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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Sarah Palin's Faith and U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Iraq

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from September 9, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So the fact that Governor Palin is deeply religious, that's a good thing. I give her all the credit in the world for that, and for people to start poking around and trying to paint that as if it's strange or wrong, I think that's offensive. I don't think we should be doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: John McCain couldn't have said it better himself, but on the left and among some Obama-supporting news media organizations, poking around is what they're doing and more.

You heard some examples earlier from the left-wing Web site Salon.com, and as Bill Sammon pointed out, a couple of our cable competitors have been looking into her and saying some pretty sharp things, including an attack on her as being Elmer gantry.

Some thought on this now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

It appears for many years Sarah Palin attended a Pentecostal church, and she has for the past six or seven years been going to a another church as a garden variety bible church, evangelical Christian bible church.

Fred, the significance of this in terms of the politics of this race and the attacks on her?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I would start out by saying good for Barack Obama. That's the right thing to say. He doesn't want people coming and asking him whether he believes in the resurrection or the divinity of Christ or the virgin birth or other tenets like that of Christianity, and reporters shouldn't.

And there is a double standard here, so they probably won't.

HUME: For the record, I think it's fair to say when he was under attack about Reverend Wright, it wasn't so much what Reverend Wright had said about faith as what Reverend Wright said about the United States of America.

BARNES: And politics, and so on. Yes, that's exactly right.

Sarah Palin, as best I can tell, is an evangelical, pretty much in the mainstream of American Christianity, which means a couple of things, really. It means that you believe that this is a god-centered universe, that this world didn't happen by accident, that god — that there was a higher power, god behind it.

And she also, and this seems to irritate at least a lot of atheists — she prays a lot. She prays for things. You know, she prays for good things to happen in Alaska. I'm sure she will be praying for her son when he goes to Iraq. She'll be praying for the Iraq war to go well.

This is what Christians do, because they believe that god plays a role in their lives. They pray to god so they will follow, that their lives will reflect god's will, and particularly reflect Jesus Christ in their lives, because that's who they believe it is their savior.

But, anyway, I think she is not a theocrat by any means. She certainly is now a-like a Muslim fundamentalist, she is not a theocrat. She is a Christian.

You know, Peggy Noonan wrote something that I thought was interesting a couple of days ago, and she noted, and I really hadn't thought of this, that Sarah Palin is always in a good mood. I have gone back to You Tube and looked at these things and she is always in a good mood.

I couldn't prove that is as a result of her Christian faith. But I know lots of people, I know myself. When I became a Christian, I have gotten in a better mood ever since then.

HUME: What about the years when she was in the Pentecostal church, Mort? Do people in America have any right to be suspicious or reason to fear that she may harbor some exotic beliefs that might affect her stagecraft?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: There is nothing on the record that demonstrates that. She is not known for snake handling. She has never been stein speaking in tongues. That would be a little different, you might say, and might justify some of the left wing attacks on her.

"Salon" magazine, to take one example, cannot decide whether she resembles a Muslim fundamentalist or a wet-wielding dominatrix. So they can't make up their mind.

Look, I, myself, have hyperventilated over her right-wingedness. And there has been a lot of that on the left. And the more you look at it, she is too right wing for my taste, but she is less right wing than she has been made out to be.

She is not, for example, against contraception education, she is not a strict creationist. She believes, although I think it's wrong, you know, not defensible to teach creationism side by side with evolution, and so on. She did not cut funding for special needs education, et cetera.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I must say I never thought of my mood swings as theological, but I may have to reconsider that.

Look, what we decided in our country and in England for 300 years you don't argue theology, because theology of Jews and Christians and Hindus and Muslims looks strange, and the practice is exotic to each other, and you end religious wars.

That is not a subject of attack or ridicule as we have had for the Pentecostalism of Sarah Palin, in the same way we saw about the sneering of Mormonism of Governor Romney.

The real issue, I think, is not a person's theology, but the politics of their church. And if the Democrats want to have a debate about the politics of Obama's church and the politics of Palin's, it is a debate, in the words of Obama, that I think Republicans will welcome.

After all, as you said, there's a distinction here when the pastor, when Obama's pastor, ex-pastor, Reverend Wright stands up and I says that the white government of the United States invented AIDS as a way to kill the black race. That's not the theology. That's not religion. That's raw politics, and it's inciting race hatred.

If any on the left can point out an equivalent act in any of her churches, I'd like to see it.

HUME: So you think it is a debate the Obama campaign would be wise to avoid?

KRAUTHAMMER: And that's why I think Obama was decent in saying he doesn't want a debate on this, but he was also wise. He does not want to have a debate over the politics of their relative churches.

HUME: Panel, thank you. That's it for this segment.

But next up, troop withdrawals from Iraq, troop infusion into Afghanistan-that subject next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Here is the bottom line. While the enemy in Iraq is dangerous, we have seized the offensive. Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight.

As a result we have been able to carry out a policy of return on success, reducing American combat forces in Iraq as conditions on the ground continue to improve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And so 8,000 welcome home and some as yet unspecified number who were headed to Iraq will not go there. They will go instead to Afghanistan — that from the president today.

Charles, what is the importance of this, or is this stuff we already knew?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think this is important because there was pressure on the president to announce a deep reduction. The Joint Chiefs wanted that. I am sure a lot of political advisers had urged that.

But he didn't, and that is part of the, I would say, part of the political heroism he has shown since the beginning of the surge in taking the chance. He understands that a drawdown that would be rapid would jeopardize a war that is in the process of being won.

And he knows he has got two legacies. He kept us safe seven years, for which he has gotten zero credit but which history, I think, will look at with awe. And, secondly, he won the war in Iraq, albeit over too much time and at too high a cost, and that is what he is leaving in place.

He is leaving in place a situation in which if Obama orders a rapid withdrawal and the war is lost, it will be on his conscience and on his legacy.

HUME: Mort?

KONDRAKE: I agree with that. This is what Bush thinks to be a responsible exit from Iraq and which he wants to secure before we get out. And he believes that in order to get political reconciliation you have to have security first, and we don't have guaranteed security yet.

HUME: Yes. I was thought to be the other way around originally, wasn't it? You had to have the reconciliation or you would never be able to suppress the insurrection and the violence. It did not turn out that way, did it?

KONDRAKE: No, exactly. And we are on the way of winning, and that will be part of Bush's legacy and will change historically, if it happens, change this theory that he is the worst president that we have ever had.

Now, but I do think that Obama is right in saying that the Afghan- Pakistan front is now the central front in the war on terrorism because we basically defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq, where it was the central front.

So it is interesting that it is going to be General Petraeus' who is going to be in charge of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and we will see when he takes over Central Command what exactly he wants to have the troop allocations to be in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a tough place, and Obama wants to be a wartime president in Afghanistan, and I want to whether if the going gets rough the Democratic Party, which is now all eager to get out of Iraq and into Afghanistan, will stand behind it.

HUME: That will be interesting.

BARNES: It is a tough place, Afghanistan is, but it is also a very remote place.

This idea that Bush is the worst president is not a theory, Mort, it's an accusation by a bunch of lefties. That's what it is. It's no more than that.

Two big things are going to happen, and I think the president — for the purposes of political reconciliation, we do need to be very cautious and not pull out too soon, and those are the provincial elections which may occur later this year, and the next national election, electing a new parliament, and perhaps a new government next year.

Those are incredibly important, and, obviously, there are forces in Iraq now that are subdued that would like to upset both of those.

HUME: And, Charles, the Afghanistan commitment — a wise move, possible trouble for Obama if he — ?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely. It could be quicksand. The real problem is Pakistan and we can't invade. It's not Afghanistan. It's always going to be a war on a slow burn. The idea of victory, I think is a mistake. It can't be achieved.

HUME: Thanks, panel.

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