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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Obama's White Grandmother and McCain's Trip to the Middle East

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from March 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity — she doesn't. But she is a typical white person, who if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there is a reaction that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away, and that sometimes come out in the wrong way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: That was Barack Obama bringing his grandmother into play again, or at least explaining what he meant by talking about her — a typical white person, it seems.

Today Geraldine Ferraro also got herself in the fray. She is the other white person who was mentioned prominently in Barack Obama's speech the other day on race. And she said this about Obama's use of her to compare to anything that Jeremiah Wright has said:

"To equate what I said with what this racist bigot has said from the pulpit is unbelievable. He gave a very good speech, Obama did, on race relations, but he did not address the fact that this man is up there spewing hatred."

Some thoughts on this continuing controversy now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, the Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Well, this would seem to be enough material to keep this thing going a little while longer. What about it, Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think it will keep going a little while longer. I will have to say, as a white person, I was not at all offended by Obama's use of the phrase "typical white person" when he talked about his grandmother.

HUME: Suppose one of us on this panel had talked about a typical black person.

BARNES: That would be different. A black person would have reason to be offended. I'm just not offended by it. Were you offended by it?

HUME: I'm not offended, but it is clearly stereotyping.

BARNES: A little bit, but some stereotyping is OK, or at least not outrageous, like the statements of Reverend Jeremiah Wright were.

Now, look, Geraldine Ferraro had every right to complain. He likened what she said and what his grandmother did — mildly objectionable things, perhaps, to some; I didn't object to Ferraro — but likened that to the outrageous statements and hate-filled statements of Reverend Wright in an attempt, I think, to explain them away, and to mainstream what Reverend Wright said and make it seem not so bad. And that was one of the things that was wrong with his speech.

But the main thing he didn't do was this, Brit, and that's a whole question of judgment. He brags — Barack Obama brags — contends that experience isn't the most important thing in electing a president — it's judgment. And he cites his stand against the Iraq war early on, in 2002.

You can argue about that, but here he went to this church for 20 years with this guy making all these wild, hate-filled, anti-white, anti-government statements about 9/11 and all this stuff. And in his speech or since then, he hasn't explained why he didn't get up and leave, why he didn't complain to the minister, why he didn't do any of those things.

Brit, people who go to church will leave if they don't like what the preacher is saying. They do it all the time.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Is there any time left?

Look, I agree with Fred, that I wasn't offended by that statement either of Obama's. We — I think some of us on the panel have sympathized with taxi drivers who won't pick up a black person because they're afraid of the neighborhood that they might be going to. So that was a minor statement.

And I agree that Geraldine Ferraro has every right to object to the equivalency. However, you notice that she did not say that — she did not deny that she was citing him as an affirmative action case, and that's what he charged. That's part of what he said that, that she was accusing him of being an affirmative action case. She didn't deny t.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I wasn't offended by the reference to a typical white person, but there is a certain irony here. Here he is engaging in a racial stereotyping of his own white grandma two days after he dumped on her for engaging in what? Racial stereotyping.

It would be comical if it didn't point out the incredible self- righteousness of Barack Obama. He appears unaware of what he did.

Look, here's a guy who had to give a speech because he had been in this close relationship for 20 years with a raving racist. So what does he do? He gets up there and says, "You know, this is a teaching moment. I'm going to instruct you on the race relations in America."

And in his speech, did he apologize once? Did he once admit error? Did he even admit a lapse in judgment? No. He dumped on Ferraro, grandma, Reverend Wright, black racists, white racial resentment.

Everybody is at fault except him. He hovers above all of this in his celestial status up there and passes judgment and says "Come to me, I will heal our nation." It is an amazing performance.

HUME: When we come back, John McCain's fact finding trip to the Middle East and his talks in the Palestinian and Israeli areas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training, and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.

I'm sorry. The Iranians are training extremists — not al-Qaeda. Not al-Qaeda. I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, John McCain got some enviable photo opportunities, and perhaps some important meetings, for all we know, out of his worldwide trip recently, but what a lot of people are going to remember from that trip is that apparent gaffe, in which he said this, and Joe Lieberman leaned over and helpfully corrected him.

He seemed have trouble — it was, after all, an official Senate fact finding trip. It's no surprise therefore, I suppose, that he had senators in tow.

But the question is — one would think that this would be an enviable deal. He is over there meeting foreign leaders like a president at the same time that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are at war fighting over delegates in Michigan and Florida and Obama is trying to dig himself out of a mess on the issue of race.

So what about it, Fred?

BARNES: Well, I think there's a difference between the civil war in the Democratic Party and a minor error by John McCain.

I mean, the media seems to think that, well, gee, everybody knows that the Iranians, because they're Shia, would have nothing to do with al- Qaeda, because it's Sunnis, which is nonsense.

There's been so much collaboration, the Iranians have given so much help to Sunnis — Hamas is one example. They've let al-Qaeda have sanctuary, some of them, in Iran. They helped them go in and out of Afghanistan during the war there, and I'm sure they do now. They've sent weapons. They've done all kinds of things to help al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Technically, what he meant was it is a so-called special group, these Shia extremists groups and militias that have got anything some training in Iran. But the notion that somehow the Iranians are not helping the Sunnis and not helping al-Qaeda, that's just not true. They are helping them.

KONDRACKE: The 9/11 Commission also found complicity between the Iranians and al-Qaeda. But, as Jennifer Griffin's report said, it's not current with al-Qaeda in Iraq.

HUME: Thus he did the right thing to correct himself.

KONDRACKE: He was correct, and what the problem is for McCain is that he was kind of washed out of the news except for this gaffe. It got endlessly played, and the public probably thinks that's the only thing that happened on the trip.

David Broder had a good column today in which he said that McCain missed the opportunity to put pressure, visible pressure on the Iraqi government to make progress on the political front, and, if he had, he could have shared in this latest success.

HUME: And we know that he didn't?

KONDRACKE: Well, I'd like to hear it. If McCain has good P.R. handlers, they will tell us, oh, yes, he had part of this. Right now, Dick Cheney is getting all the credit.

BARNES: You think this is a matter of P.R.? Please!

KONDRACKE: Look, if he is going to be the giant of foreign policy, then he ought to be exercising his gianthood.

KRAUTHAMMER: If you're a presidential candidate, you don't go around leaning on allies. That's not what you do. That's not your job —

KONDRACKE: Why not?

KRAUTHAMMER: — especially the Vice President of the United States who is actually serving, is in town at the time, and succeeds in doing what has to be done. He got the change in the provincial elections law, and that was important.

Look, this gaffe is, I think, is going do hurt him, but not on foreign policy. Nobody imagines that he doesn't know Shiite and Sunni, al- Qaeda and non-al-Qaeda. He made a slip. All of us slip here with Iraq and Iran.

But I think it plays into a subtler issue, the age issue. I think he kind of looks a little bit lost there, and a younger man had to correct him. It's subtle, and if it's one incident, it's not going to have any effect. But if you watch the late night shows, all the jokes about McCain were about age.

HUME: All of them. And they had commercials that end with "John McCain, he's really old."

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly. So if there are other incidents in the future, they can have an accumulative effect like the Dole thing. At the end of his campaign, he looked like an old, worn out warrior who wasn't fit to be president. And that's the danger in these small little lances.

BARNES: It could be a problem.

HUME: I agree.

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