when you ask people which party is the best party to solve problems.  But McCain has shown a consistent ability to run way ahead of his party and when you look at it state by state, it looks like a very, very hard fight.  You take Pennsylvania out of the Democratic column from the last time and Obama has to win a whole slew of states to get to 270.

Now, Pennsylvania looks better than it did a few weeks ago.  But I think it‘s going to be a very close struggle.  And then I will contradict myself and say with Obama I think you have a much larger range of possibilities than you would have had if Mrs. Clinton were the nominee.  I think Obama could, if he took off, really blow this race out.  But I think because we have no history with him as we do with the Clintons, we don‘t know where the bottom is.

I still, in all those possibilities say it‘s going to be a very tight race.


DUFFY:  Well, I think what‘s interesting thus far is that we‘ve had two outsiders, party outsiders who both kind of - they weren‘t really antiestablishment inside the party but they were certainly insurgents at one time or another, overcome the party establishment and take the nomination in a single year which is an extraordinary - if we had none of the other historical factors on the table.

And I think you‘re right.  E.J. is right.  The atmosphere and the landscape is bad for Republicans.  Barack Obama, we‘ve also learned, in these last couple of months, has some work to do.  He has work to do with specific voter groups that Hillary Clinton won and he had trouble with.  We‘ve seen some focus group data that shows that there are lots of Americans who simply don‘t know who he is still and who have kind of strange impressions about him.

And there‘s a famous Peter Hart (ph) focus where something like seven of 10 people in the focus group think he‘s Muslim, including three who are voting for him.  So he has got a reintroduction task ahead and he doesn‘t have a lot of time to do it.

RUSSERT:  When you hear Jim Webb previously talk about the Scots-Irish in Appalachia and African Americans and what they have in common.  If Obama can peel away that veneer as he described it and try to appeal to the commonality of their economic interests, is that doable?

DIONNE:  It‘s been done before.  I mean, we celebrated this week the anniversary of Robert Kennedy‘s assassination.  This is someone who did have a deep appeal to African Americans and to working class whites.  So it‘s been done historically but I think that if you look at that map in the primaries, the Appalachia states, those Scots-Irish, are one of Obama‘s weakest groups in the country.

And when you look at where Obama has work to do, it is in the white working class in a lot of parts of the country, not just Appalachia.  And then there is this disaffection among some older women who really thought Hillary Clinton was mistreated in this campaign.

Now, the good news for Obama, I talked to a lot of women elected officials who support Clinton recently.  Mostly they blame the media, not Obama.  One of them said, “It‘s you male journalists, no offense,” she said.  So that‘s helpful to him.

RUSSERT:  E.J., you wrote a column about this.  You found real anger, didn‘t you?

DIONNE:  I started writing that column because I heard about this but I didn‘t fully understand it so I just started calling people.  And I made a point of calling professional politicians who are pretty realistic about the way this process worked and there was real anger out there and I think that‘s something that Obama is going to have to grapple with.

RUSSERT:  Michael, last Tuesday Hillary Clinton did not congratulate Barack Obama and then later in the week decided she would formally congratulate him on winning the nomination and set her campaign aside.  What did that mean to the Democratic Party in terms of unity?

DUFFY:  One of the things I think is so interesting about presidential campaigns and the way they end is they bring out, in a way that the rest of the campaign doesn‘t, really human moments.  They are not unscripted, they are not unplanned in advance, but sometimes you get the most human, sort of blood qualities out of a candidate at the beginning and the end and that moment surprised us and I think that we saw that she did not realize that the party had made its decision and was ready to move on.

Inside that campaign they either thought they had some fighting chance here to hold out, that perhaps they would do a better job of getting the vice presidency for Hillary Clinton if they seemed to be withholding their nomination, which is a very strange, almost counterintuitive when we‘ve watched so many other candidates go a different way or make that mistakes.

And so it was not a moment of grace, I guess graciousness, and she got hammered for it over the next couple of days.

RUSSERT:  Her own people, and in the end, it‘s your own people, both in the House and the Senate, came to her and said, Hillary, it‘s time.  And began publicly to start breaking for Obama to keep sending a message to her.

DIONNE:  It was really an astonishing moment.  Here is someone whose best part of the campaign had just happened.  She really won this campaign from March forward.  Once she got into a hole and ran as a underdog she was much better.  But unfortunately for her, she dug a hole just a little too deep to get out of it.  And then came this, where the obvious move if you‘re interested in the vice presidency is if you‘re asked the question, what does Hillary Clinton want?  The answer is, I want Barack Obama to become president.

And holding back like this and imaging that you can negotiate for the vice presidency, Obama can‘t do that because he cannot look weak, and if he caves to a campaign, a pressure campaign for Hillary Clinton, that won‘t help him at all.

DUFFY:  And every time we‘ve been through this, particularly on the Democratic side, when the race ends, the smart money pulls back and disappears and takes the high road and says, that‘s up to him to decide, it‘s his party now, it‘s his call, or whoever their nominee is.  And she did the opposite.  She made the ask.  In a way - I remember Jesse Jackson asked in 1988.  I deserve to be considered.  Which immediately took him out of consideration.  And it was very close to that and the kind of mistake I would not have expected them to make.

RUSSERT:  In a phone call with the New York congressional delegation she said she would be open to the vice presidency on the day that Obama was locking up the nomination.  It ruffled a lot of feathers.

DUFFY:  And a further point, which I think was in her speech on Tuesday night, which was it was hardly veiled at all.  Together we can get to 270 electoral votes.  The clear implication being that I hold half the votes, you hold half the votes and you can‘t do it without me.

DIONNE:  And she actually specifically said, “I carried the states that have 270.”  So she was really saying you can‘t do it without me.  Ed Rendell, one of her firm supporters, really worked hard for her in Pennsylvania said, look, you don‘t bargain for the vice presidency.  This is very good advice.

DUFFY:  And that‘s the other thing that - it‘s easy to forget, these moments where the party seems to be cracking wide open.  A lot of emotions on the table, not just for the candidate, when you see their human qualities but for voters.

And what do you do?  2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, you ask the people who voted for the candidate who lost whether they would ever vote for the nominee of their party and only about 55 to 65 percent, whether it‘s Bill Clinton or Bob Dole or going back to Mondale, there is always a 35 percent of the Democratic or Republican Party who says, I‘m not voting for the nominee and in the end the party comes back together.

RUSSERT:  Remember 2000, John McCain, George Bush, one of the most brutal primary fights ever and in the end, a lot of McCain‘s voters said - voted for George W. Bush.

We‘re going to take a quick break.  E.J. Dionne, Michael Duffy our guests. 

We‘ll be right back.


RUSSERT:  And we‘re back.  Michael Duffy, an editor for “Time Magazine”, E.J. Dionne, you can read his column in the “Washington Post.”  The Associated Press did a story about Hillary Clinton‘s pros and cons.  Should she be on the ticket?  What does she bring the ticket?

Pro.  She helps with white working class voters.  Con.  She undermines your core message.  Pro.  She has enough experience and political heft to convince voters that she should be president of the United States.  Con.  You don‘t seem to like each other.  It goes on, back and forth, back and forth.  There are pros and cons.

DUFFY:  And one of the big cons is her husband.  I think if the Obama campaign is sort of posited on turning the page and going to a different kind of politics, which was a very successful theme for him all year, it‘s one thing to have Mrs. Clinton around.  It‘s a whole ‘nother boxcar to attach Bill Clinton to that train.  And that is a - it‘s a U-turn to the past, I think.

And so - and that‘s apart from sort of the complicating issues of Bill Clinton and the things he might say if he was onstage.  Or in your box (ph).

RUSSERT:  That is why Duffy is a good editor.  Here it is right here.  Pro Bill Clinton, con, Bill Clinton.

DUFFY:  That‘s right.  I should have moved it higher (ph).

DIONNE:  I‘ve been saying if this happened you‘d have to build a north and a south wing of the White House to add to the East and West Wings.  And the answer to the question would she be a good or a bad choice is yes.  And I think that story (ph) has it exactly right.  And I sort of in the last few weeks until she made that statement on Tuesday night where I think she really made it very unlikely, if she had any chance at all, I think she really sort of ended the chance of being V.P.

I was starting to soften on the idea because you really do have a constituency there that really does seem to vote for her.  Does she pick up all of those white working class votes?  No.  Does she pick up some of them?  Yes.  Does she help him among Hispanics?  Probably yes.  Does she help him solve this problem among her women supporters?  Yes.

All that is true and I think it was starting to mount up because Obama did not end strong, he did not win going away at the end.  She was still chipping away at him.  But the prospect for governing with this complicated team you‘ve got on the other side, integrating the campaigns and then having people wave signs in your face saying “Change we used to believe in,” undercutting the change message, it‘s such a complicated picture.

But I think it‘s much less likely if ever it was going to happen after Tuesday and you have a clear sense Obama does not want to go down this path.

RUSSERT:  Mr. Editor, in the same piece it says you can have a twofer, you can have Hillary Clinton campaigning passionately for you, warmly embracing you, which she will do, and have someone else for vice president.  So why not do both?

DUFFY:  You might.  And this is going to be one of the questions if he doesn‘t pick which is how hard she‘ll work.

She has told a lot of people privately that no matter whether she‘s on the ticket or not she will work hard and I suspect that - I believe that.  I tend to think she has other issues to think about going forward, she has legacy issues.  They have their own, I think, damage control and cleanup to do from this campaign.

RUSSERT:  And it is in her political interests as well.

DIONNE:  And she knows that.  And she is a young person relative to this world and she has a long time ahead of her.  Look at Ted Kennedy and the kind of career he built since he lost that primary to Jimmy Carter in 1980 so she does have a lot to play for.  And I‘ve been told the same thing.  That she knows she cannot get blamed if Barack Obama loses this election.

So I think she will be with him eventually, but again, there was this unfortunate event this week.

DUFFY:  I also will be interested to see whether he lets her get her way.  I think there is something about him that will simply make - he may force a coalition or a partnership here that isn‘t about the vice presidency, that is just different, because he has got to think about how he can actually get things done when he gets to be president if he is elected.  And he is going to need her on a bunch of fronts.

So there is - it will become more symbotic, I think, as we .

RUSSERT:  He did invoke Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s book, “Team of Rivals” when Abraham Lincoln actually picked his campaign opponents and put them in the Cabinet.  One of whom called Lincoln a monkey.  And he still put them at his side.

DIONNE:  Right, and he went out of his way in that concession speech, and it was really a long part of the speech saying nice things not only about Hillary Clinton but also about Bill Clinton and I think that reflects a real understanding that it‘s been damaging to Democrats to have the Clinton brand as a whole damaged because up to a year ago a lot of people looked back and said, wait a minute, the Clinton years were years of peace and prosperity, Democrats did manage the economy well and so Obama, oddly, has a interest in rehabilitating both Clintons and he went out of his way, if we win and we get universal health care, she will be at the heart of that victory and I think that‘s one of the areas where partly she had the experience of losing this once she may be particularly valuable to him.

RUSSERT:  Here is a man who, William Jefferson Clinton, described as the first black president and has some major reparative work to do with the African American community after this campaign.

DUFFY:  And there was a hint, I think, on Tuesday night where there was an announcement I believe that he was going to return now after this campaign period to this foundation which clearly was part of the negotiation that the Clinton team was putting out that if you do pick her, he won‘t be around as well and in subsequent days we also heard from the Clinton camp that he would be willing to give up, perhaps, the donors to his library, not necessarily the donors to his foundation.

Apart from whatever damage control or repair work he has to do with a group of voters who were always crazy about him in the past, he also comes with liabilities that didn‘t exist before he was president.  He has a whole financial structure and I guess I philanthropic, worldwide philanthropic organization that is still pretty masked.  It is not transparent and I‘m not clear - there‘s no indication that they‘re going to make it transparent.

RUSSERT:  So the vetting process, there was no secret about it, numerous articles and speculation that if Senator Clinton wanted to be on the ticket, she and the former president would be brought in and said, we need to see the money.  Where are those contributions to the library, where are those contributions to the foundation?  Can you continue to give speeches to foreign countries or subsidiaries, companies that are subsidiaries of foreign governments?  I think that would be a pretty short meeting.

DUFFY:  It might not even happen.

DIONNE:  I think that Bill Clinton so wants his wife to succeed both for her and for him that I bet he‘d put a lot on the table and say I‘m willing to give all this up.  I know nobody else seems to believe that but I actually believe that.  But you talked about repairing his standing in the African American communities.  He may spend a lot of time in those Appalachian communities because there are parts of the country where he could help Barack Obama and I think that is one of the ways in which he is going to make up for what some African Americans saw for, let‘s be charitable, just an excessively negative campaign against Obama.

RUSSERT:  We‘ll take another quick break.  We‘ll be right back.  E.J.  Dionne of the “Washington Post”, Michael Duffy, “Time Magazine,” right after this.


RUSSERT:  And we‘re back.  Michael, I talked to Jim Webb, we talked about Appalachia.  E.J. just brought it up again, how Bill Clinton could be helpful to Barack Obama there.  “Time Magazine” this week you have something that is very obvious to viewers when they open up your magazine.

DUFFY:  It‘s a cartographic map of what the election meant.  And if you drew a line from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania down to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, about which one Hillary Clinton won and which ones Barack Obama won, it‘s all Hillary from Pittsburgh right down to Cape Girardeau and 100 miles in each direction, maybe 150 miles in each direction.  It‘s the weakest part of the country for Obama, it involves about five or six swing states, all the border states.  It‘s where not just Obama and his vice president and Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton has to go, the whole party is going to have to move to the Ohio River Valley over the summer and fall for him to win.

RUSSERT:  And John McCain, interestingly enough, because of his military background, his POW status, his heroism, has a strong cultural connection with these voters and it‘s something that Barack Obama really has to work with.

DIONNE:  I think the key to the election, one key to the election is whether most voters say the word John McCain or Bush McCain and I think it‘s very significant Democrats started advertising really early trying to tie John McCain as closely as possible to George Bush because his standing is very low, including among many of his voters not only because they have turned on the Iraq War but also because of economic difficulties and that‘s what Obama was clearly doing in that victory speech that he gave.

And so McCain has tried to some degree to separate himself from Bush.  I‘m surprised he hasn‘t done more to do that but he‘s stuck with a very strong position on Iraq which is the signature Bush policy.

RUSSERT:  But he has criticized the, quote, Bush management of the war, Bush management of Katrina, separated himself on climate change.  He‘s trying to go back to the 2000 John McCain, the maverick, but it‘s hard.

DUFFY:  It‘s hard.  He‘s trying.  It‘s a muddled message because he has to do a lot of explaining.  I think it would be more effective, Tim, where he has gone on offense against Obama.  Challenging him to go to Iraq, I think that was a fairly smart ploy.  I think the town halls that he has now challenged Obama to have which is a very spare setting, just you and me and the audience, we‘ll take questions from them, no moderator, no middle person.  That‘s obviously ground - that certainly favors McCain.  It‘s small, it‘s relatively modest.  It doesn‘t allow for big speeches or emotion.

That‘s maybe the only format McCain is good in but at least he‘s challenged him on that, so he‘s made some offensive, I think, moves against Obama in this period which has been all about the Democrats that have been watched.

DIONNE:  And I think it‘s a good point because Obama at least for this period after victory has had to respond to other people‘s initiatives.  Hillary Clinton‘s move on Tuesday night made Hillary Clinton the news for much of the week.  McCain makes this move on the town halls, he‘s got to respond to.

And I think in the coming weeks, Obama has to make some moves that McCain has to respond to.

RUSSERT:  But it is interesting because it looks like we will have several of these town hall Lincoln-Douglas debates, whatever you call them, well before the fall election, which would be history.

DIONNE:  I think this is a great thing, although I agree with Michael that on balance this tactically favors McCain but I‘m not sure Obama can‘t do this well in the end.  If you look at the debates, he started out week, he got very strong, then the last debate when he got pummeled, he was weaker, but I think he showed he can handle this format.

And expectations.  It‘s the one area where expectations for McCain are higher.

DUFFY:  I always look in life for briar patches to be thrown into.  And this is a classic, don‘t throw me into the briar patch.  The expectations so favor McCain because of the format that this should be the opportunity he should absolutely grab.

RUSSERT:  Before we go, you know, it is remarkable, if you step back and look at this race, Barack Obama, freshman senator from Illinois, as he describes himself, a skinny black kid with big ears from the South Side of Chicago beat Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Former president, former first lady.  A formidable political machine.  To become the first African American nominee of a political party.  It‘s an amazing story.

DIONNE:  It is an amazing story and when you think about it, maybe there was no machine there.  In other words, we looked at the Clintons as this very formidable political force which they were but they were always primarily a message operation.  I think perhaps that Barack Obama came out of both community organizing and Chicago politics where organization is a sacred word and he looked at this race, he looked at the rules and he organized the country so in addition to having the change message which was very appropriate for this Democratic Party at this moment, he out-organized Hillary Clinton all over the country and he won it early because of organization and the Clinton campaign was sort of left way behind and could never catch up.

DUFFY:  A lot of it was vision and the power of his messaging and all of that but a bunch of this is just blocking and tackling.  One quick story.  In states where they had no organization and no fundraisers, Obama would go into a state, say like South Dakota, and he would have a low-dollar fund-raiser, 25 bucks, the kind of thing you would never get to see a candidate for $25 but 3,000, 4,000 people would come and they would turn over their e-mail addresses and he would take whatever money he raised, 50,000 bucks or something, but what they walked out with was something more valuable, 3,000 e-mail addresses and that‘s how they organized these states and they did it for bubkes.

RUSSERT:  At one of these rallies he actually stood up and said, “We have your e-mail addresses, now send us five more of your friends.  E.J. Dionne, Michael Duffy.  Thanks very much.

DIONNE:  Thank you.

RUSSERT:  We‘ll see you next weekend.



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