'Special Report' Panel on Obama's Overseas Trip; John McCain's Efforts to Stay in the Headlines

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from July 25, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT: Barack Obama's adventure is an adventure that rings true in the hearts and minds of the French and of Europeans. Of course, it is not up to the French to choose the next President of the United States of America, whomsoever that may be.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-ILL.) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I think on a trip like this, what typically happens is not blinding insight, but rather a deepening of a set of concerns that you already had.


BAIER: Barack Obama in Paris today getting a very warm welcome from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. What about this trip and how it is wrapping up? Obama heading to London on its final leg.

Some analytical observations about all of this from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Fred, were you surprised by the warm reception by the French president today?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No, not at all. Sarkozy gives that to everybody, and, obviously, Europeans love Obama.

When I was in England a couple of weeks ago, the polls showed that five out of six Brits want Obama to be elected president. In Germany, it was even more lopsided.

So they obviously like Obama, and they're free to like him because he's not an American president yet, and may never be, who requires anything of them, who wants them to do things.

And the style on this trip has been great. I think some of the substance hasn't been. I've gone back and read the speech in Berlin, and you just see things in there that you wonder why he said them.

For instance, winning the cold war, it was when the world came together as one? No! It was mainly because of American power used very judiciously.

The Berlin Airlift, he thinks it was just the bravery of the Berlin citizens, and indeed they were brave. But it was also the courage of an American president, Harry Truman. And whose planes do you think those were? They were American planes, it was American power.

He seems to completely oblivious to the role of American power in the word, which is generally a force for good.

BAIER: With another day, Mort, here in this press avail next to the French president, how does this play in the U.S. for Obama?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think it plays well. I mean, Americans want to be liked by foreigners. I think they got the impression during the first Bush administration, less I think during the second Bush administration, that we were going out of our way to poke our elbow into the eyes of our allies.

Now, the allies in question, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, were not sympathetic to anything that we wanted to do, but, on the other hand, you know, we didn't talk to them. We just sort of dismissed them as "old Europe" and all the rest of that.

So, you know, the fact that, one, he has done this flawlessly. There has not been one mistake, unless you can figure out how this Ramstein visit to the medical center works out. That seems to be very murky.

But there were no glitches of the kind that there could have been on a trip for a novice senator running for president in this many countries, this many days.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I thought he did extremely well today in Paris. He carried himself at this joint press conference like a president. He spoke extremely fluently. He got all the nuances right on Afghanistan, on Iraq. He spoke about Iraq in a positive way.

He spoke about Iran, was heaping a lot of threats on Iran of the kind you hadn't heard before, and that's because he knows his audience that, the French and President Sarkozy in particular, are the most onboard with us on Iran on that issue.

He got the Arab-Israeli dispute right. He really carried himself well.

And the way he was welcomed on the podium showed that he not only won the Baghdad primary earlier in the week when Maliki essentially endorsed his plan on Iraq, but he won the Paris primary.

And because he was invited, it didn't have the presumptuousness of the speech he did in Berlin.

On the stage today in Paris, he is a guest of the French president, who put him on the pedestal equal with him, and he carried himself as an equal.

In Berlin, he was standing on a stage alone where he had invited himself--the chancellor was not happy about him having a rally out there-and where he, essentially, you know, speaking in the shadow of Kennedy, who made a ringing are speech, Reagan, who said "Tear down this wall," Obama essentially gave a speech which was "Look at me."

So I think Berlin was a misstep. But in Paris, he conducted himself extremely well. And you looked at him on that stage, and you'd say, could he act as a president abroad? And the answer I think has to be "yes."

BAIER: Fred, last comment on this cancellation of the visit to the Landstuhl medical center. The McCain's campaign has put out something that says "Obama's cancellation leaves unanswered questions." Do you think it's going to...

BARNES: That's putting it mildy.

BAIER: Yes. And then it lists a number of possibilities of why he cancelled this trip. Do you think that will blow back on the Obama campaign?

BARNES: I'm not sure. But he could have gone. You know, and all he had to do was go as a senator and take a couple of Senate aides. He couldn't go with a campaign team. You know one of them was a two-star general who's retired who's been traveling with Obama but who's a part of his campaign staff. And all he had to do was treat that trip the same way he did Afghanistan and Iraq, where those were not political visits, and the press couldn't go.

And, anyway, he didn't go. But he could have.

BAIER: That's it for this panel, but stay tuned. How successful has John McCain been in getting his message out this week? The all-stars weigh in on that after the break.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent, of course, is traveling in Europe, and tomorrow his tour takes him to France. In a scene that Lance [Armstrong] would recognize, a throng of adoring fans awaits Senator Obama in Paris. And that's just the American press!



BAIER: He liked that one, didn't he?

He was at an event last night with Lance Armstrong, of course, and talking about the reception Barack Obama was getting from the media. The McCain campaign is not too happy about the coverage Obama has been getting.

Let's take a look at the latest tracking poll, the Gallup daily tracking poll. It has Barack Obama up six points in the latest poll. What about how McCain has done this week in the shadow of this Obama overseas trip?

We're back with our panel. Mort, what do you think?

KONDRAKE: Well, I think not too well. He was going to get upstaged no matter what because of the throngs that were going to greet Obama.

His campaign staff says that, well, he got a lot of local press. Well, that's usually what they say when you don't get a lot of national press.

He didn't really make any news with any economic pronouncements or proposals, or anything like that.

He was fairly effective in hammering Obama on refusing to acknowledge that the surge has worked, and today he really laid out in one speech exactly what would have happened had we pursued the Obama strategy. Terrorism would have succeeded. You might have had a genocide, all that kind of stuff. He's got to keep on that theme a lot.

Now, I think that this whole business about that Obama would rather win an election--would be willing to lose a war in order to win an election, I think is getting close to the edge.

And he was even asked by The Columbus Dispatch, are you are saying that he would sell out his country to win the election? And McCain said something like, well, I don't know.

He should have just batted that question away and said, no that's not what I'm saying.

BAIER: Charles, he did call it "the audacity of hopelessness" about Obama's Iraq policy. McCain said that today. Is this is an issue that-he is hammering every day. Is it a winning one on the stump?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it certainly undoes the damage that Iraq has done to Republicans overall. The surge has worked. Obama opposed it. McCain was right. It is a big issue, he ought to hammer it.

But I thought the way he handled the week was actually rather good. He wasn't petulant about the press coverage. Obviously Obama is going to get a lot of it.

And he was kind of sly and clever and humorous the way he counter-programmed. He ends up at a German restaurant in Berlin, Ohio, wherever, in places that have odd European names.

But here is essentially what he was saying, and he did it in a cute way. He was appealing to the native American, anti-European sentiment, which is entirely warranted. For 100 years we have given these people blood and treasure and gotten in return a lot of whining and complaining and demands of being heard.

And he essentially is saying to his audience, in Bethlehem and other cities of that name, what's he doing over there sucking up to Europeans?

And that, I think, was played well, because Obama's speech in Berlin was really a pathetic one --highly internationalist, not nationalist in a way that Americans would like.

And McCain played the only hand he has. It wasn't a strong one, but I think he played it rather well and subtly, or even unsubtly, but in a good way.

BAIER: Fred, there is a lot of dustup of when McCain was going to choose his V.P. nominee.

BARNES: Yes. I haven't the slightest idea.

BAIER: Yeah! Well, when do you think it could be? Would it be before...

BARNES: Well, now they're saying, maybe next week, it might have been this week, you know, it actually might be the week after next. But it really doesn't make any difference when he does it. It better be before the Republican convention, however. At least a Wednesday night. Look, I think McCain is having trouble making up his mind. You hear stories that he likes one guy, Tom Ridge, and his staff likes Tim Pawlenty. And then there is Romney out there.

As far as the McCain campaign goes now, I don't think it really matters. I think this campaign, this whole race now is all about Obama. And people are watching him, and what McCain says or does that doesn't matter.

Look, I'm still waiting to see. I thought for a long time there was going to be some breakout in the polls by Obama where he jumped well ahead. Hasn't happened. It didn't happen this week, and I'm still waiting.

BAIER: OK. That's it for the panel.

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