Brit Hume on the Hillary Rosen affair, and impact of presidential debates
HH: But I begin today with Brit Hume of the Fox News network, as well as used to be the host of the Special Report. Brit, it is great to have you on the program for the first time.
BH: Well, thanks, Hugh, I’m glad to do it.
HH: Now I want to begin by asking you if this presidential campaign feels differently to you as a veteran of many of them, in terms of nastiness and early in the cycle nastiness?
BH: Yeah, it does feel a little bit nasty early to me, and of course, it was particularly rough on the Republican side. So we’ve had quite a number of months of rough campaigning, I think rougher, even, than four years ago when it was Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama. This race among the Republicans really has gotten pretty personal and pretty rough.
HH: Well now that one is behind us. But the President and his surrogate opened up on Ann Romney this week. Anything in the Hume memory box where the first lady candidate got hit by the opposition this early on?
BH: No, I can’t remember that ever happening, and I think it was a calamitous blunder on the part of the Democratic strategist who did it. And I doubt very seriously that it was encouraged or authorized. It was such a stupid mistake that…and she really isn’t all that close to the campaign, although she certainly is a Democratic strategist, and she has a role with the Democratic National Committee. But it was a blunder.
HH: A blunder, because obviously Axelrod would not send someone out, he’s a pretty smart guy, he wouldn’t send someone out to attack Ann Romney. But now that that has happened, how long does that story have legs, Brit Hume?
BH: I don’t know, Hugh. It may be, it’s hard to tell about these things. My guess is that the Obama campaign will do nothing to feed it. And in fact, you know, Axelrod himself was out with a message…you know, the whole dust up really occurred after, it started on CNN, and then of course, the whole thing erupted on Twitter.
BH: And I was sitting there watching TV one night the other night, just checking my Twitter feed, and all of a sudden, it lit up with these messages, angry conservatives, and almost equally angry Obama campaign officials. You had Axelrod out there, you had the campaign manager out there, you had Stephanie Cutter out there. They were all out with these messages. I don’t know how long this lasts. I do think that it may be a reminder to some voters that will kind of stick with them that certain Democrats have a contemptuous attitude toward women who are stay at home moms.
BH: …and that that was what sort of her comment reeked of, and that may last.
HH: That may leave a mark. Now I want to divert for just a…
BH: And I think it undermined this current campaign, if you will, this sort of short-run strategy they have of trying to make it look like the Republicans are the ones who are anti-women.
HH: All right, I’m going to talk to Candy Crowley about that later as well, because I just think that it doesn’t persuade anyone, because it’s not consistent with what the debate has been from Team Romney top to bottom. Brit Hume, before I move back to other issues, I want to talk to you about Twitter. You’ve become a Twitter guy. Now Radioblogger, my producer, has got a half million followers. I’m a mere 30,000 or something like that.
BH: I don’t have anywhere near that many.
HH: But you’ve just got into it, and I’m interested, when did you decide to embrace Twitter? And your handle is @kimsfirst, and people can follow Brit Hume by going over to Twitter and finding @kimsfirst. But when did you decide to jump into that?
BH: I’ve been on there a while, and I used…my wife is Kim, I’m her first husband. That’s what @kimsfirst is all about. And I was not particularly intending to become any kind of a figure on Twitter. But I knew that it was a way that…I used to check the Breakingnews.com, which is a Twitter off-shoot, just to keep up with news. And then it occurred to me that maybe I ought to be on Twitter just as an observer, so that I could see what other people were doing by following them. So I started this account, and I was sitting on the set on the night of the South Carolina primary, and Steve Hayes and Kirsten Powers were sitting next to me. And she could see that I was doing something on my phone. And she said what are you doing, and I said I’m checking my Twitter feed. She said I didn’t know you were on Twitter, and I said yeah, I have been for a while. And she said well, what’s your handle, and I told her. And so she added me to her followers, as did Steve. And the next thing you know, there was a bunch of followers there. Not all that many, but some. And so I hadn’t really ever done any Tweeting, so I tried it a couple of times, and got response, and so I thought well, this is kind of interesting, it’s kind of fun.
HH: It is.
BH: And so I’ve been doing it ever since.
HH: It’s changing the way that news is shaped. And here’s my question. You’re one of the very few people that I think fair-minded Democrats and fair-minded Republicans could say would be a welcomed moderator of these looming presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the fall. If that were to happen to you, or if it happens to a friend of yours, would you advise them to have a Twitter feed in front of them during the breaks so that they could see, because I’ve noticed these presidential debates, there’s no need for a spin room. They’re being spun on Twitter as they unfold in real time.
BH: Yeah, it’s instantaneous. And in fact, I think it’s kind of fun to follow a debate on Twitter and see what the reactions are.
BH: And if you’re ever stuck, and you’re away from your TV and can’t watch it, you can just about follow it on Twitter.
BH: So yeah, I think if you have a Twitter account, sure, it’s always a good thing to be able to check it, because the one thing about these 140 character messages is you can keep up with them, and it doesn’t take very long.
HH: And there is no need for a spin room anymore I suppose they’re still going to have them as a relic of the past, but the debate is spun and washed and dried and hung out by the time it’s over. Brit Hume, what about these debates? It’s a long way off. It’s probably five months away, and the negotiations won’t even get underway between Axelrod and Matt Rhoades for some time. But do you think that we’re going to have three? Do you think the President will agree to those? And if so, how ought they to go about structuring them if you’re Team Romney or Team Obama? What do you think the rules ought to be?
BH: Well, I don’t really know whether they will or not, and usually, you have two presidential and one vice presidential, which is kind of the standard way to do it. I’m not sure that’s how they’ll do it this time. My own view of it is that I can only think of a couple of races, in fact, only one, where the debates, where a debate was decisive. They don’t usually, we talk about them a lot, and we like to think about people were talking about boy, they couldn’t wait to see Newt Gingrich debate Barack Obama, and how he’d mop the floor with him and all that. I can’t think of, except for Reagan and Carter in 1980, I really can’t think of a season where the debates were decisive. Now people thought that George H.W. Bush might have won that election in 1992 if he hadn’t been looking at his watch or whatever? I don’t buy that. I think that race was lost because of the after effects of a recession that had not cleared. The recession was over, but the after effects were still present, and I think that’s what took him down. And I don’t think the debates have made a great difference. They make a big difference in primary seasons sometimes, Senate elections, but I don’t…House elections, maybe, but I don’t see them in presidential elections every having been. Mostly what happens is people come out of the debates thinking the people they wanted going in won, and the person they didn’t like lost.
HH: Interesting. I would argue the case with more time about the 2000 cycle, because I think Al Gore amplified all the concerns people had about him in those three, and George Bush laid some to rest over three. But I want to go back to one big substantive issue which hasn’t yet broken anywhere on the cable news in the political context, which is the decision of the Obama Department of Justice to go after Apple. Now Apple represents to a young demographic everything that is good and vibrant about the economy. Antitrust is a relic of the days gone by, and there’s this bad memory of when the Bill Clinton Department of Justice went after Microsoft, which may have triggered the meltdown in the market that followed about 18 months later. What do you think about this lawsuit against Apple? And do you think that the Holder DOJ may have miscalculated greatly what America thinks of the price of ebooks under this regime?
BH: Well, fortunately for the Obama administration, it’s being confined to a relatively narrow area. But I think Apple is, to some extent, sort of the paradigm of the modern company, the kind of company that we repose our future in. And so the politics of going after that company are probably not good. But I’m not sure how much, you know, once this measure, once this case is fully joined, I’m not sure how much attention it’ll get until we get closer to some kind of a trial, if it ever gets there.
HH: I expect Romney’s people to really hold this up as yet another misadventure by the Department of Justice under Eric Holder, and that’s what I want to conclude on. You’ve been around Washington a long time. Eric Holder does not appear to me to be someone who is a calling card for the President going into the election. Do you expect him to stick around through the end of this term and into the fall?
BH: I don’t expect Obama to abandon him for a lot of reasons. He’s, I guess, he’s the first African-American attorney general serving under the first African-American president. People used to say to me well, what about if Hillary decided she wanted to break away and run against him, could she win? And I always said no, she couldn’t win, because she would lose basically 100% of the African-American vote. Getting nearly 100% of the African-American vote will be important to President Obama in this election, and I don’t think he wants to do anything that might disturb that. And I’m not saying that’s the only reason he would stick with Eric Holder. I think he likes Eric Holder, and he’s proud of Eric Holder, and he thinks Eric Holder’s done fine. I know there are people who have other views.
HH: Brit Hume of Fox News, thank you, great fun having you on, look forward to having you back.
End of interview.