Return to Transcripts main page


Analysis of Hillary Clinton's Exit Speech

Aired June 7, 2008 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I must say and very gracious in her words towards Barack Obama. Optimistic and confident at the end even though obviously very bitterly disappointed that she failed to step up and become the Democratic presidential nominee. Hillary Clinton using many of the phrases of Barack Obama, enthusiastically endorsing his campaign. Yes we can she said. She said she is ready to join forces with Barack Obama and make sure that a Democrat is elected president of the United States.
There she is shaking hands with some of her thousands of supporters who have come into the National Building Museum here in Washington, D.C. to hear her make this dramatic announcement.

I want to bring in our correspondents who are on the scene for us. John King is there, Candy Crowley is over there. John go ahead and give us a little flavor of what was in side the room we saw it on television. But you heard it right there.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, obviously a very dramatic moment for Senator Clinton, but I think today's speech proved what many Democrats have said over the past closing weeks of the campaign. That she campaigned and communicated like this back in the beginning as she started this campaign as strongly as she closed it perhaps her results would have been different.

Many Democrats very much believe that one other foot note I was thinking in endorsing Barack Obama and in saying how many times of together they want to do things it sounded very much like she was on his case.

BLITZER: Good point, John.

Candy Crowley, you have already heard some reaction from the Obama campaign. What are they saying?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I talked to Obama strategists kind of toward the end of the speech and said are you happy? Messaged back and said yes there is no iniquity message a little later and said it had been generously appreciated is very hard.

So, they seem happy with the Obama campaign. Unclear actually whether Barack Obama saw it or not we know that he left his home a while ago, looked like he ready to play a game of golf but he could easily have gone someplace to hear the speech. (INAUDIBLE)

Yes, they found it generous as they understand how hard this kind of event really is.

BLITZER: It is a good point, Candy.

Gloria Borger watched it with us as well. Gloria she focused a lot on the history of a woman trying to reach the White House. As I was listening to her making the speech what I could not help but for get is the themes she stressed today. She tried to avoid them early on.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. It is like it came full circle, Wolf, and she said it, Wolf, she started the campaign telling people she was running for president and she happened to be a woman.

Now, as she ended the campaign, she said, you know what, I am a woman who ran for president, and this is why it is going to be so important for women in the future, because it will no longer be remarkable that a woman can win primary battles for example or that one day a woman or an African-American as she added in could become president of the United states.

It is interesting, because I think it was an admission that the campaign in its own way was late in recognizing the significance of the support of these women that she has received and that remain with her today.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile, what went through your mind as you listened to this approximately half hour speech?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, I was clearly impressed with Senator Clinton. She was poised and she had a difficult speech to give. She not only had to talk to the supporters, but she had to talk to the country and the Democratic Party.

She wanted to, of course, strike a sound of unity, but at the same time she had to remind us of the journey, and it has been a long journey and not just for Senator Clinton, but clearly for Senator Obama as well to break down historical barriers in race and gender to become the party nominee and she fought hard to come in a very close second place.

I enjoyed listening to her speech and her words we will unite and we will come together and we will make history together, the turning point election and I thought it was a remarkable day for the Democratic Party, but more importantly for the country to see two great candidates compete for the bidding.

BLITZER: And John King who is there at the National Building Museum, she didn't hedge at all. She was a totally on board at least her words and her body language suggested that she is now going to be a major surrogate for Barack Obama.

KING: And Wolf, consider the moment, too. She is obviously so clearly disappointed, she lost a race in which she invested so much time and effort and in which she expected to win. As you see Senator Clinton shaking hands her and President Clinton as they leave. What she did today was rise to the occasion and showing other Democrats that she may have frustration and she may have some anger and leftover bitterness from the campaign, but she is going to set it aside and work for what she said and try to rally her support for supporters.

It was interesting mostly an enthusiastic crowd here when she talked about Barack Obama and helping him. But a small smattering of boos, some people putting thumb's down and her message today to those people was take a minute and think about this, because we cannot risk the alternative.

It will be fascinating to see what goes forward now, the decisions to be made in the weeks and months ahead of Barack Obama's not Senator Clinton's which she was very much trying to put one last footprint if you will imprint on the Democratic debate going forward and I think trying to influence some of the decisions Senator Obama has to make, including a big one, who will share the ticket with him.

BLITZER: And there is no indication that decision will happen any time soon and it is weeks and maybe even a couple of months away before the Democratic Convention at the end of the summer. Stand by, John, we are getting a lot of reaction coming into CNN. Reaction to Hillary Clinton's speech, we will monitor that reaction and share it with you and you see Bill Clinton right there in the middle of the crowd.

We will take a quick break and go to by the way to get more reaction that is coming in there as well. Stay with us our coverage of Hillary Clinton's exit from this presidential race continues right after this.


BLITZER: She spoke for about 30 minutes, Hillary Clinton, over at the National Building Museum suspending her presidential bid, endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mincing no words, as I said, I thought she was gracious and she was magnanimous and she told those supporters who had gathered there in watching around the country and indeed around the world, now is the time she said to go ahead to work for Barack Obama.

She also said this, and I will play this little clip to remind you what we just heard a few moments ago.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: the White House. We cannot let this moment slip away. We have come too far and accomplished too much. Now the journey ahead will not be easy. Some will say that we can't do it. That it is too hard and we are just not up to the task.

But for as long as America has existed, it has been the American way to reject can't-do claims and to choose instead to stretch the boundaries of the impossible through hard work, determination and a pioneering spirit. It is this belief, this optimism that Senator Obama and I share and that has inspired so many millions of our supporters to make their voices heard. So today, I am standing with Senator Obama to say, yes, we can.


BLITZER: Candy Crowley is inside of the National Museum Building watching and listening as we see her shaking hands and going through that rope line with her supporters who have gathered there. Several thousand supporters came into the National Building Museum to listen to this speech. Candy, the question I guess now is will these women especially, these white women who so enthusiastically worked for Hillary Clinton, will they now enthusiastically go ahead and support Barack Obama?

CROWLEY: Again, I think that this will take some time. It will be an evolution, but she certainly gave it a good first try noting, as you did, that at times she kind of channeled Barack Obama. She said at one moment, we cannot let this moment pass arguing that it is time to put a Democrat in the White House, and a kind of echoing Barack Obama's this is our time, this is our moment. So she is very definitely was picking up his lingo quite purposefully in order to reach out to those women.

It has been really interesting to watch the evolution of this campaign as they courted women from the very beginning the Clinton campaign assumed that they could probably get 10 percent of voters who were either disaffected or hadn't voted before that were female who would be revved up about the idea of the first female candidate and she talked about it, and she had sort of a dichotomy of how she ran.

Yes, she ran as I'm the person who can best be president, but she also did make specific appeals to women all the way along the line when they came out of Iowa, they looked back at their numbers and what they realized is that young women were going with Barack Obama. That they were not as caught up in the history of it as older women and of course they came to realize that they needed to do more out reach to women under 40, but they also understood that younger women kind of take for granted that a female can go anywhere and do anything in a way that they don't take for granted the way that an African-American can.

So, it was a re-education that a lot of the older women in the campaign said they don't understand what it is like when you do run up against a glass ceiling which is not just at the White House, but a lot of other places, so they did make specific appeals after Iowa particularly in New Hampshire to try to reach out to younger women and progressively did better in that demographic.

So this speech clearly was for those young women saying, look, we did make history and you will make more history and very definitely she wanted to bring them aboard by saying that we have got to go forward and there is no way to look back. Let's not do the ifs and the what ifs and all of that and we can't look back and we have to move forward and forward is Barack Obama and in particular, she cast that pitch to those so many millions of women who voted for her, Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, when she did say nice things about Barack Obama and endorsed his campaign and said that everyone now has to go out the work for his campaign, you were inside of that National Building Museum, was the reaction from the crowd, was it enthusiastic? We heard a lot of applause, but we also at times at least on television I sensed that there was a little bit of a tepid reaction.

CROWLEY: Sure. You did -- I mean, listen, there was enthusiastic applause when she said we have to move forward with Barack Obama. There were also scattered boos as John noted, because of the ceiling in the building you tend to hear the boos more because the sound goes up and bounces back, but by the end of the speech the boos had died down.

But there is not any doubt in anybody's mind not in the Clinton campaign, not in the Obama campaign that this will take some time and this is the beginning of a process of wooing those voters who as she noted spent so many hours and much of their time. Many of them traveling from state-to-state and putting their heart and soul into this as she did.

It just takes some time, you cannot as one adviser in the Clinton campaign said, you can't give a single speech and walk away. I do think what is also interesting as she was trying to stake out her place in the party and maybe looking forward to that other than she promised that she would always be on the front lines of democracy.

Hillary Clinton is a national power player and she will figure into this campaign one way or another and the Obama campaign understands that and felt that the speech was generous and understood that it was a hard time for Hillary Clinton, but felt that there was no ambiguity in it.

They see this as a beginning of a first step, but they also know that Barack Obama can't leave this to Hillary Clinton, that he has to go out to woo her constituencies and the down-scaled Democrats and the Latinos and the women.

So he has his work cut out for him as well, because he has to go back to those voters and say, listen, I understand how hard you worked for her and here is why you should work as hard for me. So this is going to be a joint effort. She can help, but he has to close the deal, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see when that joint effort actually begins when the two of them make their first public appearance on a stage, whether it is in Michigan or whether it is in Florida or in anyplace else, we will be watching very closely. She opened her speech today with these words "This isn't the party I planned, but I sure like the party."

A bittersweet moment for Hillary Clinton and very disappointing, but at the same time trying to be optimistic looking ahead to the next stage. We will continue out coverage we are getting reaction to the Hillary Clinton's concession speech. How does this concession speech rank with other major concession speeches? We will discuss and that more.

And remember that is where you can see the reaction coming in as well. Our coverage continues right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: She spoke for about 30 minutes. She conceded that she is not going to be in this race any longer. She suspended her Democratic presidential bid, and she enthusiastically endorsed Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton and husband, Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea Clinton, still there at the National Building Museum and as you see, they are shaking hands with the supporters who came there.

John King has got a special guest with him over at the National Building Museum, Terry McAuliff who was the chairman of the Clinton campaign. John, I assume that Terry McAuliff is ready to give up that title at least for now.

KING: Terry McAuliff will have to give up his title as chairman of the Clinton campaign, but as a chairman, I'm sure Terry McAuliff is still going to raise some money to pay off that debt. But Terry, I want to talk about this speech.

It is a tough moment to say good-bye and concede you lost, but to be so upbeat and it sounded at times like a audition, and saying, Barack Obama I endorse you and I will work for you no matter what, but look at what I bring to the table, look at the women and look at the 18 million votes and look at my support among working class people that you didn't get in the primaries, is that what this was a bit of an audition?

TERRY MCAULIFF, CHAIRMAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: No, I think what she said here today, John, is what happened in the campaign. She got more votes than anybody in the history of our country and she brought in new coalitions into the Democratic Party and those are important attributes.

She has been a leader of our party and a lot of passionate supporters here today, but what she was saying is here is what our campaign accomplished and most importantly, she talked to women across the country. She didn't break the glass ceiling, but she shattered it into 18 million pieces.

KING: But she said that together, Barack Obama and I suggesting that if Barack Obama were to put her on the ticket, they could make more history.

MCAULIFF: Well, Barack Obama can do what he wants to do, and it is obviously his choice. I think obviously Hillary would be a great addition to the ticket, but that is his decision. She was talking about the Democratic Party the big broad tent in how we need to win the White House, and help us in all the bail election.

So what she said here is what she has been fighting for her whole life. She has been involved for 35 years in universal healthcare, so today is why she ran for president and what happened on the campaign trail and what a success it was.

KING: They met one-on-one the other night, no aides in the room, and I assume you have had a chance to speak to her about it. Did that get into the specifics at all about the convention or who is on the ticket or whether it is will you help me pay down the debt or was that the first of many meetings?

MCAULIFF: No, I don't think they got into any of the specifics, and it was a chance for them to sit down and talk. We haven't talked about any specifics issues. And you know, we will take care of the debt. I have been helping the Clintons take care of the debt for a long time and it didn't bother me before and I will continue.

The big thing now is making sure we win the White House; I will worry about those other issues. Let's stay focused, let's keep these 18 million supporters that Hillary Clinton has involved and activated and impassioned and bring out more voters in the fall.

KING: And do you get the sense that if she is not picked on the ticket will that dampen her enthusiasm for campaigning at all? Look you are a Clinton supporter and you are biased but you have been through this and you know the electoral map. Is she willing to go into small town America in places where she beat Barack Obama among the people who elect presidents, into rural Virginia and rural towns all over America and say you might be disappointed but you need to not vote Republican?

MCAULIFF: Well, let's be clear, Hillary Clinton is not expecting it and she will do what she has always done. She goes to rural America and she one of the biggest draws for the Democrats when she was in the Senate and when she was first lady she went everywhere to help the Democratic Party and help candidates running for office, so yes, no matter what her role is she will be as active as she has ever been helping Democrats win.

KING: Terry McAuliff, we will talk more on the weeks coming up.

MCAULIFF: Congratulations on the wedding.

KING: Thank you very much. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: John, before you let Terry go, ask him a quick question for a second, we are hearing that Hillary Clinton may decide to take a week off for something, take a little vacation and God knows she deserves a breather, but what is he hearing about her immediate plans in the coming days?

KING: Wolf Blitzer has a question, he says we are hearing that Senator Clinton is going to perhaps take some bit of a break to get away from all this and take a little vacation. Do you want to tell us where that is?

MCAULIFF: I know Wolf wants to get out of suntan lane. Well, she and the family needs to take some time off and we all need a break to get ourselves energized to come back out to campaign, but I won't give away Hillary Clinton's vacation plans and the press asked where are we going and I said Disney World, where else? I want to go to the Magic Kingdom with Hillary.

KING: I just had a little break and I recommend a little break for everybody. And Wolf, I guess since Terry won't tell us where it is, we will have to go to Dick Cheney's lexicon that would be the vacation at the undisclosed location.

BLITZER: All right. We will be there with all of you. Standby guys, because we have a lot more reaction coming in to Hillary Clinton's historic statement today conceding defeat, but endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination for the White House. Our special coverage will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Senator Clinton is still over there at the National Building Museum here in Washington, D.C. together with her husband and her daughter, and her mother as well. She just delivered approximately a 30-minute speech conceding defeat in her bid for the White House, but at the same time endorsing Barack Obama in his bid for the White House. I want to play a little clip of what she said only moments ago.


CLINTON: When we first started, people everywhere asked the same questions -- could a woman really serve as commander-in-chief? Well, I think that we answered that one. And could an African-American really be our president? And Senator Obama has answered that one.


BLITZER: Let's bring in Carl Bernstein who wrote the biography of Hillary Clinton and he is one of the CNN political contributors as well. Carl, what did you think of the speech?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I thought it was very skillful and it was a difficult thing to do. You know, we are talking about a candidate here who said that Barack Obama was not qualified to be the president of the United States. And so she had to move on to the next phase and say, look, I am for him and I support him and later she will get around to dealing with why he is qualified, but she had a great sense of history.

We talk about the history of this building that she was in, and it is actually the old pension building for Civil War pensioners orphans and widows and on the freeze around the building it is designed by General Montgomery insisted that there was a union soldier who was an African-American.

And she was in there today saying, look, now women have come and we have gone the distance and woman can be the president of the United States, and can come this close, and she had a great sense of the history of the moment and balancing these two aspects of this remarkable campaign.

She also was able to talk about herself, Bill Clinton's legacy, indicating how she wants to be part of what is going on, and she knows the history of it and she still has a ways to go before she says, look, this guy is ready to take that 3:00 a.m. phone call. She is going to want to do more of that and probably will, but she was not quite there yet today.

BLITZER: Let me ask Gloria Borger who is here with us as well, you have heard at lot of the speeches that she has delivered over these past 16 or 17 months, and how would you rank this one?

BORGER: The best. It is one of the best speeches I have ever heard her give, and if she had had this kind of grace sometimes when she spoke, things might have turned out differently. You and I talked, Wolf, that it is in the concession speeches that the candidates seem the most graceful and I should also point out that now has a big picture of a thank of Hillary Clinton and it says support Senator Obama today and sign up now and together we can write the next chapter in America's story. Quickly put that up on the Web site as soon as she began with the speech.

BLITZER: Wasted no time with that. Carl Bernstein, how would you rank the speech we just heard?

BERNSTEIN: Very good speech. It did what she needed to do and the first steps of bringing her constituency to Barack Obama and the real question is how she follows through on it, because remember, she and Bill Clinton did not have good things to say about Barack Obama in public or in private.

The test is going to be their actions, but for words, this was a terrific start as well as -- look, she did something great in this campaign. Let's all of us step back and say it. She did something that showed what women ought to be doing in our political culture. There is no two ways about it. It is not how she started, but it is a great accomplishment.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Donna Brazile. What do you think, Donna?

BRAZILE: I thought she was dignified, gracious and classy and she gave a historic speech, because American history is now being made. Senator Clinton clearly shows that women not only can be great leaders, but at moments like this in history, women can lead the way.

The Democratic Party is on the verge of being reborn. 43 years ago this summer, Lyndon Johnson signed the voting rights act of America and we all know how that came about, but what Senator Clinton reminded us today is that it took both the women's movement as well as the civil rights movement to make this day possible.

BLITZER: No doubt some people will be saying and we will discuss it that had she delivered this speech a few weeks ago or a few months ago maybe the situation would have been different. Gloria, you want in?

BORGER: Well, I just got an e-mail, and it says this is the Hillary Clinton that I worked with and supported and I don't understand why this Hillary was not more visible in the past 18 months.

BLITZER: We will continue our coverage and we are going to continue to getting reaction on this historic day here in the United States. We will take a quick break and you can get the reaction by the way coming into that is a good place to be, logging on, go to your lap top even as you watch us.


BLITZER: She spoke and now the reaction is coming in and very favorable reaction from Democrats, including the Obama campaign. Let's go back into the room where Hillary Clinton still is in the National Building Museum here in Washington. John King, I guess that the crowd is beginning to leave over there, an enthusiastic crowd and now the challenges, can her words be translated into action?

KING: And Wolf, it is a fascinating question on this dramatic day. The crowd is sitting dramatically although Senator Clinton is still on the other side of the room shaking a few last hands. But many of the people have stopped by to tell us that Barack Obama better pick her as his running mate or their enthusiasm for the fall might not be there.

Many have also complained about media coverage about Senator Clinton and something that her campaign has done repeatedly, so as they leave the room there was a celebratory time of the speech and Senator Clinton clearly rose to the moment if you will on what had to be a difficult day for her.

But there are clear hard feelings for her supporters and unanswered questions about just what will her role be and she made it clear she will fight for the Democratic ticket no matter what and I took it and many in the room took it as a strong audition speech to Barack Obama, saying look at what I bring to the table and I might have a stronger economic message than you and I can help you look closely.

BLITZER: And the next time maybe we see her out on the campaign trail, it will be together with Barack Obama, and we will see how that picture is translated.

Candy, any indications when that might happen? When we will see the two of them publicly raising their arms?

CROWLEY: I haven't heard any indication of that, and here is my guess on it just from talking to the strategists. He has to claim this nomination as his own first, and he has to get out there and be the nominee.

We saw him starting to do that when the other day he planted his own guy inside of the Democratic National Committee and told them to stop taking lobbyists money and to stop taking pac money and sort of taking control of the committee and putting his imprint on it, and also saying in regard to all of the VP talk, everybody, settle down. I have a process, and I don't respond to pressure.

We will go through this and of course she is on a short list, but I want to look at all of these people. So he really needs at this point to make it his nomination. It can't be his and her nomination. So I suspect we will see it later rather than sooner. BLITZER: And the Clintons are still up at the National Building Museum shaking hands with their supporters and maybe they will be there for a little bit longer. We will take another short break and our coverage continues right after this.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton still inside the National Building Museum. Donna Brazile, it was a powerful speech, a gracious speech, a final thought?

BRAZILE: Extraordinary moment, but the work begins tomorrow for Senator Obama to go out there and rally her support, earn their respect and with them this November.

BLITZER: He's got a challenge ahead of him.

BORGER: He does. She struck the perfect tone. It was everything he could have wanted; now it's up to him.

BLITZER: We'll be watching it every step of the way. One chapter in this dramatic race for the White House has now been completed. Hillary Clinton dropping out of the race, technically suspending her bid for the White House. But she's going to still be involved, she said, as a major supporter for Barack Obama.

Up next, we're going have a special report. Something is happening here. The parallels between 1968 and 2008 on this the 40th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. And tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern "The Next President." CNN's John Roberts and Campbell Brown, they examine the biggest issues facing the next president and who will be the president, the president that will be,

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Thanks for joining us.