Guests: Chris Kofinis, Bob Franken, Lanny Davis
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: At the rate they are swinging, you‘ve got to wonder if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will have anything left for the later rounds of their heavyweight political bout.
Welcome to the show.
Obama and Clinton have essentially reversed roles and tactics since Tuesday‘s night Clinton victories. Obama has gone into attack mode directly questioning Clinton‘s claims of foreign policy readiness and pressing her to release her tax returns among other things. But Obama must thread a political needle as he does that. He‘s got to prove his toughness and resilience while maintaining his appeal as a politician above the ugly fray. Can he stay negative and inspirational at the same time? That‘s the task and the question.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton exudes confidence and tenacity and chides the Obama campaign for relying on delegate math instead of momentum for its message. With the candidate buoyed by recent success, “The Washington Post” reports the tensions within the Clinton campaign have continued despite her revival. How will Hillary Clinton‘s run for the White House be affected by behind-the-scenes turmoil? And there‘s a lot of it. Lanny Davis joins us in a minute with the answer.
We‘ll also discuss the possibility that a long Democratic fight would be bad, in fact, for the Republican nominee, John McCain. That‘s Karl Rove‘s take anyway. Love him or not, it‘s worth considering it.
We begin tonight with the Hillary campaign, which is back in the thick of the race but reportedly plagued by divisions within. Joining us now is the Clinton campaign supporter and former White House special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny Davis.
LANNY DAVIS, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SUPPORTER: Thank you.
CARLSON: I often imagine on this show, what‘s going on inside the campaigns? What are they talking about? They‘re talking about how to finesse NAFTA, how to explain universal health care. Well, this morning, thanks to Anne Kornblut of “The Washington Post,” we have an answer.
Here‘s what‘s going on in the Clinton campaign. Mark Penn, Harold Ickes, two of the smartest guys in Washington, addressing one another, here‘s how their conservation goes. F you, Ickes shouted. F you, Penn shouted. F you, Ickes shouted again.
That‘s a little glimpse inside the Clinton campaign.
DAVIS: That sounds pretty tamed.
CARLSON: That sounds pretty tamed.
DAVIS: Could be a lot worse.
CARLSON: How could it be?
DAVIS: You know, I know both of these people.
CARLSON: How could that possibly be worse?
DAVIS: I know both of these people pretty well and I think those F-you‘s were before Tuesday night. Now everybody loves each other. You know, when campaigns are stumbling sometimes within the campaign organization, tensions rise. But now, I think I have some firsthand knowledge of this that people have settled down and we‘re focusing on winning this thing and Pennsylvania is now the decisive state.
CARLSON: What‘s Mark‘s Penn‘s—Mark Penn‘s position? He described himself as chief strategist. And then on Monday right before it looked like Hillary was about to be out for good, he said, well, to the (INAUDIBLE), oh I‘m not—I mean I‘m sort of involved on the periphery. Now is he chief strategist again?
DAVIS: Let‘s talk about Hillary‘s campaign.
CARLSON: Well, I don‘t know. Here‘s what “The Washington Post” said. It said that after the Tuesday‘s election, the Clinton campaign has to figure out how to capitalize on it, has to figure out why it happened. And I‘m quoting now, “and then Clinton‘s advisors turned to their other goal, denying Mark Penn credit.”
DAVIS: First of all.
CARLSON: I mean what a dysfunctional place, no?
DAVIS: First of all I have the lovely position of not being part of the campaign organization.
DAVIS: I speak for myself. I have no title. Secondly, Mark Penn is a great pollster, and analyzes data, and then derives messages and also lessons from data. Mandy Grunwald develops television commercials, Harold Ickes is one of the great political minds and strategists in the country. These are smart people. They‘re not always going to agree. But right now I can tell you as of this morning everybody is running together, focusing on Pennsylvania.
CARLSON: And not screaming expletives presumably today.
DAVIS: I don‘t know but it doesn‘t sound.
CARLSON: OK. Well, here‘s—and not to belabor this one piece. But it really answers so many questions the rest of us have been wondering about.
CARLSON: We‘re not privy to what‘s going there. Bill Clinton, what is his
role in the campaign. Much speculation about that. I think it‘s answered
by the following quote.
Quote, “The greatest challenge going into the campaign, a senior campaign aide said with a sigh, was the management of Bill Clinton. As Clinton strategist woke up the next morning after South Carolina, they realized that the African-American constituency, a backbone of the Democratic coalition, was permanently lost to her. Only then were some of Clinton‘s former aides such as Doug Sosnik, former White House lawyer Cheryl Mills and fundraiser Terry McAuliffe tapped to talk with Bill Clinton about reigning in his rhetoric. And a daily conference call was established to try to enforce.”
They need a daily conference call to keep Bill Clinton under control. If she‘s elected president, will there be a daily conference call to do the same?
DAVIS: He‘ll be a great ambassador for the.
CARLSON: Will there be a daily conference call?
DAVIS: And no. To have Bill Clinton as first husband representing this country around the world as a goodwill ambassador.
DAVIS: .everybody, I think, even Republicans would concede, that‘s going to be good for America. But I know something about.
CARLSON: I would not concede that for a second. I think it would be a disaster.
CARLSON: I think he undercut his wife‘s foreign policy.
DAVIS: In parts of the world, as a goodwill ambassador, I agree with you, there can‘tbe two foreign policy spokesperson.
But let me just quickly tell you that Bill Clinton is at his best, there‘s nobody better in describing why Hillary Clinton‘s experience as first lady but being on the front lines of a great many issues in the White House. He‘s the expert, telling people about how smart she is, how experienced she is, and what a great president she‘d make. That role should and will continue because there‘s nobody better.
When he gets outside of that role and he starts to be negative or critical of Barack Obama, even though he was mischaracterized about what he said about Obama before South Carolina, I believe that he now recognizes and he said himself, I‘m going to be campaigning for Hillary, not against Obama.
CARLSON: Yes, we‘ve heard that. He‘s going to do better next time. It‘s all the cycle of sin and repentance. Yes, those who covered a Clinton campaign are fully familiar with it. Speaking of which, you and I met many years ago when you‘re representing the Clinton administration during its battles with Ken Starr. Given that and your familiarity with Judge Starr, what did you make of Howard Wolfson‘s remark today comparing the Obama campaign to Ken Starr?
DAVIS: I don‘t know why he said it and I haven‘t read the remark. I remember Senator McCain once saying to me in a greenroom of a competitor station of yours, don‘t criticize somebody‘s motives, criticize their judgment.
DAVIS: What we ought to be saying about Ken Starr is he exercised poor judgment and leave that alone. I don‘t think we ought to.
CARLSON: Well, speaking of judgment, I‘m still baffled as to why Senator Clinton hasn‘t released her tax returns. Mark Halperin at “TIME” had a really fascinating kind of rundown. He said here are the eight things we could learn from her tax returns.
The tax rate they paid, the amount her husband made, where he get it, stock gains and losses, gross income, amount earned from stock dividends, amount of household employment taxes paid, personal exemptions taken, charitable contributions made. Senator Clinton claims she‘s too busy to release her tax returns. Given the fact she‘s been able to loan her campaign $5 million you‘d think they‘d be able to hire an accountant. The reality is she wants to keep this information hidden from the voters of Wyoming, Mississippi and Pennsylvania. And they ought to wonder why.
DAVIS: I think Obama said this is silly season about something else.
She‘s going to release her tax returns.
CARLSON: Why not do it today? What is the answer? I don‘t understand.
DAVIS: Because I think like you—I couldn‘t release my tax returns today because I do them on April the 14th.
CARLSON: But if you‘re running for president, and people have been calling for them for a year, wouldn‘t you have hired an accountant and done it?
DAVIS: On April 16th, you will see no story about their tax returns, zero or at least just somebody like Senator Obama, who is the politics of hope candidate, tries to make something about the tax returns, I think.
CARLSON: But Lanny.
DAVIS: Democrats are going to say let‘s get on with more important.
CARLSON: But Lanny, that‘s even weirder. That‘s even weirder. If their tax returns come out and they‘re just conventional per se tax returns.
CARLSON: .like yours and mine.
DAVIS: Which is.
CARLSON: .then you‘re going to ask why did they bring all this grief upon themselves. Why didn‘t they just release them—you know, months ago?
DAVIS: You know, it‘s going to be a very good question.
CARLSON: Yes, it will be.
DAVIS: And Senator Clinton is going to say, I don‘t know, there‘s nothing in them. We probably could have but I was focused on the campaign and everybody else releases them.
CARLSON: I hope there‘s something so damaging it at least justifies the secrecy, don‘t you?
DAVIS: Can we talk about the economy?
CARLSON: We will next time.
Lanny Davis, thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you.
CARLSON: And congratulations on what happened Tuesday.
DAVIS: Thank you.
CARLSON: The seven-week war between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama begins this week. Barack Obama says it all comes down to the delegates. Hillary claims toughness and perseverance will carry the day. Who‘s right?
Barack Obama is still trailing her in the all-important state of Pennsylvania, though. He has been gaining ground. Can he gain enough to win it? Does he need to win it?
You‘re watching MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: One of the things that, you know, I hope people start asking is what exactly is this foreign experience that she‘s claiming. I know she talks about visiting 80 countries. It‘s not clear, you know, was she negotiating treatise or agreements, or was she handling crisis during this point of time? My sense is the answer is no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Barack Obama is on the attack against Hillary Clinton, finally, in a long, hard campaign slog. With so few votes and so few delegates separating Clinton and Obama, the contest likely will boil down to a test of wills. Hillary Clinton‘s will to win is beyond question. That‘s for certain. Barack Obama‘s remains unproven. Can he outlast one of the great survivors in modern politics?
Joining us now contributing writer for Slate, Melinda Henneberger, and syndicated columnist Bob Franken.
Welcome to you both.
Here‘s what Hillary Clinton says, here‘s her summation of where the campaign goes. This is an e-mail she sent to supporters and me today.
She said, quote, “I find it interesting that a campaign that is supposed to be about hope and inspiration resorts to some kind of mathematical argument.”
It‘s just—that made me laugh out loud. Campaigns are in fact mathematical equations. The guy with the most wins. But what‘s so interesting with this is she‘s right. It‘s not about the math anymore. Neither one of them will have enough superdelegates to win. It‘s about the politics, who can make the deals, who can endure, who‘s tough enough to get hit in the face and keep going. She‘s the one.
MELINDA HENNEBERGER, SLATE: Well, I, too, am against math and have been all my life.
CARLSON: Good for you.
HENNEBERGER: So that appealed to me a lot. But I love this, he‘s resorting to math. That somehow a candidate who does a dangerous thing like sell hope is not entitled to count the delegates. So I like that. But yes, you‘re right. It‘s not about the math in the sense it was a week ago.
HENNEBERGER: Because right now he has to pull off something really complex by coming back at these really serious attacks against a fellow Democrat that are really fairly shocking while still maintaining his—the reason for his candidacy is being above the fray. I think he can do that but it‘s not going to be easy.
CARLSON: Well, see, but the Obama people have these very—and some of their supporters in the press have these very compelling, very compelling scenarios that show you that she would have to win basically every single remaining person in the United States in order to lock up the pledge delegates. What they omit is he can‘t do it either. So in fact it‘s not about—I mean unless one of them really blows it or sets themselves on fire. So—but I mean in real life, neither one is going to get there.
BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: So is it appropriate here to quote Bush the first and say what this really may come down to, is the big mo, momentum. The perception of momentum, anyway, if she stops him in his tracks, the she has succeeded in really neutralizing all the gains that he‘s made in all this type of thing. I think it is imperative for him to look like that he is this new generation steam roller that is shoving out the old order. If the old order refuses to be shoved, I really think it changes the equation.
CARLSON: Well, I don‘t even think it‘s about momentum because momentum in a campaign typically is used to win more states, more votes. I think that‘s a moot point. Here‘s what we know. OK. So this is a totally different race now. It‘s not about winning states. They‘re going to—neither one will have enough.
HENNEBERGER: Voter‘s (INAUDIBLE).
CARLSON: That‘s actually true. We‘re answering the aristocratic face where the elders decide what qualities make a good candidates in that scenario. And I would say toughness in deal-making of the two. And the one thing we know about her, this woman has been attacked more than any other human being still living. The average person would hide under the bed, kill himself, move to Paraguay, could not handle it, she can. And that tell you she‘s perfectly—it‘s on her territory, her terrain now.
HENNEBERGER: Well, it‘s difficult, though, because on the one hard, the superdelegates are, I would say, people with whom she has the advantage, the institutional advantage.
HENNEBERGER: .of being Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, a lot of these people are elected officials themselves and they have to answer to their constituents. So, you know, if it‘s their political future on the line, I‘m not sure, if he still has as we—he will, an advantage in the numbers.
CARLSON: Yes, but would he be willing to do what she‘s willing to do? I mean, look, at this point it‘s just absolutely—let‘s just stop pretending. It‘s a night fight. So you go to superdelegates—is he willing to go to superdelegate and say, you want your son to get into the naval academy? Do you know what I mean? Do you want to—do you want a street named after you? I mean it‘s going to get to that.
HENNEBERGER: I don‘t know that he‘s going to play on that level.
CARLSON: She will.
HENNEBERGER: But he is a fighter, too. He just does it in a completely different way on tone. He gets in his digs but he doesn‘t look like he‘s losing his temper while he‘s doing it.
FRANKEN: Look, here‘s.
CARLSON: But will he wage total war? Because she will.
FRANKEN: Well, he‘s going to have to. I mean, you know, either that or he‘s going to have to sit there and whine about the other side doing it while the other side is taking his lunch away. But I think what‘s going to be key is to watch all of these political survivors, the ones who are the endorsers, the ones who maybe started out endorsing Hillary Clinton, and then decided to switch to Barack Obama. It‘s not beyond the realm of possibility to me that we‘ll see a double switch and they‘ll go back to Hillary Clinton.
CARLSON: Yes, I felt—I just—I just think all of a sudden in ways we‘re not even fully appreciating yet, this is a totally different campaign. The goal is no longer to, you know, win. No, you can‘t win in the Democratic primary system because it‘s proportional. Winning Pennsylvania. Who cares? Even if it‘s 55-45, nobody wins.
HENNEBERGER: Another solution for him, though, and something he really hasn‘t done that much, to get these superdelegates over to his side is use the surrogates better and even people in his own campaign, because I think they have been remarkably well behaved as well. I mean it‘s pretty amazing that the most serious naughty thing they‘ve said is that, you know, gosh, you ought to release her tax returns. And for that he gets compared to Ken Starr?
CARLSON: It‘s pretty (INAUDIBLE), it‘s pretty unbelievable.
FRANKEN: I covered a lot of the scandal stuff. I mean I covered Ken Starr. I know Ken Starr. And Barack Obama is no Ken Starr.
CARLSON: I know—I think you‘re selling yourself short, Bob, as someone who worked with you at the time. You didn‘t cover a lot of the scandal stuff, you covered every single moment.
FRANKEN: And I repeat. Barack Obama has no resemblance whatsoever to Ken Starr.
CARLSON: Unlike his Democratic counter-parts, meanwhile, nominee John McCain ought to have a pretty relaxing couple of months sitting back with a bowl of popcorn while his opponents destroy each other. But maybe not. Ahead we‘ll tell you why a protracted Democratic race may not be good for Republicans after all.
Plus Hillary Clinton‘s campaign pulled off nearly the impossible Tuesday
winning both Ohio and Texas. There was celebration at the headquarters for
a moment or so, and then the Hillary staff got back to their original task
fighting each other. New evidence that Hillary herself welcomes the chaos. More ahead.
CARLSON: Almost every morning brings another story about infighting among top advisors to Hillary Clinton. It‘s almost unbelievable. And just last night on this show a senior Obama adviser admitted that neither Democratic campaign has experienced foreign policy crisis. Conventional wisdom says that all this drama on the Democratic side is good news for Republicans. But what if it‘s not?
Back with us, contributing writer for “Slate” Melinda Henneberger and syndicated columnist Bob Franken.
Bob, let me quote Karl Rove, who while much despised by much of America, is a very smart guy, who sometimes says really insightful things including this.
He says, quote, “A long Democratic battle doesn‘t automatically help the Republicans. In fact, it hurts them in certain ways. Mr. McCain becomes less interesting to the media. Stories about him move off page one and grow smaller. Television coverage becomes spotty and short. There are not yet big and deep and unbridgeable differences between the two Democrats and there is plenty of time to heal those wounds, except perhaps among the young if Clinton wins. Continuing to build a profile and lay the predicate for the short fall campaigning against either Democrat becomes the challenge for Mr. McCain while the Democrats battle it out.”
Boy, I read that kind of coalesce things. I thought he‘s right.
FRANKEN: Yes, but—yes, but nothing he said was incorrect. However, he‘s forgetting about the fact that the Republicans are in a state of chaos, too. I mean John McCain has to go and herd the cats on the conservative side.
FRANKEN: .of the Republican Party. And he‘s got a big ugly fight ahead of him to do it if for no other reason than these conservative leaders are going to make sure that they don‘t somehow compromise their fundraising ability or their ability to attract listeners to their radio shows.
CARLSON: Well, fundraising ability is part of the problem, it seems me. The McCain campaign has basically leveraged free media into the spot it is in now. I mean he—you know, McCain didn‘t have any money.
CARLSON: They don‘t have anything. Just went (INAUDIBLE) by himself famously. And he was nice to the press, let them in, they gave him all the coverage and he was able to win. Without that he didn‘t have the money to compete.
HENNEBERGER: Right. But I think the Clinton campaign is making the same point that Rove was today in saying that it‘s, you know, it‘s really bad for McCain to have this period to raise money to do all these other things because he‘s not in the headlines. And, you know, that even bad news—even being in the headlines for bad news means you‘re on the radar screen and that‘s better than being off the radar screen as McCain will be.
I just do not believe this Rovian or Clintonian line at all that this is anything but a great time for John McCain, given that.
CARLSON: So good news is good news, you‘re saying. There‘s no (INAUDIBLE) to over think it.
HENNEBERGER: No. Every day that the Democratic primary drags on, particularly in this quite nasty way, is a great day for John McCain, especially given the depth of the divisions now on the Democratic side.
Because I cannot remember another race, another primary season in which so
many people said if their candidate said believably that if their candidate
isn‘t the nominee they‘ll vote for John McCain.
CARLSON: See, about this time four years ago, though, Bob, remember, we had pretty much a narrative from both sides. We knew how each candidate was going to frame the other. We knew that John Kerry was going to be the flip-flopper and George Bush was going to be the failed idiot or whatever. But we sort of knew—the campaigns have figured out how they‘re going to attack one another.
It seems to me it‘s going to be hard for McCain to get that narrative rolling, to make that case in public if he (INAUDIBLE) the nominee.
FRANKEN: Well, but he‘s got this one word, “experience,” that he can use against each of them. He can say that compared to him they don‘t have a lot of experience. Of course, they have a word that they‘re going to be continuing to use against him and that is the word, “Bush.”
FRANKEN: I mean I couldn‘t believe it yesterday when you said, oh I expect that I‘m going to ask the president to be campaigning with me. And I went, right, that‘s exactly what you‘re going to do.
CARLSON: Yes. I think we‘re going to put that under the category of
polite lies we tell in public in order not to offend our host. I mean it‘s
It is hard, too. I mean.
CARLSON: Reality check Bush not.
HENNEBERGER: Yes, he‘ll use him selectively and that‘s that. But yes, I just think this is—he‘s got to be celebrating McCain this week after Hillary Clinton basically announced that, you know, she‘s willing to take down the party with her.
CARLSON: Yes. See, I think every Democrat assumes every Republican is happy about the prospect of Hillary being the nominee. I think if Hillary Clinton winds up getting the nomination, there‘s so many hurdles between here, especially between last week and that endpoint, it will say something remarkable about her endurance if she gets there. I don‘t know. She could be a tougher candidate. You‘re not sold at all.
OK. We‘ll be right back.
No more Mr. Nice guy or girl for that matter. The seven-week battle between Clinton and Obama has begun. We‘ll show you the first salvos coming up.
Plus just because they‘re savaging one another, it doesn‘t mean Democrats have forgotten about John McCain. We‘ll show you a new ad up in the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio that accuses McCain of having ties to, believe it or not, George W. Bush.
You‘re watching MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There‘s no doubt that Senator Clinton went very negative over the last week. And, you know, the kitchen sink strategy, I‘m sure, had some impact. She‘s made the argument that she‘s thoroughly vetted in contrast to me. I think it‘s important to examine that argument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Getting more compelling by the minute. Barack Obama has questioned Hillary Clinton‘s claims of foreign policy expertise and readiness, and his campaign has attacked her for failure to disclose her income tax returns. Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said that his candidate will release those tax returns on or about April 15th, and responded that Obama‘s request for the disclosure is comparable to the tactics of the Clinton‘s 1990 nemesis, Ken Starr.
How much more dramatic is this going to get? For how much longer? We can‘t take it anymore. Here again, contributing writer for Slate, Melinda Henneberger and online columnist Bob Franken.
OK, so Obama is obviously hitting back. Some of us may detect a minor note of whininess in what he‘s saying. He‘s going after Hillary for going after the press coverage on the campaign. Here‘s what he said—let‘s put it up on the screen, the Obama quote, “I actually think that what probably had the most impact this week was the press buying into this notion that they have been too tough on Clinton or too soft on me. I actually think that had the biggest impact. She complained to the referees and the referees gave her some calls.”
The dreaded “Saturday Night Live” affect he‘s complaining about. Is that fair?
HENNEBERGER: No, I don‘t think that‘s right. I guess these candidates think you can never go wrong in running against the “New York Times” and press in general, and maybe they are right. But I don‘t think there‘s any credence to that. I think it‘s great for her to go on “Saturday Night Live.” She did a terrific job. You know, the skits were funny. That‘s all fair. I don‘t—
CARLSON: A screen writer called Adam Mckay (ph), I think a very talented guy, did “Anchorman,” Will Ferrell‘s writing partner, former head writer on “Saturday Night Live,” has a piece out today on the “Huffington Post,” in which he goes after “Saturday Night Live” and its genius writer, Jim Downey, who wrote the sketches the last two weeks, as somehow tools of the Clinton campaign, acting by proxy on behalf of the Republicans, who think Hillary will be a better and easier target for John McCain in the fall.
This is a really talented guy writing a really deranged column, which I believe he sincerely he believes. A lot of Obama people out this far?
FRANKEN: I think what we‘re seeing now is sort of this conspiracy theory consuming everybody in this campaign. It‘s come to that. I think we need to sit back and sort of see what‘s going on here. We have the Clinton campaign whining about press coverage. Now we have Barack Obama whining about the Clinton campaign‘s successful whining.
So it‘s really come down to this. And I think that people are going to get tired of it very quickly.
CARLSON: It‘s getting very muddy. Here is what Barack Obama is saying directly about Hillary Clinton. Not about the press who comment on upon Hillary Clinton, but about her. He said, “if she continues, as over the last week, to bring up real estate transactions and the character of our supporters who provided donations to our campaign, then we will make certain she has to answer those same questions with respect to herself, her husband and her campaign,” to which, Melinda, I say, why wait until then.
You‘ve got a candidate, as Frank Rich has pointed out many times, I think, correctly, who has so many unearthed skeletons, why the hell are you waiting for her to hit first?
HENNEBERGER: Because he has been running a campaign that is billed as and is above—has been so far above the fray. And that‘s, you know—so it‘s dicey now to say that for every Tony Rezco I have, there‘s three Johnny Chungs. You want to talk real estate, let‘s talk real estate.
HENNEBERGER: But the surrogates do need to be doing that. We‘ll be here a long time if we get into those arguments.
CARLSON: Do you think it wouldn‘t—I think your point is absolutely right. Do you think it wouldn‘t work, in other words, if the Obama campaign said hold on, Miss Whitewater. Don‘t lecture me about a parcel of land on the south side of Chicago.
FRANKEN: Actually, I think this is all kind of healthy. At least they are getting all this stuff out right now. If you don‘t think that the Republicans are prepared to do this, I‘ve got some land in Chicago and Arkansas that I‘m going to sell you.
CARLSON: They are not getting it out. We don‘t know anything, really, about what Hillary Clinton did during her eight years in the White House. I don‘t, and I follow this stuff for a living. I have no idea who contributes to her husband‘s foundation, where the five million dollars came from. There‘s so much we don‘t know, why isn‘t the Obama campaign helping to find out.
FRANKEN: Well, they are certainly starting to hammer on this. I suspect at some point they are going to either draw some blood with these kind of charges or they‘re going to force the Clinton campaign to at least try and look like it‘s releasing some sort of public release of its documents.
CARLSON: Are they going to have to?
HENNEBERGER: They are going to have to. I think it‘s a great point and a fair point for them to make, especially given that she‘s using, I‘ve been vetted. I‘m completely vetted. Has anyone ever been more picked over than I have. When, in fact, in the post-presidential years, we don‘t know a lot about what Bill Clinton has been doing financially. We don‘t have the tax returns. We don‘t have the who funded the Clinton Library.
We don‘t know a lot about their personal life, post-presidential life. If you make the claim that I‘ve been thoroughly vetted, that opens you up a lot.
CARLSON: Here is how I read what you‘re saying—you‘re absolutely right. She hasn‘t been thoroughly vetted. She hasn‘t been vetted at all in a lot of important ways. I think what she‘s saying is no one has been hit harder than I have been. No one has been humiliated more, beaten more by the press, by her political opponents. No one been more embarrassed than I have been.
HENNEBERGER: That is what she‘s saying.
CARLSON: I think she‘s right. I can‘t think of another public figure who has been hit harder than she has.
HENNEBERGER: But she is talking about until 2000. I don‘t think she can make the claim that their lives have been vetted since 2000.
CARLSON: Right, no, and even then a lot of things—again, do you have any idea what she did as first lady?
FRANKEN: There was certainly a lot of investigation about that, if you recall. No, I don‘t. More importantly, after she was first lady, they suddenly became wealthy, which was not what they were when they left the White House. Who contributed to that?
CARLSON: How does that work and how can I get in on that? How do you go from having nothing --
FRANKEN: You think I‘m going to release my documents?
CARLSON: I don‘t know. I‘m not saying they did anything wrong. I‘m merely asking an academic question. How do you go from being millions in debt to law firms, and taking, by the way, years to pay it off, even after you got rich, stiffing these lawyers—but going from millions in debt to being so rich you can just write a check for five million bucks.
FRANKEN: I get a lot of help from my friends.
HENNEBERGER: Well, they both had record book deals and they were best
sellers, both of them, obviously. You know, he gets a lot for all his
speeches around the world. So, you know -
CARLSON: OK, those are my guesses, too. I would still like to know more. Speaking of which, there‘s a new ad out comparing Bush to McCain. I want—this is up on the air apparently out in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It makes the point that McCain, like Bush, is rich among other things. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where does John McCain stand on the issues? A trillion dollars in Iraq over the next ten years. Mc-same as Bush. A millionaire who is for tax cuts for millionaires. Mc-same as Bush. Oil companies; they get tax brakes while we pay at the pump. Mc-same as Bush.
Absolutely no plan for universal health care. Mc-same as Bush.
We need a new direction, not the Mc-same old thing. Campaign to depend America is responsible for the content of this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP
CARLSON: People can never resist puns and word play. David Betray Us, Mc-same as Bush. They can‘t control themselves. That obviously is going to be one of the primary, signature attacks against John McCain—
FRANKEN: John McCain‘s running mate is George W. Bush.
CARLSON: That‘s exactly right. They‘re going to use that famous picture of McCain nuzzling George W. Bush‘s underarm in a very embarrassing way. Is that a sellable argument in the end.
FRANKEN: I think it‘s the argument that the Democrats are relying on. I have a question: how is it that John McCain could keep the president of the United States waiting when he was coming for his endorsement? What was involved there? The McCain people will probably try and communicate on occasion that yes, we welcome the president‘s support, but let‘s remember that I‘ve been somebody who has fought with the president any number of times.
In other words, they‘re going to try and have it both ways.
HENNEBERGER: The guy has to have some fun.
CARLSON: There is a fair amount of passive aggression there. Since McCain and Bush have so famously hated each other for so long—and they do have almost identical positions on the war. That‘s a fair critique, I believe. They are not the same person.
HENNEBERGER: I‘m not sure how that will sell ultimately, because I think obviously McCain appeals to independents. He‘s not the same on campaign finance. He‘s not the same on global warming. He‘s not the same on any number of other issues. So I am not sure that will sell.
CARLSON: No. I think probably if you were going to go after McCain, I think, as a Democrat, maybe particularly as Hillary Clinton, you go after McCain as a guy committed to war. You go after him as the guy who is certain to get us involved. You hear Democrats talk about that, though I haven‘t heard much public conversation about this, that McCain is the guy promising endless war in Iraq, and wars around the world.
FRANKEN: Here is the question; will John McCain promise to campaign with Dick Cheney?
CARLSON: That‘s probably a bridge—he would win my vote. If there‘s anybody, because I‘m Dick Cheney‘s only defender in the world, apart from, say, Mrs. Cheney. I like Dick Cheney on aesthetic grounds. I like Dick Cheney because he doesn‘t care. He‘s the only guy who doesn‘t care what other people think about them.
HENNEBERGER: McCain is a lot like that. Maybe they have common cause.
CARLSON: Dick Cheney is in his own universe. This is a guy who voted for cop killer bullets. This is a guy who is not reading the polls. No one else shares my affection. I sort of admire that.
FRANKEN: John McCain is worried about the conservative base. This would be a way to do it.
CARLSON: That is absolutely right. We will be back in just a moment. The latest polls show both Democrats beat John McCain in head to head match-ups. What does that mean for the presumptive nominee? Is his fate sealed already? We will no longer call him presumptive. Let‘s be honest, he‘s the nominee. This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: According to a “Washington Post”/ABC News poll, Senator John McCain loses to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a very theoretically head to head match up. Why is the question. Is it because of his perceived loyalty to Bush, his age, his weakness on the economy? Either way, Democrats will still be fighting each other, but McCain is forced to fight a two-headed monster until one of them wins.
Here again, contributing writer for slate Melinda Henneberger and syndicated columnist Bob Franken. Bob, do these match-ups mean anything?
FRANKEN: I don‘t think so at this point. When you talk about the two-headed monster, the problem that that monster has is that both heads are trying to eat each other. If McCain is smart, he might just stand back and let them do it. Then maybe have that same match up in two or three months.
CARLSON: Here‘s the one way I think—all theoretical match-ups are theoretical, and therefore immaterial in real life. Here is where they are material, in convincing Democratic primary voters that one or the other will be a more potent nominee. Seems to me Hillary Clinton needs to get this number up. If she can convince Democrats that she is the McCain slayer, she wins.
HENNEBERGER: See, I don‘t think it‘s about rationality at this point.
CARLSON: You don‘t?
HENNEBERGER: I don‘t. I‘m not sure how rational voters ever are. But I think this time when you have so many women voters who are so completely devoted to her and will feel they have been robbed if Barack Obama is the nominee—on the other hand you will have—
CARLSON: You‘re saying women voters are irrational. Is that what you‘re saying?
HENNEBERGER: Not at all. No, I said voters are irrational. The others, those hard core Barack Obama supporters are going to feel exactly the same way. I don‘t think—
CARLSON: So people are not—you may be absolutely right. People are not making a conscious tactical decision.
HENNEBERGER: I don‘t think so. At some point, it was there. But we are way beyond the point when people say, gosh, she‘d win by six, but he‘d win by 12, no. That‘s correct, for a lot of people it‘s tribal, or it‘s visceral. But it‘s not, gosh, her health care plan is a little better. Or you know, I see she has a two percent margin of victory better than his.
CARLSON: See, the Obama people are making the case explicitly, a point we were talking about a minute ago, making the case that Republicans want Hillary because she will lose. Do you think that‘s a fair case? Is it so obvious that one Democrat fares more poorly against McCain than the other?
FRANKEN: Well, I‘ve come to the conclusion that Republicans want either one of them. They are licking their chops at going after one or the other. Hillary Clinton is probably making the case that the Republicans are going to make against Barack Obama. And as far as Hillary is concerned, she has quite a history, whether that is experience or not, or whether it‘s just a history the Republicans will see that that difference is noted.
CARLSON: So what‘s the point of having a Democratic party if you can‘t win this year? Seriously, I know everyone says it‘s a circular firing squad. If anyone can screw it up, they can. All that aside, truly after eight years of Bush, who is supposed to be the worst president in human history, the numbers, the fund raising, the turnout, everything on the Democratic side; if you can‘t win this year, shouldn‘t—let‘s disband it and start over. No?
HENNEBERGER: Tucker, I take your point.
CARLSON: I know I‘m torturing you. I just can‘t help it. Know it‘s done in the spirit of love. It‘s an honest question.
HENNEBERGER: No, I hear you.
CARLSON: So if you were McCain would you go after one or the other? McCain has been aiming his fire for the past week and a half on Barack Obama. Now there seems to be a moment in which he‘s not sure who to target. Should he target either one?
FRANKEN: I‘m going to clean this up a little bit. If your opponent is shooting himself in the foot, stand back and let him do it. I think McCain‘s best strategy right now is to let the two of them duke it off and he‘ll run against the roll.
HENNEBERGER: Well, he has a better shot to get the independents than she does. Barack, in other words, has a better shot at the independents than Hillary does. In that way, since that‘s been a good group for McCain as well—in that way, I think you can really make the strong case that Hillary would be weaker, and because her negatives are much higher than Obama‘s. I think you would—you could also argue that she just doesn‘t get beyond a certain—
CARLSON: I agree with that. I think if you don‘t agree with Hillary Clinton, there‘s no chance you‘re going to vote for her.
HENNEBERGER: No, if you‘ve been hating the woman for 15 years, you‘re not going to wake up, gosh, say let‘s take another look.
CARLSON: If hating her is your hobby, you‘re not going to give it up just because there is an election. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.
Coming up, we uncover the ugly truth. It‘s not all smiles and happiness behind the scenes of a presidential campaign. You‘ll be amazed to learn that. In fact, sometimes there are expletives uttered, even shouted. Details in a moment.
CARLSON: What happens when you get a room full of passionate, devoted people, all of whom have their own ideas about how to get a politician elected? Often you wind up with a witch‘s brew of emotion, anger and vitriol. We call it the war room. It happens in every presidential campaign. It‘s happening in spades this year.
Joining us now to explain why is Chris Kofinis. He is the former communications director for the John Edwards for President campaign. Chris, welcome. Have you ever seen a more dysfunctional group of people than the Clinton campaign? Maybe you have?
CHRIS KOFINIS, FMR. EDWARDS CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: To be fair, I think every campaign, to some extent, has these kind of stories. You‘re talking about the toughest contest you can have in politics, the race for presidency. You get very passionate people around, who all have very strong ideas about how to win. It leads to very expletive filled arguments, which is not an anomaly in politics or presidential campaigns.
The “Washington Post” story was fascinated because it gave such a flavor to the real strong differences—
CARLSON: It was a zesty flavor.
KOFINIS: It was a zesty flavor.
CARLSON: Here is the most interesting thing, I thought, in the whole
story. Where to begin. Bill Clinton out of control. They‘re trying to
rein him in. They have a conference call devoted to it. Hillary Clinton -
This was genuinely fascinating. This group of people hate each other.
Why are they all working for the same candidate. Here is the answer. “Hillary Clinton assembled her own team of advisers knowing their enmity in the belief that good ideas come from vigorous discussion. While many campaigns are beset by back-biting and power struggles, dozens of interviews indicate that the internal problems endured by the Clinton team have been especially corrosive.”
In other words, she gathered together a group of people who hated each other on purpose.
KOFINIS: That‘s not necessarily a bad thing. Having vigorous debate, especially about some of these strategic conditions, which there‘s not necessarily always a clear answer, which ad to run, or how do you play in a certain state. Everyone will argue about that because they have different perspectives.
So having people around with strong personalities, they‘re going to argue that and hopefully you come out of that sausage mix with something good. That‘s not bad.
I think the mistake that‘s been made I think is kind of two-fold.
One, I think in terms of the pollster strategist.
CARLSON: That would be Mark Penn.
KOFINIS: Yes, Mark Penn. My personal opinion is your pollster should be separate. You should have a strategist.
KOFINIS: Because I think it‘s kind of like having a restaurant critic judge the restaurant they own. He creates the numbers and he is arguing this is what the message should be, based on my numbers. I think the pollster should come in, advise the communication staff and the others, the other senior advisers, the other chief strategist; here are what the numbers are saying in this particular state, this is how we should play, this is how we should message.
But to have those critical roles, the pollster and the chief strategist, in one is a problem. I think the other part to it is you also want to have a very strong campaign manager. If there‘s one thing the Clinton campaign has done that was smart, Maggie Williams has come on and asserted some control, according to all the reports. I think it kind of helps control the personalities.
I don‘t necessarily think strong personalities is negative. I have to be honest, personally, I don‘t think that‘s a bad thing.
CARLSON: I work in TV. Obviously, it doesn‘t bother me either. I think your point about Mark Penn is interesting. He‘s despised by most people on the campaign, according to the Post, and every single person I know in Democratic politics says the same thing. He is kept there because has the confidence or the affection, anyway, of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
It seems to me candidates and their spouses often have this dynamic where they have a Sven Gale (ph) like character—it was Dick Morris for a while in Clinton‘s world. Now it‘s Mark Penn—whom they are convinced has the truth, has the answers. I‘ve seen candidate after candidate do this. Why?
KOFINIS: I think because sometimes a candidate becomes very comfortable with a certain adviser, in terms of what they are saying, what their strategy is. I think sometimes that can be a good thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing. I think the problem now you have, I think, is you have this incredibly tight contest after the results on Tuesday. Every decision that these candidates make, both Obama and Hillary, are going to be critical.
You know, it‘s no longer simply about racking up victories. It‘s really about racking up victories and creating this momentum and this perception that you are the strongest, toughest candidate. So now it kind of changes the strategy a little bit where you no longer obviously trying to win Mississippi, Wyoming.
CARLSON: Exactly right.
KOFINIS: You want to be seen in the national media amongst the voters as the toughest, strongest candidate. That‘s why this is the unfortunate part, I think, from a Democratic perspective. These two candidates are going to go to war with each other. They‘re going to hit each other with two-by-fours for the next six, seven weeks, in varying degree. That may not necessarily be the best thing for the party in the long run.
CARLSON: You‘re absolutely right and we‘re just figuring this out now. It‘s not about the elections anymore. It‘s about the super delegates. It‘s a totally different race.
KOFINIS: Now you need to persuade the super delegates.
CARLSON: You‘re absolutely right. That‘s very different from winning an election. Thank you, Chris Kofinis. I appreciate it. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. We‘ll see you right back here tomorrow as always. Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris. In the meantime, have a great night.
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