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'Meet the Press' transcript for Jan. 20, 2008

Transcript of the Jan. 13, 2008 broadcast of NBC's 'Meet the Press,' featuring presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, NBC's Tom Brokaw and NPR's Michele Norris.

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Senator John McCain wins the Republican South Carolina primary. In Nevada, it's Romney for the GOP and Clinton for the Democrats. What now? A look at the candidates, the issues, the strategies. With us: Tom Brokaw of NBC News, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, Peggy Noonan, columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Michele Norris, host of NPR's "All Things Considered."

But first, let's look at the results from last night's voting. First, the South Carolina Republicans. John McCain, 33 percent; Mike Huckabee, 30; Fred Thompson, 16; Mitt Romney, 15; Ron Paul, 4; Rudy Giuliani, 2. McCain wins 19 of 24 delegates.

In Nevada for the Republicans, Romney, 51; Ron Paul, 14; John McCain, 13; Mike Huckabee, 8; Thompson, 8; Giuliani, 4. Romney wins 17 of the 31 delegates.

And in Nevada for the Democrats, it was Clinton, 51; Obama, 45; Edwards, 4. According to the Associated Press, Obama wins 13 delegates, Clinton 12 because of the proportional way they are distributed. The Clinton campaign is contesting that. To be continued on the delegate count from Nevada.

Let's start with the Republicans. Tom Brokaw, John McCain wins South Carolina. A week from Tuesday he goes to Florida. Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney at least all lying in wait.

MR. TOM BROKAW: You know, what it reminds me of now, Tim, is that in rural America, they have these quarter-mile dirt tracks and they have wreck-'em derbies, and they put all the cars on the track at the same time and they run into each other until there's just one car standing. I think we've got a wreck-'em derby going on in the Republican Party right now.

I've just gotten back from Florida. Rudy Giuliani's ads on the air don't mention terrorism. He's the man who reduced the corporate taxes in the city of New York, created new jobs, reduced crime and also took a lot of people off the welfare rolls. So this election on the Republican side now is changing, both in tone and in content, and it seems to me that John McCain, who I suspect everyone around this table shared my views six months ago, that he was down for the count...


MR. BROKAW: ...has made an astonishing comeback, and people are looking for authenticity and it may be embodied by John McCain on the Republican side.

MR. RUSSERT: His own staff refers to him as Lazarus, the man who has risen from the dead.

Jon Meacham, here's your cover of Newsweek, an article by Michael Gerson.


MR. RUSSERT: "The Party's Over: A Dispirited GOP Struggles to Find Its Post-Bush Path." And Gerson's rather candid as to why he thinks there's a muddle now in the Republican primary fight. Let me read it for our panel here and for our viewers.

"The Republican Party, well into the primary process, lacks a unifying candidate.

"What caused the" Republicans' "unraveling? It began with the Bush administration itself. Through the intense experiences of" September 11, "Afghanistan and Iraq, the Republican Party became closely identified with President Bush - and President Bush became closely identified with Iraqi violence and chaos. The slow response to rising sectarian conflict in 2005 and '06 left an impression of stubbornness in a losing cause. Every element of the Republican coalition the president had offended during his political rise - budget hawks, anti-immigration activists, libertarian critics of compassionate conservatism - felt liberated and emboldened by Bush's weakness and reasserted their claim on the party's future. The president's embrace of the surge in Iraq has dramatically improved the situation - but the damage was done. The cracks in the Bush coalition began spreading."

Is that what we're watching?

MR. MEACHAM: I think so. I think that the Reagan coalition that became George W. Bush's in 2000 and 2004 has come to an end. It's an era of dominance that was--ran politics for 30 years in action and reaction. Ronald Reagan was the great figure, whether he was bringing Democrats closer to the center or inspiring Republicans to be his heir. You now have a situation where even the most establishment-looking candidate in the Republican primary is running against George Bush's Washington. Mitt Romney signs now say "Washington is broken." That does not sound as though it's someone who's running to succeed a president of his own party.


MR. RUSSERT: It is interesting, eight years ago when John McCain lost South Carolina to George W. Bush, he did not call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state Capitol, and it haunted him. He went back to South Carolina after that primary in 2000 and gave this speech.

(Videotape, April 19, 2000):

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I feared that if I answered honestly I could not win the South Carolina primary, so I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: This time he did not do that. Interestingly enough, it was Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who sought to inject the issue of the Confederate flag in the primary. Here was Huckabee on Thursday.

(Videotape, Thursday):

MR. MIKE HUCKABEE: If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell them where to put the pole. That's what we'd do.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: I never had a pastor talk like that, but that's a...

Peggy Noonan...


MR. RUSSERT: ...interesting how John McCain ran a different kind of race this time than he did in 2000.

MS. NOONAN: I'm not sure what you mean. In terms of his general approach in South Carolina to the folks down there? I think he was running this time as a grand old man of the party, a man you know, a man who backed Ronald Reagan, a man who has spoken for, in a way, Republican conservatism for a quarter century now. I think to some degree, to tell you the truth, he understood, and South Carolina itself understood, that they kind of owed him one, you know? They allowed him to be smeared, they'd given him a bad time in the year 2000, they decked him then, they knocked him out of the race. This time they picked him up and put him back in. So he was a different fellow, but it's a different age and he had different guys to be running against.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me throw one more issue on the table and get everyone involved here. The issue of evangelical Christians. They were 60 percent of the Republican voters yesterday--the way we've seen in Iowa, not quite as many in New Hampshire--but this time, Mike Huckabee did not win them overwhelmingly. He won a majority with 47 percent--43 percent, John McCain at 27 percent, Fred Thompson at 15 percent of them, indicating that Thompson could've been a spoiler to Huckabee and to help John McCain. But on Monday, Mike Huckabee gave a speech about the Constitution and religion, and this is what he said.

(Videotape, Monday):

MR. HUCKABEE: I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Michele, that speech received a lot of comment in the Republican Party in South Carolina.

MS. NORRIS: Yes, it did, and it spooked some of the--I just got back from South Carolina, by the way.


MS. NORRIS: And it spooked some of the evangelicals, the conservative Christians that we spoke to there. I mean, they're drawn to Mike Huckabee because the speaks their language, they like him personally, he's very, very charming. But people who were sort of on the fence, when he starts talking about amending the Constitution, they started to back away from him and that's where--that's one of his biggest dangers is that he's charming on the one hand, but he has almost a disinhibition when he gets on stage. He sort of says things that he later has to backtrack on. And if he does things like that where he alienates the Christian conservative base, it's bad news for him as he tries to go forward. If you listen to his concession speech last night, there are questions about where he might be able to win after South Carolina. He's not talking like a man who plans to step off the stage. He is having a lot of fun in this race, he is enjoying this moment. This is almost the wrong metaphor to use for a Baptist minister, bit's an almost eucharistic experience for him, and he's having too much fun to step off the stage.

So the question is, you know, we talk about the fractured--the fractured party at this point. Who among them is the person who can bring them all together? Is it Mike Huckabee? Is it John McCain, who still doesn't find that the conservative Christians embrace him? Is it Mike Huckabee who the country club conservatives look at him and say, "Ooh, I don't know if he's really the man for the White House." Is it Mitt Romney, who people still are perhaps not willing to embrace in part because he's flip-flopped on issues or in part because of his religious values. So it's really interesting going forward. It really--there's no clear choice for many people in the party.

MS. NOONAN: May I just throw in here that I think the Republicans have a tough time this year. The Democratic Party is trying to figure out of two candidates which one will take them to success, take them to the White House. The Republican Party is trying to refind its soul. And in looking at each state, at each of these guys, they're thinking "is this the guy who reflects what conservatism is--what modern conservatism is, what this party is, and the next day they think, "maybe it's this guy." It is a much tougher thing to find your soul than it is to find success. So I think the Republicans are really going to be struggling for a while.

I also think, Jon, I must say, I think what has happened with the conservative coalition is that it has been sundered. I think it was sundered by this administration from 2004 on through a series of decisions that were not just at odds with, but deeply defined of and rejecting of the feelings, thoughts and views of Republicans and conservatives. And to make it even worse, the Congress, when it was under Republican hands and now Democratic hands, was just as defiant, just as at odds with the feelings of so many people about what it is that is most reflective of conservatism in the Republican Party. So I think Republicans have taken a beating in a way and they--I mean, almost a psychic beating, and they are trying really hard to redefine and come back. It's going to be a tough job.

MR. RUSSERT: Doris Kearns Goodwin, we have four Republicans in a sense still standing in a viable way, as Peggy pointed out, trying to grab onto the soul of the Republican Party and define it in their own persona. Let me read this summary of the candidacies and then have you--give you a chance to reflect on the Republican race.

"The House that Reagan built is in danger of collapsing. The coalition of fiscal conservatives, national security conservatives, anti-tax activists and social conservatives that rallied behind Reagan in 1980 and has defined the Republican Party ever since is coming apart at the seams heading into the 2008 election.

All the men running for the party's presidential nomination ... offend at least one wing for the party enough that" they "find it difficult," "perhaps impossible, to pull the disparate elements of the old coalition together. ...

"John McCain of Arizona? ... He's criticized Bush tactics against suspected terrorists as torture, sided with the president in wanting to let illegal immigrants stay and earn citizenship and pushed a campaign-finance plan that curbed political speech. A lot of loyal Republicans think he's anything but Republican, and the party's influential echo chamber on talk radio hates him.

"Huckabee? ... He raised taxes as governor, wanted to let the children of illegal immigrants in Arkansas" "earn the same college aid as Arkansas-born children and called Bush's foreign policy `arrogant.' He turns off less-religious Republicans - he got 6 percent of the non-evangelical vote in New Hampshire's Republican primary. ... And talk radio big shots such as Rush Limbaugh think he's a liberal in preacher's clothes.

"Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney? ... Social conservatives are suspicious of his recent conversions on abortion and gay marriage. To some people, that leaves Romney with one foot in each camp, but grounded in neither.

"Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani? ... He supports abortion rights, gay marriage and gun control," "been married three times, and his private life falls short of Christian conservative ideals. Social conservatives such as James Dobson, the head of the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, say they'd bolt from the party if Giuliani is nominated."

That's what the Republican Party is dealing with right now.

MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: But I think for the Republican Party, the prospect of victory eventually may solve some of these divisions. I mean, clearly, each one of these primary candidates represents a particular piece of the Reagan coalition. Nobody has it all. My sense is, however, when we get closer to having a Democrat--suppose Hillary wins February 5, and they know who that opponent is, that that desire to win may somehow heal, if not the soul, the desire to look like the soul is healed.

And I think to some extent that McCain's strong suit is that he can appeal to independents; but even more that what he's really running on are his leadership attributes that go beyond his stance on the issues. Even when he said last night, "Thank you, South Carolina," it took a long while, eight years, but he was able to put that willing--willingness to put that past hurt behind him. What you mentioned earlier about the flag, to acknowledge that he pandered and made a mistake and was ashamed about it. We just came back from Vietnam, and I saw that prison where he was kept. And when I think about what he had to go through in this campaign, when somebody put out a pamphlet claiming that maybe he was betraying his fellow prisoners, and yet he rose above that again. He's a man who's stood for unpopular positions, even immigration. It mattered to these South Carolinians, and yet he didn't lose all of those votes. So I think the hope for the Republican Party is if he can put leadership attributes, stand by what you say on popular positions, tell the truth and somehow mush the issues so that people don't feel that great.


MS. GOODWIN: You're not as hopeful as that, I can tell.

MS. NOONAN: I don't think...

MR. BROKAW: No. I think...

MS. NOONAN: ...the Republicans are in a mood to mush the issues. They're going to have to work them out, is my view.

MS. GOODWIN: Well, then they're going to lose.

MS. NOONAN: However...

MS. GOODWIN: They're going to lose.

MS. NOONAN: ...fear of loss can concentrate the mind.


MS. NOONAN: And I think that's what you're saying.

MR. BROKAW: Well, I think, I think if there's a big thematic issue here in this election, it's the end of dogma, which has dominated so much of our politics in the last--well, since 1980, really. And people are rejecting dogma. As I see it, there's this kind of nomadic herd of voters out there wandering the landscape, looking for solutions, looking for a water hole, if you will, in which they can kind of resupply themselves and find solutions to the issues that really trouble them. It's going on in the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party. I was listening to Rush Limbaugh for an hour yesterday, who is determined to not have this campaign, as he put it, redefine conservatism. And one of the ditto heads, one of his followers, called and...

MR. MEACHAM: Ditto heads.

MR. BROKAW: ...said, "Well, help me out here. What do I think now about Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich?" And it's one of the few times I've ever heard Newt--ever heard Rush Limbaugh kind of temporarily at a loss for words. And he ended up saying that they're not true conservatives. And that debate is not going to help the Republican Party, if they if they get bogged down in that. The country is hungry for solutions...

MS. GOODWIN: Yeah. This is the mess the Democrats have got themselves into.

MR. BROKAW: ...and hungry for authenticity, and hungry for tone.

MS. NOONAN: You know what, Tom, I would agree, except I would add this. The, the country is hungry for sense in its leaders that they have thought it through, that they have a philosophy, that they've considered the relationship of man and of the state, and considered the moment of history we're in, that philosophically, they are coherent. That matters, too.

MR. BROKAW: I--there--that's, that's underlying.

MS. NOONAN: But I understand what you're saying about dogma, which is mere ideology, which is merely uninteresting. Philosophy's interesting, though, and counts, I think evermore this year.

MS. NORRIS: I, I just talking--you know, when you talk about this nomadic herd, I get the sense, after talking to a lot of conservative voters in South Carolina and repeatedly asking this question, "How do you define conservatism in this moment?" That many of them see themselves almost as freelancers right now; that they're, you know, they're, they're in the tent, but they don't necessarily have to follow any particular script.

MS. NOONAN: Yes. Yeah.

MS. NORRIS: And they're looking for someone who sets a tone, but also, if you think about the times that we're living in right now: the subprime mortgage mess, we're a nation at war, people have been, you know, wrestling with fear for the past, for the past eight years. So they're looking for someone who speaks to issues that they really care about. And I think that that explains why Mike Huckabee has done so well and has surprised so many people, because he gets up and he talks about people who--single mothers who are struggling to raise children, you know, and people kind of initially dismissed him, you know. He's a guy who has sort of--you know, people called him, frankly, a country bumpkin. Mike Huckabee. Well, think about America. For most people in America, a Friday night, a sort of fancy Friday night, is going to a place called Applebee's.


MS. NORRIS: You know, and so it explains...

MR. RUSSERT: And his language is conversational and understandable.


MS. GOODWIN: Exactly.

MR. BROKAW: Mm-hmm.

MS. GOODWIN: And it's warm and humorous.

MS. NOONAN: He's almost eloquent. Yeah, warm, humorous.

MR. MEACHAM: But I think the--I think there are going to be two competing narratives, and we'll see what happens in November. One is, to go to Tom's point, Michael Dukakis was right, but it was only 20 years too early, that this is an election about competence, not ideology. That is a possibility. The other possibility is that, when you think about the numbers and the close elections we've had after two-term presidents or two--one-party, two-term control, '60, '68, '80--'92 and 2000, incredibly close elections, including people who won the election who didn't win the popular vote.


MR. MEACHAM: So this is not going to be, I suspect, a tsunami either way. I think this is a closely argued, closely fought election on both sides. And the one person, which Mike Gerson makes this point for us this week, who could in fact unite the Republican Party, is Hillary Clinton. Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: Let's turn to the Democrats. That's it...

MS. GOODWIN: A perfect transition.

MR. RUSSERT: Perfect segue.

And one of the things that happened this week was Barack Obama gave an interview to the Reno Gazette-Journal. And he began to talk about ideas, Ronald Reagan, Democrats.  This is what Obama said.

(Videotape, Monday):

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I think it's fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom.

Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.

He tapped into what people were already feeling, which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and, you know, entrepreneurship that had been missing.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: His opponents...

MS. NOONAN: Good stuff.

MR. RUSSERT: His opponents, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, immediately pounced on those comments. Here's what they said.

(Videotape, Tuesday):

MR. JOHN EDWARDS: Senator Obama, when speaking, used Ronald Reagan, President Ronald Reagan, as an example of change. Now, my view is, I would never use Ronald Reagan as an example of change.

(End videotape)

(Videotape, Friday):

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): My leading opponent the other day said that he thought the Republicans had better ideas than Democrats the last 10 to 15 years. That's not the way I remember the last 10 to 15 years.

(End videotape)


MS. GOODWIN: You know, it's a sad point in our history when a presidential candidate cannot look back over the course of our history and show admiration for a president who did what he said. He didn't really say that he had better ideas, he said that he had transformed the country, created a conservative movement. Now, I can understand why Edwards and Hillary take that point up, but I think what's happening here is that Hillary has a sense of playing to the base, as Edwards was, and the base doesn't like Ronald Reagan. They don't like Bush. But what Obama was trying to say was, if you want a transformative presidency, if you want somebody who is going to be able, as Teddy Roosevelt was, as FDR was, as perhaps John Kennedy was, to inspire and move the country forward, you've got to have those skills that Ronald Reagan had. It's an historical fact! There was nothing wrong with saying that.

MR. RUSSERT: Interestingly enough, the Salmon Press in New Hampshire, which endorsed Hillary Clinton, cited as one of the reasons that, when they talked to her in the interview, she listed Ronald Reagan as one of her favorite presidents.

MS. NOONAN: That's right.

MR. BROKAW: May I have a cheap, self-serving moment? In my book, "Boom"...

MS. GOODWIN: Of course.

MR. RUSSERT: A best seller! "Boom," by Tom Brokaw.

MR. BROKAW: ...she says that Ronald Reagan plays the music beautifully, and she talked about how he balanced the interests of the middle class and took on the Soviets. What was also in that speech, or that remark that Obama gave, I thought didn't get enough attention probably, was how he dissed Bill Clinton.



MR. BROKAW: I mean, he threw him overboard. He said he didn't have any new ideas.


MR. BROKAW: And John Edwards may forget that what Ronald Reagan did was create a whole new class of voters...


MR. BROKAW: ...that Peggy, especially, is familiar with, called Reagan Democrats.

MS. NOONAN: Yeah, baby.

MR. BROKAW: A lot of people came across the line.


MS. NOONAN: Absolutely.

MS. NORRIS: Which is why John Edwards' statement was so surprising.


MS. NORRIS: Because I mean, if you--if you look at his stump speeches, if you look at, you know, the proposals that he's putting forth, they're clearly aimed at Reagan Democrats.


MS. NORRIS: So why he would stand up on the stump and pillory Reagan, I thought was curious.

MR. BROKAW: Did anyone else...

MS. NOONAN: I think Obama looked gracious, I must say. I thought he looked above the fray and gracious. And I thought he was echoing Pat Moynihan, Democratic--former Democratic Senator Pat Moynihan's statement in 1979, "Of a sudden, the Republican Party is the party of ideas." That's what he was trying to say.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, I'll further...

MS. NOONAN: He was trying to say, "Look"...

MR. RUSSERT: I'll further complicate this conversation.

MS. NOONAN: Oh, good.

MS. GOODWIN: All right.

MR. RUSSERT: Because Moynihan did say exactly that. And in 2002, after the Democrats lost the midterm elections, William Jefferson Clinton said, "The Democrats have to have ideas to win. We are MIA, missing in action on national security and have no positive plan for America's domestic future."


MR. RUSSERT: Compare that to what President Clinton said Friday in Nevada about Barack Obama's comments about Ronald Reagan.

(Videotape, January 18, 2008):

MR. BILL CLINTON: Her principal opponent said that since 1992, the Republicans have had all the good ideas. It goes along with that plan to ask the Republicans to become Democrats for a day and caucus with you tomorrow, and then go back and become Republicans so they can participate in the Republican primary. I'm not making this up, folks.

(End videotape)

MS. GOODWIN: This is going to be fantastic...


MS. GOODWIN: ...what role that Bill Clinton is going to play.


MS. GOODWIN: You know, I heard you guys last night talking about the good cop, bad cop thing, and to some extent that reminisces about RFK and JFK. But it's different. I mean, when JFK--there's a wonderful moment when JFK's on a porch in the White House, and a Southern senator comes up to him and says, "I'm going to have to attack you on these civil rights," he says, "Oh, no, don't do that. Can't you attack Bobby, instead?" So to some extent he's playing the role of the guy who attacks, whereas Hillary can then be above the fray. The difference was that Bobby was an inside player, he wasn't a public spokesman. And everything that Bill Clinton says is on the air.

And it seems to me, in some ways--and I suspect he'll get better at it--he's been running around the world and he's been lionized. He hasn't had to be in the fray. And he's not used to having this kind of back and forth anymore. He's been great at it before. But showing anger and getting irritated never helps, even though the things he says help her. I mean, I think when he said, "You're rolling the dice with Obama," that it somehow, to a certain extent, underscored his lack of experience. When he talks about when they--I think it, it works in a perverse way, but at some point his act is going to have to become a better racehorse.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, let's put it, let's put that all that on the table.

MS. NOONAN: Oh, my goodness. He is...

MR. RUSSERT: Let's put all that on the table, because that's very important. He did say Obama could be risky, could be rolling the dice. And then he went to Nevada on Friday and made a direct accusation about the Culinary Workers Union. Let's watch that.

(Videotape, January 18, 2008):

MR. CLINTON: Today, when my daughter and I were wandering through the hotel, and all these culinary workers were mobbing us, telling us they didn't care what they'd been told to do, they were going to caucus for Hillary, there was a representative of the organization trotting along behind us, going up to everybody that said that, and said, "If you're not going to vote for our guy, we're going to give you a schedule tomorrow so you can't be there." So is this the new politics? I haven't seen anything like that in America in 35 years.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: So we asked the Clinton campaign if in fact that had occurred, would a complaint be filed, and what were the circumstances and who were the people involved? And they said they'd get back to us.


MS. GOODWIN: Have they?

MR. RUSSERT: Not yet. Not yet. Also, when Bill Clinton was talking about Barack Obama's positions on Iraq, this is what he said in New Hampshire.

(Videotape, January 7, 2008):

MR. CLINTON: Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Now, Jon Meacham, in today's Newsweek, you have an item called--article, "Leading Democrats to Bill Clinton: Pipe Down," saying that Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel, one of the leaders of the Republican--Democrats in the House, are saying this kind of rhetoric can hurt the unity of the party. And they quote Greg Craig, who was President Clinton's lawyer during impeachment, saying "If the Hillary's campaign can't control Bill, how is Hillary's White House going to control him?" Which is an--I think an issue worth discussing.

MR. MEACHAM: It is an issue worth discussing. Jonathan Alter broke that story, and it does go to this theme--some of us have been joking around the office, if King Lear had a Southern accent, we would see--he would be Bill Clinton.

The--he, he has the vices of his virtues, like all of us. He's the greatest campaigner, terrific politician. But it's not entirely about him anymore, and I think in a way he has overcompensated as he has gone a bit too far; he's--apparently that's what Senator Kennedy and Congressman Emanuel think, as he's gone around the country campaigning for her. I think it's a completely legitimate question, what he's going to be doing if the 44th president was...

MR. RUSSERT: Floating ideas? Freelancing? Where...

MS. NOONAN: Yeah. I got...

MR. MEACHAM: Well, he can't--he's congenitally incapable of not talking, which is a great gift at one level. But at the same time, is he speaking for the administration? You'll remember, Senator Clinton said recently that she would not have reached out to him in a direct, official way, say in the aftermath of the assassination in Pakistan. Interesting questions.

MS. NOONAN: Can I say, on the campaign trail, one of the things I find jarring the past few weeks is that Hillary Clinton is the first major party woman running for president of the United States. She is a woman. She's running for president. She's running for head of the United States, chief executive officer. And she has to send her husband out to yell at the neighbors? It's like she's, she's saying, "You go out there, you fight for me. My husband's going to tell you off!" There's something strange, jarring, unbecoming and even unfeminist about it.

MS. GOODWIN: I doubt that she's sending him out. I think he's going out on his own.

MS. NOONAN: You think he's just on his own. Oh, my goodness, it's her campaign. If she didn't want him out there wagging his finger, turning red and arguing with reporters and bringing a level of temper and heat to the proceedings, if she did not want that, I'm sure she would stop it. And if she cannot, we should all just stop and take a breath.

MR. RUSSERT: It is interesting. And I want to get everyone's perspective on this. The coalition that Hillary Clinton put together in Nevada following the discussion of race between Clinton and Obama for a week. She won women 51-to-38, she won Hispanics 64-to-26; Obama won blacks 83-to-14.


MR. RUSSERT: Huge racial divide. Clinton's camp believes that women and Latinos are a coalition that can work in New York and California and New Jersey. But the next stop is South Carolina. Half the state are African Americans. I was down there interviewing Hillary Clinton. I couldn't find a black who didn't want to talk about this issue and raise it passionately...


MR. RUSSERT: ...about what they had heard. Some felt that Obama's being dissed and not respected as a candidate; others were loyal to Clinton. As we approach South Carolina, I think we can remember in 1992, when Bill Clinton was at a pivotal stage of his campaign, and he decided to play the Sister Souljah card that was talked about--here she is the rap singer--and this is what Clinton had to say back then.

(Videotape, June 13, 1992):

MR. CLINTON: If you took the words white and black and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.

(End videotape)


MR. RUSSERT: Tom Brokaw, South Carolina is going to have a lot of racial overtones on that vote. Obama needs solid black support. If John Edwards' vote amongst whites begins to slip and Hillary Clinton lays claim to that, it could be a very close race and a very heated debate.

MR. BROKAW: And a very divisive race in terms of the two groups that are most important to the Democratic Party in South Carolina. I've been on the phone to young friends of mine down there who are African Americans and they have said to me that a lot of their fathers and grandfathers have some concerns about Barack Obama being the candidate next fall, about whether he can win and whether race will become too prominent in the campaign. And one of them said to me, "but my generation is much more cosmopolitan than that. We've been raised in a different way. I'm for Obama." This young man was not wildly enthusiastic about him, but he's certainly got a foot in the Obama waters at this point. And my guess is that it will help Obama a lot.

Now, Bill Clinton today, here in New York, is appearing with Andy Young, not at the Riverside Church, it turns out, because they were concerned about a political speech, but at another Baptists church commemorating the 40th anniversary of Dr. King coming out against Vietnam, while Hillary is at the Abyssinian Baptist Church with the Reverend Calvin Butts, who's a very prominent, as you know, establishment African American figure here. So this will play out pretty heavily in the next seven days.

MR. RUSSERT: Michele, as someone who spoke to Bill Clinton said, quoted him as saying, "I don't care about this stuff, about my image as the former president. I'm going to win this campaign. I'm going to go door-to-door in the black neighborhoods of South Carolina, church-to-church." Just like he went into the casinos and split the union vote with Barack Obama that was supposed to go to Obama, he's convinced he can win enough blacks to divide them and give Hillary Clinton South Carolina.

MS. NORRIS: You know, he does plan to go door-to-door and I suspect that when he does go door-to-door he may have some feisty conversations. I mean, people may be wagging their finger at him because having been in South Carolina, there is a passionate roiling debate about this. I mean, I went down there thinking that perhaps there was a generational divide on the ground when I realized it's much more of an establishment vs. grassroots divide. Hillary Clinton locked up a lot of the establishment support early on. She had clergy behind her. And you're hearing in churches almost about revolts with the congregationists standing up and saying, "You know, we are not going to follow lockstep behind the clergy in this case."

Heard a story about a 92-year-old man who made an altar call, made his way up to the altar slowly and talked about Dr. King, and basically almost took the pulpit from the pastor, and came around to this notion of don't be shackled by fear. And that's what's so interesting about what's going on here, is Barack Obama has ignited this debate about whether you should support someone who is viable, whether you should let go of your fears, whether you should believe in the hope, and people are--you know, there's one story I heard about someone in a beauty shop, and the beautician almost put the customer out of the chair because they were, you know, arguing about one supported Obama and one supported Clinton.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, that is serious.

MS. NORRIS: Yeah, that's very serious.

MR. MEACHAM: The "Steel Magnolias"...(unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT: We have to take a quick break. A lot more of our conversation. The race for the White House 2008. We'll be right back.


MR. RUSSERT: A lot more of our conversation. What a race for the White House, both parties still up for grabs. We'll be right back.


MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Live from New York, it's Sunday morning. We are in Studio 8H, the home of "Saturday Night Live." But our conversation is much different today, I hope, with an august panel. Not since Thomas Jefferson dined alone have we had such intellectual candle power.

Tom Brokaw, the fact is, however, Hillary Clinton lost Iowa. She was on her knees, got back up in New Hampshire and won, and now has won at least the popular vote in Nevada.

MR. BROKAW: Just a few...

MR. RUSSERT: She's had a successful couple primaries.

MR. BROKAW: Just a few floors below here two weeks ago this coming Tuesday, the funeral dirge was playing, people were beginning to drape her campaign in black and they were saying, "Well, it's kind of touching, isn't it, to watch the Clintons standing there together, because that era is over." Now she's won two in a row. I think there are a couple of things that probably help her based on what we're seeing, from what people say. I think that the women vote, obviously, the ability to coalesce the Latinos. Also, this country is in a state of anxiety, Tim. There's great concern about the economy and what's going to happen. We are at war on two different fronts. And in one poll after another, she gets very high marks for being experienced and having an ability to run the country. And that's probably helping her right now.

Now, we're living through a very fluid time. In three weeks, what will be the issue then? I'm not sure. All of them have come up with a stimulus program of some kind, which indicates the kind of urgency that everybody feels, including the president. Does remind me of a track--of a truck running down the highway, and it gets flats all at once, and now you've got everybody going around with those little aerosol cans trying to fix the flat tires in some fashion, try to get it going again.

MS. GOODWIN: You have a lot of good transportation metaphors.

MR. RUSSERT: In fact, let's take a look at those stimulus package.

MR. BROKAW: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: Because it is quite striking how the candidates have come forward.

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: It was actually John Edwards who in December was the first to say, "Hey, I think we need a stimulus package."

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: He ponied up, he said, "Let cost $100 billion." Then Hillary Clinton in January said, "No, we can do one for $70 billion." Then Barack Obama came in and said, "How about $120 billion?"


MR. RUSSERT: George Bush--"no, let's do $145 billion." But there is bipartisan acknowledgement that this economy needs some juice to it.

MS. NOONAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. MEACHAM: I think by far the big plurality of voters in South Carolina, that was the first thing they were worried about.


MR. MEACHAM: More so than terrorism, more so than even moral values, and it's going to be the dominant question, God willing, as long as there's not...

MR. BROKAW: (Unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT: And who can talk to the country about a complicated issue like the global economy, where American companies are going hat in hand begging for foreign investment? Huckabee--Mike Huckabee was on "The Tonight Show," and this is how he framed the issue. Let's watch.

(Videotape, "The Tonight Show"):

MR. HUCKABEE: People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off.

(End videotape)


MR. RUSSERT: Simplistic?


MS. GOODWIN: But it worked.

MS. NOONAN: Who do you think he might be talking about? I think he might be talking about Mitt Romney.

MS. NORRIS: I think so.

MS. NOONAN: The former Bain Capital CEO.

MR. BROKAW: Took off his suit jacket and his tie not too long after that appearance, by the way, and started appearing...

MS. NORRIS: Right.

MS. NOONAN: We saw it last night.

MR. RUSSERT: Who used to, "restructure" companies.

MS. NOONAN: But seriously.


MS. NOONAN: Romney will be one of--one of the big dogs down in Florida trying to get a hold of this thing. He does have a deep and serious background in business, a successful one, and if you talk to him, the single issue on which he is most compelling is America's competitive position in the world. Things that can hurt America, who's competing, what we have to do to make sure we are still running a fabulous economy. He really does have that in a way that is more compelling than the other candidates on the Republican side, and certainly, I think, on the Democratic side.

MS. GOODWIN: Yeah. You know, it's interesting, what matters is where their passion lay. McCain's passion lay in honor, in country, in patriotism, in the war.


MS. GOODWIN: And it may not be that he'll find that it's easy to project that passion with the economy.


MS. GOODWIN: So to the extent the economy becomes an issue, I also think in some ways it helps Hillary Clinton, because, to the extent that Iraq became a big issue early on, then Obama was able to say, "I'm a new face in the world at large." And that's true, he could change maybe the way we think about America's world, as a beacon of hope to the world as a whole. And to the extent, however, that the economy comes in, then no longer is the argument the '90s weren't so great, foreign policywise, either, but now the '90s are this wonderful memory of a great economy.

MR. RUSSERT: Dot-com boom surpluses.

MS. GOODWIN: And Hillary--and Hillary can play on that memory.

And so that's what we don't know. It's not only how these candidates are going to change, but the issues are going to change, like you just suggested. If foreign policy comes back or Iraq comes back in a bigger positive or negative way, that could change this whole thing. So we can't coronate anyone for a while, I think.

MR. MEACHAM: I remember right after the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy, one of Kennedy's aides runs in and says, "We've got to do something about our Far Eastern problem. You're 10 feet tall, you can solve anything." And JFK said, "Yeah, for about two weeks."

MS. GOODWIN: Yeah, exactly. That's about it now.

MR. RUSSERT: Jon, you made the comment earlier about Hillary Clinton unifying the Republican Party.


MR. RUSSERT: It's been striking, over the past couple of weeks, about endorsements for Barack Obama from the so-called red states. Hillary Clinton has the governor, senator, from one of her homes states, Arkansas, she has Evan Bayh from Indiana and Governor Strickland of Ohio. But Obama has trotted out, even after New Hampshire, some interesting names. He has Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Tim Johnson in South Dakota, Tim Kaine in Virginia, Governor Napolitano in Arizona, Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Ben Nelson in Nebraska. And not all of them considered wild-eyed liberals, red state Democrats who are saying that Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton. Tom, what's that about?

MR. BROKAW: Well, I think that she still does have very high negatives, and the big concern for the Democrats is can we win in the fall. And the lingering question for Hillary, no matter how well she has run so far, no matter how impressive her campaign machine may be, I think there's that lingering question in the back of the minds of a lot of Democrats, "Can she carry us through the fall?" There's this great unrequited hunger on the part of the Democrats to get the White House back. They want to do it this time, and that's the issue that she really, I think, has to resolve in the next several weeks. In addition to winning these primaries along the way, she also has to persuade people that she can win in the fall, and we'll have to see how all that plays out.

You know, I think Jon is quite right, she unifies the party more than anyone else, but that's why I really welcome this idea of having a long debate and dialogue. Let the process go on. Let the country get involved.

MS. GOODWIN: Yeah, you know, I think if the Democrats feel confident that their base can pull off a victory--if, for example, Huckabee were the nominee--then I think there'd be less concern about the independent vote that Obama can bring.

MR. BROKAW: Mm-hmm.

MS. GOODWIN: But to the extent that they're worried, as you were saying earlier, about the 50/50 election, what he's shown in every state so far, even those that he lost, was a much greater crossover possibility. Independents wanting him. So if they're running against McCain, who has that independent vote, then I think Obama's strength, stronger. So that's why, again, things are going to shift as we go along.

MS. NOONAN: (Unintelligible).

MS. NORRIS: When you're on the ground, also, you really hear the Republican operatives. I mean, this is a conversation that I actually heard in South Carolina talking about how much they really want a Hillary Clinton victory.

MR. BROKAW: Mm-hmm.

MS. NORRIS: I mean, they actually will talk openly about bringing Barack Obama down a few notches because they want to run against Hillary.

MR. MEACHAM: Because it's a known known, to give Secretary--former Secretary Rumsfeld his due. Hillary Clinton, they know what to do. Barack Obama, how do you run against the first African American nominee? It explodes all conventional campaign dogma in ways that completely will surprise and pleasantly and unpleasantly perhaps as they go forward. And I that that that's the--one of the things that's so scary about Obama to Republicans is they don't how to run against him.

MR. RUSSERT: Doris, you inspired to me to ask the question of the candidates in the Las Vegas debate about weaknesses and strengths. And Obama said one of his weaknesses is he's disorganized. But he does not want to be an operating officer. He wants to have a vision. Hillary Clinton said, "No, no, that's wrong. I want to be an operating officer, I want to run and manage the bureaucracy." It was a profound difference of view towards what the job of president is.

MS. GOODWIN: You know, it's interesting. I mean, on the one hand you've got to give Obama credit for admitting a weakness, whereas the other two candidates said, "I'm too passionate," or, you know, "I'm impatient for change." I mean, we want them to be honest, and then they get screwed when they're honest. He made a funny comment the next day where he said, "You know, if only I'd gone third" and you'd ask him last, he said, "I would have said weakness, yeah, I've got a weakness. I like to help old ladies across the street." I mean that was great. But I think you're right. It does indicate a different feeling about what the presidency should be and that's fabulously interesting.

You know on the one hand, FDR had a disorganized presidency. People during the home front said, "You know, there's too much conflict going on up there and he doesn't really work on this very well." He said, "What matters is if you mobilize the base of the people, then I'm going to be able to get done what I need to for the war."

And Hillary, I think is saying, she understands the role of inspiration, she's talked about that and the role of somehow being able to mobilize the people. But she says you got to be able to manage on day one. And I don't think that he was really saying by saying he had a disorderly desk that he was going to be a Bush-like CEO president, but she was able to move right in. I mean, it was very quick on her part to change that level of the topic to that conversation.

MR. BROKAW: I think she's helped as well, Tim, by the perceived feeling in this country that President Bush has been a disaster in terms of managing the presidency. That's a lesson that everybody wakes up with every morning at this point.

MS. GOODWIN: (Unintelligible).

MR. BROKAW: Republicans and Democrats alike. I have never heard as many Republicans, gold-star, born and bred Republicans, so unhappy with the management of this country by a Republican president now.

MS. NOONAN: Totally true.

MR. BROKAW: And I think that when she played the competence card and the experience card, it's measured against that.


MR. BROKAW: We don't want to go back into an unknown again. Here is somebody who does know what she's doing. That does pop up in the polls. But the counterweight to it, of course, is still not entirely comfortable with her. I have questions about her character and concern about whether she can win.

MS. NOONAN: May I say, dynasticism is part of this, too?

MS. GOODWIN: Oh, yeah.

MS. NOONAN: We haven't mentioned it, but there is this Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton--I've called it a sickness. It is an odd way for a great democracy to comport itself in this strange--we have dynasties now backed by lobbyists, backed by machines and machinery. The fact that America's doing this is giving so many people pause. It us unlike us. And I cannot help but think, as some people come forward and endorse on the Democratic side Mrs. Clinton, they must be thinking stop the dynasty. I know Republicans are thinking stop the dynasties.

MR. BROKAW: But on NBC, you'd be happy with Russert, Brokaw, Russert, Brokaw. That would be OK?

MS. NOONAN: Forever, Tom. Forever.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, we are in New York, and so we have to talk about the mayor of New York. This was Michael Bloomberg yesterday in Texas with one Lance Armstrong, who's thinking about a political future. And where did Bloomberg then go? California, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California. Those who talk to Mike Bloomberg tell me that if it was a Huckabee-Clinton race, it would be "enticing" because he would see a broad center. He, he...

MR. MEACHAM: (Unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT: He doesn't want to be a spoiler, he doesn't want to be Ross Perot and get 19 percent of the vote. He wants to find a way to get 38 to 40 percent of the popular vote, which would translate into 271 electoral votes. And he would run on the issue of competence, that he can take on controversial issues like gun control, immigration, tell the truth.

Jon Meacham, you've talked to him.

MR. MEACHAM: I have. Kevin Sheekey, his Mark Hanna, thinks that 19 percent that Perot got is the floor, not the ceiling. My personal view is that if the right nominees were in place, which in his view would be the wrong nominees, is that his daughters would have to handcuff him to the hot water heater in the basement to keep him from running.

MR. RUSSERT: Who would they be, the nominees?

MR. MEACHAM: I think Clinton-Giuliani means that Bloomberg--you wouldn't want to be between Bloomberg and the microphone if those two emerge as the nominee.

MR. RUSSERT: An all-New York race.

MR. MEACHAM: An all-New York race. He told us a couple months ago that he would spend a billion dollars, again, something we haven't even contemplated, to pay per ballot access. You'll notice he lunched last week with a ballot access person in Texas. That is something to keep a very close eye on.

MS. NORRIS: He also had that high profile lunch with Barack Obama. Is his decision Clinton centric?

MR. MEACHAM: He has a lot of high profile lunches. And...

MS. NORRIS: So I shouldn't read too much into that.

MR. MEACHAM: ...the day--the day he left the Republican Party, he lunched with Nancy Reagan. So this is a very smart man.

MR. RUSSERT: In our history, can independents really win the Electoral College?

MS. GOODWIN: I mean, I think there's always this hope that that's going to happen, and never stronger than Teddy Roosevelt. I mean, when he ran on Progressive Party against his old buddy Taft, and against Woodrow Wilson, he got a large percentage of the vote. He won the primaries--interestingly, that's when primaries started. You know, before that time the bosses and the delegates are being picked by the state legislatures and by the people that are in power. And he had the first set of direct primaries, he did very well. But even then it was impossible to break the hold of the Republican Party. If Teddy Roosevelt, hugely popular, having once been president, having the ideas at that time that mattered, couldn't break through against Taft, I think it's really hard.

MR. BROKAW: The other thing is, about Teddy Roosevelt, is he was a national figure, and Mike Bloomberg...

MS. GOODWIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. BROKAW: ...gets a lot of attention, but he gets it at both ends of the country, primarily. I mean, a lot of this election is going to be in the Rocky Mountain West, in Colorado and Arizona and Nevada and Montana and Wyoming, where he is little or not known at all. I mean, he has been a great mayor, there's no question about that. He not only has the hunger, but he has the ATM card at the ready, you know, he can put it and it punches out. But this is, this is a steep climb. But this has been an odd year.

I--let me just say one other thing if I can, Tim, about the landscape at the moment. A couple senior Republicans said to me recently they're astonished that no one really has a delegate hunting operation going on yet. Because they think that it could go all the way to the convention. And there's no foundation for going out and assembling delegates. I mean, wouldn't it be great if we did have two contested conventions this time?

MR. RUSSERT: Peggy Noonan, the 102nd ballot. Huh?

MS. NOONAN: Oh, man. Ohio passes. All of that stuff you really have to...

MR. MEACHAM: Can I say, on Sunday morning, from Tom's lips to God's ears.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, one year from today we'll be inaugurating a new president. I was going to ask you who that's going to be, but I guess we're out of time.

MS. NOONAN: Thank God.

MR. RUSSERT: Unless someone wants to say. Anybody want to predict? No.

We'll be right back.


MR. RUSSERT: This Thursday, the Republicans debate in Florida. Brian Williams and I will be there to moderate, ask tough questions of the Republican candidates for president. A critical debate, 9 p.m., MSNBC, this Thursday night. The Florida primary will be a week from Tuesday.

That's all for today. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday it is MEET THE PRESS.