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Special Report Roundtable - March 5

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


SEN HILLARY Clinton (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "I don't feel no ways tired. I come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me."


HUME: Hillary Rodham Clinton at a church in Selma, Alabama over the weekend. She was, to be perfectly fair about this, quoting from what she called a "great hymn" by someone who was obviously known to the audience, so perhaps that accounts for her accent.

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

Well, down and they both went to, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to Selma, Alabama for a weekend of observances of the famous civil rights march that led to the awful violence that the Edmond Pettus Bridge that outraged the nation and awaken the it's conscience in the era of the Civil Rights Movement.

It looked like a real contest for the support of African-Americans, in that state and perhaps around the country, between the two of them, which I suppose, gave rise to what we just heard, there. But what about it -- Mort.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: I thought Obama got the better of the day. One, he confronted this issue, is he black enough, by saying that yeah, his mother was white and his father was an African, and yet his whole political career is based, in fact, it's existence is based on the opportunities created by the Civil Rights Revolution -- a white woman wouldn't have married a black man, and et cetera, et cetera and he wouldn't have been. But, more importantly, I thought...

HUME: But didn't all that happen before Selma?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, it happened before Selma but...


KONDRACKE: But, more importantly, I thought, to the extent that any white people were watching that around the country or got wind of it, he took the Bill Cosby view of what's wrong with African-American society. Kids think that to succeed in school is to act white, people don't turn out to the polls, parents do not watch with their children are doing, fathers abandon their children after conception, and stuff like that. He, you know, and that was the...

HUME: So, and this -- so, what you're saying, he did not really pander.

KONDRACKE: He did not panic at all, he didn't pander and, in fact, from the crowd, which is a religious crowd, presumably socially conservative crowd, that was his biggest applause lines. I think he did himself a lot of good.

HUME: Well, what about her?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, she -- the competition for African-American votes in the Democratic primary is going to be very fierce. There is tremendous loyalty to the Clintons. Now, I think that Barack Obama is thrilling to African-Americans. That doesn't mean that they're going to abandon the Clintons, who they feel very strongly about, but there's going to be a real race for those votes. Most of the black members of Congress were at his speech. Rahm Emanuel and a few other people when to hers, but I think that there's going to be fierce competition. I think he's going to do very, very well.

HUME: Does it tell us anything about her perception of where she stands in the race that she brought her husband with her for the first time on the campaign trail in recent memory?

LIASSON: Well, I think it does, but he was also this award and he was going to come down to accept it. But there's no doubt that she is talking about him a lot. I don't think she's just started that. She's been talking about him for the whole six weeks that she's been in the race.

He's fundraising for her, he calls people and kind of strong-arms them for endorsements. But, I think that he was once called, by Mahalia Jackson, the first -- or not Mahalia Jackson, by Toni Morrison the first black president of the United States. He has tremendous support among African-Americans, and of course, she's going to use him to help out.

HUME: Well I tried it on -- Mort didn't go there, she didn't go there. Fred, will you go there. What about Hillary's -- that little passage that's -- I mean it is everywhere in the news coverage?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: It is, and it was peculiar. I'll have to say that. She's not Rich Little, that's for sure. She's a bad impersonator. I'll bet she doesn't try that again, it was very strange, particularly coming from.

It was not a good weekend for her. I did -- I think Mara's completely wrong. There's not be fierce competition for the African-American vote. Obama's going to get it. I mean they -- look, I mean, you can -- I mean, you can have Bill Clinton show up with her for coffee at every event she does all day for the next year, but he's not running. She's the one who's running. And Obama is the first African-American candidates with a real chance of winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

Jesse Jackson had a chance, Al Sharpton, obviously had no chance, Shirley Chisholm, years ago, had no chance. Barack Obama does. He is just getting around, though, to a -- meeting with blacks all over the country. He -- I mean, so many of them are -- I mean they -- I think they know who he is, but they're unfamiliar with him. He'd never been to Selma before. This is his first trip there, and it's kind of a civil rights shrine, but he's, you know, post the Civil Rights Movement. I think he's going to get 80 percent of the African-American vote easily, which will mean that he will win primaries like South Carolina and other states where the black vote is so important.

HUME: So what does that mean? I mean, if you translate -- I mean there's -- having covered enough Democratic campaigns to know that in the South, in particular, but elsewhere as well, within the Democratic Party, the African-American vote is hugely, and I'll too note (ph), it's even determinative.

LIASSON: Well, in South Carolina it certainly is about 50 percent of the vote.


HUME: Well, I remember (INAUDIBLE) Walter Mondale in the states of Alabama and Georgia back in 1984, if he hadn't -- and the black vote was what put him over.

BARNES: Yeah, they didn't go for Gary Hart, they did go for Mondale, but Obama wasn't in that race. He is -- look, this guy is attracting crowds; stirring people in a way that I haven't seen a candidate do that in a long time. Clearly, she does not do it, and it means he is a severe threat to her winning the nomination.

HUME: Do you agree with that -- Mort.

KONDRACKE: No, I agree -- I agree with that. But look, we got a long way to go, and there's a lot of opportunities for mistakes...

HUME: We know that. Well, is this one? Was putting South in mouth, down there, a mistake?

KONDRACKE: No, I don't think that was a mistake. I think looking so calculated, having her husband, having to call the minister and get her in there because Obama was invited first and then having to march in the parade along with her, but not show up at the church so as not to outshine her. That doesn't look good. That looks like, you know...

HUME: I didn't even to know that until you told me.

BARNES: That's just planning. There's nothing wrong with planning.

HUME: Mara.

LIASSON: Look, I think that Hillary Clinton's problem is always going to be that she comes off as, to some people, as calculating, that everything she does is political, and to the extent that those actions come off that way. But I don't think she has as bad a weekend as you guys are saying.

BARNES: Why would anybody think she's calculating?

HUME: It was an eventful weekend and for Republicans, as well, particularly at an event here in Washington, we'll talk about that next.


HUME: There was an annual Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend in Washington. It's been going on every year for a long time, and at this conference was a Straw Poll. Mitt Romney made a big effort, bussed in a lot of people and won the Straw Poll. The most notable thing was that John McCain finished fifth.

Now, John McCain did not make an effort at this event. He decided not to attend, which annoyed a lot of Conservative activists who were there. And it left people wondering about the judgment displayed in the decision by John McCain, who's been working hard to show people that he's a true Conservative and can be trusted about his decision not to show up.

So, what about all this? What about the Straw Poll, what about the event, what about the weekend, what about Giuliani showing, all of it?

KONDRACKE: Well, you know, Romney went out of his way to beat up on John McCain on two different occasions during this speech. He pandered as much as he possibly could to this Conservative audience, and even, you know, went after John McCain and the Kennedy-McCain bill on immigration of playing to the...

HUME: He said he would -- McCain said -- he would try to repeal McCain's...

LIASSON: McCain-Feingold.


KONDRACKE: McCain-Feingold. And you know, and every -- he tried to hit every erogenous zone that he possibly could in this -- of these Conservatives, and he only won this Straw Poll by a couple of percent over Giuliani who did not pander once. I mean, did not -- he stayed away from all the issues on which he disagrees...

HUME: But he did not stay away from the conference.

KONDRACKE: And he didn't stay away from the conference, but on the other hand, he didn't bring up the issues of abortion and gay rights and that sort of thing and still came in second. So, I think that indicates a certain amount of strength. These were insider Conservatives. These people know full well that Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice and pro-gun control, and pro-gay rights and stuff like that. And still they gave him No. 2.

LIASSON: And it shows you how up in the air Conservatives are. I mean, I don't think 21 percent is that great a showing for Mitt Romney. It's almost as if he promised to change the name of any McCain avenues he could find on streets across America, I mean.

But look, Rudy Giuliani is what we might call the mini-phenomenon in the Republican race right now because, I agree, I mean, people now know, certainly at this conference, people understand his views, and he still, without doing much retail politicking, without having much of an organization, he still is at the top of the polls in a lot of these states.

Now, I don't know what it means overtime. These guys, as Mort said, are insiders. That doesn't mean that they bring votes with them into Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina. And John McCain is polling well in some of those states, even -- especially in South Carolina.

BARNES: Well, this was really the old right. I don't know how much insiders they are, but they're old right, crotchety -- they tend to be crotchety, paleoconservatives, you know, really opposed -- strongly opposed to any sort of liberalized immigration policies, and -- but nonetheless, John McCain could have gone, look, he could have done what Rudy did and talk about his issues. John McCain is very good on foreign policy, on the war on terror, on Iraq and -- that could have roused the crowd.

HUME: It strikes me, he had a good case to make.

BARNES: He did have a good case to make...

HUME: Does anybody really get why he decided to pass this one up?

BARNES: I don't understand, but he -- look, McCain has a test ahead of him. He has aggravated, over the years, so many Conservatives that -- ones I talked to say, well, they'll never vote for him. I think they will at some point, but he's got to appeal to them. It's a -- look, I mean, he's -- it's fine to be a maverick, but he's got appear before them and emphasize the areas where they agree, and there are a few more areas where they -- well, maybe not a lot more, but there're a few more areas where McCain agrees with Conservatives than Giuliani does. And he needs to emphasize that.

LIASSON: And he has a record that he can actually show that Conservatives would agree with, unlike Mitt Romney who has to invent a new set...



HUME: I want to get on to one other thing. What about the, obviously, unwelcome, at least from the candidates point of view, comments made by Andrew Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani's son about how he has problems with his father, thinks he'd make a great president, the problem that he has with his father, principally, being his relatively new stepmother? How much damage does that do? Is that something that can easily be handled by Giuliani? He said today, "These are private matters best left private."

KONDRACKE: There is no such thing as a private matter with a presidential candidate and there's a News Week poll that indicates about a third of rank and file Republicans don't know what Giuliani's various Liberal positions are. So, this kind of thing is understandable...

HUME: Hurt much or a little?

KONDRACKE: Hurts a little, I think.

HUME: Do you agree?

LIASSON: Look, one of Romney's arguments is that he has the values the Conservative values -- family values in his own personal life that makes him a Conservative candidate. So, I'm sure he's trying to make that contrast.


BARNES: I don't think so, but you know, one thing you see, particularly from reading News Week, this week -- Liberals are terrified that Giuliani may win Conservative support and the nomination...

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