Barack Obama and John McCain Begin the Search for Running Mates

This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", May 24, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," Barack Obama and John McCain begin the search for running mates and preview their general election attack.

BILL SAMMON, FOX GUEST CO-HOST: But Hillary Clinton says not so fast, Obama, and threatens to take the fight all the way to Denver.

KONDRACKE: Prices at the pump are going through the roof and Congress wants answers. We'll tell you about its showdown with big oil.

SAMMON: And we'll show you Hollywood's unique take on the Florida recount fiasco.

KONDRACKE: All of that is coming up on "The Beltway Boys, but first the headlines.


KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.

SAMMON: And I'm Bill Sammon, in for Fred Barnes. And tonight, we're "The Beltway Boys."

KONDRACKE: The hot story is what does she want? And that's a reference to Hillary Clinton, of course.

But first, both of us want to pay tribute to Senator Edward Kennedy, who is truly one of the most effective legislators that there has ever been in the Congress of the United States, on a par with Lyndon Baines Johnson, former Senate majority leader, whose hundredth anniversary of his birth was celebrated this week actually.

In Kennedy's case, whether education or immigration or refugees or health care, I mean, this man has made a tremendous difference. Agree with him or disagree with him, he has helped enact most of the major legislation over the last 40 years.

And, you know, the great thing about Teddy Kennedy is he wants to get things done and puts getting stuff done ahead of partisanship, which other people should do.

SAMMON: He's not just an effective legislator. He's an effective orator. If you ever see him give an impassioned speech on the floor of the senate and face starts to redden and his voice rises and arms start to gesticulate, and he's working up a head of righteous indignation, you are witnessing a gifted, persuasive politician, who passionately believes in the causes that he's advocating.

I know conservatives like to talk about Ted Kennedy as the poster boy with everything wrong with Washington — big government, tax spending liberalism. But at a time like this, when the chips are down, I think both sides of the aisle come together and say we want this guy to beat the odds, beat this cancer. We want him back on the Senate floor where he belongs.

KONDRACKE: Right, exactly.

Back to Hillary Clinton. She scored another big victory in a primary, Kentucky, 35 point victory. That does not suggest that the Democratic Party is entirely happy with Barack Obama...

SAMMON: She had a 41-point victory a week before, in West Virginia.

KONDRACKE: Exactly. Hillary Clinton clearly is not satisfied to say Obama is the nominee here. Watch her on Tuesday night.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm going to keep standing up for the voters of Florida and Michigan! Democrats in those two states have 2.3 million votes. And they deserve to have those votes counted. And that's why I'm going to keep making our case until we have a nominee, whoever she may be.


KONDRACKE: And she's right now 190 delegates behind. But she thinks if she can get the Democratic Party rules committee next Saturday to seek the full delegation from Michigan and Florida, she will pare that down by 112 — 190 down to whatever that is — less than 100. And she would go ahead in the popular vote.

Now, I think this is a long shot. That it ain't going to happen. But I think she's going to fight on until Barack Obama has the nomination in hand, whether it's in Denver or before that. But she's not going to give up until then. I think it helps her reputation as a plucky fighter and sort of eliminates the idea that a woman is not tough enough to be president. She's proved she's tough enough to be president. She's proved she's tough enough to be president. I don't think she's made up her mind whether she wants to be vice president.

SAMMON: I think she has. She's not a dumb person. She can see, like the rest of us, her getting the presidential nominations are extremely remote. Therefore you have to ask yourself, why is she staying in this. She's staying in this to preserve her political leverage. She wants a consolation prize and the biggest prize on the table is the vice presidency.

Barack Obama does not want her on the ticket because she would bring all this baggage. He's supposed to be this politics-of-the-future kind of guy. She would bring Bill and everything else that goes along with it on to the ticket.

But she might be able to force her way effectively on the ticket. Think about this. She gets done with primaries June 3rd. She's got a couple thousand delegates. He has a couple thousand delegates. He's ahead. She says you put me on the ticket now. If you don't I'll battle you all summer, take it all the way to the convention, insist on a floor vote for the vice presidency, which they have to go through anyway and continue this scorched-earth political warfare for three long, hot summer months.

I think it's an ugly scenario for Barack Obama to have to deal with. But he may be forced to put her on the ticket. The bad thing about that is a lot of his supporters are not going to accept Hillary Clinton on the ticket because you hear about Hillary haters on the right back in the '90s. I've never seen such Hillary hatred from the left this decade. The people, who have anointed Saint Barack as the new savior of the Democratic Party, hate Hillary Clinton.

KONDRACKE: Right now both candidates, both Obama and Hillary, are making nice toward each other. Here's Obama talking about Hillary on Tuesday. Watch.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Senator Clinton has run an outstanding campaign and she deserves our admiration and our respect because she has set the standard. She has broken through barriers and will open up opportunities for a lot of people, including my two young daughters.


KONDRACKE: That is not only being nice to Hillary but that is also outreach to her female constituency, some of which regards him as sexist. But if your scenario, the nasty scenario, works out and he is forced to take Hillary Clinton on that ticket, the question arises, a legitimate question arises, if he can't handle Bill and Hillary, how can he handle Ahmadinejad...

SAMMON: That's true. And it's going to be an interesting fight. I'm still not letting go of my dream to see a brokered convention. Just from a journalist point of view, I want to see a floor fight before I die.

KONDRACKE: You might.

Coming up, John McCain holds a getting-to-know-you session with potential running mates on his Sedona ranch this weekend. We'll tell you who could end up on the short list. Hot story number two is straight ahead.


SAMMON: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." I'm Bill Sammon, in for Fred Barnes.

Hot story number two, McCain's mate. John McCain is hosting a barbecue this weekend at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona. Here are the people who will be at his ranch this weekend: Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Massachusetts governor and former McCain rival Mitt Romney.

There on the screen are the people, the McCain camp said were invited but have other plans. How do you turn down the presumptive Republican nominee?

It's interesting, Mort, unlike Obama, sort of under a lot of pressure to choice either Hillary Clinton or one of her loyalists as his running mate, McCain doesn't have these restrictions. He has the luxury to invite, cast a wide net, have these people to the ranch, kick the tires, interview these people and let the speculation percolate.

It's interesting he invited this trio of Romney, Jindal and Crist. One of the things he's got to do is counter the perception problem about his age. He's got to pick somebody not too old, because he's already perceived by some as too old. But on the other, he's got to pick somebody that's not too young and inexperienced. So there you have it.

KONDRACKE: I think he's got to pick somebody that could legitimately be president because of the age he is. But also he has to pick somebody who will both unite the Republican Party and not kick away the Independent voters that he absolutely has to pick up.

Romney is presumably qualified to be president, would unite the Republican Party, but might offend Independents. Jindal is pretty young. He's 36 years old, been governor only two years. That's not ideal either, although he might keep Independents. Charlie Crist, he would pick in order to get Florida, which he might get any if he's running against Barack Obama.

My favorite is Colin Powell. Some Republicans would be dissatisfied with him, but not too dissatisfied with him. They would understand. But he certainly would pick up Independents. But Colin Powell probably won't take it.

So I guess McCain's choice would be Rob Portman, who used to be congressman from Ohio, a key state, and also was OMB director, understands a lot about economic. And certainly Republicans would be satisfied with him. Independents would be OK with him.

SAMMON: One thing McCain's doing that's very smart and it's taking a page out of Ronald Reagan's play book, he's being self-deprecating about his age. He's joking about it and also turning it against his younger opponent. In this case, an opponent 25 years younger.

Let's take a listen to what McCain had to say about age and his opponent, Barack Obama.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I admire and respect Senator Obama. For a young man with very little experience, he's done very well. So I appreciate, with his very, very great lack of experience and knowledge of the issues, he's been very successful.


KONDRACKE: Well, look, if — that's funny. If health and — he had - - he released his health returns, McCain did this weekend.

SAMMON: Over the holiday weekend. Documents.

KONDRACKE: But it was good. It was good for him in that it showed that for a 71-year-old, he's incredibly fit. And the good news, the biggest good news is that there's been no reoccurrence of melanoma, which he's had three times before, and would be life-threatening if it ever came back.

If health and age are not an issue as far as McCain's concerned, there's a new L word and it's called lobbyist.

And here is Barack Obama pouncing on that. Watch this.


OBAMA: The lobbyists who rule George Bush's Washington are now running John McCain's campaign. And they actually had the nerve the other day to say the American people won't care about this. Talk about out of touch. I think the American people care plenty about that.


KONDRACKE: Well, he specifically is referring to Charlie Black and Rick Davis. Charlie Black — both of them have departed from their lobbying firms according to a new rule that McCain has imposed. But Charlie Black's firm over the years has represented people like Jonas Savimby of Angola and Sese Seko of Zaire, a real monster, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, the dictator.

Under the new rules, McCain was forced to get rid of two of his key financial people and the guy who was going to run his convention operations, whose law firm actually represented, of all people, the military junta in Burma about the bottom-dwelling slug you could not imagine, more than the junta.

So, you know, this L-word issue is going to be, I think, important.

SAMMON: Well, you know, Mort, lobbyists are people, too. And the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to petition their government. That's essentially was lobbyists do.

KONDRACKE: Even the Burmese junta?

SAMMON: Well, McCain is — the problem for McCain is he has been railing against the undue influence of lobbyists his entire career. Now it turns out, it's kind of embarrassing that he's got finance co-chairman and advisers and staffers that are lobbyists or were lobbyists. He's had to purge half a dozen of them or so in recent days.

I don't think voters connect the unsavory characters and some of these lobbying firms have represented to John McCain, the person. I don't think it's that big a deal.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, Hollywood's cynical take on the 2004 Florida recount fiasco. And the Congress beats up on big oil executives over high gas prices. We'll tell you why it's all for show.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." It's time for the "Ups and Down."

Down, big oil. As gas prices continue to skyrocket, big oil is getting the lion's share of the blame from the public and also of course from Congress. Frustration levels grew so high at a hearing this week with oil executives one lawmaker suggested a rather unique solution to get prices under control. Watch.


REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D), CALIFORNIA: This liberal will be all about socializing — will be about basically taking over, and the government running all of your companies. That, I tell you, is an extreme position.


KONDRACKE: It is an extreme position.

Maxine Waters is about as extreme a liberal as you could possible get. Most Democrats — what most Democrats want is to just charge windfall profits taxes of them. But since they can't get that through, and because there's nothing that they can do about gas prices in the short run, and because they are embarrassed about the fact that they have not opened offshore oil fields for drilling or they have not opened ANWR or they haven't allowed any gas refineries to be built, what do they do? They have to find a scapegoat. And the scapegoat is big oil.

SAMMON: I'll telling you, Mort, once in a while the mask slips and you see the pure, unadulterated face of liberalism. She's talking about Socializing a major American industry, the oil industry and a government takeover. Those are her words. I know not everybody shares that undiluted view of liberalism. But that was really kind of interesting to see that.

These oil executives called up on Capitol Hill today, you got to give them credit for standing their ground. They've said they've been blocked by environmentalists from drilling. They've been blocked from building new refinery capacity.

Let's take a listen to what the Shell Oil president had to say about this.


JOHN HOFMEISTER, PRESIDENT, SHELL OIL: Let's be clear. When there's a natural deposit of more than a trillion potentially recoverable barrels of oil in a particular geography within the continental United States, not to develop that is really, in my opinion, a disservice to the American consumer.


SAMMON: You know, Mort, out of every gasoline, out of every gallon of gasoline that is sold, 4 percent goes for oil profits and 15 percent goes for government taxes. So that puts things in perspective.

KONDRACKE: I think the tax should be even higher to enforce...


SAMMON: Regardless that people are paying $4 bucks a gallon. You'd be real popular.

KONDRACKE: I know. I'm sorry.

SAMMON: Down, the farm bill. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle override President Bush's veto and now the bloated, pork-laden $307 billion farm bill is the law of the land.

Republicans have not learned their lesson, Mort, from the 2006 mid- term elections when they were punished at the polls for overspending. Here, they come along with this bloated farm bill. And a lot of them that voted to override the veto were Republicans.

The one thing good for McCain is that, for a change, he's on the side of the conservatives on this one. He's one of these pork busters. Therefore, he won't be hurt by this issue in fall, even if the rest of his party is.

KONDRACKE: Yes, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were both in favor of this monstrosity. What's rich about all this, they constantly rail about subsidies for big oil companies. Here, they're favoring subsidies for big farmers. Of course, it's also rich that the Republicans, a lot of them, favor subsidies for both, oil and farmers.

SAMMON: That is true. That's why we're going to get hurt.

KONDRACKE: Down, HBO. A movie about the 2000 overtime election called "Recount" will be hitting the small screen Sunday night. And guess what? It favors the Democratic point of view.

Here's a clip.

ACTOR: You need to bring this election in for a landing, Katherine.

ACTRESS: Yes, bring it in for a landing.

ACTOR: With George W. Bush in the cockpit.

ACTRESS: The eye of the world has landed on me.


SAMMON: I'll tell you, Mort, I was down there for those 36 days. I wrote the first book on the recount wars. This is such a predictable left wing Hollywood pipe dream version of what happened. Basically, saying that Gore was cheated out of the election. And it's so hand-fisted, so clumsy, so over the top.

They go after the easy GOP targets. Let's caricature Katherine Harris. Wow, that's a brave stand for the filmmakers to take. They made up dialogue. They made up scenes. I don't think — even "the New York Times" when they did the mother of all recounts, they concluded — the liberal "New York Times" concluded, if the Supreme court had allowed this to go on and they hadn't interrupted the count, George Bush would have won anyway. Hollywood can't get over that fact.

KONDRACKE: I think the Supreme Court, instead of voting 5-4 to put George Bush in the White House...

SAMMON: And it should.

KONDRACKE: ... should have allowed the whole matter to go to the House of Representatives. George Bush would have won anyway, but it would have been by Constitutional means.

SAMMON: Don't move a muscle. "The Buzz" is coming up next.


KONDRACKE: What's The Buzz, Bill?

SAMMON: John McCain is hoping to finally put his pastor problem behind him. He has been hounded for weeks and months by these controversial pastors who have endorsed his candidacy. You've got this John Hagee character, who called the Catholic Church the great horror. By the way, as a Catholic, I take great offense at that.You've got Ron Parsley of Ohio, who calling Islam an evil religion. And the problem for McCain is that he has never fully repudiated these guys.

The press jumped on this new quote that surfaced recently from John Hagee where he's saying that the Nazis were actually just dispatching the Jews to the Promise Land. He was doing them a favor, you understand.

Of course, that created a problem again for McCain but, in the larger sense, it was actually a favor to McCain because it gave him the pretext to say, look, I break off completely with these guys. I repudiate their endorsements. He's trying to move past his pastor problem, so it doesn't continue to tangle him up like Barack Obama's pastor problem continues to dog him.

KONDRACKE: Well, McCain should have had nothing it a long time ago.

SAMMON: I know.

KONDRACKE: In fact, he shouldn't have had nothing to do with these guys at all.

I have two items to buzz. First, the Center for the Study of the America Electorate published a study that shows, big as it is, the turnout among Democrats this year is only the second biggest in history. The first biggest was guess when? 1972. And who was the nominee? George McGovern, who got blown out in a landslide by Richard Nixon.

SAMMON: So we can stop hearing these talking points about how this big Democratic turnout means a victory for Democrats?

KONDRACKE: Right. Second item, a new Barack Obama name for vice president — long shot, Richard Lugar, Republican Senator of Indiana.

SAMMON: Too long a shot.

KONDRACKE: That's all for "The Beltway Boys" for 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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