This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from September 4, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R-AK) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: Some analytical observations on that speech and much else now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, FOX News contributors all.
Well, we've had a day to think about it and the effect it has had and perhaps the standard it has set for John McCain. Mort, your thoughts on last night's speech and the impact thereof?
MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I haven't changed my mind. It was a great speech and it was brilliantly delivered.
And it was especially so in view of this teleprompter glitch. I mean, she had 37 million people, as it turned out, were tuning in, and she handled this glitchy teleprompter with total aplomb.
HUME: You wouldn't have known, would you?
KONDRACKE: No, absolutely not.
There was a lot of appeal to the working class, and a lot of appeal to small town voters. And I think she appeals to lots of women.
That said, that quote that you played from her is totally unfair to Barack Obama—the idea that he is just recommending change for the sake of his own personal advancement. He clearly believes in changing from the Bush policies.
I mean, he wants to produce national health insurance, he wants investment in early childhood education. You may not like all the changes that he is recommending, higher taxes and lots more litigation and lots more regulation, but he is for change for its own sake, not just himself.
HUME: but the question, though, is he says he is for these things. Is his record as a community organizer, Chicago political activist, and later member of the state Senate, is there a sense in that that you get of being a real leader for change?
KONDRACKE: Yes. I mean, look, he has voted and advocated all this kind of liberal stuff. I'm sure, you know, you don't like it, and it will cost a lot of money, but, nonetheless, he has always voted for it. That's part of the criticism. That's how he got to be the third most liberal member of the Senate.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That's an inspiring defense of Barack Obama there. He votes like a reliable liberal, therefore he is for change. That would be true of every Democratic presidential candidate in the last 20 or 30 years, except for Bill Clinton, who won.
Look, I would say about this about the speech. I thought the selection of Governor Palin on Friday could be sort of a game changer, a circuit breaker and then a game changer, that it reset the whole election. It was such a bold move by McCain.
In a way the media feeding frenzy on her incredible performance last night has convinced me that we don't know the full implications of this last week. It is not just one speech, some good lines, Obama hits back, and we go on. I think the whole race is recast.
And you made this point last night. For six months this is all about Obama, and McCain is-can he discredit Obama enough that people kind of reluctantly say we will get McCain four years-
HUME: Safe alternative.
Now it is about, I think, and especially if McCain can give a strong speech tonight, it can be about McCain and Palin and their conservative reform agenda.
And I think the way in which Palin links together social conservatism, reform, youth, and a kind of—it really cuts through a lot of the standard dichotomies, that social conservatives are grumpy old people who dislike everything in modern America.
She is modern, she is feminist, she is conservative. I think she is really a game changer.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think what McCain did by picking her and what she did with that incredible speech last night was say "OK, this is this an election about change, and we will compete for that. It is not going to be an election about experience versus change. We are going to be the change agents, too. We're going to have a reform Republican agenda."
She reminded me a lot of Barack Obama last night. She is self-made, incredibly charismatic, very relaxed and loose up on the stage. And she has tremendous self-confidence.
And sometimes it's worth giving kudos to your colleagues. John Dickerson said something really interesting in Slate today. She said "It was clear she was having fun, and it's hard to have fun if you're scared or a lightweight."
She was not a lightweight. And I think that that was the expectations of her coming in. And she thoroughly disabused them.
The question I have going forward with her is can she do this again and again over time? Barack Obama has had 19 months of doing this. Can she do it in interviews, in gotcha interview, and there are going to be plenty of them, and can she do it in the debate with Joe Biden?
HUME: That's an interesting question, because what tends to happen, Mara, in these cases is, and it may not happen here, is that the vice presidential candidate, once nominated, once identified, nominated, and has the speech, tends to sort of fade into the background of the campaign, campaigning in more remote places.
LIASSON: Little markets, yes.
HUME: And no reporter wants to be assigned to a vice presidential candidate.
LIASSON: Everybody is asking their editors right now can I please go with her.
HUME: Yes. Will her race against Joe Biden now become more covered than any vice presidential race in history in your view?
LIASSON: I would have to think so just based on the desire of reporters to cover her. Sure, why not?
Look, as was said, she got 37 million viewers-
LIASSON: —12 or 13 more than Biden, and almost as much as Obama. I have to assume that she will bring a lot of those to McCain's speech tonight. A lot of them will still want to tune in.
HUME: I think it's an interesting question whether he will get the numbers she got.
LIASSON: I don't know if he will get the numbers that she got. There is a huge curiosity factor with her, and, come on-this is about babies and sex and all that.
HUME: I get all that.
LIASSON: But some of them are going to stick around.
The other question I have is she clearly was a hit with Republicans. There is no doubt about it. They were over the top.
My question is, and I'm waiting for polling to see this, is did she appeal to the independents and the small town white collar working class voters who are the swing voters in the battleground states? That's what she was trying to do last night, and we will see if she succeeded.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think she did, I'm not waiting for the polls.
Look, clearly John McCain's picking her was totally vindicated. She has completely turned this race around, excited Republicans in a way they weren't, excited this crowd, excited the press.
And, look, Republicans everywhere, everywhere are going to want her to come and speak. Even some who may not want McCain. Everybody is going to want Sarah Palin. There is, as Mara said, a huge curiosity factor. She will get gigantic crowds.
This is a woman with incredible moxy. She has gotten where she is, no pollsters, no strategists, no handlers, no media consultants. She has really done it all.
And, Brit, I talked to some people from Alaska. They were trying to think, today, what was the biggest crowd she had ever spoken to in Alaska. And maybe it was 700 people. You know, this was 37 million, plus how many in the hall—20,000, or something like that. Remarkable.
And here's what people don't know. Look, all of us here have given lots of speeches. As you suggested last night, Brit, I mean, could we have done that? Could the average person have done that? Could the average person who gives speeches do that? Could the average senator? Could other presidential candidates do it? I don't think so.
HUME: I'm not sure. Bill Clinton famously dealt with a bad teleprompter glitch in one of his speeches to Congress, and we were all wowed by. I know I was at the time.
BARNES: He is one of the few who could do what—and he did last week in Denver—who could do what she did last night, and that's make it look easy.
HUME: This is John McCain's night, of course, at the convention. We will get some thoughts on what to expect and what he needs to do when we come back.
HUME: Down on the convention floor, as you can see, the convention personnel are working feverishly to get this runway that has been created and added to the stage so that John McCain can walk out among the crowd, creating the town hall feeling that he so likes and will work better.
Apparently the way it worked before, the shot looked funny and the teleprompter was in the picture, so they're trying to re-jigger all this right now.
And you can see they're working on cleaning it up all to make it easy for Senator McCain to make the big impression that he will be trying to, and some might say needing to make tonight after his number two hit such a home run last night.
Back with our panel to discuss what senator McCain needs to do tonight. Fred, your thoughts?
BARNES: I don't think he needs to go through his POW record since that's been handled well by the other speakers, and I think people know it pretty well.
This campaign now, the agenda, at least, for the McCain-Palin campaign is for two things. It's, one, it says, look, this is a dangerous world, and there is one candidate who has the character and courage to deal with that, and that's John McCain.
And the second is the McCain-Palin ticket, if they are elected, they will shake up Washington and reform it. I think McCain needs to flesh out those two ideas. Here is how I'm going to shake up Washington, and here's how dangerous this world is, and here's how I'm going to deal with it, and handle those two things and he will do quite well.
But the bar is set high.
HUME: What is your guess on the audience? If she got 37, can he top that?
HUME: You think?
HUME: Mara, your thoughts?
LIASSON: I wouldn't think so. I think he might get more than he would have if she hadn't done what she did last night, but I'm not expecting him to top it, though.
HUME: Which would mean that Obama's speech will have been watched by more people?
HUME: Makes sense.
LIASSON: But I think what he needs to do—I think it is well established how he has been a maverick. I think if he is going to talk about being a real reform ticket, he has to talk about what he is going to do in the future.
And he doesn't have to have a laundry list of proposals and he doesn't have to come up with a lot of new things. But if he is going to follow through on tackling entitlements an immigration and the tax code and everything else, he needs to be very forward looking.
This is a campaign about the future. It's not giving someone a gold watch for any kind of heroism or bravery or maverick behavior they showed in the past.
KRISTOL: I actually think McCain could get a larger audience than either Obama or Palin. I think there is interest now in the race. I don't think it is just that people are curious about Palin.
The pick of Palin was interesting. The assault on Palin was interesting. Her response last night to the assault, so to speak, on her, was interesting, and therefore, McCain is more interesting. He had the guts to do this.
So I actually think the race is really shaken up more than, perhaps, we appreciate. I don't think the polls will move immediately. I don't know that this is one of those things where people look and say, wow, I'm changing my vote.
But the race that looked like it was settling in as a kind of Obama four or five-point lead I think is very much up in the air, and I think people will pay attention not just tonight but to the next few weeks.
KONDRACKE: I don't anything about how big the audience will be. What he has to do is what he has never done up to now, and that is to have a positive vision of how to keep America great in an area of threats and intense economic competition.
I think he has never taught economics the way I think he needs to— that is, to show how his kind of conservative economics going to be better for the ordinary American than Bush's economics have been or that Obama's economics would be.
And, also, one other thing that has not been done at this convention at all, and that is to reach out to Hispanic voters—or blacks, but especially Hispanics, who are the biggest growing group. The only reference that—even nodding reference to Hispanics at all—was when Giuliani used the word "nada." That's about it.
HUME: Other than that, it's been nada.
KONDRACKE: Nada, exactly.
HUME: My own thought is, for what it's worth, is that McCain also has a challenge tonight, because he is capable, as we saw four years ago and have seen in other settings, of giving a very low-key, serious, important speech, but he's not a sort of a soaring orator.
Obama was, in her own way, Sarah Palin certainly was. It seems to me that McCain will have to make his own style work tonight, and it might not be so easy.
That's it for the panel.
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