'Special Report' Panel on Foreign Affairs and Democratic Infighting

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama doesn't understand national security issues. And that's not surprising — he has no background, no experience on these issues.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator McCain has been saying I don't understand national security. But he's the one who wants to keep tens of thousands of United States troops in Iraq for as long as 100 years, even though this war has not made us safer.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, that's a little bit of a dial-back from what Barack Obama had been saying, which was that McCain was calling for a 100 year war in Iraq, which McCain clearly never was. He was discussing this in the context of the kind of presence of American forces we've had in such allies as Germany and South Korea in the period since World War II.

In addition, it might be worth taking a look at a couple of polls here. This is a general election poll from the Gallup daily tracking poll, and it shows McCain ahead of Hillary Clinton by a couple of points — that's the margin of error, of course, so it's essentially tied, and a similar result between McCain and Barack Obama, a couple of points there as well, as you can see.

Some thoughts on this race now, and the McCain and Obama exchange, from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard", Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Well, Charles, what do you make of all this, particularly this continuing back and forth over the 100-year assertion of McCain?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think McCain has an opening here that I don't think he is taking. He has been treating this 100-year accusation as a matter of experience of foreign affairs — who is better on this.

It is a character issue. Obama has been riding this clean hands, above the fray, new politics persona that he created brilliantly for himself in this campaign, and here he is, has been saying earlier, as you indicated, that McCain wants 100 years of war. He said it at least twice.

HUME: He meaning Obama.

KRAUTHAMMER: Obama has said it at least twice. It clearly is a lie. Objective observers like the Annenberg Political fact check group has called it a "rank falsehood," which is a strong and unequivocal accusation as you can make from an independent arbiter. And I think he needs to say this is old politics.

And what is ironic about this is that Obama's chief military advisor and campaign co-chair, General Tony McPeak, said at the beginning of the Iraq war "We will be there a century, hopefully, if this works right," meaning if we succeed, as we did, for example, in the war in Kuwait, where we have remained for 17 years.

So his own advisor said five years ago that staying 100 years a good idea because it gives us stability and projects our power and is a way the great powers act after they win wars, and here is Obama attacking McCain over this.

I think he is vulnerable, but McCain is not really taking him on the right way.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Look, you don't have to be a military expert to know, or have experience in foreign affairs to know we kept troops in Germany and Japan and Korea after we won those wars. Barack Obama knows full well that history. He is an educated man —

HUME: Indeed, yesterday, when he was asked about it in that context, he did say that that example of Korea had been cited. So he could recognizes it.

KONDRACKE: He knows it, so why does he repeat it? It is demagoguery, pure and simple demagoguery, and it's unworthy of the kind of campaign that Barack Obama has been claiming that he going to run — high, above board, not stooping to ordinary, low-blow politics.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": It's not just about the Obama campaign, it's about who he is, and whether he is the person that he's projected in his speeches — this person who is, as Charles said, above the fray, who we jokingly call "Saint Obama," who's different from other politicians, who doesn't play the political games, and here he is playing one, twisting another candidate's words in a way to make them say something quite different from what he had to know they really meant.

But it comes at a time when we're learning some other things about Obama, the public is. We have learned a lot about Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose church he went to for several decades, and didn't leave despite outrageous things that Reverend Wright said. That tells you something about Obama.

We have heard his wife speak. And, I think, ultimately, and I suspect, although the media hasn't focused on this much, we will learn that, despite Obama portraying himself as someone who brings us together and unites people and creates compromises, it's something he has never done before — quite the opposite.

HUME: All right, now, how much of that perception, if it indeed is growing, is responsible for the striking poll numbers, which show in a year when Republicans ought to be completely in the toilet given the political circumstances — president unpopular, the economy trending down, the war continuing — and yet you see McCain in a virtual tie, slightly ahead within the margin of error, of both Obama and Hillary Clinton?

KRAUTHAMMER: It shows that Republicans have chosen the strongest possible candidate in McCain. He's the one. He is the only candidate who has a chance of winning in what you have said here is clearly a Democratic year, with a tough economy and an unpopular war.

KONDRACKE: And it reflects the fact that Hillary Clinton's approval ratings, or disapproval ratings are very high. Lots of people don't like her. And Obama people have lots of doubts about. Who is this guy? He is a brand new person on the scene, and the country doesn't understand exactly who he is. He talks well, but they don't know if they are there.

So they do know McCain, and McCain is what he is.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think what has happened, particularly in the case of Obama, is what people have learned about him in the past several weeks is largely unfavorable.

HUME: When we come back, the Democratic infighting over how super delegates should vote for a presidential nominee. Don't miss that discussion — that's coming.



SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: And it's so important that the people of Pennsylvania have their voices heard and their votes counted.

Senator Obama says he's getting tired of the campaign. His supporters say they want it to end.

OBAMA: I know that some people are feeling frustrated about the length of this primary. But I think this primary has been good for the Democratic Party, and it's been good for America.


HUME: And Obama said as recently as, I guess, yesterday, or over the weekend, anyway, that Hillary Clinton was entitled to stay in the race as long as she wanted and he didn't want to force her out. That might have been another Clinton stretcher; who knows what people will think of that?

But here is what the current polling we have from Rasmussen Reports — that Barack Obama has closed to within five points. Some of that, obviously, as a result of the natural tightening that occurs as the rate gets closer to Election Day, but some of it may be something else.

In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi said, reversing herself on the issue of what the super delegates should do, is that super delegates should vote their conscience. And then she went on to say today that they should vote the politics of who would make the best candidate, which seemed something other than conscience, but, hey, we're not going to be too prissy here.

Earlier, of course, she had said that super delegates should follow the will of the voters, and go in the direction that the voters who elected delegates had gone.

So where do we stand in this race — Fred?

BARNES: Well, the super delegates are going to decide at some point, and they're going to vote whether it's by July 1, as Howard Dean, the Democratic National Chairman wants — I'm sure they're not going to pay any attention to him, nobody else does — or whether they vote at the convention.

They will vote on the basis of who they think is the best candidate and who can win. Right now that look like it is probably Barack Obama.

HUME: In other words, they're going to vote by what Nancy Pelosi calls "conscience."

BARNES: Yes. But it may be hard, because you have a good chance — I found that analysis by Mike Barone of the eight or nine remaining primaries, that Hillary Clinton could pull ahead of the popular vote, quite interesting. If she pulls ahead in the popular vote and Obama is ahead in delegates, that will be hard for the super delegates.

I suspect they will go for Obama, but they're learning things in these late primaries that they didn't know before. And I think it looks like Obama would be very weak in Pennsylvania, a state that a Democrat really has to win in order to win the White House.

HUME: On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's recent episode talking about her adventures in Tuzla may not have helped her cause, even with her own party.

KONDRACKE: Harold Ickes acknowledged today that they're using the Jeremiah Wright example on super delegates —

HUME: Harold Ickes, for the benefit of those who may not recall, is the chief delegate hunter for the Clinton campaign, and a man feared by many.

KONDRACKE: Yes. And they're using this case to say that Catholics and Latinos and Reagan Democrats and less well educated Democrats could well go to John McCain because of the Jeremiah Wright case, that they'll be scared away, they'll go into the Republican party, whereas you could probably depend upon African-Americans and highly-educated liberals who are the Obama constituencies, to stick with the Democratic Party.

So therefore, super delegates, go for Hillary.

KRAUTHAMMER: I agree with you that in the mind of a politician, supporting a winner is an act of conscience, and that is actually working here.

I think what is interesting is how the race is tightening. In part, it is the natural rhythm of this campaign. But I think it's two things — Bosnia, as you mentioned. And Casey — he's the Senator from that state that has endorsed Hillary, and I think it particularly helps her — I'm sorry, endorsed Obama, and that particularly helps him because he is the unknown, he came out of nowhere.

Casey represents a distinguished political family in the state. His father was a governor.

And, secondly, the Caseys, father and son, are pro-life, which appeals to the kind of blue collar Reagan Democrat constituency —

HUME: But Obama's not.

KRAUTHAMMER: But it's because that isn't his constituency that having the blessing of old money like Caseys, old political money like the Caseys, who is pro-life, helps him with those Democrats who might have been in the Clinton camp and would have the doubts about an Obama. This helps, the laying on of hands helps.

But I think you're right also, that the Tuzla, the Bosnia story, really hurt her, because it reminded people of what they don't like about the Clintons.

HUME: There is some disagreement, and I picked it up in my e-mail and elsewhere, among people who think — some people think that Tuzla hurt Hillary more than Reverend Wright hurt Obama. Some people think the other way around. What about it?

BARNES: I think the Wright thing is much more harmful. You saw in the week or so that it was the big issue, her numbers going up and his numbers going down.

And Harold Ickes is right, not only are the Clinton people using that issue against Obama now, but Republicans will in the fall. It is a perfectly legitimate issue, the question being why in the world would he stay in that church hearing all that stuff from Reverend Wright all those years?

HUME: Quickly, Mort.

KONDRACKE: It is the sequencing. Jeremiah Wright was two weeks ago. Last week's story was Tuzla. The new polls are coming in and there is a bit of a tightening.

I frankly think that this Rasmussen poll which shows a five-point gap, plus or minus four percent, could be nine that she's ahead by.

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