This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from February 26, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is true that I am reaching across the aisle and calling for unity and bipartisanship. That is absolutely true. But I'm doing that knowing who I am and knowing who I fight for and knowing what I stand for.
LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR: If you want to change things in Washington, you better be willing to look people in the eye who are normally your friends and say "I can't help you here." There's not much of that going on as far as I can tell with Senator Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: But as everybody who's followed politics in Washington in recent years knows, there has been a lot of that going on with Senator McCain, which explains why he is such bad order, or has been a lot of the time, with conservatives and other Republicans.
Some thoughts on this issue now from Bill Kristol, Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
To give you an idea of how well this presentation by Barack Obama of how his bipartisan intentions has gone over, look at this poll number from The New York Times and CBS News.
To the question "Can this candidate unite the country?" Obama — 67 to 25 yes for Obama; McCain, narrowly 51 to 39 yes, Hillary Clinton; 34 percent yes, majority no.
So this is music to people's ears. They love the talk of unity. The polls all show it and have for years. And Barack Obama is now seen, at least, as the man to do it.
But we had a report on this tonight. What do we know, Mort? Does his record support his willingness to beat bipartisan on the tough issues?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: On the tough issues, no.
The Obama campaign sent Jim Angle a five-page list of things on which Obama had cooperated with various Republicans. There was only one that was a really contentious matter, and that was immigration reform, where John McCain actually said in a floor speech that Obama was one of the people who had helped him work out the Bill.
HUME: But when the amendments were introduced —
KONDRACKE: On some of the amendments, he went with the unions in order to maintain prevailing wage rates — that's union rates —
HUME: That was a killer amendment, agreed?
KONDRACKE: Yes, but McCain still complimented him for working on it.
In any event, the fundamental point is correct. Most of this stuff is rather minor issues — I mean, nuclear non-proliferation —
HUME: You are talking about the ones he was bipartisan on.
KONDRACKE: Yes, that he was bipartisan on.
On the things that were really contentious, Social Security reform, gang of 14 on judges, FISA reform, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, all that kind of stuff, he is a perfect liberal.
And that makes it difficult for him to reach out. If you are only going to solve the Social Security problem by raising taxes, which is his position, I don't know how you get Republicans to go along with it. You have to have a grand bargain, which means that you have to cooperate with and you have to compromise.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: All that is true. And, in fact, if you look at the record he has had in the Senate in three years, on the big ones and the hard ones, he has not reached across the aisle.
So you have to ask yourself, why do 70 percent of Americans think he is the one that can unite us? And I have a theory about that, and it all comes out of a profound non sequitur.
What is true is that he is a man who transcends race. His campaign does. As president, he would. It would be historic. And race is the most divisive issue in American history.
The non sequitur is the assumption and the impression he gives and the promise that, therefore, because he transcends race, he will transcend ideology and politics and partisanship.
You look at his record in the Senate, there's no evidence of that. But it's because of I think some kind of subliminal effect — here is a man who transcends the most important and hardest division in American history, so he could be or he will be or he might be the one who transcends everything else.
But I think McCain is a man who, in fact, has reached across the aisle.
HUME: He has bruises all over him because of it.
KRAUTHAMMER: He almost lost the Republican nomination over immigration. It wasn't the war in Iraq, it was after he came out with a position against his own Party, essentially, over a large number on immigration that he tanked last year, lost all his contributions, and ended up almost out of the race.
So McCain is a guy who can say on immigration, where was Obama? On wiretapping, where 2/3's of the Senate agreed on a compromise, he voted against. I mean, on all these issues — the support mentioned on the judges- -he was hiding in the weeds.
HUME: Let's pose, and the lack of substance behind it does not seem to be of much value to Hillary Clinton; or does it, Bill?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": No, and I don't think you can in the Democratic primary say ignore all that nice rhetoric from Barack Obama, he is really a liberal.
Her attacks on Obama have been so much about process — he sends a very nasty flier out in Ohio, or something — that, in fact, there are a lot of moderate Democrats who would be unnerved to discover how consistently liberal Obama is — number one liberal in the Senate in the "National Journal" a nonpartisan magazine's ratings this year.
HUME: That's on voting records.
KRISTOL: That's unfair, because look at last year — last year he was number 11.
In the Illinois State Senate, where he has made a big deal of his bipartisanship, a political science professor did a study and said he was the sixth most liberal State Senator in Illinois.
He really is quite liberal. That has not come out so far. His rhetoric is very effective. He talks about unity and he talks a lot about we are the change that we seek, whatever that means. But I think that in a general election campaign, people will realize he is quite a liberal Democrat.
HUME: And so, how vulnerable is he then?
When his nomination is secured, if, indeed, it is, he will clearly be ahead in the national polls. We see this already. How vulnerable then is he to the attack on this line, and could it be the difference? Or is does it not matter, really?
KRISTOL: He is quite vulnerable. On the other hand, typically elections are about the incumbent party, and people are unhappy with the direction of the country. If he can make this election a "Do you want change or not?" He will win.
If Republicans, if McCain can make this election, "Do you trust Barack Obama, an inexperienced liberal to be President of the United States when we are at war?" I think McCain has a very good chance to win.
Gerald Ford — in 1976, Jimmy Carter rode on the wave somewhat like Obama's — fresh face, new change —
HUME: In a country really hungry for change.
KRISTOL: He was ahead by 25 points after the Democratic Convention.
Dick Cheney, who was White House Chief of Staff, made the decision that we're not going to defend the Nixon-Ford years. We're going to raise questions you — is Jimmy Carter really ready to be president? And the knocked that 25 point lead down to two, I think.
So I think you could have the same dynamic.
KONDRACKE: Yes. I think McCain, in addition to challenging Obama on his ideology, has also got to demonstrate, and he can, that he is the change agent who actually has delivered.
HUME: He has certainly been willing to take on his own Party, whatever that may be worth.
Next with the all-stars, the Pentagon's tug of war over how quickly to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: There is every intent to continue the reduction. We are keenly aware of the strategic context in which we are operating, that there are concerns about other locations besides just Iraq, that the strain that has been put on our ground forces in particular has been substantial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: So what David Petraeus is talking about is whether the reductions, which are scheduled to get the U.S. down to 140,000 troops in July, will continue thereafter. He is worried about that. Others are as well, but at the Pentagon there is a great desire to continue the reductions, not least because of the feeling that they strain the Armed Forces and make it more difficult, as he suggested, to deploy forces to such other places as Afghanistan.
What is going on here, Bill? Are the gains of the surge possibly in jeopardy from the Pentagon itself?
KRISTOL: Well, many in the Pentagon were not in favor of the surge in the first place. Their responsibility is to worry about the institutional army, not about fighting the war — that is Petraeus' job over there.
Some may have some genuine concerns, but I think the president will listen to David Petraeus. And Ray Odierno just came back, which is Petraeus' number two — Petraeus and Odierno will go down in history as one of the most successful teams of American generals comparable to Marshall and Eisenhower or Grant and Sherman, I would say.
HUME: Really, even though this was a much smaller war?
KRISTOL: — turning around a war that was in trouble, and, really, the more I've learned about it, and the Kagans are going to write a piece for us this week on Odierno in particular. What Petraeus and Odierno did was really remarkable.
Anyway, Petraeus thinks he is assuming risk in going down from 20 brigades to 15. I think he thinks you need to pause there and take a look and make sure we can stabilize the situation.
And, final point, Iraqi provincial elections are scheduled for October 1. That is very important if you talk to people who know a lot about Iraq in helping the political process going ahead there.
Having elections requires a lot of troops, because there is a big incentive for al-Qaeda and Iran to disrupt and blow up things. so the idea that you would draw down further and risk the success of these very important provincial elections I think means that we will not draw down further.
KONDRACKE: I think that Bill is right insofar as George Bush has bet his presidency on Iraq, and he is going to want to see that through and see it through successfully, so that he goes down in history as somebody who carried this off well.
The fundamental problem is that we don't have enough troops in the U.S. army and the marines, and we haven't built up enough to do all the jobs we have to do and the army and the Marine Corps are overstretched, and we don't have enough troops for Afghanistan either, which is beginning to be problematic, also.
HUME: That was supposed to be a NATO responsibility —
KONDRACKE: Exactly, and forget NATO — forget NATO; they cannot do it. So we've got to do it, and we don't have enough troops to do it.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, NATO is the problem here. The reason we're talking about reductions in Iraq is the institutional army, but it is also the lack of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we are now sending Marines into Afghanistan in the situation where the West Europeans are doing essentially nothing.
Kissinger gave an interview in "Der Spiegel," in which he talked about how America is essentially fighting the war against radical Islam alone, and this is a war that threatens the Europeans at least as much as us.
The French, the Germans, the Spaniards and the Italians have rules of engagement in Afghanistan which doesn't allow combat. So our guys are out there getting shot, and the Germans are making strudel in the kitchen.
That is not a sustainable proposition. As Kissinger has said, you cannot have a NATO in which some of the countries, essentially us and the Canadians and the Brits and the Dutch, as it happens, are fighting, and all of the others are acting a la carte, and sitting down.
I think that the major issue is to get Europe to do something in Afghanistan, because if you draw away Americans out of Iraq, we're going to lose in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
HUME: Is there a danger that, even if we're able to mount some efforts in both places, that the success in Iraq will be undone by the politics of the issue, which is if a troop drawdown is stalled, it becomes unpopular in the fall, Democrats sweep in riding promises to get us out of there as fast as possible?
KRISTOL: Look, that's why some of us are worried about a Democratic victory in the fall. But I think President Bush believes the best thing he can do for his successor, Republican or Democrat, is leave Iraq in as good shape as possible.
And it's crazy, in my view, to risk the amazing successes in the last year in Iraq to risk successful provincial elections in October by going down from 15 brigades to 13 or 12. That is not going to be a fundamental change.
You need to take the margin of safety in Iraq. And there are serious concerns about Afghanistan, but, as Charles says, it would be terrible to risk Iraq and then end up with two few troops in both places.
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