Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Democrats Feud; McCain Stews over 'Times' Piece


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Madeleine Brand. In a few minutes,'s Emily Yoffe applies the Myers-Briggs to the presidential candidates. Who fits which profile coming up.

CHADWICK: NPR News analyst Juan Williams is back with us for our regular Friday interview. Juan, you are in a, I think, snowy New York City.

JUAN WILLIAMS: It's a winter wonderland, Alex. It's unbelievable how much snow is falling.

CHADWICK: Yeah. A storm there. Not so stormy last night in Texas at the Democratic debate there. Here's a cut I want to play. This is Hillary Clinton toward the end of the encounter that evening, and just listen to what she says and how she says it.

(Soundbite of presidential debate)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Debate): No matter what happens in this contest, and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.

(Soundbite of applause)

CHADWICK: So I'm hearing her sounding a little resigned maybe, not the I'm the person, I'm going to be it.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I got that sense, that valedictory sense a little bit. But I don't want to overplay it, because I think it also is a strategic move, because as you heard, it got a tremendously strong and positive response from the audience, Alex. And so while all of us are wondering is there a moment at which she's going to concede or signal that she's giving up, in fact it had a very positive response with a specific demographic that she's interested in, which is making sure she's doing well with American white suburban women, and with the Latino audience. A lot of people don't like to see the fighting, and so what you saw was that she in fact was extending a hand of grace. And some people may say, you know what, that's the kind of mature leadership we're seeking.

CHADWICK: Well, that may be, but an awful lot of people are already writing about Obama versus McCain, and Senator McCain is talking as though he's running against Senator Obama.

WILLIAMS: He sure is, Alex. In fact, after the results came in on Tuesday night, there was Senator McCain saying that Senator Obama is guilty of eloquent but empty calls for change, suggesting that he would have America take a holiday from history and that he's not prepared because of lack of experience, not prepared to deal with world threats. In fact, Senator Clinton picked up on much of that theme last night, brining in events from Cuba and Serbia, and suggesting again that Senator Obama just doesn't have the wherewithal in terms of experience and sense of maturity to deal with world crises. But it was McCain's attack on Senator Obama, it seemed to me, that signaled the start of a general election theme here.

CHADWICK: The thing is, this line hasn't really worked for her. You wonder if it's going to work any better for him.

WILLIAMS: You know, I was talking to some Republicans about this because it occurred to me that, just as you just said, it hasn't worked for her. And of course Senator Obama picked up on this line of thought, saying you're making it out like all of my supporters have been duped or fooled or don't know who I am and don't know my background. But the Republicans, Alex, think this, that John McCain, someone who served in the military, someone who's a little bit older, someone who has always been strong on military issues and expressed a great deal of concern about the U.S. military actions in Iraq, they think Americans are going to be more tuned in in a general election in which Republicans focus on Republicans as better defenders of the nation than Democrats historically, and that that contrast will have some power in the general election that it has not had in the primaries.

CHADWICK: There's been some focus this week on a story the New York Times published yesterday about Senator McCain, alleging that years ago he may have had inappropriate contact with a lobbyist. Here is part of Senator McCain's very firm denial of that story.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust, nor make a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest and would favor anyone or any organization.

CHADWICK: Juan, you have read, as I have, a lot of criticism of the New York Times for publishing this story. But I have one question about Senator McCain's response to it. In his statement he says I have never done a favor for a lobbyist, I've never done a favor for a special interest, when in fact he was one of the Keating 5, these senators who did favors for the man who subsequently went to jail for a big part in the savings and loan scandals of the early 90's. And he was to have exercised - I think poor judgment was the term that was used by a Senate committee that investigated that.

WILLIAMS: You know, I sat down with Senator McCain for lunch - I guess it was about a year ago, Alex. And in the course of the conversation, the Keating 5 scandal came up. And the way that he treats it is, it's the most searing experience of his political life and one that set him on the path to being a reformer.

CHADWICK: NPR News analyst Juan Williams in New York. Good luck getting back home to D.C. this weekend.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'll get my sled dogs out, Alex. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.
Juan Williams
Juan Williams, one of America's leading journalists, is a news analyst, appearing regularly on NPR's Morning Edition. Knowledgeable and charismatic, Williams brings insight and depth — hallmarks of NPR programs — to a wide spectrum of issues and ideas.