This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from July 23, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that what I said in response was that I would, at my time and choosing, be willing to meet with any leader if I thought it would promote the national security interests of the United States of America.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: This is the question and answer that he was referring to when he spoke of his response. It came in a debate earlier — excuse me, a debate about a year ago exactly today that was aired by CNN and You Tube. And here is the exchange.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to meet separately, without pre-condition, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?
OBAMA:I would. The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Well, that issue came up, as you saw today, on Obama's visit to Israel. And we have some thoughts about it from a couple of very eager guys, as you might have seen, who couldn't wait to get in here.
Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and the more reticent syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, all are FOX News contributors, and, in their way, all are equally eager.
All right. Well, what about this today. It came up again. What about his representation of what he said, and what about how it comports or does not comport with what he actually said — Fred?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, now he claims to have said in the original answer to the question in that debate, this stuff about I would only meet Ahmadinejad and the others at his own time of choosing, and only if it would promote the national security interests of the United States.
Those are not things he said originally. And this has been a statement that I think most people recognized at the time was one that might get him in trouble, and it continues to get him in trouble.
Look, this isn't the first time he has said that he has made up things and claims he said them back then when he really didn't.
Another thing he said today, which is something that certainly would have gotten John McCain in trouble, he said — he was trying to brag about how tough he was on the Iranians, and he said his committee, the Senate Banking Committee, had passed a resolution, or something, that would have caused American firms to divest of Iranian interests.
And the trouble is, he's not on that committee.
HUME: Not only is it not his committee, he's not even on it, right?
BARNES: And he didn't vote it. That would be a senior moment if McCain did it.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: This is never apologize, never explain refined. And he has refined his position, and I think you sort of have to trust that after that initial response in that debate that he's now realized, hey, I might be president of the United States, and I'm not going to go hat in hand to Ahmadinejad. We're going to have preparations —
HUME: Hold on a second. Two months later, question-"Senator, you said before you would meet with president Ahmadinejad." Senator Obama: "Uh-huh." Question-"Would you still meet with him today?" "Yes, nothing's changed."
Now, on his Web site to this day, this is a quote from the Web site "Diplomacy," it says, "Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions."
KONDRACKE: Preconditions are that you don't demand that somebody do something as the precedent for your actually going to see them. But he says that he will bring up all the tough issues, and he will be tough on diplomacy, and all that. That's his position now.
The truth is nobody knows for sure. Nobody knows how tough this guy is going to be. And my guess is that as a consequence of that, he's going to get tested right quick if he becomes president of the United States, especially by the Iranians.
Ahmadinejad's formative experience in politics was what? The presidency of Jimmy Carter, a weak novice to foreign policy, who got rolled. So the chances are that Ahmadinejad will pull something to test Obama.
And some Middle East experts that I talked to say that the likelihood of a war between the United States and Iran is greater with Obama in the presidency than with McCain.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, everybody refines positions, but Obama has a way of refining and denying the refinement. He says he's never changed what he said.
Today, when asked about the meeting without preconditions, he says that at the time when he gave his answer he made — he said that there was a difference between without preconditions and without preparations, that he would insist on preparations.
He never said that at the time. Preparation was invented by his staff afterwards as a way to get him out from under a huge gaffe, and they have inflated the idea of preparations into the equivalent of preconditions.
But on everything, Obama is unerring. If you think he changed on gun control, he says you weren't listening. If you think he changed on telecom immunity, he says you don't understand and you're cynical. If you think he changed on Jerusalem, he says no, it's exactly the same, even he though he has completely changed his position from undivided Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem to whatever the parties will decide.
You know, he's always unerring, as befits a man whose treatment by the press is not presidential but papal. He thinks of himself infallible. I wouldn't be surprised if in Berlin tomorrow he holds not a rally, but a mass.
HUME: Well, we're going to talk about the media's captivation with Obama and whether in fact some members of the media are beginning to fall out of love a little bit. That's next.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about all the network anchors going over with Barack Obama? Everyone is arguing over whether the press is biased in favor of him. What do you think about it?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the American people will decide.
JILL HAZELBAKER, MCCAIN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It's unproductive, I think, for us to complain about the media coverage. We simply want to be allowed to make our case directly to the voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: So the McCain camp isn't going to gripe about it, apparently, although the chuckles of John McCain seemed pretty clear there.
So what about this question? Are the media hopelessly biased in favor of Obama, or has it begun to turn a little bit? Charles, you thoughts?
KRAUTHAMMER: Hopelessly. I think that's the right word. They're so over the top.
It's different from earlier in the year. Earlier in the year there was a real adolescent swoon over the substance of him. He was going to be the transcender, he was going to be the guy who brings us together.
And then you learn about Jeremiah Wright, and you watch him change his position on half a dozen issues, and people understand he is a politician like anybody else, but smart and clever, and cool about it.
Now, I think, the infatuation has to do with his style. If you look at him on this trip, he really is Kennedy-esque. He just looks great in the shirt sleeves rolled up. You think of Dukakis in the tank, and you think of him in the helicopter with Petraeus. He fits there. He's elegant and smooth in the way he appears, and also —
HUME: It is hard to hit a three-pointer.
KRAUTHAMMER: Hit a three-pointer on live TV —
HUME: With the cameras rolling.
KRAUTHAMMER: And of course you have the underlying political bias. The press corps is overwhelmingly liberal. They generally are pro- Democratic in an election year. And here it's more, I think, biased than ever.
In part, it's because of the fact that the press thinks that for a couple of years it was hoodwinked by the Bush administration after 9/11 into being compliant and complacent, and now it's going to get its real revenge in November.
KONDRACKE: Let's not forget that John McCain used to be the darling of the media during the 2000 campaign, and was lionized by the press. Now he can't figure out how to get back into the limelight. He can't make any news while the press is all off on this new gig with Obama.
And, you know, and he does sell newspapers and magazine. He put his face on the cover —
HUME: "Newsweek" has done, what six covers?
KONDRACKE: And believe me, "Newsweek" puts people on the cover because they think they can sell magazines because of it.
Look, you would think that that the media would at least try to demonstrate a little balance by having sent at least one anchor off with McCain when he made one of his foreign trips.
And it seems to me that the way they can recover, and Katie Couric did a little bit, is by asking really tough questions.
HUME: How did Katie Couric do this?
KONDRACKE: Well, Katie Couric said "Weren't you wrong to oppose the surge?" and asked it about four different times. He ducked and dodged, and all of that.
HUME: And didn't like the question.
KONDRACKE: And he didn't like the question.
And Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams should be doing the same thing. What would have happened, senator, had we pulled out in March of 2008? Would not al-Qaeda — you know, just cite the statistics about the violence. We would have lost. Would we have not? Can't you admit that, senator? That type of thing.
And by the way, why won't you appear on a joint forum with John McCain? Are you afraid of being in the same — I mean, you know, tough questions.
BARNES: That will pass, these tough questions. I mean Charles is right.
And Obama is more interesting and more exciting than John McCain is right now.
HUME: He's the new guy.
BARNES: He's the new guy. And reporters think he's cool and they think he's liberal and they like him and they love the stagecraft and love the style.
And here's what's most interesting, Brit. If you follow some of the few polls that I think are accurate and interesting, and that's particularly the daily tracking of Gallop and Rasmussen. And they have both shown for weeks now, and it hasn't changed, it's in the margin of error. Obama is just a tiny bit ahead, by two or three points, which is amazing to me.
I have been expecting a big jump for Obama, a blowout, you know. He finally had the breakthrough and be ahead by 10 or 12 points. It hasn't happened.
And I think what we see is the same thing we saw in the Democratic primaries, that no matter what he does, he can sit down in the guest of honor chair with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq, and no telling what he will say tomorrow in Berlin, but there is a huge amount of resistance to Obama among American voters, as exciting as he is.
HUME: Does that tell you that the media maybe are doing a better job than some are claiming?
BARNES: No. A good majority of the American people know exactly what the media is up to.
HUME: All right, that's it for the panel.
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