'Special Report' Panel Updates Democratic Race for Presidential Nomination

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from March 31, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some folks saying, wel l, we ought to stop these elections.

I didn't think we believe that in America.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She should be able to compete and her supporters should be able to support her for as long as they are willing or able.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, there you go. They agree, don't they, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? This ought to go on forever.

Some thoughts on this whole process now from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

In addition, of course, they are both saying John McCain is still saying, despite skeptical questions from the press, at least to Obama, that John McCain wants to carry on the Iraq war for another 100 years.

So what about all of this, Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, the charge that McCain wants to carry on the war for 100 years is a total canard. It has been refuted by, among other people, Charles quite vigorously in last weeks column.

What McCain said was, yes, we could stay in Iraq for 100 years on the same basis we have been in Korea ever since the end of the Korean War or Germany ever since the end of the second world war as long as our troops aren't being shot. And it seems perfectly reasonable.

And so they are mischaracterizing what he said badly.

HUME: What about the race?

KONDRACKE: In terms of the race—look, Hillary is going to stay until she is defeated, whenever that happens. And she might even win, but probably not.

But she is going to be—she is hoping for some kind of a miracle, that something will happen, some big stumble on Obama's part will convince the super delegates to go to her, and abandon him, and so on. And she's just going to fight it out until—

And if she can get the majority of the popular vote, then she will have another argument to the super delegates to go with her.

HUME: May I say, Mort, before we go on to Nina, how splendidly you look tonight with your choice of tie and shirt. I think it's a sign of your good taste that you would wear such a thing.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: I think it's good that you checked in with each other this morning.

HUME: I sent a memo. Most of the times you guys ignore it. I see you completely ignored it.

EASTON: On the war that is the Democratic race, we've seen this dance before, and it wasn't that long ago. It was right before the Texas and Ohio primaries where we saw that clever maneuvering by Obama supporters. And at the time, I remember, it was Senator Dick Durbin saying well, maybe Hillary should get out now. Of course she went on to the big win in Ohio—

HUME: And Texas.

EASTON: —and Texas. Now we've got Pat Leahy making this more overt comment that she should get out.

It's funny, because you can look back at Kennedy in '80, Hart in '84—their margins were smaller than hers are now. I mean, they were, you know —

HUME: They were farther behind.

EASTON: They were farther behind, I'm sorry than she is now. And there weren't these huge calls, loud calls for them to get out of the race.

I think what is going on now and why you are seeing so much nervousness among so-called "party elders" is that the thinking is mathematically the only way she can win is by super delegates, and, in that case, it would be stealing the nomination from Barack Obama if he was ahead in pledged delegates and possibly the popular vote, and that would be a bloodbath.

HUME: Which I think is entirely plausible that Michael Barone has outlined, which is that she goes ahead and wins the popular vote, overtakes him in the popular vote, and she is now behind in delegates, but more people have voted for her.

This is, after all, Charles, a Party after Florida 2000 has declared itself very loyal to the idea that he or she who gets the most votes wins, right?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, that scenario happens, and I think she has a case at least equal to Obama's case of who deserves it morally. But what the Obama people are assuming is that he will be ahead in both of those indicators, the elected delegates and the popular vote.

But there's a hole in that argument, and the hole is Michigan and Florida, and that is what I think the Obama folks and the higher-ups in the Democratic establishment are ignoring.

After all, the delegates are free to vote, by rule, for anybody they wish. They can decide to go by how their district went, how the state went—

HUME: Super delegates?

KRAUTHAMMER: —the super delegates—how the national popular vote went. But they can also decide on their own who is the most likely to win.

So the Obama argument is that they have a moral obligation, as you say, given the history of 2000 and others, to go with whoever wins the popular vote. That's a strong argument until you realize that he means the popular total, leaving out Michigan and Florida, and his lawyers helped assure that there would not be a revote in Michigan.

So Clinton has a very strong argument. The way to say it is if you're saying super delegates ought to go, even though the rules are open, by who wins, who has the popular will, if you will, then you have to include Florida or a Michigan revote, or you have to include the existing votes in Florida and Michigan.

If you add the totals in Florida and Michigan to hers, she could very easily win in that measure, and then she'd have a stronger case that super delegates ought to come her way. And I don't think the Obama camp has answered that.

EASTON: She could, but I think it's important to point out, Charles, that if you include the Florida and Michigan outcomes right now, she's still behind in the popular vote.

KRAUTHAMMER: And I'm assuming that she is going to do well going forward. And the margin could easily be enough if you include the Michigan and Florida.

KONDRACKE: Obama does have a case that the rules are the rules, and the rule were

KRAUTHAMMER: But there are no rules.

KONDRACKE: No, everybody agreed, Hillary Clinton says that Michigan would not count. She said—nobody campaigned in Florida.

KRAUTHAMMER: Michigan would not get delegates, but you could still look at the popular result and say who got the most votes.

KONDRACKE: He was not on the ballot in Michigan.

KRAUTHAMMER: But if you look at the Florida result, in and of itself—add that to her total, she could easily win a majority.

KONDRACKE: Look, it's a sad shame that they didn't have a revote in those two states. That would have been the clincher. It could have been the playoff game, and—but they trumped. I don't know how they're going to solve this problem, frankly.

KRAUTHAMMER: At the convention.

KONDRACKE: With a big fight.

HUME: Going all the way, Mort, to the convention?

KONDRACKE: I like idea—

HUME: But what do you think will happen?

KONDRACKE: I think they will settle it somehow before the convention.

HUME: What do you think?

EASTON: They will try every way they can to settle it before the convention.

KRAUTHAMMER: The Clinton's will not quit. It will end at up at the convention.

HUME: All right—two against one there, but Charles may be right.

When we come back with out panel, we will talk about the latest developments in Iraq. Will the cease-fire hold? Who won? Who lost in the recent fight? That's next.



HAZIM AL-ARAJI, MOQTADA AL-SADR SENIOR AIDE: The cancellation of all armed activity in Basra and all other provinces. We are not responsible for anyone who carries a weapon and targets government services, institutions, or the offices of political parties.


HUME: That is a spokesman for the Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who is still hanging out in Iran, where he's been for a long time now, and to whom a delegation of Iraqi officials went to try to arrange an end to the current fighting in which Sadr's militia were taking casualties in Basra, where the streets were quiet today, or relatively so, and in parts of Baghdad as well.

So the question arises, did the Maliki government rise to the occasion and prevail in this contest of wills, or did it, in fact, the one who said "uncle"— Mort?

KONDRACKE: Well, it looks to me as though Maliki did not establish what he wanted to do, that is, he wanted to rid Basra of the militias. He sent Iraqi forces into Basra. They got much more resistance than they anticipated, and the reason that it ended was Muqtada al-Sadr decided to call a cease-fire.

Now, if—

HUME: Why did Sadr call a cease-fire?

KONDRACKE: Apparently on orders of the Iranians. He has become the chief tool of the Iranians.

Furthermore, there was a lot of violence in Baghdad as well, with rockets going into the Green Zone. This is not good as Petraeus comes next week to report that things are were going really well and that the Iraqi security forces could handle things on their own, because they couldn't. In the case of Basra, we had to use helicopter flights and so on.

HUME: I know we helped them, but what I don't understand is how if they were losing it was al-Sadr who wanted a cease-fire.

KONDRACKE: I frankly don't, and nobody does understand why Sadr called the cease-fire either, but it wasn't because he was getting beat.

HUME: So, in other words, he was winning and decided he wanted to quit?

KONDRACKE: Well, he was certainly keeping up the resistance, and the Iraqi forces were not bowling him over.

EASTON: The point is Maliki's forces were unable to rout Sadr's forces going in, A, by themselves, and B, to do it immediately in a quick timeframe with the support of American forces. I mean, it just didn't happen. As Mort said, they faced a lot more resistance than they expected going in—

HUME: How do we know that they faced more resistance than they expected? They went down there says that they had a bad situation there.

EASTON: An American general was quoted just today as saying we thought we would go in and find thugs and criminals, but, in fact, it was this militia army that we faced.

KRAUTHAMMER: And Maliki's general admitted it as well. He said that they had more resistance than they expected.

Look, Maliki started this and he didn't succeed. He wanted to marginalize Sadr, and he accepted it. He sent a delegation into Iran. The venue of these negotiations tells you who was hurting.

Maliki has not succeeded in marginalizing Sadr. Sadr is a little bit stronger. He had been losing a lot of support because a lot of his forces had descended into thuggery and extortion and were unpopular, and we heard a lot of that reporting early in the fighting.

But Maliki didn't finish them off, and Sadr lives, as he did in Najaf four years ago, and he's back.

But this is all skirmishing in preparation for the provincial elections. Maliki wants to be strong in Basra and elsewhere on the provincial elections, which have just been scheduled for later in the year.

This is the Iraqi version of the Iowa caucuses. We have it with meetings in the homes of little old lady on a winter evening. In Iraq, it's decided by gunmen on the streets—the Sadr Party against the Maliki, and then there is a third party as well.

I guess it's what you mean when you say adapting a democracy according to local conditions.

But Sadr is stronger, and he keeps his armies. That's what's important. Maliki had demanded a disarmament, handing over the weapons. He is no longer asking it. If Sadr's people are holding arms and you have elections in Basra and elsewhere, as we will, then the will have an upper hand.

A, it demonstrates strength on the ground, and, secondly, if one party has weapons, it can intimidate in election time. So I think Sadr is stronger. He is going to be stronger at the end of the year.

KONDRACKE: Sadr's terms for the cease-fire were release of all of his gangsters who are in jail, and also an amnesty for all of them.

HUME: I thought it was an amnesty for those who were currently fighting.

KONDRACKE: It's an across the board amnesty. He wants his people free and ready to fight again, and they're not, as Charles, said, giving up their arms.

KRAUTHAMMER: He is talking about a release of all the bad guys we and the Iraqi forces have arrested over the last months in the surge.

HUME: Is it clear to you that will happen?

KRAUTHAMMER: It is not sure anybody has accepted it. It is all unclear now. But the fact that Maliki has accepted at least the current truce is, in and of itself, I think, a defeat.

EASTON: I was just going to point out, too, that Maliki was very personally involved in this offensive. This was his moment to show, as a leader who is portrayed as weak and not altogether, this was his chance to become and show he was a strong leader.

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