MR. DAVID GREGORY: Our issues this Sunday: A cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Now Russia needs to honor the agreement and withdraw its forces.
MR. GREGORY: After a week of tough talk from the Bush administration...
SEC'Y CONDOLEEZZA RICE: This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed.
MR. GREGORY: Will the cease-fire agreement hold and what's the future of the U.S./Russian relationship? Just back from Georgia, our guest: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Then, Obama vs. McCain. As the campaigns look toward the conventions and narrow their running mate choices, we're joined by two men on the vice presidential shorts lists. For the McCain campaign, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. And for the Obama campaign, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
Plus, insights and analysis on Decision 2008 from our political roundtable: Joshua Green, senior editor of The Atlantic; Andrea Mitchell of NBC News; and Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News.
But first, Secretary Rice returned from Georgia Friday evening and spent yesterday briefing the president at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where she joins us live this morning.
Secretary Rice, welcome.
SEC'Y RICE: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: News this morning from Russia is that it will withdraw its troops by tomorrow in the middle of the day. Do you believe it?
SEC'Y RICE: Well, the Russian president has made promises to the French president, the E.U. presidency, several times that military operations would stop, that Russia would withdraw its forces. I hope he intends to honor the pledge this time.
MR. GREGORY: But you're skeptical?
SEC'Y RICE: Well, I just know that the Russian president said several days ago Russian military operations would stop. They didn't. The Russian president told President Sarkozy that the minute that cease-fire was signed by President Saakashvili, Russian forces would begin to withdraw. They didn't. Now he has said that tomorrow, midday, Russian forces will withdraw and withdraw to their pre-August 6, 7 lines. This time I hope he means it. You know, the, the word of the Russian president needs to be upheld by his forces. People are going to begin to wonder if Russia can be trusted. I, I think it's really very much time for them to do what they say they're going to do.
MR. GREGORY: Well, given that lack of trust, as this was all coming together why didn't you go directly to Russia to look them eye to eye to broker this agreement, rather than simply going to Georgia?
SEC'Y RICE: Well, I was in touch with my Russian counterpart several times, and before--immediately before the crisis really hardened and got hotter I was in touch with them. But we felt very strongly that the European Union mediation of President Sarkozy needed to be supported; that it should be a mediation between Russia, the European Union with American support and with Georgia. I went to Georgia to strongly support the democratically elected government of Georgia, to demonstrate that the Russian strategic intent of destroying the foundation of democracy in Georgia, the Russian strategic intent of destroying Georgian infrastructure and economic progress, that that would not succeed. I was also able to assure the Georgians through clarifications by the French president that their interests would be protected in this cease-fire.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the future of the separatist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Who will control those regions now?
SEC'Y RICE: David, this has been a zone of conflict for well over a decade now, almost 20 years. And in fact, there has to be an international negotiation to determine the security and political and stability arrangements for these two regions. Those negotiations have gone on sporadically for the last several years. But those negotiations will begin from the premise that the territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected, that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are indeed part of--are, are within the internationally recognized boundaries of Georgia and that we will proceed from the basis of Security Council resolutions that recognize that.
MR. GREGORY: Well...
SEC'Y RICE: But there will have to be a negotiated solution to, to these two regions which have been in dispute for a long time.
MR. GREGORY: Will U.S. troops be part of those peacekeeping troops who will be responsible for ensuring that territorial integrity?
SEC'Y RICE: Well, what is first contemplated is that there will be monitors of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, that will go in now to make sure that the cease-fire is working. And the Russians also told the French that they are prepared to have those monitors come in immediately. So those monitors need to come in immediately. There will then have to be a negotiated solution a part of which will be to get international peacekeeping forces that will have to be neutral peacekeeping forces. And I think the European Union is likely to be one of the lead elements along with others, but that's for future negotiations.
MR. GREGORY: But will U.S. soldiers be there?
SEC'Y RICE: David, I don't think it's good to speculate about what role the United States may--might play. Generally, this is a role that's been played by the OSCE and by the European Union.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about how we got here and what precipitated this crisis. This is how The New York Times reported it this week about a visit to Georgia back in July by you. "During a private dinner [in Tbilisi]" "Ms. Rice's aides say she warned President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia not to get into a military conflict with" Georgia--with "Russia," rather--"that Georgia could not win. `She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had to put a non-use of force pledge on the table,' according to a senior administration official who accompanied Ms. Rice to the Georgia capital. ...
"In the days since the simmering conflict between Russia and Georgia erupted into war, Bush administration officials have been adamant in asserting that they warned the government in Tbilisi not to let Moscow provoke it into a fight - and that they were surprised when their advice went unheeded."
Did Georgia provoke this crisis?
SEC'Y RICE: This crisis has been going on for, as I said, more than a decade. It has been a hot zone and a volatile zone where there have been skirmishes over a significant period of time. It is absolutely the case that we have cautioned all parties against the use of force. In fact, I also talked to the Russians repeatedly in this period about the railway troops that they were bringing in, about reinforcing their peacekeepers, about overflying Georgian territory. So this had been a zone of conflict. We were trying to resolve it peacefully.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y RICE: Whatever happened...
MR. GREGORY: But you--this is a close U.S. ally and you warned them don't provoke the Russians, don't do this.
SEC'Y RICE: David, I...
MR. GREGORY: We have a lot of influence over them.
SEC'Y RICE: David, as I've said, this--you can't just start with, "we told the Georgian's this." We also told the Russians not to engage in certain activities that they were engaging in. This was a zone of conflict, we were trying to do it peacefully. But whatever happened before this, once this broke out in South Ossetia, it could have been confined to South Ossetia. Rather than confine it to that and deal with the facts on the ground there, the Russians decided to go deeper into Georgia, to bomb Georgian ports, to bomb Georgian military installations, to go into the city of Gori. And so it was that escalation that got us to the point that where we're at now. And that...
MR. GREGORY: And give--but given...
SEC'Y RICE: ...fully has been...
MR. GREGORY: ...that escalation, Secretary Rice, do you understand why there are some within the Georgian leadership who feel betrayed by the U.S.? Do they have an unreasonable expectation that the U.S. would come in guns blazing, as it were, to protect them?
SEC'Y RICE: I don't think anybody had an expectation that the United States was going to use military force in this conflict. But we need to keep the focus on the culprit here, and the culprit here is that Russia over-reached, used disproportionate force against a small neighbor and is now paying the price for that, because Russia's reputation as a potential partner in international institutions, diplomatic, political, security, economic, is frankly in tatters.
When President Medvedev gave that very forward-leaning speech just a few weeks ago, saying that Russia was going to be a modern state, it was going to look to Western institutions, it was going to be integrated into the international system, well, if this is what he had in mind, that's a real problem. And I think now that vision that Medvedev put on the table is really in serious doubt, and serious trouble.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let's talk, let's talk about consequences for the relationship. You said that this isn't the Cold War, this isn't like 1968, that the Russians can't get away with it. So what leverage does the United States have over Russia right now?
SEC'Y RICE: Well, in 1968 the Soviet Union occupied the capital, overthrew a government and frankly didn't care because it didn't want to be integrated into the international institutions. Russia does care. Russia sees itself as a modern state. It has--apparently wants to have it both ways. On the one hand it can use disproportionate force against its neighbor and then it can still be welcomed into the halls of these international institutions. It's not going to happen that way. Russia will pay a price. We will look seriously with our allies and bilaterally at the consequences of this Russian action for Russian integration into these institutions.
But Russia has already paid a price, because its strategic objective of undermining the democrat--the democracy of Georgia, of destroying its infrastructure is not going to succeed. And what is more, Russia has caused a backlash among the other small states, many of them which, by the way, are not integrated into the European Union and NATO, like Poland, like the Baltic states and even Ukraine, which--whose president went to stand with the Georgian president.
MR. GREGORY: You talk about the tone of the U.S.-Russian relationship. This is how President Bush ushered in that relationship seven years ago in Slovenia. Let's watch.
(Videotape, June 16, 2001)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: And I looked the man in the eye, I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.
I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him.
MR. GREGORY: Was that trust misplaced, Secretary Rice?
SEC'Y RICE: Look, it was absolutely the right thing to do to give Russia a chance. It was the right thing to give Russia a chance to have a path toward integration into Western institutions, into a modern state and to responsible behavior and international system. That's still the right path for Russia. The fact that Russia over the last several years has demonstrated that it's, it's not prepared to go fully on that path is Russia's choice. It was right to give them the choice, it is Russia that miscalculated. It is Russia that misjudged and Russia is now seeing that the European Union and the United States will not tolerate the kind of behavior that they engaged in as the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War.
MR. GREGORY: Expel...
SEC'Y RICE: The Cold War is over.
MR. GREGORY: Expelling them from the G8 and other measures is on the table.
SEC'Y RICE: Well, David, let me just say on the point that the Cold War is over, that means that the Cold War is over also in terms of what Russia can do and get away with. And so we will take our time and assess where Russia stands in regards to these various diplomatic and political and economic institutions. Right now we're focused very heavily on getting Russian forces out of Georgia, getting the cease-fire to hold, helping the Georgian people in humanitarian terms. We are going to help to rebuild Georgia in a major way because it will re-emerge as a strong economy and a strong democratic state. We will turn to the Russia relationship with the West. I will go to Brussels on Tuesday. We'll begin that conversation in NATO.
But I want to be very clear. Russia has already paid a price because when President Medvedev said that he wanted to be forward-leading and forward-looking and look to integration into Europe, his troops have done significant damage by instead damaging Georgian infrastructure and killing civilians in Georgia. Georgia will rebuild.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEC'Y RICE: Russia's reputation may not be rebuilt.
MR. GREGORY: Quickly, Secretary Rice, let me turn to Pakistan. General Musharaff, President Musharaff faces impeachment there. After 9/11, this administration took a very pointed attack against Musharaff and said, "You're either with us or against us," effectively; you need to do certain things. As you contemplate his successor, what level of confidence do you have that his successor will be in lock-step with the United States in finding terror--in fighting terror the way he was?
SEC'Y RICE: Well, the--however this comes out is, of course, a matter for the Pakistanis to decide, but the United States is supportive of the democratically elected government there. President Musharaff has been a good ally. He took off his uniform as he promised, free elections were held. And now we have a relationship with that democratically elected government. That democratically elected government also has a very strong interest in fighting terrorism because it is the terrorists, the militants, who killed Benazir Bhutto. It is the terrorists who are exacting a toll on even cities in Pakistan with their activities. And so the United States, Pakistan, indeed Afghanistan, we all have a joint interest in stopping these terrorists and we had good discussions with the Pakistanis when they were in Washington a couple of weeks ago and we'll continue to, to fight these, these militants.
MR. GREGORY: Secretary Rice, before I let you go, all of us here in America and around the world are watching the Olympic Games.
SEC'Y RICE: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Here's a picture of Saudi Arabia's flag bearer as it parades in front of the delegation for these games and you'll notice no women and that's because Saudi Arabia does not allow women to compete in their Olympic Games. As an element of the freedom agenda of this administration here in 2008, how do you react to that?
SEC'Y RICE: Well, look, I think Saudi women ought to be able to participate. I've said Saudi women ought to be able to vote and I think that when, when woman can vote and they're empowered, you're going to see them in the games, but I would also note that if women wish to participate in Afghanistan's team, they can. If women wish to participate in Iraq's team, they can. That in most of the Middle East now, women athletes are participating. Those are positive developments. But certainly, I look forward to the day that there's a Saudi woman athlete in that parade.
MR. GREGORY: We will leave it there. Secretary Condoleezza Rice, thank you very much this morning.
SEC'Y RICE: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: And coming next, Obama vs. McCain. Just one week before the Democratic convention in Denver, we'll talk to two Southern governors reportedly under consideration for vice president: McCain supporter Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Obama supporter Tim Kaine of Virginia. Jindal and Kaine up next on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GREGORY: Governors and potential running mates Bobby Jindal and Tim Kaine, right after this brief station break.
MR. GREGORY: And we are back. Welcome, Governor Kaine of Virginia and Governor Jindal of Louisiana.
GOV. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Great to be with you, David.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA): Good morning.
MR. GREGORY: Let's get right to it. We both heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talking about the situation in Georgia, Governor Kaine. Senator Obama was criticized by the McCain campaign this week, particularly for his comments that there should be restraint on both sides after the invasion. Was he too weak in his initial response?
GOV. KAINE: I think the senator gave a very measured response, which is the tone that we should take. As the secretary made plain, the goal is to use diplomatic means to get Russia to live by the cease-fire. And if diplomacy is the strategy at this point, measured tones is the way to go. And I think that kind of balance is what the situation needs. It is very heartening to hear that there's going to be the--this withdrawal in a day, but we have to check and make sure that Russia lives up to its word.
MR. GREGORY: You don't hear really measured tones out of Secretary Rice. She's pretty tough this morning.
GOV. KAINE: Well, she is, you know, and I think this, this is an issue where there is, there is tough talk. The question is, has there been the kind of action on behalf of the United States over the last years that has been necessary to check Russia's ambitions? My, my significant concern is that we have, through an intensity of focus on Iraq, taken our eye off the ball in other parts of the world like Russia and its bordering states, like Afghanistan. And that is one of Senator Obama's main points, that we need to focus on the significant challenges of the world. And that's why the drawdown in Iraq is so important, so that we can focus and not be stretched so thin.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Jindal, just as Senator Obama's criticized, Senator McCain, too, was criticized by an adviser to Senator Obama, who said that some of his initial tough talk was shot from the hip and was actually belligerent, in the words of one of Obama's advisers.
GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think Senator Cain--McCain has again shown that he has the judgment, the experience we need during these uncertain times. Just as he was right to call for the surge in Iraq before it was popular, he had called--even last year he had said we should look at excluding Russia from the G8. He said when he looked in Putin's eyes, he saw KGB very early on. He very forcefully understood that this was an attack on a democratic ally, this has regional implications. It has implications beyond Georgia's borders. One of the reasons I think you see folks at Brookings, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Georgetown, several experts praising his response, including a former Clinton adviser. So I think again, what we've seen is Senator McCain's got the experience, the perspective. He was right on, on Iraq, on the surge; he was right again, calling attention to the dangers when Russia invaded a democratic ally.
GOV. KAINE: I don't know how anybody could say Senator McCain was right on Iraq. I think he's been the sole cheerleader for Iraq and he's probably the last remaining cheerleader for Iraq. But the decision to go into Iraq, which Senator McCain supported, is now acknowledged by folks--including a lot of Bush administration officials who left the administration--as a significant mistake. And my, my thought about the--Senator McCain's tough talk is this: Teddy Roosevelt said talk softly and carry a big stick. In much of the world now we're talking loudly and have no stick because what we've done is we've so focused on Iraq that we've let victory escape from our grasp in Afghanistan, and in regions of the world like Russia we've let the dangers grow more intense.
MR. GREGORY: Let's turn to domestic matters in this campaign, and The New York Times reporting some criticism of Senator Obama now. And the headline reads like this: "Allies Ask Obama to Make Hope More Specific. [Democratic] party leaders in battleground states say the fight ahead against Senator John McCain looks tougher than they imagined, with Mr. Obama vulnerable on multiple fronts. ...
"These Democrats - 15 governors, members of Congress and state party leaders - say Obama has yet to convert his popularity among many Americans into solutions to crucial electoral challenges: showing ownership of an issue, like economic stewardship of national security; winning over supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; and minimizing his race and experience level as concerns for voters. ...
"`I particularly hope he strengthens his economic message - even Senator Obama can speak more clearly and specifically about the kitchen-table, bread-and-butter issues like high energy costs,' said Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio," who endorsed Hillary Clinton, by the way. "`It's fine to tell people about hope and change, but you have to have plenty of concrete, pragmatic ideas that bring hope and change to life.'"
Sounds reminiscent of what we heard on the campaign trail from Senator Clinton. Listen.
(Videotape, February 14, 2008)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): My opponent makes speeches, I offer solutions.
And I think there's a big difference between speeches and solutions, between talk and action. And I have been very specific in this campaign.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Kaine, has Senator Obama wasted time here?
GOV. KAINE: David, let me start off by saying, Senator Obama's ahead in the national polls. He's running a historic and a very difficult race, and he's ahead. So I'm not going to try to feel bad about him being ahead. But we know it's going to be a tough race. He has the underdog mentality and will have that through Election Day.
There are plenty of specifics. Look, on the economy, clear differentiation between these two candidates. Senator Obama measures the success of the economy by how the middle class is doing, and that's why it's middle class tax cuts, tuition tax credits for college and finding ways to give tax relief to small businesses. Senator McCain's strategy is to measure the economy by how the well-off and the big businesses are doing. That's why it's tax cuts to the wealthy and tax cuts to the, the most profitable and productive businesses, like oil companies. There are significant specifics and very different orientations of these two candidates. I'm a governor. What governors do is we managed economies. Virginia's been named the best state for business in America the last three years by forbes.com. I want a president...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. KAINE: ...who understands the economy and who has--and who has...
MR. GREGORY: But understands the economy, but has Senator Obama owned this issue?
GOV. KAINE: I think he does. Look, Senator McCain has said, "I don't know much about the economy." It is too risky at this point in our nation with the economy so hurt to put a guy in the White House who says, "I don't know much about the economy." You've got to put somebody in who is working with steel workers who lost their jobs and knows the pain and frustration that is caused in states and countries during down economic times and who has solid plans, like middle-class tax relief, tuition tax credits, helping small businesses to get this nation moving again.
MR. GREGORY: But here's the political question.
GOV. KAINE: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: Are some of these criticisms of Obama coming out of the Clinton camp in your judgment?
GOV. KAINE: You know, I don't really know. Look, people are...
MR. GREGORY: Ted Strickland, on the record...
GOV. KAINE: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: ...saying...
GOV. KAINE: Ted Strickland says what he says, right? Says what he says.
MR. GREGORY: He endorsed--he endorsed Hillary Clinton.
GOV. KAINE: But look, Senator Obama's ahead. He's still ahead in the polls. It's going to be narrow...
MR. GREGORY: But is unity a problem right now in the party?
GOV. KAINE: I don't think it is. I think what you're going to see in Denver is you're going to see a great coming together of the Democratic Party. We've already seen registration activity in state after state shows the Democrats are extremely energized about this race.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. KAINE: Because we cannot afford to continue economic policies that have taken us from surplus to massive deficit, losing jobs, inflation, deficit reductions, things that John McCain has supported every step of the way.
MR. GREGORY: There may be agreement there, but that doesn't sound like there's unity within the party, to hear some of the criticism about Obama.
GOV. KAINE: Well, I think you'll see it.
MR. GREGORY: But it's not there yet.
GOV. KAINE: I think, I think you'll see it in Denver. No, I think you'll see it in Denver, that this party is coming together, registration activity and enthusiasm will be seen very clearly between now and Election Day.
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to Governor Jindal and Senator McCain.
In some of his ads, this is how he's talking about America today, watch.
(Videotape, campaign ad)
Announcer: Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago.
MR. GREGORY: That's a pretty direct swipe at President Bush, isn't it, Governor?
GOV. JINDAL: Well, you know, Senator McCain has a long history of bucking his own party, his own president, whether it was fighting against earmarks, wasteful spending, and he's got a long tradition of standing on principle for what he believes is right. Unlike Senator Obama, he's for all of the above when it comes to our energy solutions. You know, Senator Obama's been out there saying he wants to increase taxes on coal, on natural gas. He said nuclear energy is not the right answer for America. He says that he doesn't want more domestic oil and gas production off our coast. When you look at taxes, I think a lot of American viewers will be surprised to hear that Senator Obama thinks people making $42,000 are wealthy. He voted for a Democratic budget that raises taxes on folks making $42,000. I don't know where he is on taxes. He's been for increases on Social Security payroll taxes, for increasing taxes on investors, for increasing taxes on seniors. The details change. It's either the top 1 percent, 2 percent, 5 percent.
MR. GREGORY: All right, but...
GOV. JINDAL: But it's clear he's for raising taxes. Senator McCain's for cutting taxes.
MR. GREGORY: Governor, do you agree with Senator McCain that America's worse off than it was four years ago?
GOV. JINDAL: Clearly, we've got some very severe economic challenges. You look at the high cost of fuel, the housing crisis.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. JINDAL: You look at the high cost of food. Certainly, we've got challenges facing our country. I think Senator McCain, because he has long fought against the wasteful spending in Washington...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. JINDAL: ...I think many conservatives were disappointed that Republicans, both in the White House and in the Congress, didn't control spending, but Senator McCain for years has fought members in his own party...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. JINDAL: ...and in the Democratic Party to cut spending...
MR. GREGORY: Do you...
GOV. JINDAL: ...to cut corporate welfare and cut earmarks.
MR. GREGORY: You've talked about the crisis within the Republican Party, that it lost its way, that it used to be the party of big ideas. And now you back Senator McCain. What's the big idea Senator McCain is campaigning on?
GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think there's several, but certainly when it comes to domestic issues, he understands the energy crisis is probably the biggest economic obstacle we face and he understands that it's not one silver bullet, that we do need more domestic oil and gas production. We do need nuclear power. We need clean coal. We need conservation. We need renewables.
MR. GREGORY: But those were Bush-Cheney big ideas in 2000. Where are the new big ideas of the Republican Party that John McCain is, is championing?
GOV. JINDAL: But you have not--you've seen gridlock in D.C. You've seen one side push only for oil and gas and you've seen the other side saying "no drilling." What you're not seeing is an aggressive push to get all of that done. Senator McCain's talking about dozens of new nuclear reactors. He's talking about the Lexington Project in terms of cutting edge research to break America's dependence on foreign energy. There's been a lot of good talk out of Washington, there hasn't been enough action. Clearly when it comes to addressing our economic crises, Senator McCain understands we need to have more independence, lower, more dependable--lower cost energy, more dependable energy, but also lower taxes. He's got a proven track record of fighting wasteful spending. And on health care, he understands we don't want the government running our health care, we need to make it more affordable. He's proposed refundable tax credits so American families can afford their own health care without having a bureaucrat tell them how they should get health care.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Jindal, would you like to be vice president?
GOV. JINDAL: No. I've got the job that I want. I'm voting for Senator McCain. I'll certainly do what I can to help him get elected. I'll do it as governor of Louisiana. We've got six taxes, toughest ethics laws, we're growing jobs, lowest unemployment rates in 30 years, so we've got a lot more work down here in Louisiana.
MR. GREGORY: So if he asked you to be on the ticket, you would say no?
GOV. JINDAL: He's not going to ask. We've already said in private and public...
MR. GREGORY: But...
GOV. JINDAL: ...we've got the job that we want.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. JINDAL: I don't want to be vice president. I'm not going to be the nominee.
MR. GREGORY: So you're rule--but you're ruling yourself out?
GOV. JINDAL: I'm going to be governor, hopefully, for two terms.
MR. GREGORY: Little bit of window still open there.
GOV. JINDAL: No, no. No window's open.
MR. GREGORY: There's no window.
GOV. JINDAL: Let's make that clear, no window's open.
MR. GREGORY: You're out. You're out. OK.
Governor Kaine, you have been mentioned as being on the short list of Senator Obama.
GOV. KAINE: And my mom loves that. Let me say that my mom loves that.
MR. GREGORY: And, in fact, there have been--there's been reporting though that people close to you have said that there have been serious conversations. Those conversations continue?
GOV. KAINE: I'm not going to talk about conversations with the campaign.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
GOV. KAINE: But as you know, I've been a co-chair with Senator Obama since February '07 because I knew his vision for getting this nation back on track is what Americans would embrace.
MR. GREGORY: And you would accept the job.
GOV. KAINE: Here's what I say. I didn't sign on to get anything about it or to get--to be appointed to anything, and I think it's very unlikely, but I've told Senator Obama I'm going to help him in whatever we--way he thinks I can be helpful. I think my highest and best use is right in Virginia, a state that hasn't gone for a Democratic candidate since 1964 where the polls right now show a dead heat and Virginians very enthusiastic about Senator Obama's vision for an improved economy and a, and a more strategic tough, smart, national security policy.
MR. GREGORY: And perhaps a preview of Republican attacks against you. This was Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President Bush...
GOV. KAINE: Karl Rove?
MR. GREGORY: ...who talked last week about the prospect of you on the ticket. Let's watch.
Mr. KARL ROVE: With all respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished. I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America. So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, "You know what, I'm really not first and foremost concerned with is this person capable of being president of the United States. What I'm concerned about is can he bring me the electoral votes of the state of Virginia, the 13 electoral votes in Virginia."
MR. GREGORY: So a lot of people will look at you and say, "Is he capable of being president?" Are you?
GOV. KAINE: David, I'm not running, so I'm not going to make a case for myself. But let me tell you what that shows, is that Karl Rove doesn't know much about Virginia. Virginia's been named the best state in America for business the last three years. Now maybe to Karl Rove and the Republicans, business climate doesn't make a difference. That would explain a lot about the last eight years. Governing magazine just said we are the top performing state government in America. Maybe to Karl Rove and his friends, government performance, competent administration, being able to respond to an emergency isn't important. To Virginians it's important. Education Week in 2007 said we are the best state in America for a child to be raised if a child wants to have a successful life. Again, to Karl Rove, that may not be an accomplishment, maybe children's futures aren't that important. We have a very solid state that cares about results and because of that, this race is in play and people are embracing Senator Obama's message.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about one of the issues that would important on the campaign trail, and that is abortion.
Governor Jindal, this week Senator McCain indicated that he would be open to a pro-choice running mate like former Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge. As somebody who opposes abortion rights, conservative in the party, do you think that would be a mistake that would hurt Senator McCain?
GOV. JINDAL: Look, I think people will end up voting for who's running for president. The bottom line is this: Senator McCain has a pro-life record. He said he'll have a pro-life administration. What's most important to me as a pro-life voter is what kinds of judges will the next president appoint to the Supreme Court. Are they going to be judges that will read the Constitution or will they be judges that will try to create laws? This Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling struck down a death penalty case for Louisiana, a death penalty law in Louisiana for child rapists. We don't want activist judges that will be creating law instead of just reading the Constitution.
You know, last night Senator Obama had a chance in a church in California to talk about abortion. He said he opposes late-term abortions. His voting record says different. He's always voted for those things. I wish he would just say honestly he's pro-choice, he's not a pro-life candidate. With Senator McCain, we know he's pro-life. There are two men running for president, two major candidates on the ticket. We have more--as a pro-life voter, I certainly have more confidence in the judges that Senator McCain would appoint to the Supreme Court.
MR. GREGORY: But Governor, Governor Kaine, on this issue you are not entirely palatable to the left in the Democratic Party because you do support restrictions on abortion in Virginia. Would that be a political liability for, for Senator Obama?
GOV. KAINE: Well, David, let me, let me talk about this issue because it was mentioned in Reverend Warren's church last night. And here's the distinction between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. Senator Obama believes abortion is a grave moral issue, that we can do things to reduce unwanted pregnancy and abortion but that we shouldn't criminalize the health care decisions of doctors and women to fight abortion.
Senator McCain, on the other hand, says he wants Roe vs. Wade to be overturned and that will be a step toward criminalizing the decisions of women and doctors with respect to abortion. We can reduce abortion and unwanted pregnancy in this country. We've shown it during the Clinton years. We can do it by--without making women and doctors criminals if they engage in abortion, in that procedure. And we shouldn't use the criminal laws of one instrument against women and doctors in this way. We can reduce abortion through access to education, access to contraception, abstinence-focused education, all those things can help us reduce abortion.
MR. GREGORY: When do you believe...
GOV. KAINE: But the criminal, the criminal law is not the way we should do it.
MR. GREGORY: When do you believe human rights begin?
GOV. KAINE: Well, human, human rights, broadly, my church teaches and I do believe that human rights begin early in life, at conception or shortly thereafter, and that is my personal belief. But I do not believe the force of the criminal law should compel others to necessarily follow that to the greatest degree. And that's why the strategy of Senator Obama is reduce abortion through education, health care access, point out the grave issue, support reasonable, common-sense restrictions on abortion, I think that's important. But you shouldn't be talking about overturning Roe vs. Wade or criminalizing women and their doctors.
MR. GREGORY: All right, we are going to leave it there, the debate, to be continued. Governor Kaine, thank you very much.
GOV. KAINE: Thanks, David.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Jindal, thank you.
GOV. JINDAL: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Coming next, insights and analysis from our political roundtable this morning with Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd of NBC News, and Josh Green of The Atlantic.
MR. GREGORY: And we are back. Welcome all. A lot to get to here, and a busy week in August. Last night, these two candidates sat down for a forum in California with the evangelical, very popular preacher Rick Warren, and they had an exchange that got to the heart of their foreign policy distinctions. Let's watch that.
PASTOR RICK WARREN: Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, do we defeat it?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur, we see evil some--sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children.
PASTOR WARREN: Hm.
SEN. OBAMA: And I think it has to be confronted.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): Defeat it. Couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that and I know how to do it. I will get that done.
MR. GREGORY: Andrea Mitchell, that's a pretty clear contrast.
MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, there was the crisp, immediate, forceful response by John McCain, clearly in a comfort zone because he was with his base. And Barack Obama, taking a risk in going there but seeing an opportunity. And a much more nuanced approach. The Obama people must feel that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because that--what they're putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. MITCHELL: He seemed so well prepared.
MR. GREGORY: Well, you talk about this issue and the crisis that's in Georgia, nuanced doesn't work for Democrats. And here, Obama's been criticized this week for the idea that there should be restraint on both sides when the administration, you hear this morning, is out with very tough language against Russia.
MS. MITCHELL: In the long run, though, if you look at the analysis and how this all started, nuanced may be a better approach than this get tough approach. But clearly, as a sound bite in a political campaign, going after Russia, going after Putin is a much more appealing approach. But when you, when you talk to people who really know the issue, Georgia did things and Ossetia is not a clear-cut case. I mean, there is a lot of, of depth here. But what Obama is trying to--how he's trying to frame it is not as easily sold on the campaign trail.
MR. GREGORY: Chuck Todd, let's talk about the tone in this race and the attacks against Obama from McCain and some consternation about that within the McCain campaign. John Weaver, who was formerly running the campaign and a top adviser to McCain going back in 2000, told Texas Monthly this: "[Former McCain adviser John Weaver] made no effort to conceal his disagreement with the current strategy of attacking Obama. `They want to get Obama's negatives up, but the country doesn't want to hear it,' Weaver said. `If we run that kind of campaign, Obama could win by a landslide.' ...
"In contrast, Weaver [said], `I would go another month without mentioning Obama's name. The bigness in John McCain is'" the "`best quality. This election is ideally suited to him. He won the nomination because he was the right Republican at the right time. He is the'" only "`guy who will take on spending and mean it. He should honor Obama as the first'" American "`African American nominee, not attack him, except on policy differences.'"
MR. CHUCK TODD: I tell you, the McCain campaign--the current people running the McCain campaign, they have swagger right now. They listen to that and they laugh and they say, "Hey, everybody told us we were going to be down double digits this summer going into the conventions. Everybody said this guy was going to overwhelm us financially. All we've done is stay dollar-for-dollar with him financially. All we've done is brought this race even." They, they are, they are borderline cocky right now in how they feel. They feel like they have brought Obama down a notch. They feel that they've--this celebrity stuff has been so effective against Obama that they've already, they've already beaten down the hype of the Denver speech. The fact that he's moved it to a football stadium, they already feel like they, they--"See, there he goes again, Mr. Rock Concert Guy, Mr. Rock Star." It isn't--they, they already feel as if they've lightened up his persona and, and really softened him up. So I think it's got Democrats a little--look, you talk to some in the Obama campaign and they'll say, you know, "Maybe we haven't been tough enough on McCain. McCain's been very tough on us. We haven't gone out and gone after him enough."
So right now, you know, the McCain camp will look at what John Weaver's saying and say, "You can back seat drive all you want. Look at the numbers. And the numbers say this race is a lot closer now than a lot of people thought it would be."
MS. MITCHELL: And what Rick Davis said when we asked him about that very thing was that's why John Weaver has no role in the current campaign.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. MITCHELL: This is also why a lot of the Obama people are suggesting now they really want an attack dog in for vice president when we get to that...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. MITCHELL: ...because they want someone--clearly, Obama is not comfortable going on the attack personally. They want someone who can go after the Republican vice presidential nominee in that debate.
MR. GREGORY: And we will get to that.
Josh Green, this is related to this. You're reporting this week a fascinating piece in The Atlantic where you collected internal memos and e-mail within the Clinton campaign and really deconstructed what went wrong. This is how you reported it: "[Sen. Clinton's] advisers couldn't execute strategy"--the headline being "The Front-Runner's Fall"--"they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. Major decisions would be put off for weeks until suddenly" they "she would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire. ...
"Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence - on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to `do the job from Day One.' In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles' heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton's loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many" that "she did not make."
MR. JOSHUA GREEN: And, and that pretty much sums up the Clinton campaign. You know, we saw this on the outside as the campaign was unfolding, there was a lot of chaos. These documents and memos we got, you know, you can go online now and read kind of contemporaneously what these people were thinking and saying. And they were fighting with each other. And the most remarkable thing about these memos is that Clinton as the executive never stepped in and fully committed to one strategy or to another strategy. And I, I think you even see that tendency in the after-effects of the campaign and the way that she's tried to unify with Obama not as, as, as consistently and forcefully as, say, somebody like Mitt Romney has gotten behind John McCain.
MR. GREGORY: And, and, and Chuck, is there a unity problem right now in the party? You see that piece in The New York Times this morning, complaints that Obama's not being specific enough, quoting Ted Strickland from Ohio, the governor who endorsed Hillary Clinton. Is unity still a ways off?
MR. TODD: I think it's a small problem. I don't think it's as big as the Amtrak corridor would say it is. I mean, we, we forget sometimes, Clinton's biggest supporters are great sources of media inside the, the New York, Washington corridor.
But one thing on Josh's piece that I think was interesting is I think you're seeing that the McCain campaign almost as if they got a hold of those memos before you did and they've decided we aren't going to be undecisive about how to attack Obama.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. TODD: We're going to go right at him and be a little too negative, maybe.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, let's get to that point because this is one of the weekly strategic review memos that you uncovered. And this is from Mark Penn, her chief adviser talking about what could hold Obama back. "Lack of experience, lack of American roots, removed from working man and woman, phony, just another politician." And this is what he writes about lack of American roots: "All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting it in a new light. Save it for 2050. It also exposes a very strong weakness for him - his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."
Back in March, Chuck Todd, to your point, the McCain campaign aired this ad. Watch.
(Videotape, campaign ad)
Announcer: What must a president believe about us? About America? That she is worth protecting, that liberty is priceless, our people honorable, our future prosperous, remarkable and free. John McCain, the American president Americans have been waiting for.
SEN. McCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
MR. GREGORY: He is going there.
MR. TODD: He is. I'm surprised he didn't say, "I'm American John McCain and I, and I paid in America to pay for this American message."
MR. GREGORY: Yeah, yeah.
MR. TODD: No, but he is, but they did back off that slightly. I mean, there--it's certainly, it's certainly implied and it's not that subtle. Country first is, you know, he talked about it last night. In the Rick Warren thing, he mentioned putting country first a number of times. So they are going there to a point, but you can't do it with a sledgehammer. You know, Mark Penn wanted to do it with a sledgehammer. That ad did it with a sledgehammer and then they backed off, realizing there is sort of this line. If you're going to do it, you have to do it in little more subtle ways and that's what country first, I think, does more than anything.
MR. GREGORY: But Joshua and Andrea, why did they back off then? There was a feeling that she wasn't well liked enough to go that negative against Obama.
MR. GREEN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, the main--Penn's comments have gotten, obviously, a lot of attention. He's been murdered in the aftermath of this article for that. Focusing on Obama's "lack of American roots" is really kind of an aberration in these memos. What he wanted to do is pierce the myth of Obama, really tear him down on the issue of the Iraq War, which Penn thought was deadly, and the other side of the campaign didn't want to do that. They didn't believe Iraq was an issue they could ever win on. They saw that Clinton was viewed as strong, experienced, but she wasn't well liked and they wanted to run a campaign that would fundamentally reintroduce her to America, make people look at her again. The problem with those two strategies is they're at cross purposes. And what the Clinton campaign did was won--run one of them one day, another one the next day, and you wind up with gridlock, and that's the story of the campaign in a nutshell.
MS. MITCHELL: Exactly. And being out on the road with her so much, you saw it. They would ricochet back and forth. She would start of saying, "I was born in the middle of America, in the middle of the century," and she was all-American and kept hammering away at that, and also was very negative, Pennsylvania, going after him on the bitter comments, was seizing on that YouTube from what he had said in San Francisco, trying to portray him as not being authentic. And it worked in those final primaries. And I think that the McCain people, if they backed off on that commercial a bit, they'll either reinforce it later on or have the 527s do it for them. But you're going to keep hearing that theme. They think it's worked for them.
MR. GREEN: The other lesson from the Clinton campaign is that by doing what she did, you really wind up with the worst of both worlds. You get tarred from being negative without getting any of the benefits that a sustained negative attack might yield and I think that's, that's a mistake the McCain campaign has not made yet and doesn't look as though it's going to.
MR. TODD: John McCain has the favorable rating, right? He had favorables to give, Hillary did not.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the V.P. search, but before we do that, Chuck Todd, let's look at the latest NBC News electoral map. And what's striking about this in your recent formulation, is that you see Obama's states, his lean or likely states going up to 217 at this stage.
MR. TODD: They are. It is--he got a little bit stronger. He's just, you know, Oregon and New Jersey, these states that could've been McCain targets in a better Republican year, Obama's putting them away. McCain's not putting away any states. He's not putting away Indiana, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota. They're all still states that he's favored in, but he's not putting them away. But the most remarkable thing, I think about the map is how the toss-ups are fairly steady. McCain is strong in the places that he's campaigning and advertising. Now, he is a limited amount of states that he's advertising in. He's only in about 11 of the battleground states, Obama's trying to expand the playing field, he's advertising in 18 and you see that difference. In those seven states that only Obama's in, his numbers have moved up a lot more and obviously McCain hasn't, but in those other states, McCain's holding steady and even has a lead in some of them.
MR. GREGORY: And Andrea, two states we're looking at day in and day out, Virginia, Colorado. Governor Kaine was just here, he likes Obama's chances there.
MS. MITCHELL: Virginia could go Democratic. Obviously, if Governor Kaine is on the ticket that would be a help. More of a help than what he said was staying in Virginia and working the state, being on the ticket would, would be that. I don't necessarily think that that is going to happen. I don't think that's where they're going right now. But Colorado also a big opportunity, and clearly the Denver convention is the best way of them lifting that.
MR. GREGORY: All right, let's go through the final four here. We can take a stab at, at some of these candidates for the number two slot. Let's start with Obama and talk about pluses and minuses of these candidates.
We talked about Governor Kaine, Josh. He was just here, he's on that short list. What does he do for Obama and what are some of the negatives?
MR. GREEN: Well, I think what he does for Obama is he doubles down on the message of change and the message of, you know, "I'm coming from outside Washington and we're going to go in and get rid of the calcified, you know, gridlocked community that we have there and get some things done." He obviously helps you in an important swing state. And along with Mark Warner, that, that would, that would make a pretty fearsome team for the Obama folks. On the downside, it's the question of inexperience.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. GREEN: He does not have a lot of experience in national politics. He, he sort of doubles down on that negative for Obama. I think part of this will be determined by, you know, is Obama feeling really confident? You know, I think a Kaine pick would signify that Obama is feeling good and confident.
MR. GREGORY: And Chuck, he--Obama can win on change but he could lose on inexperience if he doesn't get past that threshold.
MR. TODD: I think that's right. And you almost wonder if did Vladimir Putin suddenly become on the vetting list a little bit for--is he joined Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy and eliminated Tim Kaine.
MR. GREGORY: He apparently wants to stay in politics.
MR. TODD: Yeah, exactly. But no, but Putin, Putin's decision, you know, to cause this uproar in Georgia was just a reminder that during the campaign something of foreign policy nature could pop up, and while Obama's very confident, I think that's why Tim Kaine's out.
MS. MITCHELL: And guess where, guess where Joe Biden is today?
MR. GREGORY: Well, wait, let's talk about Joe Biden as well, Andrea. He--a lot of talk about him in the last couple of weeks. This is somebody who could give him the foreign policy chops.
MS. MITCHELL: Well, he's in Tbilisi this morning. He went as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, invited by the president of Georgia.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. MITCHELL: I think that this is where they are heading, you know.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. MITCHELL: Bayh would be a safer choice, we'll talk about that in a second. Biden's advantage, his real virtue besides foreign policy experience is he's been there. Yes, he may talk too much; yes, he may make a mistake, but he would be such an attack dog in a debate. He would win a debate with almost any vice presidential choice that the Republicans could choose. And they have a few moments for the vice president: the speech at the convention, the debate and the initial, the initial roll-out.
MR. GREGORY: So when we, we talk about...
MR. TODD: David...
MR. GREGORY: ...we talk about Evan Bayh from Indiana as well, is Chris Dodd also a sleeper here?
MR. TODD: Well, he is somebody that early on I think was one of Obama's--if he was going to pick a veteran senator, that was the person he was most favorable toward. But it does seem like there's a lot of momentum with Biden these days because of that attack dog mentality.
MR. GREGORY: All right, let's talk about the Republican side. Mitt Romney, Josh, has been, it seems, a favorite for John McCain.
MR. GREEN: Yeah. And, and there's a real case to be made for Romney here. We talk about the importance of Virginia and Colorado. You know, if McCain were to win the Bush '04 states but Obama were to pick off those two, you'd have John McCain at 264. And being able to have a Romney on the ticket, who knows a lot about business, who could carry a state like Michigan, that could end up being the deciding factor. He's been vetted, he's got experience on the national stage and he's not likely to make a mistake or overshadow your candidate.
MR. GREGORY: As we run out of time, we'd also talk about Lieberman, who's an independent but still a Democrat who's been close to McCain. Tom Ridge, we said he might be open to this week. Pawlenty and Jindal. Who pops at, at this point now?
MS. MITCHELL: Well, Lieberman and Ridge, I think, is where his heart would go. But there was such hard pushback, strong pushback from the conservatives, from right to life constituents, that it would be pretty tough. That was a big trial balloon. If McCain says, you know, "To heck with everyone else, I want to follow my heart," that's where he goes. Pawlenty is a much safer choice if he wants to secure the base.
MR. TODD: Neither campaign believes they have to roll the dice. So you're going to see safety first when it comes to, I think, their pick. Both of them feel very confident of their trajectory, but also nervous about creating their own problems.
MR. GREGORY: All right, we will leave it there and we will be right back.
MR. GREGORY: That's all for today. Tom Brokaw will be back next week at our regular time, live from the site of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.