Guests: Jonathan Chait, Amy Argetsinger, Roxanne Roberts, Gerri Peev, Lanny Davis, Rosa Brooks, Bill Press
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Welcome to the show.
How rough is too rough. That might be one of the questions Barack Obama is asking himself tonight following the resignation of his top foreign policy adviser Samantha Power after she was quoted in the “Scotsman” newspaper calling Hillary Clinton, quote, “a monster.”
Obama has built his reputation and his campaign on taking the high road. But after a Clinton adviser compared him to Ken Starr, could it be time for Obama to trade the white gloves for the boxing gloves? Or would going rough sap Obama of his essential Obamaness? We‘ll discuss that.
And when it comes to appealing to independent voters, does the young, smooth and eloquent Barack Obama have the edge or does that edge belong to the much more seasoned John McCain?
Plus later is the dream of an Obama-Clinton or a Clinton-Obama ticket still alive? Hillary Clinton seems to thinks so. She‘s dropping hints left and right.
But we begin tonight with the shake-up in the Obama campaign and the word that caused all that trouble, “monster.” Moments ago I spoke with the reporter who did that interview from the “Scotsman,” Gerri Peev.
Gerri Peev, thanks for joining us. I wonder if you‘ll give us some context for the phrase that that wound up ending Samantha Power‘s relationship with the Obama campaign. Here‘s the quote, you‘re familiar with it, of course.
“She is a monster, too. That is off the record. She is stooping to anything.”
What was she talking about exactly? It‘s not precisely clear from the quote.
GERRI PEEV, THE SCOTSMAN: Hi there. Samantha Power just come back from having a phone conversation with one of her other advisors about—allegedly about something he said about NAFTA. And she was talking about, right after, well, you know, what‘s wrong? And she said oh we screwed up in the campaign today in Ohio. And I said why? What happened? She didn‘t use that same word, by the way.
PEEV: I understand I can‘t swear on it. And I said why? What happened? And she just basically said that her friend had made some off the record comments and that—and I said, well, will anyone really be that worried about what he said. And she said in Ohio they are obsessed. It‘s the state—the only state that Hillary thinks she can win. And, you know, they are obsessed and she‘s a monster. That‘s off the record. And she was referring to that particular quote about Hillary allegedly being a monster as being off the record.
CARLSON: Right. What—she wanted it off the record. Typically, the arrangement is if someone you‘re interviewing wants a quote off the record, you give it to them off the record. Why didn‘t you do that?
PEEV: Are you really that acquiescent in the United States? In the United Kingdom, journalists believe that on or off the record is a principle that‘s decided ahead of the interview. If a figure in public life.
PEEV: .someone who‘s ostensibly going to be an advisor to the man who could be the most powerful politician in the world, if she makes a comment and decides it‘s a bit too controversial and wants to withdraw it immediately after, unfortunately if the interview is on the record, it has to go ahead.
CARLSON: Right. Well, it‘s a little.
PEEV: I didn‘t set out in any way, shape.
CARLSON: Right. But I mean, since journalistic standards in Great Britain are so much dramatically lower than they are, here it‘s a little much being lectured on journalistic ethics by a reporter from the “Scotsman,” but I wonder if you could just explain what you think the effect is on the relationship between the press and the powerful. People don‘t talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did in this piece.
Don‘t you think that hurts the rest of us in our effort to get to the truth from the principles in these campaigns?
PEEV: If this is the first time that candid remarks have been published about what one campaign team thinks of the other candidate, then I would argue that your journalists aren‘t doing a very good job of getting to the truth. Now I did not go out of my way in any way, shape or form to hurt Miss Power. I believe she‘s an intelligent and perfectly affable woman. In fact, she‘s—she is incredibly intelligent so she—who knows she may have known what she was doing.
She regretted it. She probably acted with integrity. It‘s not for me to decide one way or the other whether she did the right thing. But I did not go out and try to end her career. In the United Kingdom, when people make off-the-cuff remarks and they get published if they‘re politicians, quite often, after a few weeks or months when the fuss dies down, they are rehabilitated. They‘re given posts so.
CARLSON: Right. Then I wonder if you‘re justifying printing something she wanted off the record, I wondered why you didn‘t make the effort to determine what she was talking about. When she said Hillary is a monster, it‘s still not clear to me what she‘s talking about. Did you ask a follow-up question to determine that?
PEEV: I didn‘t ask her too much more about she‘s a monster. I sort of discussed whether or not she thought people around the campaign team liked her. And I said to her, well, over here in the press she‘s come across and from the broadcasters looking a little bit desperate. And Miss Power agreed and she said she‘s coming across here as desperate in the United Kingdom, we hope she‘s coming across desperate as well.
It‘s not really my job to self-sensor an interview. What I was trying to do was underscore the tensions in the campaign. And in your job—do you sensor.
CARLSON: It‘s not your job to determine—well, when I interview people, I attempt to understand what they‘re talking about. That‘s part of what it is to interview someone not simply to get someone.
CARLSON: Nor simply to get someone using vulgarity on the record, but to understand what they‘re saying. That‘s part of the journalism process in the United States.
PEEV: The interview was—the interview was on the record. Someone made a controversial comment and decided to withdraw it.
CARLSON: OK. Well, I really appreciate it. Gerri Peev, thanks for coming on.
PEEV: You‘re welcome. Thanks very much.
CARLSON: Joining us now is Clinton campaign supporter and former White House special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny Davis.
LANNY DAVIS, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SUPPORTER: Wow.
CARLSON: Wow. I like that. I want to—let me—I want to put up on the screen.
DAVIS: You did a great job there. You really did.
CARLSON: I want to put up on the screen, Lanny, a quote that had me saying wow. This is Senator Hillary Clinton responding to the news today that Samantha Power had been fired or her relationship with the Obama campaign had ended.
She said, quote, “I think Senator Obama did the right thing. But I think it‘s important to look at what she and his other advisors say behind closed doors particularly when they are talking to foreign governments and foreign press. It raises disturbing questions about what the real planning and policy positions inside the Obama campaign happen to be.”
“I think Senator Obama did the right thing,” she says. In other words, Mrs. Clinton believes that people who criticize her, call her names ought to be fired?
DAVIS: Well, I just am getting a little bit discouraged about the language on both sides. So this word monster, if that were just a slip of the tongue.
DAVIS: I feel badly for Miss Powers.
DAVIS: It obviously was not a slip of the tongue. You were absolutely great in that interview in saying what did she intend.
DAVIS: And she went on to explain how much she disliked and was angry with Senator Clinton. And I am finding the personalization on both sides here really not what the American people are looking for out of this campaign. And both staffs.
CARLSON: Well, I agree. And I don‘t think you should call people monsters particularly if you don‘t explain it.
CARLSON: And I think if Samantha Power is going to call someone a monster, she should explain what she means. Is she talking about the behavior of the campaign in South Carolina? Or is there some—what is she talking about? And I agree with her. I‘m not defending the use of the word. What else I think people ought to be able to use bad words and keep their jobs.
And Hillary Clinton doesn‘t think seem to think that. And I‘m just trying to get a sense of what her criteria for getting fired are.
DAVIS: Look, Senator Obama has set this standard of let‘s get away from this kind of politics.
DAVIS: And I think that that kind of language, if it came out of somebody in the Clinton campaign, Senator Clinton would say you‘re out of here.
DAVIS: So I think both of them have set the standard. I just.
CARLSON: Fair enough.
DAVIS: What I said wow about is the ground rule that if you say off the record, even if you say it after you say something because you made a mistake and not saying it before something, most reporters in the United States would give you a break. That reporter, I was completely in agreement with you, didn‘t seem to understand that you lose sources if you burn somebody like that. Now that‘s not about.
CARLSON: Well, you really can‘t—you know—unless you‘ve had experience dealing with the press in the United Kingdom, as she called it, you really can‘t.
CARLSON: .you really can‘t know just how low the standards there are. These are—there are papers that make things up, that make the “Weekly World News” look accurate. I mean it‘s almost unbelievable how different journalism is in the U.K. from how it is here. I don‘t think most Americans get that.
DAVIS: But can I just make one serious point?
CARLSON: Yes, of course.
DAVIS: Because this campaign is and should be about issues.
CARLSON: Right. I agree.
DAVIS: Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton agree on most issues and there is some disagreement. But what‘s happening, which is unfortunate, is we‘re now down to, and I think Senator Obama is not helping himself by turning to personalized attack issues as if that‘s going to help this campaign. I think it didn‘t help our campaign when we started to do that.
DAVIS: And fortunately I think we‘re off that. Both campaigns are not helped because the American people are worried about the economy. They are worried about our national security issues. That‘s what they want to hear these folks talking about. And when a staffer says monster, that‘s the tip of an iceberg of the e-mail I get whenever I‘m saying good things about Hillary Clinton on your show is often hate mail, hate mail from my fellow liberals.
CARLSON: Well, that—I mean there‘s a lot of that going around.
DAVIS: And I‘m thinking where does that hate came from?
CARLSON: I agree. And I think it really—I think this hurts Obama, absolutely. I‘m not showing for Obama. This is a bad day for Barack Obama. No question about it. And given that, I was surprised to see Senator Clinton again suggest that they might run together. If she so disapproves of his campaign tactics, why would she even consider that?
DAVIS: You know what? With all due respect, I actually don‘t agree with you. I don‘t think it should hurt Senator Obama. It‘s one person in his campaign, doesn‘t reflect, I think, Senator Obama‘s overall philosophy of not demonizing opponents. We had some unfortunate mistakes made by people in our campaign who were—who resigned or who were pushed out. And I didn‘t blame that on Senator Clinton.
I think these are two really good candidates. I think Obama is a great candidate, he‘s done great things for energizing the Democratic Party. I think Senator Clinton is a great candidate, you know, a great friend of mine. But only if they focus on issues and tell their people to get away from this.
CARLSON: But why did she keep saying that? But Lanny, I mean, you know her very well. Why does she keep—this is intentional, she says nothing by accident. She‘s too smart for that. Why does she keep holding out or alluding to the possibility of them running together? Why? What‘s the idea behind that?
DAVIS: OK. I didn‘t answer your question, I‘m sorry. I think because it would make a great ticket. Look, if you take, and this is going to sound a little bit biased, but you know I‘m for Hillary Clinton. Senator Obama has not been able to win big states the Democratic Party must win to win the presidency. He‘s won Utah, Idaho, Kansas, haven‘t gone Democratic since—since 1964. But if you put these two different constituencies together, you‘ll make a very powerful ticket. And I think Senator Clinton has to be the presidential nominee but a vice president named Barack Obama who has eight years to learn about running the country would make a great president eight years from now.
CARLSON: All right. Lanny Davis. Thanks, Lanny. I appreciate it.
DAVIS: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Have a great weekend.
More on the follow-up from monstergate just ahead. Can Obama afford a knife fight with Hillary Clinton? He says he wants his campaign to be a new kind of politics. But can the new politics actually win the old nomination?
Plus Obama has been winning independents, even Republicans so far in this Democratic race. Will he—if he runs against John McCain, who‘s got the most crossover appeal in November? That‘s coming up.
ANNOUNCER: TUCKER is sponsored in part by.
CARLSON: McCainocrats and Obamacans, both McCain and Obama seem to appeal to voters on the other side of the aisle at least at this point. But who‘s got a better chance of getting them to cross over in the polling booth this coming November?
That‘s coming up.
CARLSON: After stinging defeats in the states of Ohio and Texas, can Barack Obama really afford to wander into a dark alley and slug it out with Hillary Clinton? Will Obama finally have to ditch the Mr. Nice Guy routine and resort to the tougher politics he claims to despise? And has the press taken Obama‘s pillow away after a week of defending claims it has been too harsh on Hillary and too easy on him.
Joining us now a columnist with “The Los Angeles Times” Rosa Brooks and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press.
I think, Rosa, and Lanny disagrees with me, says he does, I think this is actually not good for Barack Obama. I would defend Samantha Power‘s right to have her true feelings off the record. I think that she was done wrong by the “Scotsman.” But still, this cuts against the rationale for the Obama campaign.
ROSA BROOKS, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: You know, Tucker, it is not a big deal. She goofed. She apologized. She resigned.
CARLSON: You mean he lost her as an advisor. That‘s kind of.
BROOKS: No, but I actually think that this is a testament to how seriously the Obama campaign takes the commitment to having a civil campaign.
CARLSON: Good point.
BROOKS: You know she—look how fast she was out of there. And you know, she said it herself. She said I blew it. I‘m sorry. This is not what the Obama campaign represents. People are tired, tempers are frayed and she‘s gone. And I—you know, I think the fact that they were willing to say good-bye to somebody who has been such a valued adviser on the substance because she couldn‘t stick to the values that they hold dear in terms of having, you know, a tough but civil campaign shows their commitment to this. So I—you know, I think it‘s the same, it‘s a distraction. But it‘s over. She‘s gone.
CARLSON: Well, here‘s—this monster thing is dominating the news tonight.
BILL PRESS, NATIONALL SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Right.
CARLSON: But here‘s what the Hillary people are focused on. And it‘s a comment that Samantha Power, whom I respect and like, she‘s been on the show a number of times, but she made to the BBC when she was on recently about his foreign policy. We put it up on the screen. She was asked, you know, what‘s he going to do when he‘s president?
And she said, quote, “You can‘t make a commitment in March of ‘08 about what circumstances are going to be like in January of ‘09. Obama will, of course, not rely upon some plan that he‘s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. senator.”
Now, that is absolutely right. That‘s an adult thing to say, I think.
PRESS: Right. Right.
CARLSON: How do you know, you‘re not president yet. But you‘re not allowed to say this in a campaign. You have to pretend that your campaign promises will be what you govern on, right?
PRESS: No, I agree. By the way, I think the monster thing hurts only because that‘s what we‘re talking about that instead of talking about Barack Obama‘s message, and so everybody‘s—that‘s what everybody‘s talking about tonight, monster, monster, monster, all across the news.
But I think this hurts, too. And you know, she‘s out of line saying that. It does make sense. You cannot promise that you‘re going to have all the troops home tomorrow, true. But what it sounds like is, he‘s—this goes back to the NAFTA thing, right, to me, with NAFTA supposedly one of his advisors told the Canadians this is what he‘s saying publicly, but don‘t believe it because privately, you know, we don‘t believe that.
Now you‘ve got him two days later where one of his advisors is saying he says he‘s going to bring all the troops home within a year but don‘t really believe him because that‘s not really what we‘re going to do.
I think this undermines the credibility of Barack Obama a little bit.
CARLSON: So here‘s—David Brooks has this great, interesting piece, I think, Rosa, today in the “Times,” he says this, quote, “the attacks are supposed to show that Obama can‘t be pushed around.” The attacks he‘s leveling against her. “But of course, what it really suggests is that Obama‘s big theory is bankrupt. You can‘t really win with the new style of politics. Sooner or later you got to play by the conventional rules.”
As the trench war stretches on to the spring, the excitement of Obama mania will be seem a distant childish mirage. People will wonder if Obama ever believed any of that stuff himself. And even if he does go on to win the nomination, he won‘t represent anything new, he‘ll just be a one-term senator running for president.
BROOKS: But you know, I mean, Tucker, there are two completely separate issues here. You know, one is the attacks and first of all, these are not attacks that Obama is leveling. You know, these were some careless words by an unpaid advisor to his campaign.
BROOKS: And she‘s resigned. And she‘s gone. And I think he‘s been very clear that this is not an attack he is going to make.
BROOKS: A valued advisor is out because she said something that is not in keeping with his values. So I think that‘s actually a very clear expression of his commitment not to make that kind of attack. But the separate—the other issue, you know, which Bill is focusing on is, there is an unfortunate perception that‘s been created largely by the Clinton campaign which is, oh, look at this, you know, the Obamas is saying one thing to the voters, and they‘re going wink, wink, nudge, nudge, to foreign governments and so forth.
I think that that is basically garbage, because what they‘re doing is they‘re taking stuff out of context. You know, on NAFTA, it‘s perfectly clear, and the Canadian government has essentially acknowledged it. If you actually—if you look at the—the memo from the Canadian government.
CARLSON: Right. Right.
BROOKS: .in its entirety it‘s crystal clear that he wasn‘t saying wink, wink, we‘re telling the voters one thing but don‘t worry, guys, we‘re going to do something differently. He was just saying, you know, look, we‘re going to—you know, we‘re going to renegotiate, but you know, calm down.
CARLSON: Right. Don‘t, don‘t start asking.
BROOKS: We‘re going to be in touch with you. Don‘t start messing troops.
CARLSON: We‘re—hold on, we‘re going to a quick break.
BROOKS: It‘s clear that the Clinton campaign was saying the exact same thing and that‘s a responsible thing to say.
CARLSON: Well, of course, all adults are (INAUDIBLE). I agree with you.
Coming up, in the ‘80s it was Reagan Democrats, in 2008 it could McCainocrats. That‘s the hope for the Republicans anything. We‘ll tell you if it may pan out.
Plus Hillary Clinton tells a Mississippi audience to make a statement next Tuesday by electing her because she‘s a woman. Will that rationale work? We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Democrats are desperately hoping that the battle for their nomination will come to a close soon. But the battle for the independent vote has only just begun no matter how you measure it. And there‘s evidence independents may gravitate toward John McCain even if Obama becomes the nominee. Is it true?
Back with us columnist for “The L.A. Times” Rosa Brooks and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press.
Bill, I‘m going to do something I never do. I‘m going to quote Karl Rove to you and open your mind here. Karl Rove said, I think this is pretty smart, this is from his “Wall Street Journal” piece. He said, quote, “The big development to watch is not the rise of Obamicans. Republicans who are backing the charismatic Illinois senator. The interesting electoral phenomenon is the emergence of the McCainicrats, Democrats backing McCain. It‘s not just Joe Lieberman. In recent polls, three of them, almost twice as many Democrats support McCain as Republicans support Obama. Three times as many Democrats support McCain as Republicans back Mrs. Clinton.”
PRESS: Yes. First of all, look. As much as I disagree with Karl Rove‘s politics, he is a brilliant political strategist.
PRESS: I thought that piece was a pretty good piece. But—there‘s no doubt about it, McCain is a very attractive candidate and a lot of Democrats like McCain. And I hear on my radio show every day Hillary supporters say they‘ll vote for McCain if it‘s Obama. Obama supporters saying, they‘ll vote for McCain if it‘s—you know, if it‘s Hillary.
I think that will change once people get to know McCain better. If you look at McCain on immigration and where he‘s flipped, if you look at McCain on tax cuts, if you look at McCain on Iraq, 100 years, look at McCain on Iran, look at McCain hugging George Bush yesterday at the White House, I think once the campaign gets under way and you see McCain as an extension of Bush, there‘ll be fewer and fewer independents and moderate Democrats who‘s going to vote for him.
But that‘s why, Tucker, I said all along on this show, he‘s the worst thing that Democrats could fear. Better to have Rudy Giuliani or Mike Huckabee than John McCain.
CARLSON: Oh I don‘t think there‘s any question, especially this year.
CARLSON: It seems to me—here‘s the test, Rosa, which candidate, Obama or McCain or Hillary and McCain, is more likely to move to the center? And I think McCain wins that contest hands down.
PRESS: Well, lately.
BROOKS: Where—what on earth gives you that idea?
CARLSON: Well, I don‘t know. Who votes more with his or her party? I mean McCain votes against—I mean where it matters. In actual votes in the United States Senate, McCain is farther from his party, way farther than.
BROOKS: McCain, no—OK.
CARLSON: The two most liberal senators in the whole building.
BROOKS: There is no question—I think there‘s no question about it, McCain is independent minded. He is unpredictable. He‘s a maverick. He is not a centrist. That‘s a totally different thing. He‘s not a centrist. He‘s.
CARLSON: I‘m not saying he is but he‘s less partisan than they are.
BROOKS: I mean he‘s a really interesting guy. And one of the reasons that he—that I think he‘s very attractive to voters is he speaks his mind. I think voters like people who speak their mind, even when they‘re totally far out on some issues. And the thing about McCain is he is extremely right wing on some issues, he‘s to the left on other issues. He‘s unpredictable. But I think that that‘s a really different issue.
BROOKS: I think actually what Obama and Clinton, to some extent, are actually both a little bit more willing to move to the center, which is a different issue.
CARLSON: OK. We will see—I want to see evidence of that. We‘ll be right back. We‘re going to take a break but we‘ll return. Go nowhere please.
Hillary Clinton talking again about a joint ticket with Barack Obama. Is it really possible? Why is she saying that? We‘ll hint at the answer coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
CLINTON: People say I wish I could vote for both of you. Well, that might be possible someday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: What is Hillary Clinton talking about? She‘s telling audiences about a dream ticket with Barack Obama when she trails in states, votes, and delegates. With her as the president; hmm, is this a stroke of political genius or a profound miscalculation? What is going on here?
Back again, columnist with “LA Times,” Rosa Brooks and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press. Bill, what is this?
PRESS: First of all, I think the dream team is a dream team. I think it would be phenomenal and the Republicans might as well fold up their tents, if it happens. But I think it‘s a brilliant strategy on her part, because it gets people thinking—of course she‘s talking about being on the top of the ticket. It gets people thinking about, don‘t worry about Barack Obama. He‘s going to be OK, because I‘m going to make him my vice president. The more she talks about it, the more uncomfortable—
CARLSON: I agree. It is genius. It reminds me of Bush in 2000 during the recount. When the recount is going, it‘s not clear who is going to be president, he gets on TV and says, I want to thank you for electing me president. Now that I‘m president—everyone says, you haven‘t won yet. If you say it, it becomes real. The more, Rosa, Hillary says Barack Obama‘s a great man and he‘ll be a great vice president, the more people nod in bovine agreement, yes.
BROOKS: But it undercuts the other argument she‘s trying to make.
She‘s trying to simultaneously say this man is completely unappealing. He‘s not ready to be commander in chief, yet I would like him be the first person in line if something should happen to me, god forbid.
CARLSON: He could be an apprentice to her.
BROOKS: It doesn‘t work. You can‘t simultaneously say, this guy is completely unqualified, and yet say, but he should be the number two.
PRESS: She‘s saying that in eight years he‘ll have enough experience to step into the job.
BROOKS: The reality is, needless to say, Barack Obama, as you said—he is the guy who is ahead in the delegate count at this point. She can, you know—there‘s a lot more likely that she would be number two on the ticket.
CARLSON: You‘re one of those people hung up on the math.
BROOKS: I‘m one of those reality-based people.
CARLSON: Mathematician-type personalities.
BROOKS: I‘ve got my little calculator and I have added it up a bunch of different ways. It still comes out he‘s ahead, no matter how many ways you cut it.
PRESS: What‘s funny about this is that the campaign of hope has suddenly become the campaign of math.
BROOKS: He‘s the campaign of hope. She‘s the campaign of fantasy at this point.
CARLSON: You know what, sometimes fantasy wins. I believe that.
BROOKS: She‘s entitled to dream.
CARLSON: It‘s a false choice. It‘s not between math and meta-physics, because, in fact, neither one can get the nomination from pledged delegates, almost certainly. It‘s about politics. It‘s about your power of persuasion, can you convince the super delegates.
BROOKS: She‘s doing something which worked for her early on, absolutely, which is create this sense of inevitability, based on nothing much, based on thin air. It did work. It worked early on.
CARLSON: It always works. I want to get up on the screen, you two both wrote columns in the last 24 to 48 hours, taking completely opposite views. Rosa, here is what you said—you said to Hillary Clinton, “don‘t stay in this race, for the sake of your country, don‘t do this. You‘ve got 12 contests remaining before the Democratic convention. Given the complex proportional system for awarding delegates, you‘ll have to win all 12 by 20 points just to break even with Obama. It‘s not going to happen. Don‘t even think about Florida or Michigan trying to change the rules in the middle of the game. It will tear the Democratic party in two.”
By contrast, here is what the much more hopeful Bill Press writes—he says, “who is more likely to beat McCain? There‘s only one way to find out; watch how they perform in the remaining primaries. Upcoming primaries in Wyoming, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and beyond are a chance for both of them to show their stuff, debate the issues, develop campaign skills, rally even more Americans to the need for change and prove their mettle. Whichever one emerges victories will be battle tested, better equipped to take on McCain and the Republican attack machine.”
PRESS: Sounds good.
CARLSON: Rosa, aren‘t you won over by that?
BROOKS: No, I can beat Bill up at any time.
CARLSON: Hit me with it. Why is this not good for the candidate who emerges in the end?
BROOKS: There is a very simple reason, which is that we talked about Barack Obama and the question of whether his campaign has been using attack tactics. I don‘t think it is. I think it‘s quite clear that the Clinton campaign is using attack tactics. The Clinton campaign, at this point, it‘s right out of the Republican playbook. You could take Clinton‘s, quote, unquote, red phone ads and you could put at the end of them, paid for by the Republican National Committee, and John McCain can use them in the general election without a single change.
What she is doing right now—I don‘t think she can win the nomination. It is close to mathematically impossible, Bill‘s argument notwithstanding. All she is doing is basically poisoning the well. She can‘t win, but she can help him lose. Before she does it, she ought to get out.
CARLSON: Did you hear that Bill? She‘s on a Kamakazi mission to destroy the party you love. How can you nod your assent?
PRESS: I want to make clear, I haven‘t endorsed either one of these two. But I want to make the argument that Barack Obama lost the last three out of four.
PRESS: I have to make my point. I heard your point. Look, it is crazy. I‘ve been around politics a long time. In every primary campaign I‘ve ever been involved in, you always get somebody saying, this isn‘t fair; they are tearing each other up, destroying the party. It never happens. This is what politics is all about.
I‘m not a sports fan. But at halftime, you don‘t call the game because one team is ahead and the other is behind. You play the game. Here is the problem with Obama people; they want to win this without winning it. I say BS. That‘s not how you win. You‘ve got to go all the way.
CARLSON: What about that argument—the one thing about Barack Obama that we never acknowledge is the one truly significant political race of his career, he beat Allen Keyes. I could beat Allen Keyes. No offense to Allen Keyes. My kids could beat --
BROOKS: -- Hillary‘s career?
CARLSON: I‘m not comparing him to Hillary Clinton. I‘m raising a question for his supporters to answer. I‘m not comparing to her. I‘m not saying he‘s better or worse. I‘m merely saying, he actually isn‘t very seasoned. Wouldn‘t it help to be more seasoned.
BROOKS: Here is what I worry about here—I think this is sort of a bogus argue. The argument the Clinton campaign is making boils down to this; which is we‘re worried that Barack Obama won‘t be able to handle what the right wing attack machine will throw at him, so we‘re going to do their dirty work for them and see how he holds up.
Thanks a lot, guys. That‘s what this amounts to.
PRESS: Second question, what is the rational for either candidate to drop out now? There is none. This is an exciting contest. It‘s turning on Democrats like no two people have never done in the country. I think the longer it goes, the better it is for the party. Then they are all going to come together against John McCain.
CARLSON: Here‘s an argument against that, because if you had two candidates making principled arguments that differed with one another about who ought to lead the party, it would be a time for the party to figure out what it is. That‘s important. Instead, here is the candidate—Hillary Clinton‘s argument, rational for her campaign—this is what she said in Mississippi today and why you should vote for her. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: You know, a few months ago I was quoted as saying that Iowa and Mississippi had never elected a woman statewide. I know you‘ve had two women lieutenant governors. I believe that Lieutenant Governor Gandy has just passed, and I honor her memory. But electing a woman on your own—I was the first woman elected on my own in the state of New York. And I know one way we could make a real statement here in Mississippi, and that is for Mississippi to vote for a woman for president on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: I‘m a little surprised that you haven‘t jumped on that train, being a woman and all. She‘s saying, if you‘re a woman, you should vote for me. If you support women, you should vote for me. If you don‘t hate women, you should vote for me.
BROOKS: I‘m self-hating, Tucker. That is a completely bankrupt argument.
CARLSON: I‘m amazed she can say that in public. That‘s the stupidest thing I‘ve ever heard.
BROOKS: I would love to see a woman president. I would love to see an African-American president. I would love to see an Hispanic president. But I think the most important thing, obviously, and I think most voters feel this way, is I would love to see a president who I think will bring Americans together, who will have good policies. I think nobody is going to vote for Barack Obama because he‘s an African-American. Nobody should. They should be looking at the issues.
CARLSON: You hope no one votes against either one. I don‘t know anybody who likes women more than I do.
BROOKS: That‘s touching.
CARLSON: I‘m serious though. I would love to see a woman president. The idea that you should vote for—that is irrational. Vote for me because I‘m a woman.
PRESS: I disagree with you. I love women more than you.
CARLSON: You win the love women contest. What a dumb argument.
BROOKS: Boy, I‘m going to blush.
PRESS: But if it is Hillary Clinton and she‘s getting the women vote by 60 to 40 or better in every state, your damn right I‘d get up and give the speech, because that‘s her base of she‘s motivating her base, and she can do it. Barack Obama cannot get up and say, vote for me in front of an African-American audience, vote for me because I‘m black. She can get up and say, vote for me because I‘m a woman.
CARLSON: Good for Barack Obama—of course he could do that if he wanted to and he chooses not to. I think he deserves credit for that and I think she deserves scorn for saying things like this. It‘s not an appeal to an idea or her character, it‘s appeal to something over which she had no control. She didn‘t make herself a woman. She‘s not responsible for being a woman, therefore she shouldn‘t claim it as an asset.
PRESS: Listen, go for where the votes are. The votes are among the women. I think it‘s a very practical, pragmatic step on her part.
CARLSON: Let me, Rosa, take the temperature of Obama-land. Not that you‘re representative of it. I believe you‘ve moved in that world a little bit. I want to know, to what extent are people who support Obama deeply alienated from Hillary Clinton?
BROOKS: Good question. I don‘t know. One thing I do worry about, I mean, it seems to me, obviously, that if somebody is a Democrat that Clinton and Obama, obviously there‘s much more that they have in common in terms of policies than they have in common with John McCain, either of them. It seems to me crystal clear that whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, that Democrats ought to rally around that person and gladly come November.
On the other hand, what really worries me—again, this goes back to why I think this protracted race with the negative politics that we are seeing, primarily coming out of the Clinton campaign, could be a real problem, is that what I really do worry about is—I don‘t know how much to make of this—is the number of people who I‘m seeing saying things like, you know, if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, I‘m going to be so mad, I‘m going to vote for John McCain. That seems nuts to me. It seems crazy to me. I worry about that phenomenon.
PRESS: I hear it from both sides.
BROOKS: That all the more reason, though, to end this divisiveness.
PRESS: Here is the problem; this campaign has been going on for too long. The nerves are frayed; tempers are short. Patience is exhausted. You know what would be the best thing for this country right now, if both Obama and Clinton went back to the United States Senate, took some time off and just became senators for two or three weeks. Seven weeks of this between now and Pennsylvania? We will be so sick of both of them, we won‘t either one of them.
CARLSON: You don‘t know what it does to cable news ratings. It really helps.
PRESS: And talk radio ratings, I might add as well.
CARLSON: Again, I‘m not taking sides. I‘m not voting Democratic in the fall anyway.
BROOKS: Who are you voting for.
CARLSON: Ron Paul may be out, but his spirit endures, at least in my heart. Page Seven A of “USA Today” this morning, archivists block release of Clinton papers. At the beginning of 2006, more than two years ago, “USA Today” put in a full request for documents pertaining to the pardons in the Clinton years. They got it back recently; 1,500 pages redacted or entirely withheld, including any information about two pardons that Hillary Clinton‘s brothers bought that year, receiving 200 grand for each from a drug dealer, one from a perjurer.
This is why nominating Hillary Clinton could be a problem for Democrats. You‘re talking about months upon months of drip, drip, drip of stuff like this. Are you not? This is not going to go away if she gets it. Am I the only one who cares? How can you say she‘s vetted when we don‘t know what she was doing while she was first lady, a time that she claims was experience.
PRESS: You‘re not going to find out in those papers.
PRESS: I want to say, I‘m for total release of every presidential paper from George Washington on. The fact is, we‘re still fighting to get records from Ronald Reagan‘s administration. We‘re still fighting to get them from the first daddy Bush administration. OK? So this is a losing battle.
Frankly, I don‘t want to know any more about Mark Rich. I think it was a disgusting pardon.
CARLSON: She gets up there and says, I‘m tested.
PRESS: He did it. She didn‘t do it.
CARLSON: Her brother bought two pardons. That is so deeply corrupt. I know nobody cares. But if she‘s going to claim that time as pertinent to her candidacy --
BROOKS: I think that to me seems more of the issue. What I‘m more concerned about is at a moment when I think people, Americans, both Democrats, independents and Republicans, are rightly very, very upset at what they see as the Bush administration, the Bush-Cheney obsession with secrecy, even when it‘s completely unnecessary and unrelated to any national security interest or national interest, that it‘s tough for the Democratic candidate to simultaneously come out and argue that that was wrong, and then say things like, but I can‘t release my tax returns, and what‘s more, I wouldn‘t want my record for president—
PRESS: Quick point. In the politics of hope, when you‘re saying, she‘s got to release her tax returns, he‘s got to release all these papers, that gets Barack Obama, again, totally off his message. This is not good for the Obama campaign, I believe, to be pursuing this.
CARLSON: You may be right. I think it‘s negligent of the press. I hope we don‘t stop asking for answers to basic questions. That‘s our role, our job. I hope we continue to pursue it.
PRESS: Including “The Scotsman.”
CARLSON: Yes. Coming up, Hillary Clinton is holding on. Could her grip on the nomination fight actually do a lot more harm than good in the Democratic party? We‘ll talk to someone who argues oh, yes.
Later, speaking of Hillary, how about that jacket match on “Saturday Night Live.” What‘s the story behind that? We have the answer coming up.
CARLSON: Hillary Clinton says she‘s not about to give up without a fight, as if you‘d expect anything less. But could her quest for the nomination actually mortally wound her party? Joining us now is the author of a piece who argues pretty much just that. “The Big Con” is the name of the story. The other, Jonathan Chait, senior editor at the “New Republic.” Welcome.
JONATHAN CHAIT, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”: “The Big Con” is my book.
CARLSON: That‘s exactly right. I was about to say, your piece is called something even more direct.
CHAIT: “Get Out.”
CARLSON: “Get Out.” Exactly right. Does it help the party to have Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and the Democratic brand in the news every day.
CHAIT: If you could design a nightmare scenario—at least, if you were a Republican, if you designed the best scenario, it would be, let‘s pick the state that Democrats most need to win, Pennsylvania, and let‘s give Hillary Clinton seven weeks to make the argument that we most don‘t want her to make, which is that Barack Obama is not prepared to be commander in chief. That‘s what‘s going to happen. She‘s going to spend seven weeks and millions of dollars telling Pennsylvanians that Barack Obama can‘t be commander in chief. That‘s literally the worst thing that could possibly happen to the Democratic party.
CARLSON: What if Hillary wins, as I now suspect she might, simply because at this point the calculation changes. This is a measure of toughness.
CHAIT: We need to bring an abacus out on the set or a calculator.
CARLSON: I don‘t think it‘s about the math. I think it‘s about the ability to endure. But that‘s a separate conversation. What if she wins? Isn‘t this good for her? She shows she‘s the giant slayer, tough enough?
CHAIT: Her path to winning is very, very tough. She‘s got a shot, but it‘s a small shot. What her path means is she needs to basically convince super delegates that you can‘t elect Barack Obama because he‘s been trashed. Basically, she has to destroy his reputation. He‘s up by 140 delegates.
Basically, what happened was: last Tuesday there were about 38 percent of the remaining delegates to be picked. She reduced his winning margin by about three percent. She basically got no closer, almost not closer at all.
She‘s basically is still going to be down by more than 100 delegates going into the convention. She‘s going to need the available super delegates to go to her by about a two to one margin. The way to do that—most of them have said, we don‘t want to overrule what the elected delegates pick. The only way to do it is to say, this guy is a walking corpse. I‘ve destroyed his reputation. No one will vote for him anymore, so you‘ve got to pick me. I‘m the only one left.
CARLSON: She‘s decided on total war. She‘s going to bomb Dresden.
CHAIT: That‘s what she has to do. She has to make Barack Obama completely unelectable. She can‘t just say, my health care plan is better than his. Please pick me. It won‘t work anymore. Basically, she started to go pretty hard negative the last weekend. It worked and that was just a love tap compared to what‘s happening next.
CARLSON: So Democrats in the most favorable election from their point of view in my lifetime may end up screwing it up. Is there anyone who can stop her on the Democratic side, any elder who can put his hand on her shoulder and say, not this time.
CHAIT: The only way to do it, I think, is for the super delegates to go to her and say, you‘ve got to stop this trashing of Obama, stop saying that McCain would be a better commander in chief than him tomorrow, or else we‘re going to go to Obama en masse. That‘s what I would do if I were a super delegate.
CARLSON: In other words, you‘re suggesting that Democrats get organized.
CHAIT: Right. And as Will Rogers observed, that‘s never happened and probably won‘t happen. But you‘re right, it‘s the most favorable landscape you can imagine. The first thing that happened was that John McCain, like Mr. Magoo, blindly wandered through every mine field and somehow came out on the end, the only guy that had a chance, who was left for dead, comes through. That‘s step one.
Then step two is, you know, somehow you have this just fratricidal warfare going all the way to the convention. Honestly, I can‘t stand it. I don‘t think I can live through it. It‘s like when Napoleon‘s army got to Moscow. They said OK, we‘re going all the way to the Pacific Ocean now. This was fun, but we‘re only a tenth of the way there, let‘s keep going.
That‘s basically what they‘re facing now.
CARLSON: You couldn‘t write this, but you did write it. I‘m glad.
Thank you, Jonathan Chait of the “New Republic.” Thank you for coming on.
Still ahead, campaign humor is nothing new on “Saturday Night Live,” of course. When candidates like Hillary Clinton come face-to-face with their on screen imitator you know there‘s a story there and we have it, coming up next.
CARLSON: Welcome back. We‘ve spent the last hour bringing you the available facts about life in politic. Now we‘re going to hear facts that aren‘t available to mere mortals, but are always at the fingerprints of our next guests. Joining us now, Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger, the ladies of the “Washington Post‘s” universally read gossip column, the Reliable Source.
Welcome. We have teased this and I don‘t know the answer. How did Amy Poehler and Hillary Clinton wind up wearing the same pant suit?
ROXANNE ROBERTS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: The first thing we said to each other.
AMY ARGETSINGER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Yes, we were both thinking the same thing when we watched this; Hillary Clinton made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” and she was suited in the exact same jacket, or at least it looked like it was, as Amy Poehler, who does this fantastic impression of Hillary Clinton.
So we got on the phone the next day. Turns out Hillary Clinton—we didn‘t know. It‘s like, did wardrobe at “Saturday Night Live” suit her up that way? No, turns out that‘s actually her jacket—
ROBERTS: Which I had failed to notice, since I was so riveted about the health care discussion.
ARGETSINGER: Same jacket she wore at Barack Obama‘s—the debate with Barack Obama a couple days before. So when they were making the plans late Friday for Hillary Clinton to come on, turns out that wardrobe folks at “S & L” had already been worked on getting Amy Poehler in a very, very similar jacket. Not identical, as we originally thought.
ROBERTS: Hillary‘s is nubbier.
ARGETSINGER: Quick photographic analysis showed.
ROBERTS: Just so you know.
ARGETSINGER: So Lauren Michaels simply asked Hillary if she could wear the same jacket she had worn Tuesday night and she did.
ROBERTS: SO they were kind of like twins, you know. One was a little bit littler and one was a little bit bigger.
CARLSON: They looked great I thought. I recommend that pant suit. I woke up yesterday morning and one of the first thoughts I had was—this is something that happens to me a lot—what is Clay Aiken doing? And I thought you might know.
ARGETSINGER: Well, very controversial. Clay Aiken, as you may remember—
ROBERTS: I somehow had missed this.
ARGETSINGER: Clay Aiken you may remember as the most popular and successful “American Idol” loser in history.
ROBERTS: Runner up. We say runner up here.
ARGETSINGER: Yes, that‘s right, came in second a couple of years ago. Two years ago, he was named to the president‘s Committee on Persons of Intellectual Disabilities. This is because Clay was studying to be a special ed teacher, seemed like a nice fit. You get a nice celebrity name on the panel.
Anyway, a big controversy broke out on the Internet over the editing of Clay Aiken‘s Wikipedia page. Some of the haters claimed that Clay Aiken hadn‘t gone to his meetings. The Clay Aiken fans were getting very upset about this. Someone came to us and asked us to intervene. We did some research, which involved calling—
ROBERTS: Making a phone call.
ARGETSINGER: Making a phone call. Turns out Clay Aiken has only attended one of the seven quarterly meetings since he got appointed.
CARLSON: You have got to be kidding. For all of us out there who really sort of believed in Clay Aiken, to find this out now, I‘m going straight to Wikipedia—
ROBERTS: The thing I loved were the people that said, he was probably there, but they didn‘t put him on the minutes, because they didn‘t want the fans to mob the meeting.
ARGETSINGER: The Clay Aiken blogs are saying that they are not going to believe the tabloid trash that the “Washington Post” --
CARLSON: We are out of time. Thank you both so much. Have a great weekend. Thank you for watching. Hope you have a great weekend too. We‘ll be back Monday night. Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.
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