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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Obama's 'Bitter' Battle, President Carter's Visit With Hamas

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton and Senator McCain seem to be singing from the same hymn book. They are saying I'm out of touch, I'm an elitist because I said a lot of folks are bitter about their economic circumstances.

It may be that I chose my words badly, and it's not the first time, and it won't be the last.

(END VIDEO C LIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, it may be that he chose his words badly, or it may be that he said exactly what he intended, which is not just that people are bitter about their economic circumstances, but in rural towns and other such places where times are hard, that people because of bitterness over economic circumstances, they cling to their guns and cling to their religion, and so on.

And that is what got him in the hot water that he has been in for the last couple of days. Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Polling doesn't really suggest, except this one poll that has Hillary 20 points up in Pennsylvania — the national tracking poll doesn't show any harm to Obama from this yet. But what about it, Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It isn't going to help.

And if anybody wondered why Hillary Clinton is staying in the race, this is it. This is what she has been waiting for.

Obama is ahead in the popular vote, in the delegate vote. But if he screws up badly — and this was a bad screw up on his part — then she still has a faint chance of winning. And this is why she is staying in, in hopes that he will have fumbles like this and have some more fumbles.

And the problem with Obama, of course, is what he said is probably what he believes. It wasn't the words that were ill-chosen, it was the sentiment. It was a very condescending sentiment about people in small towns and guns and religion and so on. And naturally Hillary Clinton has jumped on it. McCain has jumped on it.

And I think the problem for Obama is that people said that this is what he really believes. And it is particularly harmful with the one group of Democrats with whom he has very weak support now, and that's working class white Democrats of which there are an awful lot of them in Pennsylvania, and this is going to hurt him even more.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I agree with everything Fred said, for a change.

HUME: Holy cow!

BARNES: Thank you.

KONDRACKE: By their adherents, shall ye know them. So who are Barack Obama's adherents? They are very high income, highly educated limousine liberals — those are the people he was talking out in Marin County behind closed doors, and presumably saying what he actually felt about the poor working class stiffs who like their religion and their guns, and also hate people who aren't like them, by the way.

Who else? A few Republicans who do not like John McCain and love the Obama message, and African-Americans, and the far left — those are the people who are the Obama people. And who are not the Obama people? It's working class whites. It's the very people he has been trying to appeal to in Pennsylvania, and this is going to badly hurt him, I think.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But most importantly is what it tells us who he is. He is and an unknown candidate, and a moment like this, which is a moment in private where, presumably you say what you believe, told us a lot about him.

The word that is killing him here is not "bitterness," it is "cling," because it drips of condescension. They cling to guns and religion because they are too stupid to understand their own class interests. And that is his message.

In fact, in a tarted-up way, he said that in the great race speech that everybody so swooned about that know one noticed, that in the middle of it he talked about white resentments.

And he said, and I think I have the quote exactly, "These white resentments distract from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze," which, of course, are the great engines of capitalism, the corporations, the lobbyists and Republican economic policies.

He has always had this academic left view that what ordinary people feel and think and believe in is a kind of false consciousness. It's a missed understanding of the real issues in their lives —

HUME: And their own interests.

KRAUTHAMMER: — which he defines as economic interests, which are misunderstood, because, unlike him, they haven't had a Harvard education and read all the Marxist historians who explain it that way.

That, I think, is the problem. It defines him in a way that I think is accurate, and that I think is really going to hurt him.

Hillary has an ad about this coming out in which ordinary folks are saying how offended they were, and they should be.

KONDRACKE: Look, the parallel here is that, as some people have pointed out, in 1984, Gary Hart was out in California, among his kind of people, and he said, "Hey, my wife gets to stay in California, but I have to go back to New Jersey where they have toxic waste."

He lost the New Jersey primary by 15 points as a result of that, and probably the nomination to Walter Mondale.

BARNES: The sentiment —

HUME: I wouldn't call that the turning point, but it didn't help.

BARNES: After California Mondale really had to scramble to get enough delegates, and after that New Jersey really helped.

The liberals all love this book that came out a couple of years ago "What's the Matter with Kansas?" And the theme of the book was that all these working class people who go and vote for Republicans are too stupid to realize they're being tricked by Republicans into thinking that values issues like abortion and so on are important.

But if they really didn't have this false consciousness that Charles was talking about, they would realize that the Democrats really have their best interests at heart. But they're too stupid to recognize that.

And this is what liberals think about working class Americans.

HUME: Is it possible when we know more about Barack Obama that we can draw a line from the political undertones or the political message contained in Reverend Wright's sermons and the comments that Mrs. Obama has made and Obama's assertions here that will tell us that he is, in fact, not just a liberal, not even a left liberal, but something even more radical than that.

Is that a possible conclusion, or is the record not reflect that?

KONDRACKE: I think that he is a standard liberal, that he wants to spend a lot of money to solve problems, even though the government keeps screwing things up one after the other, the latest being the FAA doing it. And I don't think he is particularly radical. I don't think he is going to go beyond the mainstream.

HUME: There is an almost Marxist message in this, sentiment.

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. The idea that the working class people don't understand the world and cling to religion, the opium of the people, as Marx says, and frank's book is a new way to state it. It is an old left idea which goes back 100 years, and it's a classic idea that if they only understood what the upper, academic left understands, they would act differently.

What's involved here, I think, is also a sense of this arrogance. It's not only a personal arrogance. It's a political, intellectual, and almost a class arrogance. And that, I think, in the end is going to hurt him, because it's a question of character.

HUME: When we come back, former President Carter sets his own course, but no one else seems to be on it with him. Should he meet with Hamas this week? That's next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's very important that someone meet with Hamas leaders to express our views and to ascertain what flexibility they have, to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel, and to cooperate with Fatah as the proof that unites the Palestinians, maybe to get them to agree to a cease-fire, things of this kind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Jimmy Carter hastens to add that he is not really going to be negotiating, and he is going only representing himself. The Bush administration hastens to add that he sure is representing only himself, and it is not at all pleased that he will be there talking to Hamas and Syria, and the Israeli leaders were giving him the cold shoulder on his visit to Israel today.

So, Charles, he says it is necessary, very important, he says, that someone should talk to Hamas. Is it important that someone should talk to Hamas?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's complete rubbish, because everyone who knows the Middle East knows that Egypt is talking with Hamas every day. Egypt has a border with Gaza. Egypt has relations with Israel and the United States and the conduit between Hamas and America and Israel, if there are messages, is open.

Carter is completely extraneous in that he is not important in this. Even Hamas has said he is not going to be a conduit. What this is all about is Carter's legitimizing Hamas by showing up.

HUME: Which Mike Tobin reported tonight that not only is that what the Israeli leaders are worried about, that is what the Hamas leaders say is exactly the purpose.

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly, and that's why Hamas is welcoming him, because even the Europeans have ostracized Hamas — why? Because Hamas is out and out openly a terrorist organization, dedicated openly to the destruction of Israel, openly shooting rockets into Israel every day ever since Israel's withdrawal.

So it is not as if we don't know what Hamas is thinking or what Hamas' messages might be. This is a part of Carter's campaign against Israel, which you see in his book in which he promulgates a real blood libel against Israel in talking about its policy as apartheid, and in the way, for instance, that he talks about the negotiations Israel had in the year 2000, in which it made an extremely generous offer to the Palestinians, turned down, and the Palestinians, as a result, started a war.

Carter calls that Israeli intransigence. So this is all part of the campaign against Israel, and it is very effective campaign.

KONDRACKE: This has fascinating political implications. Jimmy Carter is a superdelegate, somebody who had been honored in past Democratic National Conventions. And here he is going to see Hamas.

He is on the verge of endorsing, presumably, Barack Obama. The Obama campaign was asked what do you think about this trip to Hamas, and, at first, the staff put out a statement saying that Obama disagreed with this.

Then Obama was asked by a reporter what do you think about it, and he said I'm not going to criticize Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter is free to do what he wants to do.

And then the boom started to be lowered by the Jewish community in the United States, and they went back to the first statement that he doesn't accept it.

I have talked to some Jewish leaders who think that if it is Obama versus McCain, that McCain could get Ronald Reagan, 1980 liberal support — 40 percent of the Jewish community voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 against Jimmy Carter. Why? Because Andy Young was making noises about how we had to negotiate with the PLO, which at that time was in the same position that Hamas is in today.

BARNES: Jimmy Carter never lets you down. He learns nothing. Remember, he met with Brezhnev, Leonid, Brezhnev, the Soviet leader in 1979, and he said I talked to him and we had a good talk, and then he was shocked when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan some months later. He said the scales had fallen from his eyes.

I think he said that literally, but they really hadn't, because then he goes into North Korea, to the anger of the Clinton administration, and forces this treaty, which, of course, the North Koreans didn't honor. They broke it.

He goes into Venezuela and swears the election is honestly won by Hugo Chavez. And when you talk to pollsters who were there, they said Carter was completely hoodwinked.

Now we look at Venezuela and it is becoming a basket case. The people suffering the most because there is no food on the shelves are the poor people, who I'm sure Carter wanted to help.

This guy has a monstrous ego in thinking he can go in these places and I can do what nobody else can do. Everybody knows what Hamas stands for.

And here is what will happen with Carter. He will not only legitimize Hamas, he will legitimize some of their grievances, and he will come out and say if Israel meets some of these things — and he will put the ball in Israel's court, saying if they just do some of these things, then Hamas can be tamed and they will join negotiations and so on.

HUME: It is a fact of life in America, however, that while Israel may be the whipping boy in parts of the world and in the politics parts of the world, in the United States, there isn't a lot of disagreement in the U.N. Congress on these subjects. The U.S. congress — you can find almost no one there who will criticize Israel.

KRAUTHAMMER: But Carter isn't running.

HUME: I understand, but what effect does he really have with Americans?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's not going to have an effect, but he has a particular animus against Israel, which is behind his book and this trip, and it is showing. It doesn't help him in public opinion, and it is not going to affect people in congress, but it shows you who Carter is.

HUME: Go ahead, Mort.

KONDRACKE: He tried to get Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, the so-called elder world statesmen to go with him. They wouldn't even go.

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