'Special Report' Panel on Political Impact of Rev. Wright's Latest Comments

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 28, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT JR., TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: This is an attack o n the black churches and not about Obama, McCain, Hillary, Bill, Chelsea. This is about the black church.

Whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to god November 5 and January 21. That's what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do. I am not running for office. I am open to being vice president.


BRIT HUME, HOST: And so what did Barack Obama have to say about that? Well, for most of the day, nothing. And then late this afternoon, he said the following, among other things , "I have said before and I will repeat again, that some of the comments that Reverend Wright offend me, and I understand why they have offended the American people.

He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign, and so he may make statements in the future that don't reflect my values or concerns."

Barack Obama did say, however, in the interview with Chris Wallace on "FOX News Sunday" that he recognized that this is a legitimate political issue.

Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call — FOX News contributors all.

So what about this? Is this more of the same? Does this move the ball? Does this make a difference in this race affecting Obama or not, Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, Obama cannot get a message through when every cable channel is running the full speech of Jeremiah Wright and the Q&A for two hours.

So it's clearly hurting him, at least temporarily, and it's going to continue to be an issue. It's going to be played all over the place, inevitably all over the campaign.

Just ask Jeremiah Wright himself — the idea that all this is an attack on the black church is utterly false. Juan Williams, our pal, is the author of a book on the black church, and he says that there isn't one in ten black churches that indulge in this kind of nationalism that Reverend Wright practices.

HUME: When I was covering the Jesse Jackson campaigned in 1988, he campaigned from the left and he did a lot of his speaking at black churches. And I went to those churches with him many times and I heard him speak, and he never said anything like this.

And I said that to him here the other day, and he said no, no, no, I'm not going to touch that.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, I thing this is not good. I don't think there was new facts or new statements, but he certainly stood by all the ones he made. He was asked by AIDS and he did the government invent it, and he said I think the government is capable of anything. And —

HUME: He didn't quite reaffirm that one in its full glory. But he didn't back off on 9/11.

LIASSON: He didn't back off on 9/11. And he also suggested — I don't think this is necessarily going to hurt Obama, but he suggested that Obama actually agrees with him but is only saying he doesn't to get elected. He says this is what he does, he does this for electability and because of polls whereas I as a pastor speak the truth.

I actually think the more he is out there, the harder Barack Obama will have to push back against him. I just think he is bad news for the campaign. And it is interesting what kind of animus he has for Obama, or just how much megalomania he has for himself.

HUME: My sense about this is that he doesn't see this through the prism of Barack Obama's political fortunes. He sees these controversies through the prism of his own fortunes.

LIASSON: Sure, and they are pretty good. He has a spotlight that he has never had before.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I agree with a couple of things that Mara said. One is that what Barack Obama has said so far is just simply not adequate. It is just what he said earlier when the whole issue of Reverend Wright came up, and that is, well, I disagree with a lot of things he said.

He never said which things he disagreed with, and his story changed about his approach to Wright. The last thing we heard is that if he hadn't retired I might have left the church, and so on.

And megalomania is clearly something that Reverend Wright has. I think he could care less about what happens to Obama. It is all about him, it's all about Reverend Wright.

But here is the thing that I think Obama has to deal with — clearly, Reverend Wright is a divider and a hater. And Obama says, of course, he is running as a uniter and someone who is certainly not a hater.

How in the world could he sit in those pews for 20 years listening to that hatred and racism and an anti-Americanism — and now we know from further sermons that have been obtained, which we've seen the full sermons, and snippets, it seems that the kind of statements that are so controversial are quite commonplace for Reverend Wright.

How could Obama sit there for 20 years and now — his still existing statement is "I could no more disown Reverend Wright than I could disown the black community"? I mean, I think that politically and morally is inadequate.

KONDRACKE: And he also had his children going to that church. And presumably, that is the line of that church and the attitude of that church, that he's carrying this stuff on to the next generation, having his kids influenced by that. And so how is that reconciling activity? It's not.

HUME: What about the attitude reflected by John McCain's comments? An ad that has been suggested though never actually run by the North Carolina Republican Party that uses this Wright controversy against local candidates down there and presumably against the Democrats in general.

Another ad has popped up in Mississippi where a guy who is a mayor down there is using it. McCain has taken a dim view of this so far, as if this is out of bounds. Is McCain right about that? What's he doing here?

LIASSON: Well, the problem is he's doing two things, and so is Hillary Clinton. He is saying two things — one is that you take the ad down, it is bad for our civics — he requested that of the North Carolina State Party. But he also said I'm not going to be the referee.

Hillary Clinton said today she also condemned these Republican groups running the ad, but in the same paragraph she says I would never have been in the church.

So both of them are trying to have it both ways. They want to disassociate themselves from the nasty attacks, but this is a great issue for both Hillary and McCain.

BARNES: This is a huge — well small mistake by John McCain. And I don't think we'll see him being the judge or the critic for further ads around the country. I think McCain now recognizes it was a mistake to butt in here. There's nothing wrong with the ad. It is not a racist ad.

HUME: We've got to do something about that. If anybody can create an ad and release it to the media


BARNES: It saves money!

HUME: We used to have a rule back in the day that you had to have an ad that was a certain size to get the ad recognized. No more.

KONDRACKE: As we discussed on Friday, McCain is against having these ads run and thinks they are illegitimate. On the other hand, he made an issue the other day of the fact that a Hamas spokesman had endorsed Obama, when clearly Obama did not believe what Hamas supports.

BARNES: And he hasn't had a relationship with Hamas. He has had one with Reverend Wright.

HUME: Next for the panel, a Supreme Court says Indiana is within its rights to require voters to require photo IDs. Will affect next week's primary there? How? And what else about this? Stay tuned.



TODD GAZIANO, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: All six justices who upheld this statute, including Justice Stevens, I should add, noted the lack of evidence of any serious difficulty that this imposed.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y.: Most of the fraud that we have seen in the last several years had nothing to do with voters showing up and not having the right identification. It had a lot to do with a concerted effort to deny people the right to vote, to not count votes, to intimidate people from showing up to vote.


HUME: So what are those two people reacting to? They are reacting to a Supreme Court decision today that said Indiana's pretty restrictive and tight law that says you have to have a valid, government- issued photo I.D. showing you are who you say you are in order to vote in that state, is constitutional.

The justices 6-3 decision written by the generally liberal Justice John Paul Stevens said that the restrictions were not at all unreasonable, or not unreasonable or burdensome to voters.

And, furthermore, as Todd Gaziano noted there, the plaintiff's case, the critic's case was hurt by the fact that they could provide no evidence of any individual who had been disenfranchised as a result of that photo I.D. law.

What is the importance of this, Fred?

BARNES: The importance is that it probably will eliminate some voter fraud.

And I don't know what Hillary Clinton was talking about. She obviously cited no examples. And I think it is a problem. We have had problems with voters without inadequate I.D. and there have been cases in Missouri and California and lots of places.

And a state government has an interest in having honest elections where people who aren't registered or entitled to vote to make sure they don't vote. Now, it may be in some cases inconvenient for people if they want to vote on Election Day to go to the polling places to actually go and get a photo ID, but that's not enough.

They have to go some place to sign up in the first place and there are options if you are disabled, elderly in an old people's home, or something, you can vote absentee —

LIASSON: You can get a provisional ballot and come back with IDs.

BARNES: This thing is non-discriminatory.

HUME: You can cast a provisional ballot and come back with an I.D. later.

LIASSON: Yes. The Democrats want to make it as easy as possible to vote. Hillary Clinton didn't say that it's onerous or somehow discriminatory to require photo I.D. It's going to make it a little bit more difficult.

HUME: But I think she is suggesting it is onerous, isn't she?

LIASSON: It may be onerous, but it's not discriminatory.

The Democrats have an incredible registration edge this year. The have been registering people by the millions. They are going to have to either educate people that they need photo I.D., or make all sorts of provisions for the provisional ballot.

And they will have to do extra work, and 20 of these states now that have these similar laws are probably going to be able to keep them on the books.

KONDRACKE: What's interesting in this opinion is that there was no evidence of impersonation in Indiana voter fraud.

HUME: That because they've got the law, isn't it?

KONDRACKE: No evidence before that that there was a cause for this.

HUME: And there is no evidence that anybody was inconvenienced.

KONDRACKE: And also there was no evidence that it disenfranchised anybody, either. So it is largely a theoretical argument. And as to the theory, the Carter-Baker Commission, Jimmy Carter and James Baker, both said it's perfectly legitimate to require voter I.D. because there have been voter frauds in other states.

And what's interesting, also, is that in Indiana, the case that they cite was a 2003 election in East Chicago, Indiana, where there was voter fraud, but it was done by absentee ballot. And this law makes no provision for having to identify yourself in absentee. You could get 150, you know, 1,000 people who send in phony absentee ballots and no one would ever check.

BARNES: That doesn't make it unconstitutional, however.

And, look, I agree. That is a problem with absentee ballots in many states where they are just sent out automatically.

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