This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 19, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: And our job as a party is to fi nd solutions, solutions that are built on our principles as a political party, the two foundations of freedom and security.
And I believe you will see this leadership teamwork together with our members in order to develop those solutions. And so I'm proud to be here as the leader of this gro up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, he's the leader of the group, but he already was the leader of the group. Some people thought after the second consecutive thrashing that the house Republicans might decide that new leadership was in order, and a bunch of the positions below Boehner are indeed occupied by new people.
But Boehner himself is now once again head up and banners flying at the head of the parade.
Some thoughts on this now from Bill Sammon, Fox News's Washington Deputy Managing Editor, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune Magazine, and FOX News contributor, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, who is also a Fox News contributor. So isn't this nice.
What about this decision — does it tell you anything, Mort, that they decided to go with the guy that led them up to this election? Not that he's the only leader they had, but there he is.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: He wasn't challenged by anybody very strong. Dan Lungren from California made a token effort to depose him just to create a debate, but there wasn't any real challenge.
And he sort of outmaneuvered some of the people who might have challenged him into being members of his team, like Mike Pence, who is now the number three guy, who is a member of the Republican study group, one of the leaders, which is the conservative wing, furthest conservative wing of the party, and Eric Cantor, who is also a member of the Republican study group, who is probably too young to challenge Boehner but challenged Roy Blunt, his former mentor, and bumped him out of the way.
So the net of all this is that the caucus moves somewhat to the right, because you have two established conservatives in the successor post. And that's —
HUME: You're talking the leadership?
KONDRACKE: Yes. That's sort of in keeping with the character of the conference. It is down to 178 members, 165 of whom are from the most conservative, bedrock conservative districts in the country. What they're going to be worrying about mostly is not getting challenged from the right in a primary. So —
HUME: Meaning because if they're nominated by the Republican Party, they're bound to win?
KONDRACKE: Right. And so the only challenge they have to worry about is somebody further to the right from them thinking they are not conservative, which will drive everything to the conservative side, which is not in keeping with what Boehner said about finding solutions to America's problems, especially in a time of uncertainty.
HUME: So conservative ideas can't be solutions?
KONDRACKE: Well, they can be, but they're not going to be relevant anytime soon, not that the Republican have any power to put them over anyway in the House of Representatives. They're nothing.
NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: I have to say watching this, it was a little bit like watching the auto industry this week, which has had all these problems and losses, and kind of reorganized at the bottom but not at the top.
So John Boehner, you know, nice guy, great fundraiser, well liked, but there is no change at the top despite, as you mentioned, a thrashing, a loss of some 50 seats while he presided.
And also having dealt with the bailout — you know, the House voting it down, and then sending the stock market down, and then having to come back. He oversaw all that.
HUME: But they effected some change in that package.
EASTON: But he oversaw a disastrous seven days during all this. And yet they reelected him.
And, as Mort mentioned, he very cleverly co-opted conservative rivals on to his team. I think it was smart.
HUME: Demonstrating smart parliamentary leadership perhaps?
EASTON: Very smart parliamentary leadership.
You mentioned the conservative ideas, though. The problem is in this election is this was an election where Republicans lost because they lost the base? I don't think so. They lost independents in the suburbs, and that's what you have to look at going forward.
BILL SAMMON, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: Part of the problem here for Republicans is — you're right, that he did some maneuvering here that was effective, Boehner did.
But, also, they don't have a very deep bench. They have been decimated these last two elections, and there weren't many great people out there to challenge Boehner.
Newt Gingrich ten years ago lost fewer than ten seats and was summarily tossed out from his leadership role. Boehner, as we pointed out here, has presided over a loss of 50 seats, and he's still there. There's nobody better to replace him with.
The good news is that, as Mort pointed out, the other two positions, number two and three, do reflect a move to the right. That will satisfy conservatives somewhat.
And this is probably a good thing for conservatives to go into the wilderness, remember who they are and what they stand for, and get the fire back in their belly.
It's going to take a while, but the answer is not to go left. The answer is to go right and stay right, because otherwise they're just going to be an Obama-light as opposed to a true alternative.
KONDRACKE: Yes, but look what happened in this last election. The Republicans in the House and the Senate bought whatever the radio talk show hosts were selling on immigration, on Terri Schiavo, on same-sex marriage, all that.
They went way, way to the right, and as a result they lost it. They lost mechanics. They lost suburbanites.
KONDRACKE: They lost moderates. They're pinning their future on —
HUME: Do you think it was an ideological loss for the Republican Party?
KONDRACKE: Yes, absolutely it was.
EASTON: Extraneous events decided this election.
KONDRACKE: The public has not moved left. The public is in the center, but these guys are way to the right.
HUME: We will talk about the huge expectations for president-elect Obama next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STENY HOYER, (D-MD) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I watched Barack Obama celebrating with more than 100,000 in Chicago and tens of millions across our nation. I had a sense that America was filled with a new hope and sense of confidence in our ability to meet our challenges successfully.
Obviously, expectations are high. Recent polls have shown that Americans do, in fact, believe that president-elect Obama can be successful in meeting the challenges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: And so do the news media, it seems. If you look at the covers of Time and Newsweek you can hardly get better examples. There you see Obama depicted on the cover of Time magazine as FDR complete with the cigarette in the holder, and on the cover of Newsweek in the shadow or at least looking in the shadow really, or maybe casting the shadow of Abraham Lincoln.
It says Obama is Lincoln. I assume Lincoln as Obama sees him, or maybe it means Obama is Lincoln. Who know with Newsweek?
Back with our panel to discuss all this now. So, Nina, expectations for Barack Obama, as even Steny Hoyer has acknowledged, are extraordinarily high. How hard to meet?
EASTON: They're very high and very hard to meet. The press, yes, is going above and beyond its little call of liberal duty to embrace him. However — and 74 percent of people say they are somewhat or very confident he can solve their problems.
So yes, the expectations are high and the problems are very severe. However, I think a couple of things — one, I think he is going to have an extended honeymoon because he can easily blame all the problems he is facing on the Bush administration. These are problems that were there when he got there, so that will take him a pretty long ways into his administration.
Keep in mind, this is not — Bill Clinton, there was a lot of enthusiasm when he came in. This is a 43 percent president. We are talking a nearly 53 percent president.
The enthusiasm that the press is buying into, it's not — I don't think the press is creating the enthusiasm. I think it is inappropriately buying into it, but I think the enthusiasm is there, and it's real, and I think it will be an extended honeymoon for him.
SAMMON: The press has turned into a joke. Come on. Comparing this guy who hasn't even started his presidency to FDR to Lincoln? There was a paragraph in one of the News weeklies that used the word "Obama" and "manger" in the same paragraph, which is always a bad sign.
This is — no mere mortal could possibly live up to the expectations. The press is doing him no favors by setting the bar this high.
Although I will say that Barack Obama himself, and I know sometimes he tries to tamp down expectations, he has also raised his own expectations, talking about how this will be the moment when the ocean levels will fall, when the planet will heal, when we will find good jobs for the jobless.
The Republican National Committee had a lot of fun with that, turning that into an ad showing Moses parting the Red Sea.
So he is building up his expectations a little bit too much as well, and he will have nowhere to go but down.
Wendell Goler pointed this out in his report. President Bush when he came into office famously talked about he would like to be "misunderestimated." Everyone thought there is this dummy Bush, relatively inexperienced Texas governor, mangles the English language, how did we elect this guy?
You then passed the drool test, and you then exceed expectations.
Obama expectations are so high that I don't think he has anywhere to go but down.
HUME: You think, Mort, how much time do you think he gets before people will be hungry for an economic turnaround and disappointed if they don't get it?
KONDRACKE: I think he's got two years.
HUME: Two year —
KONDRACKE: Yes. Ronald Reagan had a huge recession, a deep, deep, but short recession, but, nonetheless, it was very deep in the beginning —
HUME: It didn't last two years. It lasted part of one year and part of another.
KONDRACKE: It didn't last two years, but he has George Bush to blame.
HUME: Two years?
KONDRACKE: We ought to be coming out of it sometime in 2010, yes. I think that's the expectation that he's got that much time. Everybody is saying that it is going to last through 2009 and into 2010, so we ought to be coming out of it 2010.
Look, there are these great expectations. He is the first African-American president. That's part of it. But it's better for the country to go in with a Reaganesque, "Yes we can" attitude, than go into it depressed the way we used to be back in the Carter days.
HUME: That's it for the panel.
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