Sean Hannity Discusses Newsweek Cover Story on Conservatives and John McCain

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," February 11, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Our very own Sean Hannity is featured — there it is — on the cover of this week's Newsweek for the alleged feud...

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: That's me and John McCain

COLMES: ... conservatives have — can I get on with the interview?

HANNITY: Go ahead.

COLMES: With Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Here to set the record straight about the article, our own Sean Hannity. Look...

HANNITY: By the way, in all the years we've been on since 1996, this is the first time...

COLMES: No, it's not.

HANNITY: ... in the history...

COLMES: No, it's not. Excuse me, I'm going to do the interview. Don't pretend (ph) you're leading.

HANNITY: Hang on a second.

COLMES: Excuse me. I'll conduct the interview.

HANNITY: You interrupt every other guest.

COLMES: You never let a guest speak. Now you're going to know what it's like.

So you're taking a stand against John McCain. George Bush calls him a conservative. Gary Bauer today endorses him. Tell me the back story on this.

HANNITY: The back story is, look, it's amazing how this is being played to the media because they're saying we're saying all these horrible things. "There will be blood," it says here. It's not a matter of blood.

Senator McCain, and I was trying to tell Geraldo this the other night. He has his Straight Talk Express. I've been on the air for radio for 20 years. We've been on FOX since 1996. I've taken positions on immigration, on freedom of speech, on ANWR, on Gitmo, on interrogations, all the list that we have gone through here, judges and everything else. There are serious substantive disagreements.

On measure, those that are trying to convince us or morph Senator McCain into Ronald Reagan, I don't believe it. Is he a better candidate than Hillary Clinton? Yes. Is he a better candidate than Barack Obama? Absolutely.

What conservatives are concerned about, Alan, and what they're wanting out of Senator McCain, you know, he says he's a maverick. He'll reach over and do a deal with Ted Kennedy. He'll do a deal with Russ Feingold.

COLMES: It's called working together with the other party.

HANNITY: Hang on a second. Conservatives are saying reach over to us. We want to know that you won't go back to McCain-Feingold. We want to know that you'll put judges like Thomas and Alito and Scalia and Roberts on the bench. We want specific promises. -- You didn't vote for the tax cuts. We want to know you'll make them permanent. And earmarks and some of the other things.

So he has an opportunity here, in my mind, to reach out to conservatives.

COLMES: Seventy-six percent of Republican voters in this very same Newsweek article, 69 percent of self-described conservatives say they're satisfied with McCain as the nominee.

Is the people on the cover — are the people on the cover and the cabal of conservative talk show hosts...


COLMES: ... who disagree with John McCain out of touch with either mainstream America or even your own Republican Party?

HANNITY: Well, I will tell you this. Look at this weekend. I would argue that one of the reasons — I think a lot of conservatives weren't paying attention to Senator McCain is because early on he was, after McCain-Kennedy people said his campaign was over. They didn't think he was going to go very far.

Now, secondly, when it was Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee still in the race, I would argue that they were probably splitting some of the conservative vote. But one — there's one exit poll phenomenon you cannot deny. And that is, in almost every case — we saw this in the exit polls over the weekend when he was losing to Mike Huckabee. And that is conservatives, overwhelmingly, are voting against him, and this is the base of the party.

He finds himself, Alan, in a unique position. Most people when they, quote, "sew up the nomination," they reach — they move to the center. In his case, if he doesn't move to the right...

COLMES: But you're not answering my question.

HANNITY: I am answering your question.

COLMES: The question is, are you out of touch with the mainstream America in mainstream America that is favoring John McCain overwhelmingly, contrary to what conservatives...

HANNITY: Let me say it slowly so you get it.

COLMES: Please speak slowly, I'm not that bright. Write it in big doodles. I'd really appreciate it.

HANNITY: In all seriousness, here, if you look at the exit polls, he even this weekend, a head to head match-up, he's not winning the conservative vote in his own party. Now, what does this mean? I thought Senator McCain had a great start at CPAC in terms of healing this rift. And here's what he did. He said there's a problem. And you can't solve a problem unless you acknowledge it.

The second thing he did, he said I can't win without conservatives. He laid out where he is conservative, ending earmarks. Certainly, he's been great on the war. I don't think anybody's going to deny that. On — mostly on abortion issues, not 100 percent but mostly.

So the next step here is I think, like he would reach out to Kennedy and Feingold, I would urge him — he doesn't have to listen to me, but I would urge him to reach out to conservatives and shore up his base...

COLMES: He already has though, hasn't he, by going to CPAC? Has his campaign reached out to you?

HANNITY: I — I have invited Senator McCain on this program...

COLMES: Right.

HANNITY: ... to sit down and do a one-hour, one-on-one interview with me. You do your one-on-one interviews, I do mine. And just go over all these issues of concern that conservatives have.

COLMES: Let me ask you this. Ronald Reagan, who's often heralded as the great conservative, the standard by which every other conservative is judged. Here's a guy was a union leader, till he busted a union. He was an FDR Democrat. He got into office. He gave amnesty to immigrants. He cut and ran from Lebanon. He did so many of the things that, in today's conservative world, would never be acceptable. And yet, he's held up as this great conservative icon.

HANNITY: Michael — Michael Reagan would tell you that...

COLMES: He would not be able to survive in today's conservative...

HANNITY: I study Reagan. Reagan is my model.

COLMES: I just mentioned all the things he did.

HANNITY: I have read every single book that's ever been written on Reagan, and "Reagan in His Own Hand" is probably the best book, because it's Reagan...

COLMES: What about the things I just mentioned?

HANNITY: ... as a great ideological conservative thinker that he was.

Reagan had strong values and principles, Alan. Cutting taxes, I doubt President Reagan would have voted against the Bush tax cuts and would have used the class warfare rhetoric that John McCain did.

I bet Ronald Reagan would be for energy independence in ANWR. I bet he'd be for Gitmo. I bet he'd be for stronger interrogations. I think he would have no problem talking about originalists — originalist justices on the bench.

COLMES: He appointed Kennedy. He appointed Anthony Kennedy. He appointed Sandra Day O'Connor. They weren't originalists.

HANNITY: There is no perfect person, Alan, but clearly on issues of dropping the top marginal rates from 70 to 28 percent and showing you can double revenues to the government, followed by standing up to the Soviet Union and building up your nation's military, Reagan defines modern conservatism. What's fascinating about this, here it is. He was elected in 1980. Look at how Reagan has been a major factor, not only on the Republican side, but on the Democratic side, as well.

COLMES: But on the issues I just mentioned. Supreme Court justices. Look who he appointed. These were not strict constructionists in the mold of Alito. This guy, he appointed Kennedy, and he appointed Sandra Day O'Connor.

HANNITY: He also had for most of his presidency, if you recall, he was dealing with Tip O'Neill in the House.

COLMES: And guess who the next president's going to deal with? Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

HANNITY: I would bet with their 20 % approval rating...

COLMES: I don't think so, because the Democrats are probably going to win the presidency.

HANNITY: I take that back.

COLMES: Anyway, thanks for coming on "Hannity & Colmes."

HANNITY: I'm very glad to be here.

COLMES: I hope you enjoyed your experience.

HANNITY: Neal Boortz is coming up next.

COLMES: I hope we can get you back on the program sometime.

HANNITY: Maybe. We'll see!

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