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Roundtable on the War of Words

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


GOV. DUVAL PATRICK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is self- evident that all men are created equal--just words. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"--just words, just speeches.


HUME: And so the words of Duval Patrick, echoed by his friend, whom he is supporting for president, Barack Obama, in Obama's own rhetoric, have now become the subject of a charge of plagiarism by the Clinton campaign, and give us the latest dustup in a campaign that is really not about what these people disagree on because they apparently don't disagree about much.

But there it is, and a worthy subject for our panel, consisting of Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Well, gentlemen, what do we make of this? By the way, let's take a quick look at the delegate tally now as it stands between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, which shows Obama with a very narrow lead. This is according to the Associated Press, which has the total at 1,280 for Barack Obama, and 1,218 for Hillary Clinton--62 delegates separating them.

And in terms of tomorrow's primary, the Real Clear Politics average shows Barack Obama ahead by, what, 46 and change to Clinton's 42. But there is a late poll out somewhere that has Clinton ahead by a few points.

So, going into tomorrow, what do we think about this dustup, and what do we think about the state of the play in the Democratic race?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, it does show you how they agree on any substantial issue, whether it is the war in Iraq, or health insurance, spending taxes, social issues. They agree on all that, so they argue about who is for solutions and who is giving speeches and plagiarists, and so on.

It's not as if this riff used by Duval Patrick, now the Governor of Massachusetts, was original. He was quoting people like Franklin Roosevelt, and so on. I mean, it is a collection of quotes from other Americans.

HUME: But the formulation was--Obama, let's stipulate, said it virtually exactly the same way.

BARNES: Yes, I know.

But then the Obama campaign comes back and accuses Hillary of stealing from him the phrase fired up and ready to go. She has also stolen "Yes, we can!" Didn't that originally come from Sammy Davis, jr.? "Yes I can!" I think so.

There is a lot of plagiarism going on, and I don't think it's going to have any effect on this campaign. I hope not.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it is a lot smaller than Joe Biden or anything like.

HUME: Well, he had quite a long bit from Neil Kinnock--

WILLIAMS: Right, from a British politician, Neil Kinnock.

But what I thought was this: David Axelrod, who's Obama's campaign manager, also managed to borrow Patrick's gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts. And I suspect that you will see not only language but themes repeat themselves from campaign to campaign.

What's interesting to me, watching this contest, obviously the Hillary Clinton people have been downplaying expectations for what will happen in Wisconsin. But, as you just noted, Brit, there are polls now that show that this is a very close race.

HUME: The average shows it pretty close, and this one poll, I guess, from the American Research Group, ARG, says that Hillary is ahead by 600 voters--6 points.

BARNES: By six points, though. When the Clinton campaign is lowballing, watch out.

WILLIAMS: Watch out, but the Clinton people say that they're not counting on Milwaukee so much as they're counting on suburbs and outside. And don't forget that the unions have come in, the Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern, was with Edwards, and they have pumped up the populist language that not only Obama but now Hillary Clinton has been using.

So you have ads going on the air about healthcare coverage, economic plan, and even why won't Barack Obama debate. And so that's the attack coming from Hillary Clinton in the last minutes.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: In a Democratic campaign that is so completely empty of ideas and differences, this comic relief is welcome. In fact, Obama changed the order of these quotes. That was his innovation.

It's not as if Duval Patrick had said something original. This is a rhetorical device that Obama had borrowed. It is not as if Obama had stolen his healthcare plan or his solution to Fermat's last theorem, or even his life story, like Biden did of Neil Kinnock in 1988.

So this is really a scraping of the bottom of the barrel. What Clinton is trying to do is to build up a record of inauthenticity. That's all she's got.

HUME: On his part.

KRAUTHAMMER: On his part. He's riding a wave, and so there have been accusations--he flipped and he flopped on this issue, or he's associated with a sleazy slumlord in Chicago--something to tarnish his image.

So this is added on the list, but it's a very small list of relatively small items. Their hope is that if it accumulates enough on this list, it will stick.

HUME: Do you think it stuck so far?

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course not.

HUME: Do you think it has stuck so far?

WILLIAMS: No, but I think there is some accumulative damage, a question of where's the substance? That argument I hear more and more now from--

BARNES: Here in New Hampshire (INAUDIBLE), and then she said how she cares more for America than Barack Obama does.

KRAUTHAMMER: They're hope is that they are setting it up if Obama makes a mistake--I mean, a major one that you can tag as inauthentic- -then it will be added on the list and it will retroactively amplify the earlier ones.

HUME: When we come back with our panel, John McCain scores the endorsement of former President George H.W. Bush. We will see what that means next.



GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think the criticism on this conservative or not conservative is absurd.

You know, if you have been around the track, you hear these criticisms. And I hear they're grossly unfair. He's got a record that everybody can analyze in the Senate, a sound conservative record, and yet he's not above reaching out to the other side.


HUME: Former President George H.W. Bush today endorsing John McCain for president, a step that the current president has not taken, but said today in Africa that he would do all he could for John McCain. He later added "If he is the nominee." Huckabee is still in the race, but it sounded, to some ears, at least, like another Bush endorsement of John McCain.

So John McCain goes into Wisconsin tomorrow, just as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do, with Mike Huckabee still hanging around. Where is all of this, and what affect on John McCain's situation and his needs does the Bush endorsement have, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: The idea that somehow the former president is an ideological touchstone is rather odd given the fact that he was always suspected by the right. Remember he changed his position on abortion and then famously on taxes, which helped to bring him down and the reason it helped him lose his reelection.

So I think it is really nostalgia at work here. Over time, people have a rosy memory of ex-presidents, unless, like Carter and Clinton, you set people's teeth on edge, attacking your own country at home and abroad.

The former president has been a model ex-president, and people like him. And I think it is the fact that he is liked and not that he is somehow conservative which will have an effect.

But it will be a minor effect. It is a symbol of the shoring up of the party.

WILLIAMS: A symbol of the shoring up of the party, but I think you don't give him sufficient credit. You may not have thought he was a paragon of conservatism as president, but I think for many Republicans he is the father figure of the Party, and his relationship to president Reagan, and et cetera.

And I think the second thing to say here is he is the Wall Street wing of the Party, and that wing of the party has not put a lot of money out for John McCain so far.

If, in fact, you are talking about the need to unify this party, those people have to come to the table. And I think that president George H.W. Bush's endorsement today might make that happen.

The downside of this, I must say, for McCain is he doesn't want to run as a continuation, a third term for this President Bush, or any President Bush. He wants to be his own man, and that might hurt him with Independent or swing voters.

BARNES: I don't think this will. It just means that McCain has won the Bush primary. There are three of them, and he has already won two: Jeb and the father here. And Bush will endorse him when he locks up the nomination.

HUME: Why do you think President Bush is declining to endorse here at this stage?

BARNES: Because it is an open race and he is the president. He is going to wait for it to be complete. Presidents don't normally get involved in primaries, even one like this.

Along the lines that you are talking about, Juan, the best thing that McCain can do tomorrow in Wisconsin is win 50 percent of the vote or more. That's what he needs to start doing.

He is basically a minority nominee, and he's benefited from a large field and a--

HUME: And also the winner-take-all rules.

BARNES: Yes, and winner-take-all. And so he needs to start doing better than that, and that will help.

Look, the conservatives are going to come onboard anyway eventually with McCain saying all the things he's saying. But rather than the conservatives running the Party in the convention, it's more the moderate conservative wing.

You're going to see it at the convention, particularly. Remember in 2004 who was the big Democratic speaker there at the Republican convention? Zell Miller! Boy, did he give a ringing conservative speech.

Who is going to play the Zell Miller role in 2008? Joe Lieberman will speak on behalf of McCain at the Republican Convention.

It's a little different. He's not quite as conservative as Zell Miller.

WILLIAMS: Mike Huckabee is still around, fellas, and Mike Huckabee is there to take any dissenting voice. It would be good for him to get out for John McCain.

KRAUTHAMMER: He's mere entertainment.

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