Roundtable on McCain VP Prospects

Roundtable on McCain VP Prospects

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - July 22, 2008


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't know what happened if the plan that I put forward in January, 2007, to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation, to begin a phased withdrawal, what would have happened had we pursued that strategy.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.


HUME: The question you heard Obama answering there in his news conference in Amman, Jordan, today, was about whether indeed the surge had made the difference and had turned the tide in Iraq.

As you could hear him say, he did say that anytime you put 30,000 American troops in there, they do a good job and they make a difference. He, however, does not credit, and did not on this trip credit the surge with being a principal cause, if not the principle cause, of the turnaround of the situation in Iraq.

Some thoughts on all this now from Bill Kristol, Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Jeff Birnbaum, columnist of "The Washington Post," and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

So, Bill, this is interesting. There were a lot of predictions before he left that he might come around and endorse the surge and say that he actually supports his view. He didn't. He won't.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I guess he feels he just can't say "I was wrong," because then he is admitting he was wrong on probably the most important decision that was made while he was a United States Senator.

On the other hand, he is equivocating and giving credit to the troops, and he doesn't want to have this debate.

I think McCain has actually been pretty effective in reminding everyone, taking the opportunity of Obama's being in Iraq, which is obviously something that Obama is trying to use for his own purposes, and reminding everyone that on the most important decision about Iraq in the last three years, McCain was right and Obama was wrong.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": I think it is a weakness in Obama's position that he's not able to say that the surge worked. He comes about it backwards and in reverse saying, yes--

HUME: Wait a minute. He is actually suggesting the surge was not the principal factor here, or not even a principal factor. He talks about the Sunni uprising as being more important, and so on.

BIRNBAUM: He acknowledges that things are better in Iraq. But, as I say, it is a weakness in his position that he cannot bring himself to say good things about the surge, which clearly did have a very important impact on security in Iraq.

But I do think that this is a secondary argument. The main one he has already won, which is on the timeline issue, that Maliki, the head of state of Iraq, that he agrees that 2010 is about the right time to take the troops, American forces out of Iraq, his earlier interview in the German magazine more or less endorsing something close to the 16-month timeline that Obama has.

I think that is the real headline, and this other argument is something that is sort of an effort by McCain to salvage some victory out of what is otherwise a defeat.

And, in general, I think, Obama's efforts on the ground there, including this 45-minute press conference today, is another successful winning of a news cycle for Obama, because he has made no major mistakes.

And I think that that is good enough to get him into the conversation, and allow people to think of him more as a commander, a possible commander in chief.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: On the surge, Obama reflect the Democratic understanding of the world that Bush is responsible everything in the world-unpopularity of America abroad, our difficulties in Afghanistan, Katrina, global warming, the mortgage meltdown-except our success in Iraq.

And the surge is attributed to the Sunni awakening, the shocking and inexplicable cease-fire ordered by al-Sadr, which apparently happened out of the blue, according to Democratic understanding, and, as Obama emphasizes, the bravery and skill of our troops, as if our troops were not as bright or skilled before the surge.

Obviously, what changed was the surge. It was a political decision by the president of the United States, against all advice from the wise men in Washington, against a lot of political pressure even from his own Republicans, and against the furious opposition of Democrats, including Obama, who said it would be a catastrophe.

And including Senator Hagel, who acts as a prop in all of these photo ops, who not only supported the resolution to go to war, which Obama says is the worst foreign policy ever of all time, but opposed the surge by saying it was going to be the worst foreign policy blunder in America since the Vietnam war.

So on this issue, the Democrats don't have a lot to boast about.

HUME: What about Jeff's point, though? Is he right?

KRAUTHAMMER: He's absolutely right. The surge point can be secondary because Obama will say--essentially Americans understand he got the surge wrong, but Americans think McCain got the war wrong.

As to what's going to happen in the future, Maliki has completely eradicated any difficulties Obama had with his timeline by essentially endorsing--

HUME: Do you agree with that, Bill?

KRISTOL: No. I think it hasn't been helpful to McCain, but I think McCain has to turn the surge debate into a forward looking debate- whose judgment do you trust as Commander in Chief?

It's not about whether Maliki thinks we can get out by 2010. A lot of American generals think we can get out by 2010. It is who do you want making the real decisions about the use U.S. forces as commander in chief.

HUME: And it is also the case, I suppose, that it doesn't help Obama that he is at odds with General Petraeus either on this question. Maliki has some credibility, but maybe Petraeus has some, too.

KRAUTHAMMER: Maliki agreeing with him means that it's hard to make the argument, as McCain had made, that it's reckless and destructive and will lose the war.

Maliki doesn't want to lose the war, so why is he endorsing Obama's timeline?

HUME: Is John McCain going to upstage Obama by announcing his vice presidential pick? We'll discuss that with the panel when we come back.



ROBERT NOVAK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I got a suggestion from a very senior McCain aide late yesterday afternoon that he was going to announce it this week. They didn't want it to come out the way it was going to come out, and they suggest that I put it out.

MCCAIN: We're just going through the process, and I'm going to try to make the decision in the best possible fashion. But when I make it, it will come.


HUME: What are they talking about, those two guys? Well, they're talking about the vice presidential selection, when the buzz started by Bob Novak's report that appeared on the web that was going to come this week.

So let the games begin here. First of all, does anybody believe it's going to come this week? Nobody believes that, OK. When it does come, Charles, what are your thoughts about who it will be for McCain?

KRAUTHAMMER: Considering the job isn't worth a pitcher of one' spit, to quote a former vice president John Garner(ph).

BIRNBAUM: That's not exactly what he said.

HUME: It's pretty close.

KRAUTHAMMER: I know. I cleaned it. We're on television her. It's a family program.

All the implications that McCain has to do this now as a way to distract attention because the media are swooning over Obama and giving him all that coverage is a little bit childish. It's a way of saying look at me. I suspect that's why Novak got this leak, so there's a little bit of a buzz on this.

I think it's a mistake for McCain to try to step into Obama's week. It is his week. It is going to be his week not matter what. There is going to be a rally in Berlin.

HUME: Are you going to play or not? Who?

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course it's going to be Romney. It has to be Romney.

HUME: Why?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because he is a no-lose proposition. There's no risk. Jindal is too young, inexperienced. Romney has economic experience. He's been vetted. He has no skeletons in his closet. He doesn't even drink coffee.

That helps if you've got a guy who is going to be your running mate. He is young, energetic. He could take over. He's got everything that's required. And, apparently, the hostility between him and McCain has diminished.

HUME: Who is your best pick?

BIRNBAUM: I think it's Romney as well, mostly because of his expertise on economic and financial matters, being a long-time corporate executive, turning around companies. I think, that that's the kind of backup that McCain needs.

It also will help him with his conservative backers. And Romney is now, because he ran an spent more than $40 million of his own money during the Republican primaries, he is pretty well known, too. So I think so.

But we also have to, I think, keep our eye on Tom Ridge, the former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania, the first Homeland security Secretary. I think that ridge is a dark horse in this, and Pennsylvania is a very, very, very important state.

HUME: Do you think he could bring that state?

BIRNBAUM: Among Republicans, he probably has the best chance. And it's close, and it's a very important state if McCain is going to have a chance.

But the reason we're talking about all this now is that we are in the dog days of summer, I think. And--

HUME: Don't remind us. We got to go outside in a few minutes.

Bill, your thoughts?

KRISTOL: There was actually more consideration about doing a stepped-up V.P. pick earlier in the McCain camp, and I realized that I think they're not going to do it this next week. I think they're open to doing it in the next couple of weeks before the Olympics.

I think what McCain might do this week, incidentally, is challenge Obama to a debate on Iraq or on the Middle East and the war on terror when he gets back.

He has just been in Iraq. That's great. He's been in Afghanistan for the first time. He met with General Petraeus, which he hadn't done before.

Senator McCain, I gather, might say in the next couple of days, senator Obama, when you get back, let's just have a debate, just the two of us up there with a moderator and none of these silly ground rules. Let's really thrash out our competing positions on Iraq.

In terms of the V.P., coming to grips with the fact that my heart throb, Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska is probably not going to be picked. I don't know if I can make it through the next three months without her on the ticket.

HUME: She must be something. I don't know the lady. I would like to meet her.

KRISTOL: She is a very fine governor.

But think Tom Ridge actually is--

HUME: It must have been some salmon.

KRAUTHAMMER: As Alaska goes, so goes America!

HUME: So, who?

KRISTOL: Tom ridge, I think.

HUME: You think?


HUME: Why do you say that?

KRISTOL: I think Romney would be reasonable. McCain very much likes and respects Ridge.

HUME: Nobody thinks Jindal will be the guy?


HUME: Why not. Why not Jindal? Bill, why not Jindal?

KRISTOL: I like Jindal. I think they will go for the older, safer, and double down on experience and gravitas against Obama.

BIRNBAUM: I think Jindal may be too young for McCain. He is still in his 30's.

HUME: Even younger than Obama.

BIRNBAUM: Yes, even younger than Obama.

HUME: With exactly the same amount of experience, though.

BIRNBAUM: In number of years, that right--in Washington.

KRAUTHAMMER: Jindal is a Hail Mary, and McCain is tied. You only throw a Hail Mary when you are way behind. It's too risky.

HUME: Good point.

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