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'Special Report' Panel on Battle for Democratic Presidential Nomination

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from March 24, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.: The time has come for Democrats to come together and say "We need to end this. We need to get ready for November. We need to be positive. We have to stop these personal attacks. They're reaching excessive amounts."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: That was Bill Richardson on "FOX News Sunday" worrying about the state of the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Some thoughts on all this from Bill Sammon, senior White House correspondent of The Washington Examiner; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer -- FOX News contributors all.

It has almost reached the point of being conventional wisdom that this battle among Democratic candidates is allowing John McCain a free run and a free ride. His fundraising hasn't been all that successful, but maybe that's because he's not in the news that much.

But is it really helping him, and is it really hurting their long-term prospects, Bill?

BILL SAMMON, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think it does because you have a protracted scorched earth political war going on between Hillary and Barack Obama. You have a polarization of their Party by race, by gender.

They've raised a lot of money, but they're spending it on each other. McCain is not raising as much money, but he gets to husband his resources. He gets to figure out his general election strategy. He gets to tend to the conservative base.

And people say well, he's not getting in the headlines. I'd rather not be in the headlines if these are the kind of headlines you're going to be in, where they're tearing each other up. People like Geraldine Ferraro are getting knocked out of the box. I think they're doing permanent damage.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think that they will come together at the end of the day. I think the Democrats around the country are so hungry to get back in the White House that they will manage to patch it up somehow.

But they are furnishing the McCain campaign with a lot of artillery, a lot of quotes, a lot of ads -- that 3:00 in the morning ad that Hillary put out, this press conference she had with her generals where she said that John McCain has a long time of experience in national security, I have a long time of experience, and Barack Obama made one speech.

That was cutting a campaign ad for John McCain, practically.

HUME: You men, if Obama wins?

KONDRACKE: If Obama wins, yes.

I think McCain has work that he is got to do, and he's doing some of it, raising money. I think he has got to address the economy soon.

But, in the meantime, while your adversaries are in the process of killing each other, you do want to let them have a lot of publicity. And you have both campaigns accusing the other of "gutter tactics." That's where they are. They're mucking around in the gutter.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What it gave McCain, above all, is the gift of time. At the end of the struggle, he had to get the Republican nomination. He had been resurrected. He was out of money, out of breath.

And he needed to organize the structure his campaign, which he's working on now. He needs to raise money, which he's trying to do now. And, most important, I think he's got to go to summer school on economics, and this gives him a month or so, at least until the 3rd of June -- and that's the earliest date at which the Democrats will have a nominee --

HUME: Because that's the last of the big primaries.

KRAUTHAMMER: -- and even so, I think it's going to go all the way to August -- but it gives him all of that.

And, also, it gets him off the stage. There was one argument that he will be out of the news so it's going to hurt him, but all the news is on the negatives that Clinton and Obama are building against each other and their negatives are rising.

And McCain is a known quantity. He doesn't have to be in it as much. I think it will help him to be out of sight for a few months. After seven months of campaigning, people will be tired of his face. Being abroad helped him.

SAMMON: The Democrats are actually doing McCain's dirty work. Every time that Hillary portrays Obama as not ready to be commander in chief or Obama portrays Hillary as untrustworthy, like this Tuzla thing. And, by the way, I lived is Tuzla for two years, and I can assure you there was no snipers fire --

HUME: This is in reference to Hillary's claim, now acknowledged to be incorrect, that she faced sniper fire --

SAMMON: Sniper fire in a heavily fortified lair. I spent an enormous amount of time there. I lived in an apartment in Tuzla, and if she had come under sniper fire or if there had been sniper fire anywhere around when she landed, all of us journalists would have led with it and we would all remember it today.

So this is the kind of thing Obama is exploiting now, but it's the kind of thing McCain doesn't have to because Obama is beating up Hillary, and there is all this scar tissue accumulating on the two people, and they're doing McCain's dirty work.

HUME: The question, Mort, isn't whether the Democrats will patch it up and come together around a candidate. The question is whether the candidates' reputations, both of them, will be so damaged that the candidacy, that winning will be worth less.

KONDRACKE: There is no question that they are furnishing the Republicans with a lot of ammunition. All the Republicans have to do is pick up the day's news and watch and turn them into campaign ads, and quote Hillary talking about Obama and Obama talking about Hillary about how unreliable she is, and how he's not ready to be president on day one and so on.

And, as I said, they are having their ads cut out for them.

KRAUTHAMMER: But it's not just a question of giving ammunition. It is a question of real anger and resentment, especially if Obama is denied the nomination. His supporters are going to feel it was stolen, and I think there will be a lot of resentment, sitting out, and it will be extremely hard to patch up the Party.

HUME: Do you think it could be patched up if the super delegates take it away from Obama?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely not.

HUME: You don't think so?

KONDRACKE: Look, the African-American vote is a strong Democratic constituency. They are not going to want John McCain in the White House.

HUME: I know, but what about their level of enthusiasm?

KONDRACKE: Hillary and Bill will go back and apologize and try to patch it up. There are plenty of black African-American supporters who will help her.

SAMMON: Don't forget Michigan and Florida hurts as well. KRAUTHAMMER: And the young will stay home. They always do.

HUME: Next up with out panel, is Barack Obama's new pastor following in the footsteps of his controversial predecessor, and is it time for Obama to break with that church? Stay tuned.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you go there on Easter, this Easter Sunday, and you sat down in the pew, you would think this is just like every other church. You got kids and little girls with bows in their hair and people dressed in their Sunday finest, and their talking about Jesus and the resurrection.

REV. OTIS MOSS, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: I have been through many dangers! But there are things I can see up here after my experience that I could not when I was down there! Be careful who you try to lynch!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That from one of the sermons delivered by on Easter Sunday by the Reverend Otis Moss, successor to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

You should know, by the way, that, broadly speaking, Moss did preach an Easter sermon, an Easter Sunday sermon. But he likened the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to what he felt truly was the treatment given to the United Church of Christ in Chicago, and, in so doing, he tried to take something positive from it in some of what he said.

It is an analogy that some may find strained, but it is nonetheless something which may or may not quarrel with the notion that Obama put forth in that radio interview, that it's an ordinary, garden variety Christian church in which you see people on Easter Sunday in their Easter bonnets with ribbons in their hair, and so on.

What about this controversy. Does this kind of stuff make it live on?

KONDRACKE: I think it does make it live on, and I think, therefore, does Obama no good, particularly in the general election.

You got to forgive African-American churches like some other -- like some white churches, but not many, the preachers do indulge in a little bit of hyperbole.

HUME: The truth of the matter is, having been to a number of white churches in my life, I would rather listen to somebody who has some fire in him than some of the preachers I have listened to over the years.

KONDRACKE: Exactly. You remember Clarence Thomas famously said that he was treated to a high-tech lynching. So the lynching metaphor is one that's often been used, and crucifixion on Easter Sunday, when you feel as though your church has been battered by publicity, bad publicity, is not out of line.

What I do think is wrong is that when Obama says this is like any other church, any other ordinary church -- Ron Williams, our colleague and friend, has written a book about African-American churches, and he says there's not one in ten that has this kind of afro-centric ideology that the Trinity United Church has.

They have taken some of it off their Web site, the black principles on which their church was founded, one of which is to abhor "middle classedness." Now what is that? Does that mean that kids who --

HUME: What that means to a lot of is don't be like the rest of America.

KONDRACKE: Yes, don't be white.

KRAUTHAMMER: Jeremiah Wright was not lynched, he was simply exposed. People heard what he had to say.

To call it a lynching and to speak of it as a crucifixion or imply it by a metaphor, I think, is to indulge in the culture of victimization, which Jeremiah Wright indulged in, and also the habit of demonization of the other, also which Jeremiah Wright indulged in and that Obama airily explained away as a remnant of segregation, a remnant of the past and a generational thing that will wash away.

Well, you have a new pastor, a new generation, and I'm not sure you have a lot of evidence of it washing away.

And there will be 30 Sundays between now and Election Day, and people will want to hear what the new generation that Obama's preacher, Jeremiah Wright, had influenced and instructed and, I would say, poisoned, has to say.

SAMMON: This is the problem that Obama finds himself in because he didn't break with the church. Even though the Jeremiah Wright guy is gone, this new preacher is rekindling the controversy, and Obama is forced to say this isn't a crackpot church.

I think most people view it as a crackpot church. Even blacks, I agree, most ordinary black Baptist churches do not get up there and say "g- d-" America and KKK of America. This is radical separatist afro-centrist views, not the mainstream even in the black community.

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