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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Bill Clinton's Impact on Hillary's Campaign

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 8, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: What I want you to know is, based on my life as a president, a former president, and everything I did before, if we had never been married, and she asked me to come here today to appear for her, I would do it in a heartbeat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: And that, he says, is because he believes that she is the best qualified and best-suited person to be president in this time.

Apart from whether you believe that Bill Clinton would go to some relatively modest community in Iowa, a small place, on a cold night in November to speak for somebody he was never married to, you can believe it if you want, but I know you don't care about my thoughts.

Let's hear some from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

He is out there, he is a big draw in the Democratic Party. They love him. The poll numbers on him are astronomical, and even job performance ratings from everybody are very high. So this guy must be a huge asset, right?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, so far he is a huge asset. Although I think that — so far, he is a huge asset. There is a lot of Clinton nostalgia among Democratic primary voters.

But I think the outbursts or tirades or ruminations he shared with the public in Las Vegas and in Seattle recently when he was alone —

HUME: He said what?

LIASSON: First, in Seattle he was talking about the archives. And, more importantly, in Las Vegas, he went on about the attacks on her at the last debate, and he compared them to the swift boating of John Kerry and the ads that were run against Max Cleland, comparing him to Osama Bin- Laden.

And, of course, that drew a very angry reaction among other Democratic candidates like Chris Dodd and Barack Obama, who were stunned at the analogy.

There Bill Clinton was on his own. I think it was unscripted. Although Major Garret's piece suggested it certainly took attention away from Hillary Clinton's waffling on illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses, it was of message. It was not part of the plan.

And that raises another question about Bill. Is he someone who is going to inject himself and his thoughts in an undisciplined way into this campaign and could that cause problems? I think we saw a glimpse of it this week.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: When you use a word like "disciplined," or "undisciplined," we know the answer to that — he is totally undisciplined. He is an unguided missile. He is not controlled by the campaign.

His heart's in the right place. He obviously wants Hillary to be president. And you can believe that, but you don't have to believe that whopper about what he says with such earnestness and such emphasis.

(CROSSTALK)

He a smart enough to know when he is telling a whopper. He says even if I weren't married I would be there. I love hearing stuff like that, because he's so good at it.

But look, here is the problem with him — he draws the crowds. He is popular among Democrats, but he is an unguided missile, that is one thing.

And the other thing is, who is running for president here? He overshadows her, just because he is Bill Clinton. He is the only former president out there campaigning like a madman for a candidate, and he is a big figure.

Where is Hillary? Here he is. He's out there. He's the one making all this news. He does overshadow her. That's a problem for her. It is a problem for John Edwards with his wife who overshadows him. This is also a bigger problem for Hillary.

KRAUTHAMMER: I must say that was such a big, fat, juicy lie, it was endearing.

You know, look, the reason he's out there is because he wants to be back in the White House. The only way he will be — otherwise he is an ex- president traipsing around who knows where and being ignored most of the time.

(CROSSTALK)

— it's not that big of a job. Look…

(CROSSTALK)

Hillary's problem is that if you elect her, you're electing a marriage. We have always elected the marriages — the Bushes and the Kennedys and the Reagans, but never this kind.

It's not because she's a woman. Margaret Thatcher also was a leader and her husband wasn't a factor. It's because he is an ex-president. We have never had an ex-president move into the White House as ex-president. He would have the experience, the independent stature, and the narcissistic hunger he always has to be involved in everything. And he would be.

And if he weren't that, that would be an issue. So what you are electing is a partnership that all of us know is at best a troubled one and at worst a dysfunctional one, through which all decisions are going to have to be filtred.

That's never happened in America, and it is something that a lot of people will worry about, if only unconsciously.

LIASSON: This is going to become, as the campaign goes on, a bigger and bigger issue. She has made some comments about what his role would be, he would be an emissary to the world, a super ambassador.

But this is definitely an issue. If he is back in the White House, he has all the security clearances that anyone could possibly have. Does he read the intelligence briefings? This is just an unprecedented situation that she is going to have to explain and talk more about.

Donna Brazil said a wonderful think about them. She said that when they are together, the campaign handles their joint appearances with all the delicacy of a well-trained bomb squad. I think the thing to watch is when he is not with her.

HUME: What about Charles' assertion that it's a troubled, and possibly even dysfunctional partnership. It has also been a very successful partnership.

BARNES: But you don't know how that is going to shape her presidency. She's going to be the one, at least nominally, with the power, and I think it's a big question mark.

I have to say I do agree with Charles that that was just one of the most wonderful whoppers I have ever heard. It would be hard to top that one.

HUME: Next up with the panel, are Democrats soft on national security? Are Republicans heightening the danger with bellicose talk and intimidation? Some in their own parties think so. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This is not working. It is a war without end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. We must reverse it.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And it isn't just Democrats. For example, Senator Chuck Hagel was being vocal again today. Hagel has called the Iraq war one of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions of all times.

And he was out today saying that the president should sit down for unconditional with talks with Iran on a range of issues as soon as possible. And he warned against bellicosity and saber rattling and so on.

Lieberman, of course, is known to dissent from his party on this. But you saw pretty clearly illustrated there between Lieberman and Pelosi what the differences of viewpoint are on this issue. What about this, Fred?

BARNES: Well, you hear somebody like Nancy Pelosi, and there is an air of unreality of what she says. There is no light at end of the tunnel, and so on.

And if you know what's going on in Iraq, which has now been, I think, slowly but reported now over there that Al Qaeda is being defeated. There is no Al Qaeda stronghold anywhere in Iraq anymore. The civil war is virtually over. The Sunni insurgency doesn't exist. They have thrown in with the U.S. and with the Iraqi government.

There is reconciliation not at the level of the somewhat dysfunctional Iraqi national government, but there certainly is at the provincial level all over Iraq. Every day you read a story of a Shiite leader going to visit Sunni sheikhs and so on.

It's remarkable what has happened there. It's gone from losing to winning, not won, but winning, and Democrats pretend like nothing has changed.

HUME: In fact, Mara, Nancy Pelosi made those remarks in furtherance of a measure to give the president $50 million for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is about a quarter of what he asked for, and it is for a four-month period during which, if he signed the Bill, if he got the bill and signed it, he would have to withdraw troops immediately, and would set a whole bunch of other limits on what he could do over there.

What about that? Does that have any chance to affect anything?

LIASSON: No, I don't think so.

HUME: Why are they doing this?

LIASSON: Because they have to keep trying. They have to at least show their base that they're continuing to try, even though they have basically given up on the original project, which was to try to force an end to the war, or at least troop withdrawals.

What I think is interesting about this debate — first of all, you're not going to hear it anywhere else. Lieberman is probably the only Democrat who would actually say something like.

But I think that the frontrunner in the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, understands — she would never say anything like what Joe Lieberman said today, but she understands the dangers that the pitfalls that the Democrats face if they are seen to be soft on national security.

That's one of the reasons why she supported the Lieberman-Kyle amendment on naming the Revolutionary Guards in Iran as a terrorist group. It is why she has done all sorts of things to give herself a channel to get back to the center if she is the nominee on foreign policy.

KRAUTHAMMER: Lieberman's charge is a very strong one, the one that we just saw — the emotional investment in a narrative of defeat.

What he essentially is saying that Democrats are so invested in being vindicated in their hatred of George Bush by seeing his war end badly in defeat than they are emotionally invested in seeing their own country succeed in this war where our soldiers are dying every day.

That's a pretty serious charge. And you get evidence of that when you see Pelosi introducing a bill which would essentially cripple the surge, which is having success, and an arbitrary date of withdrawal, regardless of how close America is to achieving success, and doing it in a way which is ignoring reality.

She is operating as if this is November '06, when she wins the House, and the war is going badly, and not November '07, when everything has changed on the ground. There was a report in The New York Times today that Al-Queda has been driven out of Baghdad. That is a big story, completely ignored by Democrats who have only one mantra, which is "defeat and withdrawal."

HUME: I wonder, Mara, if there are not political risks at some point with the country as a whole associated with in the face of what even mainstream media outlets are willing to acknowledge, to wit, The New York Times as Charles pointed out, is a real change on the ground, and she says today that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and nothing has changed.

LIASSON: Yes, there are risks. And that is why you are not going to hear Hillary Clinton saying something like that if and when she gets the nomination.

BARNES: But she is still against the. She is against the Petraeus strategy. That's what her campaign, that's what Mark Penn, her chief strategist says. I asked him personally. She's against the surge. She hasn't changed her mind at all.

I mean, remember, this is, Senator "Suspend Disbelief" when she is listening to General Petraeus. She hasn't said — some Democrats, Stenny Hoyer, for one, has said the surge is making progress. A few have, and that's important. I haven't heard that from Hillary.

LIASSON: She has actually said that she has seen progress in Anbar province. She has acknowledged that there has been military progress.

BARNES: Then why is she still against the surge?

HUME: That's a good question, I suppose.

LIASSON: Because she's running in a Democratic primary.

BARNES: Then she is just intellectually dishonest, you're saying?

KRAUTHAMMER: And that's news?

LIASSON: She is performing the balancing act that every potential frontrunner or nominee tries to do. She wants to give herself room to get back —

BARNES: It's not leadership, and it's not presidential.

KRAUTHAMMER: Especially if it is on war and peace.

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