Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' January 5, 2008

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," January 5, 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," the candidates and the media now descend on New Hampshire.

Are Huckabee and Obama the new media stars?

There was other news this week, Pakistan, after Bhutto's death, the San Francisco Zoo after the tiger attack, and Britney Spears in the hospital after a fight over her kids.

First the headlines, and then "FOX News Watch."


BURNS: In the latest immigration news, thousands of reporters have departed from Iowa and been granted temporary visas for New Hampshire. The attraction, presidential candidates.

And, Jim, is the attraction different now than it would have been if Iowa had turned out differently?

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: Oh, no, these — the reporters were going to go there anywhere. Their tickets were already bought.

BURNS: I understand that, but the people who were going to draw them now would seem to be Huckabee and Obama, even more than before.

PINKERTON: Right, the long face on Hillary Thursday night is proof that many people were confused on this. But don't worry, reporters are resourceful and always have a new line. And I think what emerged Friday was, on CNN and CBS for openers, Huckabee as a preacher. They've lost the fact he was a three-term governor. And all he is a former Baptist preacher. They're going to do their best to turn him into Jimmy Swaggart.

BURNS: I think, Rachel, what he's saying is that the liberal press is hammering the conservative candidate.

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: I don't think that's what he's saying. I think he's saying...

BURNS: You don't?


PINKERTON: Eric knows me too well.

SKLAR: What's funny, I think that Huckabee as a preacher thing is really what has catapulted him to where he is now. It's his way of interacting easily and that quiet authority he has and the ability to speak. I think that's what he brings to the table right now, as a freshness.

But what will happen in New Hampshire, I think you've got — Huckabee and Obama are two of the, I think, these scrutinized candidates and now there's going to be an credible amount of scrutiny from the press now that they're frontrunners.

BURNS: And it goes up, doesn't it, Rich, with each primary, the amount of scrutiny? You could draw grafts that move in tandem.

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: Sure, but usually the media likes to build people up to tear them down. I'm not sure where we're going to see the dynamic with Obama and Hillary because I think the media is understandably so enthralled with the historic nature of Obama's candidacy that they might keep pumping him up until the end here.

BURNS: There's a historic nature to Hillary's candidacy, too.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Yes, there is in the fact that Obama did so well with women and young people and created this coalition. I think it's what people are fascinated by. And the turnout was fascinating. I think, you know, if Iowa didn't exist, the media would have had to invent it because it sets up, you know, the expectation, okay, now, will Hillary be the comeback kid. You know, I think the media — we should replay of tape of people's predictions, including our own, probably.

LOWRY: Please don't.

HALL: Everybody said that Hillary was the nomine in waiting. And she had the money, she had the machine. So I think the media should think about, gee, you know, should we always follow the money? And I think Huckabee is still being missed while everybody is looking at Obama now in New Hampshire.

BURNS: Isn't it too early, Jim, to make pronouncements like that? I mean, no one certainly is writing Hillary off.

PINKERTON: No, the main point that I think Jane was getting at is the need for humility, that, look, reporters have an institutional bias toward money and counting up the amount of money a candidate has because they can measure it. You can go to the FCC and look it up. And the consultants, who are money-oriented, for obvious reason, always say I'm going to win because I've got the money. Reporters fall for it and they miss these

LOWRY: Hold on. Hold on. They missed Huckabee, but Barack Obama raised a ton of money.


LOWRY: And if you look at the advertising dollars spent in Iowa, that's exactly right, he spent more than anyone.

PINKERTON: More than Romney, Rich?

LOWRY: Yes, more than Romney.

PINKERTON: Wow, that's a lot.

HALL: We have to be careful about received wisdom. Young people turn out. Young people won't contribute. Obama was canny getting baby bundlers, young kids, to get one of their friends to contribute. And that again, because the media weren't talking to people in Washington about this. They missed a lot.

PINKERTON: They should be talking to people in Iowa. And I think they would have — Dick Morris comes up as a prophet with a P-H, that is. He was saying there's a huge anti-Hillary vote and it doesn't matter where the money is. It just maters that most Democrats don't want the Clintons back in the White House.

LOWRY: In the media's defense though, you don't know how the events are going to turn out until you see the actual voters that show up. And you don't know whether the kids are going to show up or not.


LOWRY: But those voters and it's said every four years.

BURNS: But those voters — and it said every four years...

HALL: They're not even voters.


HALL: They're not even voters in Iowa. They're caucuses.

BURNS: They're not really voter and they're not really representatives. They're not really...

SKLAR: Doesn't matter. They've had an impact.

BURNS: You could put them all into this room, I think, almost.

PINKERTON: It'd be crowded.

BURNS: It would be crowded, but the disproportionate importance that the media gives to Iowa and New Hampshire — I mean, isn't this something that instead of just being commented on, everyone should be indignant about?


Well, wait, wait, Rich is the one who thought...

LOWRY: Oh, you're asking me?

BURNS: Yeah, because you said...

LOWRY: No, because look the whole year all we've had is people raising money, polls and people sitting in news studios like this and, finally, we've had votes. That is a big event and a media should be paying...


LOWRY: It doesn't matter.

SKLAR: Nobody, nobody, nobody was ignorant of the process and it is level playing field. Everybody knew going in.

PINKERTON: If there's one thing that happens every four years, why are we paying so much to Iowa and New Hampshire?

And believe me that tape will be good four years from now, you don't need to change the tie or anything again, you can run it again.

It will never changes and it never will change.

SKLAR: It's a classic tie.

HALL: I think also...

BURNS: Somebody else gets the last word to get people's minds off what Jim just said.


HALL: In the past, New Hampshire has seen like 10-1 journalists to New Hampshire person and it was a stereotypical person. This time there's real engagement. People are turning out.

BURNS: Time for a break. And I'll talk to Jim. At least three of these people will be back.

ANNOUNCER: Furious campaigning, focused coverage. After almost a year, Iowa voters finally have their say. What role did the press play in Thursday's results? That's next on "News Watch."



MIKE HUCKABEE, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It starts here in Iowa, but it doesn't end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They've said that day would never come.


BURNS: To some people, Jane, that was the main story out of Iowa, that this day has come, a black American won a caucus. To me, the biggest story out of Iowa was the margin between Huckabee and Romney, the extent to which Huckabee defeated Romney. What do you think was the big story out of Iowa?

HALL: I think the big story was that the American people, if they are in any way represented by Iowans, which you can stipulate, want something different. And in fact is it was a fairly positive campaign until the Republicans started turning on each other.

I don't think that's going to continue. I think there is a link between Obama and Huckabee that probably is going to be missed, which is, I think the whole thing about change has become a clich,. Hillary Clinton tried to run as experienced and missed the change move and said, oh, yes, I'm going to be able to change, too. I think that that story line, of how she was presumptive nominee and then what happens, is going to be a great story to watch.

LOWRY: A big story out of Iowa is Barack Obama. In every paper in the country, you had Obama's picture on top, Huckabee below. That was the correct call. Someone who couldn't have gone in restrooms or hotels in the country 40 or 50 years ago. His victory is a huge story.

But Huckabee, a big part of his victory is a victory over a conservative media and over the mainstream media. You had nearly every conservative voice in the media attacking this guy the last month and apparently didn't make much difference in Iowa. And he didn't have one good day in the free media since he spiked in the "Newsweek" poll about a month ago and it didn't matter.

PINKERTON: I think that Rich is very right and very honest in saying it that way. And I think the that I sort of actually more agree with Jane in terms of this was no third term for the Clintons and no third term for Bush in both parties.

SKLAR: I'm going to — sorry. I'm going to disagree with all of you. Two big stories out of this. Number one, I agree that the implosion of the GOP and all the conventional wisdom attached to that. But it's the voter turnout, extraordinary, just extraordinary people on both sides coming out in droves because of that need for change.

BURNS: You know what else Huckabee and Obama have in common — and I think this was very important in Iowa because people — I mean, the people who voted were political junkies, obviously, or the people who like their preferences. We know were political junkies. But even a political junky gets tired of politics.

And I think there is something in the manner — I'm not talking about performance here, strictly performance — in the manner of Mike Huckabee, in the manner of Barack Obama.

Rich, it seems to me they don't announce, they don't broadcast. They have a knack of talking, just talking. And I think, as a long campaign wears on that ease that these two men projected may have been as important as anything that they've said.

LOWRY: You're absolutely right. There's something about both of them that says, let's relax, and let's relax, people. And I think that captured something in the public mood.

SKLAR: I really disagree. I think that Huckabee has that, but I think that Obama, particularly in his speech, I mean, that was an oration, a rousing oration. If you notice, he almost shushed the crowd. He was not riding that ground swell with his arms flung open, he was like now is the time for me to get my message out and he spoke to them as their like leader from on high.

BURNS: I think that everybody does that on occasion, especially in formal venues.

But, Jim, I think in less formal venues these two men just team like a couple of sincere fellows that you met.

PINKERTON: I agree with that. They're both great in their own way. And I agree that Obama is inspiring in some way. And I think he had more of an orator and he's got a great booming voice.

BURNS: And television picks that up.

PINKERTON: Television picks it up. But Huckabee — Eric, you remember Arthur Godfrey, David Garaway. These are the people who made television the style of conversation. Just sit there and chat. And what Huckabee, on Jay Leno was as good a performance — he wasn't telling jokes. He was just being natural. And I think it was one of those strokes during the Iowa caucus, before the Iowa caucus that helped Huckabee win.

BURNS: Do you remember David Garaway and Arthur Godfrey?

PINKERTON: No, but I've seen them on YouTube. But they're well-known because, you know, Dave Garaway comes on the show and he would say, how is the Army. People thought that was natural and unbombastic.

BURNS: And I got the insult about my age. That's two segments and two times.

All right, I've calmed down now. Jane, go ahead.

HALL: I think the late night talk show — they came back. Hillary Clinton came on briefly. I think much more awkwardly. I think this is a mixed bag because you know, we know whether someone is going to be able it handle, you know, foreign policy by how well they can mix it up with Jay Leno? No, but we guess something. And Americans like to think their presidents are regular guys or gals. And I think that's part of why we're seeing this as an important factor now.

BURNS: But, also, it seems at least, at this stage, Rich — the Iowa caucus, New Hampshire primary states — people don't want to know too much detail, because it...

LOWRY: Apparently, judging by Huckabee and Obama's victory, yeah.

BURNS: It bores them and they don't reach the point, if they do, sufficiently, which they want to know about policy until there's one candidate on each side.

LOWRY: Yeah, well, and Huckabee is pretty much said that. I'm not going to get in the weaves of this policy until I'm the nomine. One thing about the way that Huckabee played the media and the end game here, he was bold and Romney was safe, didn't take questions at town halls, just trying to hold on. Huckabee took risks like the fiasco or brilliant press conference, depending on how you look at it, in the Leno appearance.

BURNS: Time for another break. We'll be back and change the subject.

ANNOUNCER: Peril in Pakistan. Are the media reporting the full story behind Benazir Bhutto's death? And after a tiger killed a teen at the San Francisco Zoo, how did the media react? All next, on "News Watch."


BURNS: Now for some stories that would be getting more press attention if it weren't for New Hampshire and Iowa. "The Bhutto assassination, not what she seemed to be." That was the headline for Ralph Peters column in the "New York Post" last week.

Peters wrote this. "For the next several days, you're going to read and hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister. She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical western politicians and hardheaded journalist that she was not only a brave woman but also a thoroughbred democrat."

Rachel, a harsh obituary.

SKLAR: Sure, but it bucks the trend. The trend has been varied and questioning and sort of making predictions that, if only she had lived all would have been well with the elections. she was a complicated figure, that's for sure. But, I think there is no question she was brave, that's for sure also.

PINKERTON: Brave or foolish, but, look, she obviously charmed every columnist in New York and Washington. And there's only a few spray people like Ralph Peters and Debby Schlussel (ph), who said, look, what made her so popular in America got her killed in Pakistan. They don't want us picking their leader for them.

HALL: Or as — I'm not sure that's what is proved by her assassination. But there was one thing I found disheartening and I wondered about from the media standpoint is after her assassination Paul Richter from the "L.A. Times" was among the first people I saw who talked about how the administration warned her. And also then Roger Cowan in the "New York Times" talked how he was even saying, this was partially on our hands because we encouraged her to go back. We encouraged this. The U.S. encouraged this. And then she was asking for help in security and that we didn't give it. I thought, could we have known this? Could we have known this sooner? That's what I wondered.

BURNS: Rich, we've commented on this program several times about the lack of coverage that Pakistan gets. Does the Bhutto death increase the interest of American journalists in Pakistan?

LOWRY: Yeah, and I think the coverage has been pretty good, although I felt less...

BURNS: Since her death?

LOWRY: Yeah, but still, I'm the only columnist who didn't know her or go to school with her or have breakfast with her every other day. But I think that Ralph is right. He a brilliant and cantankerous and goes his own way. And he's right that the media want to pump up the Westerner, wants to pump up the politician that they can understand and relate to, who might not be quite what they seem once they're back in their real environment and in their native country.

BURNS: Turning to a story we would have heard more of had this not been for politics in this country, the San Francisco Zoo reopened this week, more than a week after this four-year-old Siberian tiger killed a San Francisco teenager and mauled two others. Some media reports suggested that the parents of the victims should sue the zoo. Others reports claimed that the teenagers taunted the tigers.

This is one of those stories, Jim, that gets a lot of attention. But people like me wonder about why it gets all the attention. Why did it get all the attention and does it really matter ultimately whether the teenagers taunted?

PINKERTON: Eric, have you ever had taken a kid to the zoo? I thought it was a great story in terms of importance, like are the zoos operating themselves properly? I'm a big proponent of a fence across the U.S.-Mexico border and, obviously, better fences in zoos as well.

SKLAR: Oh my God, I can't believe you just made that statement.

PINKERTON: It's a good argument. I would say this, what is still yet to be determined and the press has to sort this out, is, were they crying wolf, were they taunting, what was going on. Nobody knows yet. This is one case I'm sort of looking for the lawsuit to get to the truth.

SKLAR: That's not what is important about this case though. I mean, it's the tiger lept over the wall and killed somebody. Whether or not there was taunting involved, I mean, that's what led all the nightly newscasts, all the shows. I mean, it was constantly wall to wall on cable. I don't know how anybody can think it didn't get enough coverage. It's more than — it's like shark week.

LOWRY: You know, you've got an animal, you've got a violent attack, and you have a mystery about whether they're taunting them. You know, what the zoo's responsibility was and how they fell short. So it's a great story. It's just a natural story.

HALL: I have to — at the risk of offending animal rights activists, I was puzzled no one in the media, I saw, questioned the equating of, you know, memorials for the tiger and memorials for the young person who was killed, whether he taunted or not. Everyone just said that, let the zoo people say it, let the — everybody — am I the only person who thinks maybe there's a difference between a human being and a tiger? I don't know.

SKLAR: The tiger was just being a tiger.

BURNS: It's one of those stories, Jim, that regardless of how you feel about the way it was covered, it's probably bound to lead to something positive, i.e., to just put it in bluntest terms, taller fences.

PINKERTON: Right. Nobody — I didn't know, and you probably didn't either, that 16 feet is the minimum for a tiger fence. And the zoo fence was only 12 feet. That's at that important fact. And we should be looking around at elephants and orangutans and other potentially dangerous animals and say could they do the same thing to somebody's kid or nephew?

BURNS: And is that, Rich, what, one of the things that...


LOWRY: I think so. Zoo wall are going to get a lot of attention now.

PINKERTON: And rightly so.

BURNS: Why does that, I mean, it's a good point, but what does it sound so funny to be ending this segment with zoo walls will be getting a lot of attention?

PINKERTON: Because it's not — it's tragic. Jane is right, it's a tragedy. It's important that we keep people safe and follow the rules that do that.

SKLAR: And on a broader level, that's about foreign policy and domestic issues, all important in this campaign.

BURNS: And we — campaign?

SKLAR: I'm just bringing it back — I'm bringing it back to the beginning.

PINKERTON: We should build a wall around the American border.

HALL: We can't let Jim...

BURNS: We should build a wall around you four, and let me say we have to take one more break.

ANNOUNCER: Who is the most annoying celebrity of 2007? The votes are in and we have a winner, next on "News Watch."


BURNS: Britney Spears ended up in the hospital this week, the victim in a dispute over custody of her children. But here is some consolation for her. "Parade" magazine has conducted a poll to determine the most annoying celebrity in America, and she's not on it.

In fifth place, celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton; in fourth place, Paul McCartney's estranged wife, Heather Mills; in third place, political commentator, Ann Coulter; in second place, Paris Hilton; and in first place, with a whopping 44 percent of the vote, Rosie O'Donnell.

So how about the five most charming celebrities in America? Here is a picture of them for you right now.

So we're not the five most charming celebrities. We're not even really celebrities. But maybe Perez Hilton will write about us and at least some of us will make somebody's list next year.

That is all the time we have this week.

Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Rich Lowry, Rachel Sklar.

And I'm Eric Burns, thanking all of you for watching. Stay tuned to FOX News and more coming right up.

For more information and exclusive content related to "FOX News Watch" go to

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