Analysis of Obama's Trip Overseas and How Is John McCain Holding Up Despite Less Media Coverage?

This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", July 26, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," Barack Obama tries to prove he's commander in chief material on his foreign tour. We tell you how he did.

FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: The media may have forgotten about John McCain this week, but the voters haven't. We'll show you the latest FOX polls to prove he's very much in this race.

KONDRACKE: Public opinion is on the side of more offshore drilling. We tell you if Democrats in Congress are getting the message.

BARNES: President Bush caves on bail-out for risky lenders.

KONDRACKE: "The Beltway Boys" are next after the headlines.


BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke. We're "The Beltway Boys."

BARNES: The hot story tonight, Obama-palooza.

KONDRACKE: I get it.

BARNES: I thought you would. Mort, there has never ever been anything like the week-long, high visibility, TV anchors along with me trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Germany, France, England. I probably left out a couple countries — Jordan. Then there is Kuwait. Maybe there are others, the trip by Barack Obama. There's just never anything like it. I don't think a president, much less a presidential candidate, has done anything like this before. Maybe you can think of an example of it. But I can't. This was maybe two-and-a-half continents if you figure Asia, Middle East and Europe. It's quite amazing.

Now, the question comes, as we will both answer this, did it work or not politically for Barack Obama?

The stage craft was tremendous. The TV shots were great. Some of the newspaper pictures — with Obama in the helicopter — looked great. There weren't flubs or major flubs. The question is whether voters in America will see Barack Obama as presidential, commander in chief in waiting, a world leader with the world leaders he met with. We're not going to go that for a few days. It will take a while for it to settle in, the pollsters to ask questions and so on.

I'm not sure that I trust my own judgment about this but I'll give it to you anyway. I think this trip was entirely over the top. It was breathtakingly presumptuous on the part of the presidential candidate who isn't officially the nominee yet. It was way too much. My reaction is somebody needs to tell Barack Obama you're not president yet, fellow. Nobody has.

There was speech in Berlin with he's a citizen of the world now. It used to be that it's America's moment with Barack Obama in the middle. Now it's the world's moment. Who is Mr. World moment? It's Barack Obama.

Now, Europeans — and I was over there a couple weeks ago — they love Barack Obama. There's no question about it. Whether their love is going to make Americans love Barack Obama more than they have, I doubt it.

KONDRACKE: I fundamentally disagree whether it was a success or not. I think it was. Look, John McCain originally challenged Obama to go to Iraq. Obama picked the challenge up and ran with it. As you say, the visual were great. I especially love the first try 3-point hoop shot with the troops in Iraq.

BARNES: They're not that hard to make.

KONDRACKE: Well, I couldn't have made it. 200,000 people in Berlin. It's a feat for just an ordinary presidential candidate to pull off this big a presidential trip without the benefit of White House infrastructure, advance people and do it flawlessly, which they did. And the big, I think his big victory was that Nouri al-Maliki, the president of Iraq...

BARNES: The prime minister.

KONDRACKE: Prime minister of Iraq said he endorses Obama's troop withdrawal schedule. I thought that was a major coo.

The speech was grandiose but he told the Germans, listen, you have got to do more than you're doing in Afghanistan. They did want to hear that. Watch.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America can't do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops, our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, to develop their economy and rebuild the nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.


KONDRACKE: So the net of it is, good show. I think he's edging up to the threshold of commander in chief. I don't think he's over the threshold yet. We'll get to the substance of his position on Iraq, which is quite a different story.

BARNES: Mort, as a gesture of personal friendship, before we get to Iraq, I'll bring out a couple of poll numbers.

KONDRACKE: You love them as much as I do, especially when they show what you like to show.

BARNES: You have to be selective in this business that's for sure. When asked who was the riskier choice for president, 55 percent of the American people chose Obama. 35 percent picked McCain as the riskier. More voters say they can identify with McCain's background in value. 58 percent of people feel more comfortable voting for McCain. I don't think the trip will change the numbers. Look, I've could be wrong. I've been waiting for a long time, for months, for a break-out by Obama in the polls. It hasn't happened yet.

Mort, that Afghanistan stuff, please, that was pathetic. Where was the German defense minister? Did he jump right up and say, OK, we'll send troops over there.

KONDRACKE: Of course not.

BARNES: They can send as many troops as they want but the difference is do we have to tell them to fight and be in combat. They haven't done that yet.

Mort, agreed. Getting al-Maliki's agreement to the Obama timetable was a real coo for Obama. No question about. That completely undercut, not only President Bush, but John McCain. But there is this great contradiction on his idea in Iraq. He says he was against the surge, which, of course, consisted not only of sending American troops, it was the counterinsurgency strategy. And he says even knowing what he knows now, he'd still vote against the surge. Yet, the surge is exactly what has paved the way for his withdrawal plan to be acceptable to al-Maliki and everyone else.

Obama also said this about — after he visited in Iraq. Watch.


OBAMA: I welcome the growing consensus in the United States and Iraq for a timeline. My view based on the advice of military experts is that we can redeploy safely in 16 months so that our combat brigades are out of Iraq by 2010.


BARNES: Maliki doesn't like the growing consensus. I don't think there's one for a timeline. The question is really, about these commanders, really, which commanders? I'd like to hear.

KONDRACKE: The reason that Obama will not admit that he was wrong about the insurgence. It raises questions about his fitness to be commander in chief and about the question of who is better fitted to be commander in chief. He has 28 points separating him and McCain. McCain is that far ahead. In that Berlin speech, he said that if Harry Truman had not ordered the Berlin air face in the face of massive Soviet superiority, that we would have — that a retreat would have resulted in communism sweeping across Europe. The fact is that his policy of retreat from Iraq would have resulted in al-Qaeda and Iran's overrunning Iraq, which would have been a catastrophe for the United States.

McCain has been founding on this. Watch.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had courage and judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.


KONDRACKE: I honestly don't think that Obama was against the surge for political reasons. I think he lacks judgment about what is strategically important. He always thought that Afghanistan was more strategically important than Iraq was. And Iraq clearly is more strategically important than Afghanistan, though we have to win Afghanistan as he now says.

BARNES: Agreed.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, the media may have missed it, but John McCain is quietly closing the gap with Obama in recent polls. We'll show you, next.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check out the "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Up, John McCain. Who would have thunk it? Despite a rocky week spent in the shadows of Barack Obama, McCain is not only holding his ground but gaining some, too. Our FOX poll shows McCain just one point behind Obama. Well, that is well within the 3 percent margin of error.

Mort, these daily tracking polls by Rasmussen and Gallop show the same thing. What the American people are showing is they're reacting counter intuitively to the presidential campaign. In other words, they're not acting the way the media says they should react. On one hand, we've had Obama's summer of love, summer of self love or whatever you want to call it. We've had McCain stumbling through this campaign. And I'm not disputing either one of those. And the result is McCain is rising in the polls and Obama is slipping a little. I would have not have thought that was possible. I think the reaction of the media is something like how dare the American people act this way. They can they respond this way? We're telling them to respond another way and yet they do this. How can this happen?

KONDRACKE: Basically, the media has been ignoring that fact.

BARNES: That is what I mean.

KONDRACKE: But you're not supposed to be able to get away with being ignored.

McCain calls himself the underdog and you have to view him that way. And he did not have a great week. His visuals was riding around in a golf cart with old George Bush the first. Then he wanted to go on an oil rig to demonstrate the energy issue and there was a hurricane and he couldn't do it. Right now McCain is behind in the RealClearPolitics count of electoral votes by 238 to 163. And the Karl Rove tabulation of electoral votes still has Obama over the top.

BARNES: Well, OK. Big deal.

KONDRACKE: Down, the media. Its unabashed love affair with Obama was on full display during the full tour this week. Our FOX News poll shows that 67 percent of the people believe that the media actually want Obama to win the election. That's probably right. And 46 percent think the press has given Obama favorable coverage but only 6 percent say the media has given McCain favorable coverage.


BARNES: ... 6 percent. What media are they looking at?

KONDRACKE: I don't know. I thought, I thought that of all the TV coverage I thought I saw, Katie Couric did the best grilling Obama on what to me is the question of this entire foreign trip. Watch.


KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. Did the surge, the addition of 30,000 additional troops, help the situation in Iraq?

OBAMA: Katie...

COURIC: Do you think the level of security in Iraq would exist today without the surge?

OBAMA: Katie, I have no idea what would have happened had we applied my approach.


KONDRACKE: I know what would have happened.

BARNES: I do too.

KONDRACKE: Exactly, but he can't admit it.

By the way, there are some hilarious videos out there on YouTube. One of them was prepared by the McCain campaign talking about the swoon that our friends at MSNBC have gone through all the season. But the funniest of them all is the Jon Stewart take. I can't quote it because it's family television.

BARNES: Don't show the kids. That's for sure. But it was very, very funny. There is a debate going on, at least among some of us in the media, over this question, will the media continue to love Obama right through the November 4 election or will they at some point get tough with him? I'm on the side, I think the love bombing will be endless and it will continue. You don't even have to go the Europe or Iraq. What do you think?

KONDRACKE: There will be moments when the media is forced to ask tough questions. You'll have to ask Katie.

BARNES: I have to say Katie Couric was good. Why can't Obama just say, which is the truth, I was wrong about the surge. It's worked and I'm a lucky guy because it means is that my withdrawal plan now is plausible. But it's only plausible because of success of the surge in the first place. Otherwise, he's in a tight spot here in handling that.

All right, coming up, President Bush is getting heat for his own party for supporting the mammoth housing bill. We'll have the fall-out, next.


BARNES: Welcome back to the "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing with our "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Down, President Bush. He rescinded his veto threat, paving the way for a new housing bill. Many Republicans, who think the measure amounts to a bail-out for risky lenders and irresponsible borrowers, are none too happy about it. Listen?


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R), OHIO, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Clearly, the market needs support. But this is not a bill I can support. And I really — I'm disappointed we couldn't do better. I'm even more disappointed that the White House will sign this product.


BARNES: I really can't understand why Bush did this. I think this is an act of spectacular ingratitude among other things. He owes Republicans more than this. Bush knows how bad the bill is, too. Maybe it's just an act of weakness. After all those votes by the Republicans to support him on the war in Iraq, which I think were the right votes but were tough votes for a lot of them who had qualms about the war, supporting him, and supporting Democrats trying to basically give up on Iraq, and I think the president promised a veto and he owes it to them.

He gets no credit from Democrats. A couple days after he withdraws his veto threat, the House Judiciary Committee's having hearings on impeaching him.

KONDRACKE: Look, Fred, this is not about politics. It's not about intraparty politics or Democrats versus Republicans.

BARNES: Of course, it is.

KONDRACKE: It is not. Hank Paulson the secretary of treasury, an esteemed person, convinced Bush that he ought to sign this bill. Why? Because Paulson is terrified, or at least concerned that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might collapse unless the government offers them more opportunity to borrow money if they need to.

Now, it's not a great bill in some ways. For one thing, there should be a lot more control over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. They ought not be allowed to play politics the way they do. Net, Paulson was convinced...

BARNES: It's expensive (ph).

KONDRACKE: Paulson was convinced that we could not afford to have the housing mortgage market collapse. That's why the president is signing the bill. I think it's the right thing to do.

Up, T. Boone Pickens. He's getting lots of props, especially from the Democrats, for his energy plan that focuses on alternative sources. But you may not know that Pickens is indeed in favor of more drilling, too. Watch.


T. BOONE PICKENS, TEXAS OILMAN: I'm for everything but foreign oil. So, I'll drill. I'll go winds and solar. I'll go biofuels, anything but foreign oil.


KONDRACKE: Yeah, the Democrats invited him up on the hill thinking he would only be for wind and solar and all the clean sources that they love. And then it turns out that Pickens is also in favor of drilling as long as it's domestic drilling. That they were surprised of.

But I have a question for you.


KONDRACKE: If the price of oil is falling, if the price of gasoline goes under $4, does this issue go away for the Republicans?

BARNES: It'd have to go way under $4. I don't think it will go away. Right now, the latest FOX poll shows a whopping 75 percent — Mort, 75 percent want more drilling. And you and I do.

I think the position of T. Boone Pickens is what you and I have — let's do all of them.

KONDRACKE: Of course.

BARNES: I mean, look, I'd love wind power take over bio, whatever the heck it is, and solar and more nuclear energy. But the one thing we know is in the short run here, we need more oil and gas. You can't get around it. I wish Democrats and people like Al Gore, who is not even for nuclear energy, would like that.

OK. Up, New York City Senator Chuck Schumer. The man in charge of getting Senate Democrats elected is pretty optimistic these days, saying it's not out of the realm of possibility that Democrats could get a filibuster-proof 60 senate majority. They'd pick up nine seats in November. I don't think they can get nine. I don't think they need a filibuster-proof senate. If Republicans are below 45, they'll have trouble getting 41 to have a filibuster because you get some who drop off, depending on the bill, or they're squishy or whatever. I think he really only needs to pick up five to get him to 44 or six to get to 43. That's a possible. I think right now, when you look at the races, there are 11 or 10 up in the air. I think it's unlikely but possible to get that.

KONDRACKE: I think a good argument that McCain might have is to say, look, if Obama gets elect and there are 60 votes in the senate of the United States, do you realize what will happen? Every piece of liberal legislation that anybody can imagine is going to fly through without any objection, without ANY resistance. That's a point for voters to consider.

BARNES: Yes, but voters don't like those process arguments. I think that's the problem. What the heck.

All right. Don't go anywhere. "The Buzz" is coming up next.


BARNES: What's "The Buzz," Mort?


KONDRACKE: The rest of the world is not paying attention, Fred, but it was 10 years ago this very day that television history was made. "The Beltway Boys" were launched upon the scene. And we could not have made it without our wonderful producer, Michelle Rumbalard (ph), who was with us for the entire way. I am waiting for the museum to actually ask for tapes of the program because actually there were two shows, remember, that we had to cut. One was Newt Gingrich and one was a shooting at the capitol. So then we had to re-tape. Newt wouldn't do it so we got Don Bear (ph) of..


KONDRACKE: Exactly. Who can possibly forget it?

BARNES: And now we have (inaudible) as our producer, too. I hope people understand — do you think they recognize that this is not an adversarial show. This is a buddy show.

KONDRACKE: True, true, true.

BARNES: We like each other. We disagree about half of the time.

When you hear Obama talking about coming together and they disagree, but they come together, we are the people that he's been talking about. It's "The Beltway Boys."

KONDRACKE: Exactly. Your initials are "F" and "B" but I am the fair and balanced one.

That's all for "The Beltways Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. ET

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