Transcript: Robert Gibbs on 'FOX News Sunday'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published August 24, 2008 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a partial transcript of the Aug. 24, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And, Mr. Gibbs, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."

ROBERT GIBBS: Thank you for having me, Chris.

WALLACE: Take us behind the scenes. How did Barack Obama make this choice?

GIBBS: Well, look. I think this choice says a lot about the judgment of Senator Obama. He went through a very methodical, pragmatic process. He listened to a lot of people. He talked to each of these candidates several times and came to what I think was a very good choice.

He picked somebody who has unparalleled expertise on foreign policy, somebody who will help him rebuild the economy, put people back to work, make our country independent of energy.

But I think, you know, Senator Joe Biden's personal story has been tested many, many times by personal crises. He's somebody that works in Washington but doesn't live there, and I think that says a lot about him — doesn't forget where he's from. I think it says a lot about who he picked.

We're comfortable with our pick. We had a lot of great choices and we talked to a lot of different people. But I think we settled on a great pick and a great partnership to bring about change in this country.

WALLACE: I'm going to ask a question, and while I do, you can work on your earpiece and try and get it in.

GIBBS: Yes, thank you.

WALLACE: I want to show you a recent poll, and it found that on the question, "Who offers hope for the future," Obama beats McCain 54 percent to 19 percent. But on the question, "Who would be a better commander in chief," McCain beats Obama 53 percent to 25 percent.

In that sense, was part of the calculation voters have a concern about Obama's experience, about the — the amount of time he has, and is he ready to be commander in chief, and Joe Biden helps you in that area?

GIBBS: Well, look. I think — I think Senator Biden, again, has unparalleled foreign policy experience. And I think if you look at not just what was said yesterday by Democrats about this pick, but look what was said by Republicans.

Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chuck Hagel, an unparalleled expert on defense policy, Senator Arlen Specter, another Republican, this time from Pennsylvania all spoke very highly of the choice of Joe Biden.

Look, I think what you have together is two people that have the judgment to lead this country, the judgment and the experience. And I think it will make a big difference in the fall. We're very happy with our pick. We think — again, unparalleled foreign policy experience.

WALLACE: But what about change? Joe Biden has actually been in the halls of Congress 10 years longer than John McCain has. So this whole message about change, we're going to shake up the way things are done in Washington — doesn't that go out the window?

GIBBS: No, because again, as I said to you earlier, Joe Biden works in Washington but he doesn't live there. He goes — every night, he goes home on an Amtrak train, where he knows the names of the conductors, to his wife and family in Delaware.

I think he's somebody who never has forgotten where he's from. He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He's never forgot that middle- class background. You know, he's — and, Chris, he knows how many houses he owns. So I think he's a down-to-earth kind of guy.

I think he — again, I think you've got a ticket that says a lot about change in this country because both of these candidates understand, and they've understood for a long time, we can't have four more years of the same George Bush, John McCain policies that have led this country into the direction that we're in now.

WALLACE: All right. I've got another long question, so...

GIBBS: Maybe when I try the other ear...

WALLACE: We have the soap opera of the earplug.

As we discussed with the governors, Biden has a long string of statements that have been critical of Obama, and I want to go through some of those with you.

After Obama voted against funding for our forces in Iraq, Biden said, "I wasn't prepared to play chicken with the lives of American troops." When Biden (sic) said he would attack Al Qaida in Pakistan if the government there didn't, Biden said, "It's a very naive way of thinking how you're going to conduct foreign policy."

And I want you to take a look at this next piece of sound where Biden seems to echo McCain, that sometimes Obama puts his own political gain over national security. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Lives are at stake, and I knew the right political vote. But I tell you what, some things are worth losing elections over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Mr. Gibbs, your running mate is on the record repeatedly questioning Obama's experience and his judgment.

GIBBS: Look, I think what — if you look — obviously, you can pull up a lot of quotes from August when these two guys were running against each other.

But what — I think what you have — and if you look at the statements just recently, Joe Biden says John McCain has the judgment — I'm sorry, that Barack Obama has the judgment, the intellect and the spine of steel to lead this country in a different direction.

There's no question about that. I think what you have is unparalleled experience now, a call for change. And look, the person that's behind the times on Iraq right now is one person in this country, it's John McCain, because the government in Iraq, quite frankly, the government in the United States, the Bush White House, and Senator Obama, have all talked about this idea that we have to responsibly withdraw our troops from Iraq, to redeploy some of those troops to Afghanistan, the central front on the war on terror.

Everybody's agreed to that except John McCain, who — the only person that I know of that thinks we should leave our troops there indefinitely.

WALLACE: But Joe Biden at one point wanted to break the country into three separate parts. I mean, the Iraqis hated that idea. And clearly, that hasn't worked. And at the time, Obama said that was a bad idea.

GIBBS: Well, you know, we've tried a lot of different strategies. But I think these two candidates — these two candidates know one thing, that we cannot continue on the same path in this country economically, in our foreign policy, whether it's in Iraq, where our military is overstretched and we're spending $10 billion to $12 billion a month, even as the Iraqis have a surplus.

We can't do more of the same in Afghanistan, where the Taliban in the hills between Pakistan and Afghanistan are flourishing. We can't do more of the same.

We can't do more of the same in terms of jobs and our economy. That's why I think what you have now is a ticket that's going to bring about change in this country, and it's change versus more of the same. It's a very simple concept.

WALLACE: The other issue, and let's be honest about it, is Joe Biden talks too much. He was known during the John Roberts Supreme Court hearing for asking what many believe to be the single longest question in the history of the Senate.

Has Obama or has someone on your staff talked to Joe about keeping it quiet?

GIBBS: Look, I think — I think if you ask Joe Biden, on occasion he's asked long questions. I think he'd probably plead guilty to that.

WALLACE: I can tell you as a Sunday show host, he also gives long answers.

GIBBS: Well, I think that may be something that a lot of them are guilty of. But look, I think, Chris — look, we didn't hire him for his stunning good looks. We hired him for his judgment to lead this country if something happens to Barack Obama, and the judgment and the advice that he'll give the next president of the United States, and we think we've got a fabulous pick.

We've got somebody who hasn't forgotten where they're from and somebody who can help rebuild this country.

WALLACE: Mr. Gibbs, why wasn't Hillary Clinton ever interviewed about being the running mate?

GIBBS: Well, look, I'm not going to get into the process of how these — how these guys were picked. We're fortunate to have the support of Hillary Clinton. She's worked with both of these candidates in the United States Senate, and she's picked the one candidate...

WALLACE: But when she gets 18 million votes, she doesn't at least deserve an interview?

GIBBS: No, no, look, again, I'm not going to get into the process. Senator Obama had a great conversation with Senator Clinton this week as well as former president Bill Clinton. Everybody's on board.

And it's going to drive the media crazy when we come out of this convention united. That's what this pick is. We're going to have united convention. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, everybody that ran for this office is going to be united to bring...

WALLACE: Well, you talk about that, but the McCain campaign has put out a new ad trying to pour more gasoline, more fuel, on the fire of the Clintons, and let's take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: She won millions of votes but isn't on his ticket. Why? For speaking the truth.

H. CLINTON: Senator Obama's campaign has become increasingly negative.

NARRATOR: The truth hurt, and Obama didn't like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Why shouldn't Clinton supporters be angry?

GIBBS: Look, I think Clinton supporters are united in the thing that unites all of the people in this convention. We need change. We can't have more of the same.

I think it's a better question that's directed to the McCain campaign. They know that that ad is demonstrably false. They know that Hillary Clinton is supporting Barack Obama.

WALLACE: Well, wait a minute. She didn't get an interview. She didn't get consulted on the pick. She had 18 million supporters. A lot of them are still mad. You've got this Wall Street Journal poll that shows only 52 percent now support Obama. I don't have to tell you the party is not united.

GIBBS: Well, let's be honest, Chris. The Washington Post and ABC came out with a poll today that shows more than — that shows 70 percent of Hillary Clinton voters supporting Barack Obama, the highest watermark since she suspended her campaign in June.

There's no question that people have — people had strong feelings about their nominee. We had a race that was unparalleled, virtually, in this party. We went from beginning to end.

We have the strongest party. We have the most enthusiastic voters. Look, I think — I think the process that went on was a fair process that came up with as good a pick and the best pick that we could possibly get.

I'm interested in seeing how John McCain conducts this process. And I think it's going to be illuminating about the type of leader he's going to be.

You know, we spent a lot of this last week hearing the McCain campaign float the notion of a pro-choice vice presidential candidate, despite the fact that John McCain is going to accept the nomination and a platform that he supports and doesn't support abortion even in the cases of rape and incest.

Now, if you're going to go on T.V. and call yourself the original maverick, but when you turn on that radio in the afternoon and Rush Limbaugh says, "John McCain, you're not going to pick a pro-choice vice president," it's going to be very illuminating to see whether we're going to get John McCain — the John McCain you see on T.V. or the John McCain that listens to Rush Limbaugh and gets right back in line with the right.

And I think it's going to be an illuminating pick, because you're either going to see the John McCain that he plays on T.V. or the John McCain that he plays in this election.

WALLACE: Finally — and this, your last answer, plays right into it — Obama and the campaign have gone sharply negative against McCain. I want to show you a clip from last year and then one of your ads from last week. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have come to represent in the minds of some turning a new page and getting beyond the slash-and-burn, very tactical politics that we've become accustomed to in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Call it country club economics. How many houses does he own? John McCain says he can't even remember anymore. Well, it's seven. No wonder McCain just said the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Mr. Gibbs, isn't Obama now practicing the kind of slash-and-burn tactical politics that he used to condemn?

GIBBS: Absolutely not. I think it's a legitimate issue, Chris, when you...

WALLACE: So he's running for president, to talk about how many houses John McCain has?

GIBBS: Well, somebody's got to talk about how many houses John McCain has, because he either forgot how many he has, misplaced the keys to those houses, or he just wasn't being truthful with those reporters.

That answer illuminates whether or not you're in touch with that family in Youngstown, Ohio or Scranton that's struggling to make that mortgage payment just this month. And I think you're out of touch if you have seven houses and don't even remember it or can't even admit it.

WALLACE: Mr. Gibbs, we want to thank you for sharing a very busy Sunday with us. We'll see you around the convention hall the next few days.

GIBBS: Thank you, sir. Nice to be with you.

WALLACE: Thanks for coming on.

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