Ari Fleischer Interprets Obama's 'Redistribution of Wealth' Comments From 2001

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 27, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEMMER: As promised, fair and balanced now. At issue is Barack Obama's redistribution of wealth comments made seven years ago in a radio interview in Chicago. That was 2001, today is 2008. Reaction now from the former White House press secretary: Ari Fleischer.

Ari, good evening to you up there in Connecticut.


HEMMER: (INAUDIBLE) right down the street from your lovely home, I am certain.

How do you interpret these comments from Barack Obama 2001?

FLEISCHER: Well, nothing has changed. From 2001 to 2008, Barack Obama has been very consistent and he lamented the fact in 2001 that the civil rights movement didn't do enough to redistribute wealth and the political community to redistribute wealth. Nothing has changed.

And I think it's a fatal flaw. I don't know if it's enough to sink his candidacy at this late stage, but here's the governing fact — under Barack Obama's tax credits, 49 percent of the American people will no longer pay any income taxes at all. They'll have, in effect, 49 percent of this country on public assistance. And this is extreme and I think it's a very troubling thing.

HEMMER: Let me stop you. Here's what the Obama Team is saying, "Make no mistake, it's got nothing to do with Obama's economic plan or his plan to give the middle class a tax cut." Now, he has said repeatedly — you're shaking your head now — he said repeatedly that 95 percent of Americans will get a cut under his tax plan. Do you believe that?

FLEISCHER: Here's the problem. He is very eloquent but he's eloquently tricky. Ninety-five percent of the American people don't even pay income taxes. And that's the problem. Today, only 60 percent of the country pays any income taxes, 40 percent don't.

When he said he's going to give a tax cut to these people, what he means — he's going to redistribute wealth from people who do pay taxes to people who don't pay taxes. That's not a tax cut. That's putting more help to people on public assistance (INAUDIBLE).

HEMMER: You were just listening to Bill Burton there, Ari. In the short time we have left, why are they blaming FOX News for this?

FLEISCHER: Well, you know, I heard this first on NPR Chicago, when I saw it on YouTube this morning and I saw it had 200,000 hits on YouTube, when I saw it at about 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock this morning. So, I just think that's a political tactic of theirs. When they want to change the subject, they attack the messenger.

But it is a huge Achilles heel that Barack Obama will have. And it will stick with him after the election. And I think attacking the media is a bad mistake for campaign spokesman at this stage.

HEMMER: All right. Thank you, Ari. Ari Fleischer, we'll talk again, OK? Days to go, good to have you on tonight.

FLEISCHER: Good to see you.

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