Fox News
November 08, 2012

Did Obama campaign's smear tactics change politics forever?

Guests: Bill Cunningham

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," November 8, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Is America still a center right nation? It would be silly to say that a nation that elects Barack Obama, especially one that re-elects him is a nation that remains in important respects, center right.

The question is, what do you do about that? I guess one option is despair for some. People are lost. The country is lost. It's all hopeless and we may as well pick up our marbles and go home. That's one option.

I think we as conservatives, we ought to reject that option.

Now a second option is anger. We can yell at the American people for not being as conservative as we wish and we were right and that they ought to be more conservative. That might be emotionally cathartic. It might make you feel good. You may feel morally superior to the masses and it will make conservatism, a minority movement for a long, long time. I think we as conservatives, we should reject that option as well.

There is a third option, we can jettison our principles and become liberal-lite, so we embrace big government, higher taxes, abortion on demand. That would be a disaster politically and it would be intellectually and morally, a surrender. That's a third option. Conservatives I believe should reject that.

Now there is a fourth option. And that option is that understanding the change that is now underway in this country. You have to take this into account. I think we as conservative, we ought to refine our arguments in a way that is persuasive to the country, telling them our position, convincing them it's a better way. That means we need to have solutions to the big problems of this age, not two generations ago.

Now states are passing laws allowing same-sex marriage. States are now legalizing marijuana, a majority of Americans re-elected Barack Obama. So we need to understand this, things are changing. We need to figure out why it's happening.

And we need to think through what we need to do about it. We need to be smart about the battles we pick and how we fight them and how we can win over the American people once again.

Now the other thing we need to do to is to keep perspective. Now yesterday, I mentioned Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. Now in the 1970s, people thought that Great Britain was lost, that it was in the grip of labor union, that there was no reason for them to fight anymore.

Now Margaret Thatcher said nonsense to all of that. She made a forceful, powerful, moral case for why conservatism was the path to new hope, new opportunity, new prosperity and greater human happiness. Not only did she win, she changed the trajectory of British society.

Now the same thing happened with Ronald Reagan in 1980. Now if you remember, the 1970s was an awful decade, socially liberal. We had Nixon, he was pushing wage and price control, Watergate, crime was out of control.

And then we had the election of Jimmy Carter and retreat of American power abroad.

Now liberals were dominant in the House and Senate until 1994, conservatism seemed like a lost movement. Reagan, he didn't give up. He didn't turn on America, rather he made a case in broad, hopeful, appealing terms. He persuaded people. He didn't scold them. He came up with an agenda that met the needs of his time.

And then slowly, he won people over and in the process, he changed the history of America and the history of the world. Now, that's the model we need now in 2012. Don't deny reality, but don't give up hope.

While we chart a new course, we need to make a place in history for this recent election and define it in our terms, in real terms.

So now, we are just 48 hours removed from the 2012 presidential election. There is no doubt in my mind that it will be remembered as the dirtiest, the sleaziest and the most undignified election in American history. You know, the old adage, it doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game. Well, that was clearly not how Obama approached this contest. No, he appears to have adopted that it doesn't matter how you win as his motto, because both he and his surrogates, they dove into the gutter early and often throughout this process. In short, this was Chicago politics now, on a national stage.

While Governor Mitt Romney, for the most part reserved his criticism of the president to matters of policy, the attacks from the left were personal and relentless. Let's take a look at the hate-filled rhetoric that fueled the Obama re-election machine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JOE SOPTIC, OBAMA AD: I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he has done to anyone. Furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, CNN, AUG. 8: I don't know the facts of when Joe's wife got sick or when she died. But as I said before, I do know the facts of what Mitt Romney did with G.S. Steel.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, D-FLA., MAY 1: I think the agenda of the Republican Party and Mitt Romney has clearly been and could be interpreted as an attack on the issues that matter to women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a guy who thinks corporations are people and straps the family dog to the roof of his car.

STATE SEN. LOUISE LUCAS, D-VA., "THE JOHN FREDERICKS SHOW," JULY 20: He is speaking to their friends out there who do not want to see anybody other than a white person in a leadership position.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV., AUG. 2: The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid tax because he hasn't.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., AUG. 6: This is the E. Coli club.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, AUG. 14: Going to put ya'll back in chains.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Now granted this was an important race and this is a full- contact sport. For example, so is football. What the president did to smear Mitt Romney and his family was the equivalent of a 15-yard face mask, a chop block, a blow to the quarterback's head and a late hit, all rolled into one. Only he didn't care if he was penalized, he wanted to secure another four years of endless golf, concerts, Jay-Z, Beyonce, George Clooney, whatever else he could do while, by the way, the economy was tanking, terrorists murdering Americans in Benghazi.

Joining me now here in the studio, radio talk show host, TV host, the outspoken, Billy Cunningham.

BILL CUNNINGHAM, TV AND RADIO HOST: Sean Hannity, how are you?

HANNITY: How are you? You were upset.

CUNNINGHAM: I felt as if something crawled inside my body and died. Tuesday night, I was lower than whale dung in the (INAUDIBLE) trench. I talked with you. I was done. But today and last night, I said, you know what? We are not wrong. We didn't do it. The messenger wasn't the best, the message wasn't the best. I think there are millions of moderates in Ohio, Michigan, Virginia who kind of sat this one out --

HANNITY: Why?

CUNNINGHAM: Did anyone really believe in his heart that Mitt Romney was a Reagan conservative?

HANNITY: I have an article here, Jeffrey Lord, American Spectator, when conservatism is a second language. I got to be honest. I have come to really respect, like, Mitt Romney a lot. Love his family, his wife is incredible, kids are great. I think he grew a lot as a candidate. He was a decent man. They slandered, smeared, just, you know what? They won, but it's like, you cheat. I mean, it's below the dignity of the office.

CUNNINGHAM: Sean Hannity, you live in New York. I live in Cincinnati. Since February, we went through nine months of vicious personal attacks of Mitt Romney by Obama.

And guess what? Romney wasn't even on the battlefield. He was in these debates that made him look silly. We went through thousands and thousands of commercials. He's killing your grandmother. He is going to poison the air. He doesn't want your kids to grow up and be educated. We went through that for nine months.

HANNITY: So I think the president now set a low bar and we are going to get more of it. So what do the Republicans take from that? To fight dirty, to get in earlier, to smear -- they should have smeared Obama more?

CUNNINGHAM: What would Reagan do?

HANNITY: That's my point!

CUNNINGHAM: Don't do what they do. And the other thing that happened, Sean Hannity, I talk to the Democrats the last two days. When the inaugural took place on January 2009, guess what?

The campaign kept open for four years in Ohio, 139 campaign offices, signing up through Twitter, Facebook, magazine subscriptions, what shows do you watch. They had thousands, 200,000 new voters are they registered and got to the polls.

HANNITY: So what's the answer now? Do that now. Actually sometimes you can learn from a liberal. They are good at their ground game. I'll give them -- I'll give them all the credit for that. They deserve credit. For the smear campaign, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. That's a hollow victory. It's like a kid that cheats and wins. You know deep down inside, you were sleazy and slimy -- how do they counter that?

CUNNINGHAM: Karl Rove did it. Sean Hannity, in 2004, Kerry got 6 million votes more than Al Gore. If somebody had said to you the night before the election, guess what, Kerry is -- what would you have said?

HANNITY: Over.

CUNNINGHAM: It wasn't because Rove went into small-town America, especially in Ohio, and registered more voters.

HANNITY: All right, you know Ohio better than anybody. This became a different turnout model. You were right about Hamilton and Butler and Warren counties and all the surrounding Republican areas. They came out, what, 75 percent --

CUNNINGHAM: It's 71 percent to 78 percent.

HANNITY: Amazing. All right, so they came out in droves. But still it wasn't enough because Northern Ohio came out in numbers that were unprecedented. Look, Obama lost 10 million votes nationally. But I am shocked. Three million fewer Republicans voted for Mitt Romney than John McCain.

CUNNINGHAM: It is because of the moderate label he was tagged with. It was because white women in our area watched those commercials. In Cuyahoga County, they registered 140,000 more traditional Democratic voters.

There were precincts in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, that voted 114-3 for Obama. There were precincts in Cincinnati that were 828-1 for Obama.

HANNITY: It was like two different states.

CUNNINGHAM: If the same number of African-Americans in Ohio voted in 2012 in 2008, Romney would have won the state.

HANNITY: It was so close, Virginia, Ohio, Florida. There have to be adjustments, but you don't compromise your principles. They have to do a better job of messaging. Their ground game has to be -- it has to be the right candidate and a united party.

CUNNINGHAM: I do one thing. Abortion, no, absolutely, right to life. It is Hispanic issues, getting on the ballot --

HANNITY: But we can't have somebody like Todd Akin say something as dumb as what he said. We're going to deal with this tonight.

CUNNINGHAM: Terrible.

HANNITY: Right. By the way, coming up, speaking -- thanks, Billy Cunningham, God bless you. You're a great American. Thanks for the full report.

CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.

Content and Programming Copyright 2012 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.

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