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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Whether the Rescue Bill Will Pass in the Senate; Ifill as Debate Moderator Fair and Balanced?

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from October 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To Democrats and Republicans who have opposed this plan, I say step up to the plate. Let's do what's right for the country at this time, because the time to act is now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: Barack Obama in, of all places, the United States Senate, the place he hasn't spent much time, nor of course has John McCain of late as both are campaigning for president.

And Obama is saying the same thing McCain has been saying — let's step up to the plate and pass this economic rescue measure.

It is hard to tell how Obama's remarks were taken. Bernie Sanders, who is a socialist who was sitting behind him, he looked like he was bored to tears. I guess Obama is not nearly far enough left to suit him, but who knows?

Anyway, the question, of course, is, will this thing pass tonight, and if so, should it? And what will happen in the House?

Some thoughts on it from Bill Sammon, FOX News deputy managing editor, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and FOX News contributor and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, all, of course, are FOX News contributors.

Bill, what do you think? They got the votes and the changes to the package-done it good, done it harm? What is the price of getting it passed?

BILL SAMMON, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: It's funny. Last night we talked that the bill would have to either move a little to the left or move a little to the right or they would do a fig leaf, which was the FDIC raising the FDI insurance from $100,000 to $250,000.

It turns out they did the fig leaf.

HUME: Why is that just a fig leaf?

SAMMON: Because both sides agreed to it. Both Obama and McCain —

HUME: Why does it make it a fig leaf?

SAMMON: Because it is not an ideological issue, as opposed to some of these other things, like the tax breaks that have been added into it.

HUME: These tax breaks, if I understand it, there are a lot of them, but they are extensions of current law, of tax breaks that are currently in the law, right?

SAMMON: Right. But Democrats didn't — several House Democrats came out yesterday saying they did not want to see this. And this will be an issue when this bill goes out to the House to see if they can get those tax breaks out of it.

My point is that here you have the Democrats controlling the Congress, and yet the bill has moved a little to the right. I still have — I'm not 100 percent convinced that it will pass tonight.

I think it probably will because the public saw what the markets did after the House defeated this bill. And, also, the proponents of the bailout are doing a little bit better job of convincing people that it's about credit market seizing out(ph), not bailing out the fat cats on Wall Street.

And so you are starting to see some of the excellent stories we have done on this program and elsewhere, people are realizing it is affecting auto dealerships, it is affecting — can I get a loan.

And it's starting to come home, and I think the public opinion is shifting a little bit more behind this bailout.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes. I think it's going to pass. I think it has been sweetened just enough to bring on Republicans. And, yes, if it moved to the right, it is because it had to because Republicans were the ones who were balking.

They were the ones, believe it or not, the House Republicans who first floated this idea of raising the FDIC insurance-it really doesn't have anything to do with the underlying problems that caused this crisis, but it does stop a bank run.

HUME: And bank runs have been part of the problem.

LIASSON: Yes, it has been one of the symptoms of this.

But there is going to be all sorts of sweeteners to Democrats too. The famous extenders, extension of the tax credit helps Republicans. But there will be something for Democrats, too-=-maybe unemployment insurance.

HUME: That's not in the bill now, is it?

LIASSON: No. But the problem is when you move to the right, you have to make sure you don't lose some Democrats on the other side. I think just enough members are going to go for t.

HUME: So we are looking at something that will be passed by the Senate and then will have to be further sweetened in the House, then sent back to the Senate if it passes the House to see the Senate so they can pass —

LIASSON: Yes.

HUME: They both eventually have to pass the same bill.

LIASSON: That's right. And that could happen by the end of the week.

HUME: All right, Charles, your thoughts.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't think the bill has moved left or right. I think it has moved ugly. It has ornaments which are truly disgraceful.

This is a national emergency, and a lot of money will be spent or at least risked. Everybody understands it is a crisis that will change capitalism, it will change our system in a fundamental way.

And you look at what's been added on the bill in these tax ex — let me read you Section 503-"Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for children."

HUME: But this is an extension of breaks for those things are already in the law. These are current law.

KRAUTHAMMER: They were going to expire, and a few are being extended, including the wooden arrows, wool research, money for American Samoa, and auto racing tracks. This, in a bill that is being sold as emergency and that's going to revolutionize our economy.

Look, I would support it even with all of this ugliness, because it has to pass. I think a lot is at stake, especially the credit markets. But, you know, what's happening here is a parade. There is a train with a trillion dollars on it, and the hogs are at the trough.

But to do it in a matter of hours and to put all this stuff in, I think is a disgrace.

You ought to read every page of this. It will make your hair stand up.

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: What do you think we are, serious people here?

LIASSON: It is rare that I would even attempt to disagree with Charles Krauthammer, however, this is how sausage is made. This is how you get some things passed.

And you know what the real, true change in capitalism is going to come later when they reregulate Wall Street.

KRAUTHAMMER: But this is not being sold as sausage. It is being sold as a fundamental rescue to the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMMON: Conservatives don't view tax extenders as pork. They view it as a good thing that will stimulate more revenues into the treasury, not exacerbate the deficit like liberals.

HUME: Charles, after all, what you're saying basically is these people who make these product and sell them who are getting some tax breaks get to keep more of their money they earned by their hard work. And you object to that?

KRAUTHAMMER: They do and others don't. These guys who got-the two Oregon senators who are supporting wooden arrows for children—that's why I said if you make a non-wooden arrow, you are out of luck.

HUME: All right.

Sarah Palin is getting ready for her debate with Joe Biden. There is some concern about the moderator. We'll talk about all of that next. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GWEN IFILL, DEBATE MODERATOR: The title of the book is "The Breakthrough, Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." It's taking the story of Barack Obama and extending it to talk about a whole new generation of black politicians who are doing very similar things in very different ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That is Gwen Ifill who will be the moderator of tomorrow night's debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Gwen Ifill, of course, a correspondent and anchor for PBS.

Her book, entitled, as you heard her say, or at least subtitled "Politics and Race in the age of Obama" is scheduled for release on inauguration day.

So the question has been raised is whether that puts her in a compromised position for being fair in the debate, and she had this to say about it today — quote,

"I've got a pretty long track record covering politics in news, so I'm not particularly worried that one day of blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation. The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I have done my job," end quote, Gwen Ifill.

Well, fellow blog chatterers, let's see what we all think about that here. Charles, your view?

I should say, by the way, that Gwen Ifill is someone I count as a friend and have known for a long time. I covered the Jesse Jackson campaign with her 20 years ago and have always liked her. Your thoughts, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think she is a first class journalists, but there is a problem here. She has a book coming out with the subtitle "The Age of Obama" that will appear on inauguration day.

If Obama is inaugurated she has hit the lottery. If McCain is inaugurated she is just published, "Dewey beats Truman" at book length.

Now, she has a stake in this, unconscious or conscious or not, it's a financial stake, it's a professional stake in the success of the book, and it's going to hinge on who wins.

Now, I'm not arguing that it will bias her in her questioning, but I would think that if you have someone who has that kind of obvious issue and conflict, you might want to have a moderator like Jim Lehrer, who did well in the last debate and who could do all of these debates.

I don't see why we have to have a variety in moderators every time. Lehrer has played it straight, so why not have him do all of them.

HUME: Mara, the Commission on Presidential Debates has not commented on this, but she has said, has Gwen, that she did not inform them about this book. Should she have? Should they have asked? What about all this?

LIASSON: First of all, I have no idea at what point in this whole process she was asked to moderate.

HUME: August. August is when it was announced.

LIASSON: In August, it was announced in August, so certainly the press coverage of the book occurred, I think-since then I have read articles. I don't know how much press coverage there was before.

She probably should have disclosed it. I think it is an important thing to disclose. I think people should know about it.

However, I have absolutely no doubt that she can handle herself completely, fairly, and impartially tomorrow night. As a matter of fact, I think that questioning her ability to doing this is very similar to saying FOX News should never do a Democratic debate.

I think the Democrats were wrong when they boycotted that debate.

HUME: Mara, we did not have at any time a financial stake in the outcome of a election.

LIASSON: I think it's fair to raise that and disclose it. I think disclosure is usually the answer to a lot of these problems.

I think it's fair to disclose it. I think she should probably disclose it tomorrow night—even though it's out there, she should say it again.

But I think that, just as I think that FOX did Democratic debates in the past, cosponsored by the black caucus, by the way, which were perfectly fine.

HUME: One of them moderated by Gwen Ifill.

LIASSON: I think that you will see tomorrow night that she will be very, very tough on both of them.

HUME: Do you think that the incentive to do so and be fair has been enhanced by this episode, this coming out as it has and causing this splash as it has?

LIASSON: Yes. But we have no idea whether her performance would have been different had it come out or not.

Sure. I think that three people are going to be at the debate, and all three have something different.

SAMMON: There is no question that this kerfuffle is politically useful for Sarah Palin because it puts intense pressure on the moderator to go the extra mile towards being objective.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Gwen Ifill, who sounds like a lovely person, I'm sure she is a card carrying member of the mainstream media which is overwhelmingly liberal. I think Republicans accept that and go into these debates knowing that.

I don't really have a major problem with the fact that Gwen Ifill is writing a book that profiles a bunch of political figures and one of them is Barack Obama.

HUME: But this is more than a mere anthology of current political African-American political figures, wouldn't you agree?

LIASSON: — a whole civil rights generation.

SAMMON: I wrote a book that has a bunch of profiles of political figures, including Barack Obama, and it's on the cover—by the way it's still available on Amazon—and I don't think that disqualifies me from being involved in journalistic coverage of Barack Obama.

HUME: I know. That's true, Bill, but you have not pegged by your book by its title or release date to any one candidate.

SAMMON: But I chose the candidate a year ago that I thought would have the best chance of succeeding. And I knew if I chose the wrong one and they showed up on the cover that this book wouldn't sell. So, yes- -

HUME: I'm glad we didn't ask you to moderate any debates involving those people!

SAMMON: I have probably not disqualified myself from any debates from either party, but I don't have a major problem with it. It is a little conflict, but not enough to qualify her.

KRAUTHAMMER: I nominate Mort Kondracke. I think he can do it straight down the aisle.

HUME: May I add my voice to those who feel confident that Gwen will overcome any problems associated with this and she will be fine.

But what about the debate? Who has more to prove, Palin or Biden—quickly?

KRAUTHAMMER: Palin has to make sure she doesn't have a blunder. She has to look fluid and confident and coherent. And that is not a high bar. If she passes it, she will win.

HUME: If Biden makes a blunder, what will the effect likely be? The same as if Palin did?

LIASSON: I think that either of them making a blunder won't have a huge effect, but she has a higher bar to hurdle.

And you know what I think? In the end the McCain campaign will regret that they negotiated such tight constraints.

SAMMON: Republicans want Palin to be Palin and Democrats want Biden not to be Biden.

HUME: That's interesting!

That's it for the panel.

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