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Schieffer on Politics
CBSNews.com and washingtonpost.com Form Partnership in Political Coverage

Bob Schieffer
CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent and Moderator, Face the Nation
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 1:00 PM

CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer was online Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss politics, including the Gonzales resignation and political fallout for the Bush administration, the misdemeanor disorderly-conduct charges against Republican Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), the national political campaigns and candidates and more.

CBSNews.com and washingtonpost.com today announced a content-sharing partnership for coverge of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Coverage will include video coverage from CBS News correspondents, producers and off-air reporters while news, analysis and commentary from The Washington Post political reporters and columnists will appear on CBSNews.com.

In a press release, Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com said, "The partnership between CBSNews.com and washingtonpost.com ensures that the public reaps the significant benefits of our combined multimedia and interactive resources throughout the 2008 campaign."

A transcript follows.

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Bob Schieffer: Hey folks, Bob Schieffer here. Glad to be joining up with the Washington Post to talk a litttle politics or whatever is on your mind. Ready if you are.

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Freeman, S.D.: Dear Mr. Schieffer:

I immensely enjoyed listening to the CD version of your autobiography, "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV."

I am interested in your views on how candidates qualify for the presidential nominating process, and what, in your view, has changed the most in your years as a journalist.

Candidates have to raise tens of millions of dollars just to be taken seriously; nationwide polls and intense media coverage drive voters' perceptions of the candidates months before a primary or caucus vote is cast, the list goes on and on.

Is this any way for our nation to pick a president?

Bob Schieffer: Thanks for listening to the book--recording it was quite an adventure, it took me six eight hour sessions in a studio but it was a lot of fun. I did get a little hoarse I'll tell you for sure.

On the way we elect Presidents, I think the whole system is broken, having the most money is 90 per cent of it anymore.

Frankly, I favor the old method of selecting candidates at the precinct level, then going to the county level and state level and sending state delegations to a national convention where the candidates are finally determined. The primary system was put in place to "reform" politics, but all it has really done is put more emphasis on money because you can reach so many more people through television commercials. Going back to the old way would put more emphasis on the campaigns in the local communities and reduce the influence of money.

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Ocala, Fla.: Bob

Love FTN. Why not an hour?

P.S. Miss you at 06:30!

Bob Schieffer: Thanks for the kind words. We would love to be an hour but our very popular program Sunday Morning runs for an hour and a half, then we follow with our half hour broadcast. That's two hours of network programming and the honest answer is the local stations just dont want more network programming than that--they want that extra time to sell their own local commercials.

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Inside the Beltway: As somone who has been around politics for a while, do you believe that the quality of political discourse has declined with Internet and continuous coverage of politics by the cable news shows (and the endless commentators rolling through their studios)? Or is it still just the same hardball which has been played for decades?

Bob Schieffer: I think the dialogue has really declined--not so much because of the internet but because of the impact of money on the system. The more money a candidate has the more commercials he or she can buy and the candidates have discovered that negative ads work in the short run, so they go negative early, then raise more money to buy more commericals. The result is we have dirty campaigns that seem to get dirtier with every election cycle.

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Hilton Head Island, S.C.: Hi, Bob. Regarding the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, do you think he jumped or was he pushed? Also, in your opinion, does the president really think that Gonzales was competent and had done no wrong, or will Bush just not admit A.G. was in over his head for political reasons? When the president repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the most obvious things, it really impacts his credibility and makes it appear his judgment is suspect. Thanks for your time!

Bob Schieffer: The White House claims this was done on Gonzales time line, but it is interesting to me that when he submitted his resignation, no one at the White House asked him to reconsider. Several of the president's friends told me they couldn't understand why Gonzales didn't understand that he had become an embarrassment to the president. The president was reluctant to tell an old friend to leave, but clearly most everyone at the White House was ready for him to go.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What is your take on the Sen. Craig scandal? I find it ironic that it the most "pro-family," conservative traditionalists, such as Sens. Craig and Vitter that are getting busted for the most lewd and unseemly conduct. What psychological mechanisms are manifested in their political theology? Is it self-loathing and overcompensation? Isn't it hypocrytical? Please do comment with your great journalistic wisdom. Thanks.

Bob Schieffer: I have no idea about the Senator's guilt or innocence but hypocracy is a felony crime in Washington so I can't imagine this will help him. At the very least, it was poorly handled by the senator.

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New York, N.Y.: Mr. Schieffer, how do you think the press should handle/prepare for what will probably be an intensely partisan presidential campaign once the nominees are chosen? I'm thinking specifically about swift-boat-like attacks and other such mud-slinging. Can the public help keep things focused on the issues? Thanks so much for the chat.

Bob Schieffer: That's a good question. I think we just cover the campaign. Our job isn't to make a campaign but cover what the candidates are doing. We should do a lot of fact checking to make sure the candidates are telling the truth and when they accuse an opponant we should be checking to see if the charges are warranted. Mainly, our guide line should be: candidates deliver messages,we try to find the truth as best we can. My old friend Bob Woodward of Watergate fame was once asked how he thought the Watergate story would come out when he first started covering it. He said, "We had no idea how it would come out, we were just trying to find out what happened." That's the best advice I can give to any reporter covering anything. If a reporter does that, he or she has done what they are supposed to do.

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Potomac, Md.: Bob:

From your many years of experience, what is the most fundamental lesson you have learned about life and human nature?

Bob Schieffer: Life is about the journey, not necessarily the destination. Do your best today, tell the truth, and start a new day tomorrow. That's what I love about journalism. There is always a new story to cover.

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Woodland Park, Colo.: Presidential candidates attended a forum this week focused on cancer. A very hard truth is that if cures are found for diseases, thousands of professional people will be out of a job. This dilemma is also true if there is an overhaul of the tax system, or if alternative fuels become the norm in automobiles, or if the U.S. infrastructure (bridges, roads, electric grid, etc) is brought up to snuff. How can politicians address this hard reality?

Bob Schieffer: As a cancer survivor, I guess my answer would be. Let's try to find a cure and then worry about job losses later.

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Anonymous: I'm ashamed to be asking such a shallow question, but who selects your neckties? You have the best-looking ones on TV!

Bob Schieffer: You have no idea how many people have asked this question but the truth is my family knows I like ties and so they give them to me. I haven't bought a tie in years. I got 14 on my birthday!

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Boston, Mass.: Mr. Schieffer,

Hello, I used to work at Burning Tree and on many Sundays after the scramble we would discuss the issues from that day's Face the Nation. I let all my friends know how down to earth and gracious you were.

My question is about John Edwards and your thoughts on his chances to earn the nomination.

Bob Schieffer: At this point I have to say I think Hillary Clinton is the clear front runner but it is very early, Edwards is running hard and doing pretty well in Iowa, so I am not ready to count him out. Glad to hear from you.

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St. Louis, Mo.: My guess is that, if Sen. Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she will choose Bill Richardson as her VP because of his background, his Hispanic heritage and his Western state ties. What do you think of this possibility?

Bob Schieffer: I really think it is too early to say but I am sure Governor Richardson would be on her short list.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Schieffer,

Has there ever been any speculation as to why the AG could not have just said "I was presented a list of attorneys that the president wanted to let go for one reason or another and I complied"? He would not have had to acknowledge he knew who actually typed the list just that he knew it was the president's wish.

Thank you

Bob Schieffer: I have no idea but handling it in the way he did left Gonzales looking as if he didn't know what was going on in his own department, or that he was just disingenuous--not a good place to be.

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Fresno, Calif.: I have read that the volunteer military, especially the career people, are more conservative and more Republican than society in general. Has the Iraq situation changed that, and if so, how?

Bob Schieffer: I just don't know.

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Saint Cloud, Minn.: Do you think Fred Thompson has waited too long to announce his candidacy? It seems to me that people are tired of this song and dance.

Bob Schieffer: Actually I don't. It's like we say in golf, you don't have to play well you just have to play better than the other guys. Noone has really broken out of the Republican pack yet so I think that takes a lot of the pressure off Thompson, but like you I wonder when he is going to announce.

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SW D.C.: What do you think about the idea of rotational regional primaries? I like the plan but the one change I would make is to rotate the small states going first every time as well.

Bob Schieffer: I think that is probably the best answer but I like going to New Hampshire and Iowa so much, I might favor starting with those two and then rotating regional primaries from year to year. In any case, this mess this year has to be improved in some way. The way these states keep leapfrogging to be first, we may have New Hampshire and Iowa before Christmas.

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Arlington, Va.: Considering the growth of TV news to 24/7 and the fact that the evening network news shows seem to be ten minutes of hard news and twenty of features, would it make sense to cut the national news down to fifteen minutes and let the various local stations, particularly weather people, have the other fifteen?

Bob Schieffer: You are not a local weatherman by any chance are you? Just kidding. No, I still think people like getting a half hour summary in the evening.

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Anonymous: Do you think Fred Thompson's work on law and Order might just qualify him for AG ?

Bob Schieffer: I don't think he would want to take the pay cut, besides he has bigger fish to fry.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Which of the second tier of Presidential candidates, in both parties, have impressed you?

Bob Schieffer: I think Joe Biden is certainly qualified to run, Mike Huckabee has brought welcome humor to the campaign.

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Seattle, Wash.: With the changes in nomination system, the front-loading, has it become impossible for a dark horse or relative unknown to capitalize on time spent in Iowa or New Hampshire?

And if not, is that a bad thing, that Iowa and New Hampshire's influence has been reduced?

Bob Schieffer: The real problem is it just puts more emphasis on raising money. Nobody can campaign in all those states, so they have to buy TV commercials. Again, its the high cost of campaigns that is the real problem.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think America is ready to elect either Hillary, woman or Obama,a black man, in 2008?

Bob Schieffer: I absolutely believe America is ready for a woman or an african american. Whether they will choose these two individuals is what we'll find out.

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Eastern Market, Washington, D.C.: Thanks for Face the Nation, and all your reporting. I especially like it when you take Face the Nation on the road, as you did last Sunday in New Hampshire.

When can we expect a compilation of your commentaries that end the show?

Bob Schieffer: I know your lovely neighborhood. We'll be on the road more and more as the campaign unfolds and right now, we are talking about a collection of commentaries. Stay tuned on that.

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Austin, Tex.: In your heart of hearts, do you have a pretty clear idea of which party is going to win the presidency in 2008? (You don't have to tell us. I'm just asking if you're pretty confident which way it's going to go.)

Bob Schieffer: I think most people who follow politics would say the election is the Democrats to lose at this point--an unpopular war, a president with low approval ratings etc--but I wouldn't bet a nickle on it. Just too early and too much could happen between now and the election.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hi Bob,

You've mentioned the problem of money in politics several times. What is your take on complete public funding of elections, as states such as Arizona have implemented with Clean Money, Clean Elections?

Bob Schieffer: Well, I have a problem with that too. Somehow when the government gives people money, they find ways to spend it.

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New York, N.Y.: So, Bob -- what about the next book already?

Bob Schieffer: To be honest I am thinking about it but we're in the thinking stage and not the working stage at this point.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: What is your take on states like California that are considering breaking up how they assign electoral votes? If that idea takes hold in states accross the nation, aren't we better of with a one man, one vote system?

Bob Schieffer: Actually I favor it, but only if all states do it. It wont really work if some big states are winner take all and others are by district.

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Potomac Falls, Va.: Do you believe Mayor Bloomberg's "nobody would vote for me" shtick, or is he likely to join the fray come February or so?

Bob Schieffer: That's what he told Dan Rather and he said it flatly so I guess I take him at his word. Frankly, I thought earlier he might run but he was very direct, said he wouldn't run and that he couldn't win.

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Chantilly, Va.: You are a friend of the president, yes? I have read that you have played cards with him and attended baseball games with him and that your brother was appointed ambassador to Australia by him. Do you think this should be disclosed when you write columns, etc., and has the president ever asked for your advice?

Bob Schieffer: My brother is a personal friend of the President,(and he is a Democrat) They became friends when they were partners years ago in the Texas Rangers Baseball team. This is well known, and was disclosed years ago both on television and in my book. And no, rest assured he has never asked my advice. I am not sure he would take it anyway since we have many disagreements on policy.

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Fort Worth, Tex.: I commend TCU for naming their journalism department for you. As a journalist with experience first in Texas and now in N.Y./D.C., what are your views on the insularity of the "punditocracy"? Is it insular? If so, how might that they be changed?

Bob Schieffer: Analysis must be based on accurate information. My advice to pundits is to do old fashioned reporting first, then analyze which is what the good ones do without exception.

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Washington, D.C.: Who are the most up and coming journalists in your profession, today?

Bob Schieffer: There are some very good ones, too many to name. They have so much more knowledge than we did when I was growing up--the internet makes so much more information available. In my day, we didn't have copying machines, we had carbon paper and had to take notes in the library by hand. It's easier now, but there is one problem: everything has to be double checked. The internet is the only conveyor of news on a national scale that has no editor. Stuff just pops up there, you don't know if it's true, or partly true or completely made up. My advice is never go with anything from the net without checking it. But the young reporters are really really good.

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Washington, D.C.: Did you know David Brinkley and do you wish he were still around to cover politics?

Bob Schieffer: I knew and loved David and he made the world safe for reporters with regional accents. So,you can understand why I liked him. He was a titan in our profession.

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To New York, N.Y.: Whaddya mean, next book? How about next CD? Bob, are you going to release an album of your songs?

Bob Schieffer: One thing at a time. We do have a CD called Roadkill Stew, go to the Honky Tonk Confidential website.

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Ashland, Mo.: Do you think there is a problem with political reporting and public interest? For example, most political reporters seem addicted to blow by blow analysis all the time, whereas the public seems interested only at certain times. When the public is interested, the political reporters are bored because they already have their narratives and have heard everything hundreds of times. Is there any way to get the two groups more in synch?

Bob Schieffer: We would all do better to focus less on process and more on what candidates are trying to do, what is possible, and what can be done to make a better life for the public.

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New Hampshire: Russell Baker once wrote a column about how bad it would be for the country when journalists were as wealthy as the people they covered (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist.) Certainly in the past journalists and politicians occupied the same social rungs (e.g. the Alsops and Kennedys) but do you think Baker's been proved right and the current outside-the-Beltway perception that many media folks are just too cozy with the politicos is legitimate? Or are we just more aware because the media covers itself so intensely?

Bob Schieffer: Gosh, I hope not. I do not intend to head up the Committee to Cut Reporters' Salaries but I guess I am what you would call a "special interest" or biased on this subject. I am half kidding here, but generally speaking I think most reporters are honest hard working people. The high salaries you hear about are fairly rare and I don't believe most journalists are overpaid.

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Washington, D.C.: If historians look back on the past election and say that it reflected a shift back from the political right to the left - what do you believe will be the issue that the historians attribute to the shift to the left in public opinion? As for me -- I think the critical events were the war and the Schiavo affair. It seems like those two events -- and perhaps especially the Schiavo affair -- made many feel as though the government was beyond our control. Has the pendulum changed directions in your opinion? Any thoughts as to the point at which that change occurred?

Bob Schieffer: I think the war more than anything.

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Reader's Digest, New Mexico:

Tell me that story again about Oswald's mother.

Bob Schieffer: Tom Brokaw once said if he heard that story one more time he would shoot his TV set, so for safety reasons, I'll pass on your request. (With respect of course)

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washingtonpost.com: Honky Tonk Confidential

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Greenville, S.C.: Bob -- A recent poll showed Congress's favorable rating of 18 percent, about half that of George Bush. Bush has been described by some as the "worst president ever", a view you may, or may not, subscribe to. Therefore, if that's true, could a case be made for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi being the "worst Congressional leaders" ever?

Bob Schieffer: I decline to answer those questions but I'll bet you can find a Republican to say that about Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi and I'm sure there's a Democrat somewhere who would agree on Bush.

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Newfoundland Canada: Most important question of all: Will the Frogs beat Texas?

Bob Schieffer: a Frog fan in Newfoundland?? I am impressed.

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Van Ness, Washington, D.C.: Hi Bob. I had the high honor of sitting next to you at a retirement dinner for Dennis Owens of WGMS in 2002. A great evening. My question is: Why are the network evening newscasts based in New York, when so much news happens here in the nation's capital?

Bob Schieffer: That was a great night. As for your question--that's my question. They should move down here as far as I am concerned.

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New York, N.Y.: There have been rumors this week that what Mayor Bloomberg is really planning is not a presidential bid, but to head up a major third party, possibly with the help of Sen. Chuck Hagel as a candidate. Thoughts on this?

Bob Schieffer: I think that if Bloomberg gets in, he'll be at the top of the ticket but he says flatly he's not going to do it so for now I take him at his word.

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Hamden: In your interview with Carl Rove I believe you asked him why he was doing the Sunday morning talk show rounds. His answer, as I recall, was, "I am only doing what I have been told to do:. I was surprised you didn't follow up by asking who was telling him that.

Bob Schieffer: Well, I asked myself the same question about 30 seconds after the broadcast. Wish I had.

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Colombo, Sri Lanka: How would you compare those just entering politics/public service in Washington to some of the great politicians and leaders of history? Do you see potential or do you just see people out to gain power and money?

Bob Schieffer: This is a precinct we hadn't heard from. There are some good people running out there as there always has been I expect it's about the same ratio of good to bad but we won't know for awhile I guess.

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Bob Schieffer: Hey folks, I'm going to sign off now. It's really been fun, but at my age, my shoulders are tightening up, my back hurts and my eyes are starting to unfocus. Great questions, sorry I didn't get to all of them but we'll do it again. Thanks for calling in. Bob

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