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updated 9/30/2007 12:38:11 PM ET 2007-09-30T16:38:11

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: In his third annual Global Initiative conference, former President Bill Clinton convenes leaders and some very recognizable personalities from around the world to discuss poverty, religion, the environment and more; all the while, continuing his role as supporter in chief for his wife’s presidential campaign. Policy and politics through the eyes of our guest, the 42nd president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.

Then, the three leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination refuse to pledge a withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq by January of 2013. The four leading Republican candidates for president skip a debate on minority issues. Insights from reporters Dan Balz of The Washington Post and David Gregory of NBC News; and analysis from Pat Buchanan of MSNBC and Tavis Smiley of PBS.

But first, on Friday I sat down with President Clinton, talked about his Global Initiative conference and his wife’s presidential campaign.

Mr. President, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON: Thank you, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: Third Clinton Global Initiative, what did you achieve?

MR. CLINTON: Well, we had more commitments for more money than ever before, but the more interesting thing to me was we had two new breakthroughs. We had more of our really interesting commitments involve larger and larger numbers of people working together, which is what I wanted to have. I wanted to bring people together, have them work together. And I’ll give you some examples of that. The second thing is we have really democratized this now. We—it looks like we’re going to have over half million people following this over the Internet. We’ve had thousands of people visit our Web site, mycommitment.org, to create a community of small givers and—so they can learn from each other and work. And it’ll be like a continuous CGI all year long on this Web site for small donors. So those are the two new things.

But, an example, we had two utilities commit over $5 million in expenses to a new form of solar energy which will be much more effective and which will take a lot of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and create new jobs. We had a very interesting small business opportunity in poor countries I never thought of, involving reading glasses, where it turns out that only—in very poor countries, only 5 percent of the people who can read but need reading glasses to do it have them. So a guy raised a bunch of money to set up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of small businesses to help hundreds of thousands of people read in a way that will—you know, these are things that I would never have known anything about, where just when they get together and start talking, they come up with these ideas. And there are lots of other things that have happened in health care and education and the economy for America and for the world. But the, the two big new things are that we have more people working together, which is what I wanted to do, across all these geographic and other lines, and we’ve got a whole new world out there, a virtual world where everybody’s participating.

MR. RUSSERT: When you say money raised, our viewers, I think, would be interested in this. The money doesn’t go to you or to a foundation.

MR. CLINTON: No, no, I don’t touch any of it.

MR. RUSSERT: You broker people, in effect.

MR. CLINTON: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: You take someone with money, identify a problem and put them together in a partnership.

MR. CLINTON: Yeah. Once in a while I go into one, if asked. For example, I’m part of a commitment this year by mostly Canadian mining companies to start to, to organize a global effort beginning in Latin America and Africa in mining communities for the mining companies can put something back into those communities and give people a sustainable income, repair the environment, and make sure they’ve got a way to make a living when the mines play out. This is a huge deal because, with the global population going up, that means all mining will go up in value all across the world. People extract more things because more people needs greater use of them. So now we’ve got these miners that want to raise up to a billion dollars to build up these mining communities. It’s a huge deal. I’m going to help them in the way we do our AIDS program, in the way we do our development program with Tom Hunter in Africa. But almost 100 percent of these programs, I never touch any of this money, don’t try to raise any money. I’m trying to get other people to help and work with each other.

MR. RUSSERT: Global warming. Many of folks in China will say, “You know, United States, you had your chance. You became this great industrial democracy. That’s what we’re going through now, and you want to clamp these standards on us. Don’t do that to us.”

MR. CLINTON: Well, you know, I’ve actually changed my view on this a little bit. Because even though Al Gore and I did help to develop the Kyoto Protocol, and I strongly supported it, I said at the time I thought India and China should be a part of it at a more graduated level. I still think they should do it, and they should do it for themselves. If you look at the air quality in Beijing, you look at the challenge they’re facing with the Olympics coming up. If you look at the horrible health problems afflicting India, where they—in the capital, New Delhi, we had a kid fall into the river south of New Delhi in the last 12 months, and they got him out in time to avoid drowning, but he ingested so much poison stuff that he die, four-year-old child.

So the truth is that, if you develop in the old-fashioned way, there are enormous costs. And while I don’t—I believe that America should go on and adopt a cap and trade system and join with the Europeans and Japanese—because I think it’s a big economic boon to America—I think that if we don’t get the Chinese and the Indians in the system, we can’t stop global warming. And I think what we have to do is to prove to them by our example that they can make money and develop without putting as many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, without burning as much coal that’s not clean, and doing all the things we did. We have to show them and then work with them to have an economical way for them to be responsible citizens without giving up growth.

Can it be done? I’m convinced it can be done, but I think we’re going to have to demonstrate it. We can’t just tell them, you know, as if they’re in the same position we are, “We’ll jump off this cliff together.” That’s not the way it works. We got to do it for our own benefit, and then show them it’ll benefit them.

MR. RUSSERT: I want to talk some politics with you. The other night, the Democratic debate in New Hampshire, I read a statement...

MR. CLINTON: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...of our conversation from last year.

MR. CLINTON: I remember that very well.

(Videotape, September 24, 2006)

MR. CLINTON: Every one of us can imagine the following scenario: We get lucky, we get the number three guy in al-Qaeda, and we know there’s a big bomb going off in America in three days, and we know this guy knows where it is, know we have the right and the responsibility to beat it out of him.

They could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon or could guarantee the submission of that sort of thing post-facto to the intelligence court just like we do now with the wiretaps.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Now, I didn’t tell Senator Clinton, who had made that comment to me. This was her answer. Let’s watch.

(Videotape)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): As a matter of policy, it cannot be American policy period.

Now, there are a lot of other things that we need to be doing that I wish we were: better intelligence, making our, you know, our country better respected around the world working to have more allies. But these hypotheticals are very dangerous, because they open a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone. And I think it’s dangerous to go down this path.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Doesn’t seem as if she’s for the exception that you were outlining.

MR. CLINTON: She was great, though. I thought—and I thought the next part of it, where she said...

MR. RUSSERT: We’re going to get to that!

MR. CLINTON: Yeah. You know, I, I went back and read the whole transcript, and, as general point, I think she’s right. That is I think America’s policy should be to oppose torture, to honor the Geneva Conventions for several reasons. One is, it’s almost always counterproductive. If you beat somebody up, they’ll tell you what they want to hear. Two is, it, it really hurts us in the rest of the world and helps to recruit other terrorists. And thirdly, it makes our own people vulnerable to torture.

You know, there’s a one in a million chance that you might be alone somewhere, and you’re Jack Bauer on “24.” That’s the Jack Bauer example, right? It happens every season with Jack Bauer, but to—in the real world it doesn’t happen very much. If you have a policy which legitimizes this, it’s a slippery slope and you get in the kind of trouble we’ve been in here with Abu Ghraib, with Guantanamo, with lots of other examples.

And I’m not even sure what I said is right now. I think what happens is the honest truth is that Tim Russert, Bill Clinton, people filming this show, if we were the Jack Bauer person and it was six hours to the bomb or whatever, you don’t know what you would do, and you have to—but I think what our policy ought to be is to be uncompromisingly opposed to terror—I mean to torture, and that if you’re the Jack Bauer person, you’ll do whatever you do and you should be prepared to take the consequences. And I think the consequences will be imposed based on what turns out to be the truth. I think there are a lot of areas in life where you don’t. But I, I loved how she handled this whole thing. I guess you want to show the rest now.

MR. RUSSERT: But, but not heavy formal exception.

MR. CLINTON: Yeah, I don’t think you should now. The more I think about it, and the more I have seen that, if you have any kind of formal exception, people just drive a truck through it, and they’ll say “Well, I thought it was covered by the exception.” I think, I think it’s better not to have one. And if you happen to be the actor in that moment which, as far as I know, has not occurred in my experience or President Bush’s experience since we’ve been really dealing with this terror, but I—you actually had the Jack Bauer moment, we call it, I think you should be prepared to live with the consequences. And yet, ironically, if you look at the show, every time they get the president to approve something, the president gets in trouble, the country gets in trouble. And when Bauer goes out there on his own and is prepared to live with the consequences, it always seems to work better.

MR. RUSSERT: I then...

MR. CLINTON: So Hillary’s probably right about this.

MR. RUSSERT: I then asked—told Senator Clinton my source, and let’s watch.

(Videotape)

RUSSERT: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year.

SEN. CLINTON: Well...

MR. RUSSERT: So he disagrees with you.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, he’s not standing here right now.

MR. RUSSERT: So there is a disagreement.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I’ll talk to him later.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Tell me about—you’ve seen that look before?

MR. CLINTON: I have. Several times over the last 35 years. I loved it.

MR. RUSSERT: How was that conversation? Did you talk about it?

MR. CLINTON: No, I told her I thought she was terrific. And I told her, you know, how the whole thing came up. And I, and I told her, number one, I thought that the moment was great. I thought it was the defining moment of the debate. And number two, that I had decided what I just told you, that on the policy she was right, that you didn’t—once you start constructing exceptions you—you’re opening floodgates for trucks to drive through. It’s far better if you happen to the be the agent that has to deal with that, just suck it up and decide what you think is right and be prepared to live with the consequences. I think that—I think the generals were right, I think that she’s right, and I know that Senator Biden and others said the same thing. But the main thing is, she had a chance, because of this moment, to demonstrate what I know to be the truth, which is she’s perfectly comfortable making these national security calls and others even if she has to disagree with me and other people with whom she has broad agreement and for whom she has great respect. That’s what you want a president to do. You want them to listen to everybody then decide, and you want to have confidence that they will execute their decision with conviction. And I just loved it. Plus, it was funny, you know, that you, you showed that. But I, I was really proud of her. It was good.

MR. RUSSERT: What would your role be? What would you be called? You’re not first lady. Would you be first man? How does that work?

MR. CLINTON: I have no idea. You know the Scots say I should be first laddy. But I don’t know. I’m more interested in what I’d be called upon to do. And it’s been illegal for 40 years, since Robert Kennedy served as attorney general, and then the Democratic Congress with President Johnson in office made it illegal for the members of families of the president to be in the Cabinet. I actually agree with that. I think it would be a mistake for Hillary to give me a line policy-making job. I think I should be available to help her with specific foreign problems, that she said, and maybe to help to promote the domestic agenda, go around the country and help promote it. I think that it would probably be good for America if I could continue to do this, the Global Initiative, and all my foundation work around the world. I think that helps America. I think the Gates Foundation work. I think all these religious groups. I think all of us that work around the world, I think we help America. But I will do whatever I am asked to do. I don’t care what I’m called, I don’t care where my office is. I just want to do whatever helps her most. I think that’s what—that’s what you do if you’ve been president and you get a president. Is the fact that, you know, we’re—our situation’s unique. It doesn’t change that. I think I’ll let any president, but particularly to her, I just want her to—whatever she wants me to do I’ll do.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you ever think of the historical significance, a husband and a wife both being president of the United States?

MR. CLINTON: Sometimes. I think about it just like some people say maybe—I think you asked her last time. You said, you know, now for 28 years...

MR. RUSSERT: From 1980 to 2008 there will be a Bush or a Clinton on the national ticket.

MR. CLINTON: Ticket as president or vice president.

MR. RUSSERT: Two families, political dynasty.

MR. CLINTON: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: And people around the world say, “I see. The president’s father was president, and President Clinton’s wife, the new president. What’s going on over there?’

MR. CLINTON: And she—and what did she say? She said, “Well, I think Bill was a pretty good president,” which is a way of saying, “I’m not responsible for 20 of those 28 years.”

I think a dynasty, though, to be fair—when we think of dynasties in historical circumstances, it’s King Louis I through 25, and you get it because of who your family is, not because of what your merits are. In her case, she clearly has established, after leaving the White House, a totally different career path than I do—did, from operating from a different political base, with a set of expertise areas in—that I didn’t bring to the White House, and for a very different time where the security issues are much more important. And I think the real question here is not whether she’s establishing a dynasty, but where—almost whether we should eliminate her because she happens to be my wife if she is otherwise the person who would be the best president. I don’t like, I don’t like it whenever anybody gets something they’re not entitled to just because of their families. But in this case I honestly believe—I’ll be a voter 40 years next year, and I think she’s the best suited, best qualified nonincumbent I’ve had a chance to vote for for president for this moment in time. So I don’t want to see her eliminated because, because we’ve been together for so long, and we’ve had a life we enjoyed immensely and—because I always thought, when we were going together in law school, I thought—I literally told her she shouldn’t marry me because she was more gifted than me at politics. She was the best person in our generation, and she should go home and do it. And she laughed and said she’d never run for office. She said, “I’m too hard-headed. Nobody’ll ever vote for me. I’ll find another way to serve.” That’s how our life began. We—we began this conversation. I knew in 1971 that she had the ability to do this. I knew that. And she did not decide for sure to run until New Year’s Day this year because she’s always felt ambivalent about running for office. It’s very interesting. So I just don’t want to see her eliminated because she’s my wife. As she said, she’s going to have to stand or fall on her own merits.

MR. RUSSERT: You told The Economist that people had raised questions about winning favor with Hillary Clinton if she’s elected president in terms of money to your foundation or money to the library, and I asked her about that.

MR. CLINTON: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: What’s your view of that? Shouldn’t—and to avoid any perception problem—donors to your library or to your foundation be made public?

MR. CLINTON: What I said to The Economist, I said if she gets elected, people could raise questions about that. So, there is a law on the books—I mean, excuse me, an act being debated in Congress which would require not only future presidents, but current, former presidents to disclose all their contributors from the effective date of the act. And it’s fine with me. If it passes, I’ll fully comply. If she gets elected president, whether or not it passes, I will disclose the contributions that people make from there going forward because I think it’s very important for people to know that. Because I, I just don’t want there to ever be a question in anybody’s mind that someone helped me—even though I don’t touch any of that money personally—that somebody helped me to do my public work in hopes of currying favor with her. I don’t think it would happen, and I know it wouldn’t work, but people are entitled to know. You’re entitled to know it, ask questions about it and evaluate it. So that’s what my policy’s going to be.

MR. RUSSERT: But not until she’s elected.

MR. CLINTON: No. But, I mean, the bill might pass, and that—the only thing I—the reason I say that is I, I really don’t have any problem with any of it, but, for example, a lot of Republicans have supported me, and I don’t want it to cause them embarrassment or the candidates they are supporting embarrassment in a Republican primary. And that’s the sort of thing I—there are lots of other things where people thought they would be anonymous. As far as I know, none of them are inappropriate in any way, and if, if anything like that comes up, I, I would feel a duty to disclose or disgorge the contribution. But whether or not the law passes, if she’s president, you’re entitled to know that I’m not in any way, shape or form doing anything with this foundation that could be compromising to the first mission, which is her job.

MR. RUSSERT: Last week I had Alan Greenspan on this program, and he said, “I think Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in a while,” talking about the deficit...

MR. CLINTON: Fiscal responsibility, yeah. Well, you know—see, it’s funny. I guess maybe it’s because I was a Depression-era baby, but I’ve always been a Democrat. I just never thought that being a Democrat meant being fiscally irresponsible. After all, Lyndon Johnson was the last president to balance the budget before I did. And we did it—we submitted four balanced budgets with surpluses. And I think it’s good economics. It’s interesting. My strongest ally on that point in the House when I, when I first got there was the son of Robert Kennedy, when, when Joe Kennedy was a Congressman from Boston. He was always for the same thing. He even, he was even for the balanced budget amendment.

MR. RUSSERT: Yeah.

MR. CLINTON: And our position was, this is good social policy because it keeps interest rates down, investments up, creates jobs and lowers the tax burden on middle class people to pay, in effect, for the bonds for rich, rich people. So I loved working with Greenspan. We had big differences about how we should balance the budget, but we all thought it was good policy. And I still do.

MR. RUSSERT: Before we go, can you handicap the Republican race?

MR. CLINTON: Yes, but I can’t tell you who I thinks going to win. I think in an amorphous way, they’d all—they’d like for Thompson to be their nominee because it’s like Reagan in 1980 and President Bush in 2000--real conservative but enough pizzazz that independents can read whatever they want into it. It’s like a Rorschach test. But they can’t do that yet because, like he said, he didn’t think al-Qaeda was a serious threat and didn’t know where he stood on Schiavo and all that.

I think that Giuliani proved quite durable, and we don’t know whether this will endure when they start to advertise. But he’s been quite durable. I think Romney is a very appealing candidate in a lot of ways and has a lead in Iowa and New Hampshire. So the real—there are two questions here that will determine the outcome of this, in my opinion, unless Thompson catches fire. One is, can Romney win in Iowa and New Hampshire if he gets right up to the last week with a lead there but he’s still running third or fourth in the national polls? The second is, can Giuliani hold his lead if there’s national advertising about his positions on all the social issues?

And then there’s, there’s the sort of unknown, which is, can there be a surprise? And there’s only two potential surprises, I think. One is, John McCain, I think, has a second breath. And if the independents in New Hampshire decide to vote in the Republican Party instead of the Democratic Party, he could surprise. He’s a very fine man. He’s given a lot to this country. And, and I disagree with him strongly about Iraq, but I admire him. And any person would. And you just—a guy with—that’s got that kind of meat about him, even though he was poorly served by the people who spent all his money, you can’t count him out.

And there’s the only dark horse with a chance to score, I think, is my former governor down in Arkansas, Huckabee, who’s a—we were born in the same little town, he’s a little younger than I am, but he’s the best speaker and, as he said, he’s extremely conservative but he’s not mad at anybody about it. And he’s, you know, he’s sort of the sleeper candidate.

I, I have no idea how this is all going to shake out, but the two principal determinants, I’d say today, are, can Romney hold the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire he now has if he doesn’t move up in the national polls? Can Giuliani hold the lead in the national polls if he doesn’t move up in Iowa and New Hampshire and when they start to advertise?

MR. RUSSERT: Were you surprised, from a political standpoint, that the major Republican candidates didn’t show up for the debate hosted by Tavis Smiley on...

MR. CLINTON: Stunned. Particularly McCain. I mean, here’s McCain takes on climate change, takes on the tobacco lobby, comes out for campaign finance reform, travels with Hillary to take recalcitrant Republicans around the world to prove that climate change is real. I was surprised by that. But I think the others are making a big mistake. I mean, you know, as, as African-Americans get more and more prosperous, you just have to assume more and more of them are at least open to vote Republican. A lot of them are cultural conservatives. I, I just didn’t get it. Of course, you know, and I think they got a position on immigration, too. I know where their base was, but if you just look at where America’s going, we barely have replacement rate and population growth. If you want to keep growing the economy, and most all these people have jobs, and you want to identify everybody who’s in this country so you make sure we don’t have any terrorists out there wandering around we don’t know, you’ve got to have some normalization procedure here for them. So I, I don’t know what they’re doing, but I think it was a mistake.

MR. RUSSERT: President Clinton, as always, thanks for sharing your views.

MR. CLINTON: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, Dan Balz, David Gregory, Pat Buchanan, Tavis Smiley—the candidates’ debate and the Iowa caucuses, just 13 weeks to go, all coming up next right here on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: Some new and interesting and perhaps surprising poll results from Iowa. We’ll talk to Dan Balz, Pat Buchanan, David Gregory and Tavis Smiley after this station break.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Welcome all.

Tavis Smiley, let me start with you. Thursday night, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland, you invited all the Republican candidates. Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson did now show up. This is the way you introduced that debate. Let’s watch.

(Videotape)

MR. TAVIS SMILEY: Finally, some of the campaigns who declined our invitation to join us tonight have suggested publicly that this audience will be hostile and unreceptive. Since we’re live on PBS right now, I can’t tell you what I really think of these kinds of comments, but that said, when we meet the six candidates who are here tonight, I know you’ll join me in showing them your utmost respect. Fortunately, there are those in the Republican Party who do understand the importance of reaching out to people of color.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: That was rather blunt.

MR. SMILEY: Well, I think you have to be. Everyone of them gave as their reason for not being there scheduling. The problem with that logic or illogic, as it were, Tim, is where you say no to every black request you’ve received, when you say no to every Hispanic request you’ve received, is that a scheduling issue or is that a pattern? I think it was a missed opportunity. What I’m encouraged by, though, I think some might expect me to be discouraged this morning or bitter that they didn’t show up, I think they made a huge mistake, and I think that moment the other night is going to become a watershed moment in this campaign as it goes forward because that dog won’t hunt in the general election. You can, you can avoid black and brown in the primary, it doesn’t work in the general. But I’m, I’m, I’m heartened this morning by the fact that I didn’t have to carry the water on this. Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp, J.C. Watts, Michael Steele, the president himself in his press conference at the White House, everybody in the Republican Party has said they were embarrassed by this, to say nothing of the candidates on the stage that night—Huckabee and Brownback specifically—they were embarrassed, it was a mistake, they should be taken to task for it. So even inside of the Republican Party there’s ambivalence if not anger about the way they mishandled this opportunity.

MR. RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, you ran for president

MR. PATRICK BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: ...in the, in the Republican Party at one time. This is what Jack Kemp said.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: He ran for vice president in 1996 with Bob Dole. “We sound like we don’t want black people to vote for us.” What we’re—“what are we going to do, meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we’re going to be competitive with people of color, we’ve got to ask them for their vote.”

Michael Steele, as Tavis mentioned, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, “The GOP front-runners’ decision were disappointing, to the point of being hurtful. But I understand very clearly and very well the demands of time, the demands for money, the demands on the presidential candidates. But I also understand the demands of a community that needs to hear the candidates’ views.”

Not showing up for this debate with Tavis on PBS, not showing up for the Univision debate with Hispanics, is this a problem for Republicans?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it’s a problem if they don’t do it in the general election, but in the primaries, let me explain it, 90 percent of Republican votes are—in the general election are non-Hispanic, white. That is a higher percentage in the primaries, even higher percentage in New Hampshire and Iowa. These are what is going to decide this nomination, Tim. There is a risk going to this gathering here, and there’s very little reward, in my judgment, in those early battles. In Iowa and New Hampshire and Michigan, the first three, if Romney wins those, I think he is, he is on a run—roll to the nomination and only Rudy can stop him. Rudy’s got his own problems in New York with the Amadou Diallo thing, and I can understand why they don’t go down there and get asked about affirmative action. They look at the risks, they look at the rewards, they say, “Look, this is going to be decided in the month of January. How does this help me in January and what we’re building for, the Republican nomination?” So I can understand how their aides would say, “Look, take the hit for not going there, like Rudy took the hit for not going into the Iowa straw poll, and focus on these early states or we’re out of this game.” If they get nominated, I agree they got to do both the Hispanic and the African-American thing, but I can understand their reasoning. I don’t understand why McCain didn’t go, though.

MR. SMILEY: Yeah, but that, but that—if I can jump in right quick—I’m, sorry—but just the question for me, Pat is, what do voters of color who happen to be Republican do until the general? They’re supposed to be ignored all the way through this? There are black and brown Republicans.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, they come out, they come out to the caucus and they vote for the candidate of their choice. Tavis, about, I think, 13 percent of the country is African-American. About 10 percent of the votes are African-American and Republicans get about 10 percent of that. And so taking your time out of the critical areas—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina—does not make sense to me if I were advising them. I would look at the costs, look at the benefits, make the call there.

MR. DAVID GREGORY: But, Tim, you have to look at some of the gains President Bush has made among African-Americans, among Hispanics. We were talking a while ago, about 16 percent of the vote in Ohio, obviously...

MR. RUSSERT: The African-American vote.

MR. GREGORY: ...if you look closely, the African-American vote in Ohio, that matters. And that was in 2004 when one of the Bush messages was a culturally conservative message opposing gay marriages. So just like President Clinton mentioned, there are more African-Americans who might be culturally conservative. They ought to be nurtured rather than, in the general election, having to play defensive. Trying to, to, rebuild those gains could be more difficult for the nominee.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you the latest poll in Iowa, of Republicans, Dan Balz. This is Newsweek, all Republicans. We have Romney at 25; Thompson, 16; Giuliani, 15; McCain, 7; Huckabee, 6. With likely caucus voters, Romney’s still ahead at 24; Thompson, 16; Giuliani, 13; McCain, 9; Huckabee, 12. He, he won—did very well at that straw vote. You’ve been living in Iowa. What are you seeing out there with the Republicans?

MR. DAN BALZ: I see two things, Tim. One is that Romney clearly has an early advantage in Iowa, as these polls have shown. The second is that Iowa Republicans—I think like Republicans almost all over the country, have no real idea where they’re going to end up in January. The support for Romney and all the other Republicans in Iowa is very, very soft. He has benefited from the fact that he’s advertised in Iowa, he has spent a lot of time in Iowa, and they’ve organized in Iowa. There’s only one other candidate at this point who’s really done much organizing out there, and that’s John McCain. So Romney has an advantage at this point, but, in some ways, it’s an advantage that may be difficult to hold once the real ad wars begin.

I think the second thing that’s interesting is the potential for Huckabee in Iowa. If, if Governor Huckabee can consolidate the religious social conservative vote out there, he’s going to surprise one of the top four, if not a couple of the top four, and, and embarrass somebody out there.

MR. RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, the Giuliani strategy seems to be “I can take a hit in Iowa as long as I’m competitive. I can even take a hit in New Hampshire as long as I’m competitive. Because, get me down to South Carolina, get me down to Florida, I’ll still have some money, then bring on Mitt Romney.”

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the, the—it’s interesting that the Romney vote is soft. But this thing almost looks like it was scheduled by the Mormon Church. Look the primaries—you got—Iowa’s coming in at the 5th of January as of now, New Hampshire’s the 8th, three days later. That’s not enough time to slow down the winner. Then you got Michigan seven days later. Now, I think the real question is, if Romney can run those three, does he go up enough in the national polls that he can take the negative attack ads? Who’s got the money for negative attack ads? Right now, nobody but Rudy. So he’s going to have to, I think—somebody—somebody’s got to take down Romney, otherwise I think it goes into a Romney-Rudy race. You go to South Carolina, though, that’s going to be Fred Thompson’s one shot.

MR. GREGORY: I was going to say, he could slow down Romney.

MR. BUCHANAN: He’s got one shot there. But from what we know, Thompson does not have the money to go the distance. So if you had to ask me and I were pushed right now, I would say it is a Romney-Rudy race. And if I were Rudy, I’d, I’d get a lot of money somehow into Huckabee in Iowa so he knocks off—you got to slow down Romney from three straight victories. You can’t let him go 3-and-0.

MR. SMILEY: But, Tim, it’s like—let me ask you—it sounds to me like—it sounds to me, though, like we are making the assumption here that it’s a forgone conclusion that Christian conservatives are OK with this guy. Is that—has that Mormon question been settled now where Christian conservative voters are concerned?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it come—it will come up in South Carolina, Tavis.

MR. SMILEY: Yeah, I...

MR. BUCHANAN: Big time.

MR. SMILEY: I would think so.

MR. RUSSERT: And is it settled about Rudy Giuliani in terms of Christian conservatives?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, is—that’s the question. Does Romney—see, Romney’s going to have a lot of money. He’s raising money, and he will spend it. They got to start getting that message out on Rudy before they get south. And if they do, and if they can bring him down and he can come in with momentum, Romney may be able to go through there. But that’s the big question, can he, can he run that hurdle?

MR. BALZ: It’s, it’s—South Carolina is a huge hurdle. I think that the—for them for the Romney campaign the goal is as you’ve outlined it. Win Iowa, win New Hampshire, and Michigan now sets up early and, and well for him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: New Hampshire is going to be a real battleground on the Republican side, and there’s a new poll...

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: ...University of New Hampshire poll that came out last week there that shows the Republican race much closer than it was, that Romney’s advantage has narrowed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: Giuliani’s in better shape there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: So I think that that’s where the Giuliani people think they can perhaps stop Romney before they then go south.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the Democrats. Here’s Newsweek, Iowa, and look at this: Amongst Democrats, it’s Clinton, 31; Obama, 25; Edwards, 21; Richardson, 6. But amongst likely caucus voters, Obama in the lead with 28; Clinton, 24; Edwards, 22; Richardson, 10. David Gregory:

MR. GREGORY: Well, it’s so interesting because there’s two things going on. There’s a national race, where Hillary Clinton is far, far ahead. And then there’s Iowa, ground zero for the Democrats, and it is a tight race. You see Obama slightly ahead now. This is a three-person race, which is different from the, the national polls, where it’s, it’s primarily Obama and Hillary Clinton, and this is where the ground game is going to be fought for the Democrats. These are three candidates—Edwards, Obama and Clinton—who have spent a lot of time there, strong organizations. A small universe of caucus goers in the end, so organization is really key. You know, this is—this should really show people that this is still a race and not Hillary Clinton running away with it.

MR. RUSSERT: Tavis Smiley, it was interesting in 2004, Howard Dean was ahead in Iowa, and the voters chose John Kerry. Many of them admitted that it was a strategic vote, that they were passionate about Dean, but they thought Kerry could perhaps be a better general election candidate. There’s been some research done, according to the LA Times today, in Montana, which says that, of all the candidates, Hillary Clinton tests least amongst Republican voters, and that in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, they have found similar reluctance to embrace Hillary Clinton. Is that what’s maybe at work in Iowa, where 60, 65 percent of voters in the Democratic Party are still unwilling to say, “Yes, we want Hillary,” because of a concern about a general election?

MR. SMILEY: Well, there’s two or three things that concern me. One, I think those undecideds are, are important. And these numbers, you know, obviously we, we know they’re plus or minus here. But these numbers really concern me because the undecideds are still so high in that state to begin with, number one. Number two, where Obama is concerned, I used to work for Tom Bradley, the late, great mayor of our state and almost governor, first black governor of California. And when I see those numbers in the races that close, I hope that we’re—we’ve moved past this in America. But whenever I see those kinds of numbers for Obama, I hope they actually stick. I wonder whether or not what people tell the pollsters that they might do is the same as what they will do once they get in the poll, particularly for a guy who happens to be an African-American like Barack Obama. But I think those numbers for him have to be encouraging today.

MR. BUCHANAN: If Obama doesn’t win Iowa, this game is over, because if Edwards...

MR. SMILEY: You sound like, you sound like Michelle Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, she’s dead right on this one, Tavis. Because if Edwards wins, Edwards goes up in New Hampshire and becomes the competitor, and Edwards can’t go the distance. And if Hillary wins, she rolls right through New Hampshire and the game is over. Hillary is in the finals. These two are fighting to get in the semifinals—or get into the finals. And I think—I don’t think Edwards, if he wins, can go the distance. I do think Obama can go the distance, but he can’t get beat in Iowa, in my judgment.

MR. RUSSERT: Dan Balz, a very strong supporter for Hillary Clinton said to me right now Barack Obama is in the stable. But if he gets out of the stable in Iowa...

MR. BALZ: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and starts running, he’s a thoroughbred. Because the independents in New Hampshire could cross over and vote for him, you go to South Carolina, half the Democratic voters are African-American. We have to keep him in the stable in the Iowa. These polls indicate that he has a chance of breaking out, although she still is the front-runner.

MR. BALZ: Well, it’s, it’s why the Clinton campaign, on the one hand, touts every national poll that shows her well ahead while running a campaign in Iowa in which she’s running quite scared, and deservedly so. There’s two things about Iowa that are a problem for her. One is the strength of John Edwards, which, because he is a factor in there, you have a different kind of race than you have anywhere else in the country at this point. And the second is, she has no long history in Iowa.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: Bill Clinton never ran in the Iowa caucuses in 1992 because Tom Harkin, senator from Iowa, was running for president, and all the Democrats skipped it. The Clintons do not have the kind of network in Iowa that they have had and been able to develop in New Hampshire. There is not that kind of affection for the—for Hillary Clinton in Iowa that there is for the Clintons in New Hampshire. She has to work this. They are organizing very, very hard out there. She is spending a lot of time. It’s interesting that she gave her health care speech in Iowa, and she delivered a major speech on Iraq in Iowa.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. SMILEY: Yes, but can Obama make it in Iowa, though? Because he hasn’t had that history in Iowa, either.

MR. BALZ: Well, I think there’s, there’s one, one element is, he’s a neighbor.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: Eastern Iowa abuts Illinois, and they have worked that side of it very hard.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, Dan, if, if, if Edwards, let’s say he wins Iowa, which obviously he could do. If he wins Iowa, he can’t beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in a national contest, I don’t think. He’s going to have to take matching funds. I don’t think he’s, he’s a national candidate. And that sort of eclipses Obama, who, as Tim said, can break away and win this. He’s got the in—the national image, he’s got the money. I don’t think Edwards can do it. So if Hillary’s going to lose, she wants to lose to Edwards.

MR. RUSSERT: Inevitability is a big part of the Clinton campaign. “We’re going to win this nomination. We’re going to win this election.”

David Gregory, “Saturday Night Live” tried to capture that last night. Let’s watch quickly.

(Videotape, “Saturday Night Live”)

Announcer: The following is an address from the all-but-certain-to-be next president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

MS. AMY POEHLER: (As Senator Hillary Clinton) Bill?

MR. DARRELL HAMMOND: (As Bill Clinton) Oh. I’m sorry. Is this not a good place to read?

MS. POEHLER: (As Senator Hillary Clinton) Actually, I was about to start.

MR. HAMMOND: (As Bill Clinton) Yeah, sure, of course. Of course you were.

MS. POEHLER: (As Senator Hillary Clinton) Good evening, my fellow Americans. A little more than a year from now, you, the American people, will go to the polls and elect me president of the United States.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: That’s it, foregone conclusion, huh? Now, here’s New York magazine, the first lady, William Jefferson Clinton. It is quite interesting how much this is an issue. I asked Senator Clinton about the whole notion of a dynasty—it’ll be from 1980 to 2008 where a Bush or Clinton had been on the national ticket for 28 years. And you just heard President Clinton earlier, David, say, “OK, Hillary was right about no exception to a torture—no torture rule.”

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: It is remarkable how much this is part of the debate, and are—here we are in September of 2007.

MR. GREGORY: I think there’s a couple of issues. One, she, she will constantly fight this issue of being her own president, her own woman, and, and is Bill Clinton, the former president, lurking in the shadows, influencing policy? And the way he wrapped his arms around her answers say she’s her own woman, and she’s thought this through, and that’s what she should really be doing. It’s a land mine he’s always going to be walking through.

The second thing is that I think Republicans—all these Republicans that say she is the inevitable nominee, they want her to be the nominee. The only thing they could get Republicans excited right now in their doldrums is the idea of the Clintons running for president, the notion that it’s two-for-one again. And I, I was thinking about George W. Bush in 2000, ending every stump speech saying “When I put my hand on the Bible, I’ll restore honor and digerty—dignity to the White House.” They’d like to, to rehash some of those themes.

MR. RUSSERT: It, it is interesting, Pat Buchanan, how Barack Obama has been trying to wrestle with this, particularly the issue of experience.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: And this is what he put out the other day, because he was talking about it yesterday in New Hampshire. And it’s an interesting, interesting release from his campaign. This is from the Obama campaign: “Making his 16th visit to New Hampshire, Senator Barack Obama drew on the words of a previous presidential candidate who, like him, was criticized for being new to Washington politics. ‘I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for President. He said, “The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.” Well, that candidate was Bill Clinton. And I think he was absolutely right.’”

MR. GREGORY: The Russert tactic, revealing the source at the end.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, well, look. I think, I think Obama’s got a real—a real problem here. I don’t think you can defend yourself against the charge of lack of experience by talking about it. What he has to do is—his problem is he’s got Edwards, who is energizing the left wing of the Democratic Party and taking left wing positions. And, and Obama, as it—the more he moves over there, the more he moves out of the center, and I think—and he, and he can’t go after Hillary the way Edwards does, because he’ll ruin this really good national image he’s got of being above politics...

MR. RUSSERT: Politics of hope.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, exactly. And so—and at the same time, he’s got to beat Edwards. So he’s got a very rough position. But let me say this, Tim, in that debate that you hosted, and it was, it was quite a debate, I think the Democratic Party doesn’t know how far to the left they are moving. I mean, they said there that it’s going to be—smoking is going to be a federal crime in public places, 18-year-old Marines can’t drink beer, and six-year-olds are going to be taught about gay marriage. You know, they can’t learn about Adam and Eve, but they can take an elective on Adam and Steve. You know, I can see the Republicans just beating them to death with this and the sanctuary city stuff.

MR. SMILEY: And yet...

MR. BUCHANAN: And Rudy’s being killed with sanctuary city.

MR. SMILEY: And, and on the other hand—first of all, Obama, right quick, I think it’s a brilliant strategy, though. If you’re going to be tagged on inexperience, quote the guy who’s the husband of the all-but-certain next-to-be president of the United States. The, the Democrats really have some issues, Pat, to be certain. But I don’t, I don’t want...(unintelligible)...either, though. The Republicans have some clear issues here, back to the first part of our conversation. The Republican Party has to decide in this general election whether or not that old Southern strategy is going to work.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. SMILEY: It’s worked well since Ronald Reagan, certainly, back in the ‘80s going to Philadelphia, Mississippi and announcing “I support states’ rights.” That Southern strategy’s worked well since then. But now, in the most multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic America ever, does that Southern strategy still work?

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me tell you...

MR. SMILEY: And I think that anybody—black, white, brown, male, female...

MR. BUCHANAN: Tavis...

MR. SMILEY: ...Republican or Democrat—can’t be elected if they think they can run that strategy, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tavis...

MR. SMILEY: Not anymore.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tavis, in Michigan, in the last election, affirmative action went down to defeat, 56 percent of the vote against affirmative action. The Republicans ran away from it. Ward Connerly has this issue, he’s putting it on the ballot in some nine states. Now, Republicans will run away from it, but this will bring out white voters and conservative voters and others, working class folks who voted for Reagan, all those folks. Look, I mean, I think that, that, that if Republicans stand with their traditional positions, you know, we’re for equality of opportunity, but we’re against forced equality of result, I think it’s a good issue.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about Iraq, because it was interesting, I thought, in this debate, the first question that I asked of the three front-runners and all the candidates: Will you pledge, by the end of your first term, January of 2013, all American troops will be out of Iraq? Clinton, Obama, Edwards all said, “I won’t make that commitment.”

MR. GREGORY: Right. They said you never know what we’re going to find. A, a really measured position for three candidates. Edward—Edwards, particularly, who was embracing the, the left wing of the party’s view that you have to end the war now, and the others even voting for cutting off funding. I think it’s a realization, though, that, that they’re going to take a more centrist position and say to the left wing of their party, “We’ve got to be pragmatic about this. We can’t lose the general election because of your feelings about the war.”

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: I thought that was a very telling moment, Tim. And I thought, for those three candidates in particular, three who think, in their own mind, there is a way for them to be president, that they know that the complexity of what’s going to present them if they end up in the Oval Office is far different than the sound bites and the slogans in a Democratic primary contest. And they were reflecting that, I think, for the first time.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: I tried to get these candidates to take positions on Iraq, on Social Security, on the big issues.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: We talked about baseball. And I found this exchange particularly interesting. Let’s watch.

(Videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, what about a World Series Yankees and Cubs?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I’ve worried about that because I think, given the Cubs’ record, which of course I, I hope it happens, but it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse were that to ever occur. It would be so out of history that you’d have the Cubs vs. the Yankees, then I’d be really in trouble. But I...

MR. RUSSERT: But who would you be for?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Well, the Cubs are in the playoffs, David.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: Cubs, Yankees. You going to seat—sit behind each dugout?

MR. GREGORY: You can’t have it all. In the sports world, you can’t have it all.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, Tim...

MR. GREGORY: That reeks of calculation, which is a potential downside for her.

MR. BUCHANAN: The term “Nixonian” comes to mind on that response.

MR. RUSSERT: How so?

MR. BUCHANAN: In the good sense of the word.

MR. RUSSERT: How so, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, which—“on the one hand, on the other.”

MR. SMILEY: That sounds like Romney is what it sounded like.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Dan Balz, it’s been tough getting these candidates to, to one, one, talk to the press and take real positions. They want to hide out in the Internet, they want to hide out on their blogs, they want to put out prefab commercials and brochures. But when you say to them, “Where are you on Social Security? How are you going to save that program? Where are you on Iraq? Where are you on immigration?” sometimes you get answers like that.

MR. BALZ: You know, it’s interesting. The, the Republicans have gotten a lot of criticism for not coming to Tavis’ debate the other night, and I think justifiably so, for all the reasons that have been discussed here this morning. But, as you point out, all of the candidates on all sides of this race are finding ways to avoid real interaction with the press.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. BALZ: Senator Clinton has had one real press availability out on the campaign trail since she announced. Most of them—she did all the Sunday shows last week. She’s basically not doing any others. Obama is very much the same way. They’re all using friendly sources. As you say, they’re trying to get their message out through the Internet. The Republicans go on Sean Hannity all the time. They’re looking for ways to avoid tough follow-up questions.

MR. RUSSERT: More to come. They’re all invited here. We’ll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: That’s all for today. Be back next week. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS. Three weeks ago, Kevin Everett from the Buffalo Bills, they thought he was paralyzed for life. Not so. He’s probably going to recover. Number 85, hang in there. Buffalobills.com, learn a lot more about spinal injuries and a tremendous recovery. See you next week.

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