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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Dustup Between Obama, McCain and President Bush

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from May 16, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The implication was that if you objec t to George Bush's policies of non-engagement, then, you know, you are being soft.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have some news for Senator Obama — talking, not even with soaring rhetoric, unconditional — in unconditional meetings with a man who called Israel a stinking corpse, an armed terrorist who kills Americans, will not convince Iran to give up its nuclear program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: That was Senator Obama today responding to President Bush's speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday in which the president said we should not negotiate with terrorists and radicals. You also heard from Senator McCain responding to Senator Obama.

Now, the president had said something similar before. Take a listen to this sound byte from February.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The decision of a U.S. president to have discussions with international figures can be counterproductive t can send chilling signals and messages to our allies. It can send confusion about our foreign policy. It discourages reformers inside their own country. And, in my judgment, it would be a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, GUEST HOST: So what about this dustup between Obama, McCain, and President Bush? Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

And, Mort, we will start with you. Last night was a heated discussion about this topic. We are now on day two. Senator Obama came out. What's your thought?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, here's what Obama said he would do. He would go with preparation to Iran and say that Iran should stop threatening Israel, stand down from nuclear weapons, stop funding Hamas, and stop stirring up problems inside Iraq. And if they didn't agree, then he would proceed with sanctions.

Now, that is not appeasement. Appeasement refers to 1938, Neville Chamberlain goes to Munich and says, OK, Hitler, you can have the Sudentenland, part of Czechoslovakia, and we hope to buy peace in our time.

Obama is not saying he will tell Ahmadinejad, go ahead and take Lebanon, just leave us alone. So, enough.

Is it dangerous? Is it wise for a president to go talk like that — I mean, if Ahmadinejad decides that Obama is a weak sister, or Obama can't make a case that if you don't do what we want to you do, there is a serious "or else," then it could be dangerous. So I think there is a legitimate debate here about whether this is a good thing to do.

But the idea that George Bush has strengthened our position against Iran by not talking to them? I mean, Hezbollah is stronger. Hamas is stronger. The Iranians are working on nuclear weapons. Clearly what Bush has done with Iran is counterproductive.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, Obama wants to talk about the Bush legacy, he'll win on that.

But what he won't do, despite his protestations that he wants to have a debate anywhere at any time, is defend the gaffe he made in that debate in which he said he would have unconditional talks, a gaffe which he was stuck with and which he now has elevated into a policy.

It is a gaffe because if you look at what he proposes, which is a meeting between him and Ahmadinejad, it fails at every level. It elevates a radical. It legitimizes a rogue country. And a meeting like that creates great pressures on a president to make concessions.

Obama cites Kennedy as meeting with Khrushchev. He did in the early '60's at a time when the Soviet Union was roughly equal to America in power — actually, it was arguably stronger, with huge tank armies in Europe and a grip in Berlin. That summit was a disaster. Kennedy was absolutely routed in it. It is hardly impressive that Obama wants to cite it as a positive one.

And what happened with Iran, which is a weaker power, and one that we have tried to isolate — it would have other countries looking at Iran and saying, if America had its president meeting with its leader, why should we isolate it?

Ahmadinejad is a radical inside his country and will be legitimized against the moderates, and it will create pressure — any kind of meeting like this — if it doesn't have a positive outcome, it will be called a failure. And that puts pressure on Obama to make concessions. And the questions is, what concessions is he going to offer?

BAIER: Fred, one of the things that Senator Obama brought up today was an interview that McCain did in 2006 in Davosa with Jamie Rubin, who was working for Sky News and did the interview.

A lot of people focused on the first part where he said we might have to sit down with Hamas. But take a listen to this second part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: They're the government, and sooner or later we will have to deal with them in one way or another.

Part of the relationship will be dictated with how Hamas acts, not how the United States acts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: The second part of that interview didn't get on in a lot of places.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: And elsewhere in interviews after Hamas won that election among the Palestinians, he lays out preconditions. Hamas would have to change its attitude towards Israel, and, one, stop terrorist attacks against Israel, two, not make it its a fundamental goal the destruction and elimination of Israel. So McCain certainly did have preconditions.

I think you have to stop and think who provoked this fight in the first place? It wasn't President Bush. It was Barack Obama.

Barack Obama wasn't named in that speech. And if you listened to Ed Gillespie and Dana Perino on the record will say it wasn't aimed at him. It was Jimmy Carter about who the words apply, I would think. But they didn't want to make this — they made it broader because they thought Jimmy Carter might complain, and they weren't aiming at any particular person.

Obama made this an issue because he is very sensitive on this gaffe about meeting Ahmadinejad with no preconditions. You saw McCain — this is a losing issue for him, and he is trying to wiggle out of it and say this is not a serious issue. Anybody who raises this is accusing me of being unqualified, unpatriotic, and so on.

BAIER: So who wins politically on this back and forth?

BARNES: John McCain.

KONDRACKE: You know, I think that because Obama can make the case that McCain is following the Bush policy, the Bush policy has failed, I think Obama wins on it.

KRAUTHAMMER: If the argument is about a meeting, Obama loses. If the argument is about has Bush succeeded with Iran, Obama will win.

BAIER: Last word. When we return with our panel, supporters of gay marriage celebrate that landmark California Supreme Court decision. But opponents vow to fight back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: Yesterday, if you haven't heard, the California Supreme Court overturned a ban on gay marriage. So I would like to say right now for the first time, I am announcing I am getting married.

MCCAIN: I believe the states should be making these decisions. And I have been involved in efforts in Arizona to recognize the exclusive status of marriage between men and women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: That was Ellen Degeneres announcing her engagement to long time girlfriend Portia de Rossi on her show. Also Senator John McCain responding to a question about the California decision to strike down a law that bans gay marriage.

Senators Obama and Clinton say they, too, believe that states should make their own decision when it comes to the issue of marriage.

We're back with the panel. What about this as an issue, Fred? Is it going to be moved because of California's State Supreme Court to the front burner in the political season?

BARNES: I don't think quite so much as it was in 2004, but it is going to be a bigger issue. Look, it really wasn't going to be an issue at all in this campaign, and now it is.

And the issue for John McCain, for instance, is judicial activism. This is a case where 4.6 million Californians had voted to say marriage had to be between a man and woman a few years ago, and then you get four unelected judges who say there is a fundamental right in the California constitution to get married and form a family.

Nobody had ever seen that right there before, but this is what drives conservatives — and not just conservatives — crazy: judges dreaming up new rights.

And probably they are unnecessary in this case, because California, the legislature, had passed a gay marriage Bill that had been vetoed twice by Governor Schwarzenegger. The next governor will probably be a Democrat that will sign it.

And, besides, I think this puts the gay rights movement, which has been winning the argument, basically, if you believe the polls, and I do, in the worst possible light, that it takes four unelected judges to impose this gay marriage on an unwilling public.

BAIER: Senator McCain is against the constitutional amendment on marriage. Does this hurt him, this issue stay on the right?

KONDRACKE: I really don't think so. He has made his position clear as to Arizona. I don't think that this blows into a national issue, at least an imminent national issue, because there is the Defensive Marriage Act that Congress passed, which says that one state does not have to recognize the laws of another state.

Now, this could be unconstitutional, that Defensive Marriage Act, but the Supreme Court won't decide that for some time. At that point, then you really have to have a constitutional amendment. I don't think a constitutional amendment can get through congress because it is a Democratic congress.

So I don't know how this exactly proceeds. But I agree with Fred that on the issue of judicial activism, it definitely helps the Republicans.

KRAUTHAMMER: The scandal here is not so much the outcome as the process. It is the fact that the most ancient and, sort of, established institution of society is being radically revolutionized by the fiat of unelected judges, a majority of one.

It is like the abortion decision. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal Supreme Court Justice, once had said that it was an issue on its way to resolution democratically, but it was short circuited by the courts.

That is exactly happening here again. It ought to be left in the hands of the people.

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