MR. WALLACE: I'm Chris Wallace and this is "FOX News Sunday."
New violence in Iraq raises new questions about U.S. policy. We'll discuss the war with two key senators -- Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jack Reed.
Then, does the fight between Clinton and Obama threaten to split the Democratic Party? We'll talk with the man with a plan to resolve the issue, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. Plus, a powerful Senate Democrat says Hillary Clinton should quit the race.
SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): (From videotape.) She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama.
MR. WALLACE: What are the chances she'll listen? We'll ask our Sunday Group: Brit Hume, Jill Zuckman, Bill Kristol, and Juan Williams.
And our Power Player of the Week says it's time for a new season and a new ballpark. All right now on "FOX News Sunday."
And hello again from FOX News in Washington. Well, the violence in Iraq has increased dramatically in recent days, with Iraqi forces cracking down on Shi'ite militias. Here's the latest.
Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his forces has offered to stop fighting in return for amnesty and an end to the crackdown. The U.S. confirms American Special Forces are fighting alongside the Iraqis in Basra. And the conflict has spread to other towns across southern Iraq.
For more on what happens next, we turn to a pair of senators who have each made 11 trips to Iraq: Republican Lindsey Graham, who comes to us from South Carolina, and Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who joins us here.
And Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
SEN. REED: Thanks, Chris.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.
MR. WALLACE: This week President Bush called the fighting in Iraq a defining moment for the country. Senator Graham, does it show that the central government in Baghdad is finally ready to stand up for itself, or does it show just how fragile the gains from the troop surge really are?
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I don't know. It may show, actually, two things. Number one, everybody has been telling Maliki for a couple of years you can't have a stable, functioning government unless you deal with the Shi'a militias. The critics of our presence in Iraq have said that the Maliki government's sectarian. They'll only deal with the Kurds and the Sunnis; they won't take on the Shi's militias in the south.
Well, they're finally taking on the Shi'a militias in the south. This was an Iraqi-planned operation. They really didn't consult us. I hope they win, but we'll see. We'll see if a cease-fire results, if a political settlement is the outcome. We'll see how well the Iraqi army fought. We'll see how well it was planned and executed, and we may find that the Iraqi army did not do a very good job of planning and executing this effort.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Reed, do you see the government offensive against the Shi'ite militias in Basra -- and now it's spreading throughout the southern part of the country -- as a sign of progress, or just the opposite?
SEN. REED: It's a sign of the political in-fighting that's taking place in Baghdad. This is a struggle between the Shi'a community, who will lead. Will it be Hakim and his Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or will it be Sadr and his Mahdi Army?
This is a struggle that illustrates, I think, the fragility of the system there, the politics of it, and it also, I think, indicates that what is really key to Iraq is not our military presence as much as the political forces within Iraq. And we have to -- they have to do much more politically to stabilize their country.
MR. WALLACE: As we just reported, the Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has just made a new offer today to pull his militia off the street in return for an end to the crackdown and full amnesty. Is that a good thing, a bad thing? Senator Reed, why don't you start?
SEN. REED: I think it represents the political posturing that's going on. Each side is trying to play to the audience of the larger Shi'a community. Each side is trying to suggest that they're legitimate, that the other forces is outside the bounds of appropriate behavior, and I think this is going to be one of constant back-and- forth between both sides, saying if you'll just be -- we're reasonable; you have to be reasonable.
I think in the long run this struggle is going to go on. And, in fact, the problem is it could really spin out of control and that you could have widespread and increased fighting and violence over many months, and it could even pull in the other sectarian communities as they try to exploit this fission between -- or fissure -- between the Shi'a communities.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Graham -- and this is a breaking news story, so we're getting information while we're on the air that the Iraqi government has just said that they welcome al-Sadr's offer.
But speak to the point that Senator Reed just brought up. Does this indicate, or does this show that, in effect, that there are all kinds of political issues going on amongst various factions in Iraq, and there's no way that we can really -- not only control events, but really stabilize events there?
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I would argue we have stabilized events in Iraq dramatically by having better security. There are really three fights going on. The fight against al Qaeda in Anbar has turned our way dramatically because the Anbar province is now liberated from al Qaeda because Sunni Arab Iraqis aligned with us to fight al Qaeda, and that's been a great success story of the surge.
The Kurdish separatists in the north have been contained with military operations by Turkey but, more importantly, by Iraqi Kurdish politicians trying to control the separatist movement. Now the fight's moved to the south.
Iran is backing the Shi'a militias. I don't know how much power al-Sadr has. If he said stop fighting tomorrow, I don't know if people would listen. Part of the problem has been that the cease-fire was never fully embraced by the Shi'a militias, the Mahdi Army in the south.
So at the end of the day, Sadr is a minority within the parliament. Politically, he's a minority. The other Shi'a parties have rallied around Maliki; so have the Sunnis. If he comes out of this thing stronger politically and militarily and his desire is to align with Iran, it's a bad thing. If he comes to the table and will become a more productive partner in uniting Iraq, it will be a good thing. But I think the jury's still out.
MR. WALLACE: But let me just ask you both briefly, because you can get -- and both of you, as I say, have taken almost a dozen trips to Iraq.
To the average American, I think they had the feeling over the course of the last few months with the surge, you know, things are getting under control in Iraq. Now we look at all this fighting going on and people are beginning to say, well, gee, really, are things under control?
Briefly, and let me start with you, Senator Reed, how would you answer that?
SEN. REED: I don't think they're under control in the sense that fundamental political issues have not been resolved, and I think every day you're going to see an increase in the violence.
And if you step back, as we must, the strategy must for the United States remain a careful, deliberate disengagement of our forces, shifting the burden to the Iraqis. And that's something we have to do.
And the American people are quite right to begin to question whether or not this low level of violence over the last few weeks -- few months, rather -- has been a product of our military presence or just some -- (inaudible) -- political forces that are changing.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Graham?
SEN. GRAHAM: I think if we'd adopted the strategy pursued by Senator Levin, Reed, Obama, and Clinton, we would have never -- we'd have chaos in Iraq right now. We don't have chaos in Iraq.
What we have is political reconciliation going on in Baghdad; a defeat, diminishment, in great measure, of al Qaeda; economic progress we haven't seen before; American casualties are down by 70 percent; sectarian killings between Sunni and Shi'as are down by 90 percent.
Now we have a battle with militias who are operating outside the government, unlawful in nature, and the central government is taking them on. We must win this fight.
The militias that we're fighting are backed by Iran, so this is an effort by Iran to destabilize Iraq. I hope we can find a political compromise, but the American military power we put in in the last year has enormously turned things around politically, economically, and militarily.
The fight in the south needs to come. It is now upon us, and I hope it can be resolved in a way to stabilize Iraq.
MR. WALLACE: Now, let me move this forward.
This fighting comes as the commanding U.S. general in Iraq, General David Petraeus, prepares to return to the United States to report to the president, to report to Congress.
Senator Graham, could the new violence mean that the U.S. will have to suspend the announced drawdown of three more brigades by July?
SEN. GRAHAM: I'll leave that up to General Petraeus, but we have military operations going on in Mosul. The remnants of al Qaeda that were in Anbar have moved to Mosul. You have two Iraqi divisions, with support by us, fighting al Qaeda in Mosul.
I don't know what militarily this will mean, but politically and militarily it is important that these Iranian militias be defeated, and if it takes keeping the troops there in larger numbers over time, it is in our national interest to do so.
I applaud the Maliki government for taking on Iranian-backed militia. I hope we can reach a political compromise. I hope the military force will change Sadr's behavior. And whatever General Petraeus says about defeating the Iranian-backed militias in terms of troop levels I will support, because it's good for us, it's good for Iraq to defeat these militias.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Reed, if the president were -- and this is just speculative -- to suspend his announced troop withdrawals that are -- three more brigades by July, or -- which is probably more likely -- that he announces a prolonged pause after these three brigades are out in July, is there anything that congressional Democrats can or will do about it?
SEN. REED: Well, I think we have to continue to insist upon a deliberate and careful withdrawal of our forces, that an indefinite open-ended commitment will not prompt the Iraqi political leaders to take important steps politically which they must take.
And this course of action is grinding down our military forces, our land forces. Readiness is down; our troops are seeing a treadmill in and out of Iraq. We have to change that.
And in response to the suggestion that this is a fight against Iranian-backed militias, the Iranians have close associations with all of the Shi'a communities, not only Sadr, but also with Hakim. In fact, just a few weeks ago Ahmadinejad made a very significant visit and was greeted warmly by Prime Minister Maliki.
So the notion that this is a fight by American allies against Iranian-inspired elements is not accurate. The Iranians have a very strong -- presence there. They must be -- they're a reality there.
But we've got to begin to withdraw our forces. Our Army can't stand continued open-ended commitment, and it's not in the best interest, I think ultimately, of Iraq.
MR. WALLACE: Gentlemen, let me turn, because it's inextricably linked to the president campaign, to the politics of Iraq.
Senator Graham, you may be John McCain's strongest supporter in the Senate. Last month he said that if he can't convince the Americans that we are gaining in Iraq, then, and quoting him, "I lose." He later tried to soften that.
But if the current violence spreads, doesn't that do considerable damage to John McCain's statements that his policy of the surge that he supported even before the president is working? Doesn't it do damage to his campaign?
SEN. GRAHAM: I think John McCain will be very successful in explaining to the American people that we must win in Iraq, and it's not about the next election in terms of our national security.
Senator McCain advocated more troops when every Democrat and handful of Republicans were saying leave and leave now. If we had done what our Democratic friends had said -- Harry Reid said the war was lost in April -- we would never have driven al Qaeda out of Anbar.
We've had major political reconciliation, a budget's been passed where everybody shares in the revenue, we have an amnesty law where Sunnis are going to be allowed to get out of jail, go back home, build a new Iraq. We're going to have elections in October where Sunnis this time will participate. So I am very confident that Senator McCain will be able to explain to the American people this is an ideological struggle in Iraq that we can and must win.
And the fight going on now, to my dear friend Jack Reed, the Iranians are killing Americans. They have aligned themselves with the Shi'a Mahdi Army. The Badr Brigade is not the problem; the Fadila group in the south is not the problem. The weapons we're fighting against are coming from Iran. Sadr has tried to undermine political progress in Baghdad.
He's aligned himself with Iran.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Graham, let me bring Senator Reed in here, and let me bring you back to the politics of it. Will Democrats pin any setbacks or any continued fighting in Iraq on John McCain?
SEN. REED: Well, I think the American people are listening to the rhetoric of the campaign. They heard just a few weeks ago that the surge succeeded because violence was down. Now they're hearing from some people the surge has succeeded because the government of Iraq increased the level of violence all through the southern part of Iraq. You've got rockets slamming into the Green Zone. You've got a curfew in Baghdad. You've got inconclusive fighting in Basra. You've got violence spreading around.
So I think they will be attentive to that, and I think they'll begin to recognize that the fundamental issues here are political. We have to begin to withdraw our forces. And I think they will be wondering quite clearly many of the statements that Senator McCain has made.
MR. WALLACE: Let me ask you -- and we've got less than a minute left -- McCain also said that U.S. troops will be in Iraq or could be in Iraq for 100 years. Democrats pounced on that. Republicans say that he's -- that they are distorting what McCain said. So let me give you each 30 seconds to straighten this out.
Senator Reed, is it fair to say that he wants U.S. troops there for 100 years?
SEN. REED: He has suggested and implied and stated that he wants an open-ended commitment. I think that's the wrong strategy. I think that's the wrong strategy not only in terms of Iraq, but in terms of Afghanistan, which is under-resourced in terms of threats that are emerging in Pakistan.
So I think strategically he has been in error since he strongly endorsed this unilateral attack on Iraq, and he continues to do so.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Graham, you get the final word.
SEN. GRAHAM: If we take the Democratic position and leave Iraq, every force that we're trying to fight will come back. Al Qaeda will re-emerge. They will try to reoccupy areas that we've driven out of. They will kill the people who've helped us.
The central government is fighting Iranian-backed militias. This is good news. You cannot run a country where you have militias taking the place of lawful authority. I am confident that we can win in Iraq because it's in our national interest to do so.
History will judge us, my friend, not when we left Iraq, but by what we left behind. And John McCain understands you cannot leave a country in chaos behind. Stability can be had and is being had, if we will support this effort at moderation over extremism. I'm confident it the Iraqi people --
MR. WALLACE: Senator --
SEN. GRAHAM: I'm confident in the American people they will get it.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Graham, Senator Reed, we want to thank you both so much for coming in today.
SEN. REED: Thank you.
MR. WALLACE: Please come back, both of you.
Up next, can Democrats find a way to end their fierce campaign without splintering the Party? We'll talk with a top Democrat who has an intriguing plan, right after this quick break.
MR. WALLACE: Now we turn to the increasingly bitter fight among Democrats for their Party's presidential nomination. The race is still close, as you can see, with Barack Obama holding slim leads both in delegates won and in the popular vote, excluding the contested states of Florida and Michigan.
But with both Obama and Hillary Clinton unlikely to clinch the nomination in the remaining primaries, both camps are looking to the superdelegates -- those elected officials and Party bigwigs who automatically get a seat at the convention and can vote for anyone they want.
Well, joining us now, one superdelegate with a plan to resolve this mess. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who comes to us from the Democratic governors' meeting in Big Sky, Montana.
Governor, your plan is that shortly after all of the primary votes end in early June, that the 794 superdelegates would get together for a two-day business meeting, what you're calling a superdelegate primary, and they would in effect vote and put somebody over the top.
Before we get to the question of exactly how this would work, what damage do you think that this prolonged campaign and the lack of any resolution is doing to the Democratic Party?
GOV. BREDESEN: I think it's hurting us tremendously. At the end of August, come Labor Day, we're going to have a nominee. But if it's the nominee of a divided party and an emotionally exhausted party, there's just not time to conduct the kind of campaign we need to have.
We can win this election, but we're making it -- that way a lot steeper and rockier a road than it needs to be.
If it comes down to the superdelegates -- and I don't think anybody wants that to happen, but if that's what it is, it just seems to me common sense to try to move that decision back earlier, into June, and let's get on with the summer of engaging the Republicans. Let's get on with the summer of getting ready and organizing for the fall elections and win this election.
MR. WALLACE: Now, you may not have gotten a chance to read it out there in Montana, but in today's Washington Post, Governor, Hillary Clinton says that she is going to stay in this campaign to resolve the issue of seating the Michigan and Florida delegations, even if she has to go all the way to the convention. Your reaction to that, sir?
GOV. BREDESEN: I guess my feeling is I certainly understand the point of view of a candidate wanting to hang on to their strategy as long as they possibly can. But there's a third leg to the stool. It's not just the two candidates; there's a party here. There's a Democratic Party, and I think that we have an obligation as a Party to try to find some way to bring closure to this thing and not let it tear us apart and lose us an election in the fall.
I don't think John McCain is any pushover whatsoever, and we need to run an A campaign, not a B-minus campaign, come the fall.
MR. WALLACE: Let's talk about the kind of reception your idea has gotten. Tell us what you're hearing, first of all, from the campaigns, then from the Party. And my understanding is that national chairman Howard Dean has been pretty negative about it.
GOV. BREDESEN: Yeah, I've heard certainly from both of the campaigns. We talked to them at the time that I put that op-ed piece out, I guess a week and a half ago now. I think they're interested and intrigued. I think everyone feels that there has to be some end game here and some strategy to move us beyond what we're going through right now.
I certainly am aware that the national Party and Howard Dean have spoken coolly about it, and I've spoken with Governor Dean personally and he's cool to the idea. I think that's fair.
But I think it's an idea that, as I at least get outside of the Beltway and into places like Montana, where I am, there's a lot of people that think it's a common-sense approach to the thing.
If you're not caught up day to day in the mechanics of the campaign, I think people see it as a reasonable way to try to resolve a very thorny problem which we didn't expect.
MR. WALLACE: Now let's talk about what would happen if we got to that superdelegate primary. Superdelegates can, by their very nature, vote for any candidate they want.
GOV. BREDESEN: Right.
MR. WALLACE: You said recently if Obama ends the primaries with the lead in the popular vote, that there would be, quote, "hell to pay" if the delegates were to overturn it and to give the nomination to Clinton unless, you added, there was a very good reason.
What reason would be good enough to overturn the will of the electorate as expressed in the popular vote?
GOV. BREDESEN: Well, I just think that if there were new information, if one of the candidates had some enormously damaging thing come out or if the polls shifted enormously -- The superdelegates, I think, were designed to and are certainly entitled to exercise some independent judgment here.
The point I was making was simply that as we exercise that judgment I think we have to recognize that there is a sense of fairness about popular votes and if the superdelegates are seen as in any way kind of thwarting the will of the people or making a decision differently than the majority of the Democratic Party would make, I think there'll be problems.
I think we can navigate that. These are sophisticated people. They're elected officials and Party officials who can navigate that, but we need to be careful.
MR. WALLACE: What about the argument -- and there might even be polls by then -- that show that one candidate, not necessarily the candidate who leads in the popular vote, that one candidate would have a better chance of winning in November than the other candidate?
GOV. BREDESEN: Well, I think that any poll that shows a 2 (percent) or 3 percent advantage, those things disappear in a hurry. I don't think that would influence a superdelegate.
I think as one who has not made up their mind, I think certainly what the people who I'm responsible to think is an important component of the thing. I think electability is an important component. But I don't think any of us are going to chase the polls around as to where they are in June or something like that.
I think we need to exercise a much longer view of this thing and how it plays out.
MR. WALLACE: We're starting to see this week the increased calls from some top Democrats -- and the most notable case this week was Democratic Senator Pat Leahy -- for Hillary Clinton to drop out now, not to wait until June.
What do you think of that?
GOV. BREDESEN: Obviously, each campaign is going to make up their own minds about those things. I've heard some of those kinds of comments from other Democrats.
I think certainly any candidate is entitled to remain in, certainly until the primaries are over. And I personally think that if it can be resolved early in a very satisfactory way, I think that's great. But I certainly would not call on anybody until at least all of the voters have had their say in the thing, and that'll happen on June 3rd. And that's really the reason why I'm talking about mid- June.
MR. WALLACE: Is there a danger here, Governor, these calls for Hillary Clinton to drop out, that it could backfire, especially with women voters, who are a very important part of the Democratic base?
GOV. BREDESEN: Yeah. I think it's not only a matter of bringing this to closure, which we have to do. I think it's bringing it to closure in a way that reasonable people on both sides would see as fair. And I think some Democratic bigwigs trying to pressure one of the candidates to drop out just does not have -- it doesn't have the right feel, to me.
I think we need to look to a much broader base of people to make this decision, and it could be the superdelegates, it could be the popular vote. But it's not only getting it over and done with; it's getting it over and done with in a way that is seen as fair and doesn't hobble us going forward.
MR. WALLACE: You know, Governor, there's an old saying; "politics ain't beanbag." But do you think that the Clintons have gone over the line in some of their attacks against Barack Obama?
GOV. BREDESEN: I wouldn't -- I think politics is a contact sport, and certainly running for president is the ultimate contact sport. I think this kind of stuff at this point in time in a close campaign is not -- I don't see it as a big problem.
To me, the whole trick is to say -- you have to bring it to closure sometime long before the end of August so that you can start that healing process, and whoever wins can say their mea culpas about what they said and bring the Party back together.
I also think, frankly, American people -- when I look at someone running for president, you'd like to see how they stand up to those kinds of things. So I don't think that's necessarily all bad. It just needs to be contained and brought to an end early and get on with the business of running as a party.
MR. WALLACE: Finally, as the governor of Tennessee, I want to ask you about one of your constituents, sir.
GOV. BREDESEN: Okay.
MR. WALLACE: Political columnist Joe Klein this week suggested that both of these candidates, Obama and Clinton, may be so bloodied by the time you get to August if we don't have that superdelegate primary, that just perhaps Party leaders like yourself might want to give the nomination to the then-strongest candidate, Al Gore. What do you think of that idea?
GOV. BREDESEN: I think, again, there have been two very strong candidates, and if this thing can be brought to closure early on, I don't think that really is a possibility. I think it'd have to be an extraordinary circumstance.
I like Al Gore; he's a neighbor of mine in Nashville. But to have two candidates as strong as the ones that we have and have run as effective campaigns as the two have -- that's our problem; they're both very strong and they've both run very good campaigns -- to sort of set both of them aside and go to a third person I think would be a prescription for disaster, in my opinion.
MR. WALLACE: Governor, we want to thank you so much for joining us today. We'll see what happens to your plan. It makes sense, so chances are nothing will come of it. (Chuckles.) But thank you, sir.
GOV. BREDESEN: All right. Thank you.
MR. WALLACE: Coming up, more calls for Hillary Clinton to end her campaign for the good of the Party. How likely is that to happen? We'll check in with our Sunday Panel in a moment. Stay tuned.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) There are some people who are saying, you know, we really ought to end this primary. We just ought to shut it down and -- (Audience boos.)
MR. WALLACE: That was Hillary Clinton on Friday, pushing back at Senator Patrick Leahy and other Democrats who say she should quit the race now for the good of the Party.
And it's time now for our Sunday Group. Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of FOX News; Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune; and FOX News contributors Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Juan Williams from National Public Radio.
Well, Hillary Clinton not only rejected calls for her to drop out, she's also using it to rally her base among women voters. And take a look at what she told The New York Times.
According to the Times, Mrs. Clinton told aides that she would not be bullied out of the race. In a conversation with two Democratic allies, she compared the situation to the big boys trying to bully a woman.
Brit, do calls for Clinton drop out accomplish anything, and what are the chances it'll in fact backfire?
MR. HUME: I think there's a good chance it'll backfire. There's no good reason for her to drop out of this race. It's still close; it's likely she will end up with fewer delegates at the end of the voting process for delegates than Obama has, but the Democratic Party established a system which has all these superdelegates who are there to exercise independent judgment. That's why they have them.
After all, this all started when the Democrats went to so democratic a system that the Party elders came to worry after a while that it might lead to the nomination of a couple of lulus who would get swamped in the general election. So they instituted superdelegates to exercise judgment.
Now Hillary Clinton's depending on that, and everybody's saying oh, no, not fair. Shouldn't do that, have to overrule them -- to overrule the elected delegates, or the elected delegate count, would be a terrible thing.
She has every right to stay in. Now, it might blow the Party apart if the superdelegates did that, but this is the system the Democrats established. I don't know why she shouldn't be able to run her race in it.
MR. WALLACE: Jill, what do you think of the calls -- and there were increasing calls for Clinton to drop out -- and also this fascinating interview she gave The Washington Post today. And the Post admitted she called them; they didn't call her. You know, these poor reporters being rousted out of their bed in the middle of the night to say I'm staying in it. I'm staying in it until we get the Michigan and Florida delegations seated, and if it means going all the way to the convention, so be it.
MS. ZUCKMAN: She's got to put this issue to rest. She cannot keep talking day after day about whether she should be in or out of the race. She needs to be talking about the issues, the economy, why she's the better candidate, why she has more experience. And so this has been going on for a solid week now that people have discussing whether she can do this.
And to me, it's completely different from when Mitt Romney had to decide whether to keep going on in the Republican race. I mean, at that point it was mathematically impossible for him to ever overtake John McCain. And he sat down with his advisers, he came to that conclusion, and he got out of the race.
But for Senator Clinton, as Brit says, you've got these superdelegates. That's the wild card. So there is no reason that she can look at it the way Mitt Romney did and say oh, all is over.
MR. WALLACE: Bill, the underlying issue here -- and I discussed it with Tennessee Governor Bredesen a couple of moments ago -- is how much damage is this prolonged campaign doing to the campaign, if they both stay in it? And take a look at a Gallup Poll this week that showed 28 percent of Clinton supporters would vote for McCain if Obama is the Democratic nominee. Nineteen percent of Obama supporters would vote for McCain if Clinton were the nominee.
Question: are these candidates doing lasting damage to each other?
MR. KRISTOL: Not yet. Incidentally, would those 28 percent, would the Clinton supporters be happier or more likely to go to McCain or less likely, if she's forced out of the race by a cabal of Democratic insiders ganging up on her in a totally unjust and sexist way. I'm really with Hillary on this. (Laughter.)
No, it's ridiculous, these calls for her to drop out.
MR. WALLACE: You're just stoking up the -- want to see the Democrats' bloodletting.
MR. KRISTOL: She should go through the final votes on June 3rd. She should insist that Michigan and Florida be seated. It's a disgrace that those fine Democrats in those two states aren't going to be represented. (Laughter.) She should go to the credentials committee. She should go to the floor of the convention.
And -- why should she give up at the convention? That's an arbitrary deadline too, you know? (Laughter.) Keep on going.
MR. WALLACE: Third party candidacy.
MR. KRISTOL: Exactly.
No, look, she -- the truth is she could win the -- she could be ahead in the popular vote on June 3rd on the total vote cast. She could catch up to Obama. She needs to win Pennsylvania big and then she needs to win North Carolina and Indiana on May 6th. I think if she loses one of those states, it's pretty much over. Then the pressure will get immense.
But if she can win the primaries going out from now in -- it's tougher to win the nomination, but I think she'll stay in and I think she's right to. And honestly, from the point of view of the Democratic Party, it would be worse if she were forced out.
If you're a Clinton supporter, if you think she's the better candidate, are you more or less likely to defect if you feel she's had a fair chance, the whole thing was fought out, everyone got to vote in every state, or if she somehow got pressured out?
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, the problem is when you have, every day, someone being called a liar, a Judas, a McCarthyite, and it goes back and forth. Everybody's -- somebody's a racist, somebody's a sexist.
When you have people referring back to blue dresses and all this, it at some point then begins to depress the idealism that fueled the tremendous rate of funding for the Democrats in this race and the tremendous turnout, which is the huge advantage. There's a tremendous difference in the enthusiasm for the Democrats versus enthusiasm for the Republicans, going forward.
MR. WALLACE: So what are you saying? Democracy is messy?
MR. WILLIAMS: It's very messy, and I think the fear on the part of Party elders here is not just Clinton-Obama, but what it does to the rest of the ticket. This is Phil Bredesen's real point, that the rest of the ticket down the row would somehow be damaged, then, if you had a Democrat up there who wasn't in position to make the strong case against John McCain.
MR. WALLACE: Meanwhile, both candidates continue to have their problems, some would say self-inflicted. Video finally emerged of Clinton's trip to Bosnia which, I would say, contrasted sharply with her description of that trip. Let's take a look.
SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.
MR. WALLACE: And meanwhile, Obama, Brit, is now saying that, you know, if Reverend Wright hadn't been in the process of retiring, he might have left that church. So the question is which do you think does longer-term damage to these candidates, Clinton and Bosnia or Obama and his pastor?
MR. HUME: I think they're both quite damaging.
The Clinton in Bosnia thing is sort of mystifying. I kept thinking that she'd come out after a few times of being corrected on this and say I confused it with another visit to someplace else, just messed it up. But that didn't happen. And it appears that she's made this whole yarn up out of whole cloth. That's troubling to anybody. I mean, this is just utter mendacity. This is just a whopper.
On the other hand, with Obama, the shifting accounts of how much he knew of Reverend Wright's ways and how much he knew of his extreme views seem to continue. And now we have this belated assertion that well, if he hadn't have retired, I'd have gotten out of the church. Well, he had made no move to do that that we know of.
I just think it's -- Reverend Wright is around Obama's neck and he may successfully carry him, but he's going to have to carry him.
MR. WILLIAMS: But, you know, the polls indicate that not much damage has been done by the Reverend Wright story.
MR. HUME: (Off mike.)
MR. WILLIAMS: In fact, Clinton is the one who is suffering from the Bosnia story. And one other point quickly.
MR. HUME: Juan, what we're talking about --
MR. WILLIAMS: I think all these politicians exaggerate all the time.
MR. HUME: Exaggeration is one thing. Outright whole-cloth whoppers are another. Now, let me just make this point, Juan.
Those polls are mainly a reflection of Obama's continuing strength among Democrats.
MR. WILLIAMS: Yeah.
MR. HUME: It was always the case, I think, that the Reverend Wright controversy was going to hurt him much less with Democrats than it would with the broader general electorate, to include Republicans and Independents.
MR. WILLIAMS: I --
MR. HUME: And there is polling data that indicates that among Republicans and Independents, he has been hurt.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, I agree with you. And I think that especially with black Democrats, they were willing to give him lots of leeway on the Wright story. It's hurting him with the so-called Reagan Democrats and with women.
What's interesting about the poll is that Hillary Clinton gets hurt with women in terms of her truthfulness, and this week there's been a back-and-forth over this truthfulness issue.
By the way, I can imagine that she as first lady was told, you know what, we're going into a war zone. This is dangerous. Move to the front of the aircraft, put on a vest and get ready. And in her mind, she has exaggerated it --
MR. HUME: And out of that she gets a corkscrew landing -- she's across the tarmac head down, no welcoming ceremony --
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know. As I said, she --
MR. WILLIAMS: Did you hear? My friend, did you hear me? She exaggerated. Did Obama --
MR. WALLACE: I love it as you re-create the video. (Laughter.)
MR. WILLIAMS: Yes, thank you.
MR. WALLACE: We don't even need the video any --
(Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. WILLIAMS: Did Obama exaggerate? You know, the Republicans are ready to say oh, he wasn't a law professor. He was a law lecturer.
MR. HUME: (Off mike.)
MR. WILLIAMS: You know what? His parents didn't meet at Selma. They had already met and conceived Barack Obama. So there's all this sense of exaggeration. I just think it gets -- but it seems to have stuck with the voters, and stuck to the detriment of Hillary Clinton.
MS. ZUCKMAN: Well, it underscores sort of the worst possible thing that voters think of these candidates, and it just sort of adds to a perception that I think will last through the fall.
MR. WALLACE: All right. We need to step aside for a moment. When we come back, the new violence in Iraq and what it means to the McCain campaign.
But first, Barack Obama did a round of interviews this week, including one where he faced these probing questions.
(Begin video clip from "The View".)
JOY BEHAR: I understand that you're related to Brad Pitt in some way? (Laughter.)
BARBARA WALTERS: We thought you were very sexy looking.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): Oh -- (fans face with hand). (Laughter, applause.)
(End video clip.)
MR. WALLACE: Well, we wanted to ask the senator some different questions, but we got the same old answer, which is why the Obama Watch continues -- 744 days and still counting.
MR. WALLACE: On this day in 1981, Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley outside a hotel here in Washington. The president made a fast recovery. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Stay tuned for more from our Panel and our Power Player of the Week.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) We believe international action is necessary. Whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we in return must be willing to be persuaded by them.
MR. WALLACE: That was John McCain trying to separate himself from the Bush foreign policy this week, while still backing the president's plan for Iraq.
And we're back now with Brit, Jill, Bill, and Juan.
So, Bill Kristol, how are McCain's fortunes inextricably linked to what goes on in Iraq and, with this increase in violence, is that potentially damaging to John McCain?
MR. KRISTOL: Well, it's damaging if things get worse and if we don't fight back and if we allow the Mahdi Army to prevail. But on the other hand, if this becomes a climactic battle; if, having dealt with al Qaeda we now turn and help the Iraqi army deal with the Iranian-backed militias, this could be a very good development, I think. It all depends on what happens.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, the problem here is that the violence has surged again. It becomes an issue again, and John McCain didn't want it to be an issue. I think he wanted the idea that somehow the surge had resolved things -- although this week, in his speech, it was a very interesting speech in which he said the surge is not the total solution. You also need a political settlement of some kind.
And if you look at the benchmarks that had been set, very few of the benchmarks have been achieved, particularly in the political realm. So that's a problem for Republicans. The more that it's an issue, the more damage to McCain's campaign.
MR. WALLACE: Brit, let's pivot off the campaign and talk about the actual war on the ground in Iraq.
What do you make from the -- of the fighting from Basra now up to Baghdad, and does it -- and this is the same question I asked the senators -- does it exhibit the strength of the Iraqi Baghdad central government standing up for itself, trying to get control of part of the country, or does it indicate just how fragile the security situation is there?
MR. HUME: Well, it may indicate, in some sense, both. But look, it hasn't been very long since we would have thought the idea of Nouri Maliki himself going doing to Basra or some more -- somewhere outside the Green Zone to preside over a military operation led by, and almost completely -- run by him and led by his forces, to put down Shi'ite militias would have been -- would have seemed unthinkable.
He was thought of, as Lindsey Graham pointed out earlier, as basically a sectarian guy who would never turn against the Shi'a. He was weak against the Mahdi Army early on and there big questions about whether he would ever allow the Sadr City militias to be cleaned up and so on. He has done all that.
In addition to that, you have had, Juan notwithstanding, some very important benchmark measures achieved, and it was -- perhaps the biggest of which was the agreement finally that there will be provincial elections. That's a very, very important matter. And it looked for a time as if it had, once passed the legislature and then been blocked by the presidential council as if it might not happen. It has now been set.
Now, obviously, the provincial elections will need to be held. They will need to succeed. They'll need to go forward. But these are important steps, and to say there's been no action politically, as Democrats ceaselessly do, is simply factually incorrect.
MR. WILLIAMS: Let --
MR. HUME: Now, these military operations, they're an encouraging sign that they're being led and that they're going after the Shi'ite militia. They have to succeed.
MR. WALLACE: Well, yeah, that would help.
Jill, let me ask you about the politics of this, because McCain is certainly playing the foreign policy card. He ran his first general election television ad this -- starting this last Friday. Let's take a look.
(Video plays of McCain being interrogated as prisoner of war.)
NORTH VIETNAMESE OFFICER: What is your rank?
SEN. MCCAIN: Lieutenant commander in the Navy.
NORTH VIETNAMESE OFFICER: And your official number?
SEN. MCCAIN: Six two four seven eight seven.
ANNOUNCER: John McCain, the American president Americans have been waiting for.
MR. WALLACE: Jill, two questions. First of all, do you think the add is effective? And secondly, some Democrats are -- and, I don't know, I'd curious to see whether you think this is over-think or not -- some Democrats are saying, you know, the use of that phrase "the American president," maybe that's a suggestion that Barack Obama wouldn't be an American president.
MS. ZUCKMAN: You know, I think everybody's reading a lot into this ad. I'm not sure that's necessarily what they intended, although to say "an American president that Americans have been waiting for" is a little redundant. I mean, I think we can all infer, if you're running for president, that you're running for president of the United States.
I think that most people in the McCain campaign believe that his -- Senator McCain's story, his personal story of being shot down over Hanoi and being a prisoner of war for five and a half years, and his lifelong passion and interest in foreign policy and national security issues are his number one strength, and that the more they can tell voters that story, the better off they are.
MR. WALLACE: Bill, the Democrats are taking their own shots. They reacted very sharply to that ad. They say McCain -- this is Party Chairman Howard Dean said McCain may try to reintroduce himself to the country, but -- and let's put it up, he, McCain, "is a blatant opportunist who doesn't understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years."
I've got to say, Bill, I think you can call John McCain a lot of things. Opportunist?
MR. KRISTOL: Well, I think supporting the surge in Iraq and saying that we might have to stay there for a long time, is that opportunistic? I think it's kind of the opposite. Don't the polls show that most people would like to be told hey, we can get out of there soon? No problem, no damage. McCain has shown real courage, obviously, in supporting the surge and I think he will show courage, incidentally, over the next few weeks.
As Brit said, we've got to win this showdown here with the Iranian-backed militias. If it means slowing down or stopping the drawdown of troops, I believe McCain will call for that. And I think he will say we've got to win, and we can't have some artificial -- it's better to win with 18 brigades in Iraq than to risk losing by drawing down too fast to 15.
So the opportunist line is just ludicrous, and I don't think that hurts McCain at all, that -- (inaudible).
MS. ZUCKMAN: McCain actually revels in saying the thing that you don't want to hear, and he says it first. In fact, when he gave the economic speech this week, he almost didn't really acknowledge people's pain, as Bill Clinton taught us you have to do, before going right to saying I'm not going to give away the store.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, I think that, though, when you look forward, now here McCain is in an odd position. Is he going to, with Petraeus coming to town to report on all this, is he going to say oh, yeah, things are going well in Iraq? I don't think he can say that.
To Brit's point, what I'm reading in the papers, Brit, is that the U.S. military is having to help Maliki because Maliki's forces are not proving effective in holding down this kind of Shi'a militia action that's taking hold in the country and is putting more pressure on U.S. forces as they try to battle al Qaeda in Iraq and other places.
So I don't think this is a half -- you say it's a good -- I mean, I hear from Bush people, oh, yeah, Maliki's taking action; we didn't anticipate he was going to take action. But it's not effective action.
And in terms of real progress in the country by those benchmarks that I mentioned to you, again, you have to say, if you're an American, how much longer? How much longer are we going to put money and bodies into this, billions of dollars?
And that brings us back to what Jill was talking about on this economic speech. Here comes John McCain, who says you know what? Wall Street's got your paper; it's reckless behavior. But so do homeowners? Then he had to try to clean it up.
I think this hard-edged sense from Republicans that, oh, average Americans, they're the ones that should pay the price for this, but we're going to protect Wall Street? Exactly wrong. People aren't going to support that.
MR. WALLACE: Brit, you have a choice of answering any one of those points that you choose to. (Laughs.
MR. HUME: I think I'll decline and make another point, which is when it gets down to it, McCain will be seen by the electorate as perfectly well qualified to be president and, in many ways, an attractive candidate and he may well be the most attractive candidate for this Party this year.
However, conditions, more than campaigns, tend to decide elections, even sometimes more than candidates. And the critical question to keep your eye on is -- between now and the end of this election season is how do the conditions in the country look to the electorate? Now, at the moment, they look pretty grim. The electorate didn't like the economy before the economy got in trouble, so it's possible that that view will change. I suspect not.
If it doesn't, and if the situation in Iraq continues to be messy and uncertain, even if there's continued progress, I don't think that'll end up helping John McCain very much either, and I think that in the end that will decide the elections, and that the odds favor, at this point, the election of a Democrat -- although that could change.
MR. WALLACE: All right. We've got to leave it there. Thank you, panel. See you all next week.
Time now for some mail about last Sunday's show, the first about John McCain's age. Michael DiDomenico writes, "I disagree with the statements that he is too old. He is a very smart and tough competitor. If he is too old, then we need to get rid of about 25 percent of the Congress, because those guys are ancient."
And Emily from Nashville sent this about last week's Power Player, Eli Manning: "The family unit of the Manning family makes me think of how American homes were when I was growing up. We have to get back to the family unit in the country."
Be sure to let us know your thoughts by e-mailing us at email@example.com.
Up next, this Sunday's Power Player of the Week.
MR. WALLACE: Today the most important person in Washington is not the president or the chairman of the Federal Reserve or any other public official. No, for this one day, it's our Power Player of the Week.
MR. KASTEN: (From videotape.) We have an army of people here. We're wiring, we're painting, we're building, we're cleaning.
MR. WALLACE: Stan Kasten is president of the Washington Nationals, and tonight he's not just starting a new baseball season; he's unveiling a new stadium for 41,000 fans, including President Bush. (Game sounds play in background.)
MR. KASTEN: We take very seriously the responsibility of being the representative of the nation's -- of the national pastime in the nation's capital. That matters a lot to us.
MR. WALLACE: It normally takes three years to build a new ballpark. The city of Washington and the Nationals did it in 23 months. So Kasten is proud of the almost-finished project. He took us beyond center field to a 10,000-square-foot interactive fan area.
MR. KASTEN: We have 14 -- Sony PlayStation machines, and those are free, again, for everyone in the park. And then after that we come to our batting cages and pitching machines. People all ages, even you, Chris, can get in there --
MR. WALLACE: He also took us inside the President's Club, where the high rollers who pay $300 a seat to watch from behind home plate --
MR. KASTEN: Closer to the catcher than the pitcher is.
MR. WALLACE: -- can get dinner and some extras.
MR. KASTEN: Before the game, during the game, you can come over here and watch our players warm up in our two home-dugout batting cages.
MR. WALLACE: That is very cool. So it's behind the scenes.
MR. KASTEN: Yes, it really is.
MR. WALLACE: You could have a good time here and never watch the baseball game.
MR. KASTEN: We said from the first day we came, we understand that when we sell you a ticket, it's not just your money that we're asking for. It's the four hours of your time that we're asking for, and we'd better be prepared to entertain you for that entire time.
MR. WALLACE: Of course, there is also the team, which last year had another losing season. But here, too, Kasten is selling a new start.
MR. KASTEN: From a year ago being ranked the 30th minor league organization -- only because there are only 30 teams -- this year we made a jump all the way to nine, one of the greatest jumps in one year in the history of baseball.
MR. WALLACE: Stan Kasten knows baseball. The child of two Holocaust survivors, he was just out of law school when he met Ted Turner. He spent the next 25 years in Turner's sports empire.
At one point, you were the president of three teams at the same time.
MR. KASTEN: Yeah.
MR. WALLACE: How is that possible?
MR. KASTEN: Yeah, it's not possible. But Ted and I always had this understanding. When he and I disagreed on things, we'd just do things his way.
MR. WALLACE: There is one big question about Kasten's latest project.
Why should a city with so many social problems be spending $600 million on a baseball stadium?
Kasten points to all the new development in one of the most blighted parts of Washington.
MR. KASTEN: This is as good an investment as this city has ever made, and we're very proud to be right in the middle of it.
MR. WALLACE: What will Stan Kasten be doing Sunday night?
MR. KASTEN: I'll be walking around all night, seeing what's good, seeing what's bad. (Concessionaire voice in background.) But mostly talking to customers. Some of them may have some nice things to say, some of them may not. But I think the reviews on Sunday night are going to be pretty darn good.
MR. WALLACE: Regardless of the reviews, Kasten says that army of workers will be back tomorrow with a punch list of things to complete in the new ballpark.
And that's it for today. Have a great week, and we'll see you next "FOX News Sunday."