This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 29, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mayor, your are going to take a holier than thou attitude that you were perfect on immigration—
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not perfect.
GIULIANI: It just so happens you have a special immigration problem that nobody else up here has. You were employing illegal immigrants. That is a pretty serious thing—they were under your nose.
ROMNEY: If you hear someone that's working out there, not that you've employed but that the company has, if you hear someone with a funny accent, are as a homeowner are supposed to go out there and say I want to see your papers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, GUEST CO-HOST: There was one of the heated exchanges last night's debate between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, obviously over immigration. What about the rest of the debate, and how it all fell out for all of the candidates?
Some analytical observations about that debate from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
Fred, that, obviously, was a heated exchange there. How do you think it fell out after that?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I thought it hurt both candidates, actually. I think that Giuliani and Romney better stop arguing over these trivial immigration issues that have nothing to do with what they would do as president, because it's hurting both of them.
You see others like Mike Huckabee and others standing by saying, boy, I'm going to benefit from this. These guys are the frontrunners, and their killing each other over trivial differences on immigration.
And, actually, I thought the only candidate who actually did well in the debate was Mike Huckabee because he understands the debates, that they're not serious discussions. They're great places for one-liners, for being funny, for being likable, and not taking them to seriously.
He has some slick Willie tendencies, but he was excellent in that debate, the only one who was.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: And they weren't all canned lines, that's the reason why Huckabee has continued to perform so well. He doesn't know what questions he is going to get.
BAIER: Let's play one of them. He was asked about the death penalty. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: Let me tell you, it was the toughest decision I ever made as a human being.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The question was, from the viewer was, what would Jesus do? Would Jesus support the death penalty?
HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Not a canned line there, but it was quick.
LIASSON: Yes, he thought of it on the spot. He might have used it before, but he brought it up.
What Fred said is absolutely on the mark. Mike Huckabee understands this format. The format is not a place where you score points on your opponent because they once had an illegal alien mowing their lawn.
It's where you show something about yourself, and Huckabee has been showing consistently in these debates that he's genial, funny, compassionate, and he's acceptable to people. He's a regular guy.
BAIER: Charles, you have said for weeks he's not going anywhere. Are you turning the corner on Mike Huckabee?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I must have a congenital immunity to his charm. This thing about Jesus never running for public office, if that passes for presidential wit, then our standards have gotten pretty low in this country.
Look, he knows how to handle a debate. Does that make him presidential? In the second half of that debate, which was on foreign affairs, he said almost nothing. That's why I think he is not a serious candidate.
I thought in the exchange that we say between Giuliani and Romney, I thought that Giuliani was the loser. He came off as a little bit mean in the attack on Romney, and sounded a little bit personal about the mansion.
And Romney showed how clever he is. Here he is in a competition with Giuliani to see who can be the most anti-illegal immigrant, and in the middle of that argument he switches around and becomes the tribune of the poor guy working in the garden who has a funny accent.
So he gets it both ways and gets applause each way, which is pretty cynical, but really clever. I think Romney came out rather well in that debate. He and McCain, and, of course, Huckabee, whom I don't quite understand, but I'll go along with the consensus on this one.
LIASSON: It's one thing about Romney — Romney has certainly hit the sweet spot of the Republican base on immigration. He understands, he has a mind meld with that kind of voter.
I don't know if that's going to set him up very well for a general election, to constantly talk about sanctuary cities and denying benefits to children of illegal immigrants. I think that he could be boxing himself in.
BARNES: He has been squabbling with Giuliani over and over again for. They've been doing this for weeks. And now on television, it doesn't help either one of them.
I agree with Charles, Romney did better on that. Where Romney did particularly well was in the argument with John McCain over torture and over waterboarding. He took the responsible position. McCain took this extreme position that you can never water board under any circumstances.
BAIER: But what about McCain on Iraq? Some people said he did pretty well at that debate defending Iraq. We have one quick sound byte in an exchange with Ron Paul. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just finished having Thanksgiving with the troops, and their message to you is, the message of these brave men and women who are serving over there is "let us win."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: He said it is couple of times. Did he gain some points there?
BARNES: That was a good exchange, no question about that. But, all in all, I didn't think it was a very good debate for McCain.
BAIER: OK. We'll leave it there.
When we come back on our panel, more on last night's debate, and why CNN finds itself in so much hot water today. Stay with us.
BRIG. GEN. KEITH KERR, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: General, thank you for being with us. Did you feel you got an answer to your question?
KERR: With all due respect, I did not get an answer from the candidates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: That was Brigadier General Keith Kerr. He is an openly gay retired member of the military. He had a question about gays in the military. He is also, however, a member of the steering committee on this issue for Hillary Clinton.
He was asked by our producer on site about that. He said that CNN never asked him if he was a Clinton supporter, so he never told.
Well, he wasn't alone at far as Democratic supporters in that question list. We are back with our panel. Fred, how about the questioners chosen for this debate?
BARNES: Well, remember, CNN says they're just average Americans that are asking the questions Americans are interested in. But they have 5,000 people send in tapes, and they picked those 34, and included in them were a number of Democratic activists for Obama and for Edwards, and this guy for Clinton, and someone who had some very loaded questions.
There were also a lot of questions really trying to stick it to Rudy Giuliani. And so it was completely different from a Democratic debate.
Here's a good example of it, Bret, and that is the general got up—he ambushed the Republican candidates, who they knew were going to be against gays in the military, which he was for. And he was handed the mike so he could embarrass them, make them feel squeamish, that was the intent.
Remember the CNN debate in Las Vegas where they had a soldier get up with his mother, and he — but did he challenge the Democrats who were against the war? No. He was against the war, too. He ratified their position.
So you can see the completely different ways CNN handled that—one to screw Republicans, one to boost Democrats.
BAIER: Let me read the CNN statement about this today. "CNN cared about what you asked, not who you are. This was the case for both the Democratic and the Republican CNN You Tube debates. The vested interests who are trying to challenge the credibility of the questioners are trying to distract voters from the substantive issues they care about most."
Mara, is it an issue?
LIASSON: These debates have been lots of fun. They've been great. They've been creative and interesting. And I think CNN does itself a great disservice when it doesn't apply the exact same kind of criteria to both debates.
I covered both of them. In the Democratic debate, I don't think there were any questions that were clearly coming from a Republican point of view. They were generally sympathetic. There were about global warming and healthcare and education, all Democratic issues.
There were not challenging them. There was one anti-tax question, I think, but they weren't challenging the basic principles of the Democratic Party.
There were lots of questions last night that were. I think the question about the Bible was mocking. I think one of the abortion questions was clearly not from someone who was pro-life, it was the opposite.
And they also tended to find people who were on what you might call the libertarian end of the spectrum among Republicans. Now, that, I think is, an artifact of the You Tube community itself, which tends to attract younger people.
KRAUTHAMMER: I don't think it's news that CNN and the mainstream media have a double standard when it comes to Republicans and Democrats.
But, in principle, I don't understand what all the fuss is about? What is wrong with having Democrats questioning Republicans? Why not have Republicans questioning Democrats.
Have Democrats asking Republicans what would you do, if you criminalize abortion, who ends up in jail? And have Republicans asking the Democrats how come you aspire to be the tribute of African-Americans, and deny them school choice in the worst neighborhoods in the worst schools in the country?
A double standard exists, but I'm saying, in principle, who cares if a person is an Obama supporter asking a question—
BAIER: Sure, but shouldn't they be labeled as such when they're doing their question?
KRAUTHAMMER: Unless—look, in the case of McCair(ph) was different because he was officially in the campaign. One of these questioners has an Edwards t-shirt. So what?
Huckabee outside said these are supposed to be objective citizens—of course not. Citizens aren't objectives. Citizens have allegiances. And so what? Having differing allegiance is displayed in different questions.
BARNES: Here is the problem with what you say Charles—by having these questioners and representing them as being just average Americans, this is what they want to ask about, you get a completely different view from the average American at the Democratic debate—they all boost the Democrats, and at the Republican debate they are hostile.
And that is more than just a double standard.
BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned as the two top Democratic candidates go all out to win young voters.
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