This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," August 9, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: This week on "FOX News Watch," can a presidential candidate get too much coverage? Have the media given Americans Obama fatigue?
A new book accuses the White House of serious misconduct leading up to the war in Iraq. The White House calls it gutter journalism. Guess what the media are calling it?
The games begin. Is NBC bending over backwards to put a positive spin on the story from Beijing?
Plus, Bill Clinton brings up the race card.
And in a clean video this time, Paris weighs in on the presidential race with her own energy plan.
On the panel this week, Jane Hall of the American University; Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, contributing editor and writer for the "American Conservative" magazine, and Patricia Murphy of citizenjanepolitics.com, a non-partisan web site.
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
Well, Barack Obama is on vacation right now in Hawaii. The vacation may have come at just the right time because a new poll this week finds the candidate may be overexposed. Forty eight percent of Americans say they have already heard too much about Barack Obama. Just 26 percent of those polled felt that way about John McCain and his candidacy.
Patricia, what do you make of those numbers?
PATRICIA MURPHY, CITIZENJANEPOLITICS.COM: I think the vacation is coming at exactly the right time. It's an indication that this election is becoming a referendum on Barack Obama. Barack Obama needs to define himself. John McCain wants to define Barack Obama. So everybody is talking about Barack Obama, particularly with his trip to Europe. I think it became this kind of way overdone mess and that is what I think this is a reaction to it. He has to be out there. You'd rather err on the side of over defining yourself rather than leaving people at the polls who feel like they don't know who you are.
SCOTT: The irony, Jane, is that 99 percent — John McCain enjoys 99 percent name recognition. And yet, people feel like they haven't heard enough about him.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think people know John McCain's story, heroic story in Vietnam. I don't think they know about his personal life. I don't think he's wanted much out there about his personal life. He is — you know, Karl Rove wrote a piece that said he is genuinely private, which is refreshing perhaps.
But, you know, I think it's very interesting. If you were a person saying that the media had been in the tank for Obama, I would be saying, look, they're hurting Obama because they've done so many covers on him...
SCOTT: You think this could be good for him?
HALL: I think it's bad for Obama. I think people are feeling they're sick of him already. That's not a good thing. It's a ways away to the election.
SCOTT: Jim, you know how a campaign works. Should his campaign be taking advantage of this somehow?
JIM PINKERTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR & WRITER, "AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE": I don't think the campaign should be taking a week off. I think they should boost their positives. What's happening, refining Jane's point here...
HALL: Thank you.
PINKERTON: They don't like Obama.
HALL: I don't think that's...
PINKERTON: Overexposed is a nice way of saying I don't like you. I don't want to know more about you. Underexposed in the case of McCain is a polite way of saying I want to know more about you. They want to hear more about McCain. They want to see more about McCain. That's why Obama is going down in the polls and McCain is going up.
HALL: McCain's attacks are working.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Somebody has raised the 1984 slogan where's the beef. Nobody complained about Ronald Reagan being overexposed because Reagan had a set of core ideas he was advancing.
I think there's a lot of political fatigue. That washes back over Obama. Don't forget, this has been a non-stop campaign. The campaigns never end. Not only 24/7/365, they don't even end after the election. I guarantee, a week or two after the election, we'll be hearing speculation about 2012. In fact, the Jib Jab commercial, the latest one, has Hillary on there with a sign about, hey, 2012 for me.
SCOTT: Patricia, we've seen the McCain campaign trying to paint Barack Obama as a sort of media creation, as this media superstar. Were they right, in touch with the results of this survey, do you think, or was that fortuitous timing for them?
MURPHY: I think it's was their only way to push back on their trip to Europe and that trip to the Middle East. They dared him to go to the Middle East and he did it. And it was looking really good.
But what they're also saying — and this is where Hillary Clinton got traction when she went into Texas, that he is a risky candidate. You can't trust celebrities. You can't trust him. He's just a trumped up, made up candidate who you can't trust. It's not about the exposure, it's about the content.
PINKERTON: The big dynamic in American politics is not right and left. It's up, down. If you're down, if you're an ordinary American, you look at these glittering media celebrities and say I don't like them. I don't want them driving the agenda. I don't want them deciding, with their friends and Europe and Asia, how things in America should be run.
The people who were in Sturgis, South Dakota, cheering for McCain, that is the silent majority — to use a phrase from 40 years ago in the Nixon administration — that is speaking. And they don't like Obama. They're not going to like him more as time goes by.
MURPHY: There are 70,000 people in Oregon that do like him. You just can't say...
HALL: Obama — I think Obama needs to prove that he is, quote, "one of us." If you're a biker, he's for you. He needs to define how his economic plan would be better for people out of work than John McCain's.
THOMAS: He's not going to do that at the Democratic National Convention. They've got a huge box set aside for Hollywood celeb. You've got Annette Bening. You've got Warren Beatty. You've got all these people he doesn't need to associating with, if he's going to connect with the Harley bikers in Sturgis.
SCOTT: We've just added to Obama fatigue.
Jim, how does McCain counter or take advantage of this?
PINKERTON: I think McCain continues to mobilize the counterculture. The real counterculture is red-state America. Yes, Obama got 70,000 people in Oregon, but there are more South Dakotas and Arkansas' and Missouris than there are states on the coast.
SCOTT: All right.
Time for a quick break. But first, if you want to hear what we're chatting about during the commercials, go to our web site, foxnews.com/foxnewswatch. But do pay attention to commercials, too.
We'll be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: A bombshell new book makes outrageous claims about the White House's case for war with Iraq. How has its author been received by the mainstream media? Next, on "News Watch."
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Also ahead, a scathing new book from a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter that claims the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq wasn't a mistake, but deliberate deception. His claim, it is worse than Watergate. But the White House says it's absurd and gutter journalism. The man at the center of it all joins us for an exclusive interview.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That's a sample of some of the coverage that "The Way of the World" has received since it came out.
Jim, anything about the coverage of the release of this book that has surprised you?
PINKERTON: As the psychologist, Carl Jung, says, when facts are few, opinions loom large. We don't know the truth of what's in the book. He is a well-known journalist and well respected in many circles. We just can't prove it and neither can he. And yet the media seem oddly fascinated and preoccupied with the story, at the expense of other stories as they break, like John Edwards having an affair. They don't care about that. They want to talk about some alleged memo that Suskind can't even produce...
MURPHY: Well, which is more — I'm sorry.
PINKERTON: ... five years later.
SCOTT: Well, but, Patricia, I guess one of the interesting things — I mean, you have entire commissions full of highly paid, highly experienced governmental investigators who haven't been able to reach the same conclusions that Suskind does.
MURPHY: That's why this book is so controversial. When I have been looking at the reporting, particularly the print reporting, it is couched in terms like "the author claims," "the book suggests." So in my reading of it, people aren't taking this as much as fact, particularly in print journalism. I think when broadcasters start talking about it, it sort of starts to build its own case.
SCOTT: But, Jane, when Meredith Vieira gets on TV and says the Pulitzer Price winning author brings us, you know, his expose, it sounds like they're taking a side.
HALL: I think this also shows differences among cable networks. I saw him interviewed by Keith Olbermann and, guess what? He gave them a lot of credence.
THOMAS: I'm shocked.
HALL: But on this network, other people said it's a pack of lies. Here's what the White House says. I think what's worse is the American people end up confused. Scott McClellan's book got, I think, more attention. That's part of why people are wondering about this. Suskind says this is true. There's a lot of falsehoods and a lot of things that are very confusing at the time — I mean, what was done on the record is bad enough. I don't know if this letter is true or not.
THOMAS: Here's a bulletin for you. During a Republican administration you write a book, especially in the election year, that is critical of the incumbent president, and you can get on the "Today Show." introduced by the former hostess of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and "The View." Who could ask for more than that?
HALL: Yes, that's not fair.
SCOTT: What about it, Jane? If an author were to write a book, a well-researched, authoritative book that says the war in Iraq has been a good thing for the world. Would they get a front and center portrayal on the "Today Show?"
HALL: I think so.
Meredith was on CBS before she did this. I think reporting was not that good. I think people do this — I don't think she grilled him hard enough. I'm not disagreeing with you, but I think, there was so much bad stuff done in the real walk up to the war — there have been a lot of books about it. And I think it's a legitimate subject to be doing stories about.
PINKERTON: Jon, Bob Woodward has got another book, his fourth book, on the Bush and Iraq war. Let's see how much coverage he gets. Something tells me, if it's negative, it will get a lot. If it's positive, it won't.
MURPHY: At the same time, the impeachment proceedings that congressmen have tried to bring against the president, yet, almost nothing...
PINKERTON: Well, that's because almost nobody's voting for it.
PINKERTON: It's not a relevant piece of legislation.
MURPHY: But if you look at the way the Clinton impeachment was treated versus bringing an impeachment against Bush for serious charges, whether they're true or not, I mean, the media is not paying attention to that.
PINKERTON: Clinton actually was impeached. That was news. OK.
PINKERTON: Dennis Kucinich — Dennis Kucinich and 20 liberals that didn't want to impeach Clinton — and can't even get Nancy Pelosi, that is, I'm sorry, monotonous.
MURPHY: But the reason this book has legs is there were problems leading up to Iraq. There are problems with the intelligence. Nobody knows what happened and what didn't happen. And so having a book out there that alleges things is worth discussing.
PINKERTON: The reason this book has legs is because the liberal media wants to report it.
SCOTT: And may I point out that the book is an imprint of Harper Collins, which is owned by News Corp, which is the parent company of the channel you're watching.
THOMAS: And headed by the evil Rupert Murdoch, as the left would say.
SCOTT: You said it.
THOMAS: No, as the left would say.
SCOTT: Time for another break. We're going to be back with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ABC REPORTER: It's a pretty simple question. And maybe you don't want to answer it right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: What did this ABC reporter ask President Clinton? And what did he say?
And is NBC toeing the party line in China as it covers the Beijing Olympics? All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, NBC HOST: There's a recent poll said some very high percentage of the people in China are happy with their lot in life, something around 80 percent. You compare that to polls in the United States that say only about 25 percent of Americans are. What's the root of their happiness here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, since that interview aired on NBC, Matt Lauer and NBC have been criticized for that exact question.
Cal, as we were playing it, you're shaking your head. Is he a booster for...?
THOMAS: The only answer is we all become Communist and then we'll all be happy. He didn't say who did this poll. That reminds me of some of these alleged polls done at the beginning of the civil rights movement. Some of these white southern racists say, "What do you mean? Black people down here are perfectly happy just the way they are." This is total garbage.
SCOTT: Yes. They don't have Internet access. Their air is foul. And most of them ride bicycles, but it's pretty good to be in China, I guess.
MURPHY: I think the problem here — Matt Lauer made an error. This is a Pew poll. The question was, are you satisfied with the direction of the country. And 86 percent of Chinese say yes. There were 3,000 Chinese interviewed in person by the staff. The real question they also asked Chinese citizens, are you personally satisfied. Do you have personal satisfaction? The number was much, much lower. I think Matt Lauer made an error there. I hope it was an error.
PINKERTON: Why did he make that error, I wonder? Could it be because NBC paid China a billion dollars to cover the Olympics? And they can't afford to have their reporters and sportscasters kicked out for telling the truth about China. They have no choice but to cover up.
SCOTT: Jane, do they have a vested interest to make China or the Olympics look good?
HALL: I think they've got a real problem on their hands. If they're going to try to cover the reeducation camps, the dissidents who have been packed away so nobody can see them — I mean, China is a mixed picture. There is progress there. But I don't know how you can cover the Olympics and not cover anything else. But I don't see NBC not covering sports 24/7.
SCOTT: Let's move to another story that got a lot of coverage this week. Bill Clinton's interview with Kate Snow of ABC. Here's what has the press talking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ABC REPORTER: Pretty simple question. And maybe you don't want to answer it right now. I respect that fully. But if you want to answer it, do you personally have any regrets about what you did campaigning for your wife?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, but not the ones you'd think. It would be counterproductive for me to talk about it. There are things I wish I had urged her to do, things I wish I had said, things I wish I hadn't said. But I am not a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right, Cal, here's the question. And you don't have to answer it, if you don't want to.
THOMAS: Thank you very much
SCOTT: But does Bill Clinton have a right to be angry about the coverage he had during Hillary Clinton's campaign?
THOMAS: This guy will not leave the stage. There's a scene in the movie "What About Bob" where Bill Murphy is constantly stalking his shrink. And the shrink is trying to explain to his wife that he never goes away. He opens the door, he says, see he's never gone. Bill will not leave the stage. He is inextricably linked to Hillary Clinton and the rest of us. To say I'm not a racist, what does that mean?
SCOTT: Also true that she didn't even bring up race as the pretext of the question. He did.
HALL: I know. It's like one of those, you know, Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," don't ask me how I did that terrible deed. I think it's obviously in his heart. I know people feel he was mistreated by the media, that he's not a racist. They are not racists. But his remarks were certainly controversial at the time.
PINKERTON: I know people, like me, who think that Bill Clinton tried to play the race card against Obama in South Carolina. It blew up in his face and caused Obama to gain, not lose. Clinton is still nursing his psychological wounds in public, which is, as Cal said, not very attractive.
SCOTT: And when given the opportunity to endorse Obama's candidacy, Patricia, he did anything but.
MURPHY: He could not bring himself to say that Obama is qualified to be president. That was the moment where you're just looking at Bill Clinton. He's a lot of things, but not a disciplined speaker. He is what's going wrong for Hillary Clinton. I really am convinced she would be on the short list. She's not on any short list. But she could be on the short list if Bill Clinton was not around. You can't control him.
SCOTT: It's going to be interesting to hear what he's going to say when he's giving that big speech at the convention.
All right, "ABC News" broke the story on Friday that John Edwards now admits he had an extra marital affair. Is this victory for the "National Enquirer"?
And, Cal, your long memory is saying that it was actually before the "Enquirer" broke the story.
THOMAS: There were rumors about this even while he was a presidential candidate. Remember, back in the '92 race with Bill Clinton, another person who did not have sex with that woman, the "New York Times" reluctantly, with great reluctance, put the story of Gennifer — with a "G" — Flowers on the front page of its paper, almost apologizing for it.
Look, we used to have muckrakers — you know, Jack Anderson, a great columnist, was a great muckraker. Don't have that much anymore. Most of the media don't like doing it, especially when it happens to Democrats they like. But the "Enquirer" was way out ahead of this and kudos to them getting it.
PINKERTON: The "Enquirer" got another scoop and another black mark for the mainstream media that tried to pretend this story wasn't happening and fell for all Edwards' obvious transparent denials.
SCOTT: Well, I guess the "Charlotte Observer" went after him after the "Enquirer" got into the story. But is it going to get the kind of play, now that he is no longer officially a candidate, that it would have had it come out during the campaign?
HALL: Oh, I think that it will get played. I don't think it will get as much. If he was on anybody's list to be the poverty czar — Obama — I mean, that ain't happening. So I still subscribe to my theory that a lot of people thought, oh, my god, he did this while — if he did this while his wife had cancer. And that's caused people not to want to cover it.
SCOTT: Well, the report is, again, from ABC, that he pursued this affair while his wife was in remission.
HALL: Yes. Yes.
SCOTT: And that the love child that came out of her relationship is not his.
MURPHY: Well, I kind of feel like people looked back to the old days when reporters' didn't get involved in politician's personal lives, particularly with the Kennedys. And they look at that as kind of the golden age of journalism. I personally don't care what John Edwards said. He's not a candidate. I just don't care. and I think a lot of people won't care either. Maybe that's just me.
THOMAS: You should care. A politician that lies about his wife will lie about other things.
SCOTT: We have to take one more break. When we come back, Paris Hilton — she has a way to solve the energy crisis. Just wait.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARIS HILTON, MODEL: And now I want to present my energy policy for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Barack Obama and John McCain laid out their plans to fix the energy crisis in this nation. They differ in many ways. But Paris Hilton thinks she has the solution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILTON: Barack wants to focus on new technologies to cut foreign oil dependency.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Creating solar panel industries that will be at the cutting edge and help businesses actually save on energy.
HILTON: And McCain wants offshore drilling.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends, we have to drill off shore. We have to do it.
HILTON: Why don't we do a hybrid of both candidates' ideas? You can do limited offshore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in, which will then create new jobs and energy. Energy crisis solved.
I will see you at the debates.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go pick out a vice president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Although Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas thinks Paris is on to something, we are positive, and grateful she doesn't need to pick a running mate. She is having trouble picking any mate.
SCOTT: That's all the time we have left.
Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Patricia Murphy.
I'm Jon Scott.
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