This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from August 29, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, we were kind of hoping to hear from Sarah Palin there, but something obviously went wrong. We will talk about her though, the choice by John McCain for the running mate slot on the ticket.
And we're going to hear thoughts from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio — FOX News contributors one and all.
Fred, all last night leading into the day, speculation on Pawlenty, Tim Pawlenty, the governor of this state, Mitt Romney — talk of Sarah Palin, which seemed to begin, at least for all of us about a month ago with Bill Kristol seemed to have faded, and here we are. So what do you make of it?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it was an electrifying choice. And it surprised me. It probably surprised Bill a little less. But we both met her and were impressed by her when we met her a year ago.
Look, it's going to change this convention for sure. This was going to be pretty dreary. Even if they named the hometown boy Tim Pawlenti, the governor of Minnesota as the running mate, it wasn't an exciting chase, and neither would have been Mitt Romney and so on. But Sarah Palin really stirs things up.
HUME: Let's pause for a second, Fred, and I will come back to you, because they are telling that me we will actually be able to hear Sarah Palin in her own words. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, R-ALASKA, 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 that the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: That was pretty good.
Well, look, she's going to try to lure a lot of women voters. I suspect the McCain ticket will now do better with women voters. But particularly she is a heroine to conservatives because she is very conservative — pro gun, pro life and so on, tax cutter, spending cutter. She's a lot like McCain as a reform, anti-establishment conservative.
But here's the other thing I want to say, because I know Mort is going to talk about how she has no experience or accomplishments. I would compare her accomplishments with those of Barack Obama's.
She has brought down in the ethics and corrupt scandal, she brought down the state attorney general of Alaska and the Republican chairman of Alaska. She killed the bridge to nowhere. Because the oil revenues were high, she return add great tax rebate to the voters of Alaska. And she slashed the budget as well, spending in the budget as well.
Those are real accomplishments. I think they compare extremely favorably with Barack Obama's accomplishments.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Look, I think that this selection was a testament on John McCain's part to his belief and his own longevity. You know, he plans to fill out his term.
This woman is utterly unqualified to be president of the United States. She is the Dan Quayle of — she's worse than Dan Quayle. Dan Quayle at least had served as a senator and was, you know, and was conversant with national issues.
Barack Obama has been running for president for years and years now, and has been thinking about national issues. He has an agenda and all of that.
Look, she has positives, political positives. She seems like a very nice woman, a very strong woman. And, you know, she is a reformer, and she is doing great work in Alaska for two years.
But, you know, she is going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. John McCain is a 72-year-old man who has had two bouts with melanoma. Her chances actuarially of being president are fairly significant. You don't appoint somebody with so little experience to that kind of job. It's irresponsible, it seems to me.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: There is the perfect voice of inside the beltway wisdom. And it reinforces my absolute confidence in this pick.
Mort thinks Barack Obama is much more qualified than Sarah Palin because he has been running for president since 2005. He got elected to the U.S. Senate and immediately started to run for president.
And he hung around Washington and went on the talk shows. I read one article online this afternoon. It's problematic that Sarah Palin has never been on "Meet the Press." How can you have someone that hasn't kissed up to the Washington establishment types?
People can make their own judgment about here. People were nervous when she was nominated. She is not well-known. I got a lot of e-mails this morning, people knew I had been a fan of her, saying, are you sure this is going to work out?
After her statements, after what she did today, she has crossed one very important bridge, not a bridge to nowhere, but a bridge, I think, to credibility and a bridge to helping John McCain win the presidency.
She will have to go through much more —
HUME: In what sense did she do that?
KRISTOL: Look, it was very high-risk pick. And if she had looked halting, ill at ease, didn't —
HUME: The way Dan Quayle did?
KRISTOL: I'm going to pass on that.
Absolutely right — first impressions are very powerful in our day and age. And Dan Quayle, fairly or unfairly, had a very bad first impression. I was never able to help him recover from that. It was unfair, but that's life.
Sarah Palin has a good first impression. The number of e-mails I got this afternoon from people who aren't even that socially conservative — obviously, she is something of a heroine to conservatives, but people who are Republicans, Independents, people who knew I promoted her and got my e-mail address from "The Weekly Standard" or FOX News, saying they were really moved watching her.
I do think, perhaps by just good luck and chance, McCain has tapped into something potentially quite deep and quite attractive and quite powerful politically in this choice of Sarah Palin.
HUME: Juan, your thoughts?
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it's all about political strategy. I think it's all about the women vote, and the women vote that is available because of the tension between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
And so suddenly you hear Sarah Palin, as you heard in that sound byte, talking about Geraldine Ferraro. And, by the way, Geraldine Ferraro when she was interviewed said she was appreciative of Sarah Palin making mention of her historic effort as a woman.
And then secondly you hear her talking about Hillary Clinton and getting applause from Republicans for her mention of Hillary Clinton saying we're going to crack this ceiling.
So it's all about this election coming down to a slice of the electorate that is, I think, white suburban females, and a very strategic move by the McCain campaign.
And it also, I think, pleases conservatives because she is strongly pro-life, a mother of five, right? She is someone who is in favor of drilling for oil, which I think has been politically just a big plus for the Republican Party in this campaign so far. She's a member of the NRA.
So on all these kind of checklists you get people like, you know, the real conservatives — Dobson, Mike Huckabee, and others saying we like Sarah Palin. But I don't understand how McCain can criticize Obama's inexperience and then put Sarah Palin on the ticket. I mean, she's wonderful, and she's —
HUME: Flip the question around, though. How can the Obama camp, as it has tried to do today, criticize Sarah Palin's experience when Obama's experience, apart from a Mort's significant portfolio of having run for president for two years, seems a little thin?
WILLIAMS: I think if you have been watching this campaign, you would say Barack Obama has been in a fight and he has distinguished himself. And I don't think that Sarah Palin has that record quite yet. Now we'll see what kind of campaign —
KRISTOL: Let me just say something, because I think it's a very important point that Juan makes. Obama has no experience, obviously. He was a state Senator. Sarah Palin has much more executive experience. She has been governor of the state while Obama has been pretty much an absentee senator running for Senate.
But why do we think, actually, whether you agree or not, that Obama has the stature to be president? Because of the campaign he's run, which has been awfully impressive. He has been in debates and given speeches, and you think this is a serious person.
That is why for Palin, these next two months, it's all win or all lose. We will see whether she is up to it. She will give a major speech here. She will obviously do interviews over the course of the next month or two.
And, above all, she will have that debate with Joe Biden. People will not be able to say — if she holds her own with Joe Biden, I don't think people with a straight face can say it is a horrifying thought that Sarah Palin is going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
WILLIAMS: Let me ask you a question. Do you think someone who is so strongly opposed to abortion will get the women's vote for women who would have otherwise voted for Hillary Clinton?
HUME: Good point. Good question.
KRISTOL: Yes, I think she can.
It is a pro-life administration anyway. Someone who cares so strongly about abortion rights, and I respect that, isn't going to vote for John McCain anyway. So I don't think Palin loses any votes.
And there are lots of people who are ambivalent and mildly pro-life. It's going to be a pro-life administration anyway. And I do think just from the emails and phone calls I have got that Palin has touched something among a lot of middle class, working class women not all that conservative today.
HUME: Mort, you get the last word.
KONDRACKE: There certainly will be a few women who vote on the basis of someone's gender. There are some like that.
But most women, I think, are going to be inclined to vote according to their economic interests, their personal interests, and just having a woman on the ticket is not going to do it.
HUME: All right. That's enough of that.
We got a little time left after a break for some reflections again briefly on last night. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Next week in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here — we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Suffice it to say that none of us in this group here had ever seen anything like the spectacle of last night. The speech, well we have heard speeches like that before, but we had never seen such a speech in such a setting with so much going on around it.
Back with our panel now. Let's reflect back on last night and what we think it meant.
Beginning with you, Juan, we talked about this some last night, but we have had a day to think this over. What lasting effect — was the speech overshadowed by the excitement around it and all of the glittering display, or what?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I thought the spectacle was unprecedented, as you said. Who ever saw anything like this — 80,000 people in Denver, Colorado for the nominee, an African-American. It was unbelievable to me.
And the show, the musicians, everything, the staging. I saw the opening ceremonies in Beijing. It didn't get to that level, but it was on the way.
But, you know, I must tell you, I went back to my room and I watched the speech on TV, as opposed to listening in it and being in that caldron, and it gave me a different impression, which is you saw someone who you think, that guy is capable. That guy could be president of the United States. You can imagine it.
And I thought that's a very important signal. I got lots of criticism for saying that I thought the speech really didn't deliver in terms of any specificity. People said he needed to just draw those broad outlines.
And something else that was said to me and caught my attention was that he really took the fight to John McCain.
HUME: How's that?
WILLIAMS: He took the fight to John McCain in saying listen, John McCain doesn't get it, in saying he votes with Bush 90 percent of the time, and in saying that sacrifice, which is a word all around this arena — wait a minute, we fight not for red America, blue America. We fight for our America.
HUME: Right. We have to be quick here, but — Bill?
KRISTOL: I still think it was a very impressive and very effective speech. I think without the excitement of the Palin pick today, we would have had a pretty demoralized, perhaps, Republican Convention.
40 million people that watched the speech, so I think it will move him up in the polls some.
HUME: We see it up to eight in one poll, four in another. So the bounce is clear, it's happening.
KRISTOL: But the core that quickly showed, this is Bush's third term, he votes 90 percent of the time with Bush, the same old Bush-Cheney stuff. Is that going to be as easy to see with a McCain-Palin ticket? That another reason I think the unorthodox, unconventional pick of Palin just changes the dynamics of this race.
KONDRACKE: Well, look, McCain is at the top of the ticket. He has got, basically, the same economic philosophy as George Bush. He is conservative, pro life, and all that. He has basically the same foreign policy-
KONDRACKE: OK, that deals with that point.
Besides taking the issue to John McCain, what Obama wanted to do was to link up his economic program — and he has a very specific economic program on a lot of things. As a matter of fact, it's not just the American promise, it's promises, promises, promises, promises, without any priorities. That's the negative. But the positive is that he linked it up to waitresses and small business people and did an effective job.
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