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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on What to Expect From Hillary Clinton's Speech and How John McCain Is Trying to Woo Hillary Voters

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from August 26, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, they all say it, the Clinton aides do, some of them even joining in briefings with Obama aides. And they're all saying the same thing, that when Hillary Clinton steps up there on the platform tonight, she will hit it out of the park for Barack Obama.

Well, some thoughts on this on whether she will or how the delegates will respond from Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol, Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, FOX News contributors all.

Mara, they all say it. Do you have a sense that the high commands of the two campaigns have integrated? But what about Hillary, and what about Bill?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: OK, I think Hillary is going to do exactly what they say she's going to do. She is going to give a full throated, completely 100 percent supportive speech for Barack Obama.

And one of the problems of this convention is conventions are infomercials. They're completely controlled events. There's no suspense. But there is one shred of suspense here, and I think all of us are building it up as much as we can, which is how will she act? How will her supporters act?

Her supporters are, I think, the real wildcard. I think Hillary will be a complete professional, because her future depends on her looking like she is completely behind him. If she loses, she does not want to be blamed at all for undermining him.

Now, her supporters are a different story. My understanding is that slowly but surely they are coming onboard. But there are plenty of them who do not want to vote for him, and, of course, John McCain is taking advantage of at least one of them who is willing to be filmed in an ad of his—

HUME: Yes, that ad is pretty compelling stuff. We'll talk about that ad a little bit later.

But, Fred, your thoughts on this—what about her, what about them, meaning the nearly half of the convention delegates that were for her?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Look, she'll — I mean, the word is exactly what we hear from Mara, that Hillary will be over the top in her praise of Barack Obama. And, as a result, that won't be credible.

I think all her delegates will cheer, and that will be fine. But, you know, there's this huge group of people who voted for Hillary in the primaries out there, a lot of her white working class Democrats. Are they going to change their mind and all of a sudden rush to Barack Obama because of some high octane, over the top speech by Hillary Clinton at the convention? I doubt it.

HUME: Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Obama will have to make the case, and that's why the Thursday night's speech is so important.

But Bill Clinton was wonderful today. He was a reminder of why Barack Obama --

HUME: Remind everybody of what he said.

KRISTOL: He was speaking to a bunch of foreign diplomats. It was really, with all due respect to foreign diplomats, not a must performance for a former president. We all get invited to speak to these groups, and, frankly, sometimes you say no-

HUME: Ususally.

KRISTOL: But Bill Clinton couldn't resist. The day his wife was speaking to the Democratic Convention, giving remarks in front of press, impromptu, and he said, you know, American presidential elections, voters prefer the candidate with more experience. They don't agree with him on everything, but they think he will deliver. They don't vote for the candidate they agree with who can't deliver.

And this was taken, and then there was this moment of silence, and President Clinton said this has nothing to do with the current situation.

And this is why Hillary Clinton is not the vice presidential nominee at the Democratic Party, actually. I do believe --

HUME: Because of him?

KRISTOL: Yes. I think Senator Obama would have accepted-his cool relationship with Senator Clinton, that has happened before with Presidents and Vice President. They thought Bill Clinton was uncontrollable. They were right.

And I did hear from the McCain campaign today they're thinking of just shutting down their whole opposition, research, and all those ads, and just paying Bill Clinton to speak every day for the next 60 days!

HUME: Juan, what about it? We expect a rousing speech supporting Obama tonight. The wildcard, to some extent, is the delegates. We don't know how they're going to go. But, eventually, maybe they'll come along, as Fred and others have suggested.

But then again you have all these Hillary voters out there, a lot of them, more than I ever imagined, at this stage still seem to be unconvinced.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think they're unconvinced in part because they think that Hillary Clinton has been dissed, that she hasn't been treated with respect.

And I think this extends to her husband, and I think this extends to the issue that I hear from so many of the Clinton people — money. They raised money. They have done a great deal in terms of trying help Barack Obama raise money, raised millions for him.

But when it comes to helping her retire their debt, suddenly they don't show up at the party.

HUME: How much of that, do you think, is occasioned by the fact that this basically is retiring money that they owed themselves, that she borrowed from her own funds to finance her campaign? They are basically replenishing Hillary's personal coffers.

WILLIAMS: It gets worse than that, because people have feelings about Mark Penn, who was her chief strategist and who made millions off of this. And even Clinton supporters question why he is getting all these millions for a failed campaign.

But a deal is a deal. And the deal was we will come onboard, but you have to help us, the Clinton people, retire some of this debt, and apparently there are some feelings there.

And there are feelings, similarly, about the fact that there has been a lack of communication. I mean, such a basic thing with both Hillary Clinton, but especially with Bill Clinton, not getting him in the loop, not having him act as senior advisor, the former president, the great one, which is what his ego demands.

LIASSON: Bill Clinton is more transparent than people give him credit for. Howard Wolfson wrote a piece in "The New Republic" in which he pretty much stated what Bill Clinton had wanted from Barack Obama.

He wants to have the record clear that he was not a racist. And that's something that has wounded Bill Clinton deeply, and he wants Obama to make it clear to everyone that he doesn't think that about Bill Clinton.

HUME: Obama has to get up and make a statement like that, that "I don't think Bill Clinton is a racist"?

LIASSON: That is what he wants, a line in the speech.

BARNES: He wants a lot more than that. He thinks he has been dissed. He was a two-term president, a Democrat, and Obama has called him twice.

The fact is Bill Clinton and Barack Obama do not get along. They are not on the same wavelength. Hillary Clinton may have reconciled herself to running around the country for the next two months saying how much she likes Barack Obama, but Bill Clinton has not.

HUME: The bottom line question, of course, is whether, in the end, the Hillary voters in, you know, nearly 100 percent, will end up voting for Obama. Having not heard her tonight, we may think differently afterwards, but what do you think, Juan?

WILLIAMS: I think this is a hard slog. Even at the convention today, people were saying they feel funny wearing a Hillary button. Those are hard feelings.

KRISTOL: Most of them will, but right now not quite enough are to be putting Obama over the top.

HUME: Enough, in the end, do you think, Mara, to perhaps change the outcome of the election?

LIASSON: I don't know about that. I think Hillary Clinton voters, the ones who aren't coming over, just represent his biggest problem voters, which are white working class voters.

HUME: Some who might be eligible for McCain anyway?

LIASSON: I think that's his biggest problem. I think the Obama camp is hoping to, a, get as much of them as they can from Hillary's good offices and other efforts, and, b, make up for the lack of the ones they can't get by expanding the electorate in other areas like with young voters and new registered voters.

BARNES: A lot of these voters are not ones that are particularly thrilled with Hillary Clinton, but they are people who voted for her mainly because they resisted Barack Obama.

HUME: We will talk further about this issue and how John McCain is trying to woo the disaffected Hillary-ites. We'll talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a proud Hillary Clinton Democrat. She had the experience and judgment to be president. Now, in a first from me, I'm supporting a Republican—John McCain. I respect his maverick and independent streak, and now he's the one with the experience and judgment.

A lot of Democrats will vote McCain. It's OK, really.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Back with our panel. Well, that ad with a certain tongue in cheek quality to it represents an effort by McCain to try to steal some of the thunder this week. Fred, what do you think?

BARNES: I thought it was a pretty good ad. It was a perky woman who looked like she was made for that ad.

There's some question of how broadly are the McCain people showing these ads, buying time, but they're certainly getting a lot of free time, and this is one of the good things that has happened.

When you look—I got an e-mail from my son this morning, saying "Heard you were soft on Michelle Obama." And I thought she did well. But other than that —

HUME: They are putting in an ad, you know, with you in it, Fred. The Obama camp would have it out tonight. It will be on You Tube by 9:00 p.m.

BARNES: on the other hand, if you look at what has happened at this convention so far, you have a continuing feud between at least Bill Clinton and Obama. You have the Biden dip—it wasn't a Biden bounce. It was a Biden dip. McCain has jumped ahead for the first time in the daily tracking by Gallup.

And now you have House speaker Nancy Pelosi picking a fight on abortion with the Catholic bishops! That's a loser.

HUME: Mara?

LIASSON: Look, I think that McCain has really made a big effort to woo Hillary supporters. He's got Carley Fiorina meeting with Democratic women, and at every opportunity—this is the last in a series of ads. There was one that lamented that Hillary had been dissed because she was passed over for vice president.

I guess Bill was floating the idea of Hillary for John McCain's pick.

And I think he will make headway. But at the end of this week, this party will be unified.

KRISTOL: I don't think John McCain should pick Hillary. I now think he should pick Deborah Barsotovich. She did terrific in the ad.

I think the McCain campaign has done a very good job of tactically causing trouble for Obama, and almost getting in his head, I feel like. They're now reacting to McCain's little tactical jabs instead of trying to step back and stay on message.

This is supposed to be their week, and they're busy putting out press releases criticizing McCain ads. They changed their slogan this week from "Change we can believe in" to "Change we need."

HUME: Some independent groups put out an ad on Bill Ayers(ph), and the Obama campaign released an ad to counter that ad.

KRISTOL: Right. So I think they sort of messed up what was a very disciplined and stable Obama campaign in the primaries.

WILLIAMS: What surprises me is the polling has a lack of bounce for Biden. It is perceptible—you think back to what happened with Kerry and Edwards or even before that with Gore and Lieberman, they were four or five-point bounces. There is nothing for Joe Biden.

I'm not sure why, but my sense is that there are bigger issues here that are weighing on Barack Obama, and people still haven't developed that level of trust and comfort, which is why we saw what we saw last night, the effort to normalize him and humanize him.

HUME: Folks, you may have heard this welling up of the sound and the roars of approval from the delegates, and you are wondering who is down there speaking. Well, we can tell you it was one Dennis Kucinich.

He has just finished there. You see he has just left the lectern down there, left the stage. And what had happened is the delegates have just begun to arrive. There weren't many of them here, and now they're here, and Dennis Kucinich fired a little red meat at them, and they loved it.

That is it for the panel.

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