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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel Discusses Obama's Controversial Views on Abortion and President Bush's Legacy in the Making

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from August 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR RICK WARREN: At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the moment of conception.

I have a 25-year pro-life record in the congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: There you see Senators McCain and Obama answering the same question from Rick Warren at Saturday night's forum at the Saddleback Church out in California.

That has posed a lot of questions about the issue of abortion this fall and a lot of questions in today's town hall for John McCain about his possible running mate, whether he may be pro-choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We're going through the process. I said Saturday night I have a proud pro-life record in Congress, and I'm proud of that.

I believe that life applies to those that are not born as well as those that are born.

I will nominate a person to be vice president, my running mate, who shares my principles, my values, and my priorities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: He was asked the same question three times at this town hall.

Some analytical observations about this issue from Bill Sammon, Fox News Washington Deputy Managing Editor, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and FOX News contributor, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, also a FOX News contributor.

Charles, first let's talk about John McCain, getting all these questions about a possible pro-choice running mate. Is it a problem for Republicans if he does make that choice?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Absolutely it is, and I don't understand why, what it will take for him to get the message that to pick a pro-choice running mate would be an act of suicide. It would be an unforced error of a towering proportion.

Why he is even thinking of it, I don't understand. He did he so well on Saturday night. He shored up, I think, in that one debate, in that one hour, his constituency on the right. Anybody who had doubts about him on the social issues, I think was entirely reassured.

And then he flirts all week with having a running mate — look, he is a man in his 70's. Whoever he picks is a man that is going to have a legacy in the party. And the party is committed to a pro-life position.

Joe Lieberman is great. I love him. I think he made a great Secretary of Defense. But what would he add to McCain as a running mate? He would only detract and cause real anger and confusion in the ranks.

I don't understand why he would do this, unless it's to set it up and whack it out of the park the other way. But still, why the tension?

BILL SAMMON, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: There is one theory makes the rounds that he actually wants Romney, but was worried that the base would be grumbling because Romney was once pro- choice.

And so then he instead floats the name of Lieberman and Ridge, who are pro-choice, and that gets the conservatives all riled up, and then he comes and saves the day and says I'm going to pick Romney, and then the conservatives are relieved because he at least is currently is pro-life.

BAIER: Do you buy it?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Oh, please! Too clever by half.

Look, I don't know why he has been doing this. My only theory is he actually likes Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman. If he was left to his own devices, he would pick those people.

They happen to have a problem in the party that McCain happens to belong to — they are pro-choice and they are unacceptable.

It is also true that in this race, where McCain has consolidated his base and Obama has consolidated his base, and McCain is running a teeny bit ahead among independents, he needs to run even better among independents because of the shifts in party I.D. There are just not enough Republicans this year.

I don't think that picking a pro-choice running mate is a way to do better among independents. I think it is true he has to do that.

I think it is a personal thing. I think he's a visceral guy. He wants to get the vice president that he wants, but he can't have him.

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely.

BAIER: Bill, let's talk about Barack Obama. He is being targeted by pro-life groups over a situation in the state Senate, a piece of legislation that essentially protected infants born alive after botched abortions.

SAMMON: Right.

BAIER: He was asked about this in a CBN interview Saturday night. Let's take a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: They have not been telling the truth. And, you know, I hate to say that people are lying, but here is the situation where folks are lying.

So for people to suggest that I am the Illinois medical society, so Illinois's doctors were somehow in favor of withholding lifesaving support from an infant born alive, is ridiculous. It defies common sense, and it defies imagination.

BAIER: Pro-life groups say it demonstrates his extremism. Explain the background on this.

SAMMON: He is calling the pro-lifers liars because — and it turns out they're not liars. They said, correctly, that he voted against a bill while in the Illinois legislature that would have protected born-alive infants that were born as a result of botched abortions.

He voted against that bill. He said at the time, well, there was a national bill that says, you know — there's a national bill that I would support, but this state billion undermines Roe vs. Wade.

The problem is when you read the state bill and you read the national bill, they are virtually identical. So the Obama campaign has had to back pedal a little bit from the accusation that the pro-lifers are liars, and now they are putting this spin that says, well, what he was talking about was a group of bills that he was considering, you know. There was a companion bill that went along with this state infant born- alive bill.

And the pro-lifers are saying said, wait a minute, these are totally different pieces of legislation. You voted no on this born alive infant bill. Forget about what you said about some companion bill. You're just trying to wiggle out of this.

BAIER: Charles, quickly, is this a big issue in the fall?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it could be only because it shows extreme position on abortions. It is essentially infanticide.

And also because if he has lied about it and he has covered it up over the last four years, and then he accused those who found out of being liars, it gets to him on the character issue.

LIASSON: Yes, I think Obama has been trying to find common ground on this issue. He won't be able to. I think the differences will be simple and stark as soon as John McCain picks a pro-life running mate.

BAIER: That's it for this panel.

Is optimism over Iraq giving President Bush some PR points in his final months? We'll talk about that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Well, President Bush spoke today to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, speaking about success in Iraq.

Meantime, there are a number of groups that are reassessing the Bush administration foreign policy. Foreign Policy magazine says signs of progress in Iraq have left America's top foreign policy experts experiencing a rare sensation — optimism.

And take a look at this poll. Foreign policy experts say the surge has had a positive impact — 60 percent believe the surge was failing one year ago; 53 percent.

We're back with our panel. Charles, is there a turn? Is there a rehabilitation of the assessment of Bush foreign policy?

KRAUTHAMMER: There is. It will continue after his presidency. I think he will be looked at like Harry Truman, a man who left relatively unpopular in the middle of a war.

I think Iraq is resolving itself. If the trajectory continues into a war we are going to end up with a very important ally in the war on terror in the middle of the Middle East — at a high cost, which is why there is so much bitterness over this legacy.

But I think that will become obvious in time, and I think it will be his legacy. I think his failing will be not stopping Iran on its nuclear weapons program.

BAIER: Mara, what's your take?

LIASSON: Russia, too. There are definitely some exceptions to this.

I think the surge appears to be working, and people believe that. I think that the — well, it will take some time. You know, we need a little more distance to see if it will really pan out.

But I do think that the real measure of this that Barack Obama is not going to precipitously withdraw from Iraq if he is elected president. I think he will make a show of withdrawing combat troops, but, lo and behold, there will be a BIG residual force, and he will build on the success of the surge.

BAIER: But do you think in the coming months we will see more of this, that the Bush administration may have been right on a number of fronts?

LIASSON: I think — Barack Obama on the last campaign swing he did was the most positive about the surge that he has been. He said that doesn't justify the initial mistake going into Iraq, but he has been changing his tone a little bit about the success of the surge.

SAMMON: It's not so much about Barack Obama's opinion of the Bush presidency. It's about the popular opinion, media, authors, and so forth. There was a Newsweek cover last week that said what Bush got right. Bob Woodward is coming out with a new book supposedly that is more positive.

I remember Dan Quayle, '93, "The Atlantic Monthly" had a cover that said "Dan Quayle was right." This is from a liberal magazine which, Like every other liberal media organization had relentlessly ridiculed Dan Quayle the entire time he was a vice president.

And I think the same thing will happen with Bush. You're starting to see the very beginnings of that now, and it will take many years. But eventually this nonsense about him being the worst president in U.S. history is all going to go away.

BAIER: Does that tide, Charles, translate to John McCain come the fall?

SAMMON: I think it changes the mood in the country.

Two years ago when the Republicans were crushed in the elections there was a sour mood because we were losing the war. Winning the war, as we are now, changes the mood.

It's not going to have a direct effect on McCain, but it allows Republicans to run without the fear of the huge wave which would have happened otherwise and did happen two years ago.

BAIER: Last word for this panel.

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