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Transcript: Sens. Feinstein and Durbin on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 02, 2008 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the March 2, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington. Well, we've had a number of make or break moments in this Democratic presidential campaign — New Hampshire, Super Tuesday 1 and now Super Tuesday 2.
The question: Whether voting in Texas and Ohio this week will finally determine who wins the nomination. For answers, we turn to two Senate colleagues and supporters — Dick Durbin, who is national co-chair of the Obama campaign — he comes to us from Springfield, Illinois — and California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who's supporting Clinton.
Senators, Welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Thank you very much. Thank you.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: Good to be with you.
WALLACE: let's start with Hillary Clinton's latest and perhaps toughest T.V. commercial in which she basically says she's ready to be commander in chief and Barack Obama isn't. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, do you agree with Clinton that she is ready and tested to be president and Obama isn't?
FEINSTEIN: Well, the way you put it — I know Hillary is ready and tested. I've known her for 15 years. I've watched her carefully. I've talked with her socially. I've watched her in committees, her service on Armed Services, the fact she's endorsed by more than three dozen flag officers.
I think she knows her stuff, and I think she knows the world, and I think knowing the world right now is extraordinarily important. Yes, I believe she is ready for a 3:00 a.m. phone call, and I don't believe Iraq was a 3:00 a.m. phone call.
Iraq was essentially a considered judgment that was made, rightly or wrongly. It was a considered judgment. It was discussed on the floor of the Senate. It wasn't a missile on the way to the shores of the United States at 3:00 in the morning.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about that. Could you give me one example where Senator Clinton has had to answer a 3:00 a.m. phone call and handle a crisis?
FEINSTEIN: Obviously not in that sense, Chris. You know that. She has never been commander in chief, nor has Senator Obama, nor has Senator McCain.
WALLACE: But she's the one saying she's ready and tested to handle that phone call.
FEINSTEIN: Well, she's been tested by the anvil of a White House for eight years, of going to some 80-plus countries, of serving on the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate...
WALLACE: But, forgive me, I mean, that's...
FEINSTEIN: ... of traveling to Iraq.
WALLACE: That's being first lady or a senator. That doesn't mean she's ready or tested to handle a phone call, an emergency with a split-second decision at 3:00 a.m.
FEINSTEIN: I disagree with you. I think it means she is. It's the best experience anybody could possibly have that has not been a president of the United States.
WALLACE: All right.
Let's look at how Obama answered that attack ad. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We've seen these ads before. They're usually the kind that play upon people's fears and try to scare up votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Durbin, do you agree with Senator Obama that Clinton is fear-mongering?
DURBIN: Well, it does, of course, strike a note of concern and fear about what might happen. And you know, the basic question is not whether the president can wipe the sleep out of his or her eyes and think clearly, but the judgment that they'll use once that phone call is understood.
And I think that Senator Obama has met that test. I remember one of those moments in the Senate. It was almost 2:00 a.m. on October 11, 2002, and that's when we were called on to vote as to whether to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq.
There were many senators who decided at that time to give the president the authority. Barack Obama said clearly he would not. His judgment was right at that critical moment in history. And I think it's judgment that people are looking for.
So if you're asking me whether I want him to be there in a position to take that call and to use his judgment, I think he's been tested, and I think he's proven that he's used the right judgment on one of the most important foreign policy decisions in recent history.
WALLACE: Let's look at the latest numbers from the key states on Tuesday. The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls in Texas shows Obama with a slim lead. It's actually less than 1 percent, one point. Meanwhile, in Ohio, Clinton has a slightly bigger lead of four points.
Both campaigns — and let me start with you, Senator Feinstein — say that their opponent has to win both states on Super Tuesday 2. Who's right?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't think anybody's right. I think we have to wait and see how this plays out. There's been a lot of talk — well, if Senator Clinton loses this state, she should kind of pack it in. I disagree with that. I think she should stay in the race. Her candidacy...
WALLACE: Even if she loses both...
FEINSTEIN: Her candidacy is extraordinarily important. If ever a qualified woman could hold the presidency of the United States, this is the qualified woman.
And for those of us that are part of "a woman need not apply" generation that goes back to the time I went out to get my first job following college and a year of graduate work, this is an extraordinarily critical race.
And I hope she stays the course and stays in it. And then we count up the delegate votes and we make a decision.
WALLACE: You talk about women. Do you think there's been gender bias in this campaign?
FEINSTEIN: I do. I do. I read the newspapers. I read a lot of newspapers. I read a lot of columns. I'm amazed at the number that are spent on really picayune things about Senator Clinton — her hair, her suits.
And I think some of this just drives toward the insecurity of having a woman running for this office. If anyone is qualified to run for this office, Chris, Senator Clinton is — eight years in the White House. Sure, it's first lady. I know that.
You know Hillary. You know her interest in policy. You know her care and concern about people. And most important, right now I think it's the economy and her knowledge of what's happened to the middle class in the last eight years and how you mend that and bring people up into becoming economically upwardly mobile.
That's what we should be talking about, instead of — I read a lot of stuff which is really irrelevant to the kind of president she will be, and I think some of it is driven by the fact that it's easy to hit at a woman.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about both aspects of this, Senator Durbin. First of all, do you think that there's gender bias? Do you think that it's easy to hit at a woman?
And how do you feel? Do you think that Clinton should continue in this race if she loses both states, Ohio and Texas, on Tuesday?
DURBIN: Well, two very big and very important questions. First, I'm so proud of our Democratic Party. Let's be very honest.
We have two extremely extraordinarily qualified candidates, and either one of them will make history as the first African American president or the first woman president of the United States. And both of them have faced discrimination in the course of their personal and political lives.
In terms of whether Senator Clinton has faced some bias because she's a woman, of course she has. All of us who have worked hard to bring women into politics — and Dianne knows this personally — know the struggle that they faced even with other women in convincing people of their fitness.
But secondly, understand that African Americans have also faced many, many burdens and obstacles, and Barack Obama has been facing that during the course of this campaign.
Some of the rumors — and I know Dianne is well aware of them; we've talked about them on the Senate floor — about Senator Obama are vicious and negative and totally false. And they are abounding across the Internet. Many of them leak into some of these reports and the like, these blogs, and even journalism that should be more discerning.
Let me just go to the point, the bottom line point, in terms of what Senator Clinton should do. She's an extraordinary person. I respect her very much. And if she's the nominee, I'll support her wholeheartedly.
But my choice is Barack Obama, and I hope that both of these candidates will look honestly at where we stand today. On Tuesday, 370 delegates will be decided. At the end of the night, we need to do an honest calculation — who came out ahead in these four states, who didn't.
And if there's ground to be gained, it has to be gained by Senator Clinton if she's going to move toward the nomination. She's 161 delegates behind going into Tuesday. How many of those delegates will she make up on Tuesday?
After Tuesday, only 611 elected delegates remain to be chosen. And if she is going to win after Tuesday, she needs extraordinary percentages to be the winner and nominee — almost 62 percent of all the remaining delegates, if, in fact, there's no measurable change on Tuesday. That's an extraordinary hurdle.
She has only had that type of margin in one state so far, the state of Arkansas. Barack Obama has double-digit wins in about 18 states so far. So it says that she has a lot of ground to cover. And I just hope ultimately she makes an honest appraisal of her chances.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about this, Senator Durbin, in a less mathematical way. We saw this week Senator Clinton question Obama's, either directly or indirectly, fitness to be president, to say he's been missing in action on the Senate floor.
Her campaign is urging reporters to investigate Obama's relationship with the indicted businessman Tony Rezko. If she decides to stay in the race past Tuesday, and this is assuming that she doesn't win both states decisively, does that hurt Obama as a general election candidate in November?
DURBIN: Well, of course, we would like to see the party come together, heal and focus on winning in November, and both Senators Clinton and Obama have said from the beginning that's our ultimate goal.
Whatever decision is made by Senator Clinton, I hope it serves that goal. She, of course, has the right to make this choice herself with her family and her closest supporters.
But I hope that her decision on her future after Tuesday is made in the interest of unity of our party and ultimately winning in November.
And let me just say that some of the charges that have been made in the closing days of this hard-fought campaign, of course, have been tough on both sides.
In terms of Barack Obama's fitness to be president of the United States, I probably know him better than any other elected official. We've stood side by side in Illinois for several years as senators. I've watched every single vote on the floor.
It's true he hasn't been there as much as he ran for president, but that's also true of Senator Clinton. We expect them to campaign vigorously across the country for the highest office in the land, and it's hard to make every committee hearing if you keep that promise.
WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Feinstein.
If Clinton does not pick up sizable number of delegates on Tuesday, really begin to close this gap of more than 100 delegates between Clinton and Obama, don't you have any concern that by staying in the race Clinton is weakening, hurting, the eventual nominee of your party?
FEINSTEIN: Look, this is not an also-ran candidate. Hillary Clinton is a major candidate. She has every right to stay in the race if she chooses to do so.
WALLACE: I'm not asking you whether she has the right. Obviously, she has the right. But you know, she said some things that hurt Obama this week. Fine. It's a campaign.
At a certain point, does it make sense to continue bringing up and trying to weaken — raising questions about the presumptive nominee?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't believe she will do this. I believe that she will be constructive. She always has been constructive on the campaign trail.
Some people believe she's taken too much the positive and not enough the negative. Hillary Clinton's campaign has basically been a very positive campaign.
WALLACE: Do you think it was positive for her campaign to say investigate Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko?
FEINSTEIN: I don't know who said what in that...
FEINSTEIN: ... and I don't know what the relationship is, so I'm not going to comment on that.
WALLACE: Howard Wilson, a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign, in a conference call said there are a dozen questions that haven't been answered about Rezko and Obama.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that may well be true. I don't know. But I think that's not this campaign. This campaign is about the future of America.
And I think Hillary has spent a lot of time on health care, a lot of time on education, a lot of time of what she would do to improve this economy, to make the middle class economically upwardly mobile, to deal with this housing crisis of the subprime marketplace that we're in.
I mean, this woman has put through — put forward major policy initiatives to effect change in a way that it means something, in a way that it's much more than a speech, in a way that it conditions the thinking of the people of this nation, and in a way which gives those of us in the United States Senate the opportunity to really back a president.
WALLACE: Senator Durbin — and we have less than a minute left — if Clinton doesn't win Ohio and Texas decisively on Tuesday, do you expect a lot of pressure from party leaders on her to drop out?
DURBIN: Listen, there won't be pressure on Senator Clinton because all of us respect her and her family and what they brought to America and to the Democratic party.
But I hope that there's an honest appraisal of her chances to win the nomination after Tuesday. And having made that appraisal, I hope that — and only she can make this decision. I hope she'll understand that we need to bring our party together and prepare for a victory in November, which is the ultimate goal.
She's waged a very vigorous and good campaign. I agree with Senator Feinstein. But look where Senator Obama's come from, so far behind in the national polls, 20 points, now leading in the delegates, now leading in the national polls. It is a dramatic surge of an underdog candidate.
And I think it shows that he really has struck a responsive chord across America, not just with Democrats, but with independents and even Republicans who are crossing over to join our party.
I think this is a movement whose time has come, that can really bring leadership to America to unify us and start solving some of the problems in Washington.
Senator Feinstein knows, as I do, how frustrating it is in the Senate to see issues like turning the economy around and health care for Americans frustrated by this partisan sniping, filibusters that just won't end.
We need an end to that, and that's Senator Obama's message.
WALLACE: Senator Durbin, I don't know if Obama's time has come, but our time for a commercial has come. We want to thank you both so much for talking with us, and we'll see whether or not this Tuesday settles anything. Thank you both.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Chris.
Chris will sit down with Green Party Presidential Nominee Dr Jill Stein, to discuss her controversial push for a presidential election recount in several states.