'Special Report' Panel on Obama's Blue Collar Comments, Clinton's Bosnia Gaffe and Pope Benedict XVI's U.S. Visit

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 16, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's interesting just over the last couple of days of me suggesting that people are bitter about the state of their economic lives, that the Washington beltway hall of mirrors has just gone nuts.

And then they open up the paper and look at the polling done yesterday, and it turns out that most people, it hasn't had an impact in terms of how they're thinking.


BRET BAIER, GUEST HOST: That was Senator Barack Obama today talking about the now infamous comments that he made about blue collar workers in Pennsylvania. One of his biggest backers in Pennsylvania, Senator Bob Casey, told Major Garrett that he, in fact, is worried about the controversy, and said it might be a factor in the decision that voters make on April 22.

What about all of this? Some analytical observations now 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.

Charles is very happy to be here on the panel, even dressed up tonight.


MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": He has gotten dressed up for the hall of mirrors.

BAIER: That's right.

Let's first look at these polls. The newest poll out of Pennsylvania is an L.A. Times-Bloomberg poll, and it shows Hillary Clinton clinging to a five-point lead over Barack Obama. Mort, what about these comments, the fact that Senator Casey said he's worried about them?

KONDRACKE: Nobody knows for sure what's going to happen, but what we do know on the basis of other rust belt states, pre-bitter-gate, is that Hillary Clinton underpolls an Obama overpolls. That is to say when the election returns are in, generally she gets more than she is expected to.

But she's got to blow out Obama in Pennsylvania in order to catch up in popular votes, and in delegates. And if Ed Rendell is right — Ed Rendell is telling people in Pennsylvania, and he is a Clinton supporter, inside the campaign, that he thinks that she's going to win by ten points.

If she wins by ten points, she may pick up 200,000 popular votes and gain on Obama — he is ahead by 700,000. She will only pick up about ten delegates, and that's nowhere near enough to catch up. And he is expected to do well in Indiana, and to win in North Carolina.

So, still, the mathematics is against her.

BAIER: Charles, has Barack Obama done a good job of extinguishing the fallout, perhaps, from the comments in San Francisco?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he hasn't extinguished it, but he has mitigated it. He is excellent at slipping out of scandals and semi- scandals. Remember when he had the Reverend Wright affair, he gave one speech, and the liberal intelligentsia so swooned that they gave him complete absolution. You never hear any of the Wright remarks even mentioned again.

And I think he has been nimble on this. He tries to insist that the issue is the word "bitter." Of course it isn't. The issue is the word "cling." It's the clinging to guns and religion which is condescending and snobbish and really quite outrageous, and I think that is going to hurt him.

I don't believe the polls that show him creeping up and only a little bit behind, and I don't believe the poll a few days ago that had him trailing by 20.

But I do think that the extent to which it is going to hurt him is diminished by timing. The Pope's arrival here sucks the air out of this issue because it takes attention away. And the debate tonight will change the subject in one way, unless Hillary keeps it alive, and I'm not sure she really can.

BAIER: Hillary Clinton, one of her supporters came out with a statement about John McCain today. Take a listen.


REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I have served with seven presidents. When they come in, they all make mistakes, and they all get older. And this one guy running is about as old as me. Let me tell you something, it's no old man's job.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I invite John to come out with me on the campaign trail. I out-campaigned everybody else, and that's why I'm the nominee of my Party. I can certainly out-campaign either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton.

BAIER: So, Fred, what about Jack Murtha calling John McCain too old?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Look, I don't think anybody has any illusions about McCain's age. They all know. He's older than the other candidates. He's 71. He's 72 if he is elected president and when he is sworn in. I think that's a minor issue. He polls the weakest among older people, actually.

I want to say something about Obama, why he is so lucky. He is so lucky that that statement he made in San Francisco was not videotaped, because we would have run it again for the 900th time if it had been on video. When it is just audio or some statement that people read in the newspaper, it just doesn't have the impact.

Why did Hillary Clinton's Bosnia lie have such impact? Because we can see clearly on television day after day that it was utterly not true, that it was utterly peaceful when she arrived on that plane.

All these polls were devastating about Hillary, not particularly because she is only ahead by five in Pennsylvania. It's her argument is failing. You look at the "L.A. Times" poll in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina showed that she's not winning the argument that Obama's not electable.

Democratic voters by two to one think he is more electable and they think she is untrustworthy.

So the internals look bad for her, even if she wins Pennsylvania, which I think she will, handily.

BAIER: Next up with the panel, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. We will talk about what the Pope and President Bush said today in public and what they may have said in private. We'll be right back.



PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred, and that each of us is willed, each of us is loved.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expressions of support for the present efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress.


BAIER: There you see Pope Benedict XVI and President Bush at the largest arrival ceremony ever on the south lawn of the White House, the second Pope ever to visit the White House. The White House and the Holy See said that in a private meeting in the Oval Office, the president and the Holy Father spent a considerable time talking about the Mideast.

We are back with our panel. Fred, the impact of this visit and the speeches today?

BARNES: I thought the speeches, particularly the one by the Pope, were fantastic. It must have been a deep disappointment to the press corps assembled there that he didn't attack the president on the Iraq war and a few other things, because that's what the American press wants to do, stir up a fight between the Pope and the president and the Pope and American Catholics.

Pope Benedict is really too smart for that. The most beautiful part of his response — the president had cited the Pope's phrase, this "dictatorship of relativism," a phrase that's become associated with Pope Benedict — and the Pope followed up on it brilliantly, talking about what freedom needs to underpin it — personal responsibility and virtue and morality and self-discipline and these things that many people, of course, get from their religious faith.

The president was fine. The Pope was great.

KONDRACKE: I actually thought that the president was excellent. I missed some of the eloquence that Fred refers to, but now that he points it out, he's correct.

But I thought that what we quoted from the president, and also his remarks about how people around — Muslims that he was talking about, Muslim extremists — commit murder in the name of god, and the message of love that the Pope enunciates is the antidote to that.

The Pope didn't, I didn't think, say anything very controversial. Pope John Paul II actually opposed both Iraq wars, and the Pope never mentioned it.

KRAUTHAMMER: The Pope and the president issued a joint statement afterwards talking about foreign affairs, the Middle East, peace and security, the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The Pope has no effect on how we do our foreign affairs, but he has an incredibly strong effect on our social concerns. And when he talks about culture of life and how he and the Catholic Church and those theologians have changed this doctrine, have influenced our debate on abortion and stem cells is absolutely critical.

And I think his emphasis on that is going to have an effect over the long run.

BAIER: Pope Benedict will say mass at Washington National Park tomorrow.

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