Race Roils the Democratic 2008 Race and the Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", March 15, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.

FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," the hot button issue of race roils the Democratic contest, leading to angry recriminations of both sides.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: We'll take a closer look at the impact of this week's hot rhetoric with our own Juan Williams.

BARNES: Sex, lies and wiretaps. The spectacular rise and fall of Eliot Spitzer.

KONDRACKE: And move over, John McCain. We'll tell you how Angelina Jolie is now the biggest supporter of Iraq War.

BARNES: "The Beltway Boys" are next, right after the headlines.


KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.

BARNES: And I'm Fred Barnes. We're "The Beltway Boys."

The hot story tonight is race cards. Or I could have said race card question mark or race card explanation point. Mort, you and others have accused the Clinton campaign of playing the race card against Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race.


BARNES: Which means the Clintons are supposedly using his race, African-American, obviously, against him to help Hillary in the campaign.

We're going to get to another racial aspect, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who is Barack Obama's spiritual advisor and former pastor. We'll talk about him with Juan Williams in a minute.

First, let me get to this whole question of the race card and the Clinton campaign. Let's look at the supposed examples. Start being just a few days ago, Geraldine Ferraro, a member of the Finance Committee. Here's what she said. "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. If he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky who he is and the country is caught up in the concept."

I think what she said is true. The country is caught up in the concept of having a post-racial candidate, someone who would unite blacks and whites economically, racially and so on. It has to be an African- American candidate to do that. It couldn't be a white candidate. And that candidate is Barack Obama.

What she says is true. She's not talking about an affirmative action higher. Quite the contrary. Everyone knows how smart he is, Harvard Law School.

There's another part. This is Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, obviously backing Hillary Clinton, the primary there April 22nd. "You've got conservative whites here and whites probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate."

That's the down side of being an African-American candidate. I think Ed Rendell's right. It's not just in Mississippi or Alabama where whites are not going to vote for an African-American candidate.

One more example. That's your favorite president, Bill Clinton. I'm being sarcastic, of course. Here's what Bill Clinton said after the South Carolina primary some weeks ago. Watch.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. He ran a good campaign here. And Senator Obama is running a good campaign here. He's run a good campaign everywhere.


BARNES: I wouldn't call this playing the race card, but it is — wait a minute. But it is playing up a racial angle that I think is uncalled for, likening Obama to Jesse Jackson. A completely different candidate. Jackson is a pure race candidate. His campaign is based on racial grievances. Obama has tried, I think, successfully, to transcend race. He's not running as a racial candidate. To say he is, is demeaning and diminishing him and in a way using race to argue against him.

Now, that's not the race card as we remember it elsewhere, but it only applies — only applies to what Bill Clinton said. I don't think the Rendell and Ferro though.

KONDRACKE: That was a great list you had there. And you have to add it all up. It's not — you know, you don't take him in isolation. You take it as a theme of the Clinton campaign. And you forgot one. You forgot that e-mailed picture of Barack Obama in Afghan garb that Matt Roche said he got from the Clinton campaign.

BARNES: That was to show he's a Muslim, which he's not. Whatever.

KONDRACKE: Anyway. We have Hillary Clinton quote, unquote, apologizing for Bill Clinton. Watch this.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sorry if anyone was offended. It was not meant in any way to be offensive. And I think that we can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama. People who go into the arena deserve our appreciation because it is not easy being in public life and especially running for president.


KONDRACKE: Did you notice that "if anyone was offended." That is the sure mark of a phony apology.

The Clinton campaign acknowledged it's going though throw the kitchen sink at Barack Obama. This race stuff is something that they got out of the garbage disposal unit frankly.

Obama is trying to be the post-racial candidate to heal the wound, historic wounds that divided America. He's trying to be in politics what Tiger Woods is to golf.

What the Clinton campaign is stirring up the Fuzzy Zoellers. Remember Fuzzy Zoeller, the golf pro who said Barack Obama would serve fried chicken and collard green at the Master's championship dinner.

So what the Clinton campaign is doing is divisive. They're doing it on purpose. And they are not contributing to the healing of America.

I got to say though that in certain places it works. In Ohio it worked. Steeply polarizing the electorate, whites for Clinton, and blacks for Hillary. And it could work in Pennsylvania.

BARNES: I don't think it is working. After all, Obama is ahead by something like 105 delegates. Hillary has practically no chance of even winning in Pennsylvania and getting ahead of him in delegates.

She has to get ahead in the popular vote. I don't think she can even do that. If she goes in as they approach the superdelegates and behind in the popular vote, she's not going to get the nomination. If she did, it would split the party.

KONDRACKE: I think what Obama's got to do is regain the initiative. This whole racial focus of this past week basically made everybody forget about his victory in Mississippi. He doesn't have to be a mean-spirited attack but he's got legitimate issues to use against Hillary Clinton and that is for one thing where are the tax records? Where are the records of the — her role in the Clinton administration? Where are the donor lists of the Clinton Library? That's all legitimate sufficient.

BARNES: It is.

Coming up, Juan Williams will be here to talk more about how race is impacting the Democratic race. Stay with us.



MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: There's still this tension. There's this divide that exists when this comes to race. And I think that Barack's campaign helps open up that discussion, but every time you take that step, you have more casualties of that conversation. And we've got to get past that point where we can actually have an open discussion about this and not hang someone's hide on the wall.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Joining us to talk about how race is impacting the presidential contest is Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, "FOX news" contributor and great friend to us and the show.

Juan, hi. Before I get to the first question, let me say Fuzzy Zoeller was talking about Tiger Woods, not Barack Obama. That's out of the way.

OK, you have to break the tie here. Do you think that the Clinton camp is playing dirty pool when it brings up the race issue?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: When I hear things like Billy Shanie in New Hampshire talking about Obama's mention of drug use in his book, and then I see Bob Johnson down in South Carolina do the same thing, Mort, I think you got to say there's a pattern. A test of anyone's intelligence whether or not you see patterns.

With Geraldine Ferraro, right away Hillary Clinton said she did agree and only later did she apologize and did Ferraro leave the campaign.

So I don't want to think the worst of Geraldine Ferraro. I don't think she's a racist. Political dug up a quote which she said at the time that Jesse Jackson was doing as well as he was doing only because he was black.

To me this is offensive because if you think that Barack Obama's doing well because he's black, how many black presidents have we had? How many black guys do we know or black women who have tried to run in the United States and not succeeded because of race?

Barack Obama's an inspirational, terrific candidate running a fabulous campaign. I think her comments were intended to degrade him.

KONDRACKE: Do you think that if Hillary Clinton were to get the nomination somehow that African-Americans are so disturbed with this conduct, that they will stay away from the polls and — or fracture the Democratic party?

WILLIAMS: No, I don't. In fact, Doug Wilder, my friend, the former governor of Virginia, now the mayor of Richmond, he said, oh boy, if you think — if you think going back to '68, that was a problem, that convention, imagine what's going to happen here. I think that's a lot of alarmist talk.

I think most African-Americans have not been pleased with George Bush's administration, don't want a third term. That kind of attitude is what will carry the party forward. I think that will heal the wounds. It's not as if the Clintons are identified in the black community as hostile or antagonistic. They have a tremendous track record in the black community.

KONDRACKE: Does she at least have to offer Barack Obama the vice- presidency?

WILLIAMS: I think that would be a smart move. It's sort of arrogant. Obviously, Barack Obama's beating her now in popular votes and delegates. But her intent, what her campaign people were saying was, that she is mature, a conciliator, wants to bring us together because Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama rightly said he's the one in the lead. If anyone's offering anything to anybody, it should be him.

BARNES: That's a good point. Let me ask you, Juan, about Jeremiah Wright, who was the ministry of the church that Obama still goes to in Chicago and has gone to 25 years or so. And now I think he's retired. But he's still the spiritual leader. He said controversial things like the U.S. is run by the KKK and we shouldn't sing God bless America, we should sing God damn America and so

And then he said this. Watch.


REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, OBAMA SPIRITUAL MENTOR: Barack Obama knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people! Hillary can never know that! Hillary ain't never been called a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!


BARNES: Well, we bleeped that one, the "N" word. My question is this: Barack Obama said he disagree aware things that Jeremiah Wright has said and deplored some of them. Is that enough? Does he need to repudiate him?

WILLIAMS: I don't know what repudiate would mean?

BARNES: Leave his church, for one.

WILLIAMS: That's the key here. I don't want to run the verbal gymnastics but I think, for a while it was attempt to associate him with Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and I don't think he has association there whatsoever. He's been in the pew, been a supporter of Reverend Jeremiah Wright forever. Wright married him. He took the title of his book, "Audacity of Hope," from a Wright sermon.

He's been a supporter of this black, angry, nationalistic rhetoric for the longest time because it gave him a base in the black community. it legitimized him as a citizen of Chicago when he was trying to run as a black politician there. He still is a member of that church.

To hear this kind of racially, incendiary and divisive rhetoric — if Barack Obama is the guy, as Mort described earlier, trying to transcend race, trying to bring us together, he's got to stand up and say I've grown beyond it. What Reverend Jeremiah Wright said is wrong.

BARNES: He hasn't done that. His campaign has put out a statement. Doesn't he need to quit the church?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. I wouldn't stay in a church where — my minister it black. You've been to my church. If he said things like that about white people, Hispanic people, I would be outraged and quit in a second. I hope you would do the same if your minister talked about people of color that way.

BARNES: Indeed, I would.

KONDRACKE: How much damage do you think Jeremiah Wright is going to do to Barack Obama politically?

WILLIAMS: The question, Mort, is how much does it get traction in the American media. The Ferraro comments got lots of traction. And I think the press is tough on Hillary Clinton. But it has not picked up in the way they questioned about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And I think some ways they're giving a pass. They think this is black politics and we don't want to get involved. They're making a mistake because I think lots of whites are paying attention.

KONDRACKE: Thanks, Juan.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, will Mitt Romney be John McCain's running mate? There were signs this week that that could be the case.

Another one bites the dust. A sex scandal claims a top politician. What's new? That's next.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys."

Let's check out the "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Down: Soon to be former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer. This week's sex scandal has cost him his job and he's still in hot water legally.

What it there left to say? This guy, as the record now shows, the press sort of ignored it ahead of time, was arrogant. He was ruthless. He tried to destroy people that he was merely assigned to prosecute when he was attorney general.

And when he fell as a result of this — he was no friend of Democrats as much as Republicans. And when he fell, when there was nobody around to catch him or shed a tear except his family.

BARNES: There was no political safety net. There are two more things to say. One is, this reckless sexual life, going to prostitutes for ten years or so, I think somewhat matches his life as a prosecutor. As you suggested, Mort, he was denounced people, say they committed illegalities, by name. AIG, the insurance companies, is one and then not prosecute them. Not indict them.

And secondly — you touched on another thing — the press. The press enabled him, except for the "Wall Street Journal" and editorial page. They deserve a lot of praise for that. Turned out to be right.

Up: Former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. He may have shot up to the top spot on John McCain's vice presidential list.

Take a look at comments from each man, Romney and McCain, this week.


MITT ROMNEY, (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think any Republican leader in this country would be honored to be asked to serve as the vice president nominee. Myself included.

JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that Governor Romney has earned a place in our Republican party. And I think he's part of the future of our Republican party.


BARNES: Well, McCain wasn't particularly specific. But I think you and I have agreed that Romney makes a lot of sense as McCain's vice presidential running mate. I think there are a number of reasons. One, the first test you have to meet as a Veep is to be plausible as a president. People has to say, yeah, that guy could be president or that woman could be president. He's help out with conservatives. Terrific debater, as he showed in the Republican campaign. And I think he's strong in the economic issue. He helped McCain on that because he's not.

KONDRACKE: I completely agree with all that, especially the plausible president part. He's not the perfect candidate because McCain will lose some Independents and have to work harder to get them. There isn't a perfect candidate in the Republican Party. I don't even think Condi Rice would be the perfect candidate, although she'd be good, too.


KONDRACKE: OK. Down: Former CENTCOM commander, Admiral William Fallon. He came out publicly against U.S. military action in Iran. This week he resigned.

The White House and the Pentagon insists he wasn't forced out. Here's Defense Secretary Bob Gates making that point.


ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Admiral Fallon reached this difficult decision entirely on his own. I believe it was the right thing to do, even though I do not believe there are, in fact, significant differences between his views and administration policy.


KONDRACKE: I don't know how Gates can say that there are not significant differences between President Bush and Fallon. After all, President Bush and David Petraeus, our commander in Iraq, want to have a pause in the withdrawal schedule of U.S. troops from Iraq. Fallon has made it very clear and very public, which is part of the offense here, that he wants us out and wants us out fast. That's a complete difference.

Furthermore, he said, also publicly, that the military option is off the table as far as Iran is concerned. Well, Bush may not want to use the military option but he sure wants to keep it on the table in order to help diplomacy.

BARNES: Even that was endorsed by "The Washington Post" and others who want the military option. It sort of forces the mind of the people you're trying to — use actually soft power, like economic sanctions against. It hasn't worked yet, but Fallon hasn't helped.

Generals in our system, uniformed military leaders, are not allowed to have and broadcast their independent foreign policy and national security policy. That's not how our country works.

Some of the Democrats have rushed to Dallon's defense. If this were some hard-line military guy under a Democratic president, like Douglas Macarthur, going off on his own, they'd be against it. They ought to realize civil leadership matters and generals, who are trying to be independent, we can't have.

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


KONDRACKE: What's "The Buzz," Fred?

BARNES: "The Buzz" is Angelina Jolie. You know the actress, the mother of Brad Pitt's child and all that? She's been in Iraq, spent time there.

Here's what she said. "My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but a serious, long-term national security interest in ending this crisis. Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the potential consequences for our national security are great. What we cannot afford, in my view, to squander the progress that has been made."

She didn't call herself pro-surge, but recognized what happens there. All the U.N. officials and others realize now, because of the surge, there's a chance to do wonderful things as humanitarian as possible in Iraq. She's on our side.

KONDRACKE: My "Buzz," Major Garrett at FOX is reporting that Barack Obama has been dogging it on the campaign trail. Two events per day in Ohio and Texas versus five or six for Hillary. Hillary's been three days in Pennsylvania, him there once.

BARNES: Sounds like a lot of wagging.

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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