Published January 12, 2010
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 11, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Now as we have been reporting the new book, "Game Change," has quickly become the talk of the country. But Harry Reid's racially insensitive comments are just the tip of the iceberg.
Now the book also describes a controversial statement made by former President Bill Clinton during a meeting with Senator Kennedy. Now Clinton, who was attempting to secure Kennedy's endorsement for his wife, reportedly slammed her top rival, Barack Obama, even going as far as saying, quote, "A few years ago this guy would have been getting us coffee."
Now there are also startling revelations about the marriage of John and Elizabeth Edwards. Unlike her public persona, Elizabeth is described in the book by insiders as, quote, "abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, a crazy woman," who is, quote, "prone to irrational outburst."
Now "Game Change" also reveals how Elizabeth Edwards describes her husband in private as a hick with redneck parents who doesn't read books.
And believe me these are only a handful of the major bombshells in this book. Joining me now the authors of "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime," John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.
HANNITY: You haven't gotten enough press between "Drudge" and "60 Minutes" but we're glad you're here. Thank you for being here.
HALPERIN: No real press until you talk to Sean Hannity. That's our view.
HANNITY: Yes, that's a quote. We'll use that as a promo. Thank you.
Look, let's start with obviously what we've been talking about, the Harry Reid issue and his comments. Tell us a little bit of background on that?
HALPERIN: Well, Harry Reid was part of what we call in the book a conspiracy of whisperers in the Senate. And people think of Hillary Clinton as — thought of her as the establishment candidate, the one who was going to be very difficult to beat because the whole Democratic Party would be backing her.
In fact, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer of New York, other Democratic senators said themselves, "Hillary Clinton is a problem for us. She's polarizing and her husband's personal life could explode in the general elections."
They wanted a different candidate in the race. They looked at people like Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, John Edwards and said those people can't beat Hillary. They looked at Obama and said he probably can't beat her but at least he's got a chance.
Harry Reid called Obama to his office and said you should run in this race.
HANNITY: You think maybe that's one of the reasons why Obama came out so strongly in support of Reid because of this early support? Private support?
HALPERIN: There's no question that that conversation had a real impact on him. To have the Senate majority leader call you to his office. Obama, when he was called, he was talking to Robert Gibbs, who was his press secretary in the Senate, now the White House press secretary.
And when Obama came back from the meeting, Gibbs said what did we do wrong? Where did you mess up?
HALPERIN: He said he didn't call me to talk about that. He called to say he wanted me to run for president.
HANNITY: The interesting side note of this, though, is the fact that all these senators, and more specifically I thought it was most interesting that Chuck Schumer, you know, was really stabbing Hillary in the back, big time.
HEILEMANN: Yes, and the Clintons, you know, had no idea. They thought of themselves as the candidate, the de facto candidacy of establishment as much as the outside world did. They had no idea that this was going on. And Hillary was surprised, I think, as the nomination fight unfolded that she didn't have more support in the Senate.
That these super delegates who were supposed to be the firewall for her, they weren't coming over to her and that in the end, as you know, in the nomination fight all of a sudden, they were all racing to Barack Obama.
They had wanted to go there from the very beginning and they've just been holding their fire — kind of holding their patter dry until the moment came when she was — it was clear that she was on the way down and then they came in to plunge the knife and put her out of her misery for good.
HANNITY: Well, you even point out in the book, she was picking out the drapes. She was thinking about who the vice president was going to be. I mean.
HALPERIN: Not only picking out a running mate, she was planning her presidential transition. This is in the fall of 2007. Iowa caucuses hadn't even happened yet. She was doing it mostly because she is a very cautious and organized person. But her campaign staff was incredibly nervous that it would leak out that Hillary Clinton, a year before the election, not even the nominee, no voting is taking place.
HALPERIN: . would look arrogant, presumptuous. They were terrified it would leak out.
HANNITY: There's a lot on Bill Clinton — not the, you know, a few years ago when he said to Ted Kennedy which you quote in the book that he'd be getting us coffee about Barack Obama. That's a pretty racist statement.
HEILEMANN: Well, I mean, certainly Ted Kennedy took it as racially insensitive. There's no question about that, you know, and Bill Clinton had been almost alone among Hillary's senior advisers. He had seen the threat that Obama posed.
He thought Obama had enormous potential as a threat to her getting the nomination. He also thought that he was a guy who had great political potential down the line. His view was that Obama was not ready to be president, that he wasn't experienced enough. That he didn't understand policy well enough.
He thought it wasn't his turn. And when Obama beat Hillary in Iowa and the Democratic Party started to coalesce around Obama, he couldn't believe it.
HEILEMANN: And he was upset and he thought Ted Kennedy might be able to save us. And he got on the phone with Kennedy a few days after Iowa, and they got into a heated argument.
Kennedy was already kind of drifting towards Obama. Clinton was desperate.
HANNITY: He switched it over.
HEILEMANN: Desperate, trying to hold him back, and then he said this comment, Kennedy was engaged by the comment and ended up racing to Obama's arms a couple of weeks later.
HANNITY: And you talk about Bill Clinton, though. Bill, you know, he broke down on conference calls which you talked about. You know, he went into a rage at the mention of Kennedy's name. The thing that struck me about the Clintons that you discovered is that Hillary, with a close group of advisers, investigated her own husband.
Because they all thought that he was having affairs and it turns out, you found out Bill is or was having an affair during the campaign.
HALPERIN: What we found out is they thought he was.
HALPERIN: What we call it in the book is a war room within a war room. Hillary, like any campaign, has a war room, has a research department that would look into the background of a candidate, just to make sure there was nothing there that an opponent could take advantage of.
For the personal stuff, though, Hillary couldn't let a junior researcher look into that. So three very top aides, Howard Wilson, her communication adviser, Patti Solis Doyle, her campaign manager, and Sheryl Mills, her attorney who now works with her at the State Department, were this war room within a war room.
And they were on the Internet, they were listening to all these gossips, they were hearing a lot about potential affairs of Bill Clinton was having. And in one case at least their investigation suggested to them there was truth to it. They went to Hillary and told her.
And they went to their battle stations and braced because they knew this could unwind the whole campaign.
HANNITY: All right. I'll tell you, some of the stuff, the relationship between Biden and Obama, you got some really juicy details there. And I got to tell you, I think one of the most explosive things that a lot of people haven't picked up on is between the Edwards and the affair that he was having and what happened in an airport terminal. So we'll let you tell that story when we get back.
We're going to have a lot more coming up with the authors of, well, the talk of the country, "Game Change," right after the break.
HANNITY: And we continue now with the authors of "Game Change." Mark Halperin and John Heilemann is with us.
All right, Hillary by the way, she was happy at the reference that her New Hampshire campaign leader Shaheen made about the drug use of Obama. And — until she was pulled back. But she liked that reference.
HALPERIN: She was — both Clintons were incredibly frustrated from their point of view the media was pro-Obama. That his background wasn't scrutinized. Their view was previous drug had been an issue in past presidential campaigns. Obama had acknowledged.
HANNITY: It was for Bill.
HALPERIN: It was for Bill and many other candidates. Obama acknowledged smoking marijuana, using cocaine. So when one of Hillary's supporters, the national co-chairman, Bill Shaheen of New Hampshire, whose wife now is a U.S. senator, came out in an interview with the Washington Post, and talked about the dangers of nominating Obama that the Republicans would go after this stuff, she said push it out there.
HANNITY: Bill was so, I guess, aggravated and then his anger was visible at times. I mean we saw the issue of race that came up during the campaign, I mean, about by Obamania. I mean he has a very crude term. We were talking about it off air that you, you know, quote in the book that he used.
HEILEMANN: Yes, that's true. But it is an "R" rated word, I'm not sure it's appropriate for the network.
HANNITY: No, I'm not looking for you to say it. I just.
HANNITY: I was just seeing if you would.
HEILEMANN: Yes. No, I mean, let's say just that profanity and unpleasant metaphors often invaded Bill Clinton's rants against Obama on campaign conference calls to the consternation and upset of many Clinton staffers.
HANNITY: I found a lot of the stuff that you guys had in there about the relationship between Biden and Obama pretty fascinating. That Joe Biden, you know, was on the campaign plane bragging on, I'm more qualified to be president, and all this gets back to Obama, and it really strains the relationship.
HALPERIN: It does. You know, when they picked Biden they knew there were some problems. They knew he talked a lot. We talked to people who work with Obama in the Senate as we did for the book. They say there was no single United States senator who was more condescending to Obama than Joe Biden.
And in fact as Obama was going through his choices of he picked for running mate.
HANNITY: He said, "I can't believe" —
HALPERIN: "I can't believe I'm picking Joe Biden." He picks him, right away Biden starts saying stuff. It started with this comment about, I'm more qualified. It culminates a few weeks later after he said a lot other silly things where he says the thing about how — if Obama gets elected this young president will be tested.
Obama is furious. On a conference call, "When is Joe Biden going to stop saying such dumb things?" His aides said he was angrier than Biden that he was at any point at Hillary Clinton during the nomination.
HANNITY: And the most angry he got in the campaign was against Biden. But I mean, that is Joe Biden.
HEILEMANN: And I'll tell you, Sean, what I really love about that is when Obama got so upset at him and said, "How many dumb things is Joe Biden going to say," Biden's — instead of going on apologizing immediately his first reaction was to get defensive. And sort of said, well, you know, at least I didn't go out and say all these bitter people who cling to their guns and religion.
HANNITY: That was a great line.
HEILEMANN: Obama makes some mistakes, too. You know why am I going to trash for making a mistake?
HANNITY: I thought that was actually a pretty clever comeback on Biden's part.
HEILEMANN: Yes, exactly.
HANNITY: Well, one of the things that was actually hard to read, but I couldn't put it down, was this dynamic and all the issues involving John and Elizabeth Edwards. I mean she does not come off well in this book as somebody who would berate him, attack him.
But he meanwhile was out there, even his campaign aides go to him on numerous occasions, and then eventually resign because they know he's having an affair with this woman.
HALPERIN: An extraordinary portrait of a couple. Of course, everybody knows John Edwards is a vice presidential running mate. Elizabeth Edwards, one of the most prominent, iconic cancer survivors in America, lost — both of them losing a son out of accident.
Sympathetic figures, and yet behind the scenes there were different versions of them that we show in the book. John Edwards, when he got elected in the Senate, one of the nicest people you'd ever meet, incredibly humble. But when he got put on the ticket he became a different person according to his aides.
HANNITY: That's what a lot of people said.
HANNITY: You described one scene in the book where he literally is in the car with her, gets out of the car, gets in the car with his aides. And I think it's the same incident when they go to the airport.
Why don't you tell that story when she gets to the airport, the FBO — what happened?
HEILEMANN: Well, this is the day in October of 2007 when the National Enquirer first published its story saying that Edwards was having an affair with Rielle Hunter. Elizabeth was inconsolable.
She was — when they first — when the aides first went to pick them up at the house to take them to the airport, she was in her bathrobe and she was writing a blog post that she wanted to publish that said, you know, the Edwards just don't engage in this kind of behavior. This is something seedy that the Clintons would do.
As you say, they went to the airport. Edwards hopped out of the car. Couldn't stand to be in the car with his wife. When they got to the airport they had a furious fight in the private terminal and then in the parking lot, and she ends up ripping her blouse in the parking lot.
HANNITY: She rips her blouse off.
HEILEMANN: And says —
HANNITY: Wasn't that in the airport terminal?
HEILEMANN: In the airport — in the parking lot.
HANNITY: Outside. In the parking lot.
HEILEMANN: Rips it off and says, look at me, you know, in the state of kind of inconsolable range at her husband.
HANNITY: Yes, but — I know she comes off — she doesn't come off well, but I'm thinking all that she's going through. I mean, this is life or death for her. And I'm far more sympathetic to her case. Her husband's having an affair with this woman and inviting the woman, you report, in this book, over to his house when his family is there and she's out of town.
HALPERIN: Previously unreported case of her coming to the house, talking to his younger children, talking to his parents, having dinner in the house while Elizabeth is away.
HANNITY: I mean — how would you react to that?
HALPERIN: Not too well.
HANNITY: Yes, not too well. I don't think a lot of people would act too well.
Were you as surprised as me to sum up? Because we're running out of time. The soap opera atmosphere involving everybody that's running for president. That surprised me.
HALPERIN: Look, we both covered the campaign as you did. We thought this is going to be hard to do. Maybe all the stories had been told. We did over 300 interviews. We tried to tell people what it's like to run for president. These are human beings.
HANNITY: Why on deep background just to get that question? Because you don't source everybody by name. Why just on deep background?
HALPERIN: Because it's so hard to get people to talk. And we knew, because we're dealing with people we've known for years, in every case, in every campaign, these are not strangers to us.
We trusted that they would tell us the truth where we could tell when they weren't and deep backgrounds the best way to get people to talk for history.
HANNITY: Guys, great book. Thank you for being here. We really appreciate it.
HALPERIN: Thank, Sean.
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