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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Whether We've Heard the Last of Hillary Clinton

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y.: Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate hi m on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to take one more minute to thank Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for the kind and generous support she offered on Saturday.

She ran an historic race, a historic campaign that shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere who know now that there are no limits to their dreams.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, that was Hillary Clinton on Saturday, Barack Obama today. Some thoughts on all 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.

Well, it was a somewhat unusual event. It seemed more rally than concession speech. But there it was and she it, or did she?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think she said it, but it was the way she said it and how she it that really mattered.

What I liked about the speech was, and I read it again today and enjoyed it even more, was how honest she was. She endorsed him — and you can see the lack of enthusiasm. I mean, she didn't exactly jump up and down endorsing him, but she did release her delegates and say I release them and I hope they vote for him at the convention.

And then she went on to really endorse a generic Democrat, saying if we had almost any Democrat in there, and I'm paraphrasing, things would have been much better over the last few years.

And then I thought the other thing she said, I disagree wit it, but I think she honestly believes it, when she said she hadn't quite broken through the highest, hardest glass ceiling, suggesting she lost because she was a woman.

That is not why she lost. She lost because Obama was a better candidate and certainly more likable, and she had the wrong strategy. Remember, her strategy only went through Super Tuesday, and the campaign lasted longer —

HUME: She blew of a lot of caucus states.

BARNES: Yes, and she had the wrong theme. He had change; she had experience. Change was better.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Change was certainly better this year.

I heard her talk about the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, each one representing one of her voters, of course, but I don't think she went so far as to blame sexism for her loss.

I think that would be a very, very important line for her to cross, and I certainly hope for her sake she doesn't cross it, because I think it will diminish the huge accomplishment that is hers in this campaign.

She fought until the bitter end. This was an extremely close race. She was such a huge figure that she couldn't be hounded out of the race, and that everybody gave her every bit of deference.

You talk about this even being unusual — because she is an unusual person in the Democratic Party. She was allowed to do it by herself. There was no pressure on her for her to do it with him. She was given almost all the time that she wanted — apparently she wanted about two weeks to see her original plan to get herself under the ticket would work.

But I think what is really important now for Senator Clinton —

HUME: Was that a plan to get herself on the ticket, or —

LIASSON: I think it was like a trial balloon.

HUME: — pry away some delegates from him somehow.

LIASSON: I think it was to see if that non-concession speech Tuesday, where she was saying I'm just going to think about it for a while. And then there were all these people circulating petitions and roiling the waters for her on the ticket was to see how that worked.

But I think the key now is what is she going to do over the next couple of months, how hard is she going to word, and is she going to send a real strong signal to her supporters to get behind him?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I loved every second of her speech. It was a classic demonstration of Clinton hardball, really smartly done and delivered. The venue and setting, one of the largest indoor spaces in Washington and it the grandest.

HUME: That's the building it was in.

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, and it was essentially a rally.

She bended knee for a few seconds, did the obligatory acknowledgment. But it was all about her and her campaign, and to honor herself and her supporters.

What it was, I thought, in the end, was what in Afghanistan or Colombia would be a demonstration of a warlordism. Here are my troops. This is my militia. I can turn them out. They will follow me, obey me. Yes, we will temporarily turn in our weapons, at least until November, but we remain a faction, a very strong one, in this party.

And it's a way of saying that if Obama wins, he takes over, she becomes irrelevant. But if he loses, I am the last one standing, and I have an army.

HUME: This is a post-November message?

KRAUTHAMMER: It is a message about her standing in the party — I am not like a John Edwards who dropped out with 18 or 20 delegates. I came in in a dead heat. I came in an essentially — I have half of this party.

If you look at the results, she actually had the majority of the popular vote — a small one, but she actually had a majority. She lost on delegates, of course.

But she is saying this is split party, and I control half of it. And that is a very strong statement. She is saying I will step aside for a couple of months, but that's it.

BARNES: She is like Ronald Reagan in '76. He narrowly lost. But then when Gerald Ford went on to lose, he was odds on. He easily won the nominee in 1980.

I would like to quibble with something that Mara said. What in the world did "the glass ceiling" mean if it was not something artificially stopping a woman from becoming president or getting this higher position?

LIASSON: She wasn't blaming sexism for her loss.

BARNES: So what was it then, when she said there is this highest, hardest glass ceiling? What is that ceiling then? What was she talking about, if not I couldn't get through the presidential nomination because I was a woman?

LIASSON: Because she was beat by a better candidate.

BARNES: Yes, but that's not what she said.

HUME: The question then remains that — Charles suggests that she is saying look, I'm still here and I still have great strength. Don't you forget it. And if Obama loses, then I'm the preeminent figure.

But is there a pre-November message in this as well — Fred?

BARNES: We'll see what she does. I don't think it makes any difference how hard she works for him. For her future —

HUME: You don't think she is saying to him you better take me on the ticket because —

BARNES: No, no, I think that's gone.

LIASSON: That's gone.

HUME: You really think so?

LIASSON: I do.

HUME: Why do you think it's gone?

LIASSON: I think the Obama campaign has made it pretty clear that it's gone. There doesn't seem to be a huge cry among her supporters to put her on there. There were those little petition drives, but that was about it.

HUME: But we're talking about something that happened the day before yesterday. Are you saying there is no petition drive yet?

LIASSON: Every day in politics a very long time.

I will tell you something else, though. In terms of her and her army, there might be fewer by November than there are now. A lot of those people will come around and support Obama. They won't be die-hards because she doesn't represent an ideological thing.

HUME: I think what Charles is saying is they lose, than they will be for her.

KRAUTHAMMER: She is saying, but they remain mine.

HUME: We're going to take a break here. When we come back, one of Obama's favorite targets turns out to have a connection to one of the Senator's key advisors. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The other week we learned that when Countrywide Financial was sold a few months ago, its two top executives got a combined $19 million. Never mind that Countrywide was as responsible as anyone for the scandalous mortgage crisis we have got today, a crisis that is the source of many of our other economic problems. This is an outrage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And now, thanks to the Wall Street Journal, which reported over the weekend that, we know that Countrywide Financial's top guy, former top guy, Angelo Mazelo was not only a friend of Jim Johnson, the man who is leading the vice presidential search, who is leading Obama's vice presidential search time — he is a long-time Democratic Party figure, and member of the Democratic Party establishment here in Washington, a former head of Fannie Mae.

It turns out that he received some loans at attractive rates that were available only to friends of Mr. Mazelo from Countrywide, the very company Obama has denounced for its practices.

The question arises, what will be made of this? This is what John McCain had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it suggests a bit of a contradiction talking about how his campaign is going to be not associated with people like that. Clearly he is very much associated with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And here is what the Obama camp said in response to that, "It's the height of hypocrisy for the McCain campaign to make this an issue when John Greene, one of McCain's top advisors, lobbied for 'Ameriquest' which is one of the nation's largest subprime lenders and a key player in the mortgage crisis."

Of course, McCain, apparently, has not been attacking Ameriquest. But, beyond that, The McCain campaign said this of John Greene, "He resigned from his firm months ago and isn't a lobbyist in accordance with our policy. He is an unpaid volunteer, works on congressional outreach, and has zero role in policy development.

It is a totally false analogy, particularly when you consider the Obama campaigns repeated attacks on staff and his rhetoric on these issues," that from a McCain campaign aide.

So we have a full-blown flap going on over Jim Johnson's role and the criticisms attached to it. Where does it go from here?

BARNES: It depends on how the press plays it. I think the McCain's campaign are correct in saying that was a phony analogy.

Here is the problem for Obama on this — one, he is the guy campaigning about changing the political culture in Washington and cleaning it up, and, you know, driving out the malefactors and the people doing the inside deals, and so on.

And here he names Jim Johnson to play the key role in the most important decision he will make as the nominee, and that is picking a vice president to run with him on the ticket. That is the biggest thing a nominee does between now and Election Day.

And Jim Johnson, who has had the sweetheart deals both at Fannie Mae and afterwards, and is typical of the kind of guy — look, I know Jim Johnson. He is a very smart guy. I'm sure he'll do very well in that role, but he does have this problem of being exactly the kind of person who came to Washington to do good and has done well that Obama has been attacking.

LIASSON: Look, I think this is the first — I don't know what you want to call — the first scandal, the first problem that Obama is facing in the general election. We have seen in the other things like this — one of his advisors talked to Canada — wink, wink, nod, nod, he doesn't really mean what he says about NAFTA, the Reverend Wright controversy. It has taken them a couple of days or more in each of these instances to get the story straight, and then he deals with it.

HUME: Are you suggesting that this defensive response attacking McCain was a mistake?

LIASSON: I'm just saying it's not good enough and it's not going to be able to be the final word for them on this.

HUME: Is he going to have to let Jim Johnson go in this role?

LIASSON: I don't know about that, I don't know about I think about that, but what I do think is that for Dan Turillo, who one of his economic advisors, to say I don't know the facts, and Jim Johnson didn't refuse to comment today. Somebody is going to have to explain this.

HUME: Nothing illegal was done.

LIASSON: Nothing illegal, but right now, I think that's the place holder. They're just vamping for time. This is not good enough, and they're going to have to resolve this.

KRAUTHAMMER: There is nothing illegal here, and there is nothing improper until you can ascertain — "The Wall Street Journal" story itself said it is impossible to know if this was in any way improper, the level of that loan, unless you know five other factors, which are not known, among which are Johnson's income, assets, credit score, the size of the loan, and whether or not he paid points. If you pay points on the loan, you get a lower rate. The points are unknown. So as of now, there is no scandal at all here. I think what is going on here is a very odd phenomenon. Candidates are being attacked for second order associations. It's not you're associated if he's a bad or wild guy like Jeremiah Wright, but it's an associate an associate.

I saw Kerry attack McCain over the weekend, because some of his campaign advisors are lobbyists who had the clients, and then he named unsavories like Burma. If you are going to have that as your standard, associate of your associates, then you will have nobody advising you here in this town.

If there is anybody here in the Obama campaign who has a problem, it is one of the others on that team picking the number two. Eric Holder, who is the Deputy Attorney General, who approved the Mark Ridge pardon and against the regulations of with the Justice Department did not tell the prosecutors of the rich case about it.

So there is an association of somebody who may have done something wrong. But to attack a candidate on the associates of his associates, I think, is insane. We won't have anybody advising anybody.

HUME: Last word on this — David Axelrod, the campaign advisor for Obama has said the following thing late today. He called Johnson "a volunteer on our screening committee, got some expertise on this, no particular knowledge of his mortgage situation."

And then he goes on to say "The job he is doing has nothing to do with any of these issues, except as an executive screening function that he has done before, so you know there is nothing that would get in the way of his doing this." Well, we'll see if that holds.

KRAUTHAMMER: That's a punt.

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