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Howard Wolfson, David Bonior, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace, and this is "Fox News Sunday."

The race for the Democratic nomination enters the end game. The party's rules committee meets to decide what to do about those unseated delegates in Florida and Michigan, and Barack Obama has to disavow yet another minister after these remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PFLEGER: I'm white. I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: We'll discuss both with Clinton senior strategist Howard Wolfson and a key adviser to the Obama campaign, former congressman David Bonior.

Then, that new book from former press secretary Scott McClellan has the White House firing back. Did McClellan betray the president or tell it like it is? We'll ask our Sunday group -- Bill Kristol, Nina Easton, Byron York and Juan Williams.

And our Power Player of the Week lives his own field of dreams, all right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. We are following two stories today. Late Saturday Barack Obama announced his family is ending its 20-year membership at Trinity United Church after another pastor delivered another controversial sermon.

And just as that was unfolding, the Democratic Party's rules committee decided, after months of controversy, to seat delegations from Florida and Michigan but with only half votes.

So here's where we stand with three primaries left. Senator Obama has a commanding lead and needs just 66 delegates to clinch the nomination. That magic number increased to 2,118 when the deal was struck on Florida and Michigan.

For more on what the Clinton campaign does next, we are joined by top strategist Howard Wolfson.

And, Mr. Wolfson, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

WOLFSON: Good to be here.

WALLACE: As we said, the rules committee action yesterday leaves Obama just 66 votes short of the magic number to clinch the nomination. Given that he's likely to pick up in the neighborhood of 40 more votes in Puerto Rico today and South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday, isn't the Democratic race over?

WOLFSON: No, not at all. You know, we do have these important contests today and on Tuesday. We expect a lot of voters to come out. We hope to do well especially today.

And we're going to continue to make the argument to superdelegates. We're going to argue we've won the popular vote. More people have voted for Senator Clinton than Senator Obama.

More people have voted for Senator Clinton in these primaries than anyone in the history of primaries. That's an important metric that superdelegates ought to be looking at.

And we're going to argue that if you look at the states that Senator Clinton has won -- Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia -- we've won the key states that a Democrat needs to win in order to be nominated, and we're ahead in the electoral college today against John McCain.

Barack Obama is losing in the electoral college against John McCain.

WALLACE: But -- and I'm going to get to some of those arguments in a moment -- just look at the math. If I'm even close to right, he'll be about two dozen delegates short on Tuesday night. How do you stop him?

WOLFSON: Well, we know we've got a road ahead of us. And we know we've got work to do.

I think that superdelegates are going to be persuaded that the person who's won the most votes ought to be our nominee. That's a very important metric and speaks to the broad support that Senator Clinton has in this country -- more than 17 million people, more people voting for her than Barack Obama.

And I think superdelegates are interested in who's most electable against John McCain. We have to elect a Democrat.

And if you look at the states she's won, as I mentioned, and if you look at the electoral map as it stands today, looking at polling, we do better against John McCain than Barack Obama does.

WALLACE: But, Mr. Wolfson, all this talk about popular votes, all this talk about which state one candidate can win or has won, and the other candidate -- is a complete reversal for the Clinton campaign.

Let me take you back to something that a very wise man named Howard Wolfson said -- I love you smiling -- said in February. Let's put it up on the screen. You said, "We don't make distinctions between delegates chosen by millions of voters in a primary and those chosen by tens of thousands in caucuses. We are interested in acquiring delegates, period."

Question: Why were delegates the only issue in February, and now you're talking about everything but delegates?

WOLFSON: No, we are interested in acquiring delegates, and neither of these candidates is going to have the requisite number of delegates needed to secure the nomination, we believe, on Tuesday. So then it comes down to the superdelegates.

And they're going to look. Senator Clinton has won more votes. That's important for superdelegates. It speaks to her popular support.

You know, this party has not nominated somebody who didn't win the most votes in the primary since 1972. 1976, 1980, '84, '88, '92, '96, 2000 and '04,the person who's won the most votes was our nominee. We think that's a good tradition. We ought to keep it.

We also believe that on the basis of the electoral map, that people are going to -- superdelegates are going to look and say, "We want to get the best nominee, the most electoral nominee." So delegates are critical.

But neither of these candidates is going to have the requisite number of delegates needed to secure the nomination.

WALLACE: During the rules committee meeting, the Clinton lead representative there, Harold Ickes, said that Clinton, quote, "reserves the right to take the matter of Michigan to the credentials committee," which would not have its final meeting until the convention, the first day of the convention, in late August in Denver.

She wanted -- we're talking about Michigan now, which is what he's talking about appealing.

WOLFSON: Right.

WALLACE: She wanted 73 delegates. She got 69. That's a difference of four. And since they're only getting half votes, it's a difference of two votes.

You're telling me that she's going to keep this race open for three months over two votes in Michigan?

WOLFSON: Well, let's talk about what happened yesterday, because there was a very important principle at stake.

Senator Clinton was fighting to ensure that the votes of Michigan and Florida were cast. Senator Obama had a different position. We're glad that in the end he came around. We had the meeting that we had yesterday.

Senator Clinton said, "Let's count all the votes and let's apportion the delegates in exactly the way that they were cast in the primaries." With Florida, the committee did that. We're very satisfied with the Florida decision. It's not everything that we would have wanted, but that important principle was honored.

In Michigan, that important principle was violated. Delegates were actually taken away from Senator Clinton, the first time that anybody can remember that happening, and delegates that should have gone uncommitted were apportioned to Senator Obama.

So with regard to Florida, the important principle that Senator Clinton was fighting for was honored -- let's count every vote, let's apportion the delegates in the way that the votes in the primaries were cast. In Michigan, that important principle was set aside.

WALLACE: I understand. But we're talking about four delegates. She wanted 73. She believed she got 73. She got 69, in fact, from the rules committee. That's four delegates and two votes.

WOLFSON: Well, there's a principle at stake here, and it's a principle that is the bedrock principle...

WALLACE: And you're going to keep the whole Democratic fight going on for three months over two votes.

WOLFSON: It's not over two votes. It's over a principle. It's two votes that were taken away from us, and it's 55 votes that were given to Senator Obama that should have been uncommitted. But there's a principle at stake here.

Senator Clinton hasn't made a decision about whether to appeal this or not. She said she reserves the right to do that, and we do reserve the right, because if the Democratic Party doesn't stand for fairly apportioning votes that were cast in a primary, what's to prevent the next set of folks from taking more delegates away from a candidate?

WALLACE: I understand all the arguments that you've made about popular vote, about electability, about the kinds of states she's won in.

If you don't persuade the party, if you don't persuade the superdelegates, and Obama reaches that magic number of 2,118 Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, will she either suspend or end her campaign?

WOLFSON: We're going to be working hard to make sure that doesn't happen.

WALLACE: But if it does happen.

WOLFSON: We're going to be making sure -- we're going to work hard to make sure that it doesn't.

WALLACE: Are you leaving open the possibility that even if he reaches the magic number she won't end her campaign?

WOLFSON: I'm not going to accept the premise of the question. We're going to work as hard as we can to convince superdelegates, who, in the end, are going to decide this nomination one way or another, that Senator Clinton is the best nominee based on the fact that she's won the most votes, and the best nominee on the fact that she's won the key states, and the best nominee on the fact that she's got the best map.

WALLACE: But you've got some problems here. You had Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, who said, "We think this will be over next week." You had Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate -- "I think it will be over next week."

Even on your own rules committee on this big issue of principle, Michigan, you had 13 supporters on that committee. You only got nine votes, which meant -- I think eight votes, actually, which meant that four, five of your own supporters jumped ship.

At some point, doesn't Senator Clinton risk looking like a bad loser who's more concerned with her own personal agenda than she is with what's best for the Democratic Party?

WOLFSON: Well, let's look at the last four months. You know, it was actually in February that the first calls for Senator Clinton to get out of the race began.

Since then, we've won more votes. We won more states. And we've won more earned delegates.

WALLACE: I know, but it didn't start -- Mr. Wolfson, the race didn't start until the end of February.

WOLFSON: I understand.

WALLACE: It started at the beginning of January.

WOLFSON: My point is that people have been predicting Senator Clinton's demise for four months. And during that period, we've gotten stronger. Barack Obama has gotten weaker.

So I understand there are some people who'd would like to end this for Barack Obama next week. We respect that. They're going to make their case to superdelegates to do that. There have been people who've been trying to end this for Barack Obama since New Hampshire.

We're going to continue to make the case until we have a nominee. We believe that nominee would be Senator Clinton.

WALLACE: But if he gets to 2,118, he is the nominee, no?

WOLFSON: Well, I hope -- and we're going to work hard to make sure that doesn't happen.

WALLACE: There's been a lot of talk from your campaign, including from the senator, including from her husband, former president Bill Clinton, that she is the victim, the target, of sexism. But when she wins most of the vote -- most of the vote -- against Obama of white working-class men -- when there was a recent study, a study out this week, from Pew Research which indicated she's gotten overwhelmingly positive coverage just as favorable, just as positive as Obama's, what are you talking about?

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Clinton hasn't described herself as a victim. I think that's an unfair characterization. Senator Clinton is a fighter. She's somebody who's working hard for this nomination.

WALLACE: She's talked a lot about how she believes she has been the target of sexist remarks.

WOLFSON: Well, there are an awful lot of our supporters who are very concerned about the coverage in the media. I think at the...

WALLACE: As I said, Pew Research says it was 67 percent positive.

WOLFSON: Well, it doesn't always look that way from where I sit. But you know, we'll have an opportunity to dissect how this race was run and how the media covered it in the years ahead. Right now, our focus is on the nomination.

WALLACE: But is sexism part of that? I mean, is that part of your appeal to superdelegates, that she is losing this or she's being discriminated against because she's a woman?

WOLFSON: No. Our argument to superdelegates is based on strength, not on weakness. Our argument is we've gotten the most votes and we'd be the most electable. That's a strong argument that says Senator Clinton would be the best nominee against John McCain.

WALLACE: This week, Father Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest with longtime ties to Barack Obama, mocked Clinton, saying that she as a white woman felt that she was entitled to the presidency. Obama immediately disavowed those comments, but you said that was not enough.

Given the fact that he has now, as of late yesterday, disavowed his membership, stepped down from his membership, in the Trinity United Church, is that enough?

WOLFSON: Well, I think voters will be the judge of whether it's enough or not. I think that the comments were outrageous. They were divisive. I think that they -- in a time in which the party is working towards unity, they were inconsistent with that goal.

And voters in the end will have to make a decision about Senator Obama and his relationship with his church.

WALLACE: But would you have him say more, or are you satisfied with what he...

WOLFSON: Look, I don't think the initial comments were particularly strong with regard to what Father Pfleger said about Senator Clinton. I think he should have been stronger in condemning those remarks specifically.

Senator Obama gave a fairly generic response to what were some very pointed and specific attacks against Senator Clinton. But in the end, voters will be the judge of this.

WALLACE: And I'll try at it anyway. Given what Father Pfleger said from that pulpit, given what Reverend Wright said, right for him to leave the church?

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Clinton has been clear for some time that if she had been a member of that church, she would have left it. That was a decision that she clearly would have made. She made that clear. I think a lot of Americans probably agree with that.

In the end, I think that all of these issues get hashed over by voters, and they're going to have to make a decision about how Senator Obama has handled this.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Mr. Wolfson, thank you so much. Thanks for coming in.

WOLFSON: Thank you. Thank you.

WALLACE: Talk to you again soon.

WOLFSON: Yes.

WALLACE: Up next, reaction from the Obama campaign to the Democratic rules committee's decision, and also to news that Obama has quit his church. We'll talk with key advisor David Bonior right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Joining us now to discuss the latest developments in the Democratic race is former Michigan congressman David Bonior, who's a key advisor to the Obama campaign.

And, Congressman, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday".

BONIOR: Nice to be with you, Chris.

WALLACE: With the rules committee action settling Michigan and Florida and putting Senator Obama, as we said, just 66 votes shy of the nomination, will this race be over either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning?

BONIOR: Well, I can't say that it will be over Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but the numbers that you went over with Howard just a second ago indicate that it's going to be very close, whether it's finished this week or not.

You have about 170 superdelegates who have not made a commitment yet. They've been encouraged by the party leaders to do so we can get on. We've got five months left in this race, and we need to get on with the issue of contrasting Senator Obama with Senator McCain.

So we expect that there will be -- I won't use the word flood, although I just -- I guess I just did. But I think there will be a number of them that will start to make decisions beginning of the week.

And as your numbers that you've just recited in terms of what we can expect this weekend, we'll be in the neighborhood of 30 or less shy of the number that we need by Tuesday. And so we'll see what happens for the rest of the week.

WALLACE: Does the campaign have enough superdelegates in pocket, in hand, to put Obama over the top after the voting is finished?

BONIOR: Well, if you look at the trend, what's happened, you know, we were down 100 superdelegates not too long ago. But we've started to move up tremendously over the last few weeks.

And if you look at where we are now, we've got about a 40- superdelegate lead over Senator Clinton, and the trend is in our direction, so we believe that we will do well with the remaining 170. WALLACE: And as we were talking about with Mr. Wolfson, if Clinton presses on and takes the issue of Michigan to the credentials committee and, conceivably, to the convention in late August in Denver, how much damage does that do to the party?

BONIOR: Well, I think we need to move on. And I think Harold Ickes mentioned yesterday, as you were just discussing with Howard Wolfson, that they reserve the right to do that, but reserving the right to do it is different than doing it.

And I'm hopeful that -- you know, they've fought a tough race. I mean, this has been a difficult, long, arduous race for all the candidates involved. And she's fought with a lot of courage, and she's -- Senator Clinton has broken some barriers here, important barriers.

And I think it's important for people to understand that. And they need to be respected for the efforts that they've made. And I think in the end we'll come together.

We'll be a unified party, because we've got so much at stake, so much difference in our position versus McCain's on the war, our position on this economy and McCain's position on the economy, the middle class -- our position on that and McCain's.

There's a huge difference in moving this country forward and breaking down these walls right here in Washington, D.C. so we can, in fact, open it up for the middle class.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, though, about some of the arguments that Wolfson made and that they will be trying to make in a last-ditch effort to the superdelegates over the next few days.

BONIOR: Sure.

WALLACE: The Puerto Rico primary is today, this afternoon, and they're voting right now.

There's a good chance that when the voting is done there and in the other states -- and now that you have included Michigan and Florida -- that when all the voting is completed in all 58 contests that Hillary Clinton will have beaten Barack Obama in the popular vote. Doesn't that count for something?

BONIOR: Well, it depends how you count. I mean, in Michigan, for instance, Barack Obama's name was not on the ballot. The party said that it wouldn't count.

Senator Clinton even said in her own words right before the Michigan primary on New Hampshire public radio that Michigan wouldn't count. So you've got a situation in which that was a very flawed, I regret to say, primary.

In addition to that, you have a number of caucuses where they didn't count the actual number of people who showed up at the caucus. So if you add those numbers in, we believe that we still have the lead on the popular vote.

The popular vote is very close. I mean, let's be very up front and face the facts. I mean, it's within one-tenth of 1 percent or so. So we think...

WALLACE: Well, let's say for the sake of argument that you lost the popular vote. And as you're right, it -- but you know, they are certainly going to argue that. Does that matter, or is it just...

BONIOR: The rules are based on delegates. They're not based on popular votes. And you just put up on your screen here Howard Wolfson's comment with respect to that a while back, that the delegates were what's important, and we believe that's what's important as well.

We also think if you look at the numbers across the country right now that Senator Obama has a lead over Senator McCain vis-a-vis the Washington Post/ABC poll, about seven points, the Reuters poll eight points, the Quinnipiac poll seven points.

We're leading Senator McCain across the country and in main battleground states as well, and I'll go through them if you'd like.

WALLACE: No, please -- well, but I am going to ask you about that in a second. But back in 2000, a lot of Democrats said Al Gore won the popular vote...

BONIOR: Right.

WALLACE: ... he shouldn't lose the election. Why is this different?

BONIOR: Well, I'm not quite sure that we won't win the popular vote if you add in all the factors and...

WALLACE: But assuming that you lose the popular vote, why is it different than what you as Democrats stood up for in 2000 with Al Gore?

BONIOR: I'm not assuming that, and I'm not here to make that assumption. I don't buy that premise.

WALLACE: One question about the rules committee decision in Michigan. I can understand what they did on Florida. They simply seated all the delegates and gave them half votes.

But they made, I think everybody would have to agree, a completely arbitrary decision in Michigan, giving Clinton 69 votes, giving Obama 59 votes, in no way reflecting what the results were in the primary.

How is that, small "D," democratic? How is that fair?

BONIOR: Well, unfortunately, as I said, the Michigan vote was flawed, terribly flawed, in a variety of ways. Number one, four major candidates - - it wasn't just Senator Obama -- weren't on the ballot. Senator Edwards, whose campaign I managed at that time, was not on the ballot. Senator Biden was not on the ballot, and Governor Richardson wasn't on the ballot. So you had that dynamic happening in Michigan.

In addition to that, there was no campaigning in Michigan at all. People were told that their vote wouldn't count. So many people, in fact, went to the polls, the people that did go to the polls -- many people didn't go to the polls because of these factors.

The ones that did went to the polls voted for their first choice other than what wasn't available...

WALLACE: But my only point is simply that in Florida, at least it reflected some result even if you gave them half. Here it didn't reflect any result.

BONIOR: Well, because the difference in Florida is that everybody's name was on the ballot, even though they didn't campaign there.

We felt that that was a flawed situation as well but in the spirit of trying to provide some unity that we would accept the situation which would have provided a 19-delegate advantage for Senator Clinton.

And we accepted that and we yielded on that. And we yielded yesterday on Michigan as well.

WALLACE: But Michigan was an arbitrary back-room deal.

BONIOR: Oh, I don't think it was a back-room deal. I mean, it was discussed believably in front of a lot of folks, and a lot of the press picked up on the discussion, and it was done in a way to get the best result that we could and the fairest result.

And I think we're happy to live with it. I think a lot of the Michigan folks, given the situation that we're in, are as pleased with it as well.

WALLACE: As we've been reporting, Obama left his church, announced he was leaving his church, late yesterday afternoon.

I want to ask you, though, about the comments that were made by Father Pfleger last Sunday when he was preaching at what was then Obama's church and in which he mocked Hillary Clinton's thinking. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PFLEGER: 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."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Congressman, at a time when Obama is still introducing himself to a lot of voters, how damaging are those remarks as well as the remarks of Reverend Wright?

BONIOR: Well, those remarks are divisive and outrageous, and Senator Obama has indicated the same feelings that I've just expressed to you about them, and they have no place.

Senator Obama's campaign has been based upon bringing people together and breaking down the walls of divisiveness. And that has no place at all in our politics today. And he has expressed his displeasure with it and his outrage with it.

But you know, let's look at this. I mean, we've had a number of pastors in this campaign and religious leaders in this campaign express views that candidates don't agree with.

I mean, John McCain was going after John Hagee, Pastor Hagee's support. And Pastor Hagee said some things, and John McCain divided himself or divorced himself from Pastor Hagee.

So you know, we've had this happen in campaigns. And it's important for the candidates to speak out against these type of outrageous and divisive remarks.

WALLACE: But let me ask you about the Trinity United Church and Reverend Wright and Reverend Pfleger, because you're here representing Barack Obama.

BONIOR: Sure.

WALLACE: You're one of -- you were, when you were in Congress, one of big labor's strongest allies in Congress. All the surveys, all the exit polls, indicate that Obama's standing among white working- class voters has dropped sharply in recent months, particularly since Reverend Wright came up.

Don't these -- I don't know what to call them but performances by Reverend Wright and Father Pfleger -- don't they add to the doubts of some of those folks about whether or not Obama is like them and represents their values?

BONIOR: Well, it's important to note that Senator Obama has also broken with Senator -- excuse me, Reverend Wright as well as Reverend Pfleger. So to impugn...

WALLACE: But he was a member of that church for 20 years.

BONIOR: He was a member of that church, but he is not today. As you mentioned earlier...

WALLACE: Well, he is not as of the last 18 hours.

BONIOR: Twenty-four hours, yes. And it was a tough decision for him, because it was the church in which, of course, he was -- came to Christianity.

WALLACE: So what do you think his decision to leave the church says to white working-class voters who look at what Reverend Wright said, who look at Father Pfleger, and say, "Those aren't my values?"

BONIOR: Well, I think it says to them that anything that happens in that church has been impugned to Barack Obama, which is not the case, because he doesn't have the same beliefs as Reverend Wright or Reverend Pfleger, Father Pfleger.

And so the thing to have done, and Senator Obama and Michelle Obama did it, was a difficult decision because they have lots of friends there. They've worked on issues of hunger, on medical assistance for people, on housing issues for people in that church.

They decided because it's been disruptive to the church members as well as to, obviously, Senator Obama and the campaign -- because whatever is said in that church is often impugned to him, even though he disagrees with those comments, it was better to make the break.

WALLACE: Congressman Bonior, thank you.

BONIOR: Thank you.

WALLACE: Always a pleasure to talk with you. Please come back, sir.

BONIOR: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: Up next, that new book from former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan. What did we learn about the president and the reaction from the mainstream media? We'll ask our Sunday group about all of it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: ... the selling of the war, the political propaganda campaign as I talk about, with the realities of the war- making campaign...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH OLBERMANN: To me, in reading so far about half of this book, it seems like it is the Rosetta stone for understanding the last seven years of American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was former White House press secretary Scott McClellan pitching his new book and the curious reaction from some in the media -- in that case, on MSNBC.

And it's panel time now for Fox News contributors Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine, Byron York of National Review, and Juan Williams from National Public Radio.

So, Bill Kristol, is this book, in fact, the Rosetta stone for understanding the last seven years of American history?

KRISTOL: Yeah, it'll be a shock that we went to war and we didn't find weapons of mass destruction. No, I don't think so. I think it's much ado about nothing. Scott McClellan was fired. He was unhappy.

Maybe he genuinely changed his mind about policies he had defended as late as, I guess -- when was he fired, March or April of 2006 -- policies that he didn't seem to be critical of when he submitted his first book proposal, actually.

But he was persuaded to write a much more critical book of the Bush administration, and he did so.

WALLACE: And what insights do you glean from the McClellan book?

EASTON: Well, there wasn't a lot new in a lot of regard. The charge that Bush is intellectually uncurious was made by former treasury secretary Paul O'NEILL in his tell-all book.

The idea that the administration is run more like a political campaign than focused on policy -- which was, by the way, a charge leveled at the Clinton administration at one point -- John Dilulio, the former faith-based official, office official, made that charge when he called them Mayberry Machiavellis. Remember that?

The whole thing about the rush to war was something that journalists have, you know, accused the Bush administration of in their books.

So it wasn't -- there isn't a lot kind of new in the overall Rosetta stone. The difference is that the guy was, you know, part of this administration in creating the propaganda that he now says was so destructive, and I think, you know, he has something to answer for for that.

WALLACE: Byron, I mean, to be fair to McClellan, he says a lot of tough things in the book. He says that the Bush administration used political propaganda to run us into war. He says that the White House was in denial in the days after Katrina.

But does he offer new evidence or is it just opinions?

YORK: Almost nothing as far as evidence. And he really wasn't in a lot of the planning meetings and things like that. He was in some as a fill-in for Ari Fleischer when he was deputy White House secretary, but not a whole lot.

I think what you learn in this book is you learn about Scott McClellan and some of the circle that came with Bush from Texas to Washington.

Why did Scott McClellan come to Washington? He wasn't a true conservative to reduce the size of government. He wasn't a liberal trying to bring us universal health care.

He was there because he was extremely loyal to George W. Bush, and there was a group of people who came with Bush from Texas -- Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales. Perhaps Matthew Dowd was in this group.

These were people who were not particularly conservative. In some cases, they weren't even Republicans. So they come here, and their only thing is their big loyalty to Bush.

So in the case of McClellan, when Bush disappoints him -- and they always do -- they always get disappointed by something -- he doesn't really fall back and put it in the context of some larger purpose. He's just terribly, terribly disillusioned, and he writes this book.

So I think you learn a lot about McClellan and the certain circle around Bush.

WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, you know, to my mind, I think there are some revelations in the book. I mean, it's consistent, as Nina was saying, with books that have been done by other insiders.

But to my mind, the idea that you're in permanent campaign mode is not a revelation. But the idea that the president decides to go to war in December of '02, which was something other books have chronicled, before we go to war, make the decision, supposedly, the expressed decision to go to war, you know, that's something that's coming from an insider.

The reason this book is news -- you know, much as Byron was saying, this is from an insider. This is one of Bush's guys from Texas.

WALLACE: Was he really an insider, though? I mean, he was a guy from Texas, but...

WILLIAMS: No, look. This whole idea -- and this is one of the arguments against Scott McClellan, is he really wasn't in the meetings, especially on foreign policy and war, in some of the domestic meetings.

But he's an insider, and he's the voice. He's the face. So he's there. If you're going to make an argument about Rove and Libby, you know, and he says that Rove and Libby lied to him and deceived him, he's there. He's a first-person participant in these events.

And then to say, "Oh, he doesn't know that much on that subject," I just don't buy it. So the question for me becomes, "Is it true, and can people contradict what he's saying and contradict it effectively?" I don't see that coming forth so far.

I think that, you know, President Bush said, "This is a guy that's going to be on my rocking chair on my porch in Crawford one day." I think Scott McClellan has rocked his world.

And I think that's why we've seen the Bush people come out in full force to say that Scott McClellan was over his head in that job, Scott McClellan is mad because his mom didn't get the support from President Bush that the family wanted when she was running for governor, Scott McClellan's a bitter man.

Bob Dole -- Bill Kristol and I were laughing. Bob Dole came out and he was in full force -- you know, "This is unbelievable. This is traitor. This is a betrayal." The fact is that it is simply adding now to a chronicle of what looks like history is going to give a bad treatment to the Bush administration.

EASTON: However, I think just his credibility is undermined on some level and in some of the points he makes in this book where he says Bush was never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising, especially on the Iraq war.

What about the surge? What about firing Donald Rumsfeld -- maybe too late in the game? But it was just -- that tone is somebody who is bitter and I think undermines a more -- an account that could have been taken more seriously. WILLIAMS: Well, he felt used, though, Nina. He felt that people -- you know, Libby and Rove, he felt, had lied to him. He felt that he was used. Vice President Cheney, he said, didn't inform him after the shooting incident.

He felt that he was being directed to do things that he later learned were not true, to tell these things to the American people. So he felt like he got beat up and thrown out.

KRISTOL: Well, shouldn't he then have quit in protest and said his peace? I mean, the thing of is that we're being too nice to him in the sense that it's really a disgrace.

I mean, to be an insider in the White House and to write a tell- all book -- how do you run a White House if people are going to leave halfway through and report conversations but, of course, with no verifiability? I mean, there's no way to check on these things, these vague assertions that it was all propaganda.

So everyone who works in the White House now -- Michael Gerson, the chief speech writer, anyone who worked in any kind of communications, people in the National Security Council -- how do they respond?

They're now part of a White House that the press secretary, the former press secretary, has said was engaged in -- knowingly engaged in propaganda. But there's no particulars. There's no way for them to respond, first of all.

And secondly, to reveal these private conversations, this alleged conversation Bush had with him about drug use when he was a kid, I guess, in 1999 when he was campaigning for president...

WALLACE: Well, supposedly he overheard a telephone conversation...

KRISTOL: Was that it? A telephone, yeah.

WALLACE: ... he wasn't even part of the conversation...

KRISTOL: Right.

WALLACE: ... where Bush said, "I can't remember whether I did use cocaine in those days."

KRISTOL: So now I guess anything you say in any hotel suite while you're campaigning you have to worry about whether the person who's one of your closest advisors is going to report it.

And it's one thing to be a cabinet secretary and leave and write sort of a critique of a policy or something like that. But to be a staff guy and leave I really think is -- it's bad.

WALLACE: Byron, I want to pick up on something you said. You said, "Well, this teaches us something about Scott McClellan, because he wasn't a true believer, and it really wasn't about ideology. He just had a loyalty to George W. Bush and inevitably got disappointed in that."

But the flip side of that, one could argue, is that the president, instead of picking somebody who was solid for the job, picked somebody out of loyalty who a lot of people thought right from the start wasn't up to that job. Does that fall on President Bush?

YORK: Yes, it does. I mean, he was not a terribly good spokesman. There were some really excruciating moments in the White House briefing room.

You could look at the other people I -- another person I mentioned. Alberto Gonzales is a guy who got in a job way over his head.

But I think the thing that kind of distinguishes McClellan is he was amazingly naive in his belief that George W. Bush could kind of bring us all together, which is why he comes to Washington.

You remember that press conference where Bush is asked to name a mistake that he's made, and he gives an awful performance. He can't name a mistake, and it's just terrible.

But Bush realized, and he told McClellan, that, "Look, if I name a mistake, my enemies are just going to keep pushing for more and more and more." And McClellan doesn't see it that way.

And he actually writes in the book, "I believe that by embracing openness and forthrightness, it could have redeemed him. It could have transcended partisanship and brought together leaders of both parties to chart a consensus way forward on Iraq." And that is a naive point of view.

WALLACE: We've got less than a minute left.

Nina, what's the fallout from this book for the Bush legacy? And does it create any problems for John McCain as he goes forward in the general election?

EASTON: Well, the irony, of course, is that when Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official, released his attack on the Bush administration, a spokesperson came out and said, "Well, this is cynically timed to affect the election." That spokesperson was Scott McClellan.

So sure, it feeds into the whole critique of Bush and -- the guy's at what, 27 percent approval rating now, or something? I'm not sure.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, but let me just quickly say something to Byron.

Byron, don't you think that, in fact, bipartisanship has gone down, I mean, that Bush did not, in fact, heal and unify? The governor of Texas, the guy that impressed Scott McClellan and so many others, was not the president of the United States.

YORK: I think anybody who lived through the Clinton years and the Florida recount would not come to Washington thinking that everybody's going to get along.

WALLACE: All right. We've got to leave it there.

I want to say I don't usually agree with MoveOn.org, but they had an interesting suggestion yesterday. They said if he is so conscience- stricken by his involvement in the Iraq war, perhaps Scott McClellan might want to give all of his personal proceeds to an organization helping Iraq veterans. Interesting idea.

We have to take a break here, but coming up, Barack Obama resigns his membership in Trinity United Church, and he and John McCain go at each other over Iraq. Back with the panel in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: On this day in 1990, the first President Bush and Soviet leader Gorbachev signed an agreement to end chemical weapons production and to destroy their nations' inventory of such weapons.

Stay tuned for more from our panel and our Power Player of the Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And so this is not a decision I come to lightly and, frankly, it's one that I make with some sadness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was Senator Obama last night making a clean break from his church of 20 years and, he hopes, from the controversial comments of the ministers who preach there.

And we're back now with Bill, Nina, Byron and Juan.

So late yesterday, while most reporters were focused on the Democratic rules committee, and while many Sunday newspapers had already gone to press, Barack Obama announced that his family is leaving Trinity United Church, as we say, after 20 years.

Bill, does that prevent any further fallout from that church and its pastors? And does it undo any of the damage that's been done already?

KRISTOL: Well, they hope it prevents much further fallout. And obviously, they're now going to say, "Well, that's history. He's no longer a member of that church. This has all been explored, and there's no point getting back into it."

And they very much hope it will look mean-spirited and sort of backwards-looking to raise the question of exactly why Senator Obama thought it was appropriate to belong to this church for 20 years, and why he never objected to anything Reverend Wright said for all those years, et cetera, et cetera.

But no, I think this was important to him, as he said many times, and it remains a legitimate part of his -- an important part of his biography.

EASTON: He had no choice. I mean, I think at this point he's got -- he's trying to stem the bleeding, and it will come back to haunt him, but he really didn't have a choice other than to do this.

I mean, the problem is not just one comment by Reverend Wright, or several comments by Reverend Wright, or Reverend Pfleger. The problem is the church tends to be a hotbed of black liberation theology which -- you know, the central theme of which is white oppression of blacks and Christ as sort of a black power figure. It can be very divisive.

And Barack Obama's campaign is built on the notion of being uniting, particularly racially uniting. And if it didn't happen -- you know, if this happened now, it will come back to haunt him with other comments.

And you saw the way the congregation reacted to Reverend Pfleger's comments. They were into it. They loved it -- you know, the assertion that Hillary Clinton was white entitlement, she thought she deserved the nomination because of white entitlement.

You know, this is going to keep coming. And as he said in his letter, he doesn't want to have to keep apologizing for every comment that comes out.

WALLACE: So, Byron, if another minister makes another sermon that a lot of people find offensive, in effect, has he built a firewall? Or will this continue to -- will he continue to have to respond to it?

YORK: Well, he can say, "What more can I do? I have quit this church and I have denounced these comments." But the fact is, as Bill was saying, he did go there for 20 years. He presumably was not disturbed about it.

But he did this in part because he is losing altitude. He's about a win the nomination, but he is losing support, especially among white people.

This new Pew Research poll that came out this week -- some of his strong support among whites have been white woman. He was 56 percent approval with them in late February. He is 43 percent today.

In that same Pew poll, one-on one match-up with McCain, he's 41 percent with white voters and 91 percent with black voters. Now, there's always a big gap in the Democratic coalition, but he can't go much lower than that without being in serious trouble.

WALLACE: Juan, let me turn, if we can, to the rules committee which voted yesterday on Michigan and Florida. It allowed Clinton to cut into Obama's lead by about two dozen, about 24, delegates, but still leaves him with what seems like a clear path to the nomination.

Was that the final barrier for Obama? Is he pretty certain to win the nomination, in fact, this week?

WILLIAMS: I think he is certain to win the nomination this week, because I think the superdelegates will give it to him.

He won't have the pledged delegates necessary, but he'll have the superdelegates in hand, in part because they are so desperate to get this thing over with, to say, "You know what? Let's move on now. Let's stop the party division."

The problem with it is that what came out of the Saturday meeting at the Democratic Party's rules and bylaws committee is that there was a sense of disenchantment and unfairness. That's not what they wanted.

They want everybody to walk away thinking, "You know what? It's a fair deal. You can't argue with it. And Senator Obama has the necessary delegates now to go forward."

Instead, the numbers got pushed up but especially what happened in Michigan, as you discussed this morning, left the Clinton camp with a bitter taste in their mouth.

And so you know, I think that it's unlikely this thing is going to go on forever and ever until the convention, but for the moment I think there's a possibility that it could go to the credentials committee, which means that it would go forward with Senator Clinton either suspending her campaign or simply saying that she's suspending it but not endorsing Senator Obama. That's not the outcome that they wanted.

One last thing on the church, if you don't mind. It seems to me that the problem is people coming to know Senator Obama at this point -- and you know, when Father Pfleger goes off about, you know, white people this, and Hillary Clinton is this kind of white person, and white -- she's crying and he's mocking her, and it's not just her crying, it's white people all over the country are crying -- you know, Nina, I hope that Christ is a liberation figure for black people, for white people, for everybody.

He should stand for the oppressed. But when it's put in these terms, it's divisive and it suggests that Barack Obama for 20 years was willing, out of political expedience, to embrace that kind of talk. And then it says, "Well, what kind of guy is he? Is this really the guy?"

That's why I think what Byron said is right. I think the New York Times this morning said he's wheezing to the finish line. He's had less votes. He's won only, I think, less than half of the most recent primaries. And he's won less in terms of the popular vote.

WALLACE: Since March, she's beaten him by, I think, 500,000 votes.

Let's turn to the general election, because Obama and McCain got kind of a jump-start this week in a kind of rolling dialogue about Iraq, McCain hammering Obama about the fact that he hadn't been to Iraq since January of 2006 and he seems more willing to meet with Ahmadinejad than with General Petraeus, the U.S. commander.

Then he, McCain, made a slip and said that we're down to pre- surge levels, and Obama said, "Well, you know, here's this big expert. He doesn't know anything about the basic facts in Iraq."

Your sense of how that is playing out and who's getting the better of that argument?

KRISTOL: I think it's pretty good for McCain. I mean, we shouldn't - - Obama's had some hits, but let me just point out, in the Pew poll that Byron cited, as Byron knows, Obama is up by three points.

So all the damage that's been done by Trinity Church, or all the damage that the Clinton campaign has done -- she's going to get out later this week. There'll be a united Democratic Party. And he's even with McCain.

Now, I think McCain on the Iraq debate is doing fine because the reason why it's important that Obama hasn't been since early 2006 is there was a surge since then, and things have changed a lot, and his position hasn't changed.

His position was that we should get out. He voted to cut off funding beginning in early in 2007. And that still seems to be his position. And that would have been the right thing to do.

McCain needs to frame the Iraq debate -- in April 2007, I, John McCain, stood up for the surge when it was unpopular, I made a big speech at VMI, I rallied people in the Senate to prevent the cutoff of funds you tried to effectuate, you said that it's not going to work, the war is lost.

Basically, that's what Harry Reid said. Obama basically said that. Obama said when McCain gave that speech in April 2007, Obama said, "We need a surge of honesty." Well, let's be honest now. Has the surge worked or not? And are we still -- is the war lost or not?

I think McCain needs to frame that debate with Obama. That was the most important decision the two of them made as senators. The 3.5 years together in the Senate -- what was the most important moment, really, where they affected national policy? Early '07. McCain was for the surge. Obama was against it.

WILLIAMS: But then Obama -- I take that bet. Most Americans think the war right now is a bad idea. It was a bad bet. Let's get out, so...

EASTON: But they're mixed about -- they're far more mixed about how to end the war and how to -- you know, about whether bringing troops home - - they're much more concerned...

WILLIAMS: Well, Obama says, you know, over 16 -- Obama is not saying immediate. He's saying, "Sixteen months, let's do it," as opposed to John McCain, who's saying, you know, "The surge is working. Let's continue. Let's have a peacekeeping force there for years."

EASTON: But they trust McCain more to end the war, so that's -- it becomes more complicated.

YORK: But this degenerated into an extremely dumb debate over whether McCain -- McCain had said, "We've drawn down to pre-surge levels," which we have not. And his defenders -- they had a conference call on Friday; it was very spirited -- tried to say that it -- Obama was nitpicking over verb tenses. And McCain wouldn't admit that he had just misspoken -- I mean, we're supposed to be down to pre-surge levels later this summer, but we're not there yet.

WALLACE: And why not? Why didn't he admit it?

YORK: Because he's trying to push -- this is his strong point, and he's doing, you know, 875 days since Barack Obama last went to Iraq. He believes that this is his strongest point.

WALLACE: All right. We've got to leave it there. Thank you, everyone. See you next Sunday.

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