Guests: E.J. Dionne, Tucker Carlson, Joe Klein
TIM RUSSERT, HOST: Welcome back.
This is it, Super Tuesday, the Super Bowl for politics and the election of the next president of the United States.
Here to talk about it, three seasons observers and journalists—E.J. Dionne, you read his column every Tuesday and Friday in “The Washington Post,” and his new book, “Sold Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right.” Tucker Carlson, you watch him every night at 6:00 on MSNBC, and he contributes to “The New Republic” magazine. And Joe Klein, “TIME” magazine and a political journalist for at least a half century.
Welcome all, guys.
E.J. DIONNE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good to be here.
JOE KLEIN, “TIME” MAGAZINE: The last month feels like a half century.
RUSSERT: January 3rd, Iowa caucuses, and in the last month, this has been the most intense period in, I think, American political primary history.
KLEIN: I never thought I’d see anything more intense than a New York mayoral race, or the last week of New Hampshire in 1992. But this month of politics has been—every day has given you a week’s worth of news. It’s really astonishing.
RUSSERT: Tucker, we’re down to the final four. On the Democratic side, Obama, Clinton. Republican side, McCain, Romney.
Super Tuesday, what are you looking for?
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC: Well, I personally think that the Republican race is all but settled, barring some unforeseen cataclysm. The Republican Party’s a hierarchical party. They sort of look to the elders to understand what to do.
They hate chaos. They wanted to coalesce behind somebody, and I think McCain is that guy. Endorsements matter on the Republican side more—much more, I think, than on the Democratic side.
On the Democratic side, I’m actually convinced that these things always break one way in the end. And I think, you know, the hostility toward the Clintons in Washington is profound, but I’m not sure that permeates the rest of the Democratic electorate. And I would not be surprised if Hillary runs much stronger than we think she will sitting here in D.C.
RUSSERT: The conservatives and John McCain, do you think that the talk show—radio talk hosts and some of the conservative commentary will tone it down?
CARLSON: Of course they will. I mean, look, you know, they’re in a market-based business like the rest of us. They pander to their audience. They have to. That’s why they get rich doing it.
And I don’t think their audience is going to want to see them pounding on the Republican nominee into the future. That’s offensive to the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh.
So they’ll off. The ideological right will not lay off, because they have legitimate differences with McCain.
DIONNE: You know what’s really fascinating about the Republicans? This will be the first time—this will be a divorce between the conservative movement and the leadership of the Republican Party, a divorce after a 28-year marriage since 1980.
John McCain, if he wins this nomination, will be winning it against organized conservatism. Not just Rush Limbaugh, but the whole movement. And if you look at his base in the primaries, it’s been moderates, liberals, anti-Bush voters, pro-choice voters. McCain is pro-life, but it’s pro-choice voters. And so, you know, Rush Limbaugh does reflect something that’s deep inside this movement.
Now, I think they will capitulate at some point because you can always waive the prospect of losing the election. But I think some of these conservatives would rather lose the election than lose control of the Republican Party.
KLEIN: You know, if Mike Huckabee ever needs like a kidney transplant or something like that, John McCain should be the...
CARLSON: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
KLEIN: ... first one to volunteer, because, I mean, Huckabee’s 13, 14, 15 percent, a lot of that would be going to Romney and would be putting Romney over the top in places like Florida. And certainly throughout the South on Super Tuesday. And it’s preventing Romney from really—it’s preventing us from having the one-on-one race in the Republican Party that would be very tough for John McCain.
CARLSON: Well, listen, I don’t think that the hostility toward McCain is about McCain a lot of the time. I think that it’s displaced anger at Bush.
I think that the base feels sold out by Bush, correctly, in my view. They can’t express that because they’re too invested in him and have been since 1999. And so they’re taking all that anger and saying, you know, McCain, you’re the liberal, when, in fact, on the issues they’re mad about—campaign finance reform, immigration—his position is almost identical to Bush’s. So...
DIONNE: But this is not about just positions. McCain is a lot more conservative than any of the moderates voting for him think he is.
CARLSON: But he gives them the finger (ph).
DIONNE: Yes. And he has fought them on a few issues. But he has also never been part of the organization. And they’ve always fought him. And so it’s a kind of grunge match rooted in the past.
KLEIN: When I talk to Republicans about McCain, they always come back to 2000 and the belief that he ran against the party, that he’s running against the party. And you listen to Rush Limbaugh, and it’s always fun to listen to Rush when he’s desperate. When he’s riding high, you know, I can’t handle him, but listening to him, as I did last week, he sounds wounded.
You know, McCain isn’t a real Republican. He runs against the party.
CARLSON: Except the difference is, in 2000, we were coming off eight years of Bill Clinton, and it was a time when the Republican Party was not feeling very reflective. It was feeling, you know, reactive against those two Clinton terms. After two terms of Bush, I think the Republican Party’s in a place where it can receive a little bit of criticism.
Most Republicans know their party has failed them. I think the McCain message is more resonant, and I think that people (INAUDIBLE) are more willing to listen to him.
RUSSERT: Weren’t his two cardinal sins, however, he voted against he Bush tax cuts when the Republicans really thought it was (ph) a litmus test, and then in 2000 he denounced the conservative religious leadership of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson?
DIONNE: And he supported campaign finance reform, which, for an amazing number of conservatives, is a litmus test issue. I think...
RUSSERT: But Bush—Tucker’s right, Bush signed it.
DIONNE: But you know what you’re seeing in the Republican Party? Both leading candidates are now running against Bush.
One, McCain, by his very persona, is seen by Republicans as an anti-Bush candidate. He loves to trash Rumsfeld on the stump. But Mitt Romney’s slogan, “Washington is broken.” Well, who has been running Washington for the last seven years?
And Romney did better when he switched to the “Washington is broken,” and he has “Change” signs whose graphics look almost like the Obama “Change” signs. So it’s really quite astonishing.
KLEIN: The guy is really shameless, you know? He’ll pick up whatever’s working this week, and that’s what’s working this week, which is also a sign on the Democratic sign, I think.
RUSSERT: You talked about Mike Huckabee being important for John McCain in Florida, and in South Carolina.
KLEIN: And in South Carolina.
RUSSERT: I thought on Tuesday night, when John McCain was proclaiming victory, he made a point of gesturing to Huckabee, almost dangling the vice presidency—Mike, don’t leave me now. I need you all Super Tuesday. Get your 10 to 12 percent and I’m going to be the nominee.
KLEIN: Well, you know, having grown up in urban politics in New York and Boston, these sort of things have happened before. This is old-fashioned politics.
RUSSERT: I think of New Hampshire. If Rudy Giuliani had contested New Hampshire in a serious way, Romney probably could have won that primary.
CARLSON: Well, listen, I don’t think there’s any question about it.
Huckabee—I mean, no matter how you feel about the theory of evolution, or whatever, any of his positions, if you look at Huckabee, I think, objectively, he’s a talented guy. He is a good talker.
DIONNE: He’s a great candidate.
CARLSON: He is not a good pick for vice president for John McCain.
RUSSERT: Not a good pick?
CARLSON: I don’t think he is a good pick. For one thing, he fails the basic test, the veep test, which is, are you going to be a distraction or an addition? And I think his—the issues—you know, some of the social issues I think will be a distraction for McCain.
Does McCain really want to have to get into conversations about when the Earth was formed?
CARLSON: No. And I’m not defecting from Huckabee, again, whom I find very impressive. I just don’t see it.
KLEIN: You know what...
KLEIN: He’s also a harbinger. I mean, I think that he is a demonstration of one of the biggest changes that we’ve seen in the electorate, and that is the breaking up of the evangelical movement into an older movement with people like Pat Robertson, and a younger movement with people like Rick Warren. And the one key test in any evangelical church is, do they have a praise band or do they have a choir? And Huckabee is the candidate of the churches that have praise bands.
DIONNE: You know, God bless you, Joe, for raising that, because that’s the argument of my book, is that you really see—one of the arguments—is that you really see an enormous amount of ferment in the evangelical movement. And Mike Huckabee, when he talks about the poor, when he talks about education, when he talks about the environment, he reflects the younger group of evangelicals who were saying, we are about more than just a couple of issues, abortion and gay marriage.
Interestingly, Mike Huckabee is winning the youth vote in the Republican Party. They are his best constituency.
RUSSERT: We have to take a quick break.
A lot more of our conversation—Super Tuesday just around the corner. And we’ll talk to E.J. Dionne about his book, “Sold Out,” because faith is back in the Democratic Party.
We’ll be right back.
RUSSERT: And we’re back talking to E.J. Dionne, Tucker Carlson, and Joe Klein.
All right, E.J. “Sold Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right.”
Are the Democrats trying to reclaim faith?
DIONNE: Well, they have. And they’re not doing it just by pretending. You know that old Hollywood line, “What you need is sincerity. And if you can fake that, you can do anything.” And so I think with religion, especially, it’s very dangerous to think it.
But what you’ve got in both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are people for whom faith has really been a serious thing. And they’ve been reflective about it.
I think Obama may have given the best speech on this subject in a couple of decades back in 2006, where it was a speech where he affirmed, talked about his faith. The first politician I ever heard acknowledging that he also had doubt, which gave the speech a sense of honesty.
But it was a speech where believers and nonbelievers could listen to him and say, yes, this is how we should do it. We should take faith seriously and we shouldn’t demonize nonbelievers.
Hillary Clinton has been reflecting on her Methodism all the way back. A lot of her politics come from her kind of socially-oriented Methodism.
In the book, I talk about a tale of two Methodists, where you’ve got George Bush, who’s kind of a Methodist by marriage, not by origin, who talks about that side of religion that’s about self-improvement, an emphasis on what we need to do for ourselves. Hillary is the other side of that, which is what you—what the village should do, in her famous word, or what the government should do in order to create a more decent side. So I think on the Democratic side you’ve got people who are very fluent and open in talking about their faith.
RUSSERT: In one of the debates, Hillary Clinton quoted St. Luke, to whom much is given, much is expected. Barack Obama is unique I think in this race in the fact that he was baptized as an adult. He chose as an adult, Tucker, to become a Christian.
CARLSON: Yes. And he used the word “Jesus” the other day in public. Part of that, of course, is a response to the surreptitious campaign against him, by whom we don’t know, claiming he’s a Muslim, which is unfair and wrong and very frustrating to him. So he wants to have his Christian bona fides out there. But there’s no question that there has been a very obvious attempt, partly successful, by the Democrats to kind of connect with people of faith.
I do think abortion is a stumbling block. I think there’s a very rigid orthodoxy, even to this day, on the Democratic side about abortion. And that is, restrictions of any kind are unacceptable. And that will repel people who have something in common with Democrats, that they need to listen now or they’re going to—they are not going to get a lot of those votes.
KLEIN: Even Evangelicals, as liberal as they might be on issues on global warming and poverty, are still hard liners when it comes to—when it comes to life.
CARLSON: That’s right. They won’t have it.
DIONNE: But do you know what’s fascinating on abortion? Is on the Obama side, it is not a standard part of the stump speech at all.
DIONNE: He never mentions that he got hit by Clinton in New Hampshire, the campaign.
CARLSON: It’s depressing (ph), actually.
DIONNE: But on the other hand, Hillary Clinton took a lot of grief when she said, look, abortion is, at best, a tragedy. And a lot of people are moving to say, look, we could fight about legalization or making it illegal for decades, but there are a lot of things that you can do to reduce the number of abortions in the country. The number of abortions is coming down.
CARLSON: Really? Because I haven’t heard any—not—I have not heard one Democratic candidate for president suggest any restriction. I mean, sex selection, even, or...
CARLSON: No, but let’s be real. You’re not—you know, reduce it without any restrictions of any kind? I mean, come on. That’s not sincere.
DIONNE: The great irony is restrictions, like the restrictions on late-term or partial-birth abortions, actually bans very few abortions. Abortions—the number of abortions have come down about 400,000 over a period of a couple of decades through social action by making it easier for moms who want to bring their kids into the world, and also on the prevention side. You know, abstinence and contraception, you can vastly reduce the number of abortions.
KLEIN: You know, but you can see the (INAUDIBLE) has changed from Hollywood.
KLEIN: I mean, in the last year we’ve had two huge movies...
KLEIN: ... where the woman decided to have the baby, even though—you know, in one case it was a 16-year-old girl in “Juno,” which was a great movie.
RUSSERT: Sonograms have done more to influence this debate.
RUSSERT: I remember back in ‘88, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Joe Biden, Al Gore, all Democrats who had started their political careers against abortion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
RUSSERT: But when they ran—by the time they ran for president, it was a position they could no longer hold politically.
DIONNE: Do you know what’s wrong with abortion as a litmus test? It forces a lot of politicians to lie, because it’s been such a strong litmus test that they have to switch sides on the issue and say, I really believe this, when, in fact, they used to believe that. And you don’t really know what they believe.
There are a lot of people who have profound ambivalence about abortion. A lot of people in the country who say, on the one hand, you know, this may well be taking of a human life or something close, but the cost to women, particularly in the first trimester, is enormous. And people—a lot of real people out there struggle with this terrible choice.
No politician can come out there and talk about this and say, this is a real struggle for me, because they’ll be punished by one side or the other.
CARLSON: Well, no, but I think really only one side is hurt when that conversation begins, and it’s the pro-choice side, because the second you admit in public that it might be taking of a life, it’s a very quick trip to, wait a second, why are we allowing the taking of a life to be legal? Do you see what I’m saying? So that’s why there’s no movement at all on the Democratic side rhetorically that I’ve seen at all.
KLEIN: But to get back to the politics of it, it is stunning to me that—now that I think of it—that the two leading—the three leading when John Edwards was in there—the three leading Democratic candidates, none of them mention it in their stump speech. Not one.
DIONNE: Right. And that’s a change. That really is. It’s a huge change.
RUSSERT: Another quick break.
We’ll be right back with more E.J. Dionne, Tucker Carlson, and Joe Klein right after this.
RUSSERT: And we are back.
Joe Klein, a lot of discussion about the tone of the campaign, the friction between—animosity between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Is it real?
KLEIN: Well, I think it’s getting to be real between them. But, you know, to put it into some kind of historical perspective, you know, this kind of slagging back of forth is -- you know, isn’t rough by historical standards.
What’s interesting to me this time is that when you try and—when the Clintons try and do these standard political attacks like Barack Obama thinks Reagan’s ideas are better, they’re just not working. They seem kind of old-fashioned and achronistic.
People say that’s a trick that they’re trying to play, and so it hasn’t worked. I don’t think it’s working for John McCain on the Republican side when he says that Mitt Romney was in favor of, you know, a timetable to withdraw troops. People—our public, the American public, has come to understand what kind of cheesy political language sounds like, and they’re just rejecting it out of hand.
RUSSERT: Tucker, in Florida, when the conversation was about the economy, Romney seemed to be picking up.
RUSSERT: When McCain was able to shift the subject to Iraq, fairly or unfairly, about timetables, he seemed to dominate those exchanges.
CARLSON: And yet, as you know, our internal exit polling showed that people who are concerned about the economy went for McCain, which just shows—it’s almost like those polls that show people’s gross dissatisfaction with Congress but their great, you know, pride in their own member of Congress. Or hating schools but loving their own kid’s school.
I mean, look, I think any time the conversation obviously is about national security McCain wins, which is why it was so striking to watch Mitt Romney in the last debate get sucked into the conversation, take the bait, and argue with McCain over the details of his position. I mean, McCain is wrong—Romney never came out for timetables. But it doesn’t matter, because as long as they’re talking about it he wins.
DIONNE: But I don’t think McCain looked good when he did that. In fact, that was one of the worst debate performances I think McCain has had.
He not only didn’t—you know, it was pretty clear Romney didn’t say what McCain was saying he was saying. He also refused to say whether he would vote for his own immigration bill.
DIONNE: And he did it repeatedly.
But, you know, on the Democratic side, on this question of personal friction, I think personal friction goes up as issue differences go down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
DIONNE: And the truth is that there aren’t—there is not a huge philosophical or ideological gulf between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And therefore, all these strange little things like, you know, Reagan loves Obama, you know—I mean, Obama loves Reagan—I mean, you know, if he’s a Reaganite, I’m a salamander.
And, you know, it was a crazy kind of debate. And I think the friction is pretty high on that side.
CARLSON: But that’s right. You saw that at the last Republican debate where, as Ron Paul pointed out, I will say, correctly, the debate between Romney and McCain was about nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.
CARLSON: It was not about foreign policy. In fact, in the last six and a half years since 9/11, we’ve never had a debate about foreign policy.
When are we morally obligated to intervene? Do we have an obligation to improve the lives of foreign populations? We’ve never had that conversation.
KLEIN: We may have one this fall.
CARLSON: That would be great.
KLEIN: In the general election.
KLEIN: If McCain is the nominee. I mean, McCain says that the troop levels in Iraq should be left up to General Petraeus. And that is wrong.
The troop levels in Iraq should be left up to the commander in chief, who has to balance the needs in Iraq against the needs in Afghanistan, against the need for the Army to rest a little bit, and against the needs of the government for that $9 billion, $10 billion a month that we’re spending in Iraq. And that’s a command decision.
RUSSERT: You could even have a bigger debate, and that is McCain saying the war in Iraq is worth fighting. It was worth the cost in life and treasure to depose Saddam Hussein, and we’re going to be there for a long, long time. He had this famous quote of almost 100 years, but nonetheless, philosophically that’s what’s he’s going to carve out, Tucker.
CARLSON: Well, that would...
RUSSERT: And the Democratic candidates who say it was the wrong war, it’s not worth the price, and we should get out.
CARLSON: I suspect no one will take it one step beyond and define the parameters of a just war. You know, when is it in our interest to become involved? You know, is it worth going into Darfur? Was it worth it to go into—should we have gone into Rwanda, et cetera?
But I think McCain—that’s not a winning argument. Most people don’t think it was a good idea to go in.
The winning argument for the Republicans is we can stop the further humiliation. We’re not going to see people clinging to the structure (ph) of a helicopter off the roof of an embassy.
KLEIN: I think you’re going to see the Democratic candidate flank McCain on the right by saying, we should be—we should be clearing out al Qaeda where it really exists in Pakistan. We should be—I mean, Obama has already said that he’s in favor of targeted strikes onto those...
RUSSERT: And Afghanistan’s deteriorating.
KLEIN: Yes, right.
DIONNE: Do you know what’s fascinating about McCain on the philosophical front? He says over and over again that the war against Islamic fascist terrorism—I think that’s his phrase, or Islamic terrorism...
KLEIN: Radical Islamic extremism.
DIONNE: Radical—is the transcendent challenge of our generation. Is that true?
And I think there are a lot of Americans who say we want to beat the terrorists, this is very important.
CARLSON: That’s right.
DIONNE: But boy do we have a lot of other challenges in the world—the rise of China, the rise of India, our role in the economy. There are a lot of other things going on there. And to argue that this single-minded focus is the only thing that’s transcendent I think could lead to a very good debate in our foreign policy.
KLEIN: You’re absolutely right.
You know, the Chinese are going around the world being very successful by going to governments like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and Sudan...
CARLSON: And Pakistan.
KLEIN: ... and their—and they have a very interesting foreign policy. They say to these people, what do you need? Do you need a dam? Do you need a highway? We’ll build it for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Machine politics.
KLEIN: And that—and the contrast of that foreign policy in the contest for resources in the world against our foreign policy, which is, we’re going to bomb you into the Stone Age if you don’t agree with us, that is also a huge foreign policy debate that needs to be had.
CARLSON: That will never be had. Never.
RUSSERT: Those Chinese ward heelers. Get me out the goodies...
RUSSERT: We’re going to take another quick break. A lot more of our conversation right after this.
RUSSERT: And we are back talking to Joe Klein. You can read his column, “In the Arena,” in “TIME” magazine.
Tucker Carlson, every night at 6:00 here on MSNBC. And read his writings in “The New Republic.”
And E.J. Dionne, “The Washington Post” every Tuesday and Friday. His column and his new book, “Sold Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right,” we’re going to talk more about faith in just a second.
But Joe, first, William Jefferson Clinton, what role has he played in this campaign?
KLEIN: Well, he’s redefined his wife’s candidacy since New Hampshire. It became a co-candidacy. And I spent—I spent some time traveling, chasing after him in South Carolina, and it was really striking to see the absence of black people in his audiences. I mean, it’s as if a mass decision was made—you know, you just don’t that kind of stuff.
People are hurt and enraged by it. And I think that’s he’s done real damage to her candidacy.
You know, an interesting thing, the interesting quality here, is that when it’s Hillary against Obama, one on one, she seems stronger. When it’s two on one, she seems weaker.
DIONNE: That’s exactly—and I think the worst thing that happened to her is the reappearance in the headlines of that word, “Billary.” And it goes to Joe’s point.
When it’s Hillary, she did quite well. And what astounds me is that she, after her victory in New Hampshire, when she won herself, Bill Clinton played a supporting role. He reminded people of the things they remember that they liked about him. But she fought for that.
And then he jumped in, in South Carolina, and I think got in the way of what was a pretty good trajectory that she was on, which is why they are now asking him to campaign for her with the same vigor that Fred Thompson used campaigning for himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Strolling for president.
DIONNE: Yes, strolling for president.
CARLSON: When Robert Reich, the former labor secretary and former personal friend of both Clintons, said in public he believed Bill Clinton was injecting race into this race, I think things have moved so fast we haven’t had time to...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which he was.
CARLSON: Which he was. But we haven’t had time to sort of think about what that means.
You’re accusing—a longtime friend, the labor secretary, accusing Bill Clinton of essentially bigotry? I mean, essentially?
That’s unbelievable. Whether it’s true or not is another question, but it tells you the latent hostility of liberals toward Clinton is in full flower. And I think it’s—it’s amazing.
RUSSERT: But what did Clinton say that was injecting of race?
KLEIN: Well, using Jesse Jackson...
KLEIN: ... and the example...
CARLSON: But that was after.
DIONNE: You know, to me the problem was, even if—whether you agree or not on the race thing...
DIONNE: ... it was sort of using him as an attack partisan.
The one that offended me most was the Reagan business, because I sat there in 1991, where Bill Clinton sat with a bunch of “Washington Post” reporters praising Ronald Reagan in his handling of the Cold War.
DIONNE: And I said, OK, you can attack if you want on his, you know, voting present (ph) or something, but why are you going after him on Reagan?
KLEIN: I mean, also, he always talked about the brain-dead policy of both parties...
KLEIN: ... when he was—when he was running in 1992.
But there’s another Bill Clinton problem here that is a huge one, and it surfaced in “The New York Times” this week, the story about Bill Clinton’s business dealings with a Canadian mining operator and helping him to get a big uranium contract in Kazakhstan, praising the dictator of Kazakhstan.
And also, then the mining operator gives $100 million to the Clinton Library?
KLEIN: My God. Clinton Foundation.
You know, I’ve talked to people in the Hillary—who are close to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and they are worried that in the general election, should she win, a lot of Bill Clinton incorporated is going to be raised by the Republicans.
CARLSON: It’s almost starting to look reckless, the idea that the Democrats would nominate Hillary Clinton, which I think is still the most likely outcome merely because of the momentum, and she is, of course, the institutional candidate. But Frank Rich had a piece saying almost exactly what Joe said in The Times last week, making that same point.
There is so much there. I mean, there are—on your show, you asked Hillary Clinton, “Will you release your health care documents?” She said, “I think I have.”
As that piece pointed out, three million still to go. Maybe there’s nothing in them and maybe there is. The point is, those sorts of stories will dominate the election season.
Do the Democrats want that? Maybe they do.
KLEIN: You know, and once again—go ahead.
DIONNE: I just want to say, I think the thing that happened in these two weeks is that the balance of risk changed in the minds of a lot of Democrats. Before the risk was, Obama isn’t ready, or do we really know Obama very well?
Now the risk of, well, do we want to relive this? Do we want to litigate everything that Bill Clinton has done since he was president?
And what’s really striking about this controversy, a lot of the people who are upset are people who really like the Clintons. In other words...
DIONNE: ... if this were just the same old Clinton haters, you’d say, all right, they’ve always been there. But I’ve been struck by people who think he was basically a good president, who admire her, and ask, what were they doing out here? And that’s dangerous.
KLEIN: And you know, to me, I count myself as one of those sort of people. To me, the real sadness here is that I thought she’s run the most substantive campaign...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
KLEIN: ... of any candidate out there. Her health care plan, her energy plan, the fact that she’s really done the homework on national security in a way...
DIONNE: Absolutely right.
KLEIN: ... that no Democratic candidate has in a long, long time. And as I said, one on one against Obama. When she can strut that kind of stuff, she looks pretty strong. But it no longer is one on one.
RUSSERT: Social Security is one of the issues she won’t go near. Putting nothing on the table.
DIONNE: Right. And I—I don’t blame her for that.
KLEIN: But you know what’s going to—I don’t blame her either.
DIONNE: Social Security is not the major challenge we face. Health care is. And she’s been really up front with health care.
CARLSON: Oh, I mean, what, so you’re not—you’re not going to address Social Security? You want to run the country?
DIONNE: Of course she is. Of course she is.
CARLSON: I think—and, you know, thank God for people who push her on that, but she’s not alone. Nobody does. I mean, not one person is willing to...
RUSSERT: Fred Thompson did.
CARLSON: Well, Fred Thompson...
CARLSON: No, but it’s not just Hillary.
KLEIN: Both Obama and Edwards were saying that they would raise the cap on Social Security (INAUDIBLE). But I think that her position is the classic one.
You know exactly what she’s going to do. She’s going to have the kind of bipartisan commission that Reagan had.
CARLSON: A blue ribbon commission.
KLEIN: Yes, absolutely.
CARLSON: It’s got to be a blue ribbon commission, Joe. I’m sorry.
KLEIN: But if she’s president, it could be a pink ribbon commission. But I think—and they’ll come to a deal. But what she doesn’t want to do is, in the general election, give the Republicans yet another tax to hang her with.
RUSSERT: Joe Klein, you know a guy named “Anonymous” who wrote “Primary Colors.” What would Anonymous be writing now about the Clinton relationship?
KLEIN: Well, I’ve got to say, I think that the inside story of their marriage from January 3rd, the night of Iowa, to February 5th, would be a better novel than “Primary Colors.”
CARLSON: I find myself not wanting to know, which is maybe one of the rationales for voting for Barack Obama, because if Hillary is the nominee and then elected, it will be—I mean, I doubt you’ll write another great novel. I hope you do.
KLEIN: No. You only get one “Anonymous” in your lifetime.
RUSSERT: I mean, is the soap opera a factor to Democrats?
KLEIN: Oh, absolutely.
DIONNE: You know, what’s fascinating again about the click, the kind of change that happened, is that you talk to a lot of Democrats early in January, and they were listening to the great, positive Bill Clinton speeches. I felt this.
You said, boy, that guy’s good. He really knows the issues. He’s really smart. Boy, it would be nice to have that back.
And then, all of a sudden, all the things that they worry about came to the fore, and the soap opera. And so, again, I think it’s the—it’s the questions they put in the minds of their friends that are the problem, not the...
KLEIN: And the fact is that what we’ve seen come back over the last two weeks are the Bill Clinton who didn’t know what the definition of “is” is, and also the guy who pardoned Marc Rich. Not the Clinton who was a pretty damn good president.
CARLSON: What is the point? I mean, why—I’m not sure—at this point, if you were to ask just any Democrat, why exactly are you voting for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama knowing what we know?
DIONNE: I think the rationale is, she’s smart, she’s got good plans, she’d be a good president, she’s ready to be president. And it’s less of a risk than Obama. But that was yesterday.
CARLSON: Oh boy.
DIONNE: Now, I think people are asking the question again.
KLEIN: And the most basic thing is, she’s not going to go crazy on you. She’s not going to do—she’s not going to go invade Iraq, you know, preemptively.
CARLSON: Hard to see them doing that. I think if we had another week and a half, I mean, it would be his.
DIONNE: Well, I think...
RUSSERT: Super Tuesday?
DIONNE: ... Super Tuesday is not going to decide this, and partly because of Democratic rules.
Somebody is going to do well enough to keep the race moving forward. And that’s not just wishful thinking from somebody who loves this particular race.
KLEIN: The novelist in me would like to see this race decided—and also the political columnist would like to see this race decided—in Ohio,
KLEIN: It’s the state that they need, and maybe the Democratic Party needs to know what the people—what the Democrats and what the people in Ohio—which candidate they want.
RUSSERT: We’re going to take a quick break. A lot more of our conversation right after this.
RUSSERT: And we are back.
One of the controversies in the Democratic Party, the primaries in Michigan and Florida did not count. The Democratic National Committee said you can’t change the date of your primaries or caucuses, and if you do, you lose your delegates.
Senator Clinton, Joe Klein, is now saying, well, maybe those delegations should be ceded. One of her supporters said maybe those delegates should be able to vote at the convention.
What would happen if Senator Clinton was nominated based on votes from the delegations from Florida and Michigan?
KLEIN: I think there would be a big problem at the Democratic convention. I think...
RUSSERT: And you’d be there to cover it.
KLEIN: Absolutely. You know, this is one of the less savory things that the Clintons have been involved in, in the last couple of weeks, changing the rules on Michigan and Florida.
Now, it is totally inside baseball right now, but it’s really striking to me how desperate that is. She made a deal, and she’s—and she’s walked right up to the edge of not abiding by it.
CARLSON: But guess who cares—nobody. I just got back from Florida, where she...
CARLSON: Maybe, maybe. But, I mean, she—I mean, I was just—I just came back from Florida, where she had this event outside Fort Lauderdale on the night of the primary where she, you know, greeted her well-wishers, and thanks for—of course it was a Potemkin election. It didn’t mean anything, and yet, that, I think, is a predicate to what you just suggested, which is, you know, having the delegates vote.
And at that point, it’s like, who is invested enough in the process to really care who’s going to—so people get up and walk out, fine. But she’s still going to win. No?
DIONNE: This would be the most divisive battle on the floor of the Democratic convention since 1972. Remember, Willie Brown...
DIONNE: ... and that, you’re right, it didn’t really matter much now.
CARLSON: Right, exactly.
DIONNE: If this goes to the floor of the convention, and the nomination hangs on disputed delegates, you could tear the party apart.
KLEIN: You know, one very interesting thing about this conversation that we’ve been having is that, on the Democratic side, it has been all about Hillary Clinton. We haven’t talked about Barack Obama as a candidate, as—you know, about his lack of experience, about the fact that he doesn’t have the kind of national security experience that’s absolutely necessary that Clinton has worked hard to gain over the last five years.
He’s skating because this whole election has become, at least in the press’ terms, about the Clinton family. And I think that—by the way, I think the fact that this has gone on and on is doing him an enormous favor, should he actually win it in the end, because it’s giving him an awful lot of experience. He’s gotten better in debates, but I think he still has to do more substantively to close the deal with the Democratic electorate if he’s going to win this nomination.
RUSSERT: Tucker, through your eye, what are the differences you see between Obama and Clinton?
CARLSON: I’ll tell you exactly the key difference, and this is the reason you see many conservatives, Republicans, saying, I kind of like Barack Obama. And I know many who feel that way.
You listen to Barack Obama and you think, you know, I don’t think he hates me for my views. He was at a speech recently and an abortion protester got up and said, your position is tantamount to murder, or something—a pretty harsh thing. And people jeered at the protester.
Obama said, stop. I take his position seriously. I don’t agree with him, but I think he has points that are thought out and worth respecting.
I look at Hillary Clinton and I say, she hates me. Not just because I have a show that criticizes here, but because of my views. I mean that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But she’s got good reason, Tucker.
CARLSON: But she is partisan, he is post-partisan. That’s the key difference right there.
KLEIN: You know, Tucker, I saw Hillary Clinton do that exact same thing with an abortion protester in the town of Clinton, Iowa. And I think she really gets a bum rap as far as...
CARLSON: Really? The Reagan thing, the whole attack on Obama that even—that using the word “Reagan” without an epithet attached is a sin? I mean, that’s like the dumbest kind of partisanship.
KLEIN: But you match that—it is. It’s the dumbest kind of partisanship. We established that earlier.
KLEIN: But then you look at her record of working with Republicans in the Senate. And I think it’s pretty impressive.
DIONNE: And you know what it is, I think? Is it’s a theory of change. And it’s one of the reasons why Paul Krugman has run all these interesting columns attacking Obama from a particular point of view in “The New York Times.”
And Krugman’s view, which is a defensible view, is that we are in a situation, a hyper-partisanship, where you can only move forward if you defeat the Republican enemy. Obama’s theory is that by trying to jump over the divisiveness, speaking in a less rancorous tone, you can being to convert significant parts of the country, including...
DIONNE: ... Republicans.
Now, I think it is actually a good argument to be hand between those two views. But I think they both want to move in broadly the same direction and have a very different approach as to how they’re going to get there.
RUSSERT: It’s that same approach that Obama floated in terms of foreign policy, that he would be willing to sit down with any foreign leader and basically call their bluff if they were “bad guys.” And Hillary Clinton said, no, no, no, you don’t ever do that. That’s naive and that’s risky.
DIONNE: One of my favorite biographical facts about Barack Obama, he got elected president of “The Harvard Law Review” partly by conservatives. The conservative minority who said...
DIONNE: ... he’s not one of us, but he’ll pay attention to us. And that was enough...
KLEIN: That’s right. His opponent in that case was to his left.
KLEIN: And Obama made that move. This is a move he’s made throughout his life.
CARLSON: But is it possible to imagine Hillary Clinton taking the Democratic Party to a sort of national party once again for the first time in a number of generations? I don’t think it is possible to imagine that. It’s absolutely possible to imagine Barack Obama doing that.
KLEIN: It’s harder to imagine it now after the last couple of weeks.
CARLSON: It’s hard to imagine Obama doing that?
KLEIN: But I’ve got to say, you know, Hillary would send staff to talk to these foreign leaders. You know, to the Iranians, to the Syrians, and so on. Lay the groundwork, and then if there was a promising development, she’d go and meet with them.
What you’ve got to remember is that Bill Clinton tried really hard at the 2000 meeting of the General Assembly to shake the hand of the president of Iran, and the Iranians backed out at the last minute. I think that what Clinton is saying here is really important—you need to do that groundwork. But I think both of them are taking the absolutely correct position that our policy of non-recognition, which started in 1917, has been a complete disaster every single time we’ve used it.
You have to talk to everyone.
RUSSERT: We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back with more after this.
RUSSERT: Staying one more second here on Hillary Clinton, Peggy Noonan wrote a column in “The Wall Street Journal” where she said she’s the most polarizing figure beyond Richard Nixon, and that her concern—this is Noonan—that if there was another, God forbid, terrorist attack, a President Hillary Clinton could not unite the country, because the antipathy, the anger towards her, is that deep.
DIONNE: Although, you know, whose fault is that? And I think some of the fault here is not on the Clinton side.
That going all the way back to Bill Clinton first coming into office, there was this organized opposition to them on the right that would not abate, that pushed for impeachment. And so, you know, I think some of the—a lot of the sin here is not—does not originate with the Clintons.
CARLSON: I think that’s fair. And that organized resistance to the Clintons was written off as crazy and obsessive by their defenders, many of whom are now attacking the Clintons from the same ground. So I think they ought to apologize for that.
But let me just say, I think the real fear with Hillary Clinton is not that she won’t unite the country. If there’s a terror attack, the country will be united. It doesn’t matter. That’s the way the country is, in my view.
The question is, will she overreact to that in an effort to prove her toughness, to prove her bona fides as the hawk. I don’t know, that makes me uncomfortable.
KLEIN: I don’t think so. I really don’t think so.
I think that she’s become well versed—if you talk to generals about Democrats who might be president—and I talked to one very prominent general. I said, “Is there any Democrat who might be president who has even the vaguest idea of how your mind works.” And he said to me, “You mean, aside from Hillary?”
And you get that across the board. There is tremendous respect for her. She hasn’t been showing in the Democratic primary because being—you know, being smart on defense isn’t a big deal in the Democratic primary.
But I think—and to go back to your point, E.J., I think there’s more than a little of this came from Republican attacks and our complicity in it in the ‘90s. I mean, what was Whitewater in the end? It was nonsense.
RUSSERT: “Sold Out,” E.J. We had a chance up at Boston College last year, and I posed the question: “Have the Democrats emphasized the Sermon on the Mount too much, and have the Republicans emphasized the Ten Commandments too much? And is there a way to find common ground on the issue of faith with both political parties?”
DIONNE: Right. And I think the answer is yes, because the Sermon on the Mount is, shall we say, quite consistent with the Ten Commandments. And I think that is the format you’re seeing out there.
You know, when Evangelicals say that caring for the environment is part of creation care, that is very scriptural. And it’s the instinctive view of environmentalists is exactly the same as the instinctive view of a lot of the Evangelicals.
And a lot of these fights—I mean, the “Sold Out” title is really about two things. One, is we’re exhausted with turning religion into a prop for a political party, or a political machine. But it also sells out our traditions to say, they’re only about this narrow little list of issues.
You know, since when is economic justice not a moral issue, or how we decide to go to war? And so I think there’s a link here that a lot of people on the left and right are starting to make.
RUSSERT: Barack Obama and Sam Brownback go to Rick Warren’s church in California, and both talk about their faith.
CARLSON: Yes. Things are changing. And I think they’re particularly changing on the right, where you see—I mean, as you said a minute ago, that John McCain, one of his big problems is he attacked Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson eight years ago.
It’s unimaginable now that that would be as controversial because the leadership of the evangelical movement is in disarray. But more to the point, it’s changing its younger.
DIONNE: And Rick Warren is a fascinating figure. I write about him in the book.
Rick warren is definitely broadly conservative in his politics. I suspect from what he said, he’s a conservative Republican. But this is somebody who has welcome Barack Obama to his church, the Clintons...
CARLSON: Good for him.
DIONNE: ... all kinds of people.
And Rick Warren has this great line. He said, “I’m not right wing or left wing. I’m for the whole bird.” And I think that style in the new megachurches is displacing another style which was much more ideological, political and related to elections.
RUSSERT: You know, Joe, there was a lot of discussion about Mike Huckabee’s television commercial where the camera panned and you saw the window frame in the back which looked like a cross. But then I went to South Carolina, and there was a direct mail piece from Barack Obama with a church window on the back and him reflective in prayer.
I mean, it was straightforward. Obama is praying as a Christian.
KLEIN: You know, I think that its’ going to be really tough for the Democratic Party in this country until they recognize that the rising evangelical movement is part of the middle class squeeze. You know, Democrats only talk about the economic side of it, but there’s a spiritual side of it.
If you talk to evangelicals, what’s the biggest issue in their minds? The impact of the culture on their children. And a lot of these are people who are—mom and dad are both working, they’re not home. They want a safe place for their kids. They want the—you know, the youth group, the choir, the bible study, and all the rest. That’s why they join churches.
And until Democrats understand that these are the old Democratic constituency, the old working class constituency...
KLEIN: ... they are not going to be the majority party.
RUSSERT: And Tucker, voters want to know that you share their values.
CARLSON: That’s exactly—and that’s one of the reasons the Democrats haven’t won those voters.
The truth is, Evangelicals—and we’ve seen this again and again in the primary so far if you look at the exit polling—aren’t as conservative as we though they were. They are conservative on the social issues, but they never bought into “The Wall Street Journal” editorial page view of the market. I’m serious, they never did. We assumed they did because they’re part of the coalition, but they didn’t.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
CARLSON: The Democrats alienating them with the lifestyle stuff, and it did alienate them. If they get over that, a lot of those people will vote Democrat.
RUSSERT: That’s what southern Ohio was all about.
CARLSON: Right—that’s exactly...
DIONNE: I once debated Ralph Reed and I said, well, I will absolutely defend your right to base your political conclusions on your religious belief, but you’ve got to show me where in the “New Testament” Jesus talks about cutting the capital gains tax. I just cannot find it in my “New Testament.”
RUSSERT: To be continued.
Brother Dionne, Brother Carlson, Brother Klein, thank you all.
Tuesdays and Thursdays in The Post. “Sold Out” is the new book.
And Tucker, 6:00.
RUSSERT: All right. And “The New Republic.”
Joe Klein, “In the Arena,” every week, “TIME” magazine.
RUSSERT: Thank you all.
See you next week.
Watch Tim Russert Saturdays, 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET and Sundays, 12 p.m. ET