MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan rocks Washington and rattles the White House with his scathing new book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." Why did he say one thing at the podium and quite another in his book? We'll ask him. Our guest, the man who worked for George W. Bush for seven years, Scott McClellan.
Then, the Democratic National Committee agrees to seat delegations from Michigan and Florida and give each delegate a half vote. But the Clinton campaign is very unhappy.
MR. HAROLD ICKES: I am stunned that we have the gall and the chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters.
MR. RUSSERT: And what happens today in the Puerto Rico primary? And Tuesday, Montana and South Dakota? Will Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton be able to unite the Democratic Party? With us, for the Obama campaign, former Democratic senator from South Dakota, Tom Daschle. For the Clinton campaign, one of her senior advisers and a member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, Harold Ickes.
But first, with us for an exclusive Sunday morning interview, the man who has had Washington buzzing all week, former press secretary to President Bush, Scott McClellan, and his new book, "What Happened."
MR. SCOTT McCLELLAN: Tim, thanks for having me on today. Glad to be here.
MR. RUSSERT: The response has been extraordinary to this book. You have been called by your fellow Republicans a "turncoat," "a snitch," "Benedict Arnold." Bob Dole, ranking Republican in all of Washington, sent an e-mail and said this: "Scott.
"There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don't have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, spurned on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique. In my nearly 36 years of public service, I've known a few like you. ...
"You should have spoken up publicly like a man, or quit your cushy, high profile job. That would have taken integrity and courage but then you've had--would have had credibility and your complaints could have been aired objectively. You're a hot ticket now but don't you, deep down, feel like a total ingrate?"
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I have a lot of respect for Senator Dole. He was a noble public servant and spent a--time in the military. You know, I, I think...
MR. RUSSERT: But the feeling, the feelings clearly aren't mutual.
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand. And people--I knew that this book was going to spur a reaction. This book takes aim at Washington, and there are many in Washington that were not going to be happy with it. I knew that going in. This is an indictment of the culture in Washington.
MR. RUSSERT: The issue that seems to be being used against you, Scott McClellan, is hypocrisy, that you said one thing at the podium and wrote another in the book. People go back to March of 2004. Richard Clarke, the director of counterterrorism, had left the White House, wrote a book, "Against All Enemies," and this is what Scott McClellan said about Mr. Clarke. Let's watch.
MR. McCLELLAN: Why all the sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner? This is one and a half years after he left the administration, and now all of the sudden he's raising these grave concerns that he claims he had.
He has written a book, and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book.
MR. RUSSERT: You could be describing yourself.
MR. McCLELLAN: I could. And, in fact, that is, I think, the White House reaction today about me. Let me tell you a couple things. One, I got caught up in the Washington permanent campaign culture just like everybody else. I came here with high hopes that we could change Washington, that the president was a bipartisan leader in Texas. It didn't happen. And that's one of the things I wanted to look at in the book, is why did we go so badly off course?
In terms of Dick Clarke, I actually ran into him in New York the other night. I actually apologized to him. I had not read the book...
MR. RUSSERT: What did you say to him?
MR. McCLELLAN: ...and here I was--we had a brief conversation and, and I said--I basically said, "I, I apologize for what I was saying about you then. I had not read your book."
MR. RUSSERT: I think what people are groping for is when did you undergo this transformation, this intellectual journey, this evolution? Ari Fleischer, your former boss, the man who you replaced at the White House, said this: "Scott told me that this book really did change. And he said this book ended up a lot different from the way it got started. He told me he didn't know if he could write a book like this a year ago."
And we refer you to your book proposal, which was sent around in January of '07: "`The Unvarnished Truth About George W. Bush: His Former Spokesman Talks Candidly About the President, the Press, Washington Politics, and his White House Days' by Scott McClellan. There have been a number of books written about President Bush, including many more recent ones that portray him in a very negative light.
"This book's going to take a much different look at our Nation's 43rd President. While being supportive of the President, I want to give readers a candid look into who George W. Bush is, what he believes, why he believes it so strongly, what drives him.
"It will be an insider's account of his behind-the-scenes persona, including his decision-making style, his personal discipline, his composure under fire, his sense of humor.
"And, I will directly address myths that have been associated with him, some deliberately perpetuated by activist liberals and some created by the media, and look at the reality behind those myths."
That's not the book you wrote.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, if you look at that whole book proposal, there are a number of items in there, issues in there that are a part of this book. Particularly when I highlight in there the bipartisanship that, yes, absolutely, Tim, I say in the preface of the book that many of the conclusions I came to at the end were not ones that I would've embraced at the beginning, and I went through a process here to make sure I got to the truth. And I believe I have gotten to the truth from my perspective.
MR. RUSSERT: But after suggesting that there had been a lot of negative books about George Bush, you write this: "Bush was a leader unable to acknowledge that he got it wrong, unwilling to grow in office by learning from his mistakes--too stubborn to change and grow." That's a very negative view of the president.
MR. McCLELLAN: It is a true reflection of this president. We got into the Iraq war, we went into it in a way that, as I say in the book, which was based on a "permanent campaign" mentality. It wasn't as open and forthright as it could be, and I think that really hurt us later. And when you go to war, you have to build bipartisan support and then you have to sustain it. We couldn't sustain it because we were not open in the beginning, and the president could not go back and admit some of the mistakes that were made early in the, early in the buildup to the war.
MR. RUSSERT: You write...
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think that--I think that that hurts our troops the most because they deserve as much bipartisan support as we can get here in, in Washington, D.C., and the president failed to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: You write in the book, "The campaign to sell the war didn't begin in earnest until the fall of 2002. But, as I would later come to learn, President Bush had decided to confront the Iraqi regime several months earlier. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz all saw September 11th as an opportunity to go after Saddam Hussein, take out his regime, eliminate a threat, make the Middle East more secure. And Bush agreed. ...
"Message discipline sometimes meant avoiding forthrightness--for example, evasively dismissing questions about the risks of war as `speculation,' since the decision to go to war supposedly had not yet been made."
And certainly, you were part of that. August 2002, Scott McClellan: "I think it's premature to speculate about--premature to speculate because the President has made no decision about any particular course of action."
A decision had already been made, you said.
MR. McCLELLAN: I, I--well, I came to learn later that that decision was made.
MR. RUSSERT: When?
MR. McCLELLAN: I was deputy press secretary at that time.
MR. RUSSERT: When did you learn?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, when the president did interviews with Bob Woodward for his book, when the--when I heard the president talk in world leader meetings after I became press secretary about how passionately he cared about spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East. The real driving motivation, as you've touched on there, was trying to transform the Middle East and spread democracy throughout it. And Iraq would be the linchpin for doing that. Now, that was not something that we emphasized. It was something that was mentioned, but it was downplayed in the lead-up to the war. And I later came to learn that very clearly when I was press secretary. There are, there are elements to that earlier on when I would participate in some meetings for my predecessor and hear that as well.
MR. RUSSERT: But again you write this: "The administration ... shaded the truth; downplaying the major reason for going to war, emphasizing a lesser motivation that could arguably be dealt with in other ways; ... trying to make the WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable, than they were; quietly ignoring or disregarding some of the crucial caveats in the intelligence, minimizing evidence that pointed in the opposite direction; using innuendo and implication to encourage Americans to believe as fact some things that were unclear and possibly false (such as the idea that Saddam has an active nuclear weapons program) and other things that were overplayed or completely wrong (such as implying Saddam might have an operational relationship with al Qaeda) ...
"The goal was to win the debate, to get Congress and the public to support the decision to confront Saddam. In the pursuit of that goal, embracing a high level of candor and honesty about the potential war--its larger objectives, its likely costs, and its possible risks--came a distant second."
And yet again, here's Scott McClellan, September 2003, in front of the American people. Let's watch.
MR. McCLELLAN: Saddam Hussein possessed and used chemical and biological--used, used chemical weapons against his own people. He had a history of possessing and using...
Unidentified Woman: Thirteen years before?
MR. McCLELLAN: ...using weapons of mass destruction. He had a history of invading his neighbors. He had large unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. He defied the international community for 12 years and some 17 resolutions.
Woman: ...tell people that there was an imminent, direct threat.
MR. McCLELLAN: The president made it very clear that we need to act to confront threats in a post-September 11th world before it's too late, before those threats reach our shores and it's too late.
MR. RUSSERT: Were you shading the truth? Were you part of the innuendo? Were you part of the propaganda campaign?
MR. McCLELLAN: I was part of this propaganda campaign, absolutely. And, Tim, let me mention a couple of things. First, you know, there's--there was the legendary British economist John Maynard Keynes who used to be accused of frequently changing his positions. When one accuser attacked him, he responded, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" And when I was able to step out of that White House bubble--when you're in that White House bubble, it's all-consuming. You know what it's like, 18-hour days.
MR. RUSSERT: And yet, when you were in the White House, you had some of these doubts but apparently didn't express them. The president was on MEET THE PRESS February of 2004. I asked a question, he responded. Let's watch.
MR. RUSSERT: In light of not finding the weapons of mass destruction, do you believe the war in Iraq is a war of choice or a war of necessity?
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: I think it's--that's an interesting question. Please elaborate on that a little bit. A war of choice or a war of necessity? I mean, it's a war of necessity. We, we, we--my judgment, we had no choice when we look at the intelligence I looked at that says the man was a threat.
MR. RUSSERT: You write in your book, "I remember talking to the president about this question following the MEET THE PRESS interview. He seemed puzzled and asked me what Russert was getting at with the question. This, in turn, puzzled me. Surely this administration between--this distinction between a necessary, unavoidable war and a war that the United States could have avoided but chose to wage was an obvious one that Bush must have thought about in the months before the invasion. Evidently, it wasn't obvious to the president, nor did his national security team make sure it was." It was being debated everywhere...
MR. McCLELLAN: True.
MR. RUSSERT: ...all across the country, is this a war of choice, or a war of necessity? The president seemed unaware of that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. As, as you know, I was sitting right there off to the side, and after the interview had ended, I did walk back into that room, and, and it struck me. That was--and I write about it in, in the book in some detail.
MR. RUSSERT: Why didn't you say to him, "Mr. President, this is the fundamental issue confronting our country." Why didn't you go to your superiors and say, "Guys, ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem here. This is the fundamental issue, choice or necessity, and the president seems unaware of it."
MR. McCLELLAN: In retrospect, I probably should have. I probably should have said something more about it. But, again, there's so many issues going on, you get caught up in advocating and defending the president's stance. And he'd already made the decision, and the president's someone that, once he makes a decision, as you know, he expects everyone to march in lockstep. I don't--you know, it's tough to go there and try to challenge those views inside an administration that is so insular like that, but it also goes to the president's decision, that he had made this decision to confront Saddam Hussein, and it was going to be either he comes clean or we go to war very early on. That's they way the president operates. He makes the decision, and then it's how do you implement that decision? And I think that happened late in 2001, and then his advisers, from my perspective, I don't think challenged him like they should have about the necessity of going to war. And from my standpoint, it's a moral view, we shouldn't be going to war unless it's absolutely necessary. Now there are--there was justification that could be made to remove Saddam Hussein, separate and apart from that, and plenty to argue there, but we overplayed and overstated the case for war.
MR. RUSSERT: This was Scott McClellan in January of '04 talking about intelligence. Let's watch.
MR. McCLELLAN: Intelligence is something that we take very seriously in this administration.
MR. RUSSERT: "Intelligence is something we take very seriously." That's what you're telling the American people. And yet, on an airplane, with the president, you write this: "According to Scooter Libby's grand jury testimony, President Bush had actually engaged in selective declassification himself. He authorized the use of parts of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate in an effort to discredit Joe Wilson's attacks on the credibility of the administration. Now, with those three simple words, `Yeah, I did,' the president was telling me that my public statements about the sanctity of classified intelligence rang hollow." Why didn't you then say, "Mr. President, I've had it."
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll tell you why. I...
MR. RUSSERT: "I'm out of here. I can't do this anymore. I'm out there saying that we have intelligence, we take it seriously, and it's being selectively declassified and leaked to attack political opponents."
MR. McCLELLAN: I, I was stunned by his reaction. I walked off an Air Force One, and he asked what the reporter was shouting at him, and I said, "He, he said that you had authorized the selective leaking of this classified information," which the president has legal authority to do. And no one else in the administration knew, other than the vice president and Scooter Libby. Not the director of Central Intelligence, the national security adviser or the chief of staff. It was very compartmentalized, and that's part of the problem with this White House as well.
But the reason I didn't was because that was the final 10 months of my time in the White House, when my disillusionment increasingly set in. I became dismayed beginning in July of 2005 with the revelations that I had been knowingly misled by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, and then ending with the NIE. And I had made a decision at that point, right around that--right after that, that that was the final straw, that I would leave the administration. My intent was to do it at my three-year mark in July of 2003, just a couple months later, that I'd do it quietly and leave, because I could no longer continue to go through this when I had been decrying the selective leaking of classified information for years, as had the president.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's talk about that podium, October 7th, 2003, when Scooter Libby and Karl Rove were being accused of being part of the whole Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson situation. Scott McClellan defended them. Let's watch.
MR. McCLELLAN: They're good individuals. They're important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I, I had no doubt with--of that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.
I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.
MR. RUSSERT: You misled the American people.
MR. McCLELLAN: I did, unknowingly. I, I, I went to both those individuals, asked them point-blank, "Were you involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity in any way?" Both of them told me, unequivocally, "No." Now, the president also told me in a conversation I detail in the book that he had been told the same by Karl Rove in terms...
MR. RUSSERT: So--stop there.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Did Karl Rove lie to the president of the United States?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's my belief. But I don't know their specific conversation. I just know what the president told me, which was "Karl told me he was not involved."
MR. RUSSERT: There's a difference in the way you describe the questioning as to the way Mr. Rove described your questioning. Here's what Rove says: "But the fact of the matter is Scott's questions to me were: did I leak Valerie Plame's name, and the answer is no."
You write: "The second time I checked with Rove was on Saturday, September 27, 2003. ... I asked Karl an unambiguous, unqualified catch-all question, `Were you involved in this in any way?' I was" certainly "referring to the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity--information that was believed to be classified--to any reporter.
"Karl replied categorically, `No. Look, I didn't even know about his wife.'"
One of you is not telling the truth.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Karl had also said something very similar to, I think it was on CNN and ABC, when he was asked about questions, "Were you involved in this?" He said, "I did not know her name. I did not leak her name." It's pretty disingenuous. I, I think most people, most objective observers realize that now. He still maintains he wasn't involved in the leaking of her name, yet most objective observers say, yes, he was. He talked to two reporters about her identity, Matt Cooper and Robert Novak. Apparently he was the second confirming source.
But let me mention this. That question, when I said, "Were you involved in this in any way?" and he categorically said no, that is absolutely true. It is what I said under oath to the grand jury, it is what I told investigators. And secondly, that is the same question I asked Scooter--very same question I asked Scooter Libby, because the chief of staff Andy Card came to me shortly after that, that Saturday after the first week, said, "The president and vice president spoke this morning. They want you to give the same assurances that--for Scooter Libby that you gave for Karl Rove," basically exonerating him publicly. I said, "I will do that only if I am given the same assurances by Scooter." And I called him, I got him on the phone, said, "Were you involved in this in any way?" "No, absolutely not."
MR. RUSSERT: Would you...
MR. McCLELLAN: And, and I think White House reporters know, I said I talked to those individuals and they assured me they were not involved, that they can take me on my word when I said that. Unfortunately, that information turned out to be false.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you agree to release your grand jury testimony publicly?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't thought about it. I don't know, I don't know if I have the authority to do that or not. I, I'm glad to, you know, certainly share my views, as I have in this book, and talk about it.
MR. RUSSERT: The president said at the time that "if someone committed a crime, they'd no longer work in my administration." Do you believe the president should have fired Karl Rove?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a, that's a question that the president had to make, and he chose not to.
MR. RUSSERT: But what do you think?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I, I think he should have stood by his word. I think the president should have stood by the word that we said, which is if you were involved in this any way, then you would no longer be in this administration. And Karl was involved in it. That would be a tough decision. I don't know if, if there was any crime committed. I don't--I say I just don't know that in the book. But we had higher standards at the White House. The president said he was going to restore honor, integrity. He said we were going to set the highest of standards. We didn't live up to that. When it became known that his top adviser had been involved, then the bar was moved. And the bar was moved to "if anyone is indicted, they would no longer be here."
MR. RUSSERT: So you think they should've been dismissed.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think so. I mean, Scooter Libby was, and I, and I think that he should...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, he resigned. But you...
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. But that was pushed out.
MR. RUSSERT: But you believe Rove--Rove should've, should've left?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the president should've stood by his word, and that meant Karl should've left.
MR. RUSSERT: You write this: "In years to come, as I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in a court who does not want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about perjuring himself."
That's an extraordinary statement to make about the president of the United States.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I, I think it's, it's a statement of--a lot of politicians get into that mode. They come into this atmosphere, and that was talking about a very personal issue there that occurred years ago. And I, I think it's fine for something like that, it's understandable that, you know, "I don't want--I don't recall." But when that transfers into...
MR. RUSSERT: That was his use of cocaine?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct, and I recount that story in the book when he says, "I"--you know, told a supporter "I don't remember." Now the--and at that point, that didn't bother me too much because it was understandable, given that it was such an issue of a personal nature that occurred in his younger days, 20, 30 years ago.
MR. RUSSERT: Was it believable?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. I don't, I don't believe so. I say that in the book that it struck me as how could you not remember? But when that transfers over into other issues, issues of policy, that then, that then becomes a problem. One thing that I, I can point to that you will probably remember very well, and at--your viewers, is that when he was talking about Iran and Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, it later became known that a National Intelligence Estimate had come out before that time--before he was making those remarks and said that they had suspended their nuclear weapons program. He was asked about it. "Do you--were you told--when were you told about this? When were you told about this National Intelligence estimate?" And he said, "I don't remember." I, I just can't find that--I, I just find that hard to believe. Now, he believes it in his heart, I think, but he convinces himself to do so.
MR. RUSSERT: It's self-deception?
MR. McCLELLAN: It is.
MR. RUSSERT: When you left, there was a big party for you in the Roosevelt Room. Here are some pictures. You're standing there with staff, and you're with your family. The president throwing his arms around you in this next photo. Everyone seemed very, very happy. When you left on April 19th, you announced you're leaving, this is what the president had to say.
PRES. BUSH: One of these days he and I are going to be rocking in those chairs in Texas talking about the good old days of his time as the press secretary, and I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now that I can say to Scott, "Job well done."
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you, sir.
MR. RUSSERT: It seems as if everything's jolly, happy. You're not the least bit disenchanted?
MR. McCLELLAN: I, I tell you, I have--I continue to have a lot of affection for the president. I--as I say, this was a struggle to write. These were not easy words to write, but I have a responsibility to the American people. I have had a career in public service. This book is an extension of my career. I was raised on the values of speaking up and making a positive difference in a very political family that believed in the importance of public service. And that was taught to me at an early age, and now this is my time to share my experiences with the American people. And I think others should come forward and share their candid insights about what they learned and what they, what they lived and what they learned from it.
MR. RUSSERT: Some have suggested because you were part of the propaganda machine that sold the war, that many people have died and been injured because of the war, you should donate some of the profits from this book to the families of the victims of the Iraq War. Will you do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I intend to. I do intend to. I've already...
MR. RUSSERT: Significant?
MR. McCLELLAN: ...made that decision. I--a portion. I don't, I don't know what I'll do, Tim, but a portion, I do intend to do that. My wife and I look for ways to always support the troops, including sending care packages regularly to them.
MR. RUSSERT: What's the most important lesson you've learned?
MR. McCLELLAN: The most important lesson is that it's important to speak up of--at the time. And I was young, and I probably should've spoke up--spoken up about some of these issues sooner. And I think that's...
MR. RUSSERT: The...
MR. McCLELLAN: The, the other lesson is, you know, if you're in a situation like that--well, I mean, one of my, one of my biggest mistakes, I think, and I blame myself for this, was I put myself in the position of unknowingly passing along first--false information. I should've never put myself in that position in the first place.
MR. RUSSERT: And should you be willing to resign if you disagree with the president?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. I think, I think, I think people should, if they have a strong disagreement. Again, my disagreements--I had different views while I was there. These are views that I've come to after leaving the White House and reflecting to a large extent.
MR. RUSSERT: Scott McClellan, the book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." We thank you for joining us and sharing your views. And our viewers can read an excerpt from this book on our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com.
Coming next, Florida and Michigan, Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota. Obama vs. Clinton, the battle goes on. With us, Obama supporter, former Senator Tom Daschle; Clinton adviser Harold Ickes. They are next, coming up right here only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Harold Ickes of the Clinton campaign, Tom Daschle of the Obama campaign, a huge weekend in Democratic politics--the race for the White House continues after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back, joined by Harold Ickes, senior adviser to the Clinton campaign and member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee. They met yesterday and decided to fully seat the disputed delegates from Michigan and Florida, giving each delegate a half a vote.
Mr. Ickes, welcome.
MR. ICKES: Nice to be here.
MR. RUSSERT: You were not happy at the end of that meeting. Let's show our viewers what you had to say.
MR. ICKES: There's been a lot of talk about party unity. "Let's all come together, wrap our arms around each other." I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that hijacking four delegates, notwithstanding the flawed aspect of this, is not a good way to start down the path of party unity.
Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the Credentials Committee.
MR. RUSSERT: Does that mean you're going to take this fight to the convention?
MR. ICKES: Haven't decided yet, Tim. I have not had a chance to talk with Senator Clinton at any length about it, and obviously this will be a big decision. But her rights are reserved.
MR. RUSSERT: Barack Obama, as I understand it, had the votes to have the Michigan delegation divided 50/50. But in the interest of party unity, agreed to another formula, which gave Senator Clinton more delegates than he did.
MR. ICKES: Well, the 50/50 would have hijacked nine delegates. They would have taken nine delegates from Hillary. And at one point I said, "Why not--why, why stop there? Just take them all." There's no basis in, in--in any reasonable way, there's no basis for taking any delegates from her. Yesterday's resolution took four delegates from her. It violates a fundamental precept of our delegate selection rule, which is fair reflection.
MR. RUSSERT: Here's what baffles me. Back in October, when Senator Obama and other Democrats took the names off the ballot in Michigan, Senator Clinton kept her name on, but she said this to National Public Radio: "You know, it's clear, this election they're having in Michigan is not going to count for anything." That's what she said back then. And now suddenly, when you need the delegates in order to catch up to Obama, everything should be counting.
MR. ICKES: Well, you know, I guess the, the simple response to that, Tim, is, one, circumstances do change. But Senator Obama took his name off the ballot, but he was eager to get all 55 uncommitted yesterday, took them willingly. Argued for them, took them and, in fact, reached over and grabbed another four from Hillary. So here's a man who took his name off the ballot and said, `Give me the delegates, and give me four others from my opponent.'
MR. RUSSERT: But Michigan was not a real primary.
MR. ICKES: Michigan was, in fact, a real primary. Six hundred thousand people voted, Tim, compared, compared, compared to 160,000 in '04, which had a high--which had a real, live primary as well.
MR. RUSSERT: Then why did Senator Clinton say it wasn't going to count for anything?
MR. ICKES: I think at that time people were focused on Super Tuesday, and a lot of us did not feel that it was going to go beyond that. But the fact is, Tim, it did count. And the important thing--some good things came out of yesterday. One, they were seated. Two, they will be represented at our convention. Three, the 600,000 voters in Michigan and the 1.7 million in Florida will have a voice at our convention. And we picked up some additional delegates. We picked up another 24 delegates. So some good thing--a lot of good things came out of that.
MR. RUSSERT: We're going to get to the overall delegates. The Clinton campaign is on the air with another new TV commercial, and this is what it says in part. Let's watch.
NARRATOR: Seventeen million Americans have voted for Hillary Clinton, more than for any primary candidate in history.
MR. RUSSERT: What do you base that number on?
MR. ICKES: The number being what, the popular vote?
MR. RUSSERT: Seventeen million? Because by every analysis, Obama has 16.7 million popular votes, Clinton has 16.3. If you want to count Florida, Obama has 17.3 million, Clinton has 17.15. How do you say she has more popular votes than anybody else?
MR. ICKES: Well, we're going by the AP projections, and we're counting both Michigan and Florida. And, and in our...
MR. RUSSERT: You're counting Michigan when...
MR. ICKES: Yes, we're counting Michigan.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Senator Obama's name wasn't on the ballot?
MR. ICKES: We're counting Michigan. He voluntarily took his name off the ballot, Tim. There was no party rule, no exhortation from the Democratic National Committee. He, he--it was a voluntary, strategic choice that he made. He could have kept it on there.
MR. RUSSERT: But Senator Clinton said it didn't count for anything...
MR. ICKES: Well...
MR. RUSSERT: ...but now it counts for everything.
MR. ICKES: The popular vote is being added by AP, and we--our view is--very strong view is that the uncommitted vote is not--was not a vote for Obama.
MR. RUSSERT: There were nine nonbinding primaries in Nebraska, Washington state and Idaho. Should those votes be added?
MR. ICKES: They are--my understanding of the AP count there, they're in there.
MR. RUSSERT: And you agree with that?
MR. ICKES: What? They're--my understanding of the AP count is that they're in there.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, we had a briefing with the Clinton campaign in December, and you made we repeat after you, "Timothy, delegates nominate. Not states, not popular vote, delegates." So I want to look at the delegates. You need 2,118 to be nominated, and here they are. Obama, pledged delegates plus superdelegates 2,055.5; Clinton, 1880. If you assume that there are only 86 delegates left--Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota--for discussion's sake, because of portion allocation, they divide them. Each gets 43. Senator Clinton would then be 195 delegates short of the nomination. There are only 203 undeclared superdelegates. She'd have to get 195 out of the 203. Is that going to happen?
MR. ICKES: We continue to make our case that she is the more electable. Not that Senator Obama, who's run a strong and, and good campaign is not electable. We make the case, as you know, the superdelegates, not in the matchup in November, the person who can best assemble the swing or purple states, such as Florida or Ohio or a combination of smaller states, is Hillary Clinton. And I think she's, she's shown that in, time after time, in these primaries. And you look at her electoral base: women, Hispanics, Catholics, older Americans, and incomes under $50,000. She has a very strong general election electoral base and that's the case we make. Look, Tim, this is a--this is an extraordinary year. We both--Senator Daschle and I were talking about it earlier--it's an extraordinary year. We have two extraordinary candidates, and they're--these are difficult decisions that these remaining superdelegates will have to make. Hillary Clinton will be ahead in the popular vote on, on November--on the--on Tuesday.
MR. RUSSERT: If you're counting Michigan.
MR. ICKES: Neither, neither, neither--well, we're counting Michigan.
MR. RUSSERT: Right.
MR. ICKES: Michigan's in.
MR. RUSSERT: You...
MR. ICKES: It was seated by the, it was seated by the party rules.
MR. RUSSERT: You voted against seating it, according to the--and now you're counting the vote, even though you were against it?
MR. ICKES: Well, they're in there, and whether or not we go to the Credentials Committee. But, Tim, all I want to say is that she will be leading in the popular vote. He will be leading in delegates. Neither one will have enough delegates to clinch the nomination. The new number now is 2,118, as you specify. Not since 1972 has our party nominated a candidate who was not leading in the popular vote. That was, as you know, McGovern. That was the McGovern year.
MR. RUSSERT: Oh, so you're comparing Barack Obama to George McGovern.
MR. ICKES: No, I'm not. I'm not.
MR. RUSSERT: And you only...
MR. ICKES: That's not--Tim, no, no...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, but, but there are only 19...
MR. ICKES: No, wait. I was giving--no wait a minute. I was giving you a historical fact.
MR. RUSSERT: There were only 19 primaries back then, and it appears as if you're trying to put an asterisk on the nomination, saying, "You know, Obama may win this by delegates, but we really won the nomination."
MR. ICKES: No. Here's what I'm saying, Tim: In choosing the nominee, there are a number of--many factors to take into account, and we think that popular vote is a very, very strong measure and should be weighed heavily by the remaining superdelegates in making the final decision, because these 200 plus will, in fact, make the nomination. They are the convention now.
MR. RUSSERT: Since Super Tuesday, 157 superdelegates have opted for Obama, 33 for Clinton.
MR. ICKES: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: Clearly they're not buying the argument as you're laying it out. If, on Wednesday morning, Barack Obama has enough elected delegates and committed superdelegates to put him over the 2118, will Senator Clinton congratulate him as the nominee?
MR. ICKES: We expect to get the nomination, Tim, and we're making a case.
MR. RUSSERT: That's not the question.
MR. ICKES: That's the answer.
MR. RUSSERT: So she won't congratulate him if he has the...
MR. ICKES: I didn't say that. We expect to get the nomination. We don't accept the premise of your question.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton said this December 30th, '07: "I have a campaign that's poised and ready for the long term. We're competing everywhere through February 5th. ... So I'm in it for the long run. It's not a very long run. It'll be over by February 5th."
MR. ICKES: I think most people, perhaps not you, but most people thought that at that time. Mistake in judgment. I thought that, Tim. A lot of people thought that. But circumstances change. It was a strong candidate running good elections. And it's been an exciting year, new people have come in. I applaud all of that. But, you know, a lot of people were wrong about that prediction, including myself.
MR. RUSSERT: Time magazine wrote this: "While Clinton based her strategy on the big contests, she seemed to virtually overlook states like Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas, which chose their delegates through caucuses. She had a reason: the Clintons decided, says an adviser, that `caucus states were not really their thing.' Her core supporters--women, the elderly, those with blue-collar jobs--were less likely to be able to commit an evening of the week, as the process requires. But it was a little like unilateral disarmament in states worth 12 % of the pledged delegates. Indeed, it was in the caucus states that Obama piled up his lead among pledged delegates. `For all the talent and money they have over there,' said David Axelrod, Obama's strategist, `they ... seemed to have little understanding for the caucuses and how important they would become.'
"By the time Clinton's lieutenants realized the grave nature of their error, they lacked the resources to do anything about it." And from February 9th to the 19th, Obama ran up 11 wins in a row, gained a net advantage of 120 delegates, which is how he has won, apparently, the nomination. Big mistake?
MR. ICKES: As you look back, I suspect that Obama looks back on his campaign, we look back on ours, there were things we, we would redo.
MR. RUSSERT: Should Barack Obama offer Hillary Clinton the vice presidency to unite the party?
MR. ICKES: We don't think that that's going to be necessary. Mrs. Clinton will get the nomination.
MR. RUSSERT: Is she open to it?
MR. ICKES: I haven't thought...
MR. RUSSERT: In the spirit of unity.
MR. ICKES: I haven't--well, in the spirit of the unity that was shown yesterday, as an aside, we, we don't talk about that. There's nothing--I've never had a conversation with her about it, it's never been mentioned.
MR. RUSSERT: If things don't work out for Hillary Clinton this year and Barack Obama is not successful in the fall, will you be back with Senator Clinton in 2012?
MR. ICKES: Tim, I can't think beyond Tuesday, much less 2012.
MR. RUSSERT: Would Barack Obama make a good president?
MR. ICKES: I think he would make a, a very good president, yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, that's the spirit of unity. Harold Ickes, is that an endorsement?
MR. ICKES: Oh, he would, he would make, he would make a good president. And we're not saying he can't get elected. Our case is, Tim, as you know, that, as you look at the general election, it's not who's going to win California, Illinois, New York--although, you know, the--our opposition is not your standard issue Republican. He's going to upset some of our electoral map. The question is who can win the Floridas, the Ohios, the New Mexicos, the Nevadas, the West Virginias, the Tennessees, to bring in 270 electoral votes. John Kerry only won 258. He was 18 short.
MR. RUSSERT: What about Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, states that Obama runs better than Clinton?
MR. ICKES: Mrs. Clinton will win Minnesota. I don't, I don't think it's questionable whether Virginia is really--will really be there in the long run. but look at New--look, look at the swing states, Tim. You know them as well as I do--New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia. We have not won West Virginia in the last two contests. Mrs. Clinton swept it off its feet.
MR. RUSSERT: When, when will this be over?
MR. ICKES: It'll be over when one candidate secures the number for the nomination.
MR. RUSSERT: Could that happen Wednesday?
MR. ICKES: It could. Anything could happen.
MR. RUSSERT: Harold Ickes, thank you for your views.
And we're now turning to Senator Tom Daschle, representing the Obama campaign. After the events of yesterday, Barack Obama is 62.5 delegates away from locking up the nomination with the new total necessary, 2118. Assuming he gets half of the delegates of Montana, South Dakota, Puerto Rico, with proportional allocation, he would need about 20 superdelegates. You've been leading the fight to secure the superdelegates. Will you have those 20 in hand by Wednesday morning?
FMR. SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): Well, Tim, we're not making any predictions with regard to schedule, but I think we're going to have a nominee before the end of this week. I don't think there's any question. A large number of superdelegates were holding back, waiting until the last vote was counted, and then they're going to step forward. I've had many, many conversations. I, I, I, I am quite confident that you're going to see a--an overwhelming number of superdelegates declare this week.
MR. RUSSERT: For Barack Obama?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, they're going to declare, and we assume that, that the vast majority of them will be for Barack Obama.
MR. RUSSERT: Hillary Clinton's ad: "Seventeen million Americans have voted for Hillary Clinton, more than any other primary candidate in history." Do you agree with that?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, you know, it's time to put that behind us, Tim. It really is. I think we've got to start looking at what really is going to matter, and that is who and how can we prepare well for the general election? We've got five months. In my view, we're already behind schedule in that regard.
I think it's great that every state and every territory's had a chance to participate. That's the strength of what we've done. And I think it is historic, and I think we ought to be excited about it. The downside is that we have had a Republican nominee now for the last couple of months who's been out there doing whatever he wants to do without any real opportunity for us to push back. We've got to start focusing now on the, the general election, and we're going to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: But Senator Obama has some problems. Here's the headline in Politico: "White Women Cold Towards Obama. Barack Obama's favorability ratings among white women has declined significantly in recent months, particularly among Democrats and independents, presenting an immediate obstacle for the likely Democratic nominee as he moves to shore up" the nomination, "party's base." According to a new report of Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, half of white women now have a negative perception of Obama.
"Forty-nine percent of white women view Obama unfavorably, while only 43 percent hold a favorable opinion. In February, 36 percent of these women viewed Obama unfavorably, while 56 percent had a positive perception." Can't Hillary Clinton help Obama with those white women, and would he consider taking her on the ticket to unify the party?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, first of all, I don't want to distinguish between white women and other women. I think all women have a huge role to play in this election. And I have a lot of very close personal friends who were engaged in this--in the Hillary Clinton campaign from the beginning. They feel deeply. Hillary represented the, the--an extraordinary candidacy. And, and the fact that she could have been the first woman nominee has enormous impact with, with a lot of people, including men. But we recognize we've got to do a real intense job of reaching out and connecting and working with women across this country, and we're going to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: But to make Mr. Ickes' point, Senator Clinton runs much better against John McCain in Florida, much better against John McCain in Ohio than does Barack Obama. If Kerry and Gore had won Florida and Ohio, there would have been Democratic presidents in 2000 and--or 2004.
SEN. DASCHLE: Tim, people really haven't focused on the general election yet. As I look at the different demographic groups--and I was just giving--given new information yesterday. As I look at the groups, it's amazing the degree to which Barack has already exceeded what his predecessors have done in past elections. We're leading five to 20 points among women with John McCain. We're leading in, in various demographic groups already, and this is just the beginning. We haven't even focused on John McCain yet. So we're looking forward to that, we're looking forward to drawing the contrast. The choice, by November, between a John McCain and a Barack Obama is going to be stark, and we look forward to pointing out the differences and expressing the real opportunity that people have to come together behind a Barack Obama presidency.
MR. RUSSERT: In terms of trying to unify the party, it seems as if Barack Obama is haunted by preachers in Chicago. This is Catholic priest Michael Pfleger last week at the Trinity Church, saying some things about Senator Clinton. Let's watch.
Father MICHAEL PFLEGER: When Hillary was crying and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on. I really believe that she just always thought, "This is mine. I'm Bill's wife, I'm white, and this is mine. I just got to get up and step into the plate." And then out of nowhere came, "Hey, I'm Barack Obama!" And she said, "Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!" She wasn't the only one crying. There was a whole lot of white people crying.
MR. RUSSERT: How's that going to help unify the party?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, it isn't, and, as you know, after a great deal of deliberation, it was partly because of an incident like this that Barack and Michelle have made the decision to resign from the church. I think it was the right decision. Too many times occasions like this bring people to the belief that somehow Barack shares that view. He's made it entirely clear, as emphatically as he possibly can, he's outraged and repelled by things like this. And the only real option he had was to resign, and I'm, I'm very pleased that he took that action.
MR. RUSSERT: We were notified of the resignation last night, right in the middle of the whole Democratic National Committee decision on Florida and Michigan. It looked as if they were trying to roll it out, to get caught up on a Saturday night news, get lost and not make a big story of it.
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, Tim, this has really been a tough decision. I mean, this is--their children were baptized, they were--they've had a long association with the church. This did not come easy. But you can't see stuff like this, and you can't, you can't listen to a Reverend Wright and the statements that he made and not be repulsed and not feel very strongly. They finally came to the conclusion enough was enough.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama's relationship with Reverend Wright, those comments by Father Pfleger at Trinity Church, his comments about the bitterness of small-town America gripping onto guns and to faith has created a real problem with him in terms of perception with white voters, blue-collar voters. He was trounced in West Virginia, trounced in Kentucky. How does he get those voters back? What does he have to do? What does he have to say?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, first of all, I'd say that John McCain has had his own problems with religious leaders. Reverend Hagee and Parsley have, have been equally as repulsive, in my view, in some of the things they've said. So both candidates have had a problem associating with, with people that, that they disagree with. But I believe that if, if you are already--if you look at what's already happening, Tim, across the board with blue-collar workers, what we saw in the last couple weeks as we've, as we've connected in South Dakota and Montana and, and, and really in, in some of the big states--Wisconsin, Missouri, Virginia--I mean, we've done very well. I have, I have every expectation when, when the choice is made to a working family, to a blue-collar worker in November between a John McCain and a Barack Obama, they're not going to have any trouble making up their minds.
MR. RUSSERT: Will Barack Obama win South Dakota?
SEN. DASCHLE: It's going to be close, going to be very competitive. The Clintons have campaigned well there.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you're on television with TV ads.
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, that's no guarantee you're going to win.
MR. RUSSERT: Is this a referendum on Tom Daschle?
SEN. DASCHLE: I don't know what it is. It's a real--it's an opportunity for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, two very strong candidates, to present themselves. South Dakotans are independent people. I think we're going to win, but it's going to be close.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you like to be vice president?
SEN. DASCHLE: I have no interest in being vice president.
MR. RUSSERT: None.
SEN. DASCHLE: None.
MR. RUSSERT: You wouldn't accept it?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, that is--that's a different question. I'm not--I haven't been asked and don't expect to be asked.
MR. RUSSERT: But would you like to serve in government again?
SEN. DASCHLE: That's a possibility.
MR. RUSSERT: Chief...
SEN. DASCHLE: But I have no--but I have absolutely no designs. No, I've not had one conversation with anybody.
MR. RUSSERT: How about chief--White House chief of staff?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, Tim, that's--that's premature. We've got to win an election, and if I can help along the way, I'd like to do that. But I have no design.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think Senator Obama's open, open to having Senator Clinton on the ticket?
SEN. DASCHLE: I think so. He said that she'd be on anybody's short list, and I believe him.
MR. RUSSERT: You said in February of '08 to the Argus Leader in South Dakota, "It's true that we were once close to bringing John McCain into the Democratic caucus. There are many who can verify that." John McCain almost became a Democrat?
SEN. DASCHLE: Never a Democrat, but an independent. He was so angry at, at the way he was treated and the problems he had with the Bush administration in 2001, Tim, that he came to us and said, "Look, I'm seriously considering becoming an independent and caucusing with you. Let's talk about it." And we did.
MR. RUSSERT: Aligning himself with the Democrats in the Senate?
SEN. DASCHLE: Exactly.
MR. RUSSERT: Then how can you run against him as a Bush third term?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, because, in the course of that period from 2001 to 2008, that's exactly what's happened. He's become a very ideologic advocate for the Bush policies on Iraq, on the economy, on tax policy, on domestic policy. Across the board he is espousing the Bush policies. He's changed a lot since 2001.
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I think because he felt he needed to do that to win the nomination.
MR. RUSSERT: On Wednesday or Tuesday night, if Barack Obama has the 2,118 votes in--delegates in his pocket, will he say, "I am going to be the nominee"?
SEN. DASCHLE: I don't think--I think we're going to have to wait and see just how this plays out. We, as I said, we fully expect superdelegates to come forward. I think you're going to see, at the end of this week, a definitive moment where, where he will have surpassed that number. How he addresses the circumstances depends on, on the circumstances.
MR. RUSSERT: Will we see Senator Obama and Senator Clinton embrace this week?
SEN. DASCHLE: I think that we're going to see Senator Clinton and Senator Obama embrace. I don't know when that will be. It could be this week, it could be next week. There's going to be a unified Democratic Party, Tim, you can count on it.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be watching. Senator Tom Daschle, thank you for joining us and sharing your views.
And we'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That's all for today. Watch MSNBC this afternoon for results of the Puerto Rico Democratic primary, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews. And then all day Tuesday, continuing coverage of the Montana and South Dakota primaries.
We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it is MEET THE PRESS.