This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from August 19, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everywhere I go, people tell me "I'm getting so nervous. The Republicans are so mean. They're going to swift boat you. They're doing things to you. What are we are going to do?"
And I have to just remind people that it is true that just as John McCain has embraced George Bush's policies, he has embraced his politics. The same guys who brought you George Bush are now trying to package John McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: Senator Barack Obama on the campaign trail talking about concerns that some Democrats have that maybe he is not tough enough or has a glass jaw. So his campaign is fighting back.
The race is tightening. We have some new polls. The Gallup daily tracking poll has been tied essentially tied over the past few days, and now it is tied--45, 44, within the margin of error. And there you see the up and down as the daily Gallup tracking poll goes.
Another poll out today, L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll has it at 45, 43, with Barack Obama in the lead. Of course, this is plus or minus three percent. This L.A. Times poll comes after one in June. They had Obama up 12. They now acknowledge that poll was an outlier.
So what about this race and perhaps Obama's new toughness? Some analytical observations from Bill Sammon, Fox News Washington Deputy Managing Editor--a new title--Jeff Birnbaum, columnist of The Washington Post and Fox News contributor, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributor as well.
Well, Bill, is there a sense that Barack Obama is trying to stiffen his rhetoric on the campaign trail?
BILL SAMMON, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: I think he is going negative now because he noticed that it worked when John McCain went negative two or three weeks ago.
We talked earlier how McCain seems to have gotten his mojo back. He went with these celebrity ads, comparing Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Moses. They gave out these tire gauges to mock Barack Obama. And it has worked. You saw it in the polls.
Barack Obama is now doing that. He is giving out these "Exxon- McCain '08" bumper stickers to mock McCain's ties to the oil business. He is mocking the "gates of hell" rhetoric that McCain always uses.
And I think it is the lead up to the convention when you will see Barack go even more negative as we get into next week.
BAIER: You said ties to the oil business. McCain has made a point that Barack Obama voted for the energy bill, and--
SAMMON: And he voted against it.
BAIER: And he voted against it. So has that stuck?
SAMMON: I don't think it has. I think--you saw McCain today out doing a photo-op on an oil rig to show that he is for offshore drilling and Barack Obama is not.
But what's interesting, I remember when McCain went negative a couple of weeks ago. Every media organization was fretting about the happy warrior has jettisoned his persona as this above it all politician. Now that Obama has gone negative, I haven't seen that sort of, you know, fretting on the part of the media. We'll have to see if that happens.
JEFF BIRNBAUM, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think this is a misnomer in a lot of ways. I think that the Democrats have as part of their mythology that they don't fight back enough.
You have to remember that it was the Clinton campaign that created the war room, which was really a rapid response committee, people who sat around, saw anything that was incoming, and fought back immediately. That's what James Carville was a lot about in the campaigns.
And so the Democrats actually are very good counter and negative campaigners, and I think Obama will be as well.
The real problem, though, isn't this tactical issue. It is what does each candidate actually stand for? And Obama has been at the losing end of a couple very important issues--foreign policy, in particular, recently because of Russia and Georgia. He was slow off the mark there to attack Russia.
And drilling. He can call McCain "Exxon John" if he wants, but three-quarters of the American public disagrees with Obama on that issue. The do want to drill, and that's the real problem.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'd agree that on the policies, on foreign policy and on drilling Obama has been on the wrong end of it.
But I think there is something deeper happening, which is why Obama is panicked and he's going after McCain personally, in that for the last two months the focus has been on Obama himself. It has been all about him, the coverage has been overwhelmingly about him, and his numbers have gone down.
I think two important events-Berlin and Saddleback, the debate that we just had on Saturday. In Berlin he inflicted upon himself a gratuitous injury with his ridiculous grandiosity which McCain cleverly attacked and mocked in those ads.
And then in the debate on the weekend, there was a contrast between McCain's history, character, experience, heroism, and Obama's history, when in comparison, Obama's history and character looked slight. It looks light. It looks thin.
And then that helps to accentuate how ridiculous the grandiosity of the first six months of this campaign were, where he talked about we are the ones who have been waiting before, and the messianic terms in which he had spoken. It's his image which has been under attack, and it can't be repaired. So what he is doing is attacking McCain.
BAIER: And you expect it to get more intense as we head to the conventions?
KRAUTHAMMER: And we will see next week all over the place. There will be attacks on McCain on policy, but actually also on character, if it can be pulled off. I'm not sure it can.
SAMMON: In other words, it has been a rough run on Obama, and Obama wants now to make it a referendum on McCain.
SAMMON: I don't think he will succeed, because McCain is well defined and Obama is not.
BAIER: Last word on this panel.
So what price will Russia pay for its actions in Georgia? That's next. We'll get some thoughts from the panel when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: NATO intends to support the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Georgia, and to support its democratically elected government, its democracy, and to deny Russia the strategic objective of undermining that democracy, of making Georgia weaker, or of threatening Georgia's territorial integrity.
COL. GEN. ANATOLY NOGOVITSYN, RUSSIAN MILITARY DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: After peacekeeping checkpoints have been established, a more intense withdrawal will take place after the 22nd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after an emergency meeting of the NATO foreign ministers. NATO really couldn't decide how Russia could be punished for its actions in Georgia.
And there you hear a Russian general talking about troop withdrawal that he says will happen, but just not yet.
What about the latest on this conflict/war? Back with the panel. Charles--NATO, the U.N. trying to move forward with some kind of resolution, but it looks like it's falling short.
KRAUTHAMMER: What happened in Brussels today was appalling. The NATO statement was embarrassing. It talked about-it was extremely evenhanded. It talked about--it deplored Russian actions, which it said were inconsistent with peacekeeping. No kidding! You invade a neighbor, and it's not peacekeeping--remarkable.
That's what you would expect out of old Europe. Somebody owes the former secretary of defense an apology. He made a distinction between old and new Europe, and we saw old Europe at work today.
A German diplomat did not even want a discussion in NATO. It should have happened in the U.N., where we know nothing will happen because the Russians have a veto.
The British foreign secretary wrote in "The Times of London" that he didn't want to do anything that would essentially isolate Russia, lest it anger the Russians and make them aggressive--remarkable, after this invasion. And he opposed expelling the Russia from the G8, which ought to have happened yesterday.
And the French, for all of Sarkozy's good intentions, was swindled in that agreement.
The only allies who stood up are east Europeans, which is why our secretary of state will be in Warsaw tomorrow, or is there now, ready to sign an agreement on the missile defense. And Ukraine, remarkably, has offered to turn over to us two radar stations that were Soviet and would assist us.
So we can see a huge division here. Europe is unbelievably feckless, and East Europeans are standing up.
BAIER: And on the ground, Jeff, it is clear that Russian troops are not in a hurry to get out of Georgia.
BIRNBAUM: I had a real sense of an alternative universe being played out in all of these statements. When Condoleezza Rice was saying "We will oppose the Russians," what he she was really meaning was the opposite. We can't possibly oppose the Russians. There's nothing he we can do or will do to stop them, speaking of NATO and the west.
And when the Russians said we will withdraw in the next few days. We are already starting to withdraw. What the general really meant was we're not withdrawing an inch. In fact, we're going to continue to entrench ourselves in Georgia, and we're never going to leave.
And so this is the complete opposite. I feel like we need a translation underneath these, just putting the word "not" under what each of the sides are saying, and it's going to stay that way.
And that is really a horrible situation, and is an indication that Russia is thumbing its nose at the west, and may have the impunity to continue to do so.
BAIER: And in Poti, the Black Sea port, we saw the Russian troops took Georgian troops hostage today. This is not a situation where- and there you see video of it-where the Russians are suddenly standing down in these Georgian cities.
SAMMON: Yes. It's not just that they are not withdrawing, they are taking additional prisoners as we speak.
And, you're right, the impotence--there is plenty of impotence to go around. It's not just the U.N. because Russia has the veto power there. It's not just NATO because some of these European powers are worried about being cut off from Russia's fuel.
It is the United States. And it is because we are overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have a president coming into the final few months of his presidency. There is a possibility that he could be replaced by Barack Obama, and I'm sure Putin looks at him as a guy that he could handle.
Look at the caricature of Barack Obama and the caricature of John McCain. John McCain caricature is a war monger. Barack Obama is caricatured as a pacifist. Maureen Dowd calls him "O'Bambi."
Putin and Medvedev would love to get him in office, and then, in their opinion, we would be even more impotent.
BIRNBAUM: I don't think the Russians are playing the presidential political game here. I think they may have that view, although I think-- I feel certain that Obama would disagree with you, just so you know.
SAMMON: ((inaudible)) Maureen Dowd!
BIRNBAUM: But I do think that the Russians do believe that because they are one of the richest nations in the world now because of oil that they can get away with doing what they want no matter who the president of the United States is.
BAIER: Last on this panel.
Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2008 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC (www.ascllc.net), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and ASC LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.