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Sweet: Obama on Face the Nation predicts GOP will hit Dem nominee whoever it is. Obama/Huckabee Transcript.

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WASHINGTON--Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton agree--the GOP will throw darts at the Democratic presidential nominee. Clinton, to dilute the argument that her baggage will give the Republicans ammunition, says any Dem will be roughed up. Obama Sunday on CBS "Face the Nation" said he'll be in better shape because he won't start out with high negatives.

? 2007, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.


CBS News


Sunday, December 23, 2007

2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate

Former Governor MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR)
2008 Republican Presidential Candidate


This is a rush transcript provided
for the information and convenience of
the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Today on FACE THE NATION, two front-runners: Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee. Eleven days and counting to Iowa and the races for the nomination in both parties are too close to call. We'll be talking with two of those front-runners, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee.

I'll have a final word on the newest thing under the tree, Christmas campaign commercials.

But first, countdown to Iowa, Obama and Huckabee, on FACE THE NATION.

Announcer: FACE THE NATION with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now, from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Joining us from Des Moines this morning, Senator Barack Obama.

Senator, thank you so much for coming in this morning. And you're in a very good place this morning, it seems. You're leading out there in Iowa, according to an average of the polls. It's getting very, very close in New Hampshire. And it turns out, you're now leading in South Carolina.

I want to begin this morning by asking you about something you said this morning in The Des Moines Register. You argued to two of their reporters that you are the most electable of the Democrats. And you said one reason for that, you point to what you said is that you would not automatically have the Republicans rallied against you in the way that you argue that Senator Clinton would have them rallied against her. I mean, what are you saying here, Senator, that she just brings out the worst in the Republicans and you don't? I mean, how can you say that?

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democratic Presidential Candidate, Democrat, Illinois): Well, first of all, that was based on polls that we've seen, Bob, over the last several weeks that show me beating every single Republican and showing that I'm the only Democrat that does. And the difference, I think, is I attract more Republicans and independents. And, you know, I actually think that Senator Clinton is a capable, solid senator from New York. But because of the history of some of the battles that have taken place back in the '90s, it is true that she tends to galvanize the other side.

But I was making more of a positive argument than a negative argument. What I've seen, as I travel around Iowa and across the country, is that people want to see the next president bring people together, push back the influence of special interests and lobbyists, talk straight with the American people and get things done. And what--how we've been running our campaign, I think, is the same way we want to govern. I may have disagreements with Republicans, but I don't want to polarize and demonize those folks. I want to see if we can bring them in into a working majority to actually deliver on health care and education and the new energy policy and foreign policy that can repair some of the damage that's been done. So the message was really one of what I can bring to the table as opposed to what others can't.

SCHIEFFER: Well, in fact, do you think it would be a meaner and nastier campaign were she the nominee instead of you?

Sen. OBAMA: Well, my suspicion is, is that the Republican National Committee is going to be targeting any Democratic nominee. I'm sure that there will be a lot of negative ads out there. They don't have much to run on, given what's happened over the last seven, eight years. So there's no doubt that there will be negativity. But I do think that if you start off with high negatives, then you're playing on a very short field and it's hard for you then to persuade those who might be persuadable to come into your corner.

And one of the things I'm seeing is that it's not just Democrats, but it's Republicans and independents who have also lost trust in how our government has functioned. They're concerned about profligate spending on things that aren't our priorities. They're concerned about the fact that we have a foreign policy that has diminished our standing around the world. They're concerned about inefficiencies. Katrina didn't just upset Democrats, it upset Republicans as well. And so we've got a chance, potentially, to bring in people who have seen the philosophy of George Bush and Dick Cheney not serve the country well and are, I think, willing to consider new approaches.

SCHIEFFER: Let me talk to you about the centerpiece of your campaign. You say it is change. Well, now, you've been in Washington, you've had a good record as a freshman senator from Illinois. Your party's been in the majority, you've been on one of the key committees. What could you say, at this point, that, since you've been dealing with national matters, that you have changed significantly? Have you changed anything yet, or is that still to come?

Sen. OBAMA: Well, actually, I've--I think I've brought about changes over the last two and a half years. I passed, along with Russ Feingold, the toughest ethics reform since Washington. We eliminated meals and gifts and the use of corporate jets from lobbyists to congressmen. We mandated the disclosure of bundling by lobbyists, who they're taking money from and who they're giving it to. I worked with Republicans across the aisle to set up a Google for government, where every dollar of federal spending is going to be on a searchable database so that you, as a journalist, but also ordinary citizens can find out how we're spending our money. And if there's a bridge being built to nowhere or if there's a no-bid contract going to somebody, that will be transparent and we will be able to hold our government accountable. On nuclear proliferation issues and arms control I've worked with people like Dick Lugar to get things done. On veterans' affairs--in Walter Reed you had young men and women who were having to pay for their own meals after having been injured in service to our country. We eliminated that. So, obviously, there's a record there that I'm very proud of.

But when I talk about change, it's not simply policies, it's also a change in leadership. And what, right now, the American people are desperate for is a president that they can trust, who's going to promote accountability and transparency in our government, who is going to take a new approach on things like foreign policy, talking not just to our friends but also to our enemies, and that's the kind of leadership I'm providing, and that's why we're doing so well in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and, I think, ultimately across the country.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Clinton's husband says, notwithstanding all of that, I'm sure he wouldn't concede that you've accomplished as much as you've just outlined there, he says that anybody votes for you is taking a "roll of the dice." What do you think about that? And are you surprised to find yourself running against Bill Clinton as well as Hillary Clinton?

Sen. OBAMA: Well, look, I don't begrudge Bill Clinton helping his wife, you know? My wife's helping me, and I understand that, you know, he's loyal to her and wants to make sure that she can put the best face forward on her campaign.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what about his criticism?

Sen. OBAMA: Well, I--what I would note would be that much of the criticism he's leveling at me is identical to the criticism that was leveled against him when he was running against George H.W. Bush. Folks said, `Here's a governor of a small state, has no foreign policy experience whatsoever,' and his argument was, `Look, my experience is rooted in the real lives of real people, and we'll bring real results if we have the courage to change.' Now, he...

SCHIEFFER: Do you think he's helping her campaign or hurting it?

Sen. OBAMA: Well, I--there's no doubt that he's an asset to her campaign. Look, there's enormous fondness for Bill Clinton among Democrats, and I think that, you know, he brings the sort of megawatt celebrity that is almost unequaled anywhere in the country. When he shows up, there are big crowds. But what people, I think, recognize, despite their fondness of him and of her--I think, you know, people feel, they respect her very much--but what people here in Iowa consistently tell me is they're looking for something different. They're looking for something new. They want to turn the page, and they want to deliver the sort of concrete goals of health care, improved education system, a new energy policy. And the reason I think we're doing well is that we represent a set of new ideas and a new attitude in terms of inviting the American people in to participate in their government.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about the war. You were one of the first to say we shouldn't go to Iraq. You say you've always been against it. You were against the surge. But when you look at's what happening--what is happening over there, Senator Obama, there is no question that violence is down. This month, compared to November of a year ago, there were 650 civilian deaths. A year ago there were 3400 plus. Iraqi security forces are building up, daily attacks are down from 180 last November to just 80 this year. What do you think would be the situation right now, Senator, if the president had taken your advice?

Sen. OBAMA: Well, if he had taken my advice, we would've never been in Iraq, and we would've saved ourselves $1.6 trillion.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's just talk about this recent surge of troops, the recent surge.

Sen. OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what I said at the time when the surge was being proposed. I said that I had no doubt that additional US troops would make some difference on the ground--we've got the best troops in the world--but George Bush's own premise was that, as a consequence of the surge, we would give breathing room to the Iraqis to start negotiating and stabilize the political situation there. And that was what I was skeptical of and continue to be skeptical of.

I am glad that the violence has gone down, but keep in mind, Bob, that we have essentially gone full circle. We had intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government back in 2006. We saw a huge spike in violence to horrific levels. The surge comes in, and now we're back to where we were in 2006 with intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional Iraqi government. If we want to stabilize the situation in Iraq over the long term, then we have to trigger different behavior among the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions and get them to come to an agreement on how they're going to govern. And that has not happened. The only way, I believe, to trigger that different attitude is going to be if we announce a phased, careful, responsible redeployment, and that's what I've proposed consistently.

SCHIEFFER: All right, well, Senator, we want to wish you the best out there, and I'm sure we'll be seeing you before those Iowa caucuses. We'll be back...

Sen. OBAMA: Bob, merry Christmas.

SCHIEFFER: ...with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in just one minute. Thank you, Senator.


SCHIEFFER: And with us now from San Antonio, Texas, former Governor Mike Huckabee. I have to ask you first, governor, why are you in San Antonio this morning. It's all going on in Iowa?

Former Governor MIKE HUCKABEE (Republican Presidential Candidate): Well, I got in late last night, speaking at a church this morning, a fund-raiser this afternoon, before finally heading back to Arkansas for Christmas.

SCHIEFFER: All right, well welcome to the broadcast. Governor, there's no question about it, you have really been the surprise of the year in politics, and you have set your own party on its ear. And the good news for you is, you're now leading out in Iowa, you have a slight, but an outside the margin of error lead in Iowa. The bad news, of course, is once you move into that position, then people start asking questions that they didn't ask when you were really not considered a threat to anybody.

What I find surprising is that big segments of the Republican Party seem to take some umbrage to what you've done. The National Review, which is kind of the voice of old-line conservatives in the Republican Party, say it would be national suicide of the Republicans elected you. And now the voice of the neocons, The Weekly Standard, wrote a story about you that I must say it's been a while since I've heard things like this. Let me just quote so we want to get your comments. It says, "On every issue save for abortion and gay marriage," you are "dramatically out of step with the Republican Party." You talk "a class warfare game that would make John Edwards blush." You're "foreign policy prescriptions make one yarn for the muscular" policy of Jimmy Carter. I think that's meant in irony. And it says your anti-business record and past regard for tax increases have left the economic conservatives fuming. What's going on here, Governor?

Gov. HUCKABEE: Well, Bob, it sounds like that some of those stories are being written by my opponents and their press shop. I cut taxes in Arkansas and did it against the headwinds of a democratic establishment. I was the first governor in 160 years that actually did a broad-based tax cut. Our job rate went up, our unemployment rate went down. I took a $200 million deficit, turned it into an $850 million surplus. I believed in different kind of government that actually tried to streamline government, make it more efficient. Those are conservative things. My record is a solid one as a conservative, and what makes it even more solid and I think, frankly, pretty impressive is that in the midst of being a very Republican, very conservative governor, I kept getting re-elected year after year; twice as lieutenant governor, twice as governor. And Time magazine said I was one of the best governors in the country. Governing magazine said I was one of--the Public Official of the Year. You know, notwithstanding what some of the political opponents are throwing at me now, the tenure that I have in actually leading and managing was one that won kudos and great reviews even from the voters of Arkansas.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you this, Governor, because you did call George Bush's foreign policy arrogant and one of a bunker mentality. You told Matt Lauer on the "Today" show the other day you knew Wall Street was against you because the president ought to be the servant of the people and not elected by the ruling class. Are you running to change the Republican Party as well as running for the nomination? Some liberals are even saying they see in you more of a populist than the traditional Republican.

Gov. HUCKABEE: I am a Republican, and I am out to change the Republican Party. It needs changing. It needs to be inclusive of all those people across America for whom this party should stand. And it's not just the people on Wall Street, it's the people on Main Street. And there are a lot of people in America that come up and shake my hand. They get out of cabs, they come from behind the skycap counter and they tell me that they appreciate the fact that I understand what it's like to struggle.

The Republicans are not just a group of people who sit at the top. They're people who sit around their kitchen table and worry about how they're going to pay their rent. I think sometimes there's this perception that Republicans all belong to the same club. Well, the one club they belong to is loving this country and loving its future and wanting to do the best for their children. I think I represent those folks. I'm not angry at all the folks at Wall Street. In fact, I think my policies would do more for them. But it wouldn't just be for them, it would also be for those guys that don't necessarily have a stock portfolio. It would be, also, for the people who don't have a lobbyist in Washington. When we do the kind of policies that I'd like to see happen in terms of taxes and regulation, a guy could sit down at his kitchen table, sketch out the idea for a small business and know that the government isn't his biggest opposition, that he actually might be able to live the American dream. And that's what Republicans ought to be about, helping not just big business but small business as well.

SCHIEFFER: And you don't think they're about that right now, from what I take, from what you just said?

Gov. HUCKABEE: It's not that they're not about it at all, but I think that there is almost a disconnect between what I have called sort of the chattering crass--class of the East Coast and real America. And you see this when you go to places like Iowa. Or, for that matter, take any place in America and get away from the bubble of the Beltway, and you find that what people are talking about and what they're concerned about is very different than what you see from the talking heads. Maybe I pose a threat to those folks. But, you know, sometimes we forget that in the middle of the washing machine is the agitator and it shakes the dirt loose. I'm not running for George Bush's third term. I love the president; I've been one of his staunch supporters. I didn't just come around to it recently. But for the same time, Bob, I think our party needs to be honest with the American people. Let's say where we agree, but let's also have the candor to talk about where we would be different...

SCHIEFFER: All right.

Gov. HUCKABEE: ...and how we would lead this country.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we're going to take just a brief break here. We'll come back and talk about this some more in just a moment.


SCHIEFFER: We're back again with Mike Huckabee.

Governor, there's no question that your faith--you're a proud evangelical Christian--has helped you out in Iowa. There are a lot who share your faith out there. But The Washington Post asked an interesting question on its editorial page the other day after you ran your Christmas ad which showed a cross over your shoulder. They asked this question. Do you call yourself--are you running for president of Christian America, or are you running for president of all America?

Gov. HUCKABEE: President of all America, to be the people's president. And that's how I served as governor. People look at my record and they didn't see that I put out a tent out on the capital grounds and had healing services, and I didn't replace the dome with a steeple. I governed. We improved education, we rebuilt the road system, we brought health care to children that didn't have it. We reformed the welfare system. Those were the things that I focused on as governor. And when people take a look at that, they're going to see that it was my faith that drove me to care about things like hunger and poverty and the people that didn't have anybody out there advocating for them. Real faith does that for you. It makes you concerned about everybody with a sense of equality. And you don't give preference to the rich or preference to the poor, you give a sense of a sort of an unvarnished concern for every single person.

So, you know, the--by the way, the cross in the background was a bookshelf. Everyone thought that we were so smart and clever. The truth is it was a bookshelf. We hurriedly put the spot together. It wasn't scripted. I ad libbed the spot. It was done at the end of a long taping day and really kind of a thought of, `Well, let's do a Christmas spot just in case we decide to use it maybe on our Web site. Maybe for broadcast, but probably just for the Web site.'

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let me--let me just ask you a little bit about taxes, because you have proposed something that you don't--we don't hear much about, never seem to get to it, and that is your plan to do away with the Internal Revenue Service, do away with income taxes and finance the country on what is basically a consumption tax. In other words, you'd put a tax on things that people buy. One of the things you haven't talked about, Governor, is how large would that tax be? I mean, if the person went down to buy a car, how much more would it cost them with your tax? Would it be 10 percent more, 20 percent more? I know across Europe, where they sometimes use the value-added tax, it can sometimes be 30 percent more.

Gov. HUCKABEE: Mm-hmm.

SCHIEFFER: How much--how big would that consumption tax be?

Gov. HUCKABEE: Well, what you do--first of all, realize that you go to buy that car with your entire paycheck with no deductions. Secondly, that car no longer will have the 22 percent embedded tax that is built in with corporate tax and all of the cost of compliance. So the tax rate is 23 percent. But that's 10 percent less than the 33 percent that the average American pays right now. Trouble is, the average American doesn't even know how much tax he pays because it's all hidden. This would mean a transparent system, and also it means that the underground economy is no longer underground. Drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps, illegals would start paying the same tax as the rest of us do because you would pay it at the retail level on new items.

SCHIEFFER: But what the--tell me again about...

Gov. HUCKABEE: It would also mean that we no longer penalize productivity, which is what we do with the current tax code. We discourage savings, discourage earnings, discourage dividends and capital gains. We ought not to be discouraging. And it was designed not by me--I wish I was smart enough--but by the leading economists in this country and the leading academic economists from Harvard and MIT, Boston University and Stanford.

SCHIEFFER: Would such a radical change, though, wouldn't there bound to be some sort of unintended consequence? I mean, we're in the midst of a housing crisis now.

Gov. HUCKABEE: Mm-hmm.

SCHIEFFER: Suddenly people wouldn't be able to deduct their mortgage interest payments under something like that.

Gov. HUCKABEE: What you have is a revitalized economy. You know, there's $10 trillion parked offshore in offshore bank accounts. A lot of people hide their money out of America. What would happen if that $10 trillion was working capital back here? We'd see manufacturing jobs return to the United States. It would mean that the products that we produce here would actually be competitive with those products that come from Europe where they exempt the VAT taxes if they're shipping it into our country. Bob, it would have a dramatic impact, according to the economists who have actually studied the fair tax proposal. And that's why I think that this helps people from the bottom to the top.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

Gov. HUCKABEE: It untaxes poor people because of the prebate provision. And we ought to be working aggressively to do that.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Governor, we have to end it there. We want to wish you the best of the season, and we'll see you out there on the campaign trail. Back in a minute.

Gov. HUCKABEE: Bob, thank you very much.


SCHIEFFER: Finally, well, chalk up another one to old age. I can actually remember when the early appearance of Christmas decorations caused us to worry that Christmas was becoming too commercial. We worried that the great lesson of Christmas, to love one another, the Christian version of the truth that runs through all the great religions, was being run over by a new dogma to get out and buy something. How quaint those old worries seem as this front-loaded presidential campaign has taken us from just commercializing to politicizing the season and brought with it the newest marketing device, the Christmas campaign commercial. From Huckabee and his now famous floating cross to warm and fuzzy Giuliani to those cute Obama kids and Mrs. Clinton's gifts beneath the tree and on and on, in the campaign states the candidates are hooking their sleighs to Christmas.

Seasons greetings to all of them, but, frankly, I prefer Christmas carols at Christmastime. Decorating campaign commercials with Christmas ornaments really doesn't do it for me. In this season, when people of all faiths come together to celebrate the warmth and joy of family and friends, our hearts go out to those who cannot be with their families, especially those who risk their lives in far off places for the rest of us. Let us remember them at this season and forget the campaign commercials.

We'll see you next week right here on FACE THE NATION.



Face the Nation (CBS News) - Sunday, December 23, 2007

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Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 23, 2007 5:27 PM.

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