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Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Aug. 10, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now to discuss how Barack Obama is dealing with Republican attacks and dealing with the Clintons is Senator Dick Durbin, national co-chair for the Obama campaign, who comes to us from Chicago.

Senator Durbin, we played truth squad with a McCain ad, so let's do the same with an Obama ad. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Big oil's filling John McCain's campaign with $2 million in contributions, because instead of taxing their windfall profits to help drivers, McCain wants to give them another $4 billion in tax breaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, isn't that misleading? John McCain is not proposing any special tax breaks for big oil. He's just talking about lowering the corporate tax rate for every business.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: Well, Chris, let's be very honest about that. When you lower the taxes, then some of the most profitable corporations in America will benefit.

And one of the most profitable corporations in America — Exxon Mobil, for example — the John McCain proposal would give them a $1.2 billion tax break — overall, $4 billion in tax breaks for oil companies — at a time when we have the worst deficit in our history.

That isn't responsible. And that ad is accurate.

WALLACE: But let me ask you, because Obama's answer, and he says it in that ad, is to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil industry. Let me put something up.

Last year, the oil and gas industry made a profit of 8.3 percent. Beverages and tobacco had an average profit of 19 percent, drug companies 18 percent, computer companies 14 percent.

Senator, why single out the oil industry and say it's their profits alone that are unreasonable?

DURBIN: Because they have reported record-breaking profits, not just for oil companies, but for American businesses. The amount of money that they are taking in in profits at the expense of families and businesses and farmers and our overall economy are absolutely beyond anything historically.

And what we're saying is there's a limit. This president should have called the oil company execs in the office long ago and said, "You're killing the economy." The airlines can't survive. He should have jawboned.

He should have made it clear that the profit-taking that they are experiencing is at the expense of this economy, of families that are struggling to get by, of people who are losing jobs.

WALLACE: But, Senator, I mean, one of the reasons that their profits as a gross number are so big are because their investments are so big. Their research and development is so big.

As I just pointed out, there are other industries which, as a percentage of their expenditures — making double the percentage of profits of the oil industry.

DURBIN: Chris, I'm not an accountant, but those who are have dug into the books and listened what it turns out to be.

The profit-taking by the oil companies is not being used to look for new sources of oil and gas. Overwhelmingly, they're buying back their stock. They're paying out dividends. They're paying the CEO salaries.

In other words, they're not plowing it back into the futures of their company. They're plowing it into the wallets of their officers and the people who run their companies as well as their shareholders.

Now, that kind of profit-taking is OK generally, but it reaches a point now where the oil companies are literally killing the economy. And when John McCain says, "Well, they need $4 billion more in tax breaks," he just doesn't understand the reality of what this economy is facing.

WALLACE: But Senator Obama is also talking about possibly lowering the corporate tax rate as a way — as a general way to spur the economy. If he does that, then he's going to be giving tax breaks to the oil industry.

DURBIN: I'll take, on balance, the Obama approach to the McCain approach any day. What Barack Obama has said is focus the tax breaks on the families that are struggling, middle income and working families.

And those are the folks who have been disadvantaged by a war that's costing us $10 billion to $12 billion dollars a month, a war that's taking money out of our economy that could be spent here in America.

What Barack has said — give those families a fighting chance. They've fallen behind under the Bush economic policies. And let me just also remind you, in April when John McCain was asked — he said he thought that the Bush economic policies were showing progress in America.

I don't think that you can find many American families that would agree with that statement.

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, a lot of Democrats keep asking why is this race so close. Let me put something on the screen. When voters are asked, "Do you want a Democrat or a Republican for president," your party wins by 12 points.

But when they are asked about the horse race between the nominees, Obama leads McCain by less than four points. What's the problem?

DURBIN: This is about where the polls were a month ago. And the fact is, Chris, you and I live and breathe politics, but most Americans have a life to lead.

They're watching the Olympics. They're ready to get the kids back to school. They know politicians are making a lot of noise out there. They're not really going to focus on it until it gets closer to the election.

The statistic that I think should be compelling for those analyzing this — when you ask people voting for Barack Obama, "Are you excited and committed," the numbers are overwhelmingly positive.

Ask the same question about McCain voters, they're pretty anemic. Fewer than half say this is an exciting election that they want to get involved in.

WALLACE: But specifically...

DURBIN: We feel the level of support for change is strong.

WALLACE: Senator, why do — how do you explain the fact that Barack Obama runs so far behind the generic question, "Do you want a Democrat or a Republican as your next president?"

DURBIN: Because there are still unanswered questions about both candidates, both Obama and McCain. And as I said, most voters aren't really focusing.

But still, we have the conventions ahead, the choice of vice president, the debates. You know, the American people really want to measure these candidates in the closing days in the critical decisions. And then they'll make their choice in October.

But Americans want change. They know John McCain is more of the same when it comes to Bush politics, and they know Barack Obama is going to bring real change to America and to Washington.

WALLACE: Senator, let's turn to the Clintons. Hillary Clinton seemed to suggest this last week when she was talking to a group that her supporters need to have their voices heard and perhaps even in a roll call at the convention. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I happen to believe that we will come out stronger if people feel that their voices were heard, and...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Is the Obama camp OK with a roll call at the convention in which delegates can vote openly for either Clinton or Obama?

DURBIN: I can tell you this. I don't know what decision has been made, if there is a final decision on that question, but I can tell you this.

Hillary Clinton and President Clinton are integral parts of our convention in Denver. Hillary Clinton will be speaking Tuesday night in prime time. President Clinton will be speaking Wednesday night. Their people are not only welcome to this convention, we need their help.

Now, let's understand. We've gone through a bruising primary season between these two excellent candidates, and there are some people still healing from that. I understand it.

But in the end, I believe that the Hillary Clinton supporters and Hillary herself are definitely committed to Obama's candidacy.

Look what happened just a day or two ago. Here was Hillary Clinton in Nevada campaigning for Barack Obama on the issue of pay equity so that women are treated fairly in the workplace, an issue which John McCain disagrees with Obama on and disagrees with Hillary Clinton.

There are clear differences between the candidates, and Hillary Clinton is going to be supporting Barack Obama and encouraging all of her voters to do the same.

WALLACE: But just a simple question, sir. Do you think a roll call is a good idea or not?

DURBIN: I'm not going to speak to that, because I don't know what decision has been reached at the convention.

Trust me, the Hillary Clinton delegates will be treated fairly. We welcome them. We need them. If we're going to win in November, their support is critical.

WALLACE: Meanwhile, Bill Clinton — you talk about how they're going to be on board — couldn't have been more tepid in his support for Barack Obama in an interview this week. Let's take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE SNOW: Is he ready to be president?

B. CLINTON: You could argue that no one's ever ready to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: How are you going to get the former president to stop sulking?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you, I think Bill Clinton is hurting. I'll be honest with you. His wife did not prevail in the primary. He worked hard in it, was involved in some controversial statements.

But trust me, when people judge Bill Clinton and his presidency, what it did for America in terms of building this economy and moving us forward, he's going to do quite well.

I believe before the end of the day he's going to be an active supporter of the Obama campaign just as Hillary Clinton is today.

WALLACE: Do you think the revelation that John Edwards had an extramarital affair hurts Democrats?

DURBIN: No. Let's be very honest. There's weakness when it comes to both political parties. I feel very badly for John and Elizabeth, who are friends. I know them and I know their families. They're going through a very difficult time. I hope they can resolve this between them.

WALLACE: The reason I ask is the revelation late in the 2006 campaign that Congressman — Republican Congressman Mark Foley had had relationships, involvement, with congressional pages seemed to be very damaging to the GOP in that election. What's the difference?

DURBIN: Oh, there's a big difference. I mean, exploiting children and infidelity in marriage — I think people would say both are wrong, but Mark Foley's situation with the pages involved a relationship which was just absolutely scandalous.

These are young people coming to Washington who are really in our custody and care as members of Congress, and I think that was the quantum difference between the two.

WALLACE: Do you think that Obama would still consider Edwards for a job in his administration after this revelation?

DURBIN: I have no idea. I've not spoken to him about that. As you're aware, I'm sure, Senator Edwards announced through one of his staffers he would not be attending the convention in Denver.

WALLACE: Finally, sir, on the "veepstakes," I'm going to show you a poll this week that found that on the issue, "Who's the candidate for change," Obama leads 61 percent to 17 percent. But on who would do better in the war on terror, McCain leads 56 percent to 29 percent.

Senator, given that, isn't it a no-brainer that Barack Obama should choose as a running mate someone who can fill in and reassure people on the foreign policy/commander-in-chief issue?

DURBIN: Well, I'm sure that's going to be taken into consideration, but first and foremost, Barack Obama needs someone that he trusts, someone he can work with, someone who, in some unforeseen circumstance, could step in and lead this nation. That's what he's looking for, and there are many possibilities out there.

John McCain, of course, has many positive attributes, and he's worked on the military side throughout his career, even throughout his life.

At this point, though, the number one issue in the minds of the American people — are we going to put the Bush economic policies behind us? And unfortunately, John McCain has endorsed those policies.

I think that when it comes to the future and our economy and what families are looking for, the first question is, "Can the American economy really be fair to working families and middle-income families and give them a fighting chance when it comes to gasoline prices and food prices and other things beyond their control?"

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for joining us. And we'll see you at your convention.

DURBIN: Thanks, Chris.