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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Talk of Banning the Olympics and the Year in Apologies

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 9, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't advocate boycotting the Olympics. I think that we should keep the issue of whether the president should go to the opening ceremony on the table.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I believe that the president should not attend the opening ceremonies, because that is giving a seal of approval by our United States government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: And what does the president think about all these calls for him to boycott the opening ceremonies? Here is a piece of an interview he did earlier this week with the religious network EWTN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm going to the Olympics, for starters. And, you know, my plans aren't changed, haven't changed. And the reason why is because I can talk to them about religious freedom prior to the Olympics, during the Olympics and after the Olympics, and which I have done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: The president went on to say that he doesn't need the Olympic Games to raise the issue of religious freedom with Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader.

So what to make of all this, what should the president do, and what validity, if any, to the criticisms that are being made?

Some thoughts from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune magazine, FOX News contributors all.

Well, Nina, what do you make of all this? First of all, do you think he's going to the ceremonies or not?

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Yes, I think he is going. He made it pretty clear he's going. And I think he also put his finger on —

HUME: The White House meanwhile is saying, no, we can't say one way or the other. His schedule is not ready.

EASTON: He sounded pretty definitive to me.

HUME: Me, too, but —

EASTON: And I think actually he put the finger on the whole issue in those comments right there, which is that I think it is fine to protest. It is not surprising that people are protesting. This was going to come about.

But this thinking that Hillary Clinton suggested in a letter that she released that we're going to change Chinese policy by public pressure, to me is a breathtaking naivete.

I watched Treasury Secretary Paulson go to Beijing a year-and-a- half ago to lecture them on how to behave to join the global economy. What happened? The Chinese just lectured him right back.

They don't take well to public lecturing. They think they're running a booming economy and a booming society, and they think they're on top of the world, and they don't respond well to public pressure. Private pressure is something else.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: In fact, that's what president says that he intends to do, is to speak to Hu Jintao, the Chinese president.

And he said that during his time there he would have the ability to continue to raise issues over religious freedom, and he emphasized that he thinks it is appropriate for the Chinese to meet with the Dalai Lama and, again, has said that he has met with the Dalai Lama.

So, in all those ways, I think that he —

HUME: Didn't he say something to the effect that he is the only president to have met with the Dalai Lama? I don't think that's true.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, maybe not, but he did —

HUME: I remember when I was covering the White House — that might have been during Clinton — but the Dalai Lama came. I remember seeing him in the driveway. The thing I noticed about his was that underneath the robes, he had brown suede Guccis on.

BARNES: He didn't take a vow of poverty!

Look, the Chinese were ticked when Bush met with the Dalai Lama. They didn't care for that at all. And I think he was in public with him. He went up to Capitol Hill with him, and they were mad.

Look, the president not going would achieve zilch. I don't know what Hillary Clinton is talking about — it would give the seal of approval by our United States government. For what? It wouldn't give a seal of approval to a crackdown in Tibet. It would give the seal of approval to America participating in the Olympic Games, if anything.

And of all the people who are at the top of the political heap at the moment, Hillary Clinton should know better. In the '92 campaign her husband attacked China bitterly, and attacked the first Bush administration, Bush's father, for being too cozy with China.

And what happened when Bill Clinton became president? He became cozy with China, because he realized that to just push China aside and criticize them in public the way he had in his campaign wouldn't work for a president. So she should know better.

WILLIAMS: I think it is really important to understand what Nina was touching on, which is the psychology of the Chinese leadership.

I was over there in December, and just listening and talking to people there, you get the sense that they feel they are trying to manage a tremendous economic transition to make this very poor country, this large peasant class, into now a middle class, and they feel they have to enforce certain rigors that, I think, don't make sense to us as Americans.

But it doesn't mean that for them that they are not, in fact, trying to do what is best.

What they are doing in Tibet clearly crosses a line. But how you effectively sanction them, I think, is have your protest, have your say, but come back to the idea that we are willing to engage them, and not to have them separate out, because they are not going to stop.

EASTON: I also think injecting politics into the Olympic Games, which is supposed to be free of politics, opens the door for this tit for tat. We boycotted the Olympics in 1980, and the Soviets led a boycott of the Olympics in Los Angeles four years later. So I think that —

HUME: They are just talking about the opening ceremonies.

EASTON: I know, but it is a pseudo-boycott, whatever you want to call it, to boycott the ceremonies instead of an annual boycott. But it does open the door to politicizing the Games.

BARNES: You would think these same protestors out there in San Francisco who protested against the horrors and the genocide committed by Saddam Hussein, or were they upset and marching in the streets marching against the President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who wants to eliminate Israel and all its people? I don't think so.

WILLIAMS: Well, that's not a reason not to protest.

BARNES: It's a reason, though, to wonder about what they are up to.

HUME: When we come back, everyone in politics seems to be doing it — taking offense, demanding an apology. We will talk about what they are getting out of it and the whole phenomenon in the year of the apology.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: What a year it has been. Senator Rockefeller apologizes to Senator McCain for questioning his moral conscience. Senator McCain apologizes for that guy Bill Cunningham repeatedly saying Barack Hussein Obama during a warm up speech for McCain.

Geraldine Ferraro asked to apologize for saying if Obama were a white man he would not be in that position. Senator Obama denounces former advisor Samantha Power for calling Senator Clinton a monster.

Governor Ed Rendell says he did not intend to offend anyone by saying some whites are not ready to vote for a black man. BET founder Bob Johnson apologizes to Obama for remarks about drug use.

Senator Clinton apologizes for Bill Clinton for Bill Clinton equating Obama's victory in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson's in 1984 and '88. James Carville pressed to apologize for calling Governor Bill Richardson a Judas.

Senator Obama denounces the statements of Jeremiah Wright. Michelle Obama pressed to apologize for saying "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country."

The point is, folks, this has been like no other — the year of the apology. Fred, what is going on here?

BARNES: It's all fake. It is all playacting. The people who claim to be offended, I don't think most of them are.

HUME: Why are they not offended? If they are not offended, what are they?

BARNES: They are upset about some attack, and they want to discredit it, so they pretend like it is completely out of bounds and beyond the pale, and they have never heard such a thing in American politics and that it requires an apology.

But, frequently, the things are said not by the person whose apology they are demanding. For instance, the Rockefeller case, where he said that John McCain when he was a pilot and bombed in North Korea(sic), he didn't care about the people down there, he was actually bombing.

And what I have in my head here — three documents from the McCain campaign, all of which I got today in e-mails — one from Orson Swindle, one from McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, on from Senator Lindsay Graham, not demanding that Rockefeller apologize —

HUME: Which he already had.

BARNES: — but demanding that Barack Obama apologize.

This has just become a weapon among politicians to discredit their opponents by saying that's out of bounds, you must apologize, or at least somebody must apologize.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, you step on a toe, and all of a sudden now it is a political weapon because it knocks the opponent back on their heels. They're in the position of having offended somebody, and, meanwhile, somebody else becomes the victim, which is always a good posture to have in America these days.

But let me just say this — you notice a pattern here, Brit, and the pattern here is that these comments about race, comments about gender, really play up this notion of offense, because then, again, it empathizes this victim mentality.

And, finally, I think that what you're seeing here is an effort by many of these politicians to say, you know what, we are now superior, superior in every way, to anybody else who has been in the field who seeks to somehow gain an advantage on us, and we are going to remind you that you shouldn't in any way attack us or say anything negative about us. We are a better people, and if you question us, we are superior in every regard.

EASTON: There is a lot of playing to the ref going on here, like high drama on the basketball court.

HUME: My question is — Fred said that people are offended, so they want to discredit the attack.

BARNES: I said they're not offended.

HUME: I know, but don't you think it is the case that when somebody makes a blundering attack that the person under attack is, in fact, delighted and eager to exploit it?

EASTON: Right. Yes.

I think partly what is going on here with this eagerness to exploit on the Democratic side is because there isn't a huge difference between the two candidates on issues, so if somebody makes a misstep, you just go right down the field and go right in there, and you make a big deal about it, ring bells.

And I think when you talk about — I think race has become the sort of victim issue among Democrats. And then among Republicans, it's the question of patriotism or questioning military service. So there is a —

WILLIAMS: Part of it goes back to what happened in '04 with the swiftboating of John Kerry, and so everybody wants to be aggressive in terms of how they respond.

This is where I come into the superior thing. It is now you are superior, you can say "I'm not playing those kinds of politics. I'm not engaged in that. I'm much better than that." Of course you're not.

HUME: Is this the inevitable outcome of the cult of sensitivity and political correctness and victimology that we have in America?

BARNES: Yes, and what it's doing is bringing political correctness and some sort of daintiness to politics, which is supposed to be robust and tough, and people are supposed to be allowed to say mean things and dumb things and stupid things and cruel things.

There are very few areas that are out of bounds. One, of course, is race, saying something that is racist. But now, you pointed to Governor Ed Rendell, he just made a comment about race, saying some whites in Pennsylvania may not vote for Barack Obama because he's an African- American. That's probably true. That's not a racist statement.

HUME: How about Ferraro?

BARNES: I didn't think Ferraro was that out of bounds.

HUME: She was about the only person that didn't give in, though.

WILLIAMS: Right. But they way, I thought she was wrong. And I think Barack Obama is clearly an astounding individual.

BARNES: The other part is those who apologize aren't sincere about it.

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