Lots of interesting reaction Chuck’s hearing from inside the Beltway.
HH: Broadcasting today from the campus of Stanford University at the Hoover Institution. In studio with me is Lanhee Chen, policy research fellow here at Stanford, and of course, also a veteran of the Romney campaign. Joining us now on the line from Washington, Chuck Todd who is host of Meet the Press, and Chuck, I am blaming you or somebody on that set for giving me this terrible, terrible cold that has now robbed me of most of my voice.
CT: Well, that I hate hearing, but the good news is we had another big ratings week.
HH: I did see that.
CT: So I give you all the credit, Mr. Hewitt.
HH: Oh, thank you. I want to talk to you, though, about how you’re going to handle tomorrow, because Lanhee and I were talking during the break. You’ve got Hillary stories left and right, and Politico’s breaking news at this hour that the State Department and the White House, and Hillary Clinton, knew about this as long ago as August. You’ve got Menendez probably going to be indicted. You have Scott Walker doing the union thing, busting the unions in Wisconsin. What are you going to, what allocation of time are you going to make between Hillary and everything else this weekend, Chuck Todd?
CT: Well, you saw firsthand last week, and how jammed we were, but look, you know, right now, Hillary’s still my lead. I think it is the lead. I think you know, while the voters may not be into this story, yet, it’s going to linger, and linger for a long time. And the fact of the matter is I think the biggest impact this story’s going to have is that the Congressional investigation is going, is not going to disappear. Democrats were hoping to discredit it, call it a witch hunt, call it a fishing expedition. The fact of the matter is without it, we wouldn’t have known about this email server. I have talked to multiple people in the Obama, from the first days of the Obama White House. None of them in 2009 knew she was setting up an email server. You’re right that everybody’s finding out in August, which does make the political sort of acumen of the Clinton team sort of odd and off, because Jeb Bush knew enough to get in front of this email issue, knowing that Florida has the sunshine law. And he got in front of it before it became an issue. She had a six month warning. It’s not like the Benghazi Committee decided that they were going to embarrass her right in August on this. They could very well have done it, but they didn’t do that. They were giving her a chance. But that means lawyers are giving the advice and not political strategists. How she’s not in front of this, I’m just looking at it that way, is to me just sort of a bad politics 101.
HH: Now Chuck, I’m going to turn this over to Lanhee because of my voice, but I want to know who you’re booking. I’m sure you would take former President Clinton or the Secretary of State as your lead guest on Meet the Press, but I doubt either of them are going to talk to you. How are you going to cover this story? Who are you booking to give you the expertise?
CT: Well, I’m doing Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham, because I also want to get into some foreign policy issues, too. Look, we have got a request out for somebody from Clinton world, possibly John Podesta, possibly somebody else. If they come through, they come through. But so far, the Clinton folks have decided not to put anybody out. I’m not going to put out some surrogate that knows nothing about this. Lanny Davis, David Brock, those folks don’t know anything about the process. And so to me, it’s useless putting somebody like that on. I want somebody with information. John Podesta might have information.
LC: Chuck, aside from providing more information, what does a Clinton surrogate or one of the Clintons need to say or do now in order to mitigate what’s happened with the story? Or is the answer that maybe there’s nothing aside from just the release of actual information that can do that?
CT: I think it’s release of information. I think it’s finding, look, they have a credibility issue on the idea that they’re deciding, they’re deciding what to disclose. And I sort of, I get the motivation that she may have had in deciding to control disclosures, control government disclosures. She’s somebody in the 90s that fought with, you know, fought with various entities of government having to do with releasing Rose Law Firm records, or releasing the Health Care Task Force. So I’m sure this was a lawyer saying hey, if we do this email server, you get to decide what gets disclosed by the government, or the government gets to decide. So I think she needs to basically flip that script. Let some third-party entity, turn it over to the IG, somebody that has some credibility, to at least start to win back some trust on this issue. But you know, with the Clintons, this stuff is built in, for better or for worse. And that’s sort of my question, is it, because I’ve talked to a lot of Democrats who have been hammering her on this, this week, going oh, God, here we go again. And at the same time, they said but it’s the Clintons. They always know how to get out of these jams.
LC: So does this raise the likelihood, then, that somebody’s able to step into the breach? I mean, so far, that’s been the story, that there’s no Democrat that’s been willing to challenge here, or no Democrat that has the stature to get into the race. Is, I mean, is it more likely that we’re going to see somebody else now? And if so, who?
CT: I don’t think so, and I think the only two that would make a difference are Biden and Warren. And I just don’t think, you know, Elizabeth Warren, I’m sorry, I think she knows she doesn’t have the foreign policy chops. This is going to be a foreign policy heavy election. And I think the day she gets in, she loses any influence she has on Hillary Clinton. Biden’s the only one, and you know, my guess, well, I know what he’s doing. He wants to wait to see how she’s received, and he does believe he does have enough stature that he can wait until the end of the summer to make a final, final decision, which is why he did that. And I think he is in a wait and see. But you know, let’s see if this drags on more. Right now, I don’t think it does entice, say, you know, a Deval Patrick or somebody of sort of stature in between a Martin O’Malley and a Joe Biden.
LC: Chuck, I think you’re right about the foreign policy election element of this, certainly much more than it was in ’12. I guess the question, then, turning to the Republicans is you’ve got a bunch of governors that haven’t had a whole lot of experience in foreign policy, you know, whether it’s Christie or Walker, or even Jeb Bush for that matter. And there’s a standard, it seems, the media has for what these guys have to do to demonstrate credibility in foreign policy. What is it that they need to do? I mean, obviously, they get asked questions. You have Scott Walker with this sort of ill-advised answer on ISIS and the unions. But what is it that they need to do to meet the bar that says okay, these guys are at least credible on foreign policy?
CT: Well, I guess I would, for now, I would go around and say if you look at, you know, this is why I was always thinking that Governor Romney would be almost better positioned, because even though you could say he has no more or less foreign policy experience than Jeb Bush, the fact that he ran a couple of times, was getting these briefings, and that his critiques of President Obama in 2012 on a couple of foreign policy issues were proven to be critiques that came true, specifically on Putin, that he automatically had a level of credibility. I look at what I’ve seen so far, I think Jeb Bush in the foreign policy speech and the Q and A he did after, he did a tour of the world that does tell you he seems to know a little bit more than just simply getting a briefing from Henry Kissinger. If I read one more time that somebody is saying well, they’re really boning up, they’re getting a briefing, that’s not what it is. I want to know that you’ve traveled the country. The advantage that Jeb Bush has is that he does have deep knowledge of Latin America, and that’s a start. I think showing some expertise on one foreign policy issue then gives you credibility to say okay, he’s got a vision, and he’s got the ability to learn more and get deeper on other parts of the world.
HH: Chuck Todd, it’s Hugh again. We’re in the basement of Hoover, and above us is Condoleezza Rice, and above us is George Schultz. So we’re all for foreign policy. But I want to go back to naked political scandalmongering.
CT: Bob Menendez.
HH: Menendez and back, the Loretta Lynch nomination is stuck in the Senate. If the Republicans made a condition of her confirmation that she would appoint a special prosecutor to look into Hillary Clinton, would that go a ways towards…
CT: Oh, my God. Well, I can’t, well, we’ll see. I think she has the votes. My understanding is she has the 50, the four votes she needs if you count Flake, Graham, Hatch and I believe Collins. So unless one of those guys pulls back, and gals pulls back, I can’t…but you know, I’ve always thought that the administration has the trump card here with Republicans by saying okay, you don’t want Loretta Lynch? Then we’ll keep Eric Holder.
HH: But let me ask you, though, if a special counsel was appointed, that’s how Washington has routinely dealt with scandals in the past.
HH: Would that help Hillary or would it hurt her?
CT: Oh, I think it would hurt Hillary Clinton. You’ve got a special prosecutor running around? Because all that does is bring up every, you want to talk about reigniting Clinton fatigue, right? What were the 90s like for, I can’t, look, I’ve gotten emails from multiple Democrats in the last week who have said I can’t take another ten years of this, you know, with the Clintons. Literally, somebody on one hand saying I love Senator Clinton, I think it would be great if there was the first woman president. But are we going to have more special prosecutors, more evading? You know, it’s always fuzzy with them. It’s never a full, clean cut answer to questionable stories. So look, a special prosecutor? I think that dooms her, to be honest, so I just can’t imagine, I can’t imagine Democrats going along with it. I really don’t.
LC: So I guess, then, Chuck, with the minute we have left here, what do you think the Republican play is here going forward, because it’s possible they overplay their hand. What do they sort of, how does this go for them?
CT: I think you do, what you do is you sort of take a page from Obama’s playbook in 2007 when he was running against Clinton, right, which is you just do things that they wouldn’t have done. You know, Jeb Bush, I thought, was smart in doing what he did with his emails. You set some standards of transparency that they wouldn’t have done. And you know, he was very careful about that, and he was very, and it would be, it was all in the line of turning the page. He would never be fully personal against the Clintons, but it was clear what he was trying to apply about transparency and reform issues. If I were a Walker, a Bush, Marco Rubio, the top tier here, I’d be laying things out like that so that let the press say oh, look, it’s a contrast with the Clintons.
HH: Good advice, Chuck Todd. We’ll be watching on Sunday, because if it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.
End of interview.