Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' October 25, 2008

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," October 25, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This week on FOX "News Watch," Joe Biden says some surprising things about his running mate. Did the media try to ignore them?

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama and the press plays it up big. But what about McCain? He has four ex-secretaries of state backing him. Why isn't that in the headlines?

Plus, Americans are worried about voter fraud on Election Day. So why are some networks trying to help viewers with their votes.

Alan Greenspan gets drilled by Congress. Was the press too eager to believe his rosy predictions about the housing market?

And the Obama campaign asks the press to shell out big bucks to cover the action come election night. Wait until you hear these prices.

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 Kirsten Powers, New York Post columnist and FOX News analyst.

I'm Jon Scott. FOX "News Watch" is on right now.


SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We are about to elect a brilliant 47-year old president of the United States of American. Remember, I said it standing here, if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."


SCOTT: That's vice presidential candidate Joe Biden speaking Sunday at a Democratic fund-raiser.

All right. You wrote a column about this, Kirsten. You were pretty tough on your fellow Democrat. Did they give him a pass on those remarks?

KIRSTEN POWERS, NEW YORK POST COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS ANALYST: Yes, I think they did. I think I was tougher on the media than Biden because we don't really know — Biden hasn't actually given us any explanation of this. The media, if there's any doubt there was a double standard in this race, it is completely laid to rest by this because there is no way that this can be ignored. What he said, he goes into such detail, if you listen to the whole thing, read the entire transcript. It's not he's talking about John McCain or barrack Obama will be tested. He's talking specifically barrack Obama will be tested.

SCOTT: That seemed to be the Democratic Party spin after the remarks generated some attention. He was talking theoretically about whoever gets elected.

KIRSTEN: He did say barrack Obama has a steel spine and people will realize he can handle it. But that was after this lengthy exposition on how we're going to have some international incident.

CAL THOMAS, SYDICATED COLUMNIST: He went further. He tried to inoculate Obama and himself because he said, in the next sound bite, which was also ignored by the mainstream media, look, he's going to make decisions when we are threatened, and some of you will think they're wrong, but they're not wrong. Trust us anyway.

This is messy and a cult-like devotion and it's meant to insulate himself from any criticism of the media should he make wrong decisions.

SCOTT: I guess the scary part about it is that Biden does have access, as you pointed out in your column, to the same intelligence that George W. Bush does.

THOMAS: Yes. He probably came right out of a briefing. Of course, Biden can't hold anything in. The minute he knows something, it goes to the mouth and out to everybody.

SCOTT: Why didn't it get more coverage? Why didn't it get more coverage?

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think it really gets to the fact that people, as she said in her column, people have an opinion about Sarah Palin as they had an opinion about Dan Quayle. They think Biden — they know Biden. He's been around. And it was shocking. And he also said you're not going to like the economy in a year. The guy — it is — you could psycho analyze it. You could say it was refreshing candor or you could say, my God, what does he believe about the man he's running with.
Maybe there's some envy there. You can psycho analyze this.

Very little coverage of it. I think it does demonstrate not that they're in the tank for Obama, but that they think they know Biden and they've already forgiven him. So he will never get caught on this.

Let me get Jane's argument straight. People out there...

HALL: People, the media. Our media! Mea Culpa.

PINKERTON: Oh, let me clarify that. It's not there's a double standard. It's they like Biden and don't like Palin. I see.

HALL: I agree!


HALL: I'm agreeing with you!

PINKERTON: This might explain why it is that according to the Pew Center, the public, by a 70-9 ratio, think the press wants Obama to win.
Why the Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that the negative coverage on McCain is four times the positive coverage. I think the pattern is emerging here.

SCOTT: Kirsten, what would have been the coverage if Palin had made those remarks?

POWERS: I can't even imagine. I really can't even imagine. I think it would be front page news.

THOMAS: No, they're focusing on her clothes.

POWERS: I think we would have heard the entire clip over and over again. The economy part isn't even being discussed. The whole thing was sort of jarring if you read it thinking I'm a Democrat, I'm voting to barrack Obama. I'm thinking what is he talking about and does he have information we don't know about.

SCOTT: Why is it the Democrats only tell the truth in fund-raisers when they think nobody's listening.

THOMAS: Let me pick up on Jim's point though because it's a very good one. The Pew Center report that showed huge numbers of the American people don't believe what they're getting from the media. Now, in any other industry, could you afford to disrespect your consumers whether you're selling hamburgers or gasoline or clothes? This is amazing and we see the numbers continue to decline, particularly at the broadcast networks and newspapers. And yet they continue to spill out this dribble even though the customers aren't buying it.

SCOTT: And wonder why subscriptions are dropping.

THOMAS: Exactly.

HALL: I think it is very interesting. I saw Palin and McCain on NBC with Brian Williams and they criticized NBC for not running this story. He said what do you think of as an elite. She said anybody who thinks they're better. He was trying to pin her on what she thinks about things.

She comes off very well. A lot of people like her. A lot of people may not want her for vice president and may not think she's qualified, but I think the media have...


HALL: Wait, a lot of the polling — let me finish. I am differentiating this time between the media and people. A lot of Republicans poled said Palin has not made them want to vote for John McCain.


PINKERTON: ... maybe after the media got through with her.

SCOTT: Maybe she comes off so well because she dresses so nicely.
There was the controversy about the $150,000 spent on her wardrobe, not all of which she apparently wore. Tempest in the tea pot? A double standard?

THOMAS: There's a lot of P.R. involved in this. I remember when I was a reporter of a local station in Houston in the '70s. At the beginning of the Arab boycott long lines at the gas station, we found the chairman of Texaco gassing up in the basement of his building and exposed the hypocrisy of all this while everybody else is on the gas line. What she should have done is gone to Target, gone to the Limited, gone to some other place instead of this high-end clothing stuff which cuts against the soccer mom, hockey mom, moose shooting Wal-Mart shopper. So it's a P.R. disaster?

SCOTT: Was the coverage deserved, I guess is the question.

THOMAS: Well, you know, this is silly, stupid stuff. Whether she's wearing (inaudible) boots or not is not going to be responsible for her appearance.



PINKERTON: Here's the test though. Who got more coverage, Biden for what he said or Palin for what she wore?

HALL: Very good point.

SCOTT: Very, very good point.

We have to take a break. We will be back in two minutes with this.

ANNOUNCER: Colin Powell's backing Obama and making headlines across the nation. But do you know who's backing McCain? Probably not if you rely on the mainstream media. Details next, on "News Watch."



GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: He has the ability to inspire because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America , because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities. And you have to take that into account, as well as his substance. He has both style and substance. He is has meet the standard of being the successful president, being an exceptional president.


SCOTT: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsing barrack Obama for president last Sunday morning on "Meet the Press."

That endorsement, Jim, front page news Monday morning. Did it get the coverage it deserves?

PINKERTON: I thought NBC handled it very well. They gave Colin Powell half an hour to say why he was voting for Obama, and then they gave Jim Baker half an hour to say why he's voting for McCain.

Oh, wait, I misspoke.


PINKERTON: Obviously, I'm kidding. They gave half an hour to Powell and then nothing on the Republican side. It was more proof of what we've been saying.

POWERS: I have to say I think there's a difference because it's news worthy with Powell because Powell is endorsing a Democrat. I think if a former Democratic secretary of state was coming out and endorsing McCain and add in somebody with the profile of Powell...

PINKERTON: So they could have given it to Lieberman for half an hour?

HALL: I was going to say, Lieberman got a lot of attention.


PINKERTON: You didn't get my point. Look, the essence of fair and balanced coverage is you do both sides. You don't just do one side.

THOMAS: Seven minutes and eight seconds of uninterrupted — it was like a political commercial. What should have happened at the end is Obama coming on saying I'm barrack Obama and I approved this message.

SCOTT: There are — as we mentioned, in one of the headlines there, there are four former secretaries of state endorsing McCain but that doesn't...

POWERS: I have to say, in this case, I don't think it's not that news worthy that Henry Kissinger endorsed John McCain. It just isn't. Powell, it is news worthy. We took interest in it. He's crossing party lines to make an endorsement. He has a high approval rating, which I don't understand. But he has a high approval rating in this country, and I think he's a unique figure. It is news worthy, I think.

HALL: I think it is and I think it was valid news. I noted a lot of cynicism, at least in some of the columnists about what was his motive.
Rush Limbaugh seemed to be implying that he turned his back on the Republicans who had helped him and his son became head of the SEC. The print commentary I don't think was entirely glowing but he certainly had a platform for his endorsement.

PINKERTON: Certainly, they didn't press him on where were when — the four years with George W. Bush secretary of state, you didn't seem to have these problems, you didn't seem to have any concerns, why are they coming out now?

The truth of the matter is Powell has always played the Washington establishment like a fiddle.

THOMAS: That's right.

PINKERTON: Even when he was in power, he was always leaking to reporters. I disagree with these morons, but give me nice press so I can stand up to them. He's still playing them, and it's working.

THOMAS: Yes, the media never blamed him fully for his statement before the U.N. Security Council that there were weapons of mass destruction. They were disappointed in him, but this is part of his redemption. He endorses Obama, all is forgiven.

KIRSTEN: That's why I say I don't understand his high approval rating. It's strange to me. He's a person who should be getting total disdain from the Democratic establishment from what he did from the Democratic perspective of helping the war along. I thought they actually sort of undermined his endorsement when they showed him standing up and rah rah for Bush and Cheney. It was like how could you have said that and now you're saying this?

HALL: I think he's perceived — I think he's perceive — excuse me — as a statesman. He was sort of like — I remember Ted Koppel talking about anchors being like Vanna White because you didn't know what they thought or you weren't supposed to. He was getting — people forget. People were ready to vote for him not knowing that much about him seven years back.

SCOTT: Did the media I guess go overboard in writing headlines about this? There have been theories floated about why he's done it, about it being a mea culpa for what he had to do in front of the U.N. that day about the Iraq war or maybe it's a matter of race.

PINKERTON: Was it worth a half an hour on "Meet the Press", including...

POWERS: I thought it was.


PINKERTON: OK, fair enough. I would say no. I would say given where Powell's coming from, his obvious antipathy to George W. Bush, which, once again, wasn't explained properly in terms of how it's shifted and flip- flopped, I think to give him half an hour unobstructed was, like Cal said, like a half hour commercial for Obama.

THOMAS: Seven minutes and eight seconds. I can't remember in four years of journalism seeing somebody interviewed on television be allowed to go on without interruption even for a commercial.

HALL: Excuse me, Dick Cheney and a lot of other Bush officials got many minutes to make their case for war...

THOMAS: But not seven minutes and eight seconds.

HALL: ... on the Sunday morning talk shows. And they weren't challenged.

SCOTT: We'll wrap it up. After another break, with this.

ANNOUNCER: Voter fraud charges increase as Election Day draws near.
Now some news channels make offers to help viewers cast their votes? Is there something wrong here? That's next on "News Watch."



REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D), CALIFORNIA: Where do you think you made a mistake then?

ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as if they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and the equity in the firms.


SCOTT: All right, let's talk about Alan Greenspan. He was testifying there in front of Congress about this financial meltdown that is consuming the country. This is a guy who got $8.5 million in advance for his book.
He served under Republican and Democratic administrations as head of the Federal Reserve for almost two decades. Are the media in love of him?

THOMAS: Four words you never heard from Alan Greenspan's lips: I made a mistake. Now he tells us. This guy is to finance what Barack Obama is to politics. He's a messiah, above everybody. Even the members of Congress who hadn't a clue what he was talking about, sat there slack-jawed figuring he knew what was going on. And he screwed up. But he gets the half a million anyway. What a country.

PINKERTON: This is what makes news so interesting. Who would have imagined that he would say it like that? The guy famous for being imbued
(ph) in a sense because no one understanding what he was saying. He said a simple declarative sentence. You watch live news for just that.

HALL: I think the media are somewhat responsible for the fact that he got incredible press. I run exercises with my students, you know. I think a lot of journalists can barely do percent. I think it shows. He was built up, enjoyed the positive coverage. He kept interest rates too low.
Nobody that I remember everyone knew enough to ask him good questions practically. It's almost that bad.

SCOTT: Is it safe to say, you know, potential journalists with a real keen financial mind — and you probably see this among your students.

HALL: Yeah.

SCOTT: Are going to try to go to Wall Street — until maybe a couple weeks ago. Math is not the strong...

HALL: It's no longer cute and darling — I tell them this. It's no longer cute and darling not to know how to do math. There are a lot of opportunities in business journalism today. But I think Greenspan charmed a lot of people. He was a figure in Washington. He did a lot right. I don't think he should be crucified. But I didn't see much criticism.

SCOTT: Also, Kirsten, he was supposedly nonpartisan. The Federal Reserve is one of those institutions of government that's supposed to be an island in the sea of politics. Is that part of the reason that reporters, other than our own Neil Cavuto, never gave him much of a...

KIRSTEN: I agree with what Jane said. I think it's that most reporters don't understand the economy and it's intimidating if you're talking to a person who has great command of it, even if they have bad judgment. People don't know how to question it. They need to spend more time boning up. There are resources, lots of think tanks, people you can talk to, ask questions and get second opinions. I don't think it's excusable.

SCOTT: Let's move on, talk about the election now and some cable news channels. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: Today we are launching our campaign, making your vote count. We have trained volunteers available to answer your questions, about voting irregularities or problems at the poll. Just call 1-622-OUR- VOTE now through Election Day.


SCOTT: All right. So anything wrong with the idea of a cable news channel helping people vote, Jim?

PINKERTON: I think, look, there's nothing wrong with civic responsibility and so on but I think, most likely, they're going to use this as tips for stories. If somebody says I have trouble getting voted, if some white racist is coming after me, you can be sure that MSNBC will put it on the news tonight.

THOMAS: We heard yes from you.

POWERS: That's exactly what they're doing. They want to be able to say we're getting reports that in Florida people are having trouble. I think that's what they're doing.

THOMAS: The media's job is to cover the news, not to participate in it or make it. This steps over the line in my judgment.

SCOTT: Jane?

HALL: I think there is — I believe NBC did a whole campaign a couple years ago. I think if you link to Rock the Vote or some administration thing, that is different. I think this gets into a little dicey territory.

PINKERTON: A completely nonpartisan operation like Rock the Vote.


HALL: No, I know that because of my students. But I think if you're linking some information that's different from call us and we'll help you.

SCOTT: All right. Let's move on to another topic.

HALL: I'm not doing well in this room.


HALL: And we love each other.


SCOTT: This has dominated the news in the past week, polls. As we count down to Election Day, seems like every news outlet is relying on polls to look ahead to Election Day. Too much focus perhaps on the polls and the horse race right now. You can even get them state by state.

What do you think about that, Cal? I mean, the media just love polling.

THOMAS: It's fortune telling for the educated. The polls have been so wrong over so many election cycles about so many things, but they always come back because we want to know the future. That's why people read the astrologists in the newspaper. That's why they go to the fortune tellers and palm readers. We want to know what's going to happen tomorrow and pollsters are a sophisticated way of doing it.

HALL: I think the polls have driven a lot of the coverage. I think whatever you think about pro or con coverage on McCain, if McCain were doing better in the polls, then it might be different. People have decided, again, media people...


HALL: ... have decided that the polls are showing this is looking good for Obama. I think it could be closer, and then we'll have a mea culpa the next day.

PINKERTON: David Broder, of the old school, just goes, knocks on doors and asks who are you voting for? They tell them and he writes a story about it. That's expensive and labor intensive. It's easier to stand in front of a wall chart and say the polls are this or that. As Cal says, it's nothing relevant to what actually happens on Election Day, but it is cheaper and easier to do than actual shoe leather.

THOMAS: They were pretty off last time.


KIRSTEN: I'm going to disagree. I'm going to disagree. I think the polls are actually — they're not quite fortune telling. They maybe a little better. I think they give you a good sense. In the primaries, at least the Democratic primaries, which I followed closely, except New Hampshire , they were pretty on target. Not to a tee, but pretty close.

PINKERTON: But would you agree that the media now are using them to drive the election in favor of Obama?

KIRSTEN: Uh, I don't know.



KIRSTEN: No. I mean, the polls are showing, look, Obama is opening up a lead in national polls and in state-by-state by state polls. It's not a novelty. It's across the board.

PINKERTON: Is it fair to say that the more Obama goes up, the more they like to talk about the polls.

KISTEN: Probably. I think they're very pro-Obama obviously, but...

HALL: I think they're pro-winners also.

SCOTT: We have to take one more break. When we come back. . .

ANNOUNCER: Obama's campaign is a money machine raising and spending buckets of cash. Now they want to collect from the press. Can they do that? Details next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: Just about 10 days to go, certainly less than two weeks to go until the big night. If the media want prime camera positions from Obama's election night headquarters at Grant Park in Chicago , they better show them the money.

The Obama campaign sent a memo to news organizations this week with the following price tags: access to a main riser, the best place for a reporter to be, $935. Access to a lower riser, the cheapest way to go, $880; access to the main riser was telecommunications, $1870; satellite truck position, $900; radio position, 715 bucks. If that's not enough, news organizations can buy additional services, such as unlimited long- distance phone line, 300 bucks; and high-speed wired Internet for 275. So the cost of covering election night at the Obama headquarters, not exactly priceless.

But there is some good news. First, a spot among the general media
outdoors. It's unheeded with obstructed views. That's free of charge.


SCOTT: Second, your company credit card will not be charged until the campaign confirms your resource coverage package.

That's all the time we have for this week.

Things to Jane Hall, who is whipping out her gold card; Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Kirsten Powers.

I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. Keep it right here on FOX News channel. The "FOX Report" is up next.

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