This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 25, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT JR., TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Persons who heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly. The failure to communicate is when something is taken, like a sound byte, for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again.
I felt it of the unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt that those who were doing it were doing it for some very devious reasons.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that what he said, in several instances, were objectionable, and I understand why the American people took offense. And as I indicated before, I took offense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, GUEST HOST: There you see the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former pastor, appearing on Bill Moyer's show on PBS, talking for the first time about his controversial sermons; and today Senator Barack Obama reacting again to Reverend Wright's sermons.
Some analytical observations about the latest developments from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors always.
Charles, you know, from the Obama campaign's point of view, it can't be good, can it, that Reverend Wright is doing interviews? Now he is going to be at an event Sunday. He is speaking out.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What is really hard for Obama is that he gave the speech after the furor erupted last month, and many in the press accepted the speech as the final word on this issue and have treated any reviving of the Wright issue as illegitimate and even racist.
The problem for Obama is if Wright reappears and speaks, its now real news again. So you can no longer hide him under the rung.
I found amazing in the excerpts that we saw that Wright explained his statements by saying they were taken out of context. I don't know how Moyer responded, but what context exactly would you place the statement that white America, the government, has created the AIDS virus and used it to commit genocide on people of color.
How do you contextualize that and put it in some kind of historical perspective?
I found the revelations in this segment where we saw Wright in that interview absolutely revealing and amazing. And I think he dug a deeper ditch that Obama is now in as a result.
BAIER: Mort, what was your take on the interview. Would you call it penetrating?
MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: We haven't seen the whole interview, so, hopefully there is a question or two that are tough from Bill Moyers. What we saw was not tough at all.
And to follow up on Charles's point, what is the context of honoring Louis Farrakhan or going to visit Muammar Gaddafi, all that stuff?
Anyway — look, what the Democratic Party is developing into is the famous circular firing squad. You've got Jeremiah Wright back on the scene to haunt Barack Obama. He gets endorsed by Hamas on a New York radio station — Barack Obama does.
Then you have James Clyburn, who is the top African-American in congress, blasting away at the Clinton campaign and saying that they are trying to destroy Barack Obama and make it impossible for him to get elected.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Let's take a listen to Representative Clyburn, who had an interview with Major Garrett today about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: I feel that the conduct of this campaign could very well make the nomination not worth having.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Fred he is specifically pointing to former President Clinton's remarks.
BARNES: Bill Clinton isn't going to do as much damage to Barack Obama as Reverend Jeremiah Wright is. With the pastor like this, you don't need enemies. This guy — there is no way he can help Obama.
Look, he can't deny that he said 9/11 was the chickens coming home to roost for the U.S. We've all seen it. We've all seen the tape. We've all seen the tape of the AIDS charge that Charles was talking about, and all the others. I don't care what the context is. They're not going to go away. And the problem is here is Jeremiah Wright out there. He can't deny those things. All he can do is make matters worse, reminding people that he was the pastor for 20 years for Barack Obama.
He must be an awfully egotistical man, because it's clear that he cares about himself, Reverend Wright does, and not the harm that he can do to Barack Obama's campaign for president.
BAIER: Charles, back to James Clyburn's comments about the Clintons as well, driving a wedge between black voters and the Clinton campaign, he calls it an irreparable breach. That sounds like a permanent wedge. That a prominent African-American congressman saying it.
KRAUTHAMMER: I'm not sure how permanent it is, but it will last at least until the convention. And, thus, I can't see how African-Americans, supporters of Obama and white supporters, who are passionate about him, would accept a Clinton nomination. They will attribute it to race and they will claim it was stolen.
And I think that the breach he talks about is a breach that may not be irreparable but will show up in November.
BAIER: Which is worse? You are saying it is worse for Reverend Wright to keep on popping up and saying things? Is James Clyburn's statement about the Clintons as bad?
KONDRAKE: I think what this does is further polarize the Democratic Party racially. Whenever Clyburn starts talking about what African- Americans think about the Clintons, the white working class thinks Obama is just a black guy and can't be post racial. BAIER: That's the last word on this subject.
Don't forget, Senator Barack Obama will be Chris Wallace's guest on FOX News Sunday. Please check local listings for times in your area.
But, first, when we return with the panel, John McCain wraps up his tour of what he calls the forgotten communities of America. We will talk about his strategy ahead of the general election campaign next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just a fact that Hamas's North American spokesperson is endorsing Senator Obama. People can make their own judgment from that.
AHMED YOUSEF, HAMAS ADVISER: We like Mr. Obama. We hope that he will win the election. And I do believe he is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well there you see Senator John McCain today talking about an unusual endorsement for Barack Obama, and you heard there from the Ahmed Yousef. He is Hamas political advisor actually living in Gaza, according to our sources, but political advisor for Hamas.
What about this? And, also, let's talk about this and the John McCain campaign, where it stands. Fred — first, about the Hamas incident and McCain bringing it up today.
BARNES: Well, look, I think that happened a couple of weeks ago. This Hamas guy saying he likes Obama. I think that McCain could have let that one alone.
Look, it's out there, and I don't think he needed to bring attention to it, particularly since he is so finicky about a campaign, what you do in a campaign complaining about the North Carolina Republican ad that has Obama and reverend Jeremiah Wright that is really aimed at the North Carolina candidates who have endorsed Obama.
The ad seemed perfectly — there is nothing wrong with the ad, except it isn't very effective. And yet McCain has made a huge issue out of it over and over again, which I think is an unforced error on his part, because now he is going to be asked about every crazy little thing that some Republican Party in Montana or somewhere else does, and has to endorse it or repudiate it.
BAIER: What about this tour, Mort, that John McCain is on?
KONDRAKE: All this stuff takes away from this tour. I read all the speeches that he made on the tour. They were eloquent. They were visionary. They were progressive. They had an air of Teddy Roosevelt about them.
He was talking partly populist and partly Republican economics, but it was a good mix. He was basically saying in the depressed areas, Appalacia, the black belt of Alabama, Youngstown, Ohio — look, you can get out of this. This is a country of second chances. If you don't give up, you can succeed. Low taxes, enterprise, investment, education, that stuff can bring you back.
And they were really good speeches. But the national audience didn't see them because everybody focused on the Democratic campaign. And then when we might have paid attention to that today at some length, instead, we're talking about this other stuff.
BAIER: Yesterday in New Orleans, Charles, Senator McCain tried to distance himself from how the Bush administration dealt with Hurricane Katrina, calling it a failure and everyone knows it a failure. Is that the purpose of some of these comments?
KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, and that's OK. It's an unpopular president, and if he wants to distance himself, that's fine.
But I think on this issue of the commercial in North Carolina, which is linking Obama to Jeremiah Wright, McCain's denunciation of it is absurd. It is an unforced error. This is a man, Wright, with Obama associated with for 20 years. He calls him his spiritual advisor.
And Obama campaigns as a guy who will unite America, who transcends race and religion and class and region and ideology to bring America together, and yet last year he donated $26,000 in support of this church's pastor, who is spreading race hatred.
And then McCain on the same day after saying it's illegitimate to raise this, makes that statement that we saw about Obama and Hamas. Hamas has no relation with Obama. Obama has never endorsed it. He has denounced it. He has no history with it. It's a completely unfair association.
I can't decide if McCain has lost his mind here temporarily or gone stark raving mad. It's a kind of self-righteousness he is not going to win the Wright stuff, in Obama and Reverend Wright, which is a complete legitimate issue, but McCain wants to appear as above it all. And then makes this guilt by association with Hamas, which is unconscionable.
BAIER: So what next, Fred? Where does this campaign head? Is this on track to a more populist message?
BARNES: Sure. It's going to be different from Bush. You know why McCain is going to seem a lot different from Bush? Because he is a lot different from Bush. He's not Bush III.
I think Mort said it right. There is this Teddy Roosevelt side to John McCain. He is basically conservative, but on a lot of issues we know about, he's not. And we're going to see a lot more of that.
And just because of who he is, he will undermine this notion that if he is elected, it will be Bush's third term. It won't be. A lot of conservatives like myself might prefer it to be, but that's not going to get him elected. Being different from Bush will.
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