'Special Report' Panel on Geraldine Ferraro's Comments on Obama and John McCain and the Air Force Tanker Deal

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from March 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Her comments were ridiculous. I think they were wrong headed. I think they're not borne out by our history or by the facts.

GERALDINE FERRARO, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Every time they have an option to do that, they do it. They did it against Bill Clinton, and it worked, and it shut him up. They did it against Ed Rendell. It didn't work. Now they're doing it against me. I'm sorry. I said nothing negative.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, what Geraldine Ferraro, the former Vice Presidential candidate in 1984 and now a Fox News contributor, did say was, basically, that Barack Obama is where he is in this race because he is black.

Some analytical observations on all this now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," FOX News contributors all.

Now, it should be noted that Geraldine Ferraro has now stepped down from the finance committee of the Hillary Clinton campaign after the senator herself said that she disagreed with what Geraldine Ferraro said, although Geraldine Ferraro remains unapologetic about her remarks.

But she said, and I quote from her letter, "I'm stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen.

Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to make a better world for my children and grandchildren. You have my deep admiration and respect."

So she is unapologetic about the remarks. Question — what about the remarks? Would Barack Obama — the question I suppose you would ask — would Barack Obama be where he is in this race today if he were a second- year or first-term senator who is a white guy?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: That's not what she said. She said "or a woman of any color."


LIASSON: OK. Let's just think about that — black woman, first president of the Harvard Law Review, gives a thrilling speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, writes a best-seller book about her heritage — I think she would be in the same place if she was are running for president, sure.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": I think race undoubtedly has a role in his being where he is as a presidential candidate. A two-year white senator from Illinois probably would not be where he is.

But that's not all he's got going for him, and what she said was that he would not be in this position except for the fact that he's black. Well, she is neglecting all the other things that get into that position.

But the real factor here is that this fits a Clinton pattern. They have been raising the — they've been rabble rousing about various issues, like Islam, like drug use, his youthful drug use, and raised the race issue before. And this is not —

HUME: But look what happens to the people who do that, except for Bill, of course — he kind of crudely likened Barack Obama's campaign in South Carolina with that of Jesse Jackson 20 years ago — but the person who raised this drug use thing, he was cashiered from the campaign. She has now been dumped, or stepped aside, anyway.

KONDRACKE: They are willing to fall on swords, I guess, for the campaign.

HUME: So you think this was a part of a deliberate strategy?

KONDRACKE: I think the word going through the Clinton campaign is that Obama is going to — the vicious Republican attack machine will go after Obama because he's black. He can't stand up to it, and so we're going to bring the issue out in advance.

What has it done? It's polarized the Democratic race racially already, and they are trying to profit by it.

HUME: Isn't it perhaps fair to say, though, whether this is a Clinton pattern or not, there is a Ferraro pattern here, isn't there?

LIASSON: Yes. And in April 1988, our friends at "Politico" unearthed this quote, "'If Jesse Jackson were not black, he would not be in the race,' she said," as in she, Geraldine Ferraro. So she said this type of thing before.

The Clintons are also making another argument, not just that the Republicans will do this to him — they're saying that her voters, low-income whites and Hispanics, will not vote for him in a general election, and that's why she is the stronger nominee.

That is not a racist comment, that is just a racial argument.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": It is a racial argument. And when you see the exit polls, it looks like there is some truth to that. And a lot of these lower income whites were Reagan Democrats and will probably vote for McCain.

Look, does anybody think that Geraldine Ferraro is a racist?

LIASSON: No, and nobody has called her that.

BARNES: OK, but wait a minute. You know, Bill Kristol, our colleague, was on a couple of panels last week in Michigan. And here's the way she said the same thing — she gave it more context.

She said, "look, I was in the position I was in as the vice presidential running mate to Walter Mondale because I was a woman. I wouldn't have been in that position if I were not a woman. He wanted to name a woman and he picked me."

Then she said she thought she was qualified to be vice president and president, but she wouldn't have been there if she were not a woman.

And she said the same thing applies to the Barack Obama thing. He wouldn't be in that position in the campaign where he is leading Hillary Clinton in both delegates and the popular vote, and picked up more last night in Mississippi, if he were not black.

LIASSON: Wait a minute.

BARNES: Wait a minute, you both talked a lot. Let me say something here — and I think that's obviously right.

What she said is that there are a lot of people in America — our friend Charles Krauthammer has talked about this — a lot of white voters, particularly liberals, who are thrilled with voting for a black.

They didn't like Jesse Jackson much, but here comes this guy who is totally cross cultural and well spoken and a wonderful guy, and they're delighted. I think the fact that he is black attracts voters.

Now, I agree that the Clinton campaign has used this issue earlier in a dastardly way, but I don't think it applies to Geraldine Ferraro said.

BARNES: Let's listen to what she said.

HUME: Let her say what she wants to say, Fred.

LIASSON: No one in this campaign has said that she wouldn't have been on the ticket if she wasn't a woman. No one in this campaign has said that Hillary Clinton wouldn't be where she is if she weren't a woman.

BARNES: I submit that she would wouldn't be where she is if she hadn't been married to Bill Clinton. That's true!

HUME: That probably wouldn't have been the case if she weren't a woman.

KONDRACKE: That is what I was going to say, but also what she is saying, basically, is that he is an affirmative action hire, that he has no business being there.

BARNES: She is not saying that.

KONDRACKE: That's exactly what she is saying there.

BARNES: That's so ridiculous!

HUME: That may be a little beyond her words. We'll come back to this as time wears on if events warrant.

When we come back, though, John McCain and the Air Force tanker deal. This is a big story, and it's next.



JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Executives went to jail, CEOs were fired because of a corrupt practice that I fought against and fixed. And I have a long record of fighting against the special interests. I am proud of that record.

And, obviously, the record is very clear of me having saved billions and billions of dollars for the taxpayers.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: Senator McCain intervened, and now we have a situation where contracts may — this work might be outsourced.


HUME: What Nancy Pelosi and John McCain are both talking about is the contract to build the Air Force's new and much needed supertanker. It was originally awarded to Boeing under a deal so corrupt, as John McCain described it, that people went to jail and a COE of Boeing lost his job.

Then a new process was begun, and Boeing appeared to be the only qualified bidder. That was when McCain weighed in and said, wait a minute, you have to at least have a competitive bid here.

They did. The Air Force then awarded the contract to a consortium, partly Grumman, an American company, and the parent company of Airbus. It is a European company.

Now the Democrats, on Capitol Hill in particular, are screaming that this was unfair, improper, a national security issue, and so forth. You heard what McCain had to say about it. Who is right here?

KONDRACKE: There are a lot of moving parts, and I am glad the GAO, the Government Accountability Office is investigating to see which is the best plane at the price, and so on.

HUME: Is there some doubt about that?

KONDRACKE: The Air Force said one thing, but the Boeing company is saying that they started out with a request for a bid for a smaller plane, and it got changed.

In the case with McCain, the question is, politically the case is, one, was he surrounded by some lobbyists who have worked for this Airbus contract, what about them? I think that is not going to be a real problem.

The second is was he so angry and Boeing that he created this competition?

HUME: Is there any evidence of that?

KONDRACKE: No. I don't think so.

BARNES: What did he ask for, Mort? Wait a minute. Just think if the Air Force had only had one bidder and gave it to a company. People would be raising McCain — why don't you get another bidder?

And here is what he asked for, he asked for the Air Force to take into consideration, which he thought the Air Force regulations required, maximizing cargo and passenger capacity, which are important in a supertanker.

Well, they did. And now Northrop Grumman and Airbus won the contract.

They are mad because jobs are being outsourced. Most of the jobs will be here. There are going to be in Alabama.

And here's what makes a lot of them mad — they're going to be non- union.

HUME: Quickly, Mara.

LIASSON: There is nothing easier to demagogue when a foreign company gets a big contract, or even with an American partner in the United States. This happened with the Dubai ports a deal, it's happening now.

They are going to look at this and see if this was awarded fairly, and they will make a determination.

HUME: What do you think will happen?

LIASSON: It will stand.

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