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ABC "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript


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ABC "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. The Clinton and Obama campaigns rolled into Pennsylvania this week as more Democrats worried the prolonged primary battle would hurt them in November. Howard Dean called on superdelegates to make their choice by July 1st and two prominent Obama supporters tried to shut down the race even earlier.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT): (From videotape.) I think it's very difficult to imagine how anyone could believe that Barack Obama can't be the nominee of the party. The national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): (From videotape.) There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination. She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Here for that debate this morning is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who's backing Senator Clinton, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is backing Senator Obama.

Welcome to both of you, gentlemen.

And, Governor Rendell, let me begin with you. Senator Clinton's answer to Pat Leahy was basically, fat chance. In the "Washington Post" this morning, she vowed to stay in the race to the convention and she said even if that takes a floor fight at the Credentials Committee to seat the delegations of Florida and Michigan -- she said that's what Credentials Committees are for. Is that the Clinton path to victory, a floor fight at the convention?

GOV. ED RENDELL (D-PA): Well, hopefully not. Hopefully, the Obama forces will allow all 10 states that remain on the calendar vote and allow Florida and Michigan to vote. It's a disgrace that the Obama forces say, well, he's won the popular vote, so he should be the nominee. There are 10 states left. I think Senator Clinton is going to eat into the popular vote, and I think if Michigan and Florida actually voted again, Senator Clinton would come out on top of the popular vote. So I think the key is to let the parties -- it's too let for the states, but let the parties --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you just --

GOV. RENDELL: -- run primaries in Michigan and Florida.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- made a key point. You just made a key point when you said over the next 10 states that Senator Clinton could eat into Barack Obama's lead, but not overtake him. So that means a floor fight at the convention.

GOV. RENDELL: If Florida -- George, if Florida and Michigan voted based on just the results from the Florida beauty contest, it's fairly safe to assume that Senator Clinton would win the popular vote and that would undercut the whole theme of the Obama campaign is, Superdelegates, you have to vote for our guy because he got the most delegates and he's won the popular vote. Well, how can we say who won the popular vote without Florida and Michigan?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, why not take that challenge?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Well, first of all, let me say, George, if you're going to be campaigning in Pennsylvania, it's good to have Ed Rendell with you, and I'm glad to be here with him and I thank him for everything he did for me there.


GOV. RENDELL: Thanks, Senator.

SEN. KERRY: Better to have him with you that against you. Secondly, let me just say that Hillary Clinton has every right in the world to continue to fight, but the important thing is to be fighting against John McCain and not to be destructive in this campaign -- either campaigns. It is very important for both people to keep the eye on the real target -- John McCain and the Republican disaster of the last seven and a half years. And if the campaign goes on through the next weeks really focused on that at a high level, I don't think Democrats ought to be clamoring and worried about what's going on. I think that this will resolve itself.

Thirdly, I think that the superdelegates ought to decide early, I would even say earlier than July. As a former nominee, I will tell you. This time right now is critical to us. We began four years behind George Bush, and I think every day does give John McCain an ability to organize nationally, so the sooner we resolve it, the better. But it has to be resolved obviously by letting voters have their say.

Now, in the next days, there are 550 delegates still at stake. There are 10 states that are going to vote. What is important to remember is that the bar keeps shifting here. After Iowa, the Clinton campaign said, well, what's really important are delegates. After Barack began winning the delegates, they said what's really important are the primaries. After he began winning the primaries, they said what's really important is the popular vote. Now, he's winning the popular vote, the primaries, the total numbers of caucuses and the primaries and the total number of delegates.

So at some point there is a moment of judgment. I don't think it's up to our campaign or any individual to tell Hillary Clinton or their campaign when that is. But there will be I think a consensus about it and I think it's going to occur over these next weeks.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But before -- let me -- but just this point, Governor Rendell is saying Michigan and Florida have to vote again; otherwise, you are going to see a floor fight at the convention in the Credentials Committee.

SEN. KERRY: I don't agree with that. That's a posture today, but I just don't think that's going to happen. The reality is that has to be resolved by the states and by the National Committee, and the Obama campaign has been very clear about that. Delegates will be seated, George. There will be a way to work that out. The real question is, who is going to reach the magic number of delegates that says you are the nominee? I believe that number is going to be reached well before the convention. I think it will be clear what happens well before the convention. And I would urge fellow superdelegates, they have a responsibility to the Democratic Party and to the country for the larger issues that are at stake. This is about our leadership in the free world. It's about an economy that it is crumbling around people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and we need to be positioned to win. The superdelegates should make their decision well before the 1st of July and then we march on to Denver.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Rendell, let me move on to another issue. Senator Clinton's credibility took a pretty serious hit this week when CBS released that footage of her in Bosnia. It showed something quite at odds with what she was saying.

Take a look.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): (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. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Obama campaign has said this isn't an isolated incident. This is a part of a pattern of Senator Clinton fudging the truth, inflating her resume. She also claimed to create the S-CHIP children's health insurance program. The Obama campaign says that's not true. She said she played a key role in the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Obama campaign says there's no evidence of that. How do you respond to this charge of a pattern of untruthful statements?

GOV. RENDELL: Well, that's a perfect example of what Senator Kerry very correctly said shouldn't be happening. We shouldn't be bringing up all of the Reverend Wright stuff, we should let that die. The Kerry -- the Kerry, excuse me. The Obama campaign shouldn't --

SEN. KERRY: That's all right. That's fine. (Laughs.)

GOV. RENDELL: -- be bringing up this stuff. If we're in fact -- if we're in fact interested in bringing everybody together, if we're interested in running against Senator McCain, if we're interested in letting our ideas, like Senator Clinton and Senator Obama's plans to deal with the subprime mortgage issue -- if we're interested in having voters focus on that, we should stay away from stuff like this. Look, I can barely remember what I did last Monday, number one.

Number two, I haven't run into one Pennsylvanian who's come up to me and said, Governor, I'm in trouble because Senator Clinton got that stuff in Bosnia wrong. It's just not an issue for people who are struggling with real things that affect their daily lives and their families, George. And I agree with Senator Kerry. We can carry out the rest of the campaign, drawing differences with Senator McCain and talking about the policies that we want to enact.

You know, interestingly, I've been going around a lot of county dinners and breakfasts that we have before the primary and there's not one person, whether they're for Obama or Clinton, who's worried about us coming together. They're interested in seeing the Pennsylvania primary mean something. The people of Pennsylvania want to vote, but the people of Pennsylvania also want their brethren in Florida and Michigan to be able to cast votes. John Kerry knows that Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio -- those are the four key states as you go into the November election, and we can't afford to disenfranchise voters in two states.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, the Obama campaign has been pushing this issue. It said -- the campaign manager said that Senator Clinton is not seen as trustworthy by the American people, Senator Obama himself has said that Senator Clinton has not been truthful in this campaign. Should they drop this?

SEN. KERRY: Well, George, I think sometimes in campaigns one thing leads to another. I wish that what Ed Rendell has said were in fact being put into practice, but I recall seeing last week Senator Clinton went to of all papers the "Pittsburgh Tribune," Richard Mellon Scaife's paper, and came out and raised the issue of Reverend Wright. She did that quite spontaneously. So our hope would be, and I think this is what the Obama campaign is pressing for, is look, let's stick to the real differences.

To me, the most important thing, and the most important thing to Pennsylvanians -- and it's very interesting. Ed Rendell will agree that Bobby Casey and what is called Casey country and the long representation of the Casey family of working folks in Pennsylvania -- it's not insignificant that Bob Casey, who didn't have to do anything, decided to get involved and came out for Barack Obama the other day because he really believes that he has a better change of leading the country to the place we need to go.

What I think is important to people to focus on here is what really is going to make a difference to the governing of our country. I think Barack Obama brings to the table -- and you see it now in the "Wall Street Journal" poll numbers, where 60 percent of Americans believe Barack Obama has a better chance of uniting the country. I think Hillary Clinton's number was less than 40. Her negatives are now higher than her positives. It is very difficult to win the presidency when that's true. And I think what Democrats need to focus on now is who can galvanize a grassroots movement that hold Washington accountable, a Washington that only in the last days when the pain reaches Bear Stearns suddenly says, oh, we've got to do something about mortgages or we've got to do something about the average person.

That's the fundamental issue of this campaign and I think Barack Obama is gaining the support in red states across the country with red-state governors because he has the ability to build this grassroots movement and hold Washington accountable.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring Governor Rendell back in on this. You've talked about unifying the party, Governor Rendell. You former colleague as governor, Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, has an op-ed in the "Boston Globe" this morning where he says here's the perfect way to unify the party. He says, first of all, Obama and Clinton should get together now and agree who should be president, who should be vice president. Failing that -- he says, failing that, they should agree right now -- and let me show you what he says, "the two could announce they will complete the primary schedule and convention with the winner becoming candidate for president and the other agreeing to be a candidate for vice president thereby mollifying to some extent the constituency of the candidate who was not chosen," basically saying right now, both candidates can say, let's guarantee the dream ticket.

GOV. RENDELL: Well, I can't speak for Senator Clinton, but I would love that. I would love either way to see these two great people -- and I disagree with John respectfully. I agree Senator Obama can unify the country but so can Senator Clinton. And I think the important thing to understand is who's got the best solutions for the problems, not just unification. That's great. But unification is not going to bring us healthcare. Senator Clinton's healthcare plan is far more workable, far more achievable and it will not only give universal healthcare, but it will drive down costs, which are essential. So I think there are number of issues that voters have to consider. I would love to see that happen.

SEN. KERRY: Ed, can I --

GOV. RENDELL: I think that this duo regardless as a history making duo, they're both tremendous candidates, they both would make great executives, and I'd love to see that happen. Again, I can't speak for the campaign.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Rendell has signed on with Cuomo. Has Kerry?

SEN. KERRY: George, let me just pick up on something Ed just said, if I can. Speaking as somebody who has worked for 24 years and my colleague Ted Kennedy who's backing Barack Obama has worked for 40 years to get healthcare, let me just tell you that Hillary Clinton's plan in the United States Senate is a nonstarter because it starts with a mandate that is unachievable in the Senate and in what we need to do.

Barack Obama starts with children and works up to a system where at the backend you may have a mandate. You will get to universal coverage, but he does it in a way that is going to give Republicans the opportunity to be able to play at the table.

Secondly, the issue here, there are differences on the issues that are important. The judgment issue with respect to how you make America safer. Barack Obama gave I thought an extraordinarily important speech the other day. In all this hurly-burly it doesn't always get noticed, but he talked about the security gap and how really the Republicans have pursued a policy that while they talk about being strong has made America weaker; that we are more exposed, that al Qaeda is stronger, Hezbollah is stronger, Hamas is stronger, Iran is stronger. That is a failed foreign policy. It is John McCain's foreign policy. And the fact is that Barack Obama had the right judgment about Iraq from the beginning, he has the right judgment now about how you deal with Iraq, he had the right judgment about Pakistan and Afghanistan over a year ago, and very importantly Hillary Clinton and others criticized him -- let me just finish. Hillary Clinton and others criticized him for saying that you can attack somebody in Pakistan if you have actionable intelligence.

A couple of weeks ago, we knocked out the number three al Qaeda operative and everybody cheered and they did exactly what Barack Obama said we ought to do and they criticized him for it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes or no? Would he be making the right judgment if he asked Senator Clinton to run with him? Should they run as one ticket?

SEN. KERRY: Well, that's entirely -- whatever judgment he makes will be the right judgment. That's the privilege of the nominee and it's certainly one of the options available to him, and it would be terrific in a lot of people's minds. But you have to leave the nominee that option.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Senator Kerry, Governor Rendell --

GOV. RENDELL: George, can I say one thing?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: One. Thirty seconds. Go ahead.

GOV. RENDELL: One thing real quickly. Talking about Iraq, Senator Kerry mentioned Bob Casey's endorsement, but there was another bolt out of heaven -- John Murtha, the number one Democrat in taking on bringing our troops home, endorsed Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama and said Hillary Clinton is the best bet to get our troops home and get them home quickly.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is the last word for now. Gentlemen, thank you both very much.

Now for the view from John McCain's camp, we turn to the senator who spent most of his career backing Democrats for the White House.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): (From videotape.) I want Democrats to be back in the majority in Washington and elect a Democratic president in 2008.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator Joe Lieberman joins us now. You're now and independent senator from Connecticut.


MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But no one in your position has ever crossed over like this. You ran for vice president as a Democrat in 2000, ran for president as a Democrat in 2000, and now you are backing John McCain. What do you say to Democrats who say that that shows you've abandoned a lifetime of commitments?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I say that the Democratic Party changed. The Democratic Party today is not the party it was in 2000. It's not the Bill Clinton-Al Gore party which was strong internationalist, strong on defense, pro-trade, pro-reform in our domestic government. It's been effectively taken over by a small group on the left of the party that is protectionist, isolationist, and basically will -- and very, very hyper-partisan. So it pains me -- I'm a Democrat who came to the party in the era of President John F. Kennedy. It's a strange turn of the road when I find among the candidates running this year that the one in my opinion closest to the Kennedy legacy, the John F. Kennedy legacy, is John S. McCain, a reformer, somebody understands "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," and remembers the other part of the Kennedy inaugural which said that we will bear any burden, pay any price to assure the survival and sustenance of liberty as John McCain.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- (unintelligible) -- the issue of the war. But that's a big statement you've made that the Democratic Party in just the last seven years has made such a radical shift from 2000 to 2008.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: George, look at the 2000 campaign. It's quite fascinating. Al Gore really was the strong-on-defense, internationalist, stand by America's ideal in the world candidate. George Bush was not talking about increasing the military budget. He was talking about a humble foreign policy. He was saying he didn't believe in essentially nation-building in the interest of democracy and more stable allies around the world. And that's all flipped.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you've just heard Senator John Kerry talk about Barack Obama's most recent speech. He's saying, Senator Obama is saying we have to do more in Afghanistan. He's saying we should be aggressive against al Qaeda in Pakistan and that's exactly what the administration is doing right now.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, that's great to hear and I'm hopeful that when it comes to Afghanistan particularly that we can have some bipartisan movement. But honestly, the Democratic candidates have spent most of their time attacking the war in Iraq. Now, I have a difference of opinion. That's their right to do that. But they've honestly not done anything substantial to advance our cause in Afghanistan or against al Qaeda.

And I want to say something else. Iran is a threat to the peace of the world. Iranian Revolutionary Guards are training and equipping Shi'a extremists from Iraq to go back in and kill American soldiers. They have killed hundreds of American soldiers. It's an outrage. When I --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator Clinton voted for a resolution, as you did, to call that a terrorist group.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: And I give her a lot of credit for that. That's the point I want to make. In our resolution calling the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a terrorist group and urging the administration to impose economic sanctions against them, it's a no-brainer. These people are responsible for killing hundreds of American soldiers. Senator Obama voted against that. To me that was an irresponsible vote. And I give Senator Clinton credit -- she voted for it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So that would suggest that the differences aren't as great as you first said, but how about all of the other issues? Senator, you were against President Bush's tax cuts; Senator McCain is now saying they have to be permanent. You voted against Justice Alito for the Supreme Court; Senator McCain has said he and Justice Scalia are two of his models for the Supreme Court. You're against Social Security private accounts; Senator McCain says he's for them. Are you saying that the war in Iraq and these issues of national security overwhelm all of these other issues?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: No, I'm saying two things. First of all, as a matter of fact George, John McCain is not for the private accounts to take the place of Social Security. He's for what Bill Clinton used to call Social Security plus.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He disputed that in the "Wall Street Journal" this month, though.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I think that's right. But let me -- there are two reasons why I supported John McCain when I did in December and I announced it, and I now feel even more strongly about it today. One is we're a nation facing great challenges in the world, most immediately from Islamist extremism in the expression -- in the force of al Qaeda, the other terrorist groups, and Iran. John McCain understands that and is ready to approach that problem with a combination of strength and building alliances that he talked about in his speech this week.

He's also ready to be president as we face another chapter in our relations with the rest of the world, and that is the rise of great powers who we want to have peace with, but we will only have peace with if we're strong. I'm talking about Russia and China particularly.

But here's the second big reason I support John McCain. In my opinion, before we solve the problems that the American people need us to solve in Washington -- healthcare, the economy, education, global warming, Social Security, fiscal imbalance -- we have to solve a problem within the political system which is hyper-partisanship, a mud fight. I don't care what's really good for the country; I care what's good for my party. That's outrageous. Of these three candidates, the one who has the clearest record of reaching across party lines -- controversially sometimes -- to solve a problem is John McCain. And I know he will be that kind of president, and I know because of that he will win the support of the majority of independents and a lot of moderate Democrats who are sick and tired of the status quo in Washington, which is not solving their problems.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But if he comes in in this year and wins in November, he's likely to bring in other members of Congress and senators who actually disagree with all these other domestic issues that you voted -- you've had a record on for 25 years. It's going to make your agenda harder to achieve, isn't it?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I don't agree with John McCain on everything, but I agree with him on the important things. And I agree with him on the number one challenge to our political system today -- we've got to put the national interest ahead of partisan interest. We've to forget the Democrat-Republican business and remember that we are all Americans. And unless we pull together, we're not going to get this country to where all of us want it to be. So I think this is going to be a very important election, maybe the most important in my lifetime. There's definitely a Democratic trend in the country, I understand that. Probably will be reflected in votes for the House and the Senate, but when you come to president, you vote for the person. And I think toe to toe, experience to experience, national interest above all else, the guts to take on people in his own party if he disagrees with them, John McCain can and should win this election.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you name one other big issue aside from the war in Iraq, national security, where John McCain is closer to your view than the Democratic candidates?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, he's had the guts to come out and join me on climate change. That's part of why we have a chance to pass climate change. You can't do it with one party; you've got to do it with both. He actually stepped out and was much more forward leaning on immigration reform than Barack Obama or Senator Clinton -- was involved in those negotiations. He worked on the gang of 14, which saved us from having the filibuster removed, and I think at least created some grounds within which Supreme Court justices will be chosen. John McCain and I sponsored the Lobbying and Ethics Reform Bill. He was very active on that. We also sponsored the commission that created the 9/11 -- the legislation that created the 9/11 investigation commission and then passed the legislation that they recommended, which has made America more secure. So we've got a lot of agreements. We've got some disagreements, but that's the nature of our politics and this man is ready to lead this country forward.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lieberman, thanks very much. Take care of that cold.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yes. That's too much time on airplanes. Thanks, George.

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