Transcript: Sens. Durbin, Schumer on 'FOX News Sunday'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published April 21, 2008 / Fox News Sunday

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Sunday," April 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: With less than 48 hours before voters go to the polls in Pennsylvania, here is where we stand in the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Senator Obama has widened his margin in delegates after picking up several superdelegates this week, and he continues to hold a solid lead in the popular vote of more than 700,000.

Joining us to discuss the race are Senator Dick Durbin, national co- chair of the Obama campaign, who's in Illinois, and Senator Charles Schumer, a key Clinton supporter, who comes to us from New York.

Well, gentlemen, another week and another tape of a closed fundraiser. This time it's Hillary Clinton after Super Tuesday blaming her election defeats on activists coming out. Let's listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn.org didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with.

They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, Senator Schumer, generally speaking, candidates actually like activists to come out and vote. Is that what she thinks of the activist base, Senator Clinton, that they flood into caucuses and intimidate her supporters?

SCHUMER: No, not at all. I mean, MoveOn and many of these other activist groups are very, very positive for the Democratic Party. They've motivated a whole lot of people. We've increased registration. I think Hillary agrees with that.

You know, they're very vocal, and sometimes they take little shots at every one of us, and that's part of the game. But overall, we in the Clinton campaign believe they're a very positive and good thing.

WALLACE: Well, I mean, you can understand that we would have difficulty after hearing what she had to say that she was thinking that they were positive.

I want to put up again something that she said in that closed- door fundraiser. She said, "MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with."

First of all, Senator, that's incorrect. MoveOn didn't oppose the war in Afghanistan -- at least that's what they say. But is that what she thinks of the anti-war left, that they're wrong and irresponsible, that's what we're dealing with?

SCHUMER: No, I think Hillary Clinton has a very strong position of getting out of Iraq soon and quickly. I think she's allied with these groups in her view.

And as I said, you know, in the push and pull of campaigns, sometimes you get a little frustrated here and there, but overall the view of this campaign is that the activist base is very, very good. In fact, it's an antidote to some of the right-wing talk radio and other stuff that has hurt us in previous elections. We're glad it's there.

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, I don't have to tell you Clinton has been all over Obama for his comments in another closed fundraiser about people in small-town Pennsylvania being bitter and clinging to guns and religion.

What do you think of her talking about activists and blaming them for her election defeats?

DURBIN: Well, I think Senator Clinton and Senator Obama understand that this has been an extraordinary election cycle -- 250,000 newly registered Democrats in the state of Pennsylvania. We worked hard in the Obama campaign to bring them out and register them.

A hundred thousand more registered voters in the state of Indiana, dramatic increases in every state -- that's good for our party. It's good for our country.

And I think this kind of activism is really going to make a difference in the November election. When it comes to all these comments behind closed doors, we're living in this YouTube era now where almost anything can be taped and played back. That's the reality of political campaigning.

But I can tell you this. After the last debate, after all of the comments back and forth, Senator Barack Obama is not going to allow the Republican Party to define him. He is going to make it clear what he stands for, what his values are.

And when you take a look at that rally Friday night in Philadelphia, 35,000 people showed up. That's an amazing turnout, the biggest we've had in our campaign. It's an indication that he's inspiring a lot of people to get involved in politics.

WALLACE: Of course, at this point he doesn't have to worry about the Republican Party trying to define him. He has to worry about Hillary Clinton trying to define him.

Let me ask you, Senator Schumer, another question. Clinton is questioning Obama's toughness, she says, complaining about some of the hard questions that were asked in that debate this last week. Let's listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm with Harry Truman on this. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WALLACE: But in fact, Clinton and her campaign have been complaining for months about the media. Let's listen to her comments during an earlier debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time? And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious.

And if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, a new Washington Post poll out this week shows that a sizable majority of voters now feel that Clinton -- don't think that she is honest and trustworthy.

When she criticizes Obama for doing what she's been doing for months, doesn't that add to people's doubts about her honesty and trustworthiness?

SCHUMER: No, I don't think so at all, Chris. And let me just say a couple of things here. First of all, I think both campaigns -- every campaign is frustrated in a certain sense with the media, and with some good reason. You guys are interested in the new issue of the day.

So even though the average citizen cares far more about the health care plans of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and then John McCain, or the lack of one that he has, the media says, "Well, we covered that back in December. We're going for the issue du jour."

And of course, it gets magnified by the media, but the average citizen cares most about the things that make their lives better.

WALLACE: But wait a minute.

SCHUMER: Now, as for your question...

WALLACE: Senator, wait a minute. You're being very disingenuous there. I mean, Hillary Clinton, your candidate in that debate -- questions were being asked by ABC, that's true, but she piled on every time about the bitter comment, about William Ayers, about Jeremiah Wright.

I mean, she commented on all these things. Why is she talking about it if it's irrelevant?

SCHUMER: You have heard complaining about the media from all the campaigns, Democratic and Republican, and from the public at large. And that's a fact of the -- that's a fact of life, Chris.

And that is that these little tiny issues -- they may be brought up by somebody else, but the media magnifies them and plays them much longer than the public thinks -- the issue du jour of three weeks ago is forgotten about today.

And so I think what we ought to be focusing on here is specifically who can do the most for the public, who can make people's lives better.

As for the honesty question, let me tell you. I mean, I saw this happen when Hillary ran in New York for the Senate in 2000. At first, there were many, many doubts, and they threw all kinds of adjectives at her.

The longer she campaigned, the more people got to know her, the more they saw that she is somebody who cares about people, who has a great deal of integrity, who is forthright -- and that's going to come across in both this primary campaign and the general campaign.

WALLACE: Senator, I just can't let this...

SCHUMER: The more the people get to know her...

WALLACE: Senator, I just can't let this pass, though.

SCHUMER: OK.

WALLACE: I mean, ever since...

SCHUMER: Well, you know, sometimes you get criticized the way you criticize us. That's how it is.

WALLACE: That's not the point. The point is that since the debate, Hillary Clinton has been non-stop talking about how Barack Obama isn't tough, and that he was complaining. Bill Clinton said he was whining about the debate.

Now you're making it sound like they haven't said that.

SCHUMER: Well, I didn't say they hadn't said that.

WALLACE: We have two cases here. Are they supposed to believe what you say or what they hear out of their own ears?

SCHUMER: What I am saying here, Chris, is that the fundamental issues of this campaign matter far more than any of these specific little comments.

Obviously, one of the key questions here -- we know that the public at this point prefers the Democratic Party when it comes to foreign policy, when it comes to domestic policy. And we know that the Republicans are going to throw at us these diversionary nasty issues.

How you deal with them is an important issue in this campaign -- not the most important, but an important issue.

But again, 90 percent of what Hillary Clinton has been talking about is how she is going to help the average person in terms of health care, in terms of education, in terms of going after the oil companies to bring down prices.

Listen to one of her speeches in Pennsylvania. That's what 90 percent, 95 percent of it is about. But of course, the media...

WALLACE: I want to move on, Senator.

SCHUMER: ... the media chooses...

WALLACE: I want to move on, Senator, but that clip was taken from a speech this week in Pennsylvania.

SCHUMER: Oh, I know. The media...

WALLACE: But let me move on.

SCHUMER: Wait a second. Let me just finish this point.

WALLACE: Senator, let me move on...

SCHUMER: The media focuses...

WALLACE: ... since we want to talk about...

SCHUMER: The media focuses...

WALLACE: ... other issues. SCHUMER: ... on 5 percent, not on...

WALLACE: Both candidates pledged this week...

SCHUMER: ... the 95 percent.

WALLACE: Senator, I'm going to try to move on, if you'll let me.

SCHUMER: Go ahead.

WALLACE: Both candidates pledged this week not to raise taxes on middle class taxpayers, but both have talked about raising the capital gains tax. In fact, Obama has talked about almost doubling it, from 15 percent to 28 percent.

Senator Durbin, when half the tax returns reporting capital gains come from households making less than $50,000, why isn't that a considerable, substantial, middle class tax increase?

DURBIN: Chris, let me tell you what's happened here under the Bush administration. The economic policies that have brought us this recession have created such terrible income disparity -- the policies that really haven't been sensitive to the increase in costs that American families are facing, policies that really don't understand the trade agreements many times are costing us good-paying jobs right here at home.

Those are policies that are going to change when Barack Obama is in the president's position. And what he said is, "We're going to focus our tax policies on helping those who are in middle income categories, the working families who have been left behind by the Bush administration," and John McCain's embracing that same economic philosophy.

WALLACE: But, Senator, you're not answering -- if I may, sir...

DURBIN: Now, I'm getting right to your...

WALLACE: You're not answering my question, which is...

DURBIN: I'll get to your question. I'm on my way to your question.

WALLACE: ... let's talk specifically about capital gains.

DURBIN: I'm going to tell you...

WALLACE: If 50 percent of the tax returns come from taxpayers, households, making less than $50,000, how can you say that's not a middle class tax increase if you double the capital gains tax? Answer that specific question, sir.

DURBIN: Well, let me tell you, the point I was getting to, Chris, is this. Barack Obama is the first candidate running for president who said he will have a middle class tax cut. He's also said that tax increases will be measured against income, so that people who are in the lower income categories are going to have a better break than they've had under George Bush.

I'll tell you this. He wants to make sure that at the end of the day, working families, middle income families, will pay less in taxes than they are under the Bush-McCain approach to the tax code. That is the difference.

Now, you can pick out any single tax you'd like, but he is looking for the tax burden facing these working families, wants to bring it down so that they can pay for the increased costs of gasoline, and health care, and day care and food.

These are sensitivities that he has based on campaigning across Pennsylvania and all across this country.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, I generally dislike questions about how well candidates have to do in primaries, the margins of victory, but Hillary Clinton is running into some serious math here, and let's take a look at that.

If she and Obama split the 566 delegates still at stake in the remaining contest -- forget about the superdelegates -- then Obama will be within 100 of the number needed to clinch the nomination when all of the contests are done in early June.

So, Senator Schumer, how big a win does Clinton need Tuesday in Pennsylvania?

SCHUMER: Well, look. I think that she's going to do very well in Pennsylvania, and I think she's going to do better than either the polls, which have always underestimated her, or the pundits have stated.

I think she's going to have a strong win in Pennsylvania. I think she's going to win in Indiana. And I think that she has momentum, and you're going to see people saying Hillary Clinton is the best candidate to both beat John McCain -- you look at her. She won Ohio. She's way ahead in the polls in Florida.

My guess is she'll win Pennsylvania by a significant amount. These are the key states that matter.

WALLACE: What's a significant margin? Double digits?

SCHUMER: Well, I'm not going to get into the choosing of numbers here. I think she's going to win by more than people think.

WALLACE: Well, people generally are talking 5 percent. More than that, five points?

SCHUMER: Well, again, as I told you, more than people think.

WALLACE: Well, we don't know what people think.

Senator Durbin, is any victory good enough for Clinton, or does she have to win by a certain kind of margin?

DURBIN: Well, the math is very unforgiving at this point when it comes to delegate counts, and that's what it's all about.

At this point, Senator Clinton needs more than 60 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania. When Barack Obama went into that state -- and he's campaigned in every state. He hasn't been picking and choosing. He's gone in every state.

When he went into Pennsylvania, Senator Clinton had a 60 percent lead over him, and then -- I should say 60 percent total. And then, of course, she had the support of Governor Ed Rendell, who's a terrific organizer and a great Democratic leader.

But if you look at the remaining contests, you understand that the Clinton campaign is running out of real estate. There are only a handful of states left. She needs over 60 percent of the vote in each one of them to catch up with Barack Obama.

WALLACE: So are you setting that as a marker, that she has to get 60 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania?

DURBIN: Well, I'm telling you that if you just do the math of what she needs to catch up with the lead that Barack Obama has put together all across the United States, he has the overwhelming majority of states that he's won. He's won more primaries, more caucuses. He has more elected delegates. He has a higher popular vote. We've campaigned across the country in every state.

And now for Senator Clinton to have a viable chance for the nomination, she needs over 60 percent of the vote in every remaining contest.

WALLACE: So will you say what people think, Senator Schumer? Senator Durbin says that she needs 60 percent. Is she going to beat what that person thinks?

SCHUMER: Well, let me say I think she has momentum. She has shown herself to be really forward and, you know, indefatigable. She falls down and gets right back up. And this race is a neck-and-neck race right now.

Barack Obama has had several chances to put it away. He hasn't. It's very close. I think everyone's watching for two things -- who has the best chance of beating John McCain -- I think that's Hillary Clinton -- and who has the best chance of being a good president.

And I think while both of them would be good presidents, I think that Hillary Clinton has a better chance, and that's what the public is focusing on. That's why she keeps moving forward, and that's why this race is neck and neck.

In Pennsylvania she's ahead even though Obama has spent about 2.5 times what she has on television.

WALLACE: Senator, we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Schumer, Senator Durbin, thank you both so much. It's always interesting. And we'll see how the world turns on Tuesday night.

SCHUMER: Thanks.

DURBIN: Thanks a lot.

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