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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on End of Primary Season

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from June 2, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We feel good about the number of supe r delegates that we have been accumulating, and my sense is that between Tuesday and Wednesday, that we got a good chance of getting the number that we need to achieve the nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME: Well, that was Barack Obama today on the subject of the delegates that he has been picking up. By our count tonight, he is within 42 or 43 delegates short of apparently wrapping this up.

Some thought on this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Let's take a quick look at the popular vote totals, which are a part of what Hillary Clinton has been talking about a lot lately. If you count Florida and Michigan, Senator Clinton is in the lead by a factor of 235,000 or so delegates.

If you count just Florida, where both candidates, unlike Michigan, where Obama was not on the ballot, where both candidates were on the ballot, Obama maintains the lead of 134,000, or something like that. and if you don't count either one of the in the popular vote total, Obama is ahead by several hundred thousand.

So there you go. The new delegate scorecard shows 2,076, I guess, for Obama, and 1,917 for Senator Clinton. That's a lead of 159. And superdelgates — 338 for Obama, 292 for Clinton.

So, Mara, at long last, is this damn thing over?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it's going to be over probably by tomorrow night or Wednesday when he actually gets the 2,118 delegates he actually needs.

HUME: He is about 43 short of that by our count tonight.

LIASSON: 42.5, but yes.

HUME: And how many are at stake?

LIASSON: 31, so he will get probably the majority of them — those are two good states for him, Montana and South Dakota.

There are a bunch of super delegates — first of all, they are really coming in at a slightly higher rate. They due trickle in one or two a day, but today we have quite a few, and I think they'll be more tomorrow. And I think there will be plenty more the minute he crosses the finish line of the last primary.

That is what Howard Dean, the Chairman of the Party, has requested of the super delegates that they do, which is, as soon as June 3 is over, fess up.

And then I think that there are some signs that she might be ready to suspend. She is going to go to New York. She has invited her donors to come. She is certainly laying off staff, because she has asked people to get their expense slips in order. She might be suspending her campaign very, very soon.

HUME: What do you think, Fred? Will she go on anyway?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I hope so. I have enjoyed this.

HUME: I can tell you have.

BARNES: I'm sorry there are not more primaries. Do we really have to stop tomorrow?

Look, Obama, it has been clear Obama is going to win this a long time. The super delegates are clearly going his way. And the reason is simple — they have made a calculation that the party will be better off, more united with Obama as the nominee, than they would — despite all these polls showing Hillary doing better in states with a large white working class — they think the Party would be better with Obama as the nominee than with Hillary for this reason — they think the threat of a bolt by blacks, in particular, if Obama is denied the nomination after winning more delegates than Hillary, that that threat of losing that base of the party is greater than the threat posed by the white working class, and so on, that may or may not leave the Democratic Party if Obama is the nominee.

HUME: Go ahead Mara, and I'll get to Charles in a moment.

LIASSON: There are some other reasons. Obama has brought in tremendous numbers of new voters and young voters. A lot of these super delegates look at that and say that is the future of the party. He also seems to help down ballot Democrats in the south. There are lots of reasons that they think he should be the candidate.

BARNES: Those are pretty flimsy ones, I think.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think in the end Fred is right. The reason is they are terrified if they deny what is essentially a dead heat, in a dead heat, if they deny the nomination to the first African-American who is a serious candidate, there would be a revolt in the party and a there would be bitterness among African-Americans that would last for 20 years.

It's better to risk that than risking what you will have, a bit of which we saw last Saturday here in Washington at the meeting of the DNC Rules Committee, the anger and the bitterness of white feminists who, in the end, they expect will get over it.

HUME: Will they, in your judgment, get over it?

KRAUTHAMMER: No, I think not. I think there will be a large resentment. I think there is a sense that they were dealt with badly by the media and the Obama campaign and other Democrats.

But I don't know how it translates in this year. Some of them will stay home and some of them will go to McCain.

HUME: It seems to me that those who go to McCain are a particular problem, because she needs two votes to make up for that. She loses a sure vote and McCain picks up one. So that is a net loss of two.

KRAUTHAMMER: You mean he loses.

HUME: Obama loses two.

LIASSON: First of all, it is really unclear how big of a problem this represents. Some of those white working class voters, by the way, weren't going to vote for her anyway, even ones who voted for her in the primary.

When you look at John McCain against Obama and John McCain against Hillary among whites without college degrees, it's the same. In other words, he beats them both by the same.

But the other thing is that I think what is really going to determine what happens to a lot of those women is how Senator Clinton answers the question after she drops out do you think the reason you lost is sexist? She has talked about it in the media. She hasn't gone so far as to say that's why I didn't get the nomination.

KRAUTHAMMER: Whether she says it or not is not the issue.

LIASSON: I think it will matter.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's whether the intelligentsia, if you like, among the feminists, a lot of whom have been appearing in the press and denouncing sexism in the party and in the media as a reason for her losing. Is that a passing phenomenon or not? I think not.

HUME: Up next with the panel, Senator Obama's decision to leave his church. Will it end the controversy or not?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm not denouncing the church and I am not interested in people who want me to denounce the church, because it's not a church worthy of denouncing. So if they've seen caricatures of the church, and accept those caricatures despite my insistence that that's not what the church is about, then there's not much I can do about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: What people unquestionably have seen, be they caricatures or not, is video of the people preaching from the pulpit of the Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago.

First it was Reverend Jeremiah Wright, from whom Obama has now disassociated himself. And then, more recently, a week ago Sunday, it was the reverend Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest introduced to the congregation as a great friend of Trinity United Church of Christ as an extraordinary minister and a person with whom that church regards as a great friend and a man worthy of great admiration, who proceeded to deliver himself with some scathing racial comments about Hillary Clinton.

So Obama has now stepped aside from the church, citing a number of reasons. Were they the right reasons, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: As always, he fives the reason that makes him look selfless. He said he's doing it, at least in part, because the church has been getting unfair attention, and that there has been and an invasion of the privacy of the members, and that he wants the church to have privacy of its worship.

That's an odd concern for a church that provides live streaming video of its services, and that sells the sermons on tape for a profit — an interesting idea, the privacy of service.

But Obama is always doing what he does or explaining what he does as a matter of selfless higher purposes. Remember, when he gave the great Philadelphia speech, the one which was praised as the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln at Cooper Union, he said that he was doing this as a way to raise the debate in America about race, to explain blacks to whites and whites to blacks, and to start a great debate on race.

In fact, what he was doing was trying to give a speech as a way to explain him way out of an extremely embarrassing association with a man that America had seen on tape as a raving racist and a nut cake.

So he is always the man who rises above, and it is a question of whether or not you believe it. I'm rather skeptical, as you can tell.

HUME: Let me frame a question for you, Mara. When all is said and done here, after what we've heard from the pulpit of that church and what the public has seen and has to think about it, will he have to, in the end, one way or another, denounce that church, or is this politically sufficient?

LIASSON: That's a good question, and I'm not sure. I think this is still a problem for him. I don't think it will go away because it was 20 years before he did it, and he did do it after he was running for president.

He said in his statement he doesn't want to have to answer for everything that is stated in the church. Well, yes, we can understand why he doesn't want to do that.

But I do think this is the kind of thing that's not going to go away, partly because it is the kind of think that people can understand so easily, and the videotapes are all out there.

I don't think he has to denounce the church. The church itself does a lot of good things. The people who get up on the pulpit and say these things, those are gong to have to be denounced —

HUME: What about the fact that when Reverend Wright made these statements that we all thought were so astonishing, and Pfleger his, which were equally so, members of the congregation in numbers stood to cheer and applaud. Surely they're very much with the church, are they not?

LIASSON: He will probably be asked questions about that. Why do so many members, unlike yourself, seem to think those statements are fine?

HUME: I'll give the last word to Fred.

BARNES: That's the one that that hasn't changed. The church hasn't changed. We saw it from Reverend Wright and now to Father Pfleger. What's changed has been Barack Obama.

And it's been like pulling teeth to get him to change his position, and now he has pulled out of the church. Remember Wright was his uncle, his old uncle for a while. And, ultimately, he disowned him, which he said he wouldn't do. Ultimately, he will have to disown the church as well.

HUME: You think so.

BARNES: I do.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think he won't. I think he will hang in there and say people don't all agree with what was said at the podium.

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