'Special Report' Panel on Race Issues, the Nevada Primary and OPEC

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from January 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Don't be accusatory with me. I had nothing to do with this lawsuit.

Some people in Nevada are old-fashioned. They think the rules should be the same for everybody and everybody's vote should count the same. I had nothing to do with that lawsuit, and you know it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the timing of the lawsuit with the endorsement does look to some people like now that they understand the endorsement, they want to change the rules.

CLINTON: Your position is it should be easier for them to vote than for anybody else who works in the afternoon. Your position is their vote should count five times as much. Is that right?


BRIT HUME, HOST: That is just a part of an exchange between a reporter and former president Clinton. The subject was the lawsuit that was filed by supporters of Hillary Clinton, principally the teachers' union out in Las Vegas, to block the use of certain casino sites as caucus locations for the Saturday Democratic caucuses in Las Vegas.

Some thoughts on this controversy and the caucuses in general from Fred Barnes, the Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

This gets into the weeds and the details about caucus rules, but it became a big controversy, Charles. So what is the fuss all about?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the problem is that there was a change in the rules and there was an application last March approved by the national DNC that in Nevada they would allow—normally you have to go to your home precinct if you want to caucus. Here they made an exception for the casino workers. They can caucus in the workplace, in the casino, because it would be hard for them to get home.

Now, the ruling came down in August, and the Clintons have all of a sudden discovered two days after the Culinary Union endorses Obama—

HUME: And the Culinary represents all those workers.

KRAUTHAMMER: Thus the ruling would help Obama. Two days after the endorsement, Bill, among others, discoverers the cosmic unfairness of it all. This was new to him, and when you watch him, it's the old Bill. I mean, he's beyond cynicism.

It's not as if he is pretending. I think he really talked himself into believing that this is a violation of the rights of enfranchisement on the level of Jim Crowe, and he's going to stand and fight for what's just.

When you watch him, you remember what the Clintons are like. They have this trouble disassociating personal interest, national interest, and justice.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: He spoke before the judge ruled, and did consider his—I don't know if you would even call it an argument—that these votes would somehow count five times more, and found there was no merit in all in it. I could explain it, but that would really be getting in the weeds.

HUME: The idea was two things: one was it would make it much more convenient for them than almost anybody else to vote.

His idea was that—I suppose that's based on the idea that you get these concentrations of Obama voters and that that would mean that all the delegates that came out of particular caucuses would be for one candidate, and then that means the votes count more, somehow.

LIASSON: Well, the casino caucus sites can only elect six percent of the delegates. That is the total. They can't get any more above that.

And caucus sites are always weighted for turnout. In other words, they're weighted to actually help rural locations, not the urban locations. So it's possible that could happen.

HUME: So what's going on here?

LIASSON: The point is, Bill Clinton is in the weeds, and for a moment there it looked like he was going to be above the fray, and Chelsea was going to be upfront, and he was going to be back in his statesman role.

But he has been in the midst of every single controversy, slugging away, attacking Obama, excoriating the press for not being tougher at going after Obama or investigating him.

And I think this is an extraordinary spectacle. This is a former president of the United States.

HUME: There have been some people who think he may not be OK.

LIASSON: No, I think he's fine.

HUME: He doesn't look his best.

LIASSON: No, but the point is when you talk to Democrats the say what he does actually is effective. It may not be great for his image as a former president, but it helps her because it raises doubts, because every word that comes out of his mouth gets covered more intensely than any other person opening their mouth on the planet.

HUME: So he is helping Hillary?

LIASSON: Yes. There are some downsides but he is helping. He is making the attack.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think there are a lot of downsides in these attacks, but I love it. Let Bill Clinton be Bill Clinton. I like it when he does that. I wish you would show more of that thing with the poor reporter who was accused of holding up a position of actually being the Nevada Democratic Party when the poor guy was just asking some questions and that Bill Clinton didn't want to ask much.

What happens when you have these caucuses, they say, look, these people will probably represent this size of the group, so you assign them a certain number of delegates. It's like when you parcel out House districts for the House of Representatives. They all have the same population, or they're supposed to, except in the smallest of states.

But it does depend on turnout. If five people turn out in one congressional district, they are going to elect one congressman. If 500,000 turn out in another district, they are going to elect one congressman.

According to Bill Clinton, that's not one man, one vote. That's unfair.

I mean, he is quibbling, he is drawing artificial lines. It is the real Bill Clinton. I missed him. I'm glad he's back.

KRAUTHAMMER: What is absurd about it is that the caucus system itself is inherently unfair. It discriminates against the people who are tethered to home because of the kids or illness, or tethered to work.

But the worst is that it is not a secret ballot. Imagine these casino workers—the union has endorsed Obama, all of your confederates are endorsing Obama. You have got to stand up and you have to decide if you're going to cross the aisle and stand on the other side. I mean —

HUME: Quite publicly, among your confreres, right?

LIASSON: The time to complain about it was last March.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm just saying, in general, to quibble about the casino issue as the height of unfairness is absurd when the whole system is inherently unfair when you don't have a secret ballot. The essence of democracy is that you can lie about who you voted for.

BARNES: They didn't complain last March because they thought they were going to get the endorsement of the culinary workers.

HUME: For the benefit of those who may be who is winning out there, it looks neck and neck with Hillary and Obama. And on the Republican side, Mitt Romney did all the work out there, no one else did, so he's going to win almost unquestionably on the Republican side on Saturday. And nobody knows who will win on the Democratic side.


HUME: Does Edwards have a shot?

LIASSON: No. I think Edwards will come in third, where he's been stuck. I think it's a pretty even race in Nevada.

HUME: All right.

Next up, President Bush asked OPEC nations to boost their oil output. Hillary Clinton said something sharp to say about that. But didn't Bill Richardson do something similar when he—well, we'll find out. Stay tuned.



SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Bush is over in the Gulf now, begging the Saudis and others to drop the price of oil. How pathetic.

BILL RICHARDSON, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I went to OPEC countries and tried to get them to increase production so prices go down.


HUME: Why in the world would we follow Hillary Clinton's sound bite with a sound bite from Bill Richardson. The reason is that Bill Richardson was Bill Clinton's energy secretary, and, I guess, at one point U.N. ambassador as well, wasn't he?

And so it appears that Hillary Clinton found it pathetic when President Bush did something that the representative of her husbands administration did as well, and many other presidents and administrations have done repeatedly. They are always trying to jawbone oil prices down by talking to OPEC.

But what about this issue, broadly speaking, and what about the effectiveness or lack of it of the Clinton attack?

KRAUTHAMMER: It is pathetic. She's right. It was obviously hypocritical as well. It is pathetic that any president of a great power has to go cap in hand to the Saudis and ask, beg for a lowering of oil prices.

HUME: Was he begging or demanding?

KRAUTHAMMER: He wasn't demanding. There was actually no response, and I doubt that you're going to have a response.

But look, even Reagan in the middle of the '08's when the price of oil crashed to $8 or $10 a barrel, he sent his Vice President Bush to Saudi Arabia to talk the Saudis into reducing production as a way to raise the prices as a way to save Texas and Mexico. That was the dumbest idea of that half century.

HUME: Dumber than the nuclear freeze?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's a tight race. You got me on that.

Look, the real problem here is that there is nobody willing to step up on production. The hypocrisy of Clinton's position is that her president, her husband in his administration, he vetoed drilling in the arctic wildlife, a pristine area of which a fraction of a fraction of a fraction might have been impacted.

The oil out of that would now be a million barrels a day, which is about five percent of American consumption. It would increase world production, and it would be ours. The money that we would be spending on it would end up not in Saudi Arabia or Russia helping our adversaries. It would be ours.

But, of course, Democrats opposed this. You don't get anybody who will support it unless you have serious attempt to drill in the arctic offshore and also raise gasoline taxes. We're not going to have a dent on oil, and we will be begging these Saudis for decades to come.

LIASSON: Look, this is one of those things that are said on the campaign trail. And I will make a prediction even though we hate predictions around here, that if Hillary is president, she will send her energy secretary or maybe she will do it herself to do the exact same thing.

Because in the short-term, until we have some kind of real long- term energy independence strategy, which everyone talks about, that's about all that we can do is ask the Saudis to increase production to bring prices down.

And the one thing about saying this on the campaign trail—any attack on the Bush administration is music to the ears of Democratic voters, and she's not even in the primary.

BARNES: Even if it is completely hypocritical?

You know what her solution to end energy dependence on the Middle East? Create more green-collar jobs. That will do it.

It's not just Anwar, where oil is not being drilled, it is this whole energy bill that passed that does nothing about gasoline prices. It does nothing to increase energy production in the short run.

LIASSON: Which she did vote against.

BARNES: Good for her, but that probably wasn't why. I think she voted against it because the Bush administration had gotten the tax increases on the oil industry stripped from the Bill. At least they didn't do that. But it's utterly useless in moving towards any sort of energy security.

Green-collar jobs—are you kidding me? That's ridiculous. What we need to do in the short run is drill in Anwar and other places while we are seeking new solutions like the electric car and hydrogen car and all that stuff, is increase production here. And that's the way we reduce our dependence on the Middle East.

HUME: Nothing does that more effectively than in allowing you produce in places where you might not be able to, and b, high prices. High prices attract capital, investment, drilling.

BARNES: We wouldn't have any trouble in a lot of places, offshore, the continental shelf, off the Atlantic, then off Florida and other places. There is a lot of environmental opposition to this stuff.

But you can't say all these places have to stay pristine and we must end dependence on Middle East oil. Those are contradictory.

HUME: All right, now, let's talk a bit about how this issue plays out in the campaign. Is this an issue that will work against the Bush administration—against the Republicans in this campaign?

KRAUTHAMMER: It always does. If prices are high, gasoline is high, people will blame it on the president whether it makes sense or not.

HUME: Do you agree with that, Mara?

LIASSON: I agree, although every candidate, Republican and Democrat, will be talking about energy independence.

BARNES: I agree. It hurts Republicans.

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