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'Meet the Press' transcript for Sept. 14, 2008

Transcript of the September 14, 2008 broadcast of NBC's 'Meet the Press,' featuring former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bob Woodward, and Chuck Todd

MR. TOM BROKAW:  Our issues this Sunday:  Obama sharpens his attacks to try to combat the McCain campaign's renewed energy and the tightening poll numbers.  And seven years ago America was attacked, our national security forever altered.  Which candidate is better equipped to handle the ongoing war on terror?

Joining us, the senior senator from New York, Obama supporter Chuck Schumer; and the man who was mayor of New York City on that fateful day in 2001, McCain supporter Rudy Giuliani.

Then, a look at the debate and tensions inside the Bush administration and the Defense Department during the darkest days of the war in Iraq.  From The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, author of the new book "The War Within:  A Secret White House History 2006-2008."

Plus, we'll have an update on the shifting battleground in the race for the White House from NBC News political director Chuck Todd.

But first, joining us now, representing the Obama campaign, the senior senator from New York, Senator Chuck Schumer.

Senator, thank you very much for being with us this morning.


MR. BROKAW:  I think it's fair to say the country is following this campaign like a horseplayer at the Kentucky Derby.  They're reading the charts every day...


MR. BROKAW:  ...they're looking for any tips that they can find.  So we thought we would begin by sharing with our audience and with you, as well, some of the latest polls that show--here's the matchup, according to Newsweek right now.  They show it as a dead heat.  But the most interesting numbers, really, as you know, come in what we call the internals.  The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, "Who has the strong leadership qualities needed to be president of the United States?" John McCain has jumped up to 48 percent from 42 percent in July.  Barack Obama has slid back, despite having a very impressive convention appearance.  He slid back to 26 percent.  "Who's knowledgeable and experienced to be able to handle the presidency?" John McCain, again, has jumped up from 53 percent to 54 percent; and Barack Obama in that very critical issue has fallen back from 19 percent to 15 percent.

So many of our viewers and so many people who have been polled just don't think that he's ready to lead in a dangerous world even after going through some 20 debates and nine months of primaries.  Isn't that the single most significant challenge that he has before him?

SEN. SCHUMER:  I don't think so.  I think Barack Obama will show that he's ready to lead.  But far and away, the most fundamental question that will determine this economy, and the numbers would be quite reversed, is who can help the middle class out of the economic troubles that they're in.  The average middle-class person, even during seven years of George Bush prosperity, so to speak, went down in average income according to Professor Elizabeth Warren from 48,000 to 46,000.  You add buying power, it's down to 41 or 42.

George--John McCain's policies on taxes, education, health care, energy, the big meat-and-potato issues, are exactly the same as George Bush's.  Barack Obama represents change.  As we go through this campaign, because most people are going to really begin to focus now, that is what's going to give Barack Obama the lead.  Now, he'll have to show that he can handle foreign policy. But again, he has a big leg-up.  Iraq was the biggest mistake George Bush made.  If anything, John McCain is to the right of George Bush on Iraq.

MR. BROKAW:  Let's take a look at some of those middle-class voters, if we can, that you just referred to.


MR. BROKAW:  Here's some of the internals in the Newsweek poll.  For example, white women.  John McCain has a commanding lead among white women, 53 to 37 percent.

We want to take you now to the AP poll.  This is the latest poll from the Associated Press and GFK.  McCain has a 13 point lead on senior citizens, and he has the same lead among males.  Among rural voters, he's up by 23 percent. These are middle-class voters in rural areas, and a large part of the Obama strategy is to try to win in areas like North Dakota and Montana and the Rocky Mountain West, including the state of Colorado.  He has significant work to do--to be done there.

SEN. SCHUMER:  Yes, but I think the McCain campaign, which did, did a good of sort of turning around the battleship at the convention, going from experience to change, there's a fundamental flaw.  John McCain and Sarah Palin do not represent change.  They are, particularly on domestic issues but also on foreign policy, a continuation of George Bush's policies.  And as the voters learn that--they'll learn them in the debates, they'll learn them now as the excitement of the conventions subsides--I, I think Barack Obama is going to--he's even now in the overall polls--he will break into a substantial lead. The kind of sort of nasty, small-bore, little attacks, they work decently well when America's happy, when America's satisfied, as it was in 2004 and 2000. They're not going to work now because the average middle-class person in America wants change.  McCain and Palin do not represent change.  Obama and Biden do.  And we're glad.  Actually, the critics will look back a month from now and say a big mistake of the McCain campaign was to switch the battlefield to change because that is Obama-Biden's strong suit.

MR. BROKAW:  All right.  Let's continue with some of the challenges before your candidate.  In the Associated Press poll, McCain was up 9 points on principles and values closest to the voters that were questioned.  That's the kind of thing that's very hard to turn around with an effective speech.  It really speaks to the discomfort a lot of people have with his background and who he is.

SEN. SCHUMER:  Well, again, I think that they have to get to know him.  I'm not quite sure that your average voter, the primary voters pay a lot of attention to the primaries.  It's just at the conventions people tune in. Both parties had very good conventions.  I think it evened things up.  But again, I, I cannot reiterate, my experience in politics tells me when people are unhappy with their economic situation, just as in '92, "It's the economy, stupid," and they are not going to vote for continuation.  John McCain, Governor Palin have not differentiated themselves from George Bush on any major economic issue.

MR. BROKAW:  Senator, here's another test for any campaign.  In the Newsweek survey they asked the question, "Do you strongly support your candidate?"


MR. BROKAW:  Back in the summer, John McCain had only 39 percent in terms of enthusiastic support.


MR. BROKAW:  That's jumped up to 71 percent.  Obama has made a gain, but it's only about 6 percent.  The fact is that Senator McCain got a much bigger bounce out of his convention did--than did Senator Obama, for all the theatrics at the football stadium.

SEN. SCHUMER:  And it's still an even race, and I hate to keep reiterating, as this campaign unfolds, I think, I think in a certain sense, the McCain-Palin campaign has peaked.  They had all the excitement.  Everyone's excited that for the first time the Republican Party chose a woman candidate. But the fundamentals matter in a race like this, and they don't have the fundamentals.  You cannot, you cannot win an election if it's premised on a fundamental mistruth, which is that they are change.  They are not change from George Bush.

MR. BROKAW:  Did you watch Charles Gibson's, Charlie Gibson's interview with Governor Sarah Palin?

SEN. SCHUMER:  No, I read it later.  I did not watch it.

MR. BROKAW:  Here's an interesting exchange they had about your friend Hillary Clinton, the woman you supported in the Democratic primaries.

SEN. SCHUMER:  Yes, I did.

(Videotape, Friday)

MR. CHARLIE GIBSON:  I, I saw you quoted somewhere as speaking rather admiringly of, of Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton...

GOV. SARAH PALIN:  Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

MR. GIBSON:  ...during the primary campaign.  Do you think Obama should've picked her?

GOV. PALIN:  I think he's regretting not picking her now.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  He's regretting not picking Hillary Clinton.  And then here is what Joe Biden, who was his choice, had to say about Hillary Clinton in one of his appearances.

(Videotape, Wednesday)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE):  Make no mistake about this, Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  There's Joe Biden saying that she's more qualified than he is. I thought the test was you always picked the person who is most qualified to be your vice presidential candidate.

SEN. SCHUMER:  Yeah.  Yeah.

MR. BROKAW:  Did Senator Obama make a mistake?

SEN. SCHUMER:  No, he didn't.  Joe Biden's a great candidate.  Joe is a modest guy.  He was just being Joe Biden there.  Any of us that know him over the years know that Joe would say that.  Joe Biden's a great choice for several reasons.  His foreign policy background is going to compare very favorably to Governor Palin's.  But even more importantly, again, that he understands what the average family goes through on Friday night when they sit around the dinner table and figure, "How am I going to stretch my paycheck to pay all these bills."

MR. BROKAW:  How would you use Senator Clinton in this campaign for Senator Obama?

SEN. SCHUMER:  Oh, I'd use Senator Clinton a lot, and I know she will.  I've talked to her regularly.  She feels with passion what a mistake it would be to continue another four years of the last eight, as she said at the Democratic convention, and she will be out there and out there strongly.

MR. BROKAW:  Do you think that she can turn the tide for Senator Obama among Reagan Democrats?  And that's the critical test this time, especially with the appeal that Senator Palin has--excuse me--Governor Palin has demonstrated so far in that particular group, among white women and among males in states like Michigan and Ohio and the Rocky Mountain West?

SEN. SCHUMER:  Well, first, I think she will help turn the tide.  I think Barack Obama and Joe Biden's economic message will turn the tide the most. But let me say one thing about Governor Palin.  You know, there are so many questions she hasn't been asked.  And again, she has to be asked these questions.  You know, people say, "Well, some questions are unfair, maybe sexist." Yeah, there are certain questions that are.  If you say to Governor Palin, "How can you raise five kids and also be vice president," you wouldn't ask a man that question, you shouldn't ask her.  But she is campaigning on a basis of reform, a new broom that sweeps clean, and she talks the talk, but so far she hasn't walked the walk.  There was an article in today's newspaper that said that part of the Bush doctrine she evidently believes in is cronyism, because she filled the Alaska government with old pals.  It's a little reminiscent of "Brownie" and FEMA.

But there are three other questions I think she has to answer if she wants to be the reform candidate.  First, is she going to support Senator Stevens in this election campaign?  Senator Stevens is the king of earmarks, supposedly the McCalin--McCain-Palin team hates earmarks, and yet he's the king of earmarks.  He was indicted for involvement with lobbyists.  If it's politics as usual, she's supporting Stevens.  Is she a new broom that sweeps clean?

Second, there?s an investigation about abuse of power, that she wanted to fire a state trooper because he was in a bitter divorce with her sister.  And she has ordered all Alaska employees not to talk to this bipartisan investigation that was set up before she was vice president.  I want to ask Governor Palin, "Will you--if you're new politics, you should certainly let the employees in the state of Alaska talk to the investigators." Stonewalling is not new politics.

And finally, one more, Tom.  Will she release her tax returns?  Governor--I mean, Joe Biden has, Barack Obama has.  There are some questions there, because she was given per diem payments for staying at home, $17,000.  Are those on her tax returns?

MR. BROKAW:  Senator, let me...

SEN. SCHUMER:  How can you, how can you be reform and sweep clean?  You've got to walk--you can't just talk the talk.  You have to walk the walk, and as she has to answer these questions, not in set interviews, I don't think she's going to be quite as popular as she is today.

MR. BROKAW:  Let's talk about the McCain strategy against Senator Obama.  You said earlier that you thought that that celebrity attack ad was a powerful message...

SEN. SCHUMER:  Mm-hmm.

MR. BROKAW:  ...when he was compared to Britney Spears and...


MR. BROKAW:  ...Paris Hilton...


MR. BROKAW:  ...and that his response was insufficient.  We're going to share with you now one of the speeches that Senator Obama has made just this past Friday in New Hampshire and see if you think it's strong enough.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL):  They will spend any amount of money and use any tactic out there in order to avoid talking about how we're going to move America into the future.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  Do you take back what you said earlier, that he...


MR. BROKAW:  ...was insufficient in his response?

SEN. SCHUMER:  Yes, I do.  Look, Barack Obama, to his credit, would like the campaign to just be on the big issues--issues like Iraq, issues like energy, issues like health care.  But, under Karl Rove's leadership, McCain is doing what Karl Rove does--small-bore, nasty, diversionary.  And I think they realized while the predominant way to win this election is still that higher ground, you have to answer.  We have in the DSCC, Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which I chair, a 24-hour rule.  They hit you, you have to hit back with the same speed and velocity within 24 hours.  The Obama campaign is now doing that, and they will have a sword--the economic issues, where we are predominant--and a shield--answering back right away, not staying above the fray.  And that's how they're going to win the election.

MR. BROKAW:  Senator Schumer, we're told today by the Obama campaign that they raised $66 million last month.  That's a very impressive number.  He has set new records for raising money.  But at the same time, this is a man who said earlier in response to Senator McCain's invitation that, in fact, he would join him in public financing and not go to the private sector.  So don't you expect that the Republicans will make hay out of that in the coming days as well?

SEN. SCHUMER:  You know, I'd say two things here.  First, Obama's contributions, more than anyone else, come in the $10s and $25 from average citizens.  This is...

MR. BROKAW:  But a lot of them come from big friends of yours on Wall Street and New York, and people have big chunks of money...

SEN. SCHUMER:  But, but the percentage of average voters sending in money is, is remarkably high, higher than it's been in any campaign.

But second, I'd say this, Tom, money is not going to decide this campaign What's going to decide this campaign, predominantly, are the big issues and who represents change.  Both candidates agree change is the election issue. I'd bet my money on Obama-Biden as the change candidates, not McCain-Palin-Bush.

MR. BROKAW:  All right, thanks very much, Senator Schumer of New York.  We have to leave it right there.

And for the McCain campaign now, we're joined by New York--in New York by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is out on Long Island at a hotel, even though he looks like he's in a permanent MEET THE PRESS set there.

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us.  Listen, the ads are getting...

FMR. MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R-NY):  Nice to be with you, Tom.

MR. BROKAW:  ...a lot of attention these days.  We want to share with our viewers and with you something that Senator McCain said about the tone of this campaign back on April 4th, and then go from there.  Here's what the senator had to say at that time.

(Videotape, April 14, 2008)

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:  This will be a respectful campaign.  Americans want a respectful campaign.

They're tired of the attacks.  They're tired of the impugning people's character and integrity.  They want a respectful campaign, and, and I, and I'm am of the firm belief that they'll get it, and they can get it if the American people demand it and reject a lot of this negative stuff that goes on.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  And yet, Mr. Mayor, this is an ad that the McCain campaign ran attacking Senator Obama for what they called his principal piece of legislation when he was an Illinois state senator, sex education for kindergartners.

(Videotape of political ad)

Narrator:  Obama's one accomplishment?  Legislation to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners.  Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama, wrong on education, wrong for your family.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:  I'm John McCain, and I approved this message.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  Any number of publications have looked at that ad, and here's what The Washington Post had to say:  "The McCain ad is wrong when it claims--in a voice dripping with sarcasm--that Obama's `one accomplishment' in the education field was a sex education bill for kindergartners.  While it is true that Obama supported the bill, he was not one of the sponsors.  As far as kindergartners were concerned, the principal purpose of the bill was to make them aware of the risk of inappropriate touching and sexual predators." Given all the major issues that are before us today, wasn't that ad and its misrepresentation inappropriate on the part of the McCain campaign, Mr. Mayor?

MAYOR GIULIANI:  Tom, I, I think the only thing wrong about that ad is it lists it as an accomplishment of Senator Obama.  In fact, the bill--Senate bill, I think it's 99, didn't pass.  I read the bill last night.  The bill does say K through 12, and it goes beyond just what Senator Obama is saying now.  It also talks about HIV-AIDS education for children K through 12.  And when Senator Obama defended himself on this--Hillary Clinton attacked him on this, not just Senator McCain.  I don't see The Washington Post pointing that out.  But when he defended himself against Hillary Clinton's attack on this, he said the purpose of this was HIV-AIDS education.  So the reality is, look, everybody has their own biases and prejudices in how they view these ads.

But I, I agree that the campaign has gotten too negative on both sides--Senator Obama; on our side.  I think the, the main reason for that is that Senator Obama has refused to debate in these town hall meetings every week with Senator McCain.  I think if they--if the two of them were out there--we saw that the other night in Harlem.  If the two of them are out there answering questions, a lot of these ads are going to get done that way, they're going to be able to confront each other with these things.  Senator Obama can explain his views on sex education and just what he was doing with that.  Senator McCain can either back off it or agree with it.  But I, I, I can't understand why Senator Obama--now, now the--what--I understand what Senator Obama was way ahead that he didn't want to engage with Senator McCain in these town hall meetings.  But now everyone says they're even, you know, neck and neck.  I think it'd be terrific if they'd spend the next what, what is it, six weeks going to town hall meetings just answering questions from regular, you know, regular citizens.

MR. BROKAW:  Well, the--on an individual basis, both of them have been appearing in town halls, and they will appear in three presidential debates.

But let me move on, if I can, and talk about something else that's been getting a lot of attention.  When you were at the Republican National Convention as the keynoter in St.  Paul the other night, you talked about some of Barack Obama's resume as a community organizer.  Let's just share with our audience once again what you had to say at that time.

(Videotape, September 3, 2008)

MAYOR GIULIANI:  On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education.  He worked as a community organizer.  What?

Maybe this is the first problem on the resume.  He worked as a community organizer.  He immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  Senator Obama, who had an Ivy-league education and could've gone to Wall Street, went back to Chicago on the South Side.  As you know, his supporters have defended him for working with poor families, many of whom lost their jobs when the Gary steel mills closed.  In that mocking fashion, it seemed to a lot of people that you were belittling the role of a community organizer, and it led to this button.  It was addressed to Senator Palin, because she also talked about it.  "Jesus Christ was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor." In retrospect, do you think you had too much sport with his role as community organizer, Mr. Mayor?

MAYOR GIULIANI:  No.  No.  I think he had too, too little of a record of a community organizer.  The point is that Senator Obama's record as a community organizer is a very sparse one, as is his record as a state senator. Education Week said that he basically had no record on education, which is why maybe Senator McCain's idea of an accomplishment in that ad goes a little bit too far.

What I was talking about is how little a record he had, how so, how so many of those programs have failed, how little it's been really looked at by the media.  This is--and also, the group that recruited him was a Saul Alinsky group that has all kinds of questions with regard to their outlook on the economy, their outlook on capitalism.  I think it's at the core of Senator Obama's belief that the tax system should be used for a redistribution of wealth, rather than really for gaining revenues for the country.  When, when Senator Obama was asked about his increase in capital gains tax and was told that if he does that, he would actually deprive the federal government of revenues, his answer was, "Well, it's only fair." Which gets you to a very core Saul Alinsky kind of almost socialist notion that it should be used for redistribution of wealth.

I think what we haven't done adequately in this, in this campaign, meaning Republicans, is maybe some of the emphasis on some of these other issues, it should be on the fact that Senator Obama is the most left-wing candidate the Democratic Party has ever had, the most liberal member of the Senate, much more liberal than Senator Schumer, than you just had on.  And his running mate, Senator Biden, is the third most liberal member of the Senate.  So these are the things we're talking about.  And the community organizer thing was consistent with that kind of very left-wing approach.  Sure community organizers do good work, and some don't do very good work.  Just like lawyers, everybody else.  The question is what kind of work did, did Barack Obama do and how effective was it long-term?  A lot of those housing projects failed.

MR. BROKAW:  Mr. Mayor, among others, Warren Buffett is a supporter of Barack Obama's, and he thinks that there can be an increase in the capital gains tax without doing any long-term damage to the economy.  And I think it would be probably a pretty big reach to describe him as a Saul Alinsky kind of economist.

MAYOR GIULIANI:  It would be, and everybody has all different kinds of people that agree with you or disagree with you.  And, and, and be very careful, Tom. What you said is he doesn't believe it'll do damage to the economy.  Here's the point that I made.  The point that I made is we have twice increased the capital gains tax.  So if this is just opinion, it's fact and reality.  Both times, it deprived the government of revenue.  In other words, the government got less revenue.  And that, that is what would happen right now.  And at a time in which Barack Obama wants to fund trillions of dollars in government programs, I have to believe that he'd want to look for more revenue, rather than less revenue.  So what that says to me is that his real concept of taxation is to be used as a redistribution of wealth.  There may be other reasons why people support him, but they should be pretty clear on that.

MR. BROKAW:  Mr. Mayor, let me also share with you something that the former majority leader of the House of Representatives, Dick Armey, who was part of the Republican Revolution with Newt Gingrich, had to say this past week.  This is in USA Today on September 3rd.  "The `Bubba Vote' and underlying racism will hurt Democrat Barack Obama in key battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, former House majority leader Dick Armey said.

"The Bubba vote is there, and it's very real, and it is everywhere.  ... There's an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.' ...

"He said the `Bubba vote' is `invisible' in pre-election opinion polls, because voters do not admit that they would oppose a candidate because of race."

He went on to say that voting because of race is deplorable, but in a close race, he said it will make a big difference.  So if Senator McCain wins based on the Dick Armey formulation, does he win because of race and playing the race card?

MAYOR GIULIANI:  Well, gee, I think I can speak for Senator McCain.  He's a good friend of mine.  He doesn't want any vote for anyone, from anyone who's voting for him based on race, and I think that same thing would be true for Barack Obama.  Unfortunately, there are people out there who are going to vote based on race one way or another.  I hope that we're beyond that, I hope there are very few of them, and I hope they cancel themselves out, because it could happen either way.  But I think neither candidate wants that.

MR. BROKAW:  As you know better than anyone, Mr. Mayor, we are celebrating and acknowledging the terrible sacrifices that people made seven years ago with September 11th, 2001 this past week in New York, here at the Pentagon, and also in Pennsylvania.  It did come up, the whole question of national security at the Republican National Convention.  This is what Lindsey Graham, your fellow speaker, had to say about what's going on in Iraq and what he described as the success of the surge.  Let's listen to that, and then get your response to it.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Let there be no doubt about it.  We are on the road to victory.  Victory.  You can say it at this convention.  We are winning.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  But the man in charge in Iraq, General David Petraeus, in an interview with the French Press Agency, said, "Al-Qaeda has been significantly damaged, degraded and is on the run, but it is still capable of launching `lethal, sensational, dangerous and barbaric attacks.'"

And then in an interview with the BBC, he went on to say, Iraq is "still hard, but hopeful." The progress was a "bit more durable but that the situation there remained fragile.

"He said he did not know that he would ever use the word `victory,' quoting, `This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant a flag, and go home to a victory parade ...  it's not war with a simple slogan.'"

Not even President Bush will use the word "victory" or "winning." He is using the word "succeeding." Wasn't that an overstatement on the part of Lindsey Graham?

MAYOR GIULIANI:  Well, I think when you give speeches sometimes you're prone to do that, but I, I can see those two statements being kind of similar. Lindsey was talking about the road to victory.  He didn't say we had victory. He said the "road to victory," and maybe if I were the--if I were the general on the ground like General Petraeus, I'd, I'd--you know, I might not want to use exactly that word.  But here's the simple fact:  Barack Obama voted to pull the troops out, he voted for failure in Iraq, for loss in Iraq.  Had, had Barack Obama been president of the United States, with so little experience that he has, he would have pulled us out of Iraq, made sure that we lost, and we wouldn't have had--even had the chance for victory.  And that's--I mean, that's a definite decision that Barack Obama made and John McCain made. Barack Obama was just wrong about the surge, and, and John McCain, to his everlasting credit, was correct about it.  And I think that's just one of many indications as to why one is prepared to be commander in chief and the other isn't.

MR. BROKAW:  Later in this broadcast, we're going to be hearing from Bob Woodward, who has written a new book called "War Within" about the turmoil over tactics and strategy and the lack of success, especially in the year 2006 at a time when the president was very anxious and frustrated about what was going on.  When his closest advisers were saying...


MR. BROKAW:  ..."It's utter chaos in Baghdad," the president was going to the American public and saying, "We're doing very well, and we're making great progress." As...


MR. BROKAW:  ...LBJ did during Vietnam, did the president forfeit his obligation to the American people to tell them the truth about in fact what was happening there, the difference between his public appearances and his private anxieties?

MAYOR GIULIANI:  You know, I'll have Bob Woodward comment on that.  But as far as John McCain is concerned, I mean, this is a very strong point in his favor. John McCain, going back to 2003, 2004, including during the period you're talking about, was the strongest voice by far that we were making a mistake in Iraq, to the consternation of his own party.  And in that particular sense, there can't be anything John McCain has a stronger record on.  It also demonstrates this idea, like my good friend Senator Schumer said before, that this is--he kind of got that in--you know, it's sort of a, it's sort of a McCain-Palin-Bush ticket.  I mean, that's kind of wearing thin.  I mean, the, the strongest opponent of the strategy in Iraq, not, not, not the taking out of Saddam Hussein, but the strategy in Iraq, by far, was John McCain.  And he was right about the surge, and Obama was wrong.

MR. BROKAW:  All right, we have a final question, if we can for you.  In a recent interview with our affiliate in Portland, Maine, WCSH, John McCain was asked about Governor Palin and her national security credentials.  Let's just share with you that exchange, if we can.


Unidentified Reporter:  What experience...

SEN. McCAIN:  Sure.

Reporter:  ...does she have in the field of national security?

SEN. McCAIN:  Energy.  She knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  "More about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America." More about solar, more about wind, more about geothermal than the MIT scientists who are working on this initiative?  Boone Pickens? Boone Pickens?  Senator Al Gore?  Do you think she knows more than any of those people do?

MAYOR GIULIANI:  I think John was referring to elected officials.  He, he would not be referring to Boone Pickens and certainly wouldn't be referring to nuclear scientists and people like that.  I think he was talking about politicians and probably, in particular, the people involved in the race.  And I consider that on national security the best experience you're going to have is executive experience, the kind of experience that a Ronald Reagan had, the kind of experience that a Franklin Roosevelt had.  And that, that, that's where I think she's, well, at least considerably more experienced than Barack Obama, who really has never had to make decisions that are, that are accountable.  So I don't know.  I think this experience thing kind of argues in favor of the McCain-Palin ticket, but probably you get to see that on, you know, based on the seat you're sitting in.

MR. BROKAW:  Senator Obama and Senator Biden have both released their tax returns.  As you heard, Senator Schumer has recommended very strongly that Governor Palin do the same thing.  Will she do that?  And will you recommend to her that she does that?

MAYOR GIULIANI:  Well, you know, I think that that's something they have to decide.  That's not something that's my role to decide, when to release them. I think they said they are going to release them.  It's just a question of doing it on their own schedule.

I should also point out that that whole investigation in, in Alaska that Senator Schumer mentioned before, I mean, that's being run by Obama supporters.  I, I don't know if you know that.  Have you shown the picture of the three state senators that are involved in that right behind an Obama sign? One of them has already said that the McCain campaign can be ready for an October surprise.  And I'm, I'm a lawyer, I guess, before I'm anything else, and I'd be very, very--I'd be very wary of having Governor Palin participate in that investigation.  It is not an unbiased and independent investigation. It shouldn't be presented that way.  That's really very unfair.

MR. BROKAW:  Mayor Giuliani, thank you very much for being with us.

Senator Schumer, thank you for being with us as well today.

Coming up next, the Bush administration and Iraq.  We'll have an insider's look from Bob Woodward.  Plus, the changing battleground in Decision 2008 with NBC political director Chuck Todd.  All that coming up here in a moment.


MR. BROKAW:  Bob Woodward on Iraq, Chuck Todd on Decision 2008 after this brief station break.


MR. BROKAW:  We're back, and joined now by Bob Woodward, author of the new book "The War Within:  A Secret White House History 2006-2008."

Before we begin, Mr. Woodward, we're going to share with our audience kind of your sweeping conclusions that you had at the beginning of the book...


MR. BROKAW:  ...if we can.

"President Bush has rarely leveled with the public to explain what he was doing and what should be expected.  ...  The president rarely was the voice of realism on the Iraq War.  ...

"After ordering the invasion, the president spent three years in denial and then delegated a strategy review to his national security adviser.  Bush was intolerant of confrontations and in-depth debate.  There was no deadline, no hurry.  The president was engaged in the war rhetorically but maintained an odd detachment from its management.  He never got a full handle on it, and over these years of war, too often he failed to lead."

This has brought a response, as you know, from the White House today.

MR. WOODWARD:  Certainly.

MR. BROKAW:  The "Afterword:  Mr. Woodward's Reporting vs. Mr. Woodward's Editorializing." This is what the White House had to say.  "In `The War Within,' Bob Woodward uses a prologue and epilogue, along with commentary scattered over a few other pages, to offer the opinion that the military was marginalized and outmaneuvered in the decision-making process that led to the surge.  Woodward's contentions are inaccurate."

Having read the book, it seems to me that there is kind of a mixed judgment here.  For example, in that August 17th meeting in 2006, he pulls everyone together to talk about the surge.  The president's fully engaged at that point.

MR. WOODWARD:  Yes.  But he's also saying publicly that he's got--he knows exactly where he's going, and, as you note, in that meeting he's kind of wringing his hands.  I mean, the, the--what so much of this White House response reminds me of, going back to Nixon and Watergate, if you remember, 34 years ago...

MR. BROKAW:  I have good reason to remember it, yes.

MR. WOODWARD:  ...Nixon--you sure do.  And Nixon put out that big telephone book-size transcripts, 1200 pages, edited, "This is the full story, this is true." And then he threw out was not--what he didn't like.  That's what the White House has done here.  They're--the president's own words are quoted in the prologue, which they criticize, in which the president says, "I knew it wasn't working, the strategy in Iraq.  So the question was, what to do?" It is the president, in the prologue, that is the focus, not any commentary by me.

MR. BROKAW:  Steve Hadley appeared on MEET THE PRESS with Tim Russert in December of 2006, after a lot of decisions had been made and after Don Rumsfeld had been fired, effectively, as secretary of defense, and this is the exchange that Tim had with Mr. Hadley at that time, who was the president's national security adviser.

(Videotape, December 3, 2006)

MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Some people suggest the president is just plain stubborn about Iraq.  He is going to do it his way no matter what other people advise. As he said, "If it's only just his wife and his dog, he is going to follow the course that's in his mind."

MR. STEPHEN HADLEY:  He is stubborn about Iraq because in, in the sense that the goal for him is very clear.  It is a goal that the Iraqis share, I think the American people share.  He's also stubborn about Iraq because he understands the cost that if Iraq fails, I think the American people understand the cost that Iraq fails--a base for al-Qaeda and terrorists to destabilize the region, planned attacks against us, use oil against the West.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  Stubborn about the goals, but also stubborn when the original plan goes off the rails.

MR. WOODWARD:  Yeah.  And, and again, there are top secret memos, which I quote, which have been authenticated, in this book telling the president that it's not working, telling him that the chances in Iraq of fracture are increasing, saying things like the violence is--doesn't need fuel, it's self-sustaining.  And then he goes out and says things like, "Oh, we're absolutely winning.  Absolutely winning." And again, there is this persistence, as you see in this response Friday night, to say we're going to select the part we like.  In doing this, I want to include the full story, not just a positive story or a negative story.  But when you look at it, over the years of this war--now, look, look, the war in Iraq is probably the most important thing going on right now.  We have a political campaign going on, which is indeed significant, but whether it's Obama or McCain who go into the Oval Office on January 20th, 2009 and sit there, topic one is going to be the Iraq war, topic two is going to be the Afghan war.  It is a giant deal, and they are going to feel it.

MR. BROKAW:  Let me ask you about what was going on in 2006 in that August meeting, especially the commander on the ground in Iraq was General Casey.  He was for a troop drawdown at that time.  So was his commander, General Abizaid, who was running CENTCOM out of Florida.  And Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, thought it was time to start pulling people out of there.  What would've happened in Iraq, in your judgment, if they'd had their way and the president had not gone forward with the surge?

MR. WOODWARD:  You, you know, that's history, but again, I, I sat in the Oval Office four months ago and asked the president about this meeting and said, "You're saying to them, `You may send more troops.'" And he said, "Yeah.  I think they got the message." And then I said, "Did you say to them, Rumsfeld, Don, General Casey, what's going on here?  Your idea is too optimistic." And the president got kind of churlish and said, "Well, I don't remember my interchanges with these people." This story here is where the rubber meets the road between the commander and chief, who's the boss, and the secretary of defense and the commanding general.  And there is this distance, odd detachment, time and time again, the failure to confront, the failure to deal with the reality.

MR. BROKAW:  We want to show a picture to our audience of a man that they probably not--do not know, but he's extremely well known in national security circles and certainly in the military, and that's retired four star General Jack Keane, who became kind of a subcontractor for the president and for Vice President Cheney.

MR. WOODWARD:  Yep, a, a shadow general.  And it got to the--he, he is one of the mentors for General Petraeus, the Iraq commander.  And he would go to Iraq and find out what's going on and then come for an hour or two and give a back-channel report to Dick, Dick Cheney in his home or his--in his office. And a year ago, things were so bad that the president used General Keane to send a message of support to General Petraeus.  I asked the president about this war.  You know, why did you do this?  You have a secretary of defense, you have a central commander who's in the chain of command.  And he said, "Well, I wanted Dave to know--Dave Petraeus--that he will have exactly what he needs." That was a year ago.  Bob Gates, 10 months, had been secretary of defense, did not know that this was going on.  One of the challenges the next president is going to have is to fix a very dysfunctional, broken relationship, tragically so, I believe, between the civilian side and the military side.

MR. BROKAW:  General Petraeus will be coming home next week.  He has had, as we showed to Mayor Giuliani, kind of mixed reviews for the surge at this time. He's always a cautious man.  He will not use the word "victory" or "winning" in describing what's going on.

MR. WOODWARD:  That's right, and there's a reason for that.  Look, go to 40,000 feet on this.  We have one of the biggest land--a massive land army in the middle of the Middle East, 140,000 troops.  We've had them there for five and a half years, numbers been more or less constant.  The general on the ground, Petraeus, says this war is not over.  Iraq always hands surprises, and you know, who knows where this is going?  And the idea that somehow there's victory here, when I asked the president and talked to him about this for hours, he used the word win a couple of times, and then he immediately pulled back, and, as you suggest, uses the word "succeed." And at the end, I said, "What are you going to say to Obama or McCain when they come in here as your successor?" And he paused, and he said, "I'm going to say to them, `Don't let it fail.'" Diminished expectation, a sense he has that it's on the right track.  But, boy, this war is so close to--General Petraeus says it--"fragile and reversible."

MR. BROKAW:  We're going to end up with a conversation the president had with Connie Rice on the porch at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, in December of 2006. "`I think you probably have to do it,' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice replied," but--talking about the surge, "`But this is going to be one of the most consequential decisions of all time.  You are probably, because of the things that you've chosen to do, one of the four or five most consequential presidents--maybe in our history, certainly in the last 100 years, but maybe in our history.  And you have to think about how you're going to do this and hold the country together.  Because consequential presidents cannot be divisive.'" Now, two years later, his poll numbers remain very low.

MR. WOODWARD:  And they remain low, I think, not because the war went badly for so long, but because the public realized they weren't getting the straight story.  They could see on television and read in the newspapers that it wasn't occurring.  And, you know, this idea of divisiveness is so important.  At one point, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who--she does not have a good relationship with Bush, but she actually, in private, March 2007, reached out to him and said, "Can't we reach some sort of common ground?  Can't we work together?" And he said, "My views are known, and I've decided."

MR. BROKAW:  Bob Woodward, thank you very much.

We're going to go across the table now and ask our political director Chuck Todd about the impact of the Iraq War and the status that it now has on this election at this point.

MR. CHUCK TODD:  I think it's most striking, where you have two nominees of both parties who got there because of the Iraq war, and now the Iraq war is not the focal point of debate.  Now, that's going to change.  The first of the, of the three presidential debates is going to be on national security issues, so I think we will see Iraq come back.  But it is amazing, I mean, the economy has just consumed everything.  And the irony of Obama wouldn't have gotten to where he got without having the position on Iraq that he had, and John McCain might not have had the hold-your-nose comfort level of conservatives to get where he got had he not been such a strong supporter of the surge.

MR. BROKAW:  As we all know, political campaigns have a half-life of about 20 minutes, and the half-life this week has to do with Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska and the impact that she's had on the McCain campaign, and bringing women voters--this is the Newsweek cover, this next week.  "What Women Want." In fact...

MR. TODD:  Very declarative of them.  They say it as if they have the answer.

MR. BROKAW:  As if they have the answer.  Good luck.

MR. TODD:  Yeah.  Well, what's interesting, we saw the shift in our poll, and it was--the question is, is it a quick shift or not?  Our Democratic half of our polling, of our polling firm, Peter Hart, said that 24 years ago, when Geraldine Ferraro was picked, they saw this bump.  Women flocked to the Mondale-Ferraro ticket, and they actually--for about a three to four day period, they actually thought they'd carry more states other than Minnesota. They thought they could do well in California, Oregon.  And it ended up deflating.  The interesting thing here is you have the McCain campaign, I think, worried that they could have a deflation of enthusiasm over time with this Palin pick, so they're doing everything they can to keep the enthusiasm up.  Next week, they're going to have joint town halls together.  We're going to see this ticket campaign as a team, probably more so than we have ever seen a presidential nominee and vice presidential nominee campaign together.

MR. BROKAW:  Do you think there's a Palin bubble?

MR. TODD:  Well, there might be.  The question is, like all--yes, there's a bubble.  The question is, is it going to have a soft landing, and it'll come in and still have a--have propped up the Republican base and the enthusiasm, which we've seen in a number of states, have been able to--McCain's been starting to putting them away?  Or does it collapse?  Is it or  You know, where it either disappears completely or levels off but still is a positive force for the Republican ticket.

MR. BROKAW:  Let's go to the map because that's where the numbers are going to count the most.  Has the electoral map shifted in the last week as a result of, A, Senator McCain picking Governor Palin, and, B, getting a big bump out of his convention in St.  Paul?

MR. TODD:  Well, the good news is we're doing this every week because, as you said, this stuff has a half-life of a couple of hours.  The way our battleground map looks this week, the toss-up states are shrinking.  You are seeing these lean Republican states--they were places like Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida--seeing--seeming more solid for McCain than they ever were just three weeks ago.  And that is the "Sarah Palin effect" a little bit. That is Republicans coming home.  And all of a sudden it's, it's probably--look, Obama's not pulled out of these states.  He's still contesting Missouri, he's still contesting Indiana, North Carolina, Florida.  They just look like bigger reaches.  The other thing it's done, it's moved some states into the battleground.  Wisconsin was a state that Obama had thought to have put away a month ago, it's now even.  And this is--we're going to see McCain-Palin in that state now.

The good news for Obama, the one place Sarah Palin has had no effect--out West.  His numbers out West are strong, actually a little bit stronger.  New Mexico's now in his column.  Nevada, they still have a huge Democratic registration advantage that has come from nowhere.  Republicans had this advantage four years ago.  In Colorado.  The good news, he may sweep the West. The bad news is if he loses either Wisconsin or Michigan, those pick--those gains of those so-called red states out West will be meaningless to the Electoral College.

MR. BROKAW:  You, you heard my reference earlier in this program--we don't have a lot of time here--to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey saying the "Bubba vote." They're going to go in and not vote for a black man.

MR. TODD:  Well, it's interesting.  It's Wisconsin and Michigan in particular that, when I've talked to strategists on both sides, that's where they're nervous.  It's those--they're sitting in undecided.  These are folks that if you probe them on issues, they tell you they--the country's moving in the wrong direction, they tell you that the economy stinks, they'd like to see a little more money in their pocket.  They're voting for Democrats for Congress, they're voting for Democrats for Senate.  And then you ask them about the presidential race, and they say, "I don't know yet.  I'm undecided." They don't tell you why they're undecided.  And it's that voter--it--Obama's got a little magic number that I think people need to start watching in these states.  On the Sunday before the election, he better be at 48 or above. Anything less than that--because he's going to lose 70 percent of the undecideds.  I think the McCain folks know this; I think the Obama folks know this.  So the key now is to get his numbers to 48 or above.

MR. BROKAW:  Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, thanks for being with us. We'll be seeing you on a regular basis during the course of the fall.

Mr. Woodward, it's always nice to have you back with us.

MR. WOODWARD:  Thank you.

MR. BROKAW:  The author of 902 best-sellers in a row about what's going on in this town, it's always good to see you again, Bob.

MR. WOODWARD:  Thanks.

MR. BROKAW:  We'll have to leave it right there.  We'll be right back with MEET THE PRESS.


MR. BROKAW:  That's all for today.  And we leave you this morning with some scenes from the Pentagon 9/11 memorial that opened to the public on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of that tragic day.  We remember the 2975 men, women and children who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11th, 2001.