This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from September 2, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I noticed The New York Times this morning had three stories on the front page that are essentially about Sarah Palin's children. I don't think they get it. I don't think they have a clue as to what is going on in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME: Fred Thompson there on the subject of the coverage of Sarah Palin's and her pregnant daughter, which has been a very big deal, at least in the news media's coverage of this convention so far.
Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, the executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, FOX News contributors all.
Juan, we haven't heard you on this subject. Your thoughts about the extent of the excitement over Sarah Palin's daughter and her situation?
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think it came as a surprise to everybody involved. And there was an element, I think, that the media saw of hypocrisy involved, of someone who had been talking about, you know, being so strongly for family values would suddenly be discovered to a have a 17-year-old daughter in her home who was pregnant and no one had been told she was pregnant.
HUME: Well, the McCain camp had.
WILLIAMS: Apparently, no — the McCain camp had made the decision not to tell the American people when they announced that Sarah Palin was going to be their vice presidential election.
HUME: Why would they do that?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think the problem then became that other people had all sorts of scurrilous rumors bouncing around, and they came out and said in order to rebut those rumors. And then they said what else don't we know about Sarah Palin?
HUME: So your view is that all this coverage is legitimate?
WILLIAMS: It's not legitimate to say that the scurrilous stuff, un-based, with no reporting and no proof whatsoever-I think that was beyond the pale, especially getting into the family stuff.
But once that was out and they made this decision, it sort of opened up this question about what don't we know about Sarah Palin, and then all these issues about, well, Sarah Palin — for example, I didn't know she was a member of an independent party in Alaska in the 1990s that sought to have Alaska secede from the U.S.
I didn't know any of this.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: This is very revealing.
BARNES: It is.
KRISTOL: And this is the excuse journalists now use to engage in a totally scurrilous feeding frenzy. They create a phony feeding frenzy, and then they report, hey, there is a feeding frenzy about Sarah Palin. We didn't know all this.
It's not their obligation to tell you this. The McCain campaign vetted Sarah Palin to the satisfaction of John McCain. He nominated her as his running mate. She is the governor of Alaska. She was vetted by the voters of Alaska and will be vetted by the citizens of the United States.
But the media thinks, "We're the gatekeepers. You are supposed to tell us everything. You went around us to make this nomination." It is really unbelievably outrageous.
There is a new low just about an hour ago. U.S. weekly magazine- -
HUME: Us Weekly.
KRISTOL: Yes, Us Weekly, which is part of Time Warner, has put out an alert having an issue coming out Friday with a photo of Sarah Palin on the cover, and the headline is "Babies, Lies, and Scandals, John McCain's Vice President."
Mark Neschis, the head of corporate communications at Time Warner, who worked in the Clinton White House, had an e-mail saying "You might find this helpful as this news plays out."
"This news plays out." They invent this news, then they put out a cover with scandal, lies. And there is no scandal. There is no evidence of lies. There is not a single lie that Sarah Palin is alleged to have told. It is a new low for the media.
WILLIAMS: You are missing the story so completely.
Let me just say something — what we saw even today was the former speaker of the house in Alaska, a Republican, the head of the Republican Party in Alaska, saying "Nobody ever asked us, nobody from the McCain campaign said ever came to us and say what about Sarah Palin?" That's vetting.
HUME: What does that have to do with the daughter?
WILLIAMS: That's a separate issue. We are talking about vetting and whether or not the McCain campaign in terms of exercising judgment in picking a VP nominee was thorough. And what it seems to be the case is they were not.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: According to the McCain campaign, they knew about this. They certainly planned to disclose it. They didn't want to disclose it on the day they announced it. No right-minded political candidate would do that.
Now, I have a feeling they would have liked to have announced it after the convention, but because of the blogs and the rumors about the fact that the allegation that Sarah Palin wasn't the mother of her fifth child, their hand was forced.
And they took advantage of Monday, a national holiday and a day when there was a hurricane to kind of dump all this stuff out.
And don't forget-what they did was classic campaign disclosure. They put out the news about the baby. They also put out the news about the DUI the husband got 22 years ago and the fishing license violation —
HUME: Why in the world would a 22-year-old driving under the influence — 22-year-old conviction for that of the husband make a particle of difference? I don't understand that.
LIASSON: It doesn't make a difference, but the campaign has to put this out because what they don't want is some story in the news saying, "Ah-ha, we found out about the criminal record of the husband."
This is what everybody does. You dump all this stuff out — not prophylactically-
LIASSON: Proactively, yes.
What I'm say something is this is what the campaign wants to do. You want to disclose it yourself. You don't want it to be in the media.
Now, in terms of this other stuff that you're talking about, I think that today the Obama campaign was on its absolute best behavior. Certainly Obama himself set the tone.
They are not talking about this. They are talking about the fact that, in fact, she was for the bridge to nowhere before she was against it, or she actually looked for earmarks for her town, but they are not touching this stuff, because I do think there is a potential for a backlash.
Now, it is also true that, of course, Republicans would rather be talking about Sarah Palin's accomplishments as governor, not her family story. The family story doesn't hurt, but I think there is potential for a backlash among Republicans who need to be energized —
HUME: Let me ask you that question, Fred. Do these stories, as some in the media have suggested, dampen the support of Republicans for Sarah Palin, or, as Mara suggests, perhaps reinforce it?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't know that they reinforce it, but I really don't think the dampen it.
I have been keeping a list of the things that the media has come out with, at least some parts of it that turned out to be wrong, including Juan thing about the Independence party. She wasn't a member there, she was a Republican the whole time. She didn't back Pat Buchanan. She was vetted.
When you read how thoroughly she was vetted, I am sorry they missed the House Speaker, but I think they hit everybody else up there. They spent days and days up and interviewed her for a long time.
Look, Bill is right. There is real news and there is media- inspired news, media-created news. And this debate over the motherhood of Sarah Palin and whether she's a good mother or not with her five kids is totally media created and it's utterly phony.
It was not one that was ever raised and shouldn't have been with the Obamas when they were traveling. What about their two girls?
You know, the answer is about whether she can be a good mother is twofold. One, Bill, remember when you or I were up there and we had lunch with her at the governor's office and there were kids running all over are the place? Her kids are there all the time, even when she is having gubernatorial events. And secondly, it doesn't take a bridge — a village to raise a family, but it does take a child-it takes a family. She has a mother and a father and brothers and sisters and so on, and they help out in something like this.
LIASSON: And her husband!
BARNES: And she's got a husband, too.
HUME: All right, up next, Republicans resume their speaking tonight. We will preview that next.
HUME: Later tonight, though not all from that platform, we will hear from President Bush. We also will hear later from Fred Thompson and Senator Joe Lieberman.
Back with our panel here now. Truncated speeches moved to today, some of today's to tomorrow. What is the net effect of all of this, Fred?
HUME: Really? Why?
BARNES: Because they could easily get all these speeches in two days. They like to spread it out and let more people speak, and Republicans like it. The parties like to do this. People come in the Friday before and stay the whole week. Parties like this.
But you know what I'm looking for tonight? Joe-mentum.
I think we're going to see a very interesting speech from Joe Lieberman and what he says about Obama.
LIASSON: Look, I think the upshot of this will be the conventions will be shrunken forever. If this works out, there will be no need to ever have four days again.
And I don't think last night was a great loss. I agree, they have built up, I'm sure, a very compelling narrative that was going to build each day one after the other, but I think it's fine that they lost a day.
KRISTOL: As much as I love Joe Lieberman, the highlight tonight will be the Fred Thompson speech. And it will be the sentence that they have released ahead of time when his says "Let's be clear. The selection of Governor Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic."
And that will bring the hall to uproarious applause, and correctly so, because the media assault on Palin is driven by panic that she will succeed. They want to destroy her before she has a chance to make her own case to the American people.
HUME: So Thompson clearly, as has been reported, will turn his speech into a rousing, what he hopes will be a rousing defense of her?
KRISTOL: I think just a little bit of it. I think most of the speech will be about Senator McCain, and they have been close friends for quite awhile. So it will be a testimonial to McCain. But I think he will take an opportunity to make clear that the media assault on Palin is because they are scared that she will succeed. They know she is a threat, a game changer, a threat to the Obama ticket, and they want to destroy her and destroy McCain.
WILLIAMS: What he needs to do-he will do that, and it will have just have the reaction that you say. But he needs to shore it up, because I think people are worried about, a little more anxious today than yesterday about what might be the next shoe. What else is there out there on Sarah Palin. So despite your pumping of Sarah Palin, I think there is this concern about where exactly this process is going.
Joe Lieberman, by the way, if Joe Lieberman is here supposedly to try to build the idea that John McCain works across partisan lines and he's that kind of lines. But Joe Lieberman has almost no credibility with Democrats at this point.
So he's really here I think just to give testimonial to John McCain as a good man, and maybe his foreign policy expertise.
LIASSON: Independents are important. Joe Lieberman is somebody who can speak to them.
The Republican base, as much as McCain is trying to energize them, and he has to, and it's working with Sarah Palin, is not enough this year. He needs independents. The Republican base is smaller than it used to be.
HUME: Thanks, panel.
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