Juan Williams and Fred Barnes on Barack Obama’s flip-flop of a week this week.
HH: Joined as I am on Fridays when I am lucky by Fred Barnes of the Beltway Boys, and today, substituting for Morton Kondracke, is the wonderful Juan Williams, Fox News analysts both. Welcome, gentlemen, how do you live in this city every summer? I’m melting, Juan. Why don’t you leave town?
JW: It’s unbelievable. It looks like the end of the world is coming the way the sky looks. It’s so hot, humid and stormy.
HH: I know. I can’t wait for it to break. Fred Barnes, I just do not…I can remember why I left now. But I don’t know, how many years have you lived in this city in the summertime?
FB: Only my whole life.
HH: Oh, God.
FB: Look, the people, you outliers who come…
FB: …you’re weaklings. Weaklings. When the going gets tough…
HH: I am. I’m melting. Let me start with you, Juan. Are you more upset with the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, or with Barack Obama’s backflip about it? He doesn’t really mind, it’s an individual right, he never really meant what he said about gun control. Which upsets you more?
JW: Well, it’s becoming a pattern with Mr. Obama. He’s running to the center, and he’s running away…it’s interesting, because I guess the far left has nowhere to go, so he’s their option. But it’s so transparent, that I don’t know how people can get away with it. It’s going to give John McCain something to run on, though, in the sense of saying as a matter of character, who’s the real self-sacrificing individual here versus the politician who always moves in terms of expedience and opportunism. He can make that case, apparently. But I will say this…
HH: Is he a bigger flip-flopper than John Kerry?
JW: …in answer to your question, I’m upset about that Supreme Court decision. I’m not a fan of guns. They scare me, and there are just too many of them on the streets of this big, hot city.
HH: Quick question, is Barack Obama a bigger flip-flopper than John Kerry?
JW: I’ll let you be the judge. I think that Obama’s a pretty big flip-flopper at this moment.
HH: Fred Barnes, does the gun control decision yesterday remove, or does it focus, 2nd Amendment advocates of the rights to bear arms on the difference between the candidates?
FB: Well, it should, even though Obama’s fuzzed it up a little bit. He was for the D.C. law, but he’s for a Supreme Court decision that strikes down most of it as well. I mean, you know, if he can get away with that, and of course he does with the press, then he’s going to be very hard to beat. You know what conservatives ought to be concerned about is the narrowness of the decision, 5-4, a decision which I personally think should have been a slam dunk, but obviously wasn’t. But it doesn’t seem to have had that effect yet. I mean, here is…one of the reasons is McCain. One of the…an issue that always excites the right is judges. And McCain doesn’t seem to be doing anything on that, and he should.
HH: The price of oil going up to $143 end of day trading today, Fred Barnes, I was on the Washington edition of C-Span this morning, Washington Journal, making the argument, Democrats apparently will not do anything regardless of how high it goes. Has this got traction for the Republicans?
FB: Well, it should. You know, the Republicans are only asking for one thing – let’s have a vote on lifting the moratorium on exploration and drilling off-shore, and on federal lands where there’s oil shale, for instance, in Colorado and Wyoming and Utah, a vote. Allow a vote. And they can’t get one in either the House or the Senate. Democrats don’t want to vote on it. They want to vote on things like how they’re going to regulate the futures market. Look, we’re going to have a futures market. If it isn’t in London or New York, it’ll be in Dubai. There’s always going to be an energy futures market. They can’t do anything about it. And we do need, the truth is, we need more drilling, more oil, more gas, at least as a bridge until some of these alternative fuels come online, if they ever do.
HH: Juan Williams, the Democrat policy appears to be sit in your dark house and sweat all summer long, and stay out of your car. Is this going to render them vulnerable as middle class anger over their indifference to rising gas prices soars as high as the cost at the pump?
JW: I think I have a different point of view, gentlemen. It seems to me that Democrats are the ones saying that these big oil companies have the leases, why don’t they drill it where they have leases, and they’ve got tons of leases. It seems to me the Democrats are the ones who’ve been talking about, really, the exploitative profit margins of these big oil companies, and pointing out that these are the ones who are making money hand over fist, and not showing any social responsibility. Even President Bush has started to come around on that point. But if you want to start drilling in each and every place that’s possible, I guess you can do it, but you’re going to do it at a cost of our environment, and it may be short-sided. The alternative fuels, the alternative energy sources are key. I think the Republicans and Democrats want to get on board with that, and I think ultimately, you know, that could be an area of agreement. So if we’re looking for getting something done, that’s the option. But I don’t…I think a lot of this is gimmicky at this point, and what I would hope is that people would take it seriously, because it’s having a real impact on our economy.
HH: Juan, are you aware of one lease, or two, or even three that ought to have been drilled but hasn’t been drilled? Because I mean, the reality is they don’t drill where there’s no oil, and they look around for it using all sorts of data, and they’ve got a lot of leases they don’t use, because there’s no oil there. But are you aware of one area where they’re not drilling where the oil’s easy to get and they should go get it?
JW: No, I’m not in a position to know that, but I’ll say this. They bought the leases, and they’re not fools. They must have done some kind of assaying and testing. They may have some basis in which they say you know, we’re going to make this investment in buying the lease.
FB: Well, that’s what they’re doing right now.
HH: That’s what they’re doing.
FB: You know, they don’t drill first.
HH: Yeah, they don’t.
FB: They explore, they do seismic tests, they evaluate them.
FB: Things that are very expensive. And then if they find they have some reason to believe that there is enough oil to make it commercially viable to drill, they do that. They want to do that. Why would they not do it at an era when gas prices are at the highest in history? They would love to get at any oil out of the ground as fast as they can.
HH: Fred, have you heard any Democrat…
FB: And that’s why they have those leases, which will expire after ten years anyway.
HH: Fred, have you heard any Democrat come up with a particular lease that ought to have been drilled that hasn’t been drilled? I have not heard one specific about this.
FB: No, and they have it completely backwards. Look, I think the Democrats know better. They know that’s a completely phony issue. They just don’t want to vote on lifting the moratorium on off-shore or on federal lands where the expectation is, particularly the oil shale, because some of it’s been drilled before, or extracted before, where there are very great prospects. And the whole point is that it’s not that they’re not drilling in this one small area so we shouldn’t give them any more, they need to explore in all kinds of areas, over large swatches of land and sea, to find those parts, those places that are productive to drill for oil.
HH: Juan Williams, let’s switch back to Obama’s flip-flops. He’s flip-flopped on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization, including this time, immunity for the telcoms. Are you disappointed that he’s flip-flopped there?
JW: I am. I mean, again, to me, at least you would want to be consistent on something so important as civil liberties and the arguments that were put forward. I think what we’re seeing here, again, is pure politics. Now let me just say, you know, even extending back to the conversation we were just having about energy, you talk about flip-flops, John McCain is opposed, and was opposed, to all this drilling that you guys are proposing. Now he’s saying he’s willing to consider drilling in some areas, not all areas. But you know, you guys don’t talk about McCain’s flip-flops in this area. And when you talk about Obama’s flip-flops on FISA, I would agree. But you could also put it in this way – he has agreed to some of the very issues that were important to the President and to conservatives in terms of making sure that intelligence gathering is able to take place at maximum speed, although there will be a court, a FISA court, that will privately, secretly look at the issue.
HH: Are you disappointed, Juan, that he flip-flopped on public financing and on agreeing to meet John McCain in the town hall settings?
JW: I am. There’s no secret here. I think that in fact, I think it’s to his political advantage. I think people would find him more attractive, more glib than McCain. Although McCain does well in town hall meetings, I think Obama would outshine him, so I don’t see why Obama’s afraid to do it, except again, as a matter of politics, he’s kind of sitting on a lead. And then secondly, you know, when you think about Obama’s stand on the gun stuff, it seems to me, you know, it’s such an important issue for me, because I live in a big city, and I live in a neighborhood where people who are involved with crime are evident, and I just don’t like it. I don’t like the idea of guns everywhere on every corner. It worries me.
HH: Fred Barnes, Juan just mentioned sitting on a lead. In fact, Time Magazine came out this afternoon with a new poll that shows Obama’s lead very small. He’s really Barack “No Bounce” Obama at this point. I know there are some outliers out there, like the Los Angeles Times non-polling poll, but do you think Democrats are alarmed that Barack Obama has not gotten the bigger bounce that everyone was expecting?
FB: They don’t seem to be, and I wasn’t really expecting much of a bigger bump than he’s gotten. I mean, what is he, a half dozen points ahead, Gallup had him tied yesterday in their, or maybe it was the day before, in their daily trackings, but look, he’s clearly ahead, he’s running a better campaign than McCain is, he’s got lots of money, he’s an attractive candidate, he’s got much of the press behind him, and he has a lead. Now whether he should sit on it or not, I mean, you, Hugh, have seen so many times that what is the hardest thing to do in a basketball game, is to hold a lead when you’re just trying to sit on it. You know, you really need to continue to be strong on offense when you have that lead, or you’ll lose it. And that may be a problem with him.
HH: And Fred, are you depressed today over the draft by the Cavaliers of J.J. Hicks, and almost certainly extending the domination of the Cavaliers over the Wizards for another three, four, five seasons?
FB: (laughing) If you’ll notice who passed on him, and could have drafted him, the Wizards. Now what is that guy’s name again?
HH: (laughing) I can’t help you if your management doesn’t know. Juan Williams and Fred Barnes, always a pleasure, the Beltways Boys who are melting in this city, on fire with me, always a pleasure.
End of interview.