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Special Report

Donald Trump ramps up attacks on George W. Bush

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 16, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right now we're in what I call the ancient Roman coliseum stage. Everybody wants to go to the coliseum and see a fight.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been a pattern now with Ted. He spent the last days literally just making stuff up.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When radical Islamic terrorists wage jihad on the United States of American, the answer is not to tweet insults at them.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy Cruz comes out, well, I don't think he's going to win. This guy is so strident and so nasty he's going to lose every single state. Then Bush, poor Bush, he comes out. He goes, well, I don't think that Donald Trump can beat Hillary Clinton, but I can. I said, well, why aren't you beating me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: So the sights and sounds from South Carolina, and actually we can take a live look in Buford, South Carolina, a forum ongoing, Donald Trump talking about the war, talking about ISIS, just a moment ago said that "9/11 would not have happened if I were president."

As you take a look at the latest polls out of South Carolina, the average of recent polls, the RCP average, you see Donald Trump up significantly. However, a caveat here. Most of these polls happened before the debate, at least a part of them. We expect different polling numbers or at least new polling numbers in the next day or so. We'll have our own Thursday morning.

Let's bring in our panel, syndicated columnist George Will, editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham, and David Gregory, former moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" and author of the book, "How Is Your Faith?" OK, Laura, what about this, what's happening in South Carolina?

LAURA INGRAHAM, EDITOR IN CHIEF, LIFEZETTE.COM: Trump has made a calculation that the only way to win this is to do what they did in the opening scene of the Godfather. You have to get in the revolving door, at the altar, at the phone booth. So he just decided, I guess, the only way to do it is to really settle the score on Bushism, on globalism, trade, immigration, the war. And he is doing it in a way that is really strident and really offends a lot of people. But I guess he is banking on the fact that there is not all that much affection for the policies of the Bushs but a lot of affection for the personality, the people, the patriotic side of the Bushs. It is a risky strategy.

BAIER: In South Carolina.

INGRAHAM: In South Carolina. Could it pay off? I think we're going to find out. But were all of these policies popular? I think when the Bushs respond to this they tend to go to personality. They tend to go to Donald Trump is a reality star. He's not serious. But I think the debate about these policies is a healthy one to have in the Republican Party. Was our policy toward China good? Did it really work out for us?

BAIER: He doesn't want to re-litigate Iraq war or those decisions then.

DAVID GREGORY, FORMER MODERATOR OF 'MEET THE PRESS': No, they don't. But the truth is in a kind of ugly way within the party, Trump is forcing a debate that a lot of people are not having, which is, and I don't think he is putting it very elegantly, but what are the leadership lessons of the Iraq War.

I would like to hear Jeb Bush answer some of those questions, and I think the other candidates too, particularly in the context of how you are going to fight ISIS. That's a relevant debate to have. Not the way he is putting it now. Again, I think there is some calculation here of stridency and tapping into this anger. Don't forget we talk about Tea Party sentiment and all the rest. It was Bush who bailed out the big banks. So a lot of that angst and a lot of that anxiety, a lot of that anger starts under Bush as well as the extension of America in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

BAIER: George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: David is absolutely right. The Tea Party was a reaction against really the spending by the Bush administration. So there is a lot of sin to go around here.

Mr. Cruz understands that if you keep the bombs going off, no one will focus any one of them.

BAIER: You mean Trump.

WILL: Trump. Sorry, yes. Trump, a few years ago he said when he was a birther, before he said Cruz wasn't eligible to be president, he said this president is not eligible to be president. He said I have investigators in Hawaii and they're finding amazing things. He never told us what they were because he had gone on to something else by then.

And 23 days ago he said on television, any day now I will be announcing the senators who have endorsed me. No one has endorsed him yet and no one remembers that he said that. There's one likely senator some people think would be Jeff Sessions because he agrees with Trump on trade and immigration. I talked with Jeff Sessions today. He has no intention of endorsing anyone.

BAIER: South Carolina CNN poll about people deciding -- definitely decided, 49 percent, leaning toward someone, 20 percent, still trying to decide, 31 percent. Laura, what is clear is that these early states, there's a lot of undecideds, a lot can happen in the final days.

INGRAHAM: No doubt about it. I think South Carolina is a tricky place.
It has a very interesting population along the coast, much more kind of establishment moderate Republicans. There's a strong evangelical base.
They had that Bob Jones University forum on Friday. Trump didn't show up.
He didn't have anyone at his table. Cruz and Rubio were there. Carson was there. They think they can make something of that.

But there also is a poll out there that says that most Republicans in South Carolina think Trump sig thank you be the nominee. So you wonder how much despite his promises of things that don't happen if people just get the sense that Jeb carries too much weight in the past. Rubio maybe is a little too young. Carson is nice but he didn't really cut through. And Cruz might not catch on in other states, as smart as he is. So a lot of people might be thinking in this calculation he's probably the only guy who is going to win it so we're going to throw in with him even with all of our reservations.

Again, I think that's what their strategy is. Remember, South Carolina, the Democrats aren't voting Saturday. I think Trump is going for a general electric play here, thinking he is going to pull some Democrats in maybe on that Iraq War comment, and maybe some of them will show up to vote for him even though a lot of Republicans certainly wouldn't have said it that way.

BAIER: He clearly has a big lead heading in.

I want to turn to the Democrats who are lining up ahead of Nevada. That's their caucus on Saturday. They're making a play for the African-American vote. Hillary Clinton in Harlem. Bernie Sanders with a number of moves.
But Hillary Clinton's husband, the former president, saying this about the genome and the first black president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Steve Cohen remarked that I was just a stand-in for the first black president.

(LAUGHTER)

BILL CLINTON: I'm happy to do that. But you know what else we learned from the human genome? We learned that unless your ancestors, every one of you, are 100 percent, 100 percent from sub Saharan Africa, we are all mixed race people.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: I'm just not sure how that plays.

GREGORY: My very considered response on that is, what is he talking about?

(LAUGHTER)

GREGORY: Honestly it just strikes me as weird, honestly. I haven't looked at the genome project in detail in a while, but this is a bit of a problem with Bill Clinton riffing on the campaign trail. And one of the cautionary notes that he's been more disciplined, it seems, the potential for distraction if she is the president of the United States with the first husband seems to me rather high.

BAIER: But as a campaigner, is it a liability or an asset to have Bill Clinton on the trail?

WILL: I think it is an excitement, because you never quite know where he's going to go with this. I think what he is saying, and it is actually a truth, which is our genetic make-up is a really complicated thing after 200 generations. One of the four of us is almost certainly related to Charlemagne and one of the four of us is almost certainly related directly to 20 generations, to Charlemagne's group. So what? What's interesting is that the Democratic Party makes so much out of race and identity politics, to have him come out and say, by the way, race is a pretty blurry concept.

BAIER: It doesn't really fit on a bumper sticker.

INGRAHAM: No it doesn't. I agree with David. I don't really understand why he thought bringing that up there is going to help Hillary. Remember back in South Carolina in 2008 he made that comment about this is the biggest fantasy ever, paraphrasing about Obama. Hillary today was in Harlem and gave a speech about race, very emotional. She talked about privilege that white Americans, a lot of reference to white Americans. It struck me as kind of odd. I know you have a black you audience, but they're supposed to be unifying the country, yet it is always slicing and dividing the country into this identity politics moment.

And I guess we're all at a speech code forum at Harvard University.
Whatever happens at the university, George, you made this point, is trickling down and now into our political conversations. It is about white Americans think this and black Americans are supposed to think this. I thought we were all supposed to have our own individual thoughts. But maybe that's a fantasy as well.

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