Guests: Hilary Rosen, Ron Christie, Farah Ispahani
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC ANCHOR: The emotions boil over in Pakistan as the passions grow there and here now just six days before our presidential voting begins.
Hello, everybody. I‘m David Shuster in for Tucker Carlson.
It was another jarring day in Pakistan as Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest, and blame for her assassination was put on al-Qaida. Tonight, we will have the latest on the massive demonstrations and an update on the status of Pakistan‘s fragile nuclear weapon-possessing government.
On the 2008 campaign trail Rudy Giuliani talks about the terror attacks and declares.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: This isn‘t the best time to be making a big political point for or against a candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: But Giuliani believes this is definitely the time to use 9/11 to score political points for himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN AD)
GIULIANI: And during the day of September 11th, living through the things that I saw and observed, immediately when I saw people helping each other and I saw the pictures of the firefighters putting the flag up, I said these are the children, the grandchildren, and the great grandchildren of the greatest generation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And speaking of great, at least politically, John McCain belittles Giuliani‘s 9/11 refrain. Mitt Romney uses immigration to attack John McCain, and students of geography slammed Mike Huckabee.
Also tonight, the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: The real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And today Obama charged that Hillary Clinton‘s foreign politics experience is limited to drinking tea with foreign dignitaries. We‘ll get into that.
Meanwhile, both Clinton and Obama got roughed up today by Chris Dodd.
And later, we will show you some remarkable new polls. You will hear live reports from inside the campaigns and you will get another glimpse at the unusual ways that political passions are being expressed in Iowa tonight.
But we are going to begin in Pakistan at this hour. There is relative calm following the funeral of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. There has been sporadic violence, looting and fires, and there are still questions about the stability of the ruling government led by Pervez Musharraf. Some of the stability may depend on how much credibility Pakistanis and the opposition are willing to give Musharraf. As government said today, it has intelligence intercepts proving that Bhutto‘s assassination was the work of al-Qaida.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis poured into the streets today and joined Benazir Bhutto‘s funeral procession. The emotions continue to be incredibly raw tonight across Pakistan, and keeping track of this developing story for us is NBC‘s Ned Colt. He joins us by phone from Islamabad.
And Ned, I realized that it‘s 3:00 in the morning where you are, but 24 hours ago there were fires across the country. There was some sporadic violence, some looting. Give us a sense as to what was going on in the late hours this evening just a few hours ago.
NED COLT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, David, I think it has calmed down overnight, but it continued into the darkness here Friday night and Saturday morning here. We had reports that in the two days—or almost two days since the assassination of these 27 people who have been killed, a couple of them, at least police officers, and there are ongoing clashes between police and rioters. As I mentioned, they continue on into the evening.
But demonstrators are striking not only targets typically. That would be banks, post offices, police stations, and media reports are saying that at least 200 banks have been attacked nationwide. Now the government has sent troops into the streets, and some of these worst hit cities to support police, and some of those troops reportedly been given shoot-to-kill orders at this point.
And the government has not re-imposed a state of emergency but certainly that could be an option if the situation worsens, David.
SHUSTER: And Ned, there‘s a lot of concern, of course, here in the United States about the fragility of Musharraf‘s government. Are you picking up any indications that it is starting to crack, or does it seem as if Musharraf is doing just fine as far as keeping his power intact?
COLT: As long as he‘s got the military behind him, David, the perception is that he‘s going to be able to stay in power, but the next few days are clearly critical here to see whether the rioting can be controlled. Clearly, here you want to consider a Pakistan chaos—a nuclear-armed nation in chaos here, but he does have support among the military at this point, and so if he can keep them behind him, the thought is that there should not be problems, at least in the short-term.
SHUSTER: And Ned, Musharraf is pushing—at least appears to be pushing to go ahead with elections. The Bush administration is also encouraging him to have those parliamentary elections, although as he reported the opposition leader Sharif is opposed to that. Where does that stand tonight?
COLT: Well, they‘re still scheduled for January, but the government is saying its canvassing leading political parties here to determine whether those elections should be postponed. At least one leading party is threatening a boycott if they‘re held. And when you also have one of the largest political figures in recent memory, and I‘m speaking of Benazir Bhutto, assassinated just a couple of days ago, two weeks ahead of an election, a very important election here in which there was supposed to be a power-sharing government coming out of it, there‘s no one who‘s ready to step into her shoes.
So I think that there is going to be a big push to try to postpone the elections at least for—it will have to be weeks if not months, but clearly, that may be met with some amount of anger on the part of a number of people here.
SHUSTER: NBC‘s Ned Colt reporting from Islamabad. Ned, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
And as you just saw with those pictures and as Ned just indicated, the rage and grief across Pakistan is still powerful and gripping. Deep emotions and incredible sadness continue to hang in the air across Pakistan, and today we found no better example of it all than an interview conducted by our MSNBC and NPR colleague and friend Alison Stewart. She spoke with Bhutto‘s press secretary, Farah Ispahani, minutes after Bhutto died. Ispahani was talking about Bhutto‘s sacrifice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NPR‘S “BRYANT PARK PROJECT”)
FARAH ISPAHANI, BENAZIR BHUTTO‘S PRESS SECRETARY: She came back to fight these forces of extremism. She came back to try and bring Pakistan back to where it was a secular democracy. People like myself left our homes and left families and joined her. The army killed her father. Her brothers were assassinated, and, yet she came back. She came back for this country. She was a rare daughter from the soil of Pakistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: We‘ll be back after this.
SHUSTER: Democratic presidential candidates are talking tough about Pakistan and even tougher when it comes to each other‘s policies. Who‘s taking aim at who now? That‘s just ahead.
SHUSTER: The great news from Pakistan has become an issue in the Democratic presidential nomination battle, and today Senator Chris Dodd took aim at the Democratic frontrunners Obama and Clinton stating that their level of experience in foreign policy is a problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: Well, I say this respectfully, not just about Barack, but I think also about Hillary Clinton as well here. We‘re talking about situations where just having been around these issues is not enough, and they remind us on days like this that you want a person in that chair that can handle the unexpected event that is put us at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen as well as former special assistant to President Bush and Republican strategist Ron Christie.
Ron and Hilary, thank you both for coming in. To the.
RON CHRISTIE, FORMER SPECIAL ASST. TO PRES. BUSH: Hi, David.
SHUSTER: Good to see you.
To the extent that Biden and Dodd and some of these others who have been around foreign policy experience are benefiting from the news, doesn‘t that hurt both Hilary and Obama?
HILARY ROSEN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you would think that it would help them rather than hurt Hillary and Obama. But, you know, it turns out that in the polls in Iowa and in all the early primary states, when voters are asked about who they trust on foreign policy and the kinds of experience they‘re looking for, Hillary is polling pretty well still, but, you know, events like this should be a boost to people like Richardson and Biden and Dodd, but so far in the last couple of days it doesn‘t seem to be.
SHUSTER: Well, Ron, here‘s a free shot for you. What did you think of Chris Dodd‘s criticism there of Hillary and Barack?
CHRISTIE: Well, David, I think he is right. I think that at this time of terrorism and when the United States is waging a war on terrorism, Americans were reminded yesterday that the world is still a very dangerous place, but I‘m very disturbed, frankly, by the level of partisan politics that‘s going on with this unfortunate situation. I had lunch today with a Islamic ambassador from the region, very prominent ambassador, and he told me at lunch today that he was very put off that these candidates were seeking to use the assassination of a political leader for partisan political advantage here in the United States.
SHUSTER: I‘m not sure—so sure, though.
ROSEN: I don‘t think you see.
SHUSTER: Yes. I‘m going to—Hillary, I want to get your reaction, and Ron, to something because I‘m not sure it‘s politics. There are clear policy differences as far as how to deal with Musharraf. For example, there was Bill Richardson breaking away from the Democratic field essentially saying that Musharraf must go. He was then criticized for that policy statement last night by Chris Dodd. Richardson then responded and then Dodd hit him again. Watch this. We‘ll get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MORNING JOE”)
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: I think, you know, he is in the Senate, and the Senate doesn‘t do much about what we‘re—what‘s happening in Pakistan, so, you know, I‘m not surprised at his criticism. I was U.N. ambassador. I went to Pakistan. I went to Afghanistan. And what you need to do as a president that is decisive.
DODD: Well, decisive leadership does not call for a vacuum in Pakistan. Who is going to have their finger on that button when Musharraf goes? If you can‘t answer that question, you better be careful about suggesting that he ought to leave and somebody else will assume responsibility here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Ron, that‘s a legitimate policy disagreement, isn‘t it?
CHRISTIE: Absolutely it is, and I think the policy disagreements that the ambassador has specifically raised to me was two issues. One, Senator Clinton apparently releasing a picture with herself and her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, when they had met Prime Minister Bhutto when they had gone over to the region, and the second, of course, was John Edwards going out and saying that he had placed a call to Musharraf and he had gotten his call through.
I think when you listen to Senator Dodd, I thought his commentary and you listen to Governor Richardson, I thought their commentary was right on the mark, but I think what ambassador said that he disagreed with, which I agree with, is that you should not have folks putting out pictures or saying, oh, I got a call through just to make it look like they‘re the strongest leaders.
SHUSTER: And yet, Hilary Rosen, I mean, Musharraf did return the call to John Edwards, or for whatever reason, he felt highly enough with John Edwards to talk to him. What‘s wrong with that?
ROSEN: Well, and I think Musharraf is playing it safe. He—you know, there—he‘s getting criticized by the Republican presidential candidates as well. Let‘s not forget that John McCain is really the only candidate in the last 24 hours who came out in strong support of Musharraf. The others have been much more lukewarm about this. So I don‘t think actually this is a partisan issue by any means. I think everybody is sort of trying to distinguish their own leadership here.
And, by the way, I don‘t think it‘s about politics. I think you‘re right, David. It is policy. It‘s kind of the first big issue in this campaign, as voters are really focusing on the election in the next several weeks. It‘s the first time that these candidates have had the chance to react to a very current foreign policy issue.
SHUSTER: And you know, for a while I thought that Bill Richardson was actually doing pretty well, sort of articulating a policy difference that certainly set him apart, but when I saw Chris Dodd hammering him and saw these sort of points that they had today, you know, I almost felt like, well, Chris Dodd, in a way, is helping Hillary and Barack Obama because their policy position is not quite as out there, not quite as distinct as what Bill Richardson has.
But, in any case, Ron, what‘s the overall impact on the Democratic race? Is this a story that sticks around for a while, or do Iowa voters tend to forget about it after a couple of days and move on back to some of the domestic issues and back to issues like Iraq?
CHRISTIE: I think it will remain to be seen, David. I think it‘s a critical time right now in Pakistan. What will happen, will we continue to have more riots? Will there be more unrest around the country? Or, as we head into January 3rd, will the political situation stabilize?
I think people on the ground in Iowa and people around the United States are looking at these Democratic candidates perhaps anew. You know, we‘ve spent so much time focusing on gasoline prices and a lot of the domestic issues. This unfortunate incident puts a lot of the international issues right back in the front page and on the consciousness of people‘s minds. I think they‘re going to look to see which candidate has the best experience to fight very difficult times abroad.
SHUSTER: And, Hilary, as far as how this has played with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, there was some criticism of Barack Obama yesterday that when he first spoke about this, he seemed kind of stiff, whereas there was Hillary Clinton being able to at least talk about her personal relationship with Benazir Bhutto and her children there. How did all this play out?
ROSEN: Well, I think it‘s clear and—that Hillary Clinton had a personal reaction to the assassination. She did know Bhutto and had met with her several times over the years, whereas Obama didn‘t. So that‘s sort of natural. I think this is really an issue, though, that‘s not about Iowa. I mean, it‘s not going to be dramatically different in the next five days, but it could be dramatically different in the next five or six weeks. So you have a series of primaries that will be affected by this.
I think conventional wisdom is that it helps Hillary Clinton, but I have to say that John Edwards, I think, looks pretty strong here, too. Obviously, the person that it hurts the most is Barack Obama because that‘s when voters start to think, again, who do we want sitting in the chair? It‘s what the Clinton campaign wants people to think about. And it‘s now what the Edwards campaign wants people to think about.
SHUSTER: Hillary Rosen and Ron Christie, you‘re staying with us.
Coming up, there has been some great news on the Republican side. Great if you love politics.
And coming up, it involves John McCain. The summer he was practically written off in the Republican campaign, but now he‘s gaining momentum, and Mitt Romney is taking notice.
Plus, the big challenges, real solutions. That‘s the new campaign slogan for Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign. But what happened to ready for change? Ready to lead or working for change, working for you?
You‘re watching MSNBC. And our slogan remains, the place for politics.
SHUSTER: And welcome back. Across the country, most Americans know Rudy Giuliani because of his (INAUDIBLE) and leading presence on 9/11 and on the weeks that followed. Now most voters in Iowa and New Hampshire know Giuliani for other things, and they don‘t like what they see.
So on the campaign trail, Giuliani has a new ad focused on, you guessed it, 9/11. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: And during the day of September 11th, living through the things that I saw and observed, immediately when I saw the people helping each other, and I saw the picture of the firefighters putting the flag up, I said these the children and the grandchildren, and the great grand children of the greatest generation. They have the same resolve, the same understanding. When you challenge Americans, there is no country that stands up stronger and better than the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Back with us again our MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, as well as former special assistant to President Bush and Republican strategist Ron Christie.
Ron, doesn‘t that ad just prove that the only thing Rudy Giuliani has going for him right now are the memories that people have of September 11th?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think Mayor Giuliani‘s greatest strength is also his greatest weakness, which, of course, that he was America‘s mayor and he was a very decisive have leader on 9/11, but I think people around the country are looking and saying what else is there? It was a very nice ad, I thought. It was a very illustrative ad, but I think it raises questions in people‘s minds of what else does the mayor have to offer? What is he going offer on domestic issues?
So while you might think that he might have gotten a plus out of what just happened in Pakistan, I think it only reinforces some of his weaknesses that perhaps he‘s just America‘s mayor from 9/11.
SHUSTER: And Hilary, we sometimes forget that Ground Zero was a burial ground, and when you use those images, a lot of people may think of it as rather crass and inappropriate. Does it cross the line to use imagery of 9/11 in a political ad?
ROSEN: Well, you know, that‘s in the eye of the beholder. I think, you know, George Bush used it pretty effectively in his re-election campaign, despite being roundly criticized for it by, you know, families of the victims in New York. So I think it has the potential to work. I think Rudy Giuliani‘s problem is closer to what Ron said, which isn‘t so much who -- what else does he have. It‘s that everything else he has is something that Republican primary voters don‘t want, and, you know, if he could get past the Republican primary, that might be all right, but I just don‘t see that happening in this environment.
SHUSTER: It‘s also opening the door for an attack. I mean, an interesting attack from John McCain. There was John McCain in Iowa yesterday saying about 9/11, it‘s “not the credential to address national security issues. As far as I know, Mayor Giuliani has never been to Iraq.”
Ron, is does seem like an effective attack from McCain, right?
CHRISTIE: It‘s a pretty hardcore attack. I think that‘s right. And I think that, you know, we spoke at the last segment about the Democrats and how this would play out for them. For the Republicans I think it plays into the hands of someone like Senator McCain, also someone like former Governor Mitt Romney, and people who have stressed their international credentials and their experience. But there‘s clearly no one out there who is running who has more practical on-the-ground experience than Senator McCain both for his time in the Navy as well as being in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
SHUSTER: And that brings up a fascinating attack ad that Mitt Romney has just released that targets John McCain. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)
MITT ROMNEY ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: I‘m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain, an honorable man, but is he the right Republican for the future? McCain opposes repeal of the death tax and voted against the Bush tax cuts twice. McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently, even voted to allow illegals to collect Social Security.
And Mitt Romney? Mitt Romney cut taxes and spending as governor. He opposes amnesty for illegals. Mitt Romney, John McCain. There is a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: I always love when the music goes from sort of dark and gloomy at the beginning to upbeat and positive at the end. That ad is misleading, though, in half a dozen ways. But, Hilary, is the ad effective or does it back firing on Mitt Romney, especially in New Hampshire where McCain is a beloved figure in many corners?
ROSEN: Well, Mitt Romney is so obviously grasping at straws. It‘s getting kind of pathetic, you know. He is running ads against Mike Huckabee in Iowa and running ads against John McCain in New Hampshire, and I predict that he‘s going to get beaten by both of those guys in those states. And every time he goes after somebody else, it seems to me that it just reminds voters of his own spotty and kind of hypocritical record on so many of these issues.
If he wants to keep going backwards on where people were before, this table is going to turn, and there have been enough instances for Mitt Romney that I think all he is doing is reminding voters that they should go back and look at his record. He should be much more positive and much more forward thinking in his presentation. I think that‘s why he was doing well earlier in this campaign and he doesn‘t seem to have been able to get past that.
CHRISTIE: And, David, here‘s where I have a disagreement with Hillary. I think that this is exactly the right thing for Governor Romney to have done. Governor Romney is running very close in New Hampshire. He‘s reminding people of the Bush tax cuts that Senator McCain opposed. He did that in a very positive manner. I think if you look at some of the issues, immigration, tax cuts, people in Iowa, people in New Hampshire want a conservative leader, and this reminds people that Governor Romney, at least as hitting McCain for what is perceived as being somewhat liberal, I don‘t disagree—I disagree with Hilary because I think it was a very smart tactic to take.
SHUSTER: But Ron, I‘m going to agree with you for once. I do think that voters in New Hampshire are a little bit hardier as far as the dealing with attack ads than it might be in Iowa. But nonetheless, I‘ll also agree with Hilary to a certain extent that it does show, I think, that Romney is grasping at straws and somebody trying to beat down.
CHRISTIE: So what‘s the difference?
SHUSTER: What‘s the difference?
In any case, Ron and Hilary are staying with us.
John Edwards, coming up, makes it a three-way race in Iowa. He‘s in a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Up next we will bring you a live report from inside the Edwards campaign.
And later, Bill Clinton implemented the military‘s Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell policy, and Hillary Clinton appears to have a similar policy, but for her it‘s just don‘t ask. Why won‘t she answer questions now on the campaign trail?
This is MSNBC.
SHUSTER: Still to come, Clinton, Obama or Edwards. Who will win the three-way contest in Iowa? We‘ll take you inside the Hawkeye state in just a moment. But first, here‘s a look at your headlines.
(MSNBC “UP TO THE MINUTE”)
SHUSTER: Welcome back. With just six days until the Iowa caucuses, the Democrats running for president woke up to the news today that the nomination race in the Hawkeye state appears to be a dead heat. According to the “Los Angeles Times”-Bloomberg poll, Hillary Clinton is the choice of 29 percent of likely caucus goers, Obama 26, and John Edwards, 25. The latest numbers have added even more drama to the stretch run in Iowa, in part because whoever wins Iowa will almost certainly get a bounce in the New Hampshire primaries five days later.
And the latest poll from New Hampshire shows Obama at 32 percent, Clinton 30, and John Edwards at 18. Despite all of the attention and intrigue over Obama and Clinton, clearly, John Edwards remains in the hunt for the nomination. So we go first to the Edwards campaign.
Tricia Miller of NBC News and “The National Journal” covering John Edwards for us, and she joins us by phone in Tipton, Iowa.
And, Tricia, we‘ve heard a lot about John Edwards talking about wanting to fight to change things and trying to draw a contrast with Obama who Edwards says will simply negotiate. How did that message play out from Edwards today?
TRICIA MILLER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Edwards, as you know, continues to talk about the need to fight the Washington lobbyists and those special interests. He emphasizes that (INAUDIBLE) politicians or what Congress. But the special interest (INAUDIBLE) where are so (INAUDIBLE) in Washington. And that‘s something—I have been on the trail for four months, and that‘s something that he‘s been saying all long, but lately it‘s become a dig on Obama where he talks about how this isn‘t something that (INAUDIBLE) that‘s very practical.
SHUSTER: And Tricia, tell me a little bit about the crowds and how Edwards is being received. Are you noticing that the crowds are getting bigger, more enthusiastic, or are things staying about the same?
MILLER: Yes, the crowds are actually getting bigger, but while we were traveling was this one campaign, it‘s hard to tell if the crowds are getting bigger, because people are more enthusiastic about Edwards or they‘re just more enthusiastic about the caucus in general. But they are more enthusiastic in about everything he said. He has a part at the end of his speech now that‘s been there for about a couple of weeks where he talks about America rising. He talks about triumphing over people who don‘t have health care and people who are living on the streets and that almost always gets a standing ovation at the end of the speech.
SHUSTER: Tricia Miller, covering the Edwards campaign. Tricia, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
SHUSTER: Athena Jones of NBC News and “The National Journal” has been covering the Clinton campaign for us. She joins us live by phone from the press bus heading from Webster City to Mason City, Iowa.
And Athena, give us a sense about the tone today from the Clinton campaign.
ATHENA JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the tone today remains—at least in her closing arguments combining change, experience and also a little bit of her softer side. She added today a little bit to talk about her foreign policy credentials, and, again, spent several minutes in her first speech here in Story City talking about what happened with—in Pakistan with Benazir Bhutto and about saying, “If you want know the changes I‘ll make, look at the changes I have made.” It goes on to list several things she‘s done around the world sort of show her experience and also her foreign policy credentials.
SHUSTER: And Athena, I know that the Clinton campaign has been trying to get the media to focus a lot on the Obama health care plan and that problems that the Clinton campaign surrogates have with this. Have we heard any of that sort of criticism, though, from Hillary Clinton herself today?
JONES: Not much. She has a part in her speech that she—I didn‘t actually hear it today, but she says on a regular basis, “Who should I leave out of a health care plan? Should I leave out this nurse I met in waterloo? Should I leave out this couple that I met in another city?” She said—she emphasizes that some plans leave people out. She doesn‘t (INAUDIBLE) by name, and—but she emphasizes some sort of (INAUDIBLE) and that her plan would not do that.
SHUSTER: And Athena, real quickly, 10 seconds, what‘s the mood, what‘s the atmosphere been like as far as the crowds covering Clinton?
JONES: The crowds are enthusiastic. It‘s hard to tell if.
SHUSTER: OK. Athena Jones covering the Clinton campaign. Athena, thank you very much.
Before we get to our reporter covering the Obama campaign, I want to play a clip that she first identified for us this afternoon at a speech today in Iowa. Obama cranked up his rhetoric in a reference to Hillary Clinton. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My experience is grounded in understanding how the world sees America from living overseas and traveling overseas and having family beyond our shores, and it‘s that experiences, that understanding, not just a what world leaders I went and talked to and the ambassador‘s house, who I had tea with, but understanding the lives of people like my grandmother who lives in a tiny village in Africa.
SHUSTER: Having tea with the ambassadors. Aswini Aburajan was there when Obama delivered those remarks. She joins us by phone from Clinton, Iowa. Did Obama mean to say that Hillary Clinton‘s foreign policy experience is limited to simply drinking tea with foreign dignitaries?
ASWINI ABURAJAN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It certainly sounded like it, David. He has been cranking up the rhetoric all day. If the conventional wisdom says that you should rise above the fray in the last week before the caucuses, Obama isn‘t taking it. He went after Clinton today. He went after John Edwards. And the comment may have been made in jest because the crowd was large and he was playing to it, but he made the comment, and it was belittling her foreign policy experience.
SHUSTER: And Aswina, how is the Obama crowd that is going to these events, how are they receiving Obama right now, and were there—was there laughter, chuckles when Obama made the tea reference?
ABURAJAN: The tea reference was taken pretty seriously. I didn‘t—the crowd didn‘t burst out laughing like they do sometimes when he talks about change in Washington, but the crowd was large. It was enthusiastic. It was more than 900 people there. You could barely breathe in this gymnasium. So people were tuned in. There were a lot of undecideds. And, you know, all these attacks are unnamed. And you would think that the audience gets who he‘s talking about, but—you know, earlier in the day he talked about bankruptcy bills. Do they know that it was reference John Edwards? I‘m not sure.
SHUSTER: And Aswini, any changes in the Obama schedule for the next couple of days that might reflect any sort of nervousness they have about how this is going?
ABURAJAN: No, I don‘t—there aren‘t any changes. It‘s just jam-packed. And I think that more than anything that they sense the urgency of the moment that he‘s talking about, that it‘s now or never for them. They need to make a closing argument, they need to draw the differences, because this is their chance. They have to win Iowa.
SHUSTER: Aswini Aburajan covering the Obama campaign. Thanks, Aswini. We appreciate it very much. Thanks also to Athena Jones and also Tricia Miller.
Hilary Rosen and Ron Christie are back with us, and I want to get your reaction, first, Ron, to the comment that Obama made about Hillary Clinton and drinking tea with dignitaries. Is that a problem?
CHRISTIE: Well, I don‘t know. I think it‘s the gloves are coming off now. I don‘t know so much if it‘s a problem, but if I‘m Senator Obama, I would think I‘m sitting in the driver‘s seat. Senator Clinton‘s numbers have been plummeting in Iowa for the last several months, and unlike a primary, David, where you and I might go and cast our ballot, a caucus is a situation where voters will go in and they literally in a school or another building will stand on the side of the room of that candidate that they‘re supporting. Where this gets very important is who‘s going to go for second place?
In other words, if you are thrown in with, say, Chris Dodd, and Chris Dodd does not get enough of a percentage, who are you going to put your votes in behind? Are you going to vote for Hillary? I think she has a very, very solid base of those who are going to support her, but someone like Obama or somebody like John Edwards, those voters may be on the second ballot when they‘re looking who to cast their vote for. It goes very much in their favor and so Senator Clinton, I think, is in a world of trouble heading into Iowa.
SHUSTER: Except that, my experience, Ron, has been that Iowa voters tend to punish people who are perceived as going too negative at the end, as evidenced by Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean four years ago. But, Hilary, maybe I‘m wrong. What‘s your take on that?
ROSEN: Well, I—you‘re right. That is a history of the downside of
negative campaigning in Iowa, but I would just go back to, you know, this -
as we get ready for the weekend here, first of all, nobody deserves more credit than the advanced people from the presidential campaigns who have to fill these holes on New Year‘s weekend for event after event after event when people in Iowa would just as soon actually go celebrate New Year‘s.
SHUSTER: That‘s right.
ROSEN: But when we look at Iowa, that was really never a must-win state for Hillary Clinton. It‘s clearly a must-win state for John Edwards. Maybe not so much for Obama either. I think you‘ve got to look at Iowa, New Hampshire, and then you‘ve got to look at Michigan as being relevant. Michigan—people haven‘t talked about Michigan in days, but Michigan actually will deliver in the second week of January more delegates than Iowa and New Hampshire put together.
SHUSTER: Well, before—Hilary.
ROSEN: And Edwards and Obama aren‘t even playing there. So I really think you have to look at these next two weeks as a package and not focus so much on Iowa that way.
SHUSTER: OK. Hilary Rosen and Ron Christy, we appreciate it very much.
And just ahead, if you think that Hillary Clinton‘s campaign message has been a bit muddled and confusing, you‘re not alone.
And later, the enthusiasm for politics in Iowa this weekend continues to be expressed in some unusual ways. One way is with a standard cooking ingredient, and, no, it‘s not spam. Trust me. You will want to see this one.
SHUSTER: Hillary Clinton makes a last minute push to win over support in Iowa. Will voters get the message or will it get lost in all the other messages her campaign seems to be pumping our?
SHUSTER: Throughout this presidential primary battle, Hillary Clinton‘s campaign has been massive, well organized and well financed. Her campaign has also been extremely aggressive in trying to advance her cause through slogans and we‘re not just talking a few.
Just over the last week, there has been big challenges, real solutions, time to pick a president, ready for change, ready to lead, working for change, working for you, the Hillary I know, every county counts, I have switched to Hillary. Earlier this year it was I‘m in to win, let the conversation begin, four corners tour, and making history. The campaign has also tried to use Mrs. Clinton‘s first name. There is the Clinton news Web site Hillhub, the Hill-o-copter aircraft, many people call Hill-raisers, Campaign Hill blazers and a bus known as Hill on Wheels.
As a brilliant “Washington Post” friend and colleague Dana Milbank reported today, Hill on Wheels got stuck this week on a real hill covered in ice. As Dana wrote, “With things threatening to go to hill in a hand basket, Clinton‘s hill bent aims worked to free her from the hillacious metaphor.” Eventually the candidate rolled on free to, as her campaign put it, give them hill.
Joining us again is my favorite hill is Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen and Republican strategist Ron.
What the hill is going on here, Christie?
CHRISTIE: Right again, Shuster.
SHUSTER: Well, here‘s my—I guess you know, and it‘s a two-part question. Ron, you first. Is Hillary Clinton‘s campaign message muddled and does it matter?
CHRISTIE: Yes, and yes, it does matter. I think one thing that Senator Clinton has confused a lot of voters on, first, she‘s for change. Hillary, vote for change. Then it‘s vote for Hillary. Vote for experience. Which is it? You can‘t be a very good change agent if you have a lot of experience, particularly with the Clinton administration. You look at one specific example. The Clinton administration has been very, very reluctant to release the correspondence, to release some of the records that the first lady had when she was in the White House.
Yet, she‘s touting all this experience, and, yet, now she‘s going to change. So I think she‘s had a muddled message, and I think it might very well be a factor going into the next couple of weeks.
SHUSTER: Hillary, does it—has it been muddled and does it matter?
ROSEN: Well, I think it has been a little muddled. But it‘s not true that she‘s held back on her White House records. That‘s been the Congress doing that and the National Archives doing that.
CHRISTIE: She has not released all that.
ROSEN: But what I think has happened is when they started this vote for change, the message was about change from the current administration, but I think what Obama has successfully done over the course of this campaign is sort of paint Hillary Clinton as the incumbent rather than as a challenger, and once that successfully occurred, then you really have to get to, oh, well, is it not an incumbency issue, it‘s really an experience issue and what voters are consistently saying in the polls, they like about her is that they believe that she won‘t be rattled, that she‘ll be an effective commander-in-chief that she has that experience.
So I think that they‘re now finding that they needed to come full circle and go back to it‘s her experience, it‘s that sense of steadfastness that is going to be her best closing sell.
SHUSTER: But one of the things that.
ROSEN: But I do think that the Obama campaign was successful in rattling that for a couple of months.
SHUSTER: Well, one of the things that‘s keeping Hillary Clinton as opposed from getting rattled is the fact that her campaign, at least until today, was not allowing people at some of these town halls to ask her any more questions. So they‘re certainly controlling the message, but I suppose it‘s smart politics.
Before we let you go, I want to ask you a little bit about Mike Huckabee. There is something of a gaff today when he was on “Morning Joe” talking about the issue in Pakistan, and he raised a lot of questions with sort of his understanding of geography. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: We ought to have an immediate very clear monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there‘s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country. We just need to be very, very thorough in looking at every aspect of our own security internally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Now, it‘s—I suppose it‘s—there‘s a question about whether -
I mean, I suppose it‘s controversial about whether or not you should suddenly stop Pakistanis from crossing the border. That‘s one issue.
SHUSTER: But as far as the actual region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, listen to what Huckabee said here. Watch.
OK. We don‘t have it, but essentially what he said is that he said that the crucial border with Pakistan is in eastern Pakistan along the Afghan border, and the problem with that is that, as you both know, that the crucial region is to the west, the western part of Pakistan along the Afghan border.
Ron, does Mike Huckabee have a sort of an integrity—not integrity but sort of a knowledge problem or a lightness to that‘s catching up with him?
CHRISTIE: Well, I cannot resist, David. This goes to another one of those what the hill is going on? I think as people are headed into Iowa and New Hampshire, the greatest thing that you want to do is make sure thaw don‘t have a gaff like this in the campaign trail.
Governor Huckabee‘s greatest weakness, in my opinion, is his foreign policy record or foreign policy experience, and then to go out right after this assassination of the former prime minister and confuse where—you know, different areas in the country is one thing, but bringing Pakistanis into the border and tightening our borders and Pakistanis, it just seemed like a very strange message to say on the eve of the Iowa caucus.
SHUSTER: And, Hilary, as we put up the poll of where things stand, according to Bloomberg and “The L.A. Times” poll, it‘s got Huckabee at 37, Mitt Romney at 23, and John McCain at 11. It would seem to me that John McCain is rising, and to the extent that if Huckabee takes a dive here at the end, I have a feeling that Iowa voters, Republicans have already made up their mind that they don‘t like Mitt Romney and they still could be shopping around.
But in any case, we‘re out of time because I filibustered. Hilary Rosen, Democratic strategy, and Ron Christie, Republican strategist, both friends of the show, thank you both for joining us today. Have a great weekend.
ROSEN: Have a good weekend, David.
CHRISTIE: Happy New Year.
SHUSTER: Happy New Year.
Move over Miss Piggy, there is a Mighty Mouse looking to steal your spotlight. Are you ready for the year of the rat? Bill Wolff explains after this.
ANNOUNCER: TUCKER is sponsored in part by.
SHUSTER: Now the segment you‘ve all been waiting for. I know you hate that intro. Bill Wolff.
BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT FOR PRIMETIME: I just don‘t think it‘s true. I just think it‘s a little bit false advertising, David. I try to be truthful with the viewers.
SHUSTER: Well, I have been waiting for that.
WOLFF: I appreciate your courtesy. I really do.
David, the world keeps turning in spite of itself, and that means the Christian calendar turns from 2007 to 2008 at midnight Monday no matter what, and in Japan that means the year of the pig is about over and we‘re moving into the year of the rat. And there‘s an official ceremony involving official people, the official pig, and the official rat. The rat is the little gray guy.
According to the Internet, people born in the year of the rat are charming, honest, ambitious, and have tremendous capacity for pursuing a course to its end. They will work hard for their goals. They are easily angered, but they maintain an outward show of control.
Now, here in New York, it‘s always the year of the rat. While in New Jersey, the year of the rat is generally followed by the year of witness protection followed by the year of indictments. A little mafia humor for you.
SHUSTER: Sometimes can include rats.
WOLFF: Always. That‘s the whole point of rats. The state of New Jersey, although I love the state of New Jersey. I‘m married to the state of New Jersey, man.
A recent “USA Today”-Gallup poll, David, revealed that President Bush is the most admired man and Hillary Clinton the most admired woman in America right now. But that don‘t mean much at the old airport magazine stand where those people, Brad and Angelina, are the ones who matter.
Get this, of the last 52 glossy editions of “Life & Style” and “In Touch” magazines, Brangelina and their growing brood of adorable children from every corner of the globe were on the cover 86.53 percent and 78.85 percent of the time. Credit to the media snort site Jossip for doing the research and credit “Life & Style” and “In Touch” for their keen understandings of our lives and styles and for being in touched with our needs, David, as consumers of schlock.
SHUSTER: Imagine the poor kid who had to stand months compiling that research.
WOLFF: Well, it‘s either that or he sat there for about 10 minutes and flipped through them and said, “You know, January 1st, January 8th.” I like your story better. Some poor kid in the corner researching it. Also, I do that research myself for pleasure.
David, I have some red meat politics for you now, or more accurately, some rich creamery butter politics. “Dateline,” Toledo, Iowa, where Barack Obama supporter Norma Lion crafted a delicious high-cholesterol bust in Senator Barack Obama‘s image. Miss Lion is best known in butter sculpting circles for her full size butter cow seen each of 48 -- 46 straight years at the Iowa State Fair.
Now, she retired from bovine rendering in 2006 and said about this year to honor Obama. She did it with a mere 23 pounds of fattening flavor. She unveiled the statue at a middle school auditorium there in Toledo where it melted only slightly under the hot middle school auditorium lights generally reserved for the production of “Oklahoma.”
Obama thanked her and gave her a hug for the tribute, but he apparently worried slightly that she made his ears too big. She said she had to be true to her art. And we all know—I know especially, the truth hurts, David.
SHUSTER: I—you know, how does memory of Barack Obama not wanting to visit the butter cow when he was at the Iowa State Fair?
WOLFF: Remember he went with his wife and children, and they ate a turkey leg and they had, you know, an onion blossom and all that. Really didn‘t want to visit the butter cow. Apparently not. So we‘ll have to check that, I don‘t know for sure. But back in the early days of this very fine program we did a special report on the butter sculptures, and there was a butter sculpted ice cream cone which is like a statue of gold made out of platinum. It‘s so good. Butter made ice cream. It‘s too good, David.
I‘m getting distracted. I‘ve got serious work to do.
WOLFF: It is time, David, because it is our final show of the calendar year 2007 for our selection for the best random video of the Internet of the year. And here it is. It‘s that poor schleper(ph) trying to—oh, what happened there? He was just working on his glutes when disaster strikes. Look at that. It‘s painful. This first annual award serves a dual purpose tonight. First, we have a semi-legitimate excuse to look at this ridiculousness again, and, second we deliver a cautionary tale about New Year‘s resolutions.
If you plan to get in shape after all those happy years of getting doughy, watching cable news instead of going to the gym, be warned. If you‘re not careful, it‘s not worth it. Stay fat and happy, friends, and have a genuinely happy new year, David Shuster.
SHUSTER: Bill, you are the best. And you know, this is the time of year when shows like this do what‘s called a credit roll. Well, we‘re not going to do that, but I would like to publicly take this opportunity to thank the people who work regularly for this show. We‘ve got Jamieson Lesko and Alexis Vena, our producers.
WOLFF: She‘s incredible. Amazing. Truly amazing.
SHUSTER: We‘ve got Bill Wolff, executive producer, vice president, and our friend and colleague Tucker Carlson.
WOLFF: The great Tucker.
SHUSTER: .who‘s the host of this show. He will be back next week. I‘m David Shuster. On behalf of all of us here at the TUCKER show, have a great New Year‘s. But don‘t go anywhere just yet because my friend and colleague Chris Matthews has a heck of a show coming up on “HARDBALL” and that starts right now.
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