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MEET THE PRESS Sunday, August 29, 2004
GUESTS: Former New York City mayor Rudolph Guiliani, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, Tom Brokaw, NBC News
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with:
MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS
(Sundays: (202) 885-4200)
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: tomorrow night, this man, the former mayor of New York City takes center stage at the Republican convention to promote the candidacy of George W. Bush. Our guest, Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Last month in Boston, this woman took center stage at the Democratic convention to promote the candidacy of John F. Kerry. Our guest, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Bush-Kerry race for the White House through the eyes of Giuliani and Clinton only on MEET THE PRESS.
And then we'll be joined by NBC's Tom Brokaw who has covered every Republican convention since 1968.
But, first, we are joined by the man who was mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001.
Rudy Giuliani, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
FMR. MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI: Thank you very much, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Tomorrow night, you'll be at that podium. What will be your message?
MR. GIULIANI: My message will be one of leadership, that President Bush has demonstrated during maybe some of the most difficult days in our history the ability to not only get the country through but to keep us focused on a goal of destroying global terrorism. As people criticized him, ridiculed him, did everything they could to get him off his agenda, he's remained with it and it's made the world safer and we have to continue in that direction in the next three or four years.
MR. RUSSERT: There's been some suggestions that an emphasis on September 11 would be an exploitation of the tragedy of that day.
Video: Guiliani on Kerry’s Vietnam War record MR. GIULIANI: It's really depends on how you do it. You know, I've lived with September 11 from the day it happened and seen things that were maybe done wrong and seen things that were done right, and most cases, people handled it the right way. It comes from the heart and we're going to acknowledge the families. We're going to do a memorial like the Democrats did. If you were here and you didn't acknowledge September 11, then it'd also be an issue of insensitivity, but no one's going to exploit it on either side, Republicans or Democrats.
I remember the days after September 11. It's bigger than any of us, and it sort of controls anybody's desire to want to exploit it. I mean, I think we're too hurt by it to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: Homeland security a very big issue in this city. The September 11 Commission wrote this, and I'll read it for and you our viewers. "Recommendations: Homeland security assistance should be based strictly on an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities. Now, in 2004, Washington, D.C., and New York City are certainly at the top of any such list. ...federal homeland security assistance should not remain a program for general revenue sharing."
Senator Clinton, who will be on after you, had this to say. "The fact is that the Bush administration chose to distribute $2.2 billion without regard to threat, thereby guaranteeing less money for places like New York City," and she points to these formulas: Wyoming, $38 per person; Vermont, $32; Alaska, $31; North Dakota, $30; New York, $5 a person. Will you urge the president to target New York and Washington with more money?
MR. GIULIANI: Well, I agree. The answer is, yes, and I agree with the recommendation of the commission. This allocation of money should be based on risk and not just New York, Washington, Los Angeles, a lot of other places. We do have to also allocate money to all over the country and that $5, of course, is multiplied by 8.1 million people or whatever it is. In Wyoming, it's multiplied by, you know, considerably less than that.
But the problem here, actually--and you know this probably better than anyone. Senator Moynihan wrote the definitive book on this and then he would publish it every year. The formulas are in favor of, you know, smaller states. And in this particular case, when they did these formulas, they just used those and really there has to be--and I think the 9-11 Commission was absolutely right, there's a lot of wisdom in that. They should redo this and do it based on risk, but it shouldn't be redone to such an extent you ignore Wyoming or other states because my fear, when I was the mayor during those four terrible months, was not just of an attack on New York--obviously, that's a possibility--but they could try to do something different.
I mean, they could try to hit the heartland of America, they could try to hit rural areas of America, and they're less prepared because they don't deal with emergencies as often. They don't have a 41,000 police department or the Chicago Police Department or Los Angeles. They don't have as much preparation for biological, chemical attack. So we're vulnerable everywhere in this country. So, yes, the formula should be redone, sure we should assess risk, but we can't ignore, you know, rural America just on population formula.
MR. RUSSERT: But New York should get more homeland security money?
MR. GIULIANI: Yeah, absolutely. And Washington and Los Angeles and Chicago and obviously the most obvious targets, but not to the extent of ignoring the rest of America because--my assessment, for whatever it's worth, is that they're going to attack us wherever they think we're weakest, wherever they think they can surprise us the most, wherever they think we're not prepared.
MR. RUSSERT: It's interesting to see what American people will see this week, which Republican Party. Your history with the Republican Party is interesting. Back in 1994, when you...
MR. GIULIANI: Well, Abraham Lincoln. We can start with Abraham Lincoln and John Fremont and...
MR. RUSSERT: But in 1994, you endorsed Mario Cuomo for governor...
MR. GIULIANI: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...a Democrat. You supported President Clinton's crime bill. You were not invited to the 1996 Republican convention and now you're asked to speak. Here is how The New York Times covered it, captured it, "[Giuliani's] rapprochement with the Republicans come after years in which the national party often shunned him..." And then this headline in 1996, "The question is raised once again, is Giuliani really a Republican?"
MR. GIULIANI: The answer is, yes. You know, I was the third Republican mayor of New York City, I think, or the fourth. And I used to always say--and my predecessor became a Democrat. So I'm the one who remained a Republican. But, yes, I'm a Republican. I'm a very loyal Republican. I'm very, very close to the president. It doesn't mean that I'm in total agreement with every single policy of the party or every single policy--I worked for Ronald Reagan and I agree with the core philosophy of the party, the way I define it. And we don't get to do this with a political--you get to define it your way.
And my way is Republicans are better for America because we're much stronger on national defense and Republicans are better for America, we have a better sense of how to give people more empowerment, how to reduce taxes, put more money back into the pockets of people, give them the chance to have the American Dream. Those are the areas in which I'm very comfortable. I'm a Republican. I think those are the core philosophies.
Socially, I'm a moderate, or however else you want to describe it, but so is George Pataki, so is Arnold Schwarzenegger, so is Christie Whitman, so is--when I started in politics back in '89-'90, we didn't have people like that. Now, we have lots of people that have roughly my kind of analysis of politics or have the labels you put on us, I guess.
MR. RUSSERT: If you read the draft platform of this party and this convention, however--take for example, abortion and here it is. It says very simply, "We support a human life amendment to the Constitution... . We oppose using public revenues for abortion, will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life."
Ban all abortions, litmus tests for judges. You're against that?
MR. GIULIANI: I am. The part of the platform, and the largest part of this platform, however, is about the thing that I think is most important thing in this country, which is defending America, carrying on the war against terrorism without significant steps back in the direction of only playing defense, and continuing to do under the Bush doctrine, you know, offense and going after them in foreign countries so we don't have to deal with them in the streets of our cities. To me, you know, you make choices about what are your priorities. To me, those are my priorities.
With regard to choice, I believe in a woman's right to choice. I think that's the right way. It should be decided. It's already been decided constitutionally. And I also respect people who are on the other side of this. I think maybe that's the difference.
And also there's a kind of myth. You're all back in the Republican Party of 10, 12, 15 years ago. Ronald Reagan decided we're going to be a big tent, and we are. I mean, we are! And you have to come to terms with that. We're a party that has a broad range of opinion with several core principles that hold us together in a very, very strong way, that makes us very loyal to each other, even though we disagree about other things.
MR. RUSSERT: This is not a myth. This is your party's platform.
MR. GIULIANI: There are things I disagree with. You can find the things I disagree with.
MR. RUSSERT: Take, for example, gay marriage. It says, not only against gay marriage but also there should be no benefits for gay couples.
MR. GIULIANI: Well, I signed the law in New York City that created civil unions and I signed the second one that strengthened it, because I believe that we shouldn't discriminate against gays and lesbians. People have views of conscience, religion about this. We should respect all of them, but we shouldn't discriminate against people, and I think that's the right answer.
Again, that's one part of the platform. The part of the platform that I agree with is the part that talks about tax reduction to fuel a private economy. When I was mayor of New York City, I realized that the best way to do job creation in New York would be to lower taxes in New York, because it would mean more money in our private economy, less money fueled through Washington, where a lot of it remains in Washington. And again, going back to those Moynihan reports, it's one of the ways in which New York gets too little money because so many tax dollars are taken by Washington.
MR. RUSSERT: You were always known as a mayor tough on crime. You always believed that a motorist had to have a license for an automobile, that if you owned a gun, you should have a license. Your party's platform adopted--outright rejects Rudy Giuliani's view of gun control.
MR. GIULIANI: Again, that's one of the things that we disagree about. There are many, many things-- national--the defense of this country, how we handle our economy, are things that affect every single American.
MR. RUSSERT: How about this? Stem cell research. And this is what your party said. "We support the president's policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to encourage the future destruction of human embryos. We applaud the president's call for a comprehensive ban on the creation of human embryos solely on experimentation."
Do you agree with the president on stem cell?
MR. GIULIANI: I agree with the president in the sense that the president is the first one to put any money at all, and significant amounts of money, into stem cell research.
MR. RUSSERT: But should it be broader?
MR. GIULIANI: I think it should be broader. But then, you can't ignore the fact that President Bush did what no one else had done, which is to support stem cell research, and you know, the fact is that over the social issues there are disagreements within families. I mean, you talk to any American family of any size and you're going to have people that have different views about religion, different views about the sanctity of life and how that should be handled, choice, how that should be handled. The core issues of the political party--again, this is my opinion--the core views on which a political party should be organized are national defense and the economy, and on those things--I was going to say 100 percent; it's never 100 percent--95 percent of these delegates agree.
MR. RUSSERT: But the impression you're giving the American people--Harry Truman said it this way: "To me, party platforms are contracts with the people, and I always looked upon them as agreements that had to be carried out."
There's no possible way that you or the mayor of New York or the governor of New York or John McCain or Arnold Schwarzenegger, the prime-time speakers, agree with this party platform, which led the head of the Log Cabin Republicans to say this: "You can't craft a vicious, mean-spirited platform, then try to put lipstick on the pig by putting Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger on in prime time."
MR. GIULIANI: Which am I, the pig or the lipstick? I'm not sure--it got a little--I didn't follow that correctly. But the reality...
MR. RUSSERT: Is it truth in packaging?
MR. GIULIANI: No, of course not. No.
MR. RUSSERT: Is it truth in packaging?
MR. GIULIANI: Party platforms, you know, are party platforms. I mean, the reality is it comes from the candidate. What does the candidate emphasize? What does the candidate say he's going to do? Does he follow through on those promises? When George Bush was nominated as the candidate of the Republican Party he promised to reduce taxes. He did. He promised to do the best that he could to deal with Medicaid and Medicare and he did. So these are the things that are the core philosophy.
I mean, party platforms are important. They probably express some kind of majority view, but there's a strong minority view in this party about choice, about the things that we've talked about, and I'm very comfortable that they're a very, very strong representative. In the Democratic Party--95 percent of the Democratic Party, or 90 percent of the delegates--I think that was your poll--were opposed to the war in Iraq, opposed to our going into the war with Iraq and want us out of there in a minute. And John Kerry and John Edwards had voted for the war in Iraq and have a very different viewpoint than 90 percent or 95 percent of the delegates at their convention, not just the party platform. So I mean, why emphasize this about us? It's just as true about them. But the reality is there are core principles in both parties that distinguish us and there's a significant amount of disagreement. If that wasn't true, we wouldn't be intelligent people. We wouldn't be people who are really looking at the world.
MR. RUSSERT: But why is every prime-time speaker--Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, McCain--representing the minority view of the party platform?
MR. GIULIANI: I think we're really there for different purposes. I think John McCain is there because he's someone that can talk to the war in Iraq and what is necessary to carry that forward, and kind of create unity about that. I think I'm there for whatever reason I'm there. I mean, I'd rather have other people define why I'm there. And Arnold Schwarzenegger is, you know, in essence, our newest elected governor. He's someone that is doing a great job in the largest state in the country and turning it around. He'd be a natural. Why would you--why wouldn't you put the governor of your largest state, who has just won a very, very surprising election, who also happens to be a worldwide, well-known figure, why wouldn't you put him on stage? Unless you were a party of very, very narrow opinion.
And we do want to demonstrate that we're a party of broad opinion, that we have accomplished what Ronald Reagan wanted us to do. Ronald Reagan got elected president, and we all know this, by getting the votes of Independents and lots of Democrats. And Bill Clinton got elected president by getting the votes of a lot of Independents and Republicans; and he kind of moved people over toward the middle. And we want to do the same thing. And President Bush has many, many programs, policies, ideas, that appeal to the middle of America, that--let's call it that moderate vote. So it would be very natural for us to do this.
MR. RUSSERT: George Bush told Matt Lauer yesterday in an interview that John Kerry's service in Vietnam was heroic and, in fact, more heroic than his own service in the National Guard. Do you agree with that?
MR. GIULIANI: Well, I don't want to compare two people. They are very different circumstances, very different people. I agree that John Kerry is a hero. He is entitled to that no matter what happens in this election. That'll be a place that he has in American history for which we should respect him and honor him. I also think we shouldn't emphasize just those four months of his life, however. There's been, you know, 20, 24, 25 years since then; and we've got a record in the Senate, which is a record that was almost never mentioned at the Democratic convention, never talked about, because it is a record of significant inconsistency, even in a profession in which there's some degree of inconsistency, John Kerry is kind of near the top as a guy who changes his position, even on issues like, you know, the first war in Iraq. He was against that. And then he said he favored it. The second war in Iraq, he voted for that and then he voted against funding it. I mean, we've got significant changes in position.
And I, you know, I think on Vietnam we should just say, and I agree with this, we should not just say it, I think the man is entitled to our respect for having been a hero, for having saved lives. But then there's a lot of stuff that's happened since Vietnam and it shows a man who shifts his position.
MR. RUSSERT: But on that point--on that point, Mr. Mayor, too often, if the president says he's a hero and has service more heroic than his own, and you say he's a hero, should the Swift Boat Veterans stop ads on TV that say he was a coward and a liar?
MR. GIULIANI: They should and all the 527s should stop.
MR. RUSSERT: Immediately?
MR. GIULIANI: Including the ones that accused the president of treason, accused the president of being a liar, accused President Bush of all kinds of things that, number one, aren't true, and number two, are personally horrible. Maybe they should have called for Michael Moore's movie not to be out instead of making him a hero at the Democratic convention and say that was a calumny, and that was a use of propaganda in which the president was made to look horrible, like he's not intelligent, like he doesn't pay attention, like he doesn't care about human life. So terrible things have happened under this 527 thing that probably was an unintended consequence of a good law, McCain-Feingold. And really, John Kerry should join the president and John McCain and they should stop all of these 527s, including the things that are being done to...
MR. RUSSERT: Swift Boats, both sides.
MR. GIULIANI: Yeah. One of the problems is you've got these people with these 527s kind of setting the political agenda. This is not an issue that President Bush would want in this campaign. He respects John Kerry for his heroism. He disagrees with him on his record of inconsistency with matters of war and peace and other things.
MR. RUSSERT: 527 being the so-called independent committees.
MR. GIULIANI: Correct. That's right.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the Associated Press and Rudy Giuliani. They wrote this: "Former mayor ... has begun raising campaign money again, according to federal election records. Solutions America, Giuliani's political action committee ... had been dormant since 2001."
Raising money, traveling around the country, what are you up to?
MR. GIULIANI: Well, that money is being used to help other candidates--I mean, to help me assist and help other candidates, donate money to them, do campaign events with them. I haven't really been dormant at all. I was in 35 states in 2002. In fact, the weekend before the mid-term elections in 2002, I think I was in 13, 14 states campaigning.
MR. RUSSERT: You're picking up political chits...
MR. GIULIANI: Was it 18 or 19 states? I can't remember.
MR. RUSSERT: ...for a future run.
MR. GIULIANI: No, I'm very, very dedicated to the idea that George Bush should be re-elected and we need a Republican House and Senate. What I do in the future politically, I don't know yet, and I'll tell you, after having dealt with prostate cancer and having dealt with September 11 and seeing what happens in life, I don't plan that far ahead. I'm planning on 2004, doing the best I can, in my small way, to get the president re-elected and then we'll see what happens after that.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll see what happens. Here's what The New York Post said that "[George] Pataki, who will introduce President Bush at the Republican National Convention next week, may run for president himself in 2008." If the governor of New York, George Pataki, runs for president, will you as a loyal New Yorker support Governor Pataki?
MR. GIULIANI: George Pataki is a good friend of mine. I think he's been a great governor. It's something we'll talk about, we'll see. It's something we're not thinking about right now because George Pataki, like me, wants no other agenda confused with the agenda of re-electing President Bush, because we think it is critical to being able to carry out this war on terrorism because we think President Bush has already demonstrated that he's capable of doing it, he's capable of keeping America together, and he's capable of having people criticize him and remain focused on a goal which his opponent, you know, seems to have some degree of a problem with.
MR. RUSSERT: In 2000, you supported John McCain for president. He is...
MR. GIULIANI: No, no, no, I didn't. That was a mistake in The New York Times. John McCain is a very good friend of mine, known him even longer than the president, but in 2000, I supported President Bush. And even in my book, I described how I had to go through that choice. I met with both of them, talked to both of them and then decided to support President Bush. I think what The Times has confused is I refused to engage in any kind of negative campaigning against John on an issue concerning whether he voted for or against cancer research.
MR. RUSSERT: You still have a Senate campaign committee, left several million dollars, when you thought about running in 2000 for the Senate.
MR. GIULIANI: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: In 2006, Senator Clinton is up for re-election. Would you consider running against her?
MR. GIULIANI: Exactly the same thing, exactly the same answer. I'm not focusing on that. I really refuse to let myself focus on getting beyond 2004. You know, I've seen baseball teams and football teams not being able to get into the World Series or the Super Bowl because they're thinking ahead to the next game.
MR. RUSSERT: But you know if you defeated...
MR. GIULIANI: I think about just this game, the one we're in right now. This is a lot more serious than a game.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Hillary Clinton for her bid for re-election, you'd be the darling of conservatives all across the country, which would position you, even with your moderate views on social issues, to run for president in 2008.
MR. GIULIANI: Tim, I'm not comfortable with being a darling. That isn't Rudy, you know? Rudy from Brooklyn is not a darling. I came to terms with that a long time ago.
MR. RUSSERT: A favorite of conservatives all across the country.
MR. GIULIANI: A favorite even, you know?
MR. RUSSERT: Does the calculation make sense?
MR. GIULIANI: Underdog is better. Underdog from Brooklyn is much better.
MR. RUSSERT: Like Rocky?
MR. GIULIANI: Yeah, right.
MR. RUSSERT: But it would make sense for you to do it.
MR. GIULIANI: Who knows what makes sense? This isn't--we've got a long way to go between now and November. Those are the things we should be focusing on. I believe President Bush is a better choice for America, but, you know, President Bush, John Kerry, what are the issues? And we can think about--we've got plenty--we're going to begin the 2008 election, you know, the day after this 2004. Let's at least wait until then.
MR. RUSSERT: Mayor Rudy Giuliani, we thank you for your views.
MR. GIULIANI: Great to see you.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be watching you tomorrow night.
MR. GIULIANI: Good to see you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the few from the Kerry campaign from New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. She's here at Madison Square Garden.
We're in New York City live, the site of the Republican convention.
MR. RUSSERT: New York Senator Hillary Clinton, then insights and analysis from NBC's Tom Brokaw after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Senator Clinton, welcome.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D-NY): Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: A former Goldwater girl and you were at the '68 Republican convention in Atlanta?
Video: Hillary Clinton calls Bush campaign “bait-and-switch” SEN. CLINTON: I was. I was there. Yep. I write about it in my book. You know, I had spent the summer as an intern for the House Republican Conference Committee, headed at that time by Gerald Ford. And had an incredible experience.
MR. RUSSERT: But now you're a full-fledged Democrat?
SEN. CLINTON: Yes, I am. Yes, I am. I've seen the light.
MR. RUSSERT: Five national polls this last week all show George Bush has pulled ahead of John Kerry. The president's favorable rating breaking 50 percent. In those two numbers, an incumbent has never lost an election for re-election. What's John Kerry's problem?
SEN. CLINTON: Oh, Tim, I think this is a close election. It's always been and it will be, right down to the wire. There's a lot of concern in the country about how to evaluate what our direction should be. But I am confident, as I have been from the very moment John got the nomination back in the spring, that he is going to be elected. And he's going to be elected because the failed policies on the domestic agenda of this administration cannot be ignored. I mean, these new census figures, 5.2 million more people have lost their health insurance, four million have fallen back into poverty. Not one new net job yet created under this administration. You know, the evidence cannot be ignored, deflected, and we can't be diverted from it. And eventually that's going to make the difference.
MR. RUSSERT: Has the Swift Boat Veterans ads distracted John Kerry and has now George Bush saying that Kerry's service was heroic ended that issue?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, it should have never started, because it's, you know, just such a tragedy that anyone would spread false stories about John's heroism under fire. There's no doubt that, you know, he served with great distinction and courage in Vietnam.
But the issues are not what happened 30 years ago. The smear tactics used very effectively by this group, in, you know, conjunction with people very high up in the Bush campaign have been an effort, not only to impugn Senator Kerry but, more importantly, to divert and deflect attention from what's really at stake internationally and domestically. So maybe now we can get back to talking about the future and where we go as a country.
MR. RUSSERT: Is Mayor Giuliani right that all the ads from 527 committees should be taken off the air, even those that are against George Bush?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, we're going to have to look at this whole 527 issue. Obviously, too much money is chasing too many issues that, unfortunately, are being distorted. I mean, if there was some standard of accuracy, you know, we wouldn't be here talking about it. But there isn't. But what I most regret is that we're not talking about what really matters to people on November 3, after they wake up after this election, and they're going to be confronted with a stagnant economy, a huge deficit and, unfortunately, a lot of problems that have really happened, not just on the president's watch, but because of the miscalculations of this administration.
MR. RUSSERT: But in the interim why not have, in effect, a truce and pull all 527 ads down on both sides?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I'd be for that. I don't think that you'll get agreement on that because there's too much, you know, intensity and too much money. But at the very least the public and the press should be alert and when you have falsehoods being spread, both to essentially assassinate the character of a candidate, and to try to divert attention from what's really at stake in the election, particularly here with the economy and all the other issues that are stake, you know, they ought to be called to account for that.
MR. RUSSERT: The speaker of the House has written a book where he takes to task you and other New Yorkers, and this is what he says: "Dennis Hastert is charging in a new book that New York lawmakers' attempt to win financial aid after the 9/11 attacks amounted to an `unseemly scramble' for money..."
SEN. CLINTON: That's so sad. You know, we had to fight very hard, and it was a united delegation, Republicans, Democrats, downstate, upstate, everybody pulling together. You know, any of us who saw the devastation, which I know the speaker did, understood that we had to move quickly. We needed not only to reach out and help repair the physical damage and the emotional and tragic losses, but to send a signal to the world that New York was open for business. You know, it wasn't a mistake that we were attacked. We were attacked because of what we symbolize. So we did out part and I'm grateful that we were successful in getting the resources that New York needed and deserved.
MR. RUSSERT: Will you be able to get the formula changed so that New York is targeted and Washington is targeted because they are perhaps ground zero for future attacks?
SEN. CLINTON: Absolutely. You know, the way this works is that a lot of money does go out in a per capita basis, but then a lot of money on top of that is being distributed also on the basis of population. The president could issue an executive order tomorrow that redirected that money, and I wish he would, because what we're seeing in New York is a heroic effort on the part of our city, the firefighters, the police officers and others who are on alert. But we are losing money. We're not only losing money because we're not getting our fair share of the homeland security dollars, but under this president's budget, we're cutting the COPS program, we're cutting law enforcement grants, we're cutting money for firefighters. It doesn't add up, so we need to have the president take some leadership on this.
MR. RUSSERT: There's been a big discussion about Vietnam. Many people are wondering why this country is not debating Iraq in this presidential race. Jay Rockefeller, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was on this program a few weeks ago and this is what he said: "There is simply no question that mistakes leading up to the way in Iraq rank among the most devastating losses and intelligence failures in the history of the nation. The fact is that the administration at all levels, and to some extent us"--meaning Congress--"used bad information so bolster its case for war. And we in Congress would not have authorized that war--we would not have authorized that war--with 75 votes if we knew what we know now."
Do you agree with him?
SEN. CLINTON: There would not have been a vote, Tim. There would never have been a vote to the Congress presented by the administration. There would have been no basis for it. But we are where we are, and what I think we have to do now try to understand the series of miscalculations which for the first time ever the president admitted in an interview last week, have occurred which have rendered our situation more dangerous, less safe, and have put back the effort to try to stabilize and democratize Iraq. I believe with all my heart that, you know, we have to have new leadership at the highest level of our government in order to be successful in the strategy we have embarked upon in Iraq. No matter how we got there, and as I said, we wouldn't have even had a vote if all the facts had been available.
MR. RUSSERT: But John Kerry said he would vote again today for authorization, even knowing what he knows now. You don't agree with that.
Video: Hillary Clinton discusses attacks on Kerry’s Vietnam War record SEN. CLINTON: Well, but I think the point John was making was the same one I was making, that we don't have a choice to have hindsight. You know, I have said many times, I think on this program, that I don't regret giving the president authority based on what we knew at the time, but I regret deeply the way he's used it.
I think there have been so many mistakes made, but it's not just in the international arena, and I want to keep coming back to this, because the economy is the number-one issue that people are living with. This president's not doing anything about outsourcing, his reckless fiscal policies have really put us into such a deep deficit hole, that whoever is president is going to have to start digging out. Unfortunately, this president doesn't seem to understand that. The energy dependence that we have and no plan to get us out of it. The appointments that are going to be made by a second term if, you know, there were one of this administration. All of this adds up to a very sobering picture of four years of unaccountable use of power based on, unfortunately, a past record of miscalculations which I don't think we can't afford.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Kerry said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should resign. Do you join him in that call?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I'm hoping the entire administration's fired on November 2. I think that it's not just the secretary of defense that needs to go, it's the entire administration, starting at the top with the president and the vice president.
MR. RUSSERT: But do you think that Rumsfeld will resign before that?
SEN. CLINTON: I don't know. That's up to the president, obviously, and to Secretary Rumsfeld, but what I'm focused on is changing the entire administration on November 2 and putting in people who will get us back on the right track here at home and around the world.
MR. RUSSERT: There's a lot of discussion about John Kerry and flip-flops. Rudy Giuliani in August said this about Senator Kerry on Iraq: "I don't know what [Kerry's] position is on Iraq. Of course, it changes all the time. There hasn't been a consistent position. He voted for the war. Then he voted against funding the war. Then he said that he voted both for the funding and against the funding. So there have been so many different positions. Honestly, again, I mean this in the most respectful way. I don't know Senator Kerry's current position on Iraq."
And what he's pointing to, Senator, is you both voted for authority for the president to go to war, but you voted for the $87 million to support the troops. Senator Kerry voted against it. Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, said this: "The truth is, [Kerry] usually spends more time talking about the politics of a vote ... and that was certainly the case on the $87 billion." And then this: "As one of [Kerry's] advisers put it ... `Off the record, he [voted against the $87 billion] because of Howard Dean. On the record, he has an elaborate explanation.'"
And then Biden again: "Biden himself ultimately voted for the [$87 billion], and he confirmed that Kerry's decision not to was `tactical,' and attempt `to prove to Dean's guys I'm not a warmonger.'"
Didn't you advise John Kerry to vote for the $87 billion?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, we had lots of discussions during that time period. But, you know, this reminds me of what the Bush campaign did to John McCain. You know, John McCain has voted against defense appropriations bills in order to make a point, and the Bush campaign then went after him, pulling something out of that bill and saying that he wasn't in favor of breast cancer research.
You know, I think John, who understands war a heck of a lot better than I do, for example, and has understood completely what it would mean for us to be on a wrong path in Iraq, was making the point that, you know, by the time we had that vote, we needed to take a hard look at the policies of this administration. That was a perfectly legitimate position. And I think just like John McCain, nobody can say that John Kerry doesn't support our troops, that he doesn't know firsthand the dangers and perils of combat.
But this whole discussion, you know, Tim, is unfortunately really playing into the hands of the convention we're about to see over the next four days. They are running what I call a bait-and-switch campaign. They did it in 2000. This is their second convention. They're trying to present one view and one face on the party to the people, and they're trying to keep the focus on those who frankly have no influence in Washington, with all due respect. They're not running the House, Tom DeLay is. They're not running the Senate. The Republican Senate caucus largely driven by the most extreme members are unfortunately calling the shots, and the White House is.
MR. RUSSERT: Bill Frist extreme?
SEN. CLINTON: No, but he's pushed, though, by his caucus all the time, you know. You can go and look at the decisions that are made, and it's very frustrating, I think, for the majority of us on both sides of the aisle. But the point is that the people who are really running the country under this president are not going to be highlighted in this convention. And we've gone through this. You know, this is the president who said, "Hey, I want to be a compassionate conservative." He's been neither. "I want to be a uniter, not a divider." He's been, in my view, so divisive, and it's been so painful because following 9/11, there was such a chance for everybody to be united and to work together and to, you know, set goals together, and that has not proven to be the case. And so there's a lot that is going to really affect the lives of people, and I think we should be talking about, you know, jobs and health care and education and all the other things that really matter.
MR. RUSSERT: You heard Mayor Rudy Giuliani, however. The vast majority of delegates in Boston oppose the war in Iraq, and yet John Kerry, John Edwards, you, all voted to authorize the president to go to war. So there always is that inconsistency between delegates and people who speak to the convention.
SEN. CLINTON: Well--but if you look at the platform of the Democratic Party, we take a very tough stance on national defense. You know, I get my back up a little bit when Republicans talk about how they own national defense. The best I recall, you know, it was Democratic presidents who led and won us the major wars of this century--or the last century. But what really bothers me is that any president is going to do what he believes is right and in the national security interest of America. You know, all this talk about this president and how consistent and strong he is, well, you know, if you're consistent and wrong, and you're leading your country in the wrong direction, I don't think that's much of a selling point.
On point after point, this president has been wrong. He said that he would cut taxes dramatically and increase revenues. It doesn't add up in the arithmetic and it doesn't make any sense as a policy. He said that he would, you know, try to have a quick victory in Iraq, and then we'd democratize Iraq. He had to admit it was a miscalculation. So whether we're talking about important domestic issues or critical life-and-death issues abroad, this president may be consistent, I'll give him that, but he's been consistently wrong and he's put our country on the wrong track.
MR. RUSSERT: Your husband signed a Defense of Marriage Act which said that, "`marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." Do you support that?
SEN. CLINTON: I do, and I have said repeatedly that, you know, I do not support gay marriage but I support civil unions and I support the right of states to make this decision. This Republican platform even says there shouldn't be any benefits for people who are in committed relationships. I find that appalling. You know, there are so many people who are being unnecessarily hurt and demonized by this very political, partisan campaign that's being run on this issue and then the platform takes it even a step further.
MR. RUSSERT: But the Defense of Marriage Act would not allow one state to recognize gay marriage in another state.
SEN. CLINTON: Right. But ind...
MR. RUSSERT: You agree with that?
SEN. CLINTON: Yes. And individual states would then determine, you know, what they want to do on their own, but there's nothing in the so-called DOMA act that would prohibit the city of New York, as we have already done, or any other state, as others have done, providing benefits, inheritance benefits, hospital visitation. The Republican platform, Tim, basically tries to outlaw that.
MR. RUSSERT: The Democrats have been silent about guns. When you ran in 2000 for the Senate, you said there should be legislation which licenses gun owners. Do you still agree with that, support that?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, here's what I'm most concerned about right now is the assault weapons ban is slated to expire in September. The president has said he would sign it if it was sent to him and he's not lifted a finger to enable it to be sent. So here's where we are. He's taking money off the streets that have funded police, including some of the New York police officers who put their lives at risk on September 11. We, I think, have about 700 or so left that are funded by the so-called COPS program, and he's willing to let assault weapons come back on the streets. That is a recipe for disaster. It's also an open invitation for terrorists, who have, in some of their training manuals, pointed out how easy it is to get weapons in our country.
We're living in a different world, you know, and I think we have to be smarter about how we do it. I recognize the political realities, but if assault weapons come back on the streets starting in September and we start having some of these egregious, horrible situations that we had before the assault weapons ban was passed, I think there's going to be a real outcry from the American public and I think the responsibility rests solely with the president.
MR. RUSSERT: But in 2000, Senator, you said, "I stand in support of a common legislation to license everyone who wishes to purchase a gun and believe that every new handgun or sale or transfer should be registered in a national registry." You still support that?
SEN. CLINTON: You know, Tim, I said that in part because what we do in New York is license. And you know what? There are a lot of folks in New York who have a lot of guns. Nobody's missed a single day hunting or target shooting or collecting. You know, I understand the political realities and we have to obviously deal with that. I support the Second Amendment, but I also think that when it comes to guns ending up in the hands of criminals, terrorists, people who are unfortunately mentally unbalanced, you know, we ought to be smart about this. The safety of the majority of people who are going about their daily business should be taken into account.
MR. RUSSERT: The NBC News and Wall Street Journal does polling. We asked Republicans about Democrats. The intensity is extraordinary. Which Democrat do you most dislike? You won. Here it is.
SEN. CLINTON: Yeah. What do you know?
MR. RUSSERT: Hillary Clinton, 24 percent; Bill Clinton, 19 percent; Ted Kennedy, 19 percent; Jesse Jackson, 11 percent; Al Gore, 7 percent; John Kerry just 5 percent. Why? Why the intense dislike for Hillary Clinton amongst Republicans?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think a lot of people, frankly, have never really gotten to know me or had any direct contact with me. You know, there was a lot of that intensity when I started in New York and there still is some, but it has diminished as people have seen what I really stand for, what I really fight for, what I really care about. You know, I think it's just a question of time. But on the other hand, I do stand up and say what I believe and I do fight back. And I guess they would prefer that everybody, you know, just basically allow them to call the shots. I don't think that's good for the country. You know, if you've got an administration and a Congress and increasingly a judiciary all under control of both one party and in, frankly, the right wing of that party, I think that's a recipe for abuse of power and for a lot of bad things happening, which is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about electing John Kerry.
MR. RUSSERT: Will you run for re-election in 2006?
SEN. CLINTON: I intend to. I'm having a great time being a senator from New York. You know what a terrific job it is.
MR. RUSSERT: I've covered a lot of them and worked for one. The Gridiron Dinner in Washington, Rudy Giuliani spoke and you spoke. It's a night of humor and Rudy Giuliani had some fun. He concluded his speech this way. "...everyone knows that this November, when all is said and done - behind the sanctity of the voting booth curtain - we're both going to be voting for the same person:" and he said, "George W. Bush."
SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I would hope we're both voting for John Kerry. You know, I certainly think that on many important issues, he agrees more with John Kerry than with the nominee of his party.
MR. RUSSERT: But if George Bush wins, you're on your way to 2008, the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party.
SEN. CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is a subject that I am absolutely unambiguous about. There is no doubt in my mind that four more years of this administration would be a disaster for my country, a disaster for New York. You know, having a Democratic president, hopefully having a Democratic Senate, maybe a House, would be so good for New York. It would also be good for the issues that I think are important to the future.
You know, suppose you are a Republican who says your two most important issues are national defense and the economy. I think we're heading in the wrong direction on both. I give no ground to anyone on national defense. I believe we have to be smart about what we're doing. Did we have to divert attention, resources and personnel from Afghanistan, where we still haven't found bin Laden? That's an open question and one that should be debated.
Here at home, you think this economy is producing jobs? Well, then I don't think you're following what's really going on in people's lives. So I don't think we can afford four more years of George W. Bush, and I frankly think that, you know, being a senator with John Kerry in the White House would be one of the great privileges of my life.
MR. RUSSERT: But if John Kerry doesn't happen to win, you would never allow the Republicans to have another four years in 2008?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm doing everything I can right now to avoid them having another four years in 2004.
MR. RUSSERT: So the door is open?
SEN. CLINTON: No. Now, Tim, you're so good! You're very good! But let's take one election at a time. And this election in 2004 is going to determine the next four years. I hope I'll be in 2008 working for the re-election of John Kerry and John Edwards.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be watching. Senator Hillary Clinton, thank you for joining us.
SEN. CLINTON: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, Bush vs. Kerry, just 65 days to go. Insights and analysis from NBC's Tom Brokaw, who has covered every convention since 1968. He's next.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Tom Brokaw, welcome. Let me show our viewers something we did on "Nightly News" during the week...
MR. TOM BROKAW: OK.
MR. RUSSERT: ...some quick poll numbers. Where the country is headed, 36 percent right direction, 50 percent wrong track; president's handing of the economy, 52 percent disapprove; was the war in Iraq worth it, now 49 percent say no, and yet if the election held today, George Bush 47, John Kerry 45, Ralph Nader, 3. The Republicans point to these two numbers, Tom: 53 percent approval for the war on terrorism, and then this--Bush is easygoing and likable, 55 to 27. They think those are the linchpins of his success.
MR. BROKAW: Can I just add one more?
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
MR. BROKAW: I'll put you through this. When it comes to issues such as the economy, education and health care, do you think President Bush has provided a clear set of goals? Has provided a clear set of goals, 29 percent, has not spelled out his goals, 63 percent, two to one. So I think you see in that poll the challenge for both candidates here. George Bush has to come here, spell out his agenda for the next four years that go beyond fighting the war on terrorism and dealing with issues like education. It's going to be a kinder, gentler Republican Party with the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.
For John Kerry, plainly, the issue is that he's got to engage with the American public more personally. We don't vote for presidents just based on the fine print of their platforms or the kind of hatred that they may feel for their opponent. People have to feel comfortable with them. You'll remember when Fritz Mondale was running against Ronald Reagan. Everyone agreed that Mondale won those debates. Reagan at one point wandered off the Pacific Coast Highway, and yet he clocked Mondale when the general election came around because people were comfortable with Ronald Reagan, even though he had put them through a very sharp recession and it was unclear about what he was going to do about the Cold War at that stage in his presidential campaign.
MR. RUSSERT: So the debates are very, very important for John Kerry to try to restart and reconnect with the American people?
MR. BROKAW: I think they're important for both of them, frankly. I think that George Bush, for his part, has to show that he is in command and has a plan for the second term. I don't think we'll be seeing George Bush in a flight suit with "Mission Completed" over his shoulder at this convention. I don't think he'll be saying down there to the delegates "Bring it on." He's going to have to have a whole different kind of agenda that he's going to spell out, not to the base that will be here, but to those people out in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and states like Nevada and New Mexico, which are the swing states. Can he bring the moderates to his side?
MR. RUSSERT: Matt Lauer, our colleague on the "Today" show, interviewed George W. Bush yesterday...
MR. BROKAW: I know.
MR. RUSSERT: ...about Vietnam. Let's listen and come back and talk about it.
(Videotape, August 28, 2004):
MR. MATT LAUER ("Today"): Did John Kerry serve heroically in Vietnam, in your opinion?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think his service is heroic, yes. I think he's--and he should be proud of it. And I think that we ought to move beyond the past. I mean, he's proud of his service, I'm proud of mine. And the real question is, who is best to lead us forward?
MR. LAUER: You think you both served on the same level of heroism?
PRES. BUSH: That's--no, I don't. I think him going to Vietnam was more heroic than my flying fighter jets. He was in harm's way and I wasn't. On the other hand, I served my country. Had my unit been called up, I would have gone.
MR. RUSSERT: What do you think? Does that settle the issue?
MR. BROKAW: I don't think it does. I saw somebody last night who's very involved in the Swift Boat Veterans against John Kerry and they have not given up. He says there's still a lot of documentation that we'll be dealing with. They talk very passionately about Mr. O'Neill, who's been one of his principal opponents, about the country has to get to know him more. So I don't think it's gone away as far as they're concerned but the president said earlier this week, as well, that he does not believe that John Kerry lied about his record in Vietnam. Now he says that John Kerry performed heroically. You heard Rudy Giuliani say just a few moments ago that he thinks that, as I recall what he said, that John Kerry can be proud of what he did in Vietnam. But we do have this whole other side of the American presidential campaign, the 527s with a lot of money and the ability to put ads on and keep it going if they want to.
MR. RUSSERT: You remember...
MR. BROKAW: Yes, I do.
MR. RUSSERT: ...so well, 2000 Election Night, the final count, Tom Brokaw, was 271 for George Bush, 267. Because of the changing population demographics, if George Bush wins the same states now, this year, as he won in 2000, it would be 278-260, all right? But let me show you something, Tom. If, in fact, New Hampshire and West Virginia switched to Kerry, New Hampshire being his neighbor, West Virginia having voted...
MR. BROKAW: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Democrat three of the last four times, it would be 269-269, dead even in the Electoral College. The election would go to the House of Representatives, and you couldn't retire.
MR. BROKAW: Oh, yes, I could. This election does not hinge on me stepping down. I'm not--you know, we have to kind of restate that. I'm not going off to the old anchorman's home with a lap robe and a drool cup, as I keep saying. I'm going to continue to be in the hunt doing long-form programming and so on, but it's time for a new generation and you'll be the elder statesman of NBC News when I go.
MR. RUSSERT: But we can have another amazing Election Night.
MR. BROKAW: We could. I think we will have another amazing election. And I think we have to be a little bit careful about those states that we put into play, because I think there's going to be some different ones that are going to be in play out there. Three months ago, the Republicans were confident they were going to get New Mexico back. Now, they're less confident about that. Nevada seems to be in play more than they'd like it to be. There was even some talk a couple of months ago and the Republicans said they could pick off Hawaii. You know, they've elected a Republican...
MR. RUSSERT: Or they think Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota may now be in play.
MR. BROKAW: Yeah. That's right. And so the campaign is at a mixed point, and they're trying to define themselves with these conventions. And the debates are going to be very critical and we hope that there will be a lot of them.
MR. RUSSERT: And you'll be all the way through the base and here on Election Night. Tom Brokaw, thank you as always.
We'll be right back.
MR. BROKAW: OK, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Start your day tomorrow on "Today" with Matt Lauer's exclusive interview with President George W. Bush on "Today." And stay with NBC and MSNBC all week for special coverage of the Republican National Convention led by Tom Brokaw.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
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