'Special Report' Panel on If Hillary Clinton Should Stay in the Race and President Bush's Criticism of Congress

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from May 7, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight we stand less than 200 delegates away from securing the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I feel good about how I did with independent voters and swing voters in both North Carolina and Indiana. So it's a new day, it's a new state, it's a new election, and I am thrilled to be able to make my first stop here.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Hillary Clinton in West Virginia today, and remarkably game after a night, which I think it's fair to say did not live up to her hopes and expectations.

Barack Obama saying he is now fewer than 200 delegates away from outright victory. In fact, the delegate scorecard suggests that he's about 185 delegates short of the 2,025 needed if you don't count the Michigan and Florida delegates who were elected in races that were outside the Party rules.

Super delegates, meanwhile, continue to favor Hillary Clinton, but by a relatively small margin now, only 15. So the math ain't good, but she's still in, and there is no indication from anybody in her camp that she has any other plans.

Some thoughts 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.

Mara, let's start with you. What's going on now? Is this all a mask for a real agonizing reassessment, or is she just soldiering on?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think she is soldiering on. I think she absolutely understands very clearly what her chances are, which are extremely slim, barring some kind of Obama collapse that nobody is anticipating right now.

I actually talked to a lot of Democrats today who think it's absolutely fine that she stays in. It depends on how she stays in and what kind of campaign she wages.

If she is going around saying he is not ready to be commander in chief and he is elitist, that's one kind of campaign, a scorched earth strategy, or she could wage a vigorous fight for herself, but do it in a way that doesn't undermine him, and that at least lays the groundwork for the unifying that the Party will have to do after.

HUME: So far from saying that he is out of touch, suppose she were to criticize him on some of the issues where they have a disagreement — on the fuel tax holiday, for one?

LIASSON: He would happy about that one, actually. I think he is just fine on that one.

Tad Divine, who is an uncommitted superdelegate, has become a junior party elder, said to me an important point, that in 1992 Paul Tsongas got out of the race, and after he got out he beat Bill Clinton in Connecticut. That was humiliating.

If she got out now as some Democrats say they think she should, she would probably still win West Virginia and Kentucky. I don't think that would be so great for Obama to be beaten by somebody who was out of the race.

HUME: So maybe she ought to stay in to save his face.

LIASSON: No, I think she stays in and they begin the process of unifying the party...

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: How is she hurting? Look, after last night, you can hardly say that Hillary Clinton is hurting Barack Obama by staying in. He won overwhelmingly in North Carolina and came awfully close in Indiana. He seems to be doing OK in terms of that, in winning.

But she has reasons to stay in. Brit, last night, it went on so long that we were talking about 1980 at the Democratic convention when Teddy Kennedy, who had practically no chance of being the nominee, stayed in right through the convention.

HUME: He was a beaten man. He had a batch of delegates but he was beaten.

BARNES: Do you recall how much pressure there was on him by the media and other to—

HUME: Come to the hall —

BARNES: No, I mean in the months before the convention—that he ought to drop out? There was practically none. And now there is going to be a great deal on Hillary Clinton if there weren't already.

But look what you have seen so far. You have seen in recent primaries—you've seen Obama's space narrowing from what it was in the early primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he got a lot more voters. We see the persistence in the exit polls and other polls of how many Democrats claim, at least now, that they will vote for McCain rather than Obama.

HUME: You don't think they'll do it, do you?

BARNES: I think a lot of them will, you just don't know how many. It probably won't be 20 percent, which it looks like it in some states.

And then the issues have changed. The truth is he got a lot out of his early opposition of the war in Iraq. The economy is the big issue now, and she is better talking about it than he is.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think Fred wants to prolong the process so that in every one of these succeeding primaries there will be a zoo.


KONDRACKE: He will be able to cite, oh, 16 percent of the Democratic electorate says it won't vote for Obama. They don't like him. I think he wants continuing evidence that Obama is unelectable.

BARNES: I have never had my motives challenged so! By a friend no less!

KONDRACKE: I think that she's going to go on. She says until a nominee is selected, I believe those are her words, until we have a candidate.

Now, on the 20th of May, Kentucky and Oregon, he should go over— he should get a majority of the pledged delegates at that point. She can then, if she wants to, and I think the Party would want her to, gracefully get out and endorse him. There will only be a couple of events left, in South Dakota and Montana and maybe Puerto Rico, and then they can unify.

HUME: That's a perfectly reasonable scenario. It makes all kinds of sense.

But we have talked about her gracefully getting out for weeks and weeks on end. Why would she not rather go to the convention with an enormous block of delegates, still officially a candidate, and wielding the added leverage that she would wield—

KONDRACKE: And do a Teddy Kennedy?

HUME: Yes, or a Ronald Reagan in 1976.

KONDRACKE: Well, or a Ronald Reagan, yes. And in 1976, I can't remember what exactly happened—

HUME: What happened in 1976 is neither candidate had it wrapped up—

KONDRACKE: In this case it be wrapped up.

HUME: No, it won't be wrapped up until the super delegates declare it is.

KONDRACKE: But they're going to declare.

HUME: We don't know that!

LIASSON: Unless she can hold on to hers and keep a certain number of them neutral, that will be—

KONDRACKE: Going to the convention when she doesn't have a prayer at the end of August, and having nasty floor fights and all that kind of stuff, is going to do to Barack Obama what Teddy Kennedy did to Jimmy Carter, which was to show a divided party—He had a lot of other problems, god knows—but, nonetheless, it didn't help in the general election.

HUME: We clearly have a lot to talk about here.

When we come back, President Bush criticizes the Congress on how it plans to deal with the housing crisis, energy costs, and a whole lot more. We'll talk about that warfare next.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The United States Congress should not have passed legislation that makes it harder to increase the supply of crude oil as well as increase the supply of gasoline.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: Veto and drill. Veto and drill. Veto and drill. That is the president's message.


HUME: You can see the two sides are a little apart on that issue. The Energy Bill that's being worked on—there is also wide differences on a Housing Bill. There is a looming battle over war funding and what the Democrats want to leave out and put into that Bill.

So we've got showdowns with a president who seems now in his final year in office to be perfectly willing to use the veto pen. Where is all of this going? Who has the upper hand? What's going on, Mort?

KONDRACKE: It looks like loggerheads across the board on practically everything at the moment.

The one veto that I think the president ought to be proud of if he casts it is this abomination of a Farm Bill. With food prices going through the roof—and he has threatened to veto that.

And for the idea that the Democrats, who care about poor people, to be passing this Farm Bill, which rewards people who are making millions and millions, and most of them corporate farmers anyway—and some of the great budget hawks are the ones who are advancing this Bill—is really disgusting.

But, on the housing front, for example, there has been a lot of cooperation between Barney Frank, the House Financial Services Chairman, and the Treasury Department. And now all of a sudden the president is threatening a veto on that.

The Treasury Department says—well, they have been going along with the veto, but we see a lot in the Bill that we can agree upon. So I don't know what is happening, whether there is a negotiation underway.

HUME: Will they work it out?

KONDRACKE: I think they will, ultimately.

LIASSON: The veto—right now, he is a lame duck. He has low approval ratings. But he does have a veto pen and it is powerful because there certainly isn't a veto proof majority in Congress.

And on some things where he could make a point that the Congress is spending too much or being irresponsible, I think it's good politics for him.

On the Housing Bill, however, do I think it is important that Congress and the White House come up with some kind of solution for this crisis. That's what people expect.

BARNES: That's how vetoes work. Vetoes don't just block legislations. Vetoes can shape legislation. You block it one time, they have to come back with something else.

And I think the president will veto the Housing Bill because it bails out speculators and lenders and a lot of people who don't deserve being bailed out, and they'll come back with a better Bill which he will sign. So I think there will be one.

Mort is not quite right about the Farm Bill. This Farm Bill, more than 60 percent of it, Mort, is nutrition programs. It's food stamps. It's the WIC program, and its others. The farmers are getting less than they did before, as they should.

The farm economy is doing extraordinarily well at the moment and will probably do better given demand.

HUME: Should he veto it or not?

BARNES: Yes, probably. And he will get a better one the second time. And he's going to veto the Iraq spending Bill because Democrats are going to throw all this stuff on it.

The Energy Bill—the most worrisome one, though, is the oil thing and energy thing. Democrats have this odd policy. They are for more energy independence. We want to be independent of Middle East oil. But now they are demanding that we get more of it and not drill for any more oil in the United States or offshore.

That's crazy. You can't be for energy independence and then say OPEC needs to give us more oil.

KONDRACKE: They don't say that OPEC needs to give us more oil, but that is the bottom line, because they refuse to allow offshore drilling and refuse to drill ANWAR—not that that would solve the short term gas price spike.

But in the long run, someday we will get off oil, but in the meantime, we ought to get off imported oil as much as we possibly can by producing our own and trying to develop clean coal, if we possibly can.

HUME: Is there any sign that, given congress on those issues, that there will be drilling offshore or drilling in ANWAR, or is that just a dead letter?

LIASSON: I think it is a dead letter.

HUME: Who wins on that issue politically?

LIASSON: I tend to think it's where both sides play to their base, and they both win.

BARNES: I can't think of a single Democrat or Republican, for that matter, who has been hurt by opposing ANWAR. It hasn't hurt John McCain.

HUME: Has anybody been hurt by favoring it?

BARNES: I don't think that, either. I agree with Mara.

HUME: People want to know why you can't get anything done—if everybody can win, no matter which side of the issue they're on, that explains it.

KONDRACKE: It is totally inexplicable that this largely wasteland up in Alaska is holy ground for the Democrats and even John McCain.

HUME: They all spend their weekends up there.

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