Condoleezza Rice, Claire McCaskill, Tom Ridge, Roundtable | NBC New York

Condoleezza Rice, Claire McCaskill, Tom Ridge, Roundtable



    CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace and this is "Fox News Sunday". Russian troops in Georgia -- where does the war stand? How will it affect U.S.-Russia relations? We'll get the latest from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who's just back from the region. Then, how will the next president handle a foreign policy crisis? We'll ask two possible running mates, former governor Tom Ridge, national co-chair of the McCain campaign, and Senator Claire McCaskill, national co- chair for Obama. Also, Hillary Clinton gets a roll call vote at the Democratic convention. How far will Obama go to satisfy the Clintons? We'll ask our Sunday panel -- Bill Sammon, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Jill Zuckman. And our Power Player of the Week, trying to keep the president in the spotlight, all right now on "Fox News Sunday".

    And hello again from Fox News in Washington. Russia's invasion of Georgia has created its most serious conflict with the west since the fall of the Soviet Union.

    With questions about the cease-fire and about U.S.-Russia relations, we're joined by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who's been meeting with the president in Crawford, Texas following her trip to Georgia.

    Secretary Rice, what is the latest on the ground in Georgia right now? Are Russian troops leaving the country? Are they complying fully with the cease-fire?

    RICE: Well, there is a cease-fire, and Russia is currently not in compliance with that cease-fire, although they have just this morning announced that their troops will begin to withdraw and withdraw fully and completely back to the lines prior to this conflict tomorrow, on Monday.

    This is a promise that the Russian president has given to the French president. I've just been on the phone with the French. I hope this time he'll keep his word.

    WALLACE: I was going to say, given the fact that they signed the peace agreement earlier this weekend and had not observed it so far, how much confidence do you have? And is there any explanation for the delay?

    RICE: Well, I don't have an explanation, because I would think that when the Russian president says that a signed cease-fire accord will mean the withdrawal of Russian forces that Russian forces would then withdraw. They did not.

    However, yet again the Russian president has given his word, and this time I hope he'll honor it.

    WALLACE: Has President Bush been in direct contact with the Russians himself or has he let French president Sarkozy in his lead role for the Europeans deal primarily with the Kremlin?

    RICE: Well, earlier on, President Bush was in touch with the Russian president. He has been in touch with the French, but I have been in touch with my counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on a number of occasions over the last couple of days.

    This is an E.U. mediation, but obviously the United States has been very involved in it. The president talked to President Sarkozy and sent me to France to be involved in this before I went to Tbilisi.

    WALLACE: Now, I understand -- and you've established the fact -- that the Russians say they're going to start to pull out tomorrow. But as we understand, as we speak right now, Russian troops are within 25 miles of the capital of Tbilisi. They're inside populated areas like Gori. They have control of the east-west highway.

    Is that acceptable, the status quo right now?

    RICE: It's not acceptable. In fact, the fact that Russian troops are in Georgian cities, the fact that they are at the port of Poti, back and forth in that port, along the east-west highway is simply not acceptable, and it has nothing to do, obviously, with the conflict that began in South Ossetia. That's why Russian troops need to withdraw fully, completely, back to their August 6-7 lines.

    It is also why we sought very clear clarification of what Russian peacekeepers, those who were there before the conflict began, can do in the zone of conflict and around it.

    So it was very important to make sure that the Russians know the rules of the game here, and the French assure us that they have been assured that Russia is now going to live up to the terms of the cease- fire, and Sergey Lavrov has personally given me that assurance as well.

    WALLACE: Clear up some confusion, if you will, for us, Secretary Rice. Under the cease-fire, what will the Russians be allowed to do inside Georgia proper? And will they be allowed to keep peacekeepers in the so- called breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

    RICE: Well, let's remember that there were Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia -- or in South Ossetia, which is really the zone of conflict that we're talking about here. They were there as -- in an agreement that goes all the way back to 1992. Those peacekeepers will be permitted to stay.

    The Russians also had talked about some special security measures that their peacekeepers could take in a very limited area outside of the zone of conflict. They will be permitted to do that for a limited period of time in a very proscribed way.

    They're not to go into urban centers. They're not to tie up the east- west highway. That's the clarification, Chris, that President Sarkozy gave to President Saakashvili when I went from France to Tbilisi.

    But even that Russian activity outside of the zone of conflict is only until there are monitors in, international monitors.

    The other thing the Russians said to the French is that they are now prepared to let the monitors from the OSCE enter the zone of conflict. That should be about 100 additional monitors, and that should happen also within days.

    WALLACE: Let's turn, if we can, Secretary Rice, to the bigger issue. There's been a lot of tough talk this week from President Bush and other top officials, including yourself, about viewing the whole range of U.S.- Russia relations. Let's take a look at what Secretary Gates, Defense Secretary Gates, had to say this week.


    DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT M. GATES: My personal view is that there need to be some consequences for the actions that Russia has taken against a sovereign state.


    WALLACE: Secretary Rice, if Russia complies with the cease-fire, do relations go back to normal or, as Secretary Gates says, do there have to be consequences for the action that Russia has already taken in the last 10 days?

    RICE: Well, I think there's no doubt there will be further consequences. I would note that there have already been significant consequences for Russia.

    You know, any notion that Russia was the kind of responsible state, ready to integrate into international institutions of the political, diplomatic, security, economic kind, that this was a different Russia -- a Russia, by the way, that President Medvedev himself described about a month ago -- this forward-leaning, modern Russia, well, you know, that reputation's, frankly, in tatters, and so that in itself is a significant consequence.

    And also, by the way, if the Russians intended this as intimidation, they have done nothing but harden the attitudes of the small states around them, as witnessed by Ukraine's defiance in going to Georgia, Poland, the fact that we are moving forward on missile defense.

    I think the Russians have made a significant mistake here.

    WALLACE: Just following up directly on that, does the U.S. still want to see Georgia and Ukraine as part of NATO? And are we prepared, if they become part of NATO, to defend their territorial sovereignty with American troops?

    RICE: Well, first of all, the NATO alliance has made clear in the Bucharest Declaration that Georgia and Ukraine will be members of NATO.

    What the United States is advocating for right now with others is the Georgians and Ukrainians would become part of something called the Membership Action Plan, which is not membership, but it is an umbrella under which numerous states of Eastern and Central Europe have been able to resolve their differences, have been able to make important domestic reforms, civil-military relations, reform their militaries.

    That's what we're advocating. We continue to believe that that would be important for Georgia and Ukraine.

    WALLACE: I want to go back to this question of consequences, and you said there will be consequences for Russian actions.

    On Friday, President Bush made a very interesting statement. He talked about the G-7 -- the G-7, the leading industrial nations. Does that mean that the west is kicking Russia out of the group of eight -- it was part of the G-7, making it the G-8 -- the eight leading industrial countries?

    RICE: Well, we're going to take our time and assess what further consequences there should be to the relationship.

    I would just note that I have been meeting by phone, telephonically, with my G-7 foreign minister colleagues because Russia is a party to the conflict, and this has been a useful forum for doing that. But we're not going to do anything hasty. I think Russia is already paying a significant price.

    I just want to reiterate this is not 1968. They're not sitting in the capital of Georgia. They're not overthrowing its democratically elected government. And they are receiving the criticism of the world for what they're doing.

    I'm going to the NATO Council on Tuesday to talk with our allies about what further messages we may wish to send, in what form.

    But I think that the real cost here right now to Russia is that the kind of forward-leaning, forward-looking Russia that President Medvedev himself described just about a month ago, the reputation for that, the possibilities for that, has been seriously diminished by these Russian actions that look like they do belong to the Soviet Union, not to Russia.

    WALLACE: Ever since his first meeting back in 2001 with Vladimir Putin, where he famously said he got a sense of his soul, President Bush has put a great deal of stock in his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.

    Does he feel over the last 10 days that Putin has deceived him? And has that personal relationship been damaged?

    RICE: What the president has done is to open a path for Russia that would have been different than the path of the Soviet Union and, frankly, different than the path of Russia for many hundreds of years.

    It was a path of openness to the west, to the institutions, integration, a more Democratic path both inside Russia and outside Russia, relations with his neighbors on the basis of respect. It was the right thing to do, and it is still the right path for Russia.

    But it is Russia that has misjudged what would happen if it did not take that path. And I think you will see that over the next months ahead of us, that will play out. Russia has seriously damaged its own efforts to integrate into the west.

    WALLACE: When you say that will play out, as the administration and its allies review possible reprisals against Russia, is everything on the table?

    RICE: Well, I think we have to look at the relationship as a whole, but again, I don't think we want to get ahead of ourselves.

    Right now, Russian forces need to get out of Georgia. We are doing everything that we can help -- do to help the Georgian people in a humanitarian way, through the effort that Secretary Gates is leading, with the military leading.

    We are going to help rebuild Georgia into a strong Georgian state. The Russians will have failed in their effort to undermine Georgia. And we will be looking at what we can do with the states around that region as well.

    I'm going to Poland to sign a missile defense agreement in the next couple of days, after the NATO meeting.

    WALLACE: Secretary Rice...

    RICE: We'll get soon enough to -- we'll get soon enough to the question of the longer term relationship with Russia.

    WALLACE: Secretary Rice, we have a couple of minutes left, and I want to get to two more issues with you.

    Turning to another trouble spot, would it be in the best interest of Pakistan for President Musharraf to step down and avoid a long and bitter impeachment fight?

    RICE: This is matter for the Pakistanis to resolve. And we have been supportive of the democratic elections that took place in Pakistan -- in fact, advocated for them.

    We have been supportive of their new democratic government, as witnessed by the president's meetings with Prime Minister Gilani. So this is a matter for Pakistan to determine.

    WALLACE: Will the U.S. consider granting Musharraf asylum to help settle the crisis?

    RICE: Look, President Musharraf has been a good ally. And everyone knows that we disagreed with his decision in terms of the state of emergency that he declared, but he was -- he kept to his word. He took off the uniform. There's now a democratic government in Pakistan.

    Pakistan and the United States have a joint interest in fighting terror, because these terrorists are not just after the United States and after Afghanistan. They're also after Pakistan, as demonstrated by the fact that they killed Mrs. Bhutto.

    That's what we're concentrating on, that and helping Pakistan to sustain its economy, to build its schools, its health. We have a broad Pakistan policy.

    WALLACE: But, Secretary, are you prepared to say whether or not the U.S. would grant Musharraf asylum in this country?

    RICE: This is an issue that is not on the table, and I just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic government of Pakistan.

    WALLACE: And finally, Secretary Rice, do you support John McCain over Barack Obama for president?

    RICE: Look, I'm the secretary of state, and as secretary of state, I think it's a tradition that I'll take a nonpartisan role here.

    Everybody knows that I'm a Republican. Everybody also knows that I have great respect for our -- for our political system, for the choices the American people will make. And I as an American will make my choice, like all Americans, at the ballot box.

    WALLACE: You didn't really think you were going to get through this interview without me asking you a political question, did you, Secretary?

    RICE: No, I didn't. No, I didn't.

    WALLACE: OK. Well, I don't want to disappoint you. Secretary Rice, we want to thank you so much for talking with us. I know you're off today to Europe to meet with our allies there, and safe travels.

    RICE: Thank you very much.

    WALLACE: Up next, the conflict between Russia and Georgia has given us a preview of how the next president will handle a foreign policy crisis.

    We'll discuss that with two possible vice presidential running mates, Claire McCaskill and Tom Ridge, right after this break.


    WALLACE: Joining us now to discuss the conflict in Georgia and the possibility of becoming a vice presidential running mate are two national co-chairs from the campaigns, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, and from St. Louis, Democratic senator Claire McCaskill.

    And both of you, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday".

    RIDGE: Chris, nice to join you.

    MCCASKILL: Thank you.

    RIDGE: Good morning, Senator.

    MCCASKILL: Good morning.

    WALLACE: Governor Ridge, you just heard Secretary Rice. John McCain has been saying for years that the president is too soft on Vladimir Putin, and here's what John McCain had to say this week.


    MCCAIN: I don't know if the president, quote, missed the boat, but I do believe that the president probably had a higher opinion of Vladimir Putin than I do.


    WALLACE: McCain now says that Russia must, quote, "pay a price for its actions". Specifically, what would President McCain do?

    RIDGE: Well, I think the real challenge for President McCain or any president in the 21st century is how we hold other countries accountable.

    And since the United Nations is relatively ineffective, and military is always a last resort -- so I suspect that John would seriously promote the notion of reducing the G-8 to G-7 to send a signal to Russia that the rules that you need to abide by if you're part of the G-8 -- peace, stability and being -- participating in the civilized world repudiates the kind of aggression that we saw in Georgia.

    WALLACE: What about keeping them out of the World Trade Organization? What about going after government and individual...

    RIDGE: Well, I think all these -- all these options have to be on the table. I mean, this is a question of accountability. This is unprovoked aggression. The genocide was false and misleading and unsubstantiated.

    The notion there were Russian peacekeepers -- one of the most endangered species, apparently, is the emerging leadership of a democracies in the Russian neighborhood. And clearly, these -- Putin has to be held accountable.

    WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, one of Obama's top foreign policy advisers, Susan Rice, went after McCain this week, and let's take a look at what she had to say. "John McCain shot from the hip a very aggressive, very belligerent statement. He may or may not have complicated the situation."

    Senator, how did McCain complicate the situation? Or was he just quicker than Obama to understand and recognize Russian aggression?

    MCCASKILL: Oh, listen, there's no question that Barack Obama understood this as Russian aggression and took a strong and principled stand against the actions of Russia, but this is not a time to make political points. What Barack Obama has said...

    WALLACE: But I mean, excuse me. But I mean, it was Susan Rice who was making political points, Obama's top foreign policy adviser.

    MCCASKILL: I think John McCain's reaction to what happened in Russia did not reflect well on the position he should have taken, and that is one of understanding we have one president in this country, and that Secretary of State Rice and President Bush need the support of both presidential candidates in a very tricky time as it relates to Russia and the neighboring states that are trying to establish democracies.

    What we need to be right now is supportive of accountability toward the aggression of Russia, supporting Georgia in their democracy and their neighbors, and being very supportive to our allies such as President Sarkozy in France, who is doing the heavy lifting here as it relates to the -- making sure that there is no more aggression on the part of Russia.

    WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, I just want to pick up on the first part of your statement. Are you suggesting that somehow John McCain undercut President Bush and Secretary of State Rice?

    MCCASKILL: I think him doing press releases and sending some of his political allies to Georgia -- I think some of it began to ring like a political campaign instead of principled and strong diplomacy, and very -- and very strong and principled positions that we must have, but there is only one president.

    And there does -- there's a line you can cross in terms of being presumptuous. They accused Barack Obama of being presumptuous for going to Europe and meeting with our allies. What is presumptuous is to try to undercut in any way the very difficult and tricky work that President Bush and Secretary Rice are trying to do right now.

    And by the way, Chris...

    WALLACE: Wait. Wait, Senator, let me let Tom Ridge in here.

    RIDGE: Senator, I couldn't agree with you more with regard to your call for bipartisanship, but I disagree with you in every way to suggest that John McCain's response to the aggression in Russia was anything other than appropriate.

    He called for an international peacekeeping force. He called for humanitarian aid. He called it exactly what it is -- unprovoked aggression.

    And until the kind of principled leadership that we need in this country will be provided by then President McCain, leadership based upon experience and informed judgment -- and he was -- his call was absolutely correct.

    I agree with you that we need to be bipartisan, but I don't think you should undercut a very specific response to a very aggressive threat.

    MCCASKILL: Well, let me -- let me make two points here. One is that Barack Obama has been the candidate talking about, from day one of this campaign, that our diplomacy needs to be worldwide, that our threats are worldwide.

    And it is, in fact, the foreign policy of George Bush that has had us focused in Iraq, and John McCain has been the same way in this campaign, focused on Iraq, while there are other dangers around the world.

    Secondly, Barack Obama is the one who's been talking about supporting Georgia in their action plan toward membership in NATO.

    And I do agree, and I know Barack Obama agrees, that WTO should be out of the question at this point until we determine whether or not Russia is going to stay good to its word in getting out of Georgia.

    WALLACE: I'll give you...

    RIDGE: Senator, I think -- I think...

    WALLACE: ... more seconds. Then I want to move to something else.

    RIDGE: Well, I think it's important that Senator Obama supports the president of Georgia, but Senator McCain has been there three times, been to many of the cities that have been subjected to the aggressive Russian tactics.

    And there is nobody in the -- I think, in the Senate of the United States that has any greater experience dealing with foreign leaders based upon experienced and informed judgment and relationships...

    WALLACE: All right.

    RIDGE: ... than John McCain.

    WALLACE: Let's move off this.

    Governor Ridge, John McCain stirred the vice presidential pot this week when he said the following about you, and let's put it up on the screen. "Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders, and he has happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."

    Question: Given its long pro-life history, do you really think that the Republican Party would accept a pro-choice running mate?

    RIDGE: My friend of 25 years is passionately pro-life. He is also passionately a believer that the Republican Party must have a big tent. And I think, frankly, what he was just saying to the rest of the world is that we need to accept both points of view.

    He's not judgmental about me or my belief. He just disagrees with me. And there's no doubt in my mind, no doubt whatsoever, that there would be - - he would have a strong pro-life administration. No question about it.

    WALLACE: And to answer my question specifically, do you think the Republican Party would accept a pro-choice running mate?

    RIDGE: Well, I think that would be up to -- first of all, to John to decide whether he wants a pro-choice running mate, and then we would have to see how the Republican Party would rally around it.

    At the end of the day, I think the Republican Party will be comfortable with whatever John makes.

    WALLACE: Now, I just want to follow up one more time on this. The last time you were here, we talked about your pro-choice views.

    RIDGE: Right.

    WALLACE: And here's what you had to say.


    RIDGE: Well, I believe what I believe, and I've had that point of view before I got into elected office. I've had it when I served and I have it now.


    WALLACE: Governor, have you talked with McCain about your pro- choice views on abortion and whether you would follow his pro-life views if you were to become his running mate? RIDGE: Well, we've had no discussions on this very important issue. As I said before, he understands the majority of the Republican Party disagrees with me on this issue. We've had no conversations.

    And the last time I checked, the vice president is not an independent voice. He echoes the position of the president of the United States.

    WALLACE: And that's what you would do if you were the running mate?

    RIDGE: I think that's the responsibility of the vice president. If you're unwilling or unable to do that, then I think you should defer to someone else.

    WALLACE: Senator McCaskill, the big news from Democrats this week is that after giving Hillary Clinton a speaking role on Tuesday night and Bill Clinton a speaking role on Wednesday night, now Hillary Clinton's going to get her name placed in nomination and to have a roll call.

    Question: Is that the way President Obama would negotiate, to just keep caving in?

    MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, there has not been any caving in. Hillary Clinton is not the enemy. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are working together on making this a great convention, where we can talk about changing this country.

    You know, the policies of this administration, which are identical, the economic policies, to that of John McCain, have driven this country into a ditch. And Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are working together.

    And what Barack Obama is doing is saying to Hillary Clinton, "What do you think would be best in terms of bringing us all together?" You cannot be afraid to work with anyone, certainly someone who agrees on the issues like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do.

    WALLACE: Senator, do you really think that a roll call vote is going to satisfy those Clinton supporters who are still, a couple of months after the fact -- still unhappy and bitter about her defeat? Do you really think they're going to settle for the pageant of a roll call?

    MCCASKILL: I think that everyone needs to wait and see and tune in and watch. I think it will be an interesting convention.

    I think America will get a chance to look at the priorities of our party, of what we're worried about in terms of the future of this country, the kitchen-table issues of whether or not we're going to continue to reward companies for taking jobs overseas, whether the tax code is going to be about the few and the wealthy or about the middle class. That's what they need to tune in and watch, and I think you're going to be surprised how well we come together next week, Chris.

    WALLACE: I want to pick up, Senator McCaskill, on exactly that issue of taxes, because this week Obama once again changed his tax plan.

    He now says that the payroll tax he had proposed that would kick in for people making over $250,000 a year would not be imposed until at least a decade from now, which means if he serves two terms it would be two years after he left the presidency.

    He also says that he won't raise the capital gains tax now to more than 20 percent. He had previously suggested he might raise it to 28 percent.

    Has Obama scaled back his tax plans because McCain is attacking him as a big taxer?

    MCCASKILL: No, not at all. In fact, he has said from the very beginning there will be absolutely no tax increase for anyone who makes $250,000 or less and, in fact, there will be a tax cut for the vast majority of America.

    There will be a few who will go back to the tax rate they paid in the '90s. And this has been a consistent position he's had.

    And by the way, the payroll tax issue is about fixing Social Security. It's about fairness in the way that we fund Social Security. And what he's advocating is something that Lindsey Graham has talked about, somebody that -- you can't ever see John McCain without seeing Lindsey Graham at his side.

    And if we're going to fix Social Security, we need some tough truth talk with the American people.

    WALLACE: All right.

    MCCASKILL: And that's what -- that's what Barack Obama is talking about.

    WALLACE: Governor Ridge, I'm going to give you a chance to respond to that. I also, though, want you to respond to the Obama camp which says that the McCain tax plan is Bush on steroids, that he would propose $3.4 trillion in more tax cuts than Bush has proposed, and that his plan would be even more geared to big companies, big corporations and the wealthy.

    RIDGE: Well, at the time during this campaign where we're looking at each candidate to see how consistent they are on their -- on very important positions, one consistent position that Senator Obama has is he likes taxes.

    He's going to tax income, Social Security, dividends, capital gains, even raise the estate tax. So there is a certain level of consistency there. He's voted for tax increases 94 times. John McCain never voted for a tax increase.

    Now, what John has said -- in order to create an innovative 21st century job creation environment, you need to cut the corporate tax rate. You need to make the R&D tax credit permanent. You need to expand our markets overseas.

    It's a job creation approach that he's taking, along with that all-in Lexington plan with energy. Let's deal with nuclear. Let's deal with clean coal technology. Let's deal with drilling offshore. And the energy arena itself, with innovation, will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, if we embrace his all-in approach.

    WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there.

    Governor Ridge, Senator McCaskill, I want to thank you both for talking with us today. And we'll see you both at your conventions.

    RIDGE: Yes, you will.

    MCCASKILL: Thank you.

    RIDGE: Thank you.

    Thanks, Senator.

    MCCASKILL: Thank you, Governor.

    WALLACE: Up next, our Sunday panel takes -- everybody's been very polite today. Up next, our panel takes a look at both candidates going for the evangelical vote.

    And they'll try to answer the question: What will it take to satisfy the Clintons? Stay tuned.



    OBAMA: I think America's greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.



    MCCAIN: I think America's greatest moral failure has been throughout our existence perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest.


    WALLACE: That was both candidates appearing last night at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California, talking about their faith and other issues.

    And it's time now for our Sunday group -- Bill Sammon, deputy Washington managing editor of Fox News, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune.

    I think it's fair to say that evangelicals are reliable Republicans. Back in 2004, they voted for Bush over Kerry 78 percent to 21. And if we can put up the latest poll this time around, white evangelical Protestants now favor McCain over Obama 68 percent to 24.

    So, Bill Kristol, what does Obama hope to accomplish by events like last night? Does he really think he can make inroads among evangelicals who, it's fair to say, have had some doubts about John McCain over the years?

    KRISTOL: Sure, or at least he can hold -- you know, do well enough to capitalize on his advantages with other groups.

    But it wasn't just evangelicals watching last night. It's not just evangelicals who respect Rick Warren and read his book. And you know, it was on all the cable channels last night.

    And Obama thought, I think, that he could make an effective case that he could deal with these issues that have traditionally hurt the Democratic Party, these moral and social issues.

    And he was prepared and somewhat eloquent, but I thought McCain was awfully good last night.

    WALLACE: And let me ask you, Jill, because you interviewed McCain in the last few days about faith, does he believe that he has a problem with evangelicals and reaching out to them, particularly after his -- the issues in 2000?

    ZUCKMAN: I think that McCain's campaign believes that evangelicals are going to come home to him, but he's up against a Democrat who's very comfortable talking about his faith. And Senator McCain has never been someone to invoke God on the campaign trail.

    He's extremely private about religion. His friends say it may be a generational thing. But if you can get him talking to about it, and he is somebody who turned to God, especially had his faith tested, when he was a prisoner of war.

    WALLACE: Bill, what's your thought about what chance Obama and the Democrats have to really make new inroads?

    SAMMON: I think that notion has been somewhat over hyped. There's a lot of talk about, "Well, these younger evangelicals, you know, they're more interested in health care and the environment," and so on and so forth, and there's some truth to that, and those are important issues.

    But there is nothing more important to evangelicals than the sanctity of life. We're talking about abortion here. And if you believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, then by definition that's got to be more important to you than the nuances of health care or how much emissions we emit, and so on and so forth.

    I think that McCain not only won on substance last night, he won the expectations game, because there was this hype going into the forum that somehow Obama was going to -- this was going to be a better deal for Obama because he was going to get these younger evangelicals, and McCain's had all these troubles in the past with evangelicals.

    The bottom line is issues trump the ease of talking about religion. Obama may be more eloquent about religion, but on the issues he's pro- choice. McCain's pro-life.

    WALLACE: Mara, let me switch with you to something else, the other party. Let's turn to the news about the Democratic convention this week.

    Obama has agreed and, from what I'm told from people in the Obama camp, this wasn't something they were happy about, Claire McCaskill to the contrary notwithstanding, to have Hillary Clinton's name placed in nomination and to have a roll call vote. Smart politics or a show of weakness?

    LIASSON: I think the answer to that question will be determined in Denver. I think that a lot of this is up to Hillary. There's going to be a real watch on the part of all journalists, everybody else, to see how gracious, how sincere she seems in really supporting him.

    One of the things she could do is take her name out of nomination after it was in and say, "Now, you know, my supporters can support me, but I encourage everybody to now vote for Obama," or she could let the catharsis that she talks about so much have its full reign, which -- who knows what that's exactly going to look like?

    I do think that her future in the party depends on how solidly she looks and seems behind Obama now. She has to be a team player. I think I was a little bit surprised that the Obama campaign seemed to -- so quickly kind of concede to that, you know, that idea that she should be put in nomination.

    It's not completely unusual. Lots of people's names are put in nomination. However, not lots of people have come this close, and you're going to have perhaps the spectacle of a very close vote almost at the Democratic convention.

    WALLACE: Bill, doesn't it almost ensure -- I mean, we've got thousands of us pesky reporters around looking for a story. There's not a lot of news at these conventions. They're fairly pre-packaged.

    Doesn't this now ensure that at least for the first three days of this convention the story is, "Oh, the Clintons, oh, the Obamas, the soap opera, are the Clinton supporters going to try to disrupt the convention?"

    KRISTOL: Yes, but the influence and the importance of us pesky reporters is overrated. I hate to tell you this, but...

    WALLACE: Well, it doesn't mean that that's what people are going to be hearing.

    KRISTOL: No, but look. When was the last very close presidential race where the person's name was put in nomination, there was a competitive roll call vote, there was actually not even -- the loser got more applause than the winner -- Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, 1976.

    How many -- Gerald Ford came out of the convention, what, 25 points behind Carter and came within two. You know, it's just -- the convention is one moment. I think Obama is very wise to give Senator Clinton all the respect and credit, give her supporters some running room.

    I think she will pull her name at some point after it's put in nomination or after the roll call vote begins. She'll dramatically say, "Let's stop the vote here and nominate Obama by acclimation."

    WALLACE: All right.

    KRISTOL: I think they know what they're doing, and I think they'll have a successful convention. WALLACE: I can't let this panel segment end without playing the game, because one thing we do know about the convention is that within the next 10 days, by next Wednesday, Obama is going to pick his running mate, because Wednesday night, a week from Wednesday, he's going to actually have to get up and make a speech, that nominee.

    Jill, let's start with you, like picking the Oscars. Who should it be? Who will it be?

    ZUCKMAN: Well, I think it may be one of three people.

    WALLACE: Oh, gee.

    ZUCKMAN: I'm sorry. Evan Bayh, Joe Biden or Tim Kaine. Those are the names we're all looking at. I think Bayh is most likely. I think Biden is least likely.

    I think Bayh brings him youthfulness and experience, which he needs. I don't think Kaine brings him enough foreign policy -- no foreign policy experience. And Biden may bring him a little too much talk and too much experience.

    SAMMON: I agree. I will narrow it down definitely to Bayh. And it's really a process of elimination as opposed to what are Bayh's strengths. When you look at Joe Biden, you know, the guy is hot- headed. He's a potential gaffe machine. He's a handful. I don't think that Obama needs that.

    You look at Governor Kaine -- really nice fellow, very likable, but the first criticism out of everybody's mouth is first-term senator picks first-term governor, we've got an inexperience problem.

    So you're left with Bayh -- bland, he's from Indiana, he doesn't overshadow Obama. First do no harm. I think he's the safe pick.

    LIASSON: I think that if he does go with Bayh, it will say a lot about maybe how scared the Obama campaign got in these last couple weeks as the race has gotten close.

    I think that Obama has been a person who sticks to his guns. He picked that message of change. He never wavered, even when it didn't seem to be selling in the early days of the primaries.

    I think that in his heart, Kaine is the change outside of Washington candidate. It would reinforce his message. I don't think that an Evan Bayh makes up for Obama's lack of experience in the eyes of voters. They're going to vote for the president.

    I think if he picks Bayh, who I consider to be the cautious, safe choice of the Bayh-Kaine decision, I think that will say a lot about where they think this race is going. That's why I think it will be Kaine.

    KRISTOL: Yeah, I agree with that, and the V.P. pick should reinforce the central message of the campaign. If people are voting on experience, they're not voting for Obama. He should be change. He should be bringing new people to Washington.

    I think Governor Kaine is the strongest pick, and I think he will be the pick. I think Senator Reed, I would just put in the mix here, also -- Jack Reed...

    WALLACE: This is Jack Reed, senator from Rhode Island.

    KRISTOL: Rhode Island, who went with Obama to Iraq just a month ago.

    WALLACE: And a former Army Ranger.

    KRISTOL: Former Army Ranger, West Point graduate -- I think would actually be -- might be a better default pick than Bayh or Biden.

    WALLACE: And what about Sam Nunn, whose name you hear a little bit, former senator from Georgia, big foreign policy, national security expert?

    KRISTOL: Well, I think that makes more sense, actually, than Biden. If you want to go for the -- if you think you really can help yourself with experience in foreign policy, go all the way to Sam Nunn.

    That's a Dick Cheney-type pick, someone who's been out of office but is very well respected. The press corps would respect the pick. So I think actually, in a funny way, you either go -- double down on change with Kaine or go with experience with Nunn.

    That's my advice to Senator Obama, and he and David Axelrod are watching this show right now. They're on tenterhooks, you know, "Is Kristol sticking with Kaine?" Now that Mara's for Kaine, too, I think it's virtually a done deal.

    WALLACE: There you go. I'm glad you guys had nothing to say about that. And the best thing is we think by next Sunday in Denver we'll know who it is.

    Thank you all. We'll be coming back in a moment, where we'll take a look at the conflict in Georgia and what it means long-term for U.S. relations with Russia. Back in a moment.


    WALLACE: On this day in 2000, Vice President Gore accepted his party's presidential nomination at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles.

    Gore would go on to lose the election to then-Governor George W. Bush. Stay tuned for more from our panel and our Power Player of the Week.



    BUSH: Georgia is a member of the United Nations, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia lie within its internationally recognized borders. Georgia's borders should command the same respect as every other nation's. There's no room for debate on this matter.


    WALLACE: That was President Bush continuing to press his old friend Vladimir Putin to get out of Georgia.

    And we're back now with Bill, Mara, Bill and Jill.

    Bill Sammon, you heard our conversation with Secretary of State Rice. Russians still on the ground, haven't moved. The Russian president promises he's going to do it tomorrow. Your sense of where this is -- how this is playing out?

    SAMMON: Well, I was struck by -- it sounded like Condi wants to put the toothpaste back in the tube. She's talking about getting back to the August 6th lines. She's talking about -- she's saying things like Russia - - you know, it will be demonstrated that Russia will have failed to undermine Georgia.

    I've got news for her. That ship has sailed. Georgia has been undermined. And so I think, you know, it's almost like the best we can hope for is not a return to the status quo, but a return to just getting the Russian troops into the two breakaway provinces and not have to give up all of Georgia, which is sort of -- seems to be on the table at this point.

    So I think Russia took three steps forward by going into the two provinces and then going beyond, and now we're trying to get them to take one step back. And what that's going to leave us with is two puppet provinces that are never really going to go back to the control of Georgia, in my opinion. And I think that's very -- very troubling.

    WALLACE: Mara, as we said in our discussion with Secretary of State Rice, President Bush put a lot of stock in his personal relationship with Putin and a lot of stock in the idea of trying to bring Russia into the western sphere. Does that now turn out to have been a mistake? LIASSON: Well, if you heard Condi Rice, she was pretty tough when she said the notion of Russia as a responsible country is in tatters. I mean, that might not be exactly, but it was pretty close...

    WALLACE: No, those were the words.

    LIASSON: Those were the words. I mean, I don't know -- I don't know if it was a mistake at the time, but it certainly has been upended by events, I guess you could say.

    And I think that the administration has been really tough. John McCain has been very, very out front with this. And I think that the way that Russia is viewed has been kind of forever changed because of this.

    WALLACE: Let me ask you -- and we'll get to the politics in the 2008 campaign in a moment, Bill, but what happens now to U.S. relations with Russia? How tough do we get with them?

    And do we risk -- I mean, there are some areas where we have had some cooperation with them in the war on terror, North Korea, not so much in Iran. Do we run the risk, if we get too tough, of putting an unwanted chill in our relationship?

    KRISTOL: I think the chill is already there, and I think there is a lot we can do to make -- five or 10 years from now to make Russians think this was a mistake to have invaded Georgia.

    WALLACE: Such as?

    KRISTOL: Such as to make other neighboring nations porcupines for the Russian bear and make them very hard places for Russia to deal with. And above all, I'd say you have Ukraine and Poland, which together have, I think, 100 million people they're not that much smaller than Russia.

    If Ukraine and Poland -- if we can work with their militaries, we can let Ukraine into NATO. We can, I think, do still more with the Georgians to make sure they preserve their integrity, at least except for these two little regions, territorial integrity.

    I think we can do a lot to make this ultimately a defeat for Russia.

    WALLACE: And would you put the entire defense umbrella of the United States and NATO over those countries? Obviously, Poland's already part of NATO.

    KRISTOL: Poland's already in. Yeah, I think you have to do Ukraine. I mean, that would really be -- for the U.S. to stand by and let Russia reabsorb parts of Ukraine would be a pretty amazing thing, and I don't think...

    WALLACE: So does that mean a new...

    KRISTOL: ... it's going to happen.

    WALLACE: Does that mean kind of a new, more sophisticated Cold War?

    KRISTOL: Well, I think it means that the U.S. has major treaty alliances in Europe and elsewhere. And you know, if we don't -- if countries don't have confidence in our ability to help them, it's going to be a much more dangerous world.

    WALLACE: Jill, let's talk about how this plays into the presidential campaign. As Bill Sammon suggested, or maybe it was Mara, McCain was much quicker to condemn Russia than Obama was, and it also seems to remind -- it seems to me would remind voters it's a dangerous world out there and that there are places even that we don't think about, like Iraq and Iran -- Georgia -- a lot of us have had a geography lesson in the past week.

    Does all of this play to McCain's advantage?

    ZUCKMAN: Absolutely. I mean, this is in McCain's wheelhouse. He loves foreign policy. When I sat down to talk to him about his faith this week, the first thing he talked to me about was Georgia. He's on the phone with the president every single day, the president of Georgia.

    He cares about this stuff, and he's gone to great lengths to try to explain to Americans why we should care about what's happening in this part of the world that most people have no idea where it is, which is energy.

    So I think that -- I think it's another thing that reinforces this notion that it's a dangerous world out there and that you need someone with experience. So I think this has been to his benefit, and certainly it was to his benefit that Senator Obama was on vacation during the past...

    WALLACE: Bill, do you think that there's any possible downside for McCain, that he looks too belligerent, too ready to use force?

    SAMMON: No, because I think that it is now universally recognized that Obama has sort of come around to McCain's tougher rhetoric after initially giving a somewhat equivocal response. Even President Bush has come around to McCain's tougher rhetoric.

    And it struck me -- you know, I did a -- McCain gave a major foreign policy speech back in March and everybody was focusing on Iraq and Afghanistan. I was looking for a different angle.

    I was struck by his tough talk on Russia back then, talking about kicking them out of G-8, accusing other countries -- accusing him -- accusing Russia of cyber blackmail and all this kind of stuff.

    And I wrote a story about that, and he looks prescient on Russia in the same way he looked prescient on the surge. He was ahead of the game -- he was ahead of Bush and Obama and everybody else on the surge, so I think this does parlay to McCain's advantage. WALLACE: So, Mara, what does Obama do? If he already had a kind of national security...

    LIASSON: Pick a vice president as soon as possible.

    WALLACE: Yeah, but what does he do -- you know, if he was -- already had a problem on foreign policy and national security, are you saying that the vice president even more than ever has to...

    LIASSON: No, no, no, I'm saying to get -- to change the subject. I'm just saying, "Come back from vacation and pick a vice president."

    WALLACE: Yeah, but this is going to be a continuing problem.

    LIASSON: Yes. No, I know. I'm just -- look, I think that, you know, this is a classic example of how exogenous events affect campaigns. And McCain might have -- the Obama camp might have been able to paint him as a little belligerent, kicking Russia out of the G-8 before, but not anymore.

    It's going to be harder to do that. I think this does play to McCain's strength. I think Obama -- this is maybe one of the reasons why the winds might shift to Bayh because he does need to shore up his foreign policy credibility.

    WALLACE: Real quick, Bill Kristol?

    KRISTOL: If McCain's going to win this election, it's because voters will be voting for a commander in chief. The main effect of this week will be to remind McCain and everyone else of that.

    I think it very much increases the chances of Joe Lieberman, which would be an amazing thing, or Tom Ridge being the vice presidential pick.

    WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.