This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from March 24, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I'm just speaking for myself, and I was answering a question that was posed to me. But I think, given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor.
We don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: "And for me," she said, "the choice would have been clear."
This was Hillary Clinton today answering for the first time—and this was something her campaign had observed as well—a question about Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the retired pastor out there in Chicago who was Barack Obama's pastor and friend for so many years.
The rebuttal to her comments today from Bill Burton, the Obama campaign spokesman: "After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it is disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract he attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia."
Jim Angle was saying here earlier that he keeps thinking each day that this can't get any nastier, and it keeps getting nastier.
Some thoughts on it now from Bill Sammon, Senior White House Correspondent of "The Washington Examiner," Mort Kondracke, the Executive Editor of "Roll Call" and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
Well, she was in another news cycle today. She had commented about making a mistake on Bosnia and she misspoke, and so on. And now it turns out she misspoke on this issue going back to January repeatedly.
The question is—does this change the subject, and, if so, was that what she was intending—Bill?
BILL SAMMON, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think she must have been intending this, because she was having trouble extracting herself from the "sniper-gate" fiasco, whether she had dodged sniper fire in Bosnia.
She was giving these explanations about—while it was the first time I misspoke in the last 12 years—and that got howls of ridicule from the Obama campaign. And at one point she said I was sleep deprived, and it just wasn't going anywhere.
And I think the fact that she finally at the end of the day today, or at some point today, went to the Jeremiah Wright controversy, which previously she had considered so radioactive she wasn't going to wade onto that racially charged minefield, I think tells how desperate she was to change the subject.
You have to understand that by going into that minefield, she risks permanently alienating the black vote in the unlikely event that she gets the nomination.
HUME: Does it effectively change the subject, or are we going to be back on Bosnia tomorrow?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": No, I think it changes the subject. I think we visited Bosnia.
But what each side is doing is puffing up their own record. That's what Hillary did, and Obama has been doing the same thing—
HUME: How? Has he made up any hot ones?
KONDRACKE: Not as hot as this one, because he hasn't been caught.
But the Clinton campaign will provide you with a full list just for the asking, or not for the asking, that he has claimed to be a law professor at University of Chicago. In fact, he is a lecturer. They distributed a list of his puffery today.
So then the other side comes along and says liar, liar, pants on fire. And this is what going on, trading back and forth these charges.
And, of course, she decided to change the subject today because she got caught with Bosnia, fibbing about that. And what's amazing about this Bosnia thing is that she repeated the story about dodging snipers last Monday when Sinbad the singer came out and contradicted her.
HUME: And the Clinton campaign said to the Sinbad thing that he was just being funny, that's what he does. He is a comedian.
KONDRACKE: Well, he was right.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Pantsuit on fire, I think applies in this place.
Look, she got caught, and I think that the Obama campaign was correct in saying that she raised the Wright issue for the first time as a way to distract attention.
But the Clinton counterargument ought to be—what's more important, misremembering or even a fib about an insignificant plane landing 12 years ago, or a 20-year association with a raving racist by a presidential candidate?
The mystery here is why the Clinton administration has allowed the Wright issue—
KRAUTHAMMER: Camp—I guess I'm old and have unhappy memories of the '90's—why The Clinton people have let the Jeremiah Wright thing go by. They assumed it would be carried by the press, and, as was indicated, it's radioactive because there is a lot of danger that she could be accused of racism.
But what I think the Clinton camp has not understood is that the press remains entirely in the tank on Obama. There was a temporary emergence out of that tank after the "Saturday Night Live" humiliation and the Wright tapes, which are undeniable, but one speech by Obama has them hypnotized, and they're all back asleep on the Kool-Aid again, to mix about six metaphors.
And the press is not going to carry the Obama-Wright story anymore. It has completely accepted the Obama statement that at the end of his speech that we have to have a national dialogue on race, about everything except the endless loops of the Wright tapes, which he called a "distraction," and which is being treated as a distraction.
It's a main issue about a candidate of whom we know nothing, who came out of nowhere three years ago, and whom we are going to make perhaps president without knowing about his character.
HUME: So has she effectively changed the subject back to this?
KRAUTHAMMER: I depends on the press.
HUME: Back on the news coverage? Do you agree with that, Mort?
KRAUTHAMMER: And I think they will not buy it.
KONDRACKE: I agree with Charles. I think it is a one-day wonder. It will return in the general election, depending on who brings it up.
HUME: You mean those nasty Republican will do it?
SAMMON: She is changing the subject, but now you have a pox on both their houses. He has to deal with Reverend Wright, she has to deal with sniper-gate.
HUME: When we come back, should world leaders boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics? Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I told President Hu Jintao my great concern. I asked him for restraint. I asked him to start a dialogue. I have an envoy who spoke to the authorities who are closest to the Dalai Lama. I want dialogue to begin.
SEAN MCCORMACK, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: It's an opportunity for China to allow greater freedom of expression, greater freedoms for journalists to report on events in China during the Olympics, and great application of those fundamental human rights that we have talked about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: There is a contrast there. You have the president of France suggesting that France might boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics over the violent crackdown in Tibet.
Sean McCormick calls the whole thing an opportunity for China to allow greater freedom. If that's what the opportunity is, they don't seem to be taking it.
What about this, Charles? Are we going to be upstaged on the human rights area by Nicolas Sarkozy on this issue?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it's not clear. I think that the French have shown some leadership, at least implying we ought to do something.
We have leverage because of the Chinese are vulnerable on the Olympics. They crave the legitimacy that this Olympics will give to the regime, the same way that the '36 Olympics legitimated Hitler and Nazism, and the way that the 1980 would have legitimated Soviet rule, but ended up as a fiasco as the result of a boycott.
Statements as we heard from the State Department are useless. What actions are possible? Possibly a boycott of the opening ceremonies.
But I think the French television had a suggestion. It said if there is censorship of the actual Olympics itself, it would pull out.
I think it suggests another avenue in which we might have the French, the American, and the other western networks to declare that unless the Chinese allow them into Tibet today, they will boycott Olympic coverage and our governments ought to back that and perhaps provide subsidies as a way to make up further losses. That would have a huge impact on the Chinese.
This is a case in which the camera is powerful as the gun in Tibet today. What's happening—if you had cameras in there, it could save lives, and it could also raise attention on this issue to the point where the government, the Chinese government, might actually negotiate with the Dalai Lama as a way to hold back public opinion on this.
There is something that we could do, and I'm surprised it hasn't been raised at all.
KONDRACKE: I was in both China and Tibet just about exactly a year ago, and I have become a total cynic on the subject. The Chinese are going to do what they're going to do. Tibet is the source of three rivers, three of the biggest rivers in China. They want Tibet. They are occupying Tibet. They are going to colonize Tibet, they colonizing Tibet, and they are going to do what they do.
And the rest of the world is so in hock to them, including the United States, that the worst we're going to do is boycott the opening ceremonies. They're not going to boycott the Olympics, they are going to boycott the opening ceremonies, maybe. I doubt it.
HUME: The U.S. isn't even talking about it.
HUME: The French are the only ones talking about boycotting the opening ceremonies.
KONDRACKE: And they are only talking.
SAMMON: But if the threat of a boycott of the opening ceremonies, or a threat of boycotting the coverage, in other words, not covering the Olympics, causes China to ease up on its crackdown of Tibet, or open—
HUME: You think about Charles's suggestion, and if there was— I'm not sure the administration would do it, but if it did it—
KONDRACKE: The administration is not going to do it. The president has already promised Hu Jintao that—
HUME: I'm talking about pulling out. I'm talking about trying to force coverage.
KONDRACKE: I would bet you that the administration will not do such a thing. For one thing, the Chinese—we don't want to disturb the Chinese because of our indebtedness, and also because of the Taiwan issue, which seems to be going well.
SAMMON: You don't want to go too far and boycott the Olympics altogether like Jimmy Carter did in 1980. I think that is a mistake because it punishes the athletes in addition to punishing the country.
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