Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' January 12, 2008

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," January 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ERIC BURNS, FOX NEWS WATCH HOST: This week on "FOX News Watch," onto Michigan, onto Nevada and onto South Carolina, after Clinton comes back in New Hampshire, and after McCain comes back in New Hampshire.

And pundits, pollsters and predictions. After New Hampshire, do the media need a new election strategy?

And a soldier in Iraq issues an order to the media after his death.

First the headlines, then "FOX News Watch."



FRED THOMPSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and its future. On the one hand, you have a Reagan revolution. You have the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security. On the other hand, you have the direction Governor Huckabee would take us in. He'd be a Christian leader but he'd also bring out liberal economic policies, and liberal foreign policies.


BURNS: Jane, if Fred Thompson is right, if this is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party do the media realize that?

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think they are more excited by the Obama candidacy and the come back by Hillary and expectations on that. And I mean, they missed Huckabee. They missed McCain and declared McCain dead. I think it is regrettable that we have debates on FOX with — I thought there were good questions and that was prompted by very good questions about the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

I thought when Charlie Gibson interviewed both parties, he frankly did a better job with the Democrats than the Republicans. He let the Republicans go at each other and I wondered why he did that.

BURNS: Let's stay with the heart and soul, because what could be more gripping than a discussion about heart and soul. Agreed? Anybody here that it is that important, what is going on in the Republican Party now?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Absolutely. That is what is taking place and I think that is why we don't have a candidate for the Republicans at this point. Because they are trying to redefine the party and I think the party is influx, too. I think you have more white males, sort of the working class, rising up as Republicans. Reagan Republicans, people who were Reagan Democrats and Reagan Republicans, and not identified with Wall Street, but identified with Main Street. And has been Huckabee's appeal.

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: And Huckabee is waging — and the other candidates will leave the coalition more or less intact, with maybe the exception of Rudy Giuliani.

JUAN: Would he really, really...

BURNS: Which coalition? The Reagan coalition?

LOWRY: The Reagan coalition and Huckabee has something different. This is interesting about Fred. Fred has the most contentious relationship with the press of any of these guys and hates reporters and hates the horse race process coverage. And there are some Fred advisors that say one of the reasons he has gotten a little more spring in his step and is riled up is because there is a story on a web site, right before the Iowa caucus saying he'd drop out if he didn't do well. And that got him so angry that now the bear is awakened and swiping at everyone.

BURNS: By the way, since the whole time you were talking about Fred we were looking at Huckabee. I would like to point out to people, we do know the difference, but one of the things that happens in television, once in a while.

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What the media love to do with the Republican candidates is to encourage the fratricide. They want the anger, the non-Reagan never criticized, and the 11th commandment, never criticize a fellow Republican. But the question they ought to ask is, what happened to Reagan's optimism? All of these questions are about what these guys are against and what they disagree with their fellow candidates. What about the vision for the country? There haven't been any questions on that another Republicans, and more so for the Democrats.

BURNS: And does anybody else agree with Cal's point, Republicans being covered differently from Democrats?

Jane is nodding yes.

HALL: I want to add that I think the whole debate is shifting towards the economy, and I think people don't see — people in the media see Republicans in one way. And Huckabee's populous message and McCain on immigration, it's like, wait, I thought Republicans weren't like that. And I think that is something we need to educate ourselves about.

BURNS: Does that, Juan, tend to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party because people are now seeing so many different points of view coming from Republicans? Or does it hurt them because they are now — there seems a certain inconsistency.

WILLIAMS: I think we have to start right from the start here. The media have had trouble covering the Republicans in large part because the heir-apparent was John McCain. That was the guy everyone said should be the logical Republican nominee. President Bush has not been a strong force and his name is rarely mentioned in the debates. Therefore, people don't know exactly which way the party is going.

I think this is the media looking to try to understand what is taking place inside the party and failing to come to grips with it.

LOWRY: The media has fallen in love again with John McCain again. There was a trial separation during the period when he was one of the few guys out there supporting the surge before it even happened. Now they are back on the straight-talk express and they're loving him again and love the comeback story.

THOMAS: We may have gone from trial separation, and now to reconciliation stage, but if McCain gets the nomination I think there will be a divorce as far as the media is concern, because they liked him in 2000, but this is 2008. They'll say he is too old, had the skin cancer and other health problems and he — contrast with an Barack Obama or Hillary will not be for him then as they are now if he gets the nomination.

WILLIAMS: Cal, you have to differentiate between conservative media and liberal media. And conservative media attacked not only McCain but Huckabee. Think about Rush Limbaugh, "Wall Street Journal" editorial page, they have gone after Huckabee, because I don't believe they think he's the best candidate to win the election. McCain has been attacked but they are coming around because they think he's the best candidate to run against Hillary Clinton.

HALL: Yes, but I think the average political reporter — you know, we talked many times about narrative, like narrative, like John McCain when he invited the world into his campaign when he had no money and provided 24/7 access. I saw a lot of admiration for him. People saying, look at the guy, he's 71 and he's running. There is admiration there.

LOWRY: This is the thing. No journalist gets about Huckabee and it's the religion. Time and again, when journalists think they'll ask the great gotcha question about religion to Mike Huckabee and every time he knocks it out of the park.

THOMAS: That's true.

BURNS: Time for a break. We'll be back with this.

ANNOUNCER: After a stunning victory in New Hampshire, what are the press are saying now about Hillary Clinton and her Democratic rivals? Answers next on "News Watch."



HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I felt like we all spoke from our heart and I'm so gratified that you responded. Now, together, let's give America the kind of comeback New Hampshire has just given me. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE].

BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For most of this campaign, we were far behind. We always knew our climb would be steep. But, in record numbers you came out. And you spoke up for change.


BURNS: Cal, you listen to that and you can't really tell who the winner was for the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. We have had now a primary, with one winner and caucus with another winner and this — and we have confusion as we indicated in the last segment about what is happening in the Republican Party. This is heaven for the media, isn't it?

THOMAS: Yes. The first really good contest on both sides that we've had for a very long time.

BURNS: Both sides.

THOMAS: This is what energizes you. We love this kind of stuff and love the horse race and don't want somebody picked early. These primaries are so front-loaded the media is agog that it might be seven to eight months between the time the nominees are known and the election. What will they do during the time?

BURNS: Maybe one of the things they'll do, Juan, is start focusing more on the leaders. Now we have two events that show us four leaders, and, you know, Mitt Romney has not really dropped out. Edwards has not really dropped out. And one of the things the media are about to do, is to drop out some candidates themselves even — tell me if this is possible, even less Kucinich coverage, even less Thompson coverage?

WILLIAMS: Let me say I was on the ground in New Hampshire and boy the anger at Fox's decision not to allow Ron Paul into the forum with Chris Wallace was palpable. They wanted to absolutely tear that apart.

But I think what you see here is media trying to make a decision, and I think failing to make a decision and failing to make a decision about what the campaign is about. And on the Democratic side —

BURNS: Wait. Wait. Is that the media's responsibility to decide what the campaign is about?

WILLIAMS: They have tried to make a horse race because they believe everybody wants a horse race. And in terms of the content, which I guess is what you are getting at, they want to see what people are responding to, responding to the change theme, responding to the Clintons and the religious appeal of Mike Huckabee, responding to the antiwar rhetoric coming — the pro-war rhetoric coming from John McCain.

BURNS: You know what? Excuse me. And if your answer is better than my question, then you give your answer.

But it seems to me that this might make Super Tuesday not a clarifying event, but an even more muddling event.

LOWRY: It's possible and all speculation at this point. Looking back, with things we really know about, the thing the media missed was Hillary's rise in New Hampshire. And this is the first time I have ever find myself sympathizing or complaining about anti-Clinton bias in the media. There was a glee about her going down and a real excitement over Barack Obama. And I think there is partly a sociological explanation for that. If you look at Barack Obama voters, they are upper-income professional liberals. And who are those sort of people? They're also journalists. The same people voting for Barack Obama are the same people who are in the media, pumping up the big helium balloon in New Hampshire.

BURNS: Let me give you an example of what might be media bias toward Barack Obama. This is back stage, and I don't know what stage it is back of, actually, but this is NBC News Correspondent Lee Cowan the day before the primary in New Hampshire talking briefly to Brian Williams.


LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It's, you know, I think from the reporter's pointed of view it is almost hard to remain objective, because the — it is infectious.


BURNS: Is that bias or is that a human being simply reacting to circumstance, a human being who, as a reporter, can stifle his by yeah, theoretically.

HALL: You know, they took heat for that and Brian Williams said he was courageous, Lee Cowan. And I think was a very odd choice of word. I think a part of that is cable television asking reporters what they think. I wish we did less of that, although I don't want to be put out of a job.

The point is, I think, there was misogyny and every woman I know felt there was glee over Hillary faltering. And Chris Matthews went after her in very ugly ways that I think you would not have done if she were not a powerful woman. And I think the media were up in New Hampshire were excited and young people are interested and we all want young people to be involved. That's not ultimately our jobs.

WILLIAMS: You know, let me say quickly. I was hotel in Iowa and President Clinton comes over to say hello. And Clinton says to me, what is wrong with you guys and the press? Why aren't you looking at Barack Obama's record? Why is Barack Obama getting a free pass? Why is everyone in love — if this was any other politician, you would be pointing out how he has only been in the Illinois state legislator, a short time in the Senate. They were furious at the press. They think the press is responsible for her defeat in Iowa. There were ready to do the same thing and make the same blame game in New Hampshire and it didn't happen.

THOMAS: Right. Maureen Dowd brought this out in the "New York Times", saying the Clintons are complaining about press coverage while not making Hillary more available to the press for tough questions. Look, if it were seen in isolation it might be one thing but it is part of the pattern that conservatives see as bias. Meredith Vieira in 2006 urged Obama on the air to run, saying you're a rock star. You've got Katie Couric who said about Hillary Clinton, urges her to humanize herself and reveal more of yourself. CNN's Jack Cafferty gushed over Hillary's unguarded moments, shedding a tear.

BURNS: Isn't it nice to see journalists be this candid?

THOMAS: There used to be reporters who would report the news and now you have people, right after their report, give their opinion. And sometimes it is both. MSNBC looks like a wholly owned subsidiary of "Newsweek" magazine.

LOWRY: Well, a parochial concern, I think Cal is right on. Media loves access and if the campaign shut the candidate down and stops taking questions, the coverage is going to turn negative. We you saw it with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and it's one reason the press loves McCain and he'll sit there in the back of the bus and chat with them.

BURNS: Time to take another break. We'll be back with this.

ANNOUNCER: Pundits, polls and plenty of predictions as the election heats up. Are we making people lose face the media. That's next on "News Watch."



MIKE BARNACLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: An epic historical story because, at sidewalk level, Hillary Clinton, her candidacy for president of the United States, is done. It is over here in the snows of New Hampshire.


BURNS: That was pundit Mike Barnacle, who makes his living by making predictions. Donations are now accepted for the Mike Barnacle career change fund and you can send them to me.

Juan, to what extent is something like that Barnacle's fault or the fault of any announcer who goes on the air with poll results, and to what extent — God, I thought of something terrible. What if that was just his gut — anyhow, poll results and to what extent is it the fault of the people who come up with the polls themselves?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think, you speak of gut, I think of bile. There is a lot of anger at the Clintons and there was a readiness. People saying this is the end of the Clintons, Hallelujah, we're sick of them. Then, of course, they play on the idea that we have had Bushes and Clintons, Bushes and Clintons. but when it comes to the horse race, I don't think he was going with the horse race, I think he was going with glee that he finally had seen the powerful fall from their perch.

BURNS: I mean, there is a way to do this, Rich, and I am sorry to be plugging someone from FOX because I don't like the subjective sound of that. But, Brit Hume, a few minutes after 8:00 on that night, said that we think Barack Obama will win his primary, the New Hampshire primary 39 to 34. And at this point, Hillary was leading 36 to 34. But he said we are not making a prediction. We don't know. This just seems to be what the polls are showing us. Nothing official. That is what he was saying.

Now, that seems to me, if you are going to use polls, that seems to me the most — safest way to do it. Better than buried in the snow.

LOWRY: That is correct, cautious, professional, sober. While we're plugging FOX people, let me say the one person I saw in the run-up to New Hampshire who kept his head about him was Juan Williams. He said, look, I have been going to these Hillary events and I see something there and I am not buying the Obama tidal wave air narrative.

I think two things went on here, one, all the polls were wrong and internal polls of the campaigns were wrong. But, one, there's a pack mentality in the media where we whip each other up and, two, there is a culture of predicting that goes back to the McLaughlin Group, ten or 15 years ago, where it is not enough to report what is happening, they have to say what they think will happen. And that is a much dicier business.

BURNS: While we're on this, Jane, you look lovely today and you would have a drink with me after the show.

HALL: Well, thank you.


THOMAS: I have one word for this while you're considering that.

BURNS: Jane needs a little time to recover.

THOMAS: One word, 2000. Remember, there were — there was a commission set up, after the prediction that Al Gore had won the presidency. All these polls were out. We're not going to do this anymore. We've got to find out where we went wrong and we'll be better in the future. It's like going back to the fortune cookie at the end of the Chinese restaurant meal, people still open those things up and still consider the possibility of truth in these. You turn them over and get your lottery numbers. And we'll never learn the lesson.

WILLIAMS: Well, here's the thing about the pollsters. The pollsters say one of the problems may have been that lower-income white voters don't respond to polls. And this is a big problem when you have lots of people making last-minute decisions. Now they also have problems with people who have cell phones and they don't call them. But we are seeing, really, the problem with polls.

The fact is, Eric, you know what? Viewers love the horse race and want to know the poll numbers.

BURNS: Even if it is wrong?

WILLIAMS: I think so. I mean, you know...

BURNS: You are saying it's interesting at the time because, obviously the horse that is trailing can be the leader by the time he gets to the finish line.

WILLIAMS: Who knows? There are lots of last-minute deciders. But, you know, the polls were right about — interestingly, the polls are right about men in the race and weren't right about women. We don't know why that is.

BURNS: Jane, you mentioned Brian Williams' last segment, NBC's anchor. He is not confident about polls ever getting it right. And a great quote from him, which I am simplicizing a little here. It says, "Give us a few weeks. We'll all live to screw up another day, though our performance in New Hampshire will be hard to beat."

So, Brian is not giving us the usual line about, we'll get the polls right, settle down, people.

HALL: His predecessor Tom Brokaw was on Letterman and Chris Matthews, saying the pirouettes are amazing. Everything is speeded up, this guy is toast and, no, she is back. And to be fair to the pollsters, people changed their mind in New Hampshire the last few days, according to the pollsters.

For Mike Barnacle to say the word on the street, I, as a viewer, go, what street are you on? You are talking to media people and political people. That ain't my street.

LOWRY: True. When you go to events — Juan knows — there is a media huddle in the back of the room and we all talk to each other and all spin each other up. And in New Hampshire, a voter tried to intrude on a conversation, and all reporters ignored him and wanted to keep talking to each other.


BURNS: Perfect. We have to take another break. We'll be back with some words from Iraq unlike any you have ever heard before.

ANNOUNCER: A hero's moving wards from beyond the grave. A soldier dies in I think and takes charge of the media message after his death. His story, next on "News Watch."


BURNS: Major Andrew Olmsted served his country in Iraq in 2007 and wrote a blog about his thoughts and experiences. This year, he became the first U.S. service member to die in Iraq when he was killed by small-arms fire. He was prepared. He had asked a friend to post a message on his blog if he was killed in action.

Here is some of what the blog said. "I do ask, not that I'm in a position to enforce this, that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chip to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the Army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle. I can, if you'll pardon the pun, live with that."

Later, he wrote this. "I'm dead. And if you're reading this, you're not. So take a moment to enjoy that happy fact."

Well, we will, Andrew.

That's all the time we have left this week.

Thanks to Jane Hall and Rich Lowry, to Cal Thomas, Juan Williams,

I'm Eric Burns, thanking you for watching. We invite you to stay tuned to FOX for the latest news and more. It's coming right up.

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