'Special Report' Panel on Bill Clinton and the Presidential Campaign

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This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from January 24, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENITAL CANDIDATE: When you run an ad making assertions that everybody who has looked at it says are wrong, you know they said it's wrong, and you still make it, then that would indicate that you're not that concerned about accuracy or the truth.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is a lot harder for me than campaigning for myself ever was. When I was running, I didn't give a rip what anybody said about me. It's weird, you know, but if you love somebody, you would think they would be good. It's just harder.


HUME: Poor Bill, he's having a hard time.

Some thoughts on this race and the Clintons role in it from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, same job at "Roll Call," and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Well, before the day was done today, a radio ad that attacked Obama as being a Reagan disciple, basically, had pulled off the air in South Carolina. And both the two candidates, Clinton and Obama, said good words about the stimulus package that was agreed to by House leaders of both parties and the White House today.

The Senate said not so fast. John Edwards didn't like it. So where does this now seem to stand?

Let's look at the polling average just to keep us b abreast of where the race appear to stand from that perspective. Obama appears to be well ahead, 12 points. That's the average of polls taken over the last eight or nine days.

What about it, Mort?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Well, it looks as though Obama will win South Carolina, but the Clinton campaign has already dismissed that as the product of the fact that 50 percent of the electorate is black, and they are moving on to other places. Hillary hadn't been there for a while.

And I think that there is some basis for thinking that she will do well and win on a lot of states on February 5. She is amassing the traditional Democratic coalition—seniors, less well educated people, lower-income people, women, union members, and Hispanics.

And what has Obama got but African-Americans, rich people, rich Democrats, and well educated Democrats. It is the Bill Bradley coalition plus African-Americans, and that ain't enough to win. And her coalition is big enough to win.

And what has happened in South Carolina is that they really have polarized this race. They have not said anything overtly racist—

HUME: Racist or racial?

KONDRACKE: Racial or racist, either one.

HUME: Certainly when Clinton made that comment that nobody's been hurt by virtue of their gender and indeed they both have been helped— Hillary has been helped by her gender and Barack Obama has been helped by his race, is basically what he said, that at least raises the race question.

KONDRACKE: Well it raises the race question, but when this is all over—it is very nasty now, clearly very nasty now, but, believe me, Hillary will start going out to the African-American community if she has the nomination wrapped up. She will put it back together. She will promise anything. She will be seen with Charlie Rangel and all the black supporters of hers, and the party will come back together.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I had to laugh there at former President Clinton, He's doing it for love, that's why he's doing it. Lying about Obama's record—he's doing it for love, because he loves Hillary and he knows she would be such a great president.

You got to love him saying that, I'll tell you. I miss that stuff.

HUME: And it's been hard.

BARNES: And it's been hard.

One thing to look at in South Carolina is, and we'll find out from the exit polls, is how the white vote went. We expect, at least I do and Obama does, that he will win the African-American vote, but let's see how the white vote and see if the Clintons have tilted heavily it in their favor.

Now, there's a reason why they're being so tough with Obama, and it's because Hillary—he is going to be there against her for the whole campaign. Given the structure of the Democratic primaries, she will have a hard time locking it up because they have proportional distribution of the delegates.

HUME: So she may win everywhere, but only get a plurality of the delegates on Super Tuesday, say.

BARNES: Exactly.

Republicans in New York and New Jersey and a lot of other states, it's winner take all—win the state, get all the delegates. But Democrats divide them according to your percentage of the vote.

So that means he's going to be hanging around. There will be other people with delegates, like John Edwards will probably have some, and she'll be threatened maybe all the way to the convention unless they can crush Obama now. And that's what I think they would like to do.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And that's the whole idea of bringing out Bill as the attack dog. And I think to some extent he has succeeded. He made Obama get out there and respond, take him of his game, put him on the defensive.

I must admit I'm enjoying this. After watching in the '90's how the Clintons practiced the politics of personal destruction, turning Ken Starr into an object of scorn, and Gennifer Flowers into a deceitful strumpet, and Monica Lewinsky into an agent of the vast right wing conspiracy. The liberals cheered on the Clintons in doing that, and they succeeded.

And now that they've turned against an attractive, aspiring, and inspirational African-American rival, I think liberals are beginning to understand that this was us against them. It is not liberals against others or Democrats or progressives—us was the Clintons. That's what this is all about. It's personal.

And I think if they continue on this, the fact that that ad had to be pulled indicates that they are pushing the envelope here. Initial success in bringing Obama down, but if they push harder on this, there is going to be a resentment in the party that is going to be hard to ultimately patch up, and I think it will redound against them.

HUME: Next up with the panel, we heard earlier about Republican dislike for John McCain, but what about Mitt Romney? He seems to have some popularity problems of his own among his fellow candidates. We'll talk about that next.



MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That does happen from time to time, but let me —

JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you switch from positions from time to time, you will get misquoted.

ROMNEY: Senator, is there a way to have this about issues and not about personal attacks? I hope so.


HUME: That was a little slice of that debate earlier this month, which gave a sense of the apparent contempt in which Mitt Romney is held by John McCain. It is believed to be the case about the other candidates as well, that they don't like the guy. Why?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, let's see: He's smart, he's handsome, and he's rich. What was the question again? Surprise, surprise, people hate him. Some of his rivals have trouble getting one out of three of those.

And because he is rich he is able to fund himself without a lot of the indignities that all the other candidates have to do, leaving the state in the middle of a campaign to go out to New York or the west coast to raise money.

HUME: He has raised a lot of money. He has spent a lot of his own, but he has raise a lot.

KRAUTHAMMER: But he always has that in reserve, and he doesn't have to cap in hand all the time.

And, secondly, he has been in the arena in every state. Others have stayed out of a race here and there, but he's been in Iowa, New Hampshire, everywhere else, and he goes into there as the unknown outsider.

A year ago nobody heard of him outside of political circles, and he established himself on television, in ads, and with attack ads. So he has attacked Huckabee in Iowa, he has attacked McCain elsewhere. He has been on the attack more than anybody else, because when you have a leader in a state and you're number two and unknown, you attack.

With all of those reasons, I think it's plain. It's really not hard to understand.

KONDRACKE: Well, John McCain in New Hampshire was adopting the "Concord Monitor's" tag that Romney was a phony. And you know—

HUME: He said you're the candidate of change, meaning he has changed his position.

KONDRACKE: Well, he has changed his position, and he is a panderer. He is a budget-slasher, except when it comes to farm subsidies in Iowa and goodies for the auto industry in Michigan.

BARNES: Everybody does that.

KONDRACKE: Everybody does it, except that he does it rather nakedly.

HUME: In other words, he's an unsettled panderer.

KONDRACKE: He was going to be more pro gay than Teddy Kennedy back when he ran against the Senate. Then he suddenly becomes the candidate of family values, and so on. I mean, he was—

HUME: So you think they don't like him because he's a phony, and they're not?


HUME: And none of them have had a position shift, or anything like that?

KONDRACKE: Well, I think McCain shifts less than the others do.

BARNES: How did McCain vote on the Farm Bill? I'm not sure how he voted. I don't know.

They all have shifted, and I think Romney has probably shifted a bit more. But the difference here is the conservative objection to McCain is ideological. The objection to Romney by a lot of people is sort of personal, particularly the other candidates.

I know McCain doesn't like him and does like Huckabee, and it's partly because he's rich and handsome and successful and well spoken and all those things. But I think they also feel that somehow his life has been easier, that they've had to struggle, and here he is, he's done so well, and he hasn't—Huckabee always talks about his life experiences being so tough. We know about McCain's—he was a POW for more than five years in Vietnam.

I don't know about Rudy Giuliani. And then they see this guy—

HUME: He didn't grow up rich.

BARNES: Well, he grew up richer than they did, I think.

HUME: I'm talking about Giuliani.

BARNES: And I'm talking about Romney. He didn't grow up rich.

And then they see this guy who they think is kind of a goody-goody who, like Mort says, is pandering. And it's easy for them to think they're not pandering and he is.

HUME: Can the Republicans and the conservative Republicans ever accept Romney as their guy when it gets down to it?

BARNES: I think they can accept him. Conservatives Republican's can accept Romney as their guy more quickly than a lot of them can accept McCain.

KONDRACKE: I agree with that.

KRAUTHAMMER: They can. And if he wins, they will.

HUME: If he wins what?

KRAUTHAMMER: The nomination.

HUME: I understand that, but before that, that's what he needs to do before that.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's absolutely possible—there are three candidates who can win, and he's one of the three.

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