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Hannity

Too Much Scrutiny a Bad Thing for GOP Field?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Ann Coulter made headlines for the comments that she made on this show last night about who she believes is the most conservative candidate in the Republican field. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, COLUMNIST: I think the two most conservative candidates -- and look, people you're talking about the brokered convention. You know, knock it off, Republicans. These are our candidates. We have seen them.

HANNITY: I agree with that.

COULTER: The two most conservative candidates who are still standing now are Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney.

Of the available candidates, Romney is by far the most conservative, tied with Michele Bachmann. And he is -- he has a proven ability to win in a state like Massachusetts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: All right, but the question remains, who do the voters think is the most conservative candidate? Joining me now to weigh in on all of this, author of the New York Times number one bestseller, "Culture of Corruption," Michelle Malkin is here. How are you?

MICHELE MALKIN, "CULTURE OF CORRUPTION": Good. How are you, Sean?

HANNITY: You know, I'm just flooding through my e-mails here. I got to tell you, there is resentment building. The resentment is building against establishment people telling conservatives who they ought to be voting for. The (INAUDIBLE) editorial is not going over well in people that I know. I want to get your reaction.

MALKIN: Well, to answer your question about Ann Coulter's description of Mitt Romney as conservative, there are a lot of words to describe Mitt Romney. But honestly, conservative has never been at the top of the list.

I think that the frustration from the grass roots and the Tea Party activists has been in watching people parade around in Halloween costumes all year long, pretending to be something they aren't, never have been, in order to win office.

The entire reason we have a Tea Party revolution over the last couple of years was not simply as a reaction to the big government impulses and corruption of the Obama administration. But also about the ideological corruption of Beltway Republicans.

As for National Review, I have an immense amount of respect for the staff there, for people who have been in the fight for conservatism and conservative policies, for a long, long time. They deserve respect.

I also think it's a little ridiculous to start calling people establishment who have been outside the establishment for a long time. Even if you are in Washington, you may not necessarily be of Washington.

We can all disagree about these candidates. I am not on anyone's team and I think that puts us, you and I, Sean, in a unique position. The only team --

HANNITY: I'm telling you what I'm reading and people are telling me is that, you know what? We know the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. I've asked Romney about Romneycare. I've asked Romney about changing positions. I've asked Gingrich about Paul Ryan. I've asked him about the Nancy Pelosi issue. I've asked about his personal life. We've asked if he could be disciplined. I've asked all these questions to these guys.

And I think these questions at some point have been asked to death. It seems to me that there is so much scrutiny on so many conservatives that go on for so long, the Democrats get a pass. Then the fear begins to build. "You know what? They're too flawed. This one's too flawed." And the most flawed person in this race this year is going to be Barack Obama, who has the worst record of any president in modern history.

And it gets a little frustrating to me to see this in-fighting and this nitpicking on all of these guys.

MALKIN: Well, I understand your frustration, but I certainly don't think it's nitpicking to look at each and every one of these candidates --

HANNITY: I'm not saying that. Michelle, you are misunderstanding me.

MALKIN: No, I'm not.

HANNITY: There comes a point.

MALKIN: I think you're frustrated, Sean. I understand that.

HANNITY: They all have strengths and weaknesses, that's what I'm saying.

MALKIN: Right. And I am saying I think it's important to dig up Mitt Romney's statements when he describes himself as a progressive several years ago.

It's just as important to talk about Newt Gingrich's actions that bespeak of a very troublesome progressivism and in some cases very uncontrolled sense of narcissism.

Look, the Tea Party -- who is the Tea Party and who is the establishment? The fact is that although National Review and a lot of Washington Republicans and conservatives don't like Newt Gingrich, a lot of Tea Party conservatives don't either. They have not forgiven him for the NY-23 misjudgment and the smearing that he did of grassroots conservatives who opposed his attempt to try --

HANNITY: Let me see if I can put this in another way.

MALKIN: A big labor RHINO in New York.

HANNITY: All right, you know what? I will concede. There is not the perfect candidate, but this is our slate of candidates. At the end of the day, Michelle, I've looked at all of their strengths, all of their weaknesses and I think all of these candidates are infinitely better than the disaster we have in Washington today.

And it seems that there is a culture, to use your term, culture of corruption, there's a culture among Republicans and conservatives where they are not happy until they eat their own, and spit them out, destroy each other and say they won't vote for the other one.

I think at some point they have to realize there is one winner in this. It's not going to be the establishment deciding. It's going to be the people in this country that are Republican that vote in the primary that decide, and frankly, I don't think anybody's one endorsement is going to matter that much.

MALKIN: I certainly agree with that. I think it's all common sense that you are talking about. On the other hand, this is the primary process. This is nothing new here. There is nothing unprecedented about the Republican candidates going after each other.

HANNITY: I agree. It's healthy.

MALKIN: In this clawing fight for the general election battle. It is healthy.

HANNITY: It's healthy to a point, but then it gets to the point where it's unhealthy and counterproductive. And I think that the words of Republicans are going to come back in the general campaign used by Obama.

MALKIN: Well, I think that the unhealthiest thing would be to whitewash these flaws.

MALKIN: I'm not talking about whitewashing anything.

MALKIN: And circle the wagons. I think it would also be unhealthy to pretend that these candidates are something that they are not, and I'm talking about each and every one of them.

HANNITY: All right. Let them pummel each other and forget who the real person that needs to be defeated here. I think there comes a point where it's a fine line distinction and I think we'll make a big mistake -- but I got to run. Good to see you.

MALKIN: You bet.

HANNITY: Appreciate it.

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