Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Clinton-Obama Feud Escalates; Interview With Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader

Aired February 25, 2008 - 20:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us tonight.
Another wild, unpredictable day on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton goes negative, slamming Barack Obama's foreign policy credentials, or lack thereof. There's also a photo of him in traditional clothing during a trip to Africa in 2006. Where did it come from? The Obama campaign is pointing fingers at camp Clinton, accusing them of -- quote -- "shameful, offensive fear-mongering." The Clinton campaign denies all responsibility.

With only eight days left now until what could be a make-or-break round of primaries, the latest polls show the Democratic race is tighter than ever. Clinton leads in Ohio. Our poll of polls there shows the New York senator with a 10-point lead over Barack Obama.

But take a look at this. In Texas, a new CNN poll shows the candidates have switched places, with Obama now pulling out in front, but still a statistical dead heat.

And in the all-impossible totals of convention delegates, CNN's estimate puts Obama only 72 delegates ahead in total count and both candidates far short of the 2,025 delegates needed for the nomination.

No wonder it is getting ugly out there. And the best political team in television is watching all the mud fly.

Senator Clinton stoked the foreign policy feud during a speech this afternoon at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., saying she knows best how to use diplomacy and military strength.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama, meanwhile, represents another choice. He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve some of the world's most intractable problems to advocating rash, unilateral military action without cooperation from our allies in the most sensitive region of the world.

Electing a president should not be an either/or proposition when it comes to national security. We need a president who knows how to deploy both the olive branch and the arrows, who will be ready to act swiftly and decisively in a crisis, who will pursue strategic demands of hard diplomacy to reestablish our moral authority and our leadership. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said very early on in this campaign I will meet not just with our friends, but with our enemies, not just with leaders I like, but leaders I don't.

And when I said this, people said, oh, you can want do that. McCain is still saying , oh, that's so naive. You can't do that.

And I had to explain to people what John F. Kennedy said. He said, we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. That's what strong countries and strong presidents do. They talk to their adversaries.


ROBERTS: Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is following the Democratic feud. She joins us tonight from Dayton, Ohio.

In her speech today, Candy, Hillary Clinton also likened Barack Obama to George Bush, saying: "We had one president without foreign policy experience. We don't need another one."

That's a pretty harsh statement to make.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. She went on to say, I don't need a manual to tell me about foreign affairs. It was really very direct, and then quite a contrast, John, from last Thursday at the CNN debate in Austin.

When she was given the chance to say that she thought he was too inexperienced to be president, she totally passed it up. As of today she was not passing it up along any longer. And I think, as you suggested at the top of the show, this really shows you kind of the high stakes and the high tension of those polls closing and the calendar moving in on them.

ROBERTS: Well, the Obama campaign was also in a state of outrage today over this photo from 2006. It was taken in Kenya. It has got him in traditional Somali garb. The Obama campaign blamed the Clinton campaign. The Clinton campaign said, we don't know anything about this.

But a photo like this, what does it do? Does it make him look silly? Or does it reinforce all of those specious rumors that have been floating around about him?

CROWLEY: I think that the latter is what they're worried about.

They say, listen, you know, we have seen, all of us, the e-mails that float around the Internet. They think that some voters really fear what his background is, aren't quite sure. And they think this picture was intended at least to feed into that.

But I take that point that the other thing, oh, he just looks silly. But the Clinton campaign came out and said, wait a minute. We have got her in traditional garb in various places around the world. What is the big deal here?

And you're right. There's been denial from the Clinton campaign that it came from them, basically, you know, top officials saying, look, as far as we know, it did not come from us. They, in fact, think that this is the Obama campaign trying to sort of whip things up, instead of talking about what the Clinton campaign says of the issues, NAFTA, and that sort of thing.

ROBERTS: Over the weekend, it was her turn for outrage over those mailers that went out from the Obama campaign on her position on NAFTA as well as her position on health care.

And then yesterday she took a real shot at Obama, literally mocking his message of hope. Listen to what she said.


CLINTON: I could stand up here and say, let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing.


CLINTON: And everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect.


ROBERTS: Candy, in an election year where at least a large part of the electorate is looking for a vision, who does that message appeal to?

CROWLEY: Well, it appeals to the voters that the Clinton campaign think are still out there that haven't decided.

Look, they think her ace in the hole is she's the practical one. She's the doer. She's the solver. She's the one with the record. And he's the dreamer.

It is not a new theme, but it is getting more and more poignant, because they believe that America is sort of flirting with Obama and that if in Ohio and in Texas they can turn this around and say, listen, this is great here, but you really actually need someone who knows how to solve your problems, and that goes to that sort of tactic within the Clinton campaign -- John.

ROBERTS: Candy Crowley for us tonight in Dayton, Ohio, birthplace of aviation -- Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

If there was one thing that Senators Clinton and Obama still agree on, neither of them wants Ralph Nader in the presidential race. But Nader has just announced that he's running again. Counting his 1992 write-in effort, this will be his fifth consecutive run.

When we talked today on CNN's "AMERICA MORNING," Nader lashed out at the notion that he should give up and stay home. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: In 2000, that famous election. You got almost three million votes, you run again in 2004. You got about a half a million votes that compared with Bush and Kerry who got some 60 million votes. Do you have any realistic chance of becoming president this year?

RALPH NADER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The system obviously has been rigged. It even prevents candidates who come in first in the popular vote, like Gore did in 2000 from becoming president. That's what the Electoral College does, in all of these ballot access restrictions.

I'm running for a simple reason. Washington is closed its doors on citizen groups. Labor, citizen, consumer, reform groups, environmental groups. It's corporate occupied territory. And we have got to heed Thomas Jefferson who said when we lose our government. we have got to go into the electorate arena. Use the word revolution. I think we need a Jeffersonian revolution.

ROBERTS: A lot of people talk, Mr. Nader, about the effect that you will have in an election. Mike Huckabee believes that you're going to draw votes away from Democrats. That none of your votes will come from Republican s. And Hillary Clinton had something to say about that idea yesterday. Let's listen to how she responded to you getting in the race.

She said, "I remember when he ran before it didn't turn out very well for anyone, especially our country." So, would a Ralph Nader candidacy hurt the country? You know, you talked about how environmental groups have been shut out of Washington. Hillary Clinton says that you being in the race in the year 2000 prevented the person who would have been the greenest president in our lifetime from taking the reins at the White House?

NADER: That's a misstatement of the facts. I mean, Gore won. He won in Florida. He believes it, I believe it. It was stolen from him. They should concentrate on the thieves who steal elections in Florida and Ohio in 2004. They should try to get rid of the Electoral College which makes some mockery in front of the world, where someone who can come in second like George W. Bush in the popular vote, and ends up being president, selected by the Supreme Court. Why are they scapegoating the Greens?

The Democrats ought to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves, why they have not been able to landslide the worst Republican Party in the White House and Congress over the last 20 years. So, the important thing here is when we look back at American history, John, do we call the anti-slavery little party a spoiler? Do we call the women's suffrage for woman's right to vote a spoiler? They never won any national election, but they put the social justice issues on the front burner. That's what so important.

As John Edwards once said, little is going to change if we replace a corporate Republican with a corporate Democrat. And Hillary Clinton has been named by Fortune" magazine as the Democrat Most Loved by Big Business; an article by Nina Easton in "Fortune" magazine last June. That ought to speak volumes.

Barack Obama also had something to say about your candidacy. He said that he had tremendous respect for the work that you had done but he also added this, listen.


OBAMA: My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work.


ROBERTS: What do you say Mr. Nader to this idea that your candidacy is motivated by humorous?

NADER: As if Barack Obama does not have a high opinion of his own work. That's name-calling. Address the issues, Barack. Address why you're not for single-payer health insurance supported by a majority of American people in the forthcoming poll and majority of physicians.

Explain why you don't challenge what you know as to be tens of billions of dollars of waste fraud and abuse in the monetary budget. Explain why you don't really get concrete about how you would renegotiate NAFTA and WTO, which is exporting jobs and industry to places like the communist dictatorship in China.

And above all, explain why you don't come down hard on the economic crimes against minorities in city ghettos, who pay their loans in predatory lending, rent-to-own rackets, landlord abuses, lead contamination asbestos. He's an unseemly silence by you, Barack, a community organizer in poor areas in Chicago many years ago, on this issue.


ROBERTS: Tough words from Ralph Nader for Barack Obama on this morning's "AMERICAN MORNING" program.

Nader absolutely rejects the argument that he was somehow a spoiler in the 2000 presidential race.

Well, we asked our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, to dig out the numbers and check Nader's facts on that. Bill joins us now from Washington.

So, Bill, what does the data show? Was he or was he not the spoiler in the year 2000?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they showed pretty clearly that he was.

Look, go back to 2000. Ralph Nader got about just under three million vote, about 3 percent of the total. Now you say Al Gore actually did get more votes than Ralph Nader -- sorry -- than George Bush. Gore got 540,000 more votes than Bush, but he got them in the wrong places. He got them in New York City. He got them in Los Angeles. He needed them in Florida.

Let's take a close look at what happened in Florida, because this, of course, is the state that determined the election outcome. In Florida, George Bush officially beat Al Gore by exactly 537 votes. That's the official vote count, of course, widely disputed because the Supreme Court didn't allow a recount.

In that state, Ralph Nader got 97,488 votes, almost 100,000 votes in a state that officially Gore lost by about 500 votes. Most of Nader's votes came from Democrats and liberals. Now, assume that half the Nader voters wouldn't have shown up if he weren't on the ballot. That still leaves about 50,000 Nader voters. I think it's pretty clear that, given a choice between Bush and Gore, Gore would have easily gotten a margin of at least 537 voters from those Nader voters who would have voted even if Nader's name were not on the ballot.

So, Bill, he ran again in 2004. What were the results from that contest?

SCHNEIDER: The results were that his vote dropped very sharply because a lot of Democrats saw what the consequences were. He went from about three million votes to fewer than half a million votes.

And what people figured out -- you see it right there -- is that, if you're a liberal who votes for Ralph Nader because you may agree with him on the issues, you're helping the candidate you like least. In 2000, that meant George Bush. You were taking votes away from Al Gore and helping George Bush. And they did not want to do that again in 2004.

One of the big differences, by the way, between 2000 and 2004 was that before Election Day in 2000, a lot of voters thought, well it didn't make a lot of difference whether the country elected Bush or Gore. They were pretty much the same. People thought Bush was a compassionate conservative, a fairly moderate Republican. And they didn't see a big difference between them, so they figured what difference does it make which one gets elected?

By 2004, they saw it made a big difference.

ROBERTS: Yes, I can see that.

Bill Schneider for us tonight from Washington -- Bill, thanks very much.

Well, Ralph Nader's "I'm not a spoiler" argument does not sit well with our next guest. Political consultant Tad Devine was a chief political adviser to Al Gore during the 2000 presidential race. He joins us now from Washington.

We should mention that he has neither endorsed nor contributed to any of the 2008 presidential campaigns.

So, Tad, you heard Ralph Nader say it. He didn't spoil the race in Florida. Al Gore won. The race was stolen from him. What do you say about that?

TAD DEVINE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I say Bill Schneider is right. Ralph Nader did spoil the race, and not just in Florida, where, obviously, you know, 50,000 or more votes may have been affected by his candidacy.

But, John, the effort that we head made in places like Oregon, Washington State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, states that Al Gore won, but the enormous amount of resources we had to pull into those states to get Nader's number down from high single digits to where we needed it to be for us to win, that pulled effort away from other states that we could have won as well.


You heard what Bill Schneider said. He got about one-sixth the number of votes in 2004 that he got in 2000. How many do you think he will get this time around?

DEVINE: I think even less than he got last time. I think people understand the consequences of these votes. I think the nation had an object lesson in voting in 2000. And now they have lived with eight years of the results.

So, I don't think people are going to going to throw their vote away on Ralph Nader. I think they're going to cast their vote wisely in this election. And they know the choice will be a Democratic or a Republican nominee for president.

ROBERTS: Do you think that he's really going to make a difference this time around, tad? Ralph Nader said when he jumped in the race, if the Democrats can't win in a landslide against this Republican Party, they don't even belong in the game.

DEVINE: I don't think he will make a difference this time.

I think in 2000 the country was at peace. I think the economy was booming after the 90s. Now we have got a country at war. We have got an economy in deep trouble. And we have got a nation that realizes it's heading in the wrong direction.

And I think people know that they want a change, and they want it desperately. So, I don't think that Ralph Nader will be a big faction in this election, because people desperately want that change.

ROBERTS: There's a familiar refrain to every Ralph Nader campaign. And it goes something like this. In the year 2000, it was Al Gore, who was a corporate stooge. In 2004, the corporate stooge was John Kerry. Now he's suggesting, to some degree, that Barack Obama is a corporal stooge.

But isn't it true that, if you want to become the president, you have got to work with corporations to some degree? You just -- you can't declare all-out war on corporate America. What would it do to the economy?

DEVINE: It would destroy the economy.

And if Ralph Nader's policies were pursued, we would be missing something in this country called jobs. Listen, Ralph Nader knows he's not a serious candidate for president. He knows he doesn't have to coalesce a majority of the American people behind his candidacy. So, he can afford to say provocative things. And that does attract some voters.

And it's understandable why they would be attracted to his message. But in the end I think people realize how much is at stake in this election. And they desperately want change. So, that's why I don't think Ralph Nader will be a factor.

ROBERTS: You heard what Ralph Nader had to say at the very end there. He had some tough questions for Barack Obama. What would he do to renegotiate NAFTA and the WTO? And why hasn't he declared war on the economic crimes against minorities in the inner city?

Does he have a point there? Does Obama have some more detail to lay out here?

DEVINE: He certainly does.

And I think, in the course of a general election campaign, should Senator Obama succeed with the nomination, he will begin to lay out that detail. I think people want to know his plans. They want to know exactly where he will take the country on big issues like health and the economy and the war in Iraq and on other issues as well.

And I think that's natural for him to fill those in, in the course of a primary campaign, at a convention and general election. But that's a ways off. Right now, they're focusing on the nomination. And they have got a hard fight next week, what may be the decisive day in the nominating process. And until then, I don't think he will really have the opportunity to talk in detail about all those specific ideas.

ROBERTS: Quickly, Tad, you can criticize Nader's decision to get in all you want. He's not going anywhere. So, what do you do about it?

DEVINE: I think you ignore him. I think he will be off talking about his issues.

And it's going to be incumbent on our party to really talk about the issues that people care about that's front and center in their life, the big issues of our time, whether it's the war in Iraq, the threat we face abroad, the economy, which is in a shambles today, health care, which is such a huge issue for so many people, the environment, which is under challenge. Those are the big issues of our time, and I think if our candidates talk about them, they will be listened to by people.

ROBERTS: Tad Devine, a former senior adviser to the Gore campaign back in 2000 -- Tad, good to see you. Thanks for coming in tonight. DEVINE: Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it.

Well, some of John McCain's straight talk may have gotten a little bit too straight today. He said if he can't convince voters about something -- quote -- "Then I lose." We will tell you what that something was and why it's so important.

We're also fact-checking the Obama campaign's mailer attacking Hillary Clinton. See what the record really shows.

And it's a given in politics that going negative works. But will it work for Senator Clinton?



ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN PRODUCER: After putting his comedic skills to the test on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, Huckabee hit the trail Monday in Rhode Island, despite polls that showed John McCain with a huge lead in the state. Huckabee admitted that he wouldn't do very well in the very blue Rhode Island in the general election, but that there are Republican delegates to pick up in the GOP primary.

Huckabee continues to preach his message of giving Republican voters a choice in this primary season. Tuesday, he heads to Ohio for three days of campaigning, before going back to Texas, the state that he's hoping will keep him in the race.

This is Alexander Marquardt embedded with the Huckabee campaign.


ROBERTS: Well, Mike Huckabee continues to plug along with his campaign for the Republican nomination. At last check, though, He's trailing far behind John McCain in the delegate total.

To date, McCain has 971 delegates, Huckabee 233. It's going to take 1,191 to clinch the nomination.

Meanwhile, McCain did some explaining today, clarifying a statement that he made a few weeks ago that the U.S. could stay in Iraq for 100 years.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, that reminds me of this 100-year thing. My friends, the war will be over soon, the war, for all intents and purposes, although the insurgency will go on for years and years and years. But it will be handled by the Iraqis, not by us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: CNN's Dana Bash is with the McCain camp. She joins us now live from Parma, Ohio.

How much trouble had that 100-year statement been getting John McCain into that he felt compelled to dial back on it a bit today?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I asked John McCain that very question today, John. And he said, well, it's really the question of whether or not Democrats are taking it out of context.

But the reality is, what you just heard from John McCain, he did that unsolicited. He was asked a general question about Iraq. And it really is telling, looking at the big picture, of the fact that John McCain understands that he did quite well in the primary season when you're talking about Republican voters after the surge really did seem to work. But it's a whole different ball game when you're looking at the general election. And on his bus today he said in quite stark terms that he will lose if he can't convince the U.S. -- voters here that the U.S. strategy in Iraq is doing better.

He quickly took that back and said, well, I want to take that "I will lose" statement back.

But I spoke to him right here a couple of hours ago when he was campaigning. And I asked him about it. Here's what he said.


MCCAIN: I think that clearly my fortunes have a lot to do with what's happening in Iraq. And I'm proud of that, because Senator Clinton and Senator Obama said that we could not succeed militarily. We have. They said we could not succeed politically. We have. I think that the American people will recognize that and we will continue to succeed in Iraq.


BASH: So, John, Iraq is, no question, the dividing line when you look at what the stark differences are between John McCain and either of the two Democrats.

But, having said that, John McCain understands very, very well that his -- as you just heard him, his political fortunes are tied to Iraq, and it's very different again trying to explain why he should stay the course in Iraq to the general electorate and to those middle- of-the-road independent voters that he's going to need in order to win, rather than just talking primarily to Republican primary voters -- John.

ROBERTS: He got some good news today, though. He's now the clear favorite in Texas.

BASH: And that is very good news for the McCain campaign, because here's what they're looking at, both here in Ohio, where he's campaigning today and tomorrow, and also in Texas. What they are hoping -- you just ran the latest delegate count -- what they are hoping is that the four primaries that are going to take place a week from tomorrow, that those will officially, officially, mathematically, put McCain over the edge to become the nominee. They're really hoping that that's the case.

ROBERTS: All right.

Well, Mike Huckabee vowing that, if he stops McCain from getting the 1,191, he plans on taking it all the way to the convention. So, I'm sure McCain looking to get all those delegates.

Dana Bash for us in Parma, Ohio, tonight -- Dana, thanks you very much.

Out on the campaign trail, Senator Clinton is livid about some fliers being mailed out by the Obama campaign. We have done some fact-checking. Does she have the right to be angry? Is he distorting her record, or is he getting it right?

No doubt that Senator Clinton is going negative. How far can she go before her hurting Barack Obama starts helping John McCain?


ROBERTS: Well, Hillary Clinton turned free trade and health care into an angry attack on Barack Obama over the weekend, accusing him of sending voters a series of completely false mailers regarding her position on those issues.


CLINTON: Enough with the speeches and the big rallies and then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove's playbook. This is wrong. And every Democrat should be outraged.

OBAMA: Unlike some of the attacks that have been leveled about me that have been debunked by news organizations, these are accurate.


ROBERTS: So, who was telling the truth?

For that, we have brought in Brooks Jackson. He's the director of and has been looking into all of this.

So, let's look at these mailers. The Obama campaign says that they're accurate. Let's have a look at the NAFTA one first. It says Hillary Clinton believes NAFTA was -- quote -- "a boon to our economy." That's what she's so angry about.

Is that accurate, Brooks?

BROOKS JACKSON, FACTCHECK.ORG: No, Hillary Clinton never said that. That's from a newspaper "Newsday" that was summarizing her positions prior to her senate election. Was it summarized accurately? Did she ever say that it was a favorable thing for the economy?

The truth is the Obama opposition researchers must be getting eyestrain trying to dig up quotes that show that. The actual fact is two of Hillary Clinton's biographers said that she was opposed to NAFTA as first lady, but her husband, of course, became a champion of NAFTA, got it ratified. Once she left the White House and was on her own, she's been critical of it for many years.

ROBERTS: Right. But you suggested in an article that you wrote about their position on this has been somewhat ambivalent?

JACKSON: I think that's true. Obviously as first lady, she wasn't going to undercut the president. She has been quoted as saying a number of times that it was a political achievement of the administration, saying it was good for the economy. Very, very few quotes like that far outweighed by her criticism.

ROBERTS: Right. Now, what about this health care mailer? And what got the Hillary Clinton campaign so upset and Hillary Clinton herself so upset was this line. It says, "Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it."


ROBERTS: Would you determine the accuracy of that debate.

JACKSON: Well, I mean, that's a fairly accurate description of her health care plan. She has a personal mandate in it, which means that individuals would be required to obtain health care coverage. What they object to is that line, even if they can't afford it. They say, well, everybody will be able to afford it under our plan. Well, maybe they will. That remains to be seen. It's certainly true that it will be heavily subsidized, and we said this mailer needed some context. That it strained the facts. But to call it false, that's misleading, too.

ROBERTS: OK. Well, Hillary Clinton has sent out mailers as well, ones that you have called misleading. What are we talking about here, and what's misleading about them?

JACKSON: Well, just today, the latest, she has sent out a NAFTA mailer in retaliation or response, I should say, to the Obama mailer on NAFTA, quoting Barack Obama as saying nice things about NAFTA.



ROBERTS: It says -- actually, let me read the quote. It says Obama said the United States benefits enormously from exports under the WTO and NAFTA.

JACKSON: That's true. That's true. But she edits it because, if I may, I just want to get this right, they cut off the sentence right there. Well, excuse me. Let me read another thing that she said. ROBERTS: All right.

JACKSON: She quoted in that that Obama said the United States should continue to work with the World Trade Organization and pursue deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA. They cut it off there. He goes on to say in the same sentence, but the country must be more aggressive about protecting American interests. Well, in this mailer she says Ohio voters need to know the truth about Barack Obama's position on NAFTA, but this mailer isn't telling the whole truth.

ROBERTS: Yes. I guess, too, he could argue to say that the country has benefited from the exports, but at the same time there's been enormous job losses as a result of NAFTA that have been detrimental to the economy.

JACKSON: Well, both of these candidates have been saying for a very long time that they think NAFTA needs to be fixed, that there are problems with it. Neither of these candidates if they got in the White House, would push for an agreement of the sort that Bill Clinton pushed for.

ROBERTS: So Brooks, voters are getting these mailers, and they're trying to make up their mind about who to vote for. What should they do when they see these things, you know, come in their mail?

JACKSON: Good question, John. And the first thing is realize that if you only get your information from mailers like the ones we've just been talking about, you're going to be a poorly-informed voter, in fact, a misinformed voters. So cast your net a little more widely. Look for independent sources of information before you make up your mind.

ROBERTS: So in other words, don't believe everything you read.

JACKSON: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: All right. Brooks Jackson from Brooks, thanks for joining us tonight. Good to see you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: The voters say they hate it when the candidates go negative. So is Hillary Clinton playing with political dynamite by going negative against Barack Obama? We'll find out coming up.


ROBERTS: Senator Hillary Clinton's angry reaction to those mailers that we just talked about seems to be part of a more aggressive campaign strategy. In short, you can't beat him, mock him. Just listen to the contrast. Hillary Clinton during last Thursday's debate and Clinton over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am honored. I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.



SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from you.


ROBERTS: Quite a difference there. So will this new tactic work? Stephen Ansolabehere is a political science professor at MIT. He's also the co-author of "Going Negative: How Political Ads Shrink and Polarize the Electorate." He joins us tonight from Boston, Massachusetts. Stephen, thanks for being with us. What do you make of Hillary Clinton going negative? Both the tone and the timing.

STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE, CO-AUTHOR, "GOING NEGATIVE": Well, I think she had to respond to a growing set of attacks that the Obama campaign had issued, as you saw earlier, in various mailers. Not only in Ohio, but also in earlier states like Wisconsin.

ROBERTS: In the past, her going negative hasn't worked out so well. Why is that?

ANSOLABEHERE: Well, one of the problems is that a lot of voters, especially independent voters, really get turned off by it. They drop out of the electorate. They decide not to vote at all.


ANSOLABEHERE: And so, there's a risk that in going negative, the voter that you most want to bring in is the swing voters, the one that you're actually most likely to turn off.

ROBERTS: You know, when you take a look at advertisements, negative ads work going all the way back to 1964. The Daisy Ad against Goldwater. There have been other ads. The Dukakis Ad, the one about Willie Horton. All of those worked very well. So why doesn't going negative on the stump work well for some people?

ANSOLABEHERE: Well, even in the ads, there's a danger here, which is you're trying to do two things. You're trying to lower how much the person, the viewer likes this person that they're listening to.


ANSOLABEHERE: But there's an objective of also trying to solidify your core voter. So it's very -- it's very difficult to -- at the same time try to turn off some voters from your opponent without leaving a bad taste. And not all negative ads do work. There have been a number of backfires over the years. And so, it is, as you said in the introduction, playing with fire for a lot of politicians.

ROBERTS: So you said that it's necessary for Hillary Clinton to respond to the negative attacks coming from the Obama campaign. Vice versa, is it important for him to respond? Remember what happened to John Kerry in August of 2004. He didn't respond to those swift vote ads and it literally sunk his campaign. So does Barack Obama need to get aggressive against her as well?

ANSOLABEHERE: Well, one of the great lessons from the 1992 election was how a campaign like the Clinton campaign in '92, that it quickly responds to an attack and then goes back to its main message, works very well. That's what happened with Bill Clinton. Dukakis didn't do that, and he failed. John Kerry didn't do that, and he failed.

ROBERTS: This photograph of Barack Obama from his visit to Kenya in 2006 that's making the rounds today. What do you expect is going to be the effect of that? We asked Candy Crowley earlier, and I ask you the same question. Does it make him look silly to be dressed in something other than a business suit, or does this reinforce those negative perceptions that some people have about him based on false rumors that have been circulated?

ANSOLABEHERE: To some extent it reinforces that negative impression. It's also the sort of thing that will come back in the general election. The Willie Horton ad was a primary election ad that was recycled in the general election.

ROBERTS: Right. And what are voters to make of this idea? As we started off here, they were making nice with each other last week in our debate down in Texas. And now, they're at each other's throats. What are voters to think?

ANSOLABEHERE: Well, this has been growing throughout the campaign season. And as we come to the very end of the election, and we're really getting close to the end of this contest, the pressure is on to try to do anything they can to get back into the race. And with the Clinton campaign, I think they're feeling their backs are to the wall. Even Bill Clinton said that they must win in Texas and Ohio.

ROBERTS: All right. Just a little more than a week away now. Stephen Ansolabehere for us tonight. Stephen, thanks very much. Good to see you.

ANSOLABEHERE: Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: Iraq, Iran, North Korea -- see where Senators McCain, Clinton and Obama agree, and where they really part company on some of the most dangerous foreign policy issues out there.

And last summer's bridge collapse in Minneapolis has become the stuff of "Raw Politics" and has the nation's governors at odds with the White House.


ROBERTS: From Cuba to North Korea and back home again, our Tom Foreman takes us for a ride in tonight's edition of "Raw Politics."

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the checks aren't even cashed yet, and already there's talk of a second stimulus plan.

Citing that Minneapolis bridge collapse, members of the National Governors Association say so many highways and bridges need repair. The federal government should pull out its wallet and help, but the plan is mainly backed by Democratic governors and the president does not appear eager to go down that road.

Congressional leaders are pushing a plan once again to start pulling more troops out of Iraq. The measure likely won't pass, but Dems want to remind voters of where they stand.

First day on the job for Raul Castro in Cuba, taking over from brother Fidel. Washington's expectations summed up in a song. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

And the New York Philharmonic is playing in North Korea amid heightened tensions over a slowdown in that country's nuclear disarmament. As a gesture of goodwill, the North Koreans are taking down anti-American posters. And perhaps the orchestra will return the favor by playing nothing that reminds people of food, shelter or free speech.

That's "Raw Politics."

ROBERTS: From our Tom Foreman tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up in just a few minutes' time. And Larry, you were tripping the night with Captain Fantastic the other day.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": I was. Last night, it was the best Oscar party I ever went to. It was Elton John's. And he's our special guest tonight, John. Music's knight in shining armor, Sir Elton himself, will talk about that star-studded Oscar night party and the millions of dollars it raised for AIDS awareness. It's a great event. Elton John will be sitting right here with me at the top of the hour, and we've got e-mails and we'll take phone calls. All for you, John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward -- looking forward to that, Larry. "Caribou" was one of the big albums of my youth, I got to tell you.

KING: Oh, really?

ROBERTS: It was. Absolutely.

KING: I will tell him.

ROBERTS: Say hi for me, if you would. Appreciate it.

KING: I sure will.

ROBERTS: Larry, see you in about 14 minutes' time.

The presidential candidates are fighting over experience. So which one's experience gives them the edge on foreign policy? We'll tell you coming up.


ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton was in Washington today delivering what her campaign built as a major foreign policy address at George Washington University. John McCain was out talking about Iraq. So let's see exactly where the candidates stand on some key foreign policy issues.

For that, we're joined by foreign policy advisers for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. Jamie Rubin is an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and advises Senator Clinton. Of course, he was in the first Clinton administration. From the Obama camp, Lawrence Korb is a former assistant Secretary of Defense, and Randy Scheunemann is a senior foreign policy adviser for Senator McCain.

So let's take a look at a couple of key issues here, and we've made up some graphics. First of all, on this idea of diplomacy. Barack Obama said that he would meet with leaders of Iran, North Korea, Venezuela or Cuba without precondition. Senator Hillary Clinton said no presidential meetings without preconditions. Let's start on the Democratic side. Jamie, let's start with you here. Why is she right and he wrong?

JAMIE RUBIN, CLINTON FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Well, Iran is a perfect issue. Iran is a case where the Republican has called for bombing the country needlessly, putting out that prospect of another war in Iran. He's even made jokes about bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. So the Republican candidate is wholly irresponsible in putting us towards another war. Meanwhile, Senator Clinton has said, yes, it's appropriate to talk to Iran. Yes, we need to find out what their views are and negotiate directly with them.

But as Senator Obama talks about negotiating with President Ahmadinejad right off the bat, that's dumb for two reasons. First of all, you shouldn't rush into a summit with a president of a country like Iran and risk the possibility of a propaganda coup. But even worse, Ahmadinejad's the wrong guy. The important guy in Iran is the leader, who Vladimir Putin met with the supreme leader, Mr. Khamenei.


RUBIN: That's an imperfect example why she's the best equipped for foreign policy and commander in chief.

ROBERTS: Lawrence Korb, what do you say to that? Meeting with Ahmadinejad, a dumb idea, according to Jamie Rubin.

LAWRENCE KORB, OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: No. Senator Obama has said he wouldn't do it without preparation, but his key thing is you don't have preconditions. That's the problem. During the Cold War, we met with some horrible people in the Soviet Union. I mean, John Kennedy, I think, put it very well. He said we should never, you know, negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. And that's the key thing. No preconditions. He did say preparation. And if you don't talk to your enemies, how are you ever going to resolve the problems? The Iranians offered to talk to us in 2003, and the Bush administration turned them down. They were very helpful to us in Afghanistan. We should have picked up on that, and we would have not be in the position that we are today.

ROBERTS: And Randy Scheunemann, the former deputy Secretary of State here calls Senator McCain's position on Iran irresponsible. What do you say?

RANDY SCHEUNEMANN, MCCAIN SR. FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: First of all, what you see with Senator Obama, as a policy of meet, talk and hope, it doesn't serve American interests to unconditionally meet at the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, Iran. And to meet with a president, Ahmadinejad, who has vowed to wipe the state of Israel off the map. I don't know what you're going to sit down and talk about. Maybe the parameters of the second Holocaust?

This is ridiculous to think that simply by talking you can solve all problems. This is not a state legislature, a community to organize in. This is international diplomacy, and it's dangerously naive to think with a little preparation, we can somehow overcome the deep vast differences we have with the country of Iran.

ROBERTS: All right. Let's --

KORB: You got this wrong. I mean, don't forget that the Iranians were very helpful to us in Afghanistan. President Bush's envoy, Jim Dobbins at the Bonn Conference said without the Iranians, we wouldn't have been able to put Karzai in there. So we have worked with them in the past, and it has led to some positive results.

ROBERTS: Let me move onto Iraq if I could, because that's another important issue that we want to talk about. Let's quickly put up the positions of the three candidates on Iraq.

Hillary Clinton would like to begin redeployment of the troops within 60 days. She figures that she can probably get one brigade out per month. There's about 15 brigades in Iraq. So we're talking a total about 17 months for redeployment. Barack Obama redeployment would begin immediately, but it would be done over a period of 16 months. John McCain says he would stay the course.

Randy Scheunemann, McCain calls the Democratic proposals surrender. Why are they surrender?

SCHEUNEMANN: They're surrender because their proposals wouldn't lead to victory. Their proposals would lead to retreat. If we had followed what Senator Obama and Senator Clinton wanted to do last spring, when they voted to cut off funds for our troops in the field, we would have lost the war to al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda would have won a major victory. Instead al-Qaeda is now talking about the major defeat that they are facing in Iraq. Violence is down. The political process is under way.

And instead of sticking their heads in the sand and denying the facts on the ground and the progress that have been made through the shared sacrifice of American and Iraqi forces, they want to retreat and surrender. You can call it withdrawal, and you can time it any way you want. At the end of the day, they're more concerned with getting out of Iraq than they are with winning in Iraq.

ROBERTS: So you heard what he said, Jamie. It's surrender.

RUBIN: Yes. I think a little bit of an overstatement there from Randy. Look, the fact is the security situation has improved. That's not to be denied, and I believe it's improved greatly. But the problem is all of that improvement has brought us back to where we were before the surge. The same level of troops and the same political standoff. What we need is a strategy to succeed in Iraq. Not a strategy to stay there forever, which is John McCain's strategy.

We need to begin to withdraw and make that clear, and that's what the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has said. Until the Iraqis understand we're leaving, they're not going to make the necessary compromises. So it's ridiculous to call it surrender.

And I think Hillary Clinton has the wisdom and the commitment. She is the only one in this race who has the commitment to end the war and the wisdom to do it properly. She understands how hard it's going to be. She hasn't dismissed that issue. She's talked about getting the Iraqis who've helped us out and the civilians.


ROBERTS: Let me --

RUBIN: And I think she is the only one in this race who's both committed and has the experience from all her time in the Armed Services Committee to do it right.

ROBERTS: Let me bring in Lawrence Korb here for a last word. There's literally --


KORB: Remember Senator Obama --

ROBERTS: I was going to say --

KORB: Senator Obama was the only one who would before the war showed the quagmire and the complications we're going to have by going in. If he implements his plan, 16 months after he takes over, would take us until mid-2010. We would have been there more than seven years. He also said when you start the phase withdrawal, you have a diplomatic surge. You get the countries in the region to work with you because they realize that it's going to be their problem as well as ours. And none of the countries in the region want to see Iraq become a failed state.

ROBERTS: Gentlemen, we got to go. Plenty more debate to come on this issue. Jamie Rubin, Lawrence Korb, Randy Scheunemann, thanks very much for being with us tonight. CNN's Larry King was rubbing elbows with the stars after the Oscars. Get the inside scoop on Elton John's post party, post-award party rather, coming up at the top of the hour.


ROBERTS: Well, for the "Most News and the Most Politics in the Morning," join Kiran Chetry and me for CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." It's 6:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow. Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. Tune in at 6:00 a.m. Eastern for "AMERICAN MORNING."

That's all for ELECTION CENTER for tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.