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Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer do their postmortem on the GOP

Saturday, November 22, 2008
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HH: I play that because Fred Barnes doesn’t know much about football, he roots for the SCC. Charles Krauthammer may be a Buckeye fan. He’s never revealed it before, but they are both here, Fox News All Stars, both of them. Fred, welcome back, it’s good to talk with you.

FB: I’m for the Buckeyes. My son worked in Ohio on a campaign this fall, went to a Buckeyes game in Columbus, loved it.

HH: Did he win his campaign?

FB: No.

HH: I’m sorry to hear that. Charles, do you have a side in the Wolverine-Buckeye fight?

CK: No, I’m for the McGill Redmen.

HH: (laughing)

CK: That’s my alma mater.

HH: Are you still allowed to have a team named the Redmen in Canada?

CK: You know, I haven’t checked, although we have the Redskins here in Washington, so I guess it’s still kosher.

HH: All right. Now let’s, gentlemen, I have you together for the first time since the election. I want to do the postmortem with you both. Fred Barnes, why did the Republicans get hammered?

FB: Well, for a couple of reasons. One, it was the end of the Bush administration, eight years, unpopular president, terrible economy. It was a bad economy and then the meltdown, and not a very good candidate for the Republicans, John McCain. And then, you know, what happens in those, more often than not in those conditions, and you get change. The other party wins. You know, this was not exactly a landslide. Seven points, pretty good for Obama, not exactly a landslide. And look, Republicans have been hammered twice in a row, and you know, the truth is I don’t think it’s going to get worse. Now, Obama and all those so-called conservatives who endorsed him are accountable – Colin Powell, and you know the whole group. I’m going to hold them accountable anyway.

HH: Charles Krauthammer, you agree with Fred?

CK: I do. Look, it would have been amazing had the Republicans won in a year like this. As Fred said, the weariness with eight years of terrible economy, on September 15th, McCain was still ahead. He was still coming off the bump of his convention, and that’s when Lehman went, and the market just went over the cliff. You know, we’ve never had a presidential election coinciding with a financial panic, and that’s what we were in, and is always attributed, rightly or wrongly, to the current administration. And there’s also history here. You know, since 1952, with only one exception, which was 1988, with only one exception, every time one party’s held the White House for two terms, it’s been thrown out. Americans believe in the rotation of power, and there’s something healthy about it.

HH: Your colleague and friend, Mort Kondracke, wrote a column this week, Fred Barnes. It begins…

FB: I read it.

HH: How can the Republican Party rebound? The first step would be to quit letting Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham set its agenda. I’m not sure whether I am mortified at being excluded or happy. What do you think, Fred?

FB: You should be mortified, because I think he had you in mind, but the sentence was getting too long. So he would have thrown you in. You know, look, my own view is that you all don’t set the agenda, but I think unfortunately for Republicans, so many people on talk radio, including you, Hugh, have really hurt the Republican Party on the issue of immigration. I was surprised that McCain got 31% of the Hispanic vote. That was more than I thought he’d get. But for the rest of it, I couldn’t follow what Mort was talking about. The truth is that the enlargement of the Republican Party over the last, what, twenty years or so has been in no small measure a result of the popularity of conservative talk radio.

HH: Charles Krauthammer, I’m actually a moderate on immigration. I just want the border fence. But I’m curious, do you share Fred and Morton’s concern over what talk radio has done to the GOP?

CK: No, not at all, but I do think, I’m a fence first guy. I think it’s an eminently reasonable position. I’m for a fence, and after it’s built, amnesty. I’m, I go both ways, but only after we have ended this stream of immigration. I think Americans would accept the last cohort of illegal immigrations as citizens if they knew it was the last cohort, unlike ’86.

HH: That’s exactly what I believe, with the possible exception I don’t believe in allowing, I don’t call it amnesty, I call it regularization, because I don’t want people to be able to vote.

CK: No…Yeah, I’m using a shorthand here.

HH: Right.

CK: I’m saying you know, we would find a way over time.

HH: Now let me ask you both, because it matters a great deal, the Republican primaries are only three years away. And the Democrats won’t have anything to do except play and mess around in our primaries. Fred Barnes, does the RNC have to get busy fixing the presidential nominating process to get it out of Iowa and New Hampshire if they’re going to nominate the strongest candidate to face Barack Obama in three years?

FB: Not necessarily. I mean, look, there are about 48 other states that would like that to happen, but you know, the way the primary process works is each state decides what they’re going to do. And Iowa and New Hampshire are so wedded to this process that they’re being, Iowa being the first caucus and New Hampshire the first primary, that they’re never going to let go. Look, I think we’ve learned one thing. You don’t have to go to Iowa. You can skip Iowa, and I’m sure Mitt Romney wishes he had. And I wish he had, too. But you can’t skip New Hampshire. You’re still going to be stuck there. It’s a very quirky state, you don’t know what’s going to happen. But you know what? There are so many other things to worry about before then. I mean, Republicans are going to have to develop, which I think they will, some nationally popular leaders over the next couple of years. And if they do, well, then at least one of them will do well in New Hampshire.

HH: Charles Krauthammer, what do you think about Michael Steele as a chairman of the RNC?

CK: I think he’s a good guy. I think he’d be a good representative of the party. I’m not sure about his organizational skills, but you can hire folks who do that. I think the party needs a young, attractive spokesman, and I think he’d be good.

HH: What do you think of Hillary as Secretary of State, and General Jim Jones as the National Security Advisor, Charles?

CK: Well, anyone who keeps Chuck Hagel, Bill Richardson and John Kerry out of the job is okay with me. I think she’ll be fine. She’ll be, if anything, she’s slightly to the right of Obama, and in the Democratic spectrum, slightly on the right, so that’s fine. Jones I think is an interesting choice. Fred and I had a discussion about this on Special Report. I think he’s useful because of his credentials, military credentials, as a guy who can stand up to David Petraeus, who now has incredible moral authority, given the success he brought in Iraq, and who would be a formidable opponent or influence on Obama. And if he wants, if Obama wants to resist that, I think Jones, who himself has these wonderful credentials, would be useful, because you’d have a young, inexperienced president otherwise defying an experienced general who just won a war. That’s hard to do on your own.

HH: Fred Barnes, the Republicans have a choice now, which is to go into hard opposition, or to go along and praise what is good. I think the Jones opponent and the Clinton appointment are good. I like the new Secretary of the Treasury. Should they be careful about going negative too soon on such matters as personnel?

FB: Yeah, no I think, Hugh, forget about personnel. Look, they’ll have a chance if Obama appoints Eric Holder as his Attorney General. Now that’s worth opposing. There are very good grounds that people will understand. Remember the Marc Rich pardon? Bill Clinton…that Eric Holder played a very deceitful role in. And so look, you can wait for that. I think the RNC is wasting its time putting out all these press releases about, you know, zinging this appointee and that one, when actually, they’re a lot better than I expected, and you named those – Geithner and Hillary Clinton, and it looks like Larry Summers may be at the White House, and Jim Jones. You know who’s going to be the most angered about those appointments? It’s going to be the left of the Democratic Party…

HH: That’s right.

FB: …plus Vice President Joe Biden. With Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, I think what that means is that Joe Biden will have no role at all in foreign policy. She will push him into the men’s room and lock the door.

HH: All right, last question, because I want to go back to immigration. I was in Colorado recently. It’s very clear that former Congressman Tom Tancredo is running for governor in Colorado. It’s also clear to me, Fred Barnes, that if he does, the national news media will make his race a front page story everywhere in the United States. Is this a disaster for the Republican Party?

FB: No, he’ll just lose. And they have better candidates, I would think, than Tom Tancredo. But I think you’re right. He wants to run. I think he would certainly have a chance to win the nomination. But Colorado’s become so Democratic, just in the last few years, that he can’t win the governorship, I wouldn’t think.

HH: Charles Krauthammer, do you agree that he can’t win, but he would attract the attention of the national news media?

CK: Yeah, and he’ll become the whipping boy of the media. And look, I think his approach is too extreme, and it sounds angry and negative. As you said, there is a reasonable middle position that Republicans can and ought to take, and he’s not the guy who could represent it, unfortunately.

HH: Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes, thank you both for joining me, on the Fox News All Stars Monday though Friday with Brit Hume, and of course on the Beltway Boys on the weekend. We’re looking forward to getting Morton back so I can query him about his sudden hatred of talk radio, of which he is, whether he knows it or not, a part.

End of interview.

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