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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel Discusses Barack Obama's Historic Achievement

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from August 27, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, and so this moment in history has now formally and officially arrived. Barack Obama by acclamation is not only the nominee for his party of the United States, he is the first African-American to ever ascend to so lofty a place.

As I sit here and watch this, I am joined at my side by my colleague and friend, Juan Williams, to whom we spoke at some length the other night about his thoughts as he watched Mrs. Obama make her speech in a position never before achieved by an African-American woman.

Juan Williams, your thoughts at this moment?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: You see the people crying. There is no doubt this is history. This is not ordinary for us, and it is a moment when I think you are seeing people-the fix was in for Obama. They finally got the space to say we want and everybody to have a moment. But Hillary Clinton bought into the idea for unity, do it.

But beyond the politics, Brit, it really comes down to a moment of tremendous historical achievement that says what's possible for us as Americans, across racial lines, across moments. I think we couldn't have even dreamt about this a generation ago.

HUME: And as he goes forward, he obviously has a rough, tough campaign ahead. We have already seen vivid examples of that on both sides.

If Barack Obama does not win this nomination, to what extent will that diminish this achievement so far?

WILLIAMS: You mean if he doesn't win the election?

HUME: The presidency.

WILLIAMS: I don't think it diminishes it at all. I think it was a tremendous, tremendous achievement. I can't think of any other black politician in the country who could have risen to this height at this time.

And when I think of my peers, or I think of the elders in our community, I just think they must say, you know, this is unbelievable to have the opportunity to see this in our lifetime.

And I think that goes across racial lines that people to see this is possible only in only one country where you can have a minority candidate acclaimed by the majority of another race—that's America. That's our country.

HUME: And Juan, you have been, as an observer of all this, one who watched this historic development with as much feeling for it as anyone. And yet, you have not been at all times a booster of the Obama campaign. What do you think won it for him?

WILLIAMS: Clearly, they know how to count. And they were counting delegates from the start, and they ran a micro-campaign that was focused especially on the caucus states.

He tapped into the idealism of so many young people, and I might add again, Brit, young white people were his initial base of support. And they see in him in this call for change a tremendous revolution in terms of American politics.

And I know through the eyes of hardened people who cover politics every day, but it may not seem real. It may seem a fantasy.

But for them they got out there and worked. And even this summer, a lot of those people were volunteering, gave money through the Internet, revolutionized how campaigns are funded.

And so I think when you look back on it, it is the caucuses. It is the campaign financing. He raised bundles of money that has made the difference for Barack Obama.

HUME: You and I had an argument, I remember, on "FOX News Sunday" early in the year as Obama began to surge to a pool, and I contended that Obama would actually be helped particular within the Democratic Party by the fact that he was African-American. Your view is that it would always be a hindrance. Your views now? Do you soften that view at all?

WILLIAMS: Yes. I think I was wrong. I think Obama successfully flipped the switch in some way. He put some people on the defensive in some cases, notably the Clintons, in terms of any criticism of him having tinges of racism.

And I think he made it, especially for those young people, an opportunity to say we are beyond some of the racist past that has so polarized us as Americans.

And so people thought this is a refreshing thing. This is an opportunity to heal all wounds. That really did help him.

Does that mean it made all the difference? I don't think Jesse Jackson could have done this. I don't think that Shirley Chisolm could have done this. I don't think Al Sharpton could have done this. It was Barack Obama with his approach, his unique history, and his capacity as a speaker to appeal to people across racial lines.

HUME: Juan, it's great to have your thoughts.

Let's bring in our other panelists who are joining me here at the desk and watching this historic event unfold. Fred Barnes, your thoughts?

FRED BARNES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think what has gotten Barack Obama this far is his speech. It's the great speeches he gives.

I remember watching the one on You Tube that he gave back in Iowa at that dinner in December, and my reaction to it was that this man is probably going to be president of the United States. And now he is running.

HUME: Fred, I remember you saying it.

BARNES: And now he is halfway there.

HUME: I remember you said to me on the telephone, you said "Did you hear him last night?" I said "Yes, I did." You said "I think we were listening to a man who could and may well be the next president of the United States."

BARNES: Without his speeches, he could not have beaten Hillary Clinton. I agree with Juan that they counted well, but the speeches electrified to people.

HUME: Mara, your thoughts?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: As Juan said, he is a man of uncommon talents and abilities, and he has a story and a narrative that really captured people's imaginations, and this country was ready for him to come this far.

I think what happened tonight on the floor was perhaps the real turning point in this convention. They have now reconciled. I think this was the moment.

HUME: They?

LIASSON: The Democrats.

HUME: You mean the Democrats or the candidate?

LIASSON: I mean the Democrats. I'm not talking about the candidates personally.

HUME: So your view is that all of the hard feelings among the Clinton supporters are over?

LIASSON: No, no. The hard feelings are still there, but I think that there was a catharsis. You saw it right there. This party has come together. And now for the rest of this convention, tonight and tomorrow, it's all going to be about Obama.

HUME: Bill Kristol, your thoughts?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STADNARD: It is a historic day, a wonderful day for the country that Senator Obama was nominated. It also is reminder of how incredibly unpredictable politics is.

Four years ago would we have said that then state Senator Barack Obama, who had given a very fine key note speech at the convention, would be the nominee of the Democratic Party running even with the Republican nominee and with a 50 percent chance to be the president of the United States?

HUME: It is remarkable in that sense.

And let's bring in now my colleague, host of "FOX News Sunday" Chris Wallace, who is down at the podium. He has attended many conventions, none that has done anything like this. Chris, your thoughts?

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Well, it really was an electric moment.

And Mara is exactly right. I know everybody laughed when Hillary Clinton said we needed a catharsis, but it does seem to have been a cathartic moment. I don't know if you could hear, but the song they were playing was "Love train," and the delegates were all swaying back and forth like. And it was one big love train here on the floor.

It was a magical moment.

Look, I got to second everything that Juan said, and it was so moving to hear the way he said it. I got to say, I have been covering politics a long time. I never thought in my lifetime that a major party would nominate an African-American.

That doesn't mean he would want it any other way, that we wouldn't judge his ideas and his issues and policies very harshly and critically, but this is a very, very special moment. And, as Juan said, only in America.

HUME: And, you know Chris, that's a point well made, because I remember in covering the campaign of Jesse Jackson back in 1988, that, obviously, there was a lot of racial sensitivity about that, and my approach was to treat him the way I would any other candidate.

I called him "Sir," and I asked tough questions. He had no problem with that, and one trusts that Barack Obama will have no trouble with the kind of scrutiny he has gotten. He certainly doesn't seem to have a lot of trouble with it so far, has he.

WALLACE: No, absolutely not. And we're certainly going to give it to him whether he likes it or not.

HUME: All right Chris.

Indeed, perhaps that will be the greatest token of all of the fact that this man occupies a place in American politics like any other, white or black.

That's it for "Special Report."

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