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Karl Rove on the Campaign, McClellan's Book

Hannity & Colmes

HANNITY: And welcome to HANNITY & COLMES. It is a very -- been a very busy day on the campaign trail. We've got a lot to cover tonight. We start with one of the big stories over the weekend, and that is Senator Barack Obama's decision to leave Trinity United Church for good.

Now his decision became public just days after new video surfaced of still more outrageous comments made during a visiting sermon by Father Michael Pfleger.

Now Obama held a press conference on Saturday evening to try and explain how he reached this decision.


OBAMA: Michelle and I told Reverend Otis Moss that we were withdrawing as members of Trinity.

Now it's a decision that Michelle have discussed for quite some time after the National Press Club episode. I had discussed it with Reverend Moss. We had prayed on it. We had consulted with a number of friends and family members who are also connected to the church.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: FOX News contributor Karl Rove, the architect -- he joins us with analysis. And by the way, in just a few minutes, we're going to have Karl's reaction to Scott McClellan's appearance with our own Bill O'Reilly.

Karl, good to see you, my friend.


HANNITY: All right. What do you think about the decision? And do you think -- will people see this for what I think it is, political expediency?

ROVE: Well, all you have to do is read his letter to Reverend Moss in which he says his larger concern about is -- because of my candidacy, membership in Trinity, those controversies have served as an unfortunate distraction, so he says, look, I disagreed with Wright, but my bigger concern is that my candidacy is causing a distraction for the members of the Trinity Church.

This is not going to -- remove the fundamental question facing Senator Obama, which is why did he have a several-decade relationship with Reverend Wright and a very long relationship with Father Pfleger, that -- both of whom have been saying these outrageous things.

Why did he have such a long association with these two people and was so close to them?

HANNITY: Well, I think it's actually three if we add William Ayers, the story we've been covering at length here. But he even said in this press conference Saturday, he said, I'm not denouncing the church, and he said he was surprised that this even became a controversy, viewed the Christianity there as mainstream.

But here's the question. What -- these are long-term, established relationships with the most radical elements out there. Can one now begin to conclude that he agrees with them, or is that unfair?

ROVE: Well, look, you don't need to address that question. You address the question that he raises. He believes he ought to be president of United States because he has better judgment than his two competitors, Clinton and McCain. This goes to the heart of his judgment.

This man sat in this church and associated himself with Reverend Wright for 20 years. He was married by him. His children were baptized by him. He called him his uncle. He viewed him as a spiritual mentor. And we now know the dark ugliness of Reverend Wright.

HANNITY: Yes. But.

ROVE: We also have gotten ahead about Father Pfleger, who was an intimate of his as he was a community organizer in the south side of Chicago.


ROVE: They worked together and we --what kind of judgment is it.

HANNITY: All right. But let me.

ROVE: . that you hang around people like that with

HANNITY: Look, you know the political scene, Karl, as well as anybody that I know. I'm having a hard time understanding this. If you are friends with, if you give speeches with a guy that is unrepentant about bombing the Pentagon and the Capitol, I'm trying to understand how you get 20 percent of the polls.

If you're friends with, you have a 20-year relationship, if you get $200,000 in earmarks, if you call a good friend, a guy that is very good friends and defends Louis Farrakhan, I do not know how you get 20 percent in the polls.

And then, of course, we covered at length the Reverend Wright issue. At some point, you would think he would have distanced himself from these, you know, radical elements. Why is he still doing so well in light of all of these?

ROVE: Well, look. He's a very charismatic personality, and he has skated by much of this. I wrote a piece for "The Wall Street Journal" that went over the eight different explanations that he's had about Reverend Wright. He would be well served, and America would be well served, if his first explanation was, "I made a mistake."

You know what? This guy does say reprehensible things, and what did I associate with them, I have learned an important lesson. And instead, he's parsed and equivocated and, you know, confused the issue.


ROVE: And look, there's plenty of time between now and the election. If McCain wants to make it an issue or if others would want to make it an issue, or voters want to make it an issue, we live in a different culture today where people have got a lot more information. They're going to be making independent judgments about relationship.

COLMES: Hey, Karl, is it the reason he is doing well not -- not because of these associations, because people don't like what's happening with the economy? They've got a president with a 28-percent approval rating. You've got a war that's unpopular, and people really do want change. They don't see McCain as the change. They see Obama as change, and they're not really that concerned about every association he's ever had.

ROVE: Well, look, the -- the general election is still early. I just make this point. He is stumbling towards the finish line of the Democratic primary season, and while the economy is not doing well, and the war is unpopular, and Democrats have an advantage of this year, he is in a dead heat with John McCain.

Now -- in the next couple of weeks, he'll move to a lead. The question is how big of a lead it moved to? But this is not like, you know, 1988 where Michael Dukakis at this point had a 17-point lead on George H.W. Bush. This is.


ROVE: This is an amazingly ineffective general election candidate, and I repeat. You know -- remember he does not have 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. If you look at all, he has less of half a tenth of one -- you know half of 1 percent lead over.

COLMES: But you know, look, Karl, I know you're supporting McCain.

ROVE: . Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

COLMES: But how do you know -- and I know you have informally advised McCain, but how do you know that he's a weak general election candidate? I mean there's -- we have not even gotten into the general election yet.

ROVE: Well, I'm looking at the head-to- head match-ups where, for example, in the Gallup daily tracking, he's -- Senator McCain has two or three points ahead on some days and one or two points behind Senator Obama on other days.

At this point, given the dynamics of the year, Senator Obama should have a commanding lead. Senator Clinton, you know, is in the electoral college, today, if you look at the individual states, is ahead of McCain by nearly 50 electoral votes and has more than a majority of the electoral college whereas Senator McCain and Senator Obama are tied in the electoral college.

COLMES: I actually just was looking at your tracking.

ROVE: So look, we.

COLMES: . your tracking and you have Iowa now moving to the column, according to the.

ROVE: Right.

COLMES: .the poll your own company puts out. There seems to be movement toward to Obama. We haven't gotten to the general election and yet, we're -- the candidates are going head- to-head.

ROVE: Well, A, we are in the general election. I mean most Americans have turned their attention to the general election weeks ago. They believe that Obama is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party and he will be. It's a question of whether it's tomorrow or the next day or next week.

But the fact of the matter is that if Senator McCain is this close to Senator Obama, we're going to have a barn burner of a race between now and the general election, and in part, I think, it's because of the doubts that the people have about Senator Obama.

COLMES: Well, we'll see about it. We'll continue with Karl Rove.

ROVE: We will.

COLLINS: . in just a moment, in fact he will respond to Scott McClellan's Bill O'Reilly interview coming up.

And still to come, Bill Clinton responds to a scathing "Vanity Fair" article that calls into question the former president's post-White House life styles. Find out why the magazine things that Bill Clinton is up to all his old tricks and then some.

And Katherine Harris, an exclusive interview. She tells us why she's upset with HBO Films. (INAUDIBLE) coming up as well.


COLMES: This is a FOX News Alert. This alert -- FOX News has confirmed this evening that West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd has been hospitalized. We have very few details this hour, and we will update you when we learn more about his condition, but a Democratic leadership aide on the Hill tells us that from what they know that they don't think that it is serious.

Byrd is 90 years old and has had health problems in the past, but when we learn more, we're going to bring it to you right here on FOX.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: What's your beef on Karl Rove and Plame -- Valerie Plame? What's your beef about Rove, specifically, because he works for us?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I spoke with Rove about that very incident, and he told me unequivocally that he was not involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity.

O'REILLY: And that's what he told me.


O'REILLY: But you're telling me he's a liar?

MCCLELLAN: That he revealed Plame's identity to anyone. Yes. Matt Cooper -- he revealed her identity, Matt Cooper. First.

O'REILLY: He said Cooper called him and said.

MCCLELLAN: No. Cooper said -- Cooper wrote, he was the first one to tell me. That was the first time I learned that she worked at the CIA.

O'REILLY: You believe Cooper, and you do not believe Rove, right?

MCCLELLAN: Rove told me. I asked Rove, unequivocally, was -- were you involved in this in any way. He told me no.


COLMES: That was former White House press secretary Scott McClellan elaborating on the allegations he made about Karl Rove in his White House tell-all.

We know continue with Karl Rove.

Karl, do you want to respond to what McClellan is saying about you revealing the identity of Valerie Plame to Matt Cooper and to Robert Novak as was reported as well?

ROVE: Well, yes. Look, first of all, the person who revealed Valerie Wilson Plame 's identity is Richard Armitage. I think it's revealing in the book that Scott devotes 34 pages to me on this incident with Wilson and Plame and he devotes 1.5 sentences to the guy that we now was the person who leaked Valerie Plame's identity, not only to Robert Novak but two weeks before that, to Bob Woodruff.

I did not. And I don't remember the conversation to this day with Matt Cooper, but Matt Cooper's own notes shows that the conversation I had with him on Friday, several days after Novak has already told me that he is writing the story, and that it's going to -- and after I know that it's going to appear the following week, Matt Cooper's own notes showed that I had an off-the-record conversation with him in response to a phone call to me, in which I tried to discourage him about writing anything at all about Wilson.

His notes for the conversation say that I am saying, don't get ahead of this. Wilson is not telling the truth. The CIA has come out with a statement. In essence, you've been beat by others. You, Matt Cooper , who's writing for "TIME" magazine on a Friday -- you know, this is a conversation that take place on a Friday -- don't be writing about this this weekend, because Wilson is not who he appears to be, and you ought not to be getting ahead on this.

COLMES: Cooper did say.

ROVE: But I think.

COLMES: Go ahead.

ROVE: I think it is interesting, though, again, though, this is the sort of -- you know, look. When everybody thought I had leaked Wilson's name or Plame is a name, they were all -- everybody was all excited about it. But when it turned out that it was Richard Armitage, nobody had much interest in it, and I think we see that in his book where Scott has adopted the tone and the emphasis of the left.

He's got 34 pages devoted to me in his book and he's got 1.5 sentences devoted to Richard Armitage. Now he is -- he goes to great lengths to say that he is terribly distressed by all this. But you know, I don't hear him mention Richard Armitage's name, either in his book or in his public appearances as the person who leaked the identity of this CIA employee.

HANNITY: And Karl, considering that Patrick Fitzgerald knew that from the very beginning, why did he even continue the investigation when he knew who the leaker was?

ROVE: Well, look, what would have happened if Rich Armitage had come out in July or August or September of 2003 and said, you know what? I leaked it and I'm responsible for it. I mean the issue would have gone away. He's a media darling, a media favorite, when it was found out that he had leaked it, there was no interest at all in the press that showed up on my front door steps than showing up on his.

HANNITY: Let me move back to politics for just a second. You mentioned earlier that you think the public has concluded that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. We watched what happened with Michigan and Florida this weekend, although the Clinton campaign is threatening that they may try and push this a little bit further to the credential committee.

Do you -- are you convinced it's Obama and McCain? And who do you think is going to win?

ROVE: Well, look, I don't -- one of the great things about this election year is that it's going to be a wide open contest, and we won't know until sometime late in the evening or early in the morning of the first Tuesday or first Wednesday in November.

But yes, I think he's -- Obama is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. I don't understand why this last weekend on Saturday, he didn't act like the winner, didn't act like the nominee and say, look. Let's get rid of this foolishness. Let's seat all of these delegates, Michigan and Florida.

I mean what got me was that even with seating half the delegation, they had to -- at Michigan go take four delegates away from Clinton and award them to Obama, and that was just sticking his finger in her eye, and it was unnecessary to do so.

HANNITY: All right. The architect, Karl Rove, we have a lot to talk about. It's an interesting campaign. We can't deny that.

ROVE: It's going to be a great one.


ROVE: Great. Thank you.

HANNITY: Thanks for being with us.

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