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MSNBC "Road to the Whitehouse with David Gregory" Interview - Transcript


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MSNBC "Road to the Whitehouse with David Gregory" Interview

MR. GREGORY: Senator John McCain is taking heat for picking first-term governor from Alaska Sarah Palin, the campaign now admitting that he had only met with Palin a handful of times before choosing her as his running mate. Is McCain's message, "A leader you can believe in," now in question?

Facing off tonight on who's winning the leadership argument, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota -- and every time I see you, especially when I'm here in Minnesota, I want to say, ("Oh, for cute" ?). How about that? Pretty good, huh?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: (Inaudible) -- but we are very nice here in Minnesota, as the congressman from New York has noticed.

MR. GREGORY: That's right -- and Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.

Welcome, both.

REP. KING: I think the people here are too nice. (Inaudible.)

MR. GREGORY: No way. They're great.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: (Inaudible.)

MR. GREGORY: Obama running mate Senator Joe Biden fielded questions on this question of Sarah Palin today at a town hall in Florida. Listen to what he said.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE, Democratic vice presidential nominee): (From videotape.) There's no reason not to respect her and believe she's qualified to be the vice president. I'm not going to make that judgment. That's the people -- for you all to make. I just simply -- I'm being completely honest with you. I know people worry about Biden style answering the question. But the truth is, I simply don't know. And I take her on face value. She's a governor. That's no mean feat. And she seems to have a strong personal story.

MR. GREGORY: I understand you had a hard time hearing; to both of you, Senator Biden saying that she appears to be, you know, capable, ready to lead, being governor no mean feat, but it's going to be up to the voters to decide whether she's in a position to be commander in chief.

Congressman, let me start with you on the question surrounding whether McCain did his homework on this selection. Are you confident, based on what has developed, that America knows everything it needs to know about her and that, more importantly, the McCain campaign knows everything about her that may prevent them from finding something disqualifying?

REP. KING: Well, first of all, if you're talking about the two issues that have come out, I don't consider that significant to the race. I have faith in Senator McCain's judgment. Certainly the impression she made when she first appeared on Friday has been very good.

But I agree; she does have the burden to show that she has the qualifications to be vice president and ultimately president. I'm confident she can do that, but it's going to be her burden over the next nine weeks to get that done. I think she'll do it. I think, beginning tomorrow night or Thursday night, whenever the final date is for her speaking, I think she'll do a very good job.

And people I know who know her think she's very able, very capable. And certainly she has a dynamic personality and a very interesting and very good life story. And women I've spoken to in my district, not necessarily the traditional Republican women, seem very intrigued by her. So I think it's a home run right now, but it's a tough race.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Klobuchar, you've called the choice impulsive.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Well, you know, we welcome her to this race. And the concern I have is this meeting one time when it's really the first test of John McCain as a presidential candidate in terms of who does he pick; how does he do it.

Senator Obama interviewed many people. He had a very thoughtful process. And this concerns me that this was so last-minute. I mean, I've interviewed summer law clerks for longer times than this. And I'm very concerned that he would go about it (in a process ?). And this is not to at all take away from her accomplishments and what she's done. But as Walter Mondale -- and, you know, this is the home of vice presidents, Minnesota; our moms bounce their babies on their knees and say, "One day you can grow up to be vice president" -- but I'm just concerned that there wasn't --

MR. GREGORY: All right, you think it was impulsive. But if the question goes to experience, she's been governor of a state. Barack Obama doesn't have any executive experience. Why is he any more prepared than she is to lead, particularly on foreign policy matters?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Barack Obama has been a leader in this country. I'm a new person in the Senate. I saw first-hand -- I wasn't out of my driveway driving to Washington with my family when he didn't call me to talk about getting that ethics bill passed. And it was one of the first things we passed in the Senate. It wouldn't have happened without him.

You go through his career in the Illinois legislature, everything he's done, he's been a leader. He's shown good judgment. And that, in the end, is what this is about. And I think picking a vice presidential candidate --

MR. GREGORY: Has she shown poor judgment?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: -- in one meeting --

MR. GREGORY: Has she shown poor judgment?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: We don't know. America has to do its homework. We have 63 days and we have just met this woman.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you --

REP. KING: If we're talking about leadership and judgment, I mean, Senator Obama based his campaign against the war in Iraq, and yet he never took the time to meet with David Petraeus -- never spoke to him, never met with him during the whole time the surge was going on.

Also, he said that the key battleground is in Afghanistan, yet he's chairman of a subcommittee and never held a hearing on Afghanistan. So we can go back and forth on this. The fact is, it's up to Governor Palin to prove that she is qualified.

I think she is. I think the American people will determine that too.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Barack Obama was ahead of his time, David, on the war. He said that he was concerned about this war, $12 billion a month on this war. And obviously the world knows he met with General David Petraeus when he was in Iraq just recently.

REP. KING: But he made his decisions on the war and opposed the surge without ever meeting the general on the ground who was going to be coordinating that surge.

MR. GREGORY: Let me move on, Congressman. As we talk about this week, after what we've seen in Denver, and particularly Barack Obama's speech in Invesco Field where he said pointedly, "If this is about change, you've got to ask the question, who do you trust to change the country if you don't like the direction it's headed?" What's at the top of his to-do list here for you as a Republican?

REP. KING: John McCain?


REP. KING: Is to demonstrate that he has a leadership ability to move the country forward, that he recognizes the problems facing us overseas, the problems facing us domestically, and just to show that he has the ability to lead. He will show it. I'm not concerned. John has nothing to prove to me. I supported him back in 2000, so I strongly support John McCain.

MR. GREGORY: Is George Bush going to hurt him?

REP. KING: No. This is John McCain's party. It's -- and he's moving forward with his choice of the vice president. This is going to be his convention, his party. And just like Al Gore ran away from Bill Clinton in 2000 -- (inaudible) -- people vote as to who's the top of the ticket and who's the candidate.

MR. GREGORY: Quick response?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: I think, as someone said at our convention, we need someone who's going to look out for Barney Smith and not Smith Barney. George Bush has had eight years in office. John McCain voted with him 90 percent of the time. This country can't afford to take a 10 percent risk on getting change. We need someone that wants to move this country in a new direction. That's Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

MR. GREGORY: We'll leave it there. Thanks to both of you, Senator Klobuchar, Congressman King.

REP. KING: And I agree that people in Minnesota are nice.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: People in Minnesota are great. They welcome you with open arms.

MR. GREGORY: Absolutely.

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