This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," April 2, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: That wasn't the only controversy of the day. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the former president met privately with California super delegates before the state convention last weekend when the subject of Bill Richardson's endorsement came up.
The paper reports, "It was as if someone had pulled a pin from a grenade. Clinton exploded. His face got red. He launched into a tirade about the media's treatment of Hillary and the calls for her to drop out of the race. Then, in typical Bill Clinton fashion, spoke publicly a short time later and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are strengthening the Democratic Party. Chill out. We're going to win this election if we just chill out and let everybody have their say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Joining us now with more on both these stories, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf and GOPAC chair, FOX News contributor Michael Steele.
Michael, what do you think?
MICHAEL STEELE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This was an interesting day. What I've come to realize with the — President Clinton — is that he's engaging in the politic of the personal. This has become very personal for him in so many respects. And I think it's becoming harder and harder for him as he sees Barack skirt by every form of assault that comes after him. It's beginning, I think, to take its toll.
And I thought his comments, again, are reflective of his reaction to this personal aspect of politics for him as it pertains to his wife.
HANNITY: Michael, first of all, you know, when he says, "If I had to make a prediction right now," and this is a Hillary supporter. He's predicting that Barack Obama would be the next president.
HANNITY: And then his comment about race. For white Americans, it's like this guy can speak. If you put him on a level of a lot of other African-American public speakers, he may not measure up. Should Hillary distance herself from him?
STEELE: No. I don't think so. I mean, I think that's a fair comment. I mean, you can compare and contrast his speaking style and his approach to a Dr. King or any number of noted speakers out there, black, white, or otherwise.
I mean, I think — you know, what Barack has been able to do is to make words work for him. So the style of it is not so much, you know, getting into the Reverend Wright type of presentation. He doesn't have to do because the words, in and of themselves, are making his case.
HANNITY: All right, Steve, you're the Democrat. What do you think?
STEVE ELMENDORF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, I think too much is made about Bill Clinton and his spirited defense of his wife. I mean, he's a spouse. And you know, Michelle Obama will do the same thing about her husband Barack, and Elizabeth Edwards is spirited in defending her husband.
HANNITY: Yes, but if he's behind the scenes melting down. You've got to admit he's been very, very — he's been negative for her in this campaign. You admit that.
ELMENDORF: Everybody likes to over cover him because he's the former president of the United States.
But we have to remember he is the husband. And this is his wife and he feels very strongly about her campaign.
HANNITY: Alright. Ari Fleischer, he's got to also be presidential, no?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I agree with Steve on this. I think typically, people exaggerate people's tempers and politics, especially when they go off in a closed room. And it is his wife. And he's entitled to that.
But waht I'm mostly worried about, frankly, is somebody saying that 99.99 percent of the American people won't know where Barack Obama stands. I think it's a reflection that the Democrats actually are a little bit worried that he is so ideologically liberal that they don't want the race to be about Barack Obama's record and his positions. They want it to be about his charisma. That's not good enough.
HANNITY: Let me — let me add to this. This is just breaking. Apparently ABC News and George Stephanopoulos are reporting here that former President Clinton is making very direct arguments and Senator Clinton. Two Democratic superdelegates starkly insisting that Barack Obama cannot win a general election. This is just — just breaking now.
FLEISCHER: Well, that's exactly what the Clintons need to be saying if they have any hope. The only way Hillary can beat Barack Obama at this stage is for her to get hot at the end, win eight of 10, nine out of ten of the remaining primaries, which is hard to do, not impossible. Maybe she'll get seven out of 10, be hot and then be the only one who can beat John McCain. And therefore, the super delegates say, "What are we going to do? We have no choice but to go with Hillary."
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, about this...
FLEISCHER: That's a hard mountain to climb, though.
COLMES: Hey, guys. Thanks for doing the show. About this temper stuff, I'm so glad, Ari, that John McCain doesn't have a temper. So we don't have to ...
FLEISCHER: Alan, I didn't go there. I didn't say I didn't have a problem with what Bill Clinton did and said on that. I think that's fine.
COLMES: I think what you said was accurate. I mean, you know, he's just a guy defending his wife. And you know, we make too much. He's looked at with a fine-tooth comb and a microscope.
Let me go to Michael Steele on this, because there's a lot more that Emanuel Cleaver said, as I listen to more of that interview with CBC. He said whites look at Obama and think they have the chance to get the bogeyman of race behind them, as if, what, white guilt about the way they have treated blacks for years will finally be eased. If we could just pull that lever for Barack Obama and erase whatever guilt, residual or otherwise, we might have.
That's a pretty damning statement, isn't it, about white people's motives for voting for Barack Obama?
STEELE: Well, I think — I mean, I think — yes, you can say with respect to a gross generalization. But there are aspects, particularly within the liberal community, where that is very much the case. I have had this conversation with a number of my friends, black, white, conservative and liberal.
And I think — I think it's just a phenomenon of this campaign that has led to some of the frustration that we've seen manifested on the Clinton side, that they can't really pull this race into a conversation, where the press and everyone else will actually examine the record of a two-term state Senator who claims he wants to be the next president of the United States.
COLMES: Do we ever, Steve, know much about anybody before they're president? George W. Bush did not have a strong record. They had not legislative record. He was governor of a gubernatorial state...
STEELE: I get what — I get where you're going, Alan, but this is the point. George Bush had served a full term as governor of the state. He had executive experience. You can talk about whether it was foreign policy.
But he had executive leadership. He had — he had to figure out how to deal with the budget. He had to make hard choices about how to take care of the homeless as well as to spur business. So that — that's an environment Barack has never been in.
COLMES: None of the candidates — none of the candidates running now have had — are executives. They're all senators. So Steve, that applies to everybody all across the board here seeking the nomination of the various parties.
STEELE: But on that totem pole he is very much at the bottom of it.
COLMES: Let me get — so you're — Steve, what about that? Well, he has a number of years as a state legislature before being a state Senator, a national Senator. Steve, let me get you in here. Go ahead.
ELMENDORF: Well, I think one of the reasons why I think that this has been good that this campaign has been going on as long as it has is we've had a chance to see Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton under the lights, fully performing, going back and forth at each other. I think that's going to be god for the Democratic Party.
And you know, frankly, all these surrogates, I've got to tell you, all these campaigns got too many surrogates getting too much coverage. And a lot of them just should shut up.
COLMES: There is a double standard, by the way, Michael, because...
STEELE: That sounds like a Beckel comment.
COLMES: When this — when this guy, Cleaver, says Obama seems articulate to whites. You know, when Joe Biden calls him articulate, of course, that's not acceptable, but Cleaver can do it and it's OK, right?
STEELE: Well, no. I think, you know, that's all — those little swords that you've got to deal with. When a white person says a certain thing or a black person — a black person saying a certain thing.
And it just goes to me for the fundamental point: race is still a factor and an issue in America. We are not in a post-racial area. Get over that notion. There's still a lot more work to be done.
COLMES: We pick up this look at the race for president, that is, in just a moment, coming up.
And it's 3 a.m., and Hillary Clinton's phone is ringing again.
COLMES: When does she get some sleep? Another campaign ad meant to keep you up at night, and this time she's going after John McCain. We're going to play it for you, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. There's a phone ringing in the White House, and this time, the crisis is economic. Home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering.
John McCain just said the government shouldn't take any real action in the housing crisis. He'd let the phone keep ringing. Hillary Clinton has a plan to protect our homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: All right. That was Hillary Clinton's second 3 a.m. ad, this one targeting John McCain. The ad was released in Pennsylvania today, where the former first lady looks to be struggling to maintain her lead.
The latest Quinnipiac poll has Hillary beating Obama by just 9 points down 3 from mid-March in the national race. The two are virtually tied with Obama at 49 percent and Clinton at 46 percent.
We now continue with our panel: Michael Steele, Ari Fleischer, Steve Elmendorf.
Ari, from a purely political perspective, is that a good ad? Does that help Hillary Clinton?
FLEISCHER: You know, I don't think the 3 a.m. thing really works for a domestic issue like that. And my fear all along has been if the phone rings and she is the president at 3 a.m. in the morning, Bill is going to climb all over her to answer it.
But you know, I think in Pennsylvania don't be surprised if things start to tighten up a little bit. I think we're just in that kind of race. I still think in the end Hillary is going to win and win by a very comfortable margin in Pennsylvania. I think the Obama problem with white voters in the Democrat primary is going to continue.
COLMES: We also have a Quinnipiac poll in Florida, Steve. Clinton 44 and McCain 42 in a match-up there. In Ohio, Clinton beats McCain 48-39. In those two states, she does better than Obama in a direct match-up with John McCain.
Who's this — as Sean referenced what George Stephanopoulos was Stephanopoulos was saying, is this the argument they've got to make to the super delegates to sway them in her direction?
ELMENDORF: Well, I think they've got to make an argument that she's a better general election candidate. I think both candidates can beat John McCain. I am — I'm a Hillary supporter. And I think the fact that she can win and is ahead and doing better than Obama in Ohio and Florida is very important, and it shows she's a better candidate.
I'm also glad she's running an ad that's focused on John McCain. It's good to get the Democrats every week going after John McCain and remind people what this election is going to be about.
COLMES: Michael Steele, as a Democrat, I'm happy to see them focused on John McCain rather than each other. Everything they do, you know, fighting with each other, Republicans can use in the general election. So pretty good move on her part?
STEELE: No. Because my reality is, if the phone rings at the White House at 3 a.m. About the economy, we are in some deep, you know what. So...
COLMES: We are.
STEELE: Well, we're not that deep that the president is going to get a call at 3 a.m. in the morning. So I don't think the ad works for that purpose. I think a replay of that ad in this context, just like Ari said, is just — is just wrong.
And I think, with respect to focusing on McCain, yes, I mean, that's her distraction, because she's getting her clock cleaned by Obama right now. There's nothing she can do to really suck the life out of this guy's machine. So, let's talk about something else until we figure it out.
And, yes, I think she'll win Pennsylvania. But I think it's going to be a tougher and tougher road for her. That Bosnia thing, I think, kicked her more in the shins than a lot of people recognize. And she has not recovered from it yet.
HANNITY: Mike — Michael, I totally agree with you.
Ari, look, I mean, part of your job at the White House, you had to deal with controversies. And there's a certain news cycle that goes on. Controversies last, depending on what else is in the news, two days, three days, five days.
What do you think — because Harold Ickes is quoted as saying that, with the super delegates, the Reverend Wright issue keeps coming up. What do you think the life span is on an issue like that? Do you think it ultimately damaged him and that that would hold until November?
FLEISCHER: I do think it has damaged him. I think it's damaged him in a way that a lot of people are just not going to acknowledge or admit to pollsters because of racial sensitivity.
And the Democratic primary, it hasn't damaged him a whole lot because I just think he has such a deep pool of goodwill among Democrats.
But here's the problem. I think Hillary is going to win in Pennsylvania and that she's going to probably win in Indiana. And if she wins white voters in both those states, I think the press is going to just start writing the story, is this damaging Barack Obama? Is this a sign that he might be flawed in the fall?
That's going to create even more pressure on the super delegates. But in the end, I cannot see the super delegates breaking away from Barack Obama.
HANNITY: Listen, I heard something. I think one of the most respected — if you ask any one guy in the country, it's our own Michael Barone. Who won what district in Ohio, seventh district in 1968, he'll tell you. And he'll tell you what the margins were.
Michael Barone is actually predicting that Hillary Clinton can win the popular vote in the end here. I think that would give her a strong case for the super delegates. Don't you think, Ari?
FLEISCHER: Well, I still think it's going to be extraordinarily hard for super delegates to break, because Barack Obama has got the base in the African-American community, which is a huge part of the Democrat Party.
FLEISCHER: He's brought in all the young voters. It would take something dramatic to get them to snap away from him. The one thing that could do it is if Hillary and Hillary alone is beating John McCain, because the super delegates want to win.
But I think Obama and Hillary at the end are both going to be running about even, maybe slightly behind John McCain. I don't see a whole lot of difference between the two. And that means Obama probably is going to get it.
HANNITY: But Steve, we have been arguing now for the longest time that at the end of the contest here, Barack Obama had more of the popular vote, if he won more of the delegates in free, fair, and open elections that she would have a hard time to convince the super delegates to give her the nomination and that there would be a feeling of resentment among Obama supporters that, basically, it was stolen from them.
But, if Michael Barone is right, and she can come back and win the popular vote, I think her hand gets a lot stronger, don't you?
ELMENDORF: I think it gets very strong. But you know, ultimately, this is going to be about who has the majority of the delegates? Who's going to get the magic number of 2,000 and whatever. And nobody is there yet. And until somebody gets there, the race isn't over.
HANNITY: Listen, the crackup continues, and I'm very sad to see that happen. I really am. And...
COLMES: Look at that tear coming down.
HANNITY: It would be a shame if it came — went on all the way through the convention, Steve.
All right, guys. Thank you for being with us.
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