Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' November 29, 2008

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," November 29, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: This week on a special Thanksgiving edition of "FOX News Watch", his election made history. So now the election is history, how will the media cover him?

And, her? What kind of press can Michelle Obama expect once her family moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

And what about Senator Joe Biden? Will he get the same media treatment as vice president that he received while campaigning?

The Democratic Party is on a roll and ready to rule. But that is not how the press saw the party four short years ago.

Plus, you read a lot of doom and gloom in the headlines these days. But despite the bad news, there is lots to be thankful for right here in America.

On our panel this week, Jane Hall, of this American University; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow, New America Foundation; and Kirsten Powers, New York Post columnist and FOX News analyst.

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


UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: There were moments when you said, what did I get myself into?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Surprisingly enough, I feel right now, that I'm — I'm doing what I should be doing. That gives me a certain sense of calm. I'm will say the challenges that we're confronting are enormous. And they are multiple. And so there are times during the course of a given day where you think, where do I start.

Video: Click here to watch the 'FOX News Watch' discussion


SCOTT: President-elect Barack Obama there, on "60 Minutes" in his first post election interview.

Kirsten, one of the subthemes of his campaign was, yes, we can. And you listen to the sound bite and it sounds like, I don't know if we can. Should the president be asking those questions before he got elected?

KIRSTEN POWERS, NEW YORK POST COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS ANALYST: I thought he looked a little tired there so maybe he needs more of the up-beat thing going on.


SCOTT: I'm sure he is well rested for "60 Minutes".

POWERS: No, I think now — look, he is dealing with reality and having to, you know, actually be president, which is entirely a different thing than running for office.

SCOTT: Well, I guess it is, and it raises the question, I mean, did the media totally prep him or prep us for, you know, the man we've elected?

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, there's a lot we don't know about him. I think he has held himself back to some degree. And I think that, you know, the media inevitably are going to ask tougher questions. We're now in the period where it is the transition. The Bush daughters show these younger daughters their closets. Everybody loves everybody. It is Thanksgiving. I — give it time. It will turn, I think.

JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION: If I could be so bold as to interpret what Jane said — what did she say? Oh, Obama held himself back a little bit. That is like saying maybe we don't know the full story about him. But I have total faith that it will come out in the next few years. There — every biographer who took a dive on him during the campaign now has every incentive in the world — those big book advances — to get in there

But I will say this. There is obviously enormous fascination with Obama. The "60 Minutes" ratings alone prove how much people want to see him.

SCOTT: Highest ratings for them in nine years. Does he continue to sell papers when he's president?

CAL THOMAS, SYNIDICATED COLUMNIST: I think so, at least for the short period. and one of the encouraging things to me in that New York Times story on Thursday that spoke of the huge ratings, there was a paragraph in there about the reason the ratings are higher, people are starting to get serious again about stuff that is going on, the bailout industry, the tanking of the stock market, the foreign policy challenges. Kind of leaving the Britney Spears culture thing behind. This is wonderful, I think.

HALL: I do think some of the covers that came out with — my favorite was the Time magazine one of him with the FDR cigarette. He's leading team of rivals — team of rivals — the book about Lincoln. People comparing him to Lincoln. People are comparing him to, you know, everybody who has been the world's greatest president.

I think it is inevitable that when he does something the people don't like, there will be criticism. Right now, he's floating along, on expectations.

PINKERTON: Once again, this is known as a fawning, adoring press. They are comparing him to Lincoln and to Roosevelt and, you know, it is — they are clearly in love with the guy and it shows. But, Obama has been brilliant. He's held himself back. He is much more mysterious than, say, Clinton was in his transition, when Clinton was out jogging and eating hamburgers all the time, and cheapened the brand right away, whereas Obama really has been very sparing in his media outlets.

SCOTT: But, I mean, is this press likely to turn on him once he's occupying this Oval Office?

POWERS: I don't know. What I have heard is that — that the reporters, that cover him, actually don't like him much. And the people who are really in love with him are the editors. So to a certain extent, the reporters who cover him, who have little access, almost no access to him, in fact, are really champing at the bit. The question is whether or not the editors will allow them to write the stories they want to write.

THOMAS: Listen to what we are saying here. They're either praising and loving him or they might turn on him. What happened to journalists doing their job? There is an old line in journalism I heard when I started out in this business — if your mother says she loves you, check it out. Why aren't they — skepticism is a good thing. I don't see any with this guy.

And by the way, Jim, I think Lincoln and FDR is better than comparing him to Jesus Christ. That's a little more reality.


POWERS: I think it is partially the celebritification, if I may say so. That's a word. You know, there's the build up. Who is Barack Obama? You know that old show business joke, who is Barack Obama? Get me Barack Obama. There is a show business quality to a lot of this. And I think — I heard from reporters who have been to a press conference recently who said there was no news there. You can't have a lot more press conferences with no news before people start to turn a little.

PINKERTON: They could go digging into Eric Holder and Rahm Emanuel and people like that if they wanted to. And they are just not interested.

SCOTT: You raised the question, Cal, about what happened to covering the news. Barack Obama was one of GQ's Man of the Year.


SCOTT: NBC is putting out a DVD on his campaign, and selling it. ABC and USA Today are getting ready to compile a book together.

THOMAS: The Washington Post...

SCOTT: Is this coverage, or are they making money off of...

THOMAS: Washington Post, New York Times, Washington Times, L.A. Times, have all of these special commemorative editions. Look, the media are in trouble financially. I don't blame them for selling this. They sell what people are interested in. But what are the columnists going to do?

People like Paul Krugman, for example, people like Nick Kristof and a lot of others who have been praising Obama, what are they going to do after he starts making mistakes, as he definitely will. this expectations set by the media are so high, no human being can come close to fulfilling them.

SCOTT: Are they covering him or cashing in?

POWERS: I think they are cashing in. But I agree with Cal. There is nothing wrong with the fact that they are making money off of this. I think that — look, people are interested in him and I don't think it is just because they feel like they don't know him. I think that he's a fascinating person and he's somebody who — he's the president of the United States, or he'll be the president of the United States. He's the first African-American president. It is a big deal.

SCOTT: All right, time for you a break. We'll be back in two minutes with a look at how the press might deal with Mrs. Obama and her family, when the White House becomes their new home.



SCOTT: It's picture-perfect, Mrs. Obama with her daughters on the cover of New York Magazine. And it's holiday — in their holiday best, I should say. There is just one catch. The Obamas didn't actually sit down and pose for this cover shoot. It is an illustration, with help of computers.

So, I guess it raises the question — she was sort of controversial, Kirsten, in the early going in the campaign, very successful attorney, very smart, bright, administrator, in Chicago. Now she's sort of portraying herself as mom in chief. Did the media do a makeover on her or did the campaign do that?

POWERS: I think that was always part of her persona, the mom thing. And I think she — I think where she pulled back was, she is a pretty blunt person and she really seems to speak her mind or she did speak her mind in the beginning. And she got into trouble a couple times, so she sort of pulled back on that.

But my sense of her is that she always has been focused on the family. She does not seem to be that interested in politics. She's not one of those two-for-the-price-of-one kind of people. And I think she's sticking with probably the way she has typically been.

PINKERTON: There's building up a comfort factor here. We all agree Obama is a breakthrough, first African-American and so on. However, this is still a traditional conservative, center right country, and for the Obamas to come in and be different and strange would be too much. And I think they have consciously gone for sort of the 1950s retro look to themselves in terms of setting up the family. He works, but he's not around much. As I said in the previous segment, she's at home with the kids. And she raises them. And that's really — and they bring in the grandmother, too. And I think they are trying their best, and I think it's a brilliant strategy, to reassure in the most Norman Rockwell way as possible.

POWERS: I don't think it's a strategy.



POWERS: There is nothing that says they haven't always been this way.

HALL: I mean, they've got two young children they have to move.

PINKERTON: Hillary — the Clintons had a young child too. And it didn't stop Hillary from being the health care queen.

HALL: But it's really not since JFK. I think the photography and...

PINKERTON: There is another thing to grab onto. Remember, the '60s didn't end — the '50s didn't end until Kennedy's assassination.

HALL: But I just — you know, I doubt if they are sitting around thinking what will make America comfortable. He won. They don't need to keep making America comfortable.

SCOTT: But she has been compared to Jackie Kennedy.

HALL: She has, for style, yes.

SCOTT: And even other first ladies, like Carla Bruni.

HALL: Right.

SCOTT: So are the media sort of setting up expectations for her?

HALL: I do agree with Jim in the sense that this first lady role is still — you know, Roslyn Carter got into trouble for sitting in on cabinet meetings. Hillary Clinton either said she was baking cookies or you got two for the price of one, neither of which people liked. I think it is a tough role. I just don't believe they are cynically programming her to stay home.

THOMAS: We are still sorting out our roles for women to play in this culture. Add to that that she is an African-American woman. With the recent history of racism, and the — I hate to bring it up — but the uppity black-person syndrome of the South — and Obama is a trans-racial candidate. He's writing a whole new history of African-American people, as president of the United States. And she's first lady. Whatever they write, they'll be the first ones to ever write. And many who follow them will be judged by the kind of character that they demonstrated here.

I think it is fascinating what she is doing, the whole mom in chief thing resonates with Middle America like nothing else.

SCOTT: After he won the White House, Jim, one of the first things he did was announced they are going to get that puppy. I mean...

PINKERTON: That was...

SCOTT: You had worked media in political campaigns. Was that a master stroke?

PINKERTON: Look, talk about putting a rabbit loose for the dogs to chasing after it, as it were. No, I mean, to mix a metaphor. But, look, the puppy thing dominated this news for a week. Again, back to the "Leave it to Beaver," you know, and their dog, Spot, image they are trying to set. And they are trying to build a comfort factor.


PINKERTON: They have to get — they have to get re-elected.


HALL: They have adorable children who are 8 and 10. I mean, you know?


POWERS: ... how they have operated, typically operated. This is how they have been. There is nothing new. It's not like she used to be a certain way and then she suddenly became this...


PINKERTON: She used to be — for the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of this country. That is what she used to be.

POWERS: She works.

HALL: She said that once.


POWERS: But she's a devoted mother. That has always been the role in her family. I mean, the woman gets up 4:30 in the morning so she can work out and take care of her children. And I think — really think, to be fair to her, that this is who she has been.

SCOTT: What about the children. We'll have little kids in the White House again for this first time, are they...


SCOTT: How are they going to be covered?

THOMAS: It is always tough. You can have it both ways. You either keep them sheltered and secluded, and the press will be asked to give them a free pass. But that just isn't going to happen. I mean, they are drop- dead cute. They're cute kids and in the White House. They are beautiful girls, are going to be beautiful women. And we are fixated on beauty and youth. I don't see how they will be able to protect them from the glare.

SCOTT: And as we saw, a New York magazine found it appropriate to put them on the cover whether they posed for the shot or not.

HALL: And Miley Cyrus wants her on Hannah Montana.


HALL: Which is really the key (ph), and significant, too.

PINKERTON: Which they should turn down.

SCOTT: You think?

HALL: Yeah.

PINKERTON: They should.

HALL: Yeah, definitely.

PINKERTON: Miley Cyrus is the wrong way to go, culturally for them.

SCOTT: All right.

Time for another break. When we come back, we're going to be talking about Joe Biden. Remember him? Will he be hailed or nailed by reporters once he takes office as vice president?


SCOTT: Joe Biden arriving at the vice presidential residence waiting for the grand tour with Lynn and Dick Cheney. So once Biden is sworn in as vice president and actually gets to live there, how will the press treat him?

What about that, Jim? He sort of vanished during the last part of the campaign. But once he has the office, what kind of treatment should he expect?

PINKERTON: Just as Obama will become more like a traditional president, reserved and august. And just as Mrs. Obama I think will be more like a traditional first lady, I think Biden will be more of a traditional vice president, which is not very prominent.

I think the one thing you can be sure the Obama people are saying to each other — no more Dick Cheneys. And anything that seems slightly — to use Cal's phrase — uppity about Biden as vice president, they'll slap him down, go back to doing funerals and otherwise keep quiet.

SCOTT: Kirsten?

POWERS: Well, if Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, we'll never see Biden again, probably. He essentially — his whole thing was supposed to be foreign policy, gravitas, and if they put a superstar over at state, it will diminish him even further.

But, yes, I don't think he'll get a lot of attention. And probably when he does get attention is when he says something that he's not supposed to say.

SCOTT: He's known for his gaffes. Are we to expect that that will be what he is covered for?

THOMAS: No, I think they're going to be very careful on this. I think probably somebody has already slipped the lock-jaw virus into his glass of water.

He could be a tremendous embarrassment. And I agree with Jim and Kirsten, that the role of the vice president is to give his advice solely to the president, and preside over the Senate when necessary. And that's it. He can't go off on some kind of freelance thing, or he will be gaffe- prone, and he will make the headlines, and he will embarrass the president. Of course, the press will eat it up. And that is why he's not going to do it, if he's smart.

BIDEN: He also has a son serving right now in the military in Iraq. Is that going to draw more attention, more media attention to Iraq, or at least to the Bidens?

HALL: I think so. It was very poignant to think that Sarah Palin, John McCain, and Biden, all had young people serving in Iraq. I mean, I think he could play a role there, although his solution for Iraq, you know, at the time, was not something people thought would work. I could see him being more visible than everybody else here. But I agree, if he was planning to be a super secretary of state, I think that may not be as possible as it was when he took the job.

SCOTT: Let's talk about the media coverage of the Democratic Party. Of course, you know won control of the White House and bigger majorities in Congress, after the latest election. But four short years ago, Democrats were in deep distress when President Bush was re-elected to a second term.

The New York Times, "Baffled and Lost, Democrats Seek Road Forward." The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Left to Pick up the Pieces, Democrats Eye the Future." Another headline, from The New York Post, "Bush-Hating Dems Must Find New Way."


HALL: I like that one.

SCOTT: Well, fast forward to 2008, the Washington Times, "At Rock Bottom, the GOP Aims to Present a New Face."

I guess the worm has turned a little bit, Cal.

THOAMS: Worm has turned. But if you look into that coverage, you remember the old headlines. There is always the presumption in the media that when at the Democrats are out, they ought to be in because they are entitled to be in. They are entitled to be in charge of government. And when they are out, it is some disgrace and the people don't really know the truth. But when the Republicans are out of power, the coverage is more like, yeah, and they deserve it.


SCOTT: Well, Kirsten...

HALL: I disagree. I think those headlines show so much for the myth of the liberal media. There were beating up on the Democrats. They were dead and buried.

THOMAS: Hopefully, they'll come back.

HALL: The Republicans, you know, we get these very tepid headlines about how they need to re-think the future. I mean, Newt Gingrich said they were like a college team playing the Super Bowl, that they really — you know, there's a fight is going on. It's a big story. There's — for the leadership of the party.

SCOTT: So who is going to cover it?

PINKERTON: The media. But, look, I see real bias here. I saw Chuck Todd, at NBC, predicting the Democrats would gain seats in 2010. We have barely sworn in the 111th Congress and he's already looking ahead and, I think, pushing his finger on the scale in terms of fund-raising and candidate recruitment to help the Democrats two years from now. And that might have something to do with G.E.'s increasingly close relationship with the federal government.

THOMAS: Do you think?


SCOTT: G.E. being this owner of NBC and MSNBC.

So should we expect that in four years we'll see rosy headlines for Republicans?

POWERS: Anything is possible, I suppose.


POWERS: I wrote a column about this. And I tend to think what changed things for the Democrats was the emergence of a leader, essentially. And there was a fight that went on also, that we're seeing the same things going on with the Republicans. Do you move more — in our case, it was more do you move more to the left or more to the center. And I think, you know, you'll have those battles and it's whatever leaders emerge and are strong, and kind of move the party. And the Democrats — the Democrats' case it was Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel rose up and took the centrist attack on recruiting candidates. And Barack Obama emerged as this really unifying leader.

SCOTT: So, again, Jim, you know something about being part of the political operation, the media operation in a campaign. What should Republicans do to get better press?

PINKERTON: Focus on their real strengths, which is in the governor's. You have 21 governors. A lot of them got re-elected by big margins in '08. A lot of them have a lot to look forward to in terms of getting re-elected in 2010. And they have success stories, all across the country, from Alaska to Florida, from Vermont to California, and should be highlighting that, and not get lost in all of the beltway stuff.

THOMAS: The other things you're never going to see is the equivalent of Time magazine cover, "The Gingrich that Stole Christmas." You're never gloom to see that among the Democrats. It's always going to be, they are doing wonderful things for America. And if you are opposed to it, what is your problem.

SCOTT: All right, we're going to take one more break. From Wall Street to Main Street, does reading the headlines have you feeling down? Well, there's good news to be thankful for this holiday weekend. That's coming up.


SCOTT: Does it seem to you that the last few months have been filled with gloomy headlines designed to depress us all. From news of vanishing jobs to shrinking retirement accounts, there hasn't been much to smile about in most circles. Well, the sun still rises and sets each day. The air is free. and you are still breathing.

So with those happy thoughts in mind, we wanted to share some of the good news you might have missed. Productivity in the United States, it actually increased by 4 percent from 2000 to 2007. Of 16 economies, study by researchers, only Korea, Taiwan and Sweden actually had greater productivity growth in manufacturing than United States.

Then there's the price of gasoline. We used to read and hear all kinds of bad news about soaring gas prices. Well, now that those prices are dropping, they are not exactly making headlines. Gas dropped to its lowest price in nearly four years in November, according to the Energy Department. The media were screaming in July when gas hits $4.11 a gallon. Now that it's half that, where's the cheering?

And guess what else? The United States remains the world's top destination for students from around the world. International student enrollment increased by 7 percent in the 2007, 2008 academic year. That's the largest increase since 1980.

And finally, there is this good news about apex giving tradition of millions of Americans will observe this weekend, hitting the mall. According to the Labor Department, consumer prices plunged last month. That translates to a lot of sales and bargains at stores around the country. And that's great for me because I have this large and eclectic panel here expecting fabulous Christmas presents from me this year.

For now, though, I will just say thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Kirsten Powers. That's all the Christmas presents they get.


SCOTT: I'm a Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. Keep it right here on FOX News channel. The "FOX Report" is going to be up next. We'll see you next week.

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