Political World Is Buzzing Over McCain's VP Pick and Has Barack Obama Put to Rest Questions About if He's Ready to Lead?

This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", August 30, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.

FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," the political world is buzzing over the brand new pick. We'll tell you if Sarah Palin passes the vaunting "The Beltway Boys" veep test.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: We'll preview John McCain's turn in the spotlight and tell you where the race stands heading into the GOP convention.

BARNES: We'll tell you if Barack Obama has put to rest questions about if he's ready to lead.

KONDRACKE: And whether his pact with the Clintons is really ancient history.

BARNES: All that is coming up on "The Beltway Boys" from St. Paul right now!

I'm Fred Barnes.

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

BARNES: We're coming from "FOX News" election headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, site of next week's Republican National Convention.

Hot story number one, Sarah barracuda!

KONDRACKE: Barracuda.

BARNES: You know, we're in St. Paul and this nickname Sarah barracuda, which she got when she was the high school basketball star of her team, won the state championship, and it's carried with her political career to the moment now where she's John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

Mort, I know you have not shared in the excitement of Sarah Palin's emergence. Conservatives have. Republicans have. This convention will be different. It was going to be dreary. Now it will be, if not exciting, we'll have people who are excited, the Republicans.

And I want to talk about Sarah Palin quickly by asking three questions.

KONDRACKE: Who you know by the way.

BARNES: I know. We'll talk about that. I do know her. I have met her. Lovely person.

Three questions. The first one and I'm going to answer them. Is she qualified to be president? I say yes. I say she's every bit as qualified as a one-term congressman who became President Lincoln. Here's why she's qualified. She's someone who has had a long and important political career. She has more executive experience than Barack Obama. She's made decisions. Look, he has foreign policy experience consisting of one week in Iraq or Afghanistan and Europe. She can match that.

Has she been tested? That matters in a crisis. Well, she's dealt with the toughest industry in the world, the oil industry, by far the biggest one in her home state of Alaska. She forced them to move ahead on a pipeline. She's even raised their taxes, which rebated a lot of money to people in her state.

Is she a political reformer? I'll say she's a political reformer. She brought down the state attorney general, a Republican, the state chairman, Republican chairman. She defeated the corrupt Republican establishment in Alaska. That to me is a reformer.

Barack Obama, he's a product of the Chicago political machine. He's never complained about.

You like strong women. She is a strong woman. And watch this.


SARAH PALIN, (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America.

But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!


KONDRACKE: Now, look, if McCain wanted to pick a first term governor who was really qualified to be president of the United States on sort of day one, you'd pick Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, who is busy preparing for a hurricane right now and would be otherwise occupied. But he was a deputy secretary of a major cabinet department in the Bush administration, HHS. He was a congressman. He's certainly a reformer. I'd say he's much more qualified.

She has very good qualities. I do like strong women. You well know that. And she's a very strong woman.

BARNES: I know you do (ph).

KONDRACKE: She's got great political and personal qualities. But the idea that if something happened to John McCain, who is 72 years old and who has two bouts with melanoma, and she could step into the presidency, it's ridiculous. This is like taking an elementary school principal and transformer her into the president of a major research university, say the University of Virginia. I'm sure you wouldn't want that to happen. As to oil companies, she did take on the oil companies. She not only raised their taxes, she imposed a graduated tax on them, which means that the more profits they make, the higher their taxes are. Is this in the Republican platform? I don't think so.

BARNES: She rebated it to the taxpayers. It's not in the Republican platform.

KONDRACKE: I don't think so. And as for the argument she's more qualified than Obama or that she's Abraham Lincoln, listen, Abraham Lincoln — wait a minute.

BARNES: Why are you worried about the qualifications? I didn't she was Abraham Lincoln.

KONDRACKE: Wait a minute. Abraham Lincoln spent all those years talking about slavery, going to cooper union, had these great debates about national issues with Steven Douglas. She's had none of that kind of experience. Obama, I'm not claiming that he's Abraham Lincoln either, but he's spent the last two years talking, thinking, arguing about national and international issues. This is a woman who didn't even have a passport until 2003.

BARNES: Aren't you arguing some experience. Let's go to our own nonpartisan, nonideological test for veep picks. We call it "The Beltway Boys" veep test.

Mort, I'll let you start on these answers. Number one, is the choice a plausible president?

KONDRACKE: No. She may be a plausible president some day. She certainly is not now.

BARNES: You're right. She doesn't immediately jump out someone you think is a plausible president but we'll see over the next weeks and months how she handles herself and we may know the answer.

Number two, does the choice do no harm to the ticket?

KONDRACKE: We'll have to see. We'll have to see what happens in the debate with Joe Biden, for example. As of now, no. She made a good first impression.

BARNES: She did. I think the Rasmussen poll shows that. The first impression of Palin has been positive. On Saturday's Rasmussen poll, shows 53 percent have a favorable impression of her. Only 48 percent had a good impression of Joe Biden on his first day.

Question three, does this deep choice boost the ticket?

KONDRACKE: It boosts the ticket. It does help mobilize the conservative base, that's for sure. But the idea that any Hillary Clinton supporter is going to vote for her? I don't think so. Not only is she against abortion in all cases, she wants Creationism taught in the public schools. And she doesn't — she's not even in favor of domestic partnerships for state workers. The Hillary Clinton voters are not going to vote for her nor are large numbers of independent women.

BARNES: That assumes, as you seems to, that all these Hillary Clinton supporters, 18 million, are feminist. An awful lot of them aren't. Most of them aren't. A lot are conservative Democrats who will vote for her.

KONDRACKE: Not that conservative.

BARNES: Number four, is there a personal chemistry between the VP choice and the candidate?

KONDRACKE: They've only met two or three times. I don't think they could develop a chemistry. I mean this is — I don't think so, no.

BARNES: Well, they're very much alike. I think they will. I think that's one of the reasons he picked her.

KONDRACKE: I have one more thing to say. John McCain really, really wanted two other people to be his vice president. He wanted Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. He didn't pick them. Why?

BARNES: I'll tell you why.

KONDRACKE: Because the conservative base of the Republican Party and all the talk show hosts vetoed it. What does that mean?

BARNES: I'll tell you what it means.

KONDRACKE: Wait a minute.

BARNES: Well, you asked.

KONDRACKE: John McCain, whose appeal is to independent voters caved in, sold out to the right-wingers of the Republican Party. I don't see how he... (CROSSTALK)

BARNES: Let me tell you why he picked her. You know why?


BARNES: She is a better candidate. She's more exciting. She will stir the ticket. She's shaking up the campaign. She's more like him. She's an anti-establishment conservative Republican just like John McCain and that's why he picked her.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, we'll tell you where the presidential race stands heading into next week's GOP convention. Coming up.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to St. Paul. Hot story number two, advantage Obama.

You know, polls are trenchant, especially bounced balls after a convention. Just to review where they are now, the Gallop tracking poll shows that at the start of the Democrat convention Obama and McCain were tied. Saturday that daily poll showed Obama up 8 points. A bounce. Pretty good one. The bounce is far more modest in the Rasmussen daily track. His poll shows voters leaning one way or another. Last Monday Obama was up 3 points, Saturday he was up by 4 points.

By the way, the most recent electoral map, put together by Karl Rove, shows McCain picked up 27 votes last week by moving Florida into his column. Obama still leads 260 to 221 with 57 as tossups. and the candidate needs 270 to win.

I don't know about you, Fred, but that last night show, Thursday, in Denver, was one of the most spectacular I've ever seen. I've never seen anything like it in all the years I've been covering conventions. I thought the stadium setting, which people said was grandiose, over the top, was not anything of the kind.

BARNES: It worked. I agree.

KONDRACKE: It worked. He had 80,000 people present and something like 38.5 million watching it on television, which was a stupendous audience, bigger than the American audience watching the Olympics.

And so, you know, I think the whole thing was quite effective, including Obama's convention acceptance speech, which we'll show you a little bit of. Watch.

(begin video clip)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, tonight I say to the people of America, the Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land, enough. This moment — this moment, this election is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive.

(end video clip)

KONDRACKE: Boy, there's an exciting line. Enough!

BARNES: Boy, there were a lot of great sound bites in this.

Mort, I agree with you. Theatrics were fantastic. The speech is one I've been hearing from decades from every — it's the standard Democratic speech. You know all the things that are in it, Mort, Universal health care, energy independence. We're not going to have any cuts in entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. They're all going to be solvent. In Obama's case tax cuts for 95 percent of the American people. A lot of these tax cuts are to people who don't pay taxes, so checks going out through the government from taxpayers like us. All those things.

And how he's he going to pay for them? With unspecified spending cuts or taxing the 5 percent of the top earners in America, the people who create jobs in America. Mort, I just can't believe that you would — you would fall for that. You've heard it so many times and rejected it before.

KONDRACKE: Look, that part I do not...

BARNES: But it's a standard speech (ph).

KONDRACKE: Just a second. Let me say what I have to say. What he actually said was he was going to pay for all that by closing corporate loopholes. That's ridiculous.

BARNES: Waste, fraud and abuse.

KONDRACKE: Just as ridiculous John McCain's going to balance the budget by vetoing earmarks. It ain't going to happen. It's about time that both of them got serious about the debt and deficit burden.

BARNES: All right.

KONDRACKE: Look, I thought what made it effective was three things. First, the Democrats made not only Barack Obama the issue of this campaign but turned it on John McCain and his, you know, similarity of his program to George Bush's, which the McCain campaign has yet to answer.

Secondly, he linked up this program of his, this extensive, vast agenda with the people it's designed to help, this redistributionist economics and all that, the workers, the students, the small business people and so on. And the third thing that he did was he stole or at least preempted the whole theme of McCain's convention putting the country first, which is meant to say Obama doesn't put the country first. What Obama said was, John McCain., we all put the country first.

BARNES: Mort, what you're saying is, what you're confusing here is what Obama said he was doing and with actually achieving it. I mean, you don't whether...

KONDRACKE: Well, it's promises. All campaigns are promises.

BARNES: You have no idea, nor do I, whether his statement connected with the white working class people who have been very resistant to Barack Obama. I rather doubt that it did but I could be wrong. We haven't talked to him. Look, I find it not particularly surprising that they may be their opponent, John McCain, the issue. Of course they did. Did you like the line where Obama is showing how tough he is and attacking McCain, tell me what you think he meant, that McCain, he might know where Barack Obama is but he won't go to the cave and get him. He's saying that Obama would. You're not for that. KONDRACKE: Implausible. BARNES: But the idea was, what, John McCain's a coward? What was he saying there?

KONDRACKE: Good question. I'm not sure.

BARNES: Coming up, a look back at how the Clinton's behaved this week in Denver and whether the rift with Obama is really over.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys."

Mort, before I get to the "Ups and Downs, I need to say I said in the last segment Barack Obama was in that cave in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

KONDRACKE: You meant Usama bin Laden.

BARNES: I meant Usama bin Laden. Thanks. Good. All right.

Up, the Clintons. Bill and Hillary Clinton delivered rousing speeches at the Democratic convention. Even though we know both were lying through their teeth, a little exaggerated about their support for Obama, it was still a pretty good show. Take a look.

(begin video clip)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), NEW YORK: We're Americans. We're not big on quitting. And, remember, before we can keep going, we've got to get going by electing Barack Obama the next president of the United States!

BILL CLINTON, (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States!

(end video clip)

KONDRACKE: Hillary Clinton did not lie. You know, what she — she hardly said anything about Barack Obama. So she doesn't think he's qualified to be president but she didn't say he was. She didn't say even anything about his qualities which are legitimate. Her argument was we've got to elect a Democratic president if you want to get all these things done, health care and all that stuff that Democrats have been wanting to do. Barack Obama the guys who would be president.

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, his speech was, you might say, Clintonian.

BARNES: Hillary Clinton wasn't even that tough on John McCain. I think she knows she'll have to deal with him again. Either he'll be president or he'll be back in the Senate, so.

But Mort, I have two questions for you. One, do you believe — you can answer this yes or no. Do you believe the Clintons will really work their tails off all fall to get Barack Obama elected president?

KONDRACKE: I do. I honestly do.

BARNES: I don't. The second question, in the privacy of the polling booth with a secret ballot, will the two of them vote for Barack Obama?

KONDRACKE: Let's see, they're both voting in New York, I guess they will because their votes won't count.

BARNES: You don't believe that.

KONDRACKE: Up, Montana's Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer. Forget Mark Warner of Virginia. It was Schweitzer who turned out to be one of the big breakthrough stars of the Democratic convention. Check him out on the floor Tuesday night.

(begin video clip)

BRIAN SCHWEITZER, (D), MONTANA GOVERNOR: Can we afford four more years of the same? Is it time for change now? Are we going to declare our energy independence and change the world? Who's going to lead us as the next president of the United States? That's it, baby, let's go win this election!

(end video clip)

BARNES: I love that stuff. That's what conventions are supposed to have. You can say it's demagoguery, it's over the top, it's — I mean, it's not very intellectually smart or anything. He roused the crowd. It was good on television. He made a name for himself. This is why they moved him into a more prominent spot, so more people can see him on television.

BARNES: Smart move. Remember that name, Brian Schweitzer.

KONDRACKE: I was interested in this paragraph: "In Montana, we're investing in wind farms, but we're also drilling in the backing formation (ph), one of the most promising oil fields in America, and we're putting coal gasification into effect with carbon sequestration." That is not Democratic dogma. Pelosi will not like that or Harry Reid. They think that any fossil fuel is a big no-no.

BARNES: I would note, Mort, you're quite a wonk.

Down, Nancy Pelosi. Speaking of her, the House Speaker really fanned the flames of the abortion debate this week when she said Catholic leaders have been less than specific where life begins. Watch.

(begin video clip)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I would say that as an ardent practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition.

(end video clip)

BARNES: That's a pretty lame excuse for saying that she's for abortion on demand basically.

But a better response, for me, came from the Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput. Here's what he said, Mort, in a very scaling statement. He said, quote, "Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them. Catholics who make excuses for it," — abortion — "whether they're famous or not, fool only themselves."

Here's what surprises me. Why pick a fight with the Catholic hierarchy, the bishops, when you're running a campaign? You know who that helps? It helps Republicans. It helps galvanize the pro lifers. It strengthens the Republican base, not the Democrats.

KONDRACKE: And you actually met the Denver archbishop.

BARNES: I did. A lovely man, very, very smart, politically shrewd.

KONDRACKE: Right. But actually, Nancy Pelosi has a point. I mean, if you go back in the distant past, church history, Pope Innocent III, in the 12th century, said that abortion was OK before the fetus had been animated. And in the 13th century, the doctrine was that a fetus had to have quickening. It wasn't until 1588, but every since, that abortion has been an excommunicatable offense.

BARNES: In terms of Catholic history and doctrine, Mort, I'm going with the archbishop, not you.

KONDRACKE: Right, well, yeah. But Nancy Pelosi said that she'd studied church history and she has.

Hang on to your seats. "The Buzz" is coming up next.


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

KONDRACKE: Certainly, a high point of the Denver convention was that tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy and his great speech. He was really robust.

What's not well known is that this was a risky appearance for him. He's undergoing chemotherapy, his immune system is down and he could have been in trouble. He said he wanted to be there in January to enact the Obama agenda. I certainly hope he's there in January.

BARNES: Mort, you mentioned earlier that I know Sarah Palin. It gives me great advantage over you. I had lunch with her in Juneau last year. She's a lovely person, smart, knows more about the energy issue than everybody in the Democratic Party combined. We discussed the rise of China and nuclear non-proliferation. She's also very pretty. And her husband, just so you'll know I'm not sexist, is also tall and handsome.

That's all for "The Beltway 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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