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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Democratic Fundraising, Afghanistan, Missile Defense and U.S.-French Relations

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 3, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: You know, we're doing fine. We have the money to compete. We are, you know, doing everything we need to do to keep the campaign going.

We pay the bills as they are evaluated and it's decided that it's time to pay them. And I think we're doing fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREIT BAIER, GUEST HOST: That's Hillary Clinton today talking about fundraising, and also about paying bills on time. The reason she's talking about that is because the new fundraising numbers are out, both campaigns releasing March numbers.

Take a look: Barack Obama raised $40 million in March, Hillary Clinton, $20 million in March. That was her second highest total, actually.

As you look at the three presidential candidates -- these numbers are from back in February, the totals -- 193 million, 169 million, and there you see John McCain, Republican candidate, at $64 million.

So what does this say about the state of the race? Some analytical observations about all of this from Bill Sammon, Senior White House Correspondent of "The Washington Examiner," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Mara, let's start with you. You look at these numbers, and it is staggering, the numbers.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It is incredible. What is it -- $380 something for the Democrats to $64 for McCain? Look, this shows you how the landscape has tilted to Democrats. Money raising is a pretty important measure.

In terms of the Hillary versus Barack Obama numbers, she has raised a lot of money. She also has spent a lot of money. He has created a much bigger donor pool, which is good because you can go back and fish in it over and over again. Her donor pool is much more maxed out than his is.

And it's allowed him to compete in these states where she traditionally has gone into a state with like with a 20-point lead. He advertises heavily, he can spend a lot more than she can. He closes the gap.

In a lot of places, like Texas, Ohio, and we'll see in Pennsylvania, he can't quite get over the finish line to beat her, but he sure can use that money to help him close that gap.

BAIER: Bill, let's look quickly at how the Obama campaign breaks down the donors. They say $40 million for March, 442,000 total contributors; first time contributors, 218,000; average contribution, $96; and total donors, 1.2 million, or a little bit more than that.

BILL SAMMON, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I agree it's staggering. These are impressive numbers he's putting up.

This is very bad news for Hillary Clinton. He's raising twice as much money as her, which means he can spend twice as much in states like Pennsylvania, trying to mitigate the margin of her victory, assuming she is going to win in Pennsylvania.

But I also think it's important to point out that they're spending the money against the each other, the Democrats are, whereas John McCain is able to husband his money for the general election. He is raising much less than the Democrats.

But think about it -- virtually all the money of all these campaigns that's being spent, it's all being spent to criticize Democrats. Very little of it is being spent to criticize Republicans.

So I think McCain is catching a little bit of a break for now, until they sort out how their nominee is.

BAIER: Let's take a listen to John McCain. He was asked about the fundraising differences today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have done in the way of fundraising is very admirable. We have a lot of work to do, but it's starting to come just as the Party has come together.

Now we got to make sure that we get all our donors back reenergized, and then have a little straight talk. A lot of our base is de-energized because of the spending.

As you know, they became very disenchanted because of the spending spree that we went on when we were in the majority, and we got to reenergize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Charles, he says "we have to reenergize. Republicans," he says, "have to reenergize." There's a lot of energizing to do with $64 million.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Exactly. If you are being out-raised 6-1, you are really are out of energy.

But I think what is interesting is something that the Wall Street Journal pointed out, that when you look at the so called special interests, the employees of the big oil and drug insurance and energy companies, defense, they're giving their money to Democrats.

Historically you would think it would be Republicans, and the big storyline of Democrats is that the Republicans are the Party of the special interests who are squeezing Americans and destroying the middle class, and McCain is having trouble raising from these interests.

And not just because they give to winners and it's a Democratic year. It's because McCain, historically, stands up to special interests in committee, in the Senate.

I mean, he's a guy who has angered just about every special interest who has come before him -- oil companies, defense companies. He was the guy who exposed the corruption in the tanker deal that lost a huge contract that Boeing had had.

So he's the guy who is a maverick Republican who doesn't fit the narrative that Democrats have given of Republicans as a tool of special interests.

And I think at least if he's going to have a lemon in the lack of money, he ought to make lemonade and point out that its his Democratic opponents who are getting all the money from these interests, which the Democrats are claiming is destroying the American middle class.

LIASSON: It is pretty ironic. The Democrats running a populists, anti-corporate campaign, at least right now in Pennsylvania and places like that, so they might need to explain to voters why McCain is having such a hard time raising money from the interests that they say he represents.

SAMMON: It is also ironic that McCain's shortfall hasn't prevented him from basically doing better in the polls than the Democrats right now. He is on the rise. Democrats are driving each other's numbers down.

McCain has always been a lousy fundraiser. We saw that back when the wheels came off his campaign last summer. And he has also been a master of the free media. He is so accessible to the press that he kind of makes up for it a little bit with the free media.

He is a little less dependent on fundraising than the other candidates by virtue of his personality.

LIASSON: Still, it's a bad sign.

BAIER: And one last question, Mara -- what about the Democratic dollars? Hillary Clinton is out in California trying to tap all the big donors. Can the Democratic money dry up?

LIASSON: I don't think so, because Barack Obama has found new sources of Democratic money. That's the magic of his campaign. So many of his donors have so far to go before they get to the $2,300 maximum primary donation that, no, I don't think this money is going to dry out.

BAIER: That's the last word on this topic.

Next up with the panel, Afghanistan, missile defense, U.S.-French relations, and more from the NATO summit. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I am announcing the additional 700 troops to be sent there in order to secure what we are already doing in Afghanistan, and which will enable us to organize and help rebuild this country. If we want to pull out one day, we have to win today.

STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There has been over ten years a real debate as to whether there is a ballistic missile threat, and I think that debate ended today when in the alliance document there's a recognition that there is a threat that threatens the alliance.

BAIER: There you see French President Nicolas Sarkozy talking about adding more troops to Afghanistan, and also National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley talking about the significant action of NATO backing a U.S. ballistic missile system in Europe, a shield there.

We're back with the panel about the NATO summit. Charles, we'll start with you. I remember going to NATO summits with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about this missile defense shield, and, obviously, he was a big proponent. And it was very lukewarm, if that. And today there is unanimous backing for this.

KRAUTHAMMER: This is a remarkable success. The Democratic mantra is that the president has destroyed our alliances. Well, what's happened here in the summit is remarkable.

First of all, as you said, NATO has unanimously accepted a missile defense in the face of great Russian pressure against the NATO alliance, against Poland and the Czechs, in particular, and decided it would go ahead with this. And this is an issue that even the American left and a lot of Democrats oppose, so to get unanimity in NATO is remarkable.

Secondly, you have the French announcing that for the first tie since 1966 they will rejoin the structure of the NATO military command, which is, again, a huge step. It has not happened in 40 years. And also, adding additional troops in Afghanistan.

And, you know, another story that is sort of unsaid but is very important is that, for the first time in history, NATO is engaged in combat outside of the theater -- in Afghanistan -- another achievement of this administration.

I think it is remarkable what's happened, and this summit can only be called a success, despite the disagreement on Georgia and Ukraine, which I think is a minor issue. It was an issue that the Europeans would not accept. Ukraine and Georgia are too unstable right now, and you don't want to have a frontier with Russia, which is unstable and in part, almost at wars in Georgia.

So that I would have expected. But everything else is unexpected and extremely good news.

LIASSON: And at least before he goes to meet with Putin, you want to have Putin think that he's gotten at least one victory, and the victory was keeping the borders of NATO a little bit farther away from Russia. So it probably is a pretty good outcome all around.

BAIER: A lot of the coverage today, though, Mara, was about the fact that Ukraine and Georgia didn't make it in.

LIASSON: Well, that was one thing the U.S. wanted and it didn't get. On the other hand, if you look at the urgent questions -- Afghanistan is certainly urgent, and the missile shield is something that the U.S. has been trying to get for a long time.

SAMMON: I have always felt that missile defense was one of the great overlooked components of Bush's legacy.

Hadley talked about today the argument ends over the ballistic threat. It really started in 2001 when Bush decided to abrogate, to pull out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty. It was supposed to be the cornerstone of arms control for all these many years, and the Democrats said you can't pull out of that, that is sacrosanct.

And he sent John Bolton, who is his arms negotiator at that time, over to Moscow, and they said, look, we're pulling out of this thing. Whether you want to pull out or not, we're pulling out.

That allowed us to, first of all, proceed with the missile defense system in the United States, which previously had never been deployed, and now the second step is to help our allies develop missile defenses to protect them.

So this is a signature accomplishment for the Bush administration that gets very little attention.

BAIER: Last word, Charles -- as Mara mentioned, the president is heading to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. Does this change the dynamic of that meeting?

KRAUTHAMMER: If you have a unanimous NATO decision in favor of the missile defense, you have a position that's unshakeable, and Putin will ultimately accept it. He's going to have to.

I think Putin's objective was splitting NATO. He failed, and it's going to go ahead now.

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