This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 29, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST: All right. Welcome back. At issue tonight: Why the L.A. Times is sitting on a videotape that reportedly shows Barack Obama at a party in 2003, toasting a man who was once a mouthpiece for the PLO? It is a question a lot of folks want the answer to, including John McCain.
Here he is today talking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If there had been a tape of me and some neo-fascist outfit, do you think that the American people and the media would stand still for that tape not being revealed?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: That was Senator McCain at one stop today. The Obama camp issued this statement today about the Rashid Khalidi connection, saying, quote, "This is just another recycled manufactured controversy. Obama has been clear and consistent on his support for Israel and has been clear that Khalidi is not an advisor to him or his campaign. McCain should answer why, under his own chairmanship, the International Republican Institute repeatedly funded an organization Khalidi founded."
Now, there's a lot in that. I want to break it down with the National Review contributing editor, Andrew McCarthy, just writing about an interesting column on this controversy.
Good evening to you.
ANDREW MCCARTHY, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: Hi. Good to see you.
HEMMER: Who is Khalidi, by the way?
MCCARTHY: Well, Khalidi was a spokesman for the PLO. In some reports, he's listed as an official spokesman. He denies that. But there is no question he was an advisor, he was an advisor officially to the PLO delegation at the Madrid peace conference.
HEMMER: In that role, did he advocate violence against the Israelis?
MCCARTHY: Well, he's got an interesting position, and it's nuance, I guess, nuance.
HEMMER: How so?
MCCARTHY: He has flatly said that he is against terrorist attacks on civilian populations but he regards attacks on official Israeli government targets and military targets as legitimate resistance, not terrorism.
HEMMER: So, in his role, in his relationship with Barack Obama, the two met in Chicago, right?
MCCARTHY: And where they met, I don't know. But they certainly — they certainly roamed around or had a good relationship in Chicago.
HEMMER: And apparently, this professor who's at Columbia University and there was a toast in honor given to him, and allegedly, Barack Obama said what to him that day?
MCCARTHY: Well, Barack Obama gave a glowing tribute to Khalidi. The occasion for the party was that he was moving to Columbia University to take over the Edward Said professorship there in the Middle East Institute.
But the interesting thing is not just that Obama gave a glowing tribute to somebody who is a spokesman for Yasser Arafat, is that he was present and apparently had no problem with the fact that there were many tributes that were given to Khalidi who regards Israel as an illegitimate state, which were rabidly anti-Israeli and rabidly anti-Zionist, and really, vicious attacks on American policy in the Middle East.
HEMMER: So, what we know is that the L.A. Times and a reporter of the L.A. Times is given a chance to look at the videotape. That's some of what we know from the source, right?
MCCARTHY: That while he said in his article that he had seen the tape.
HEMMER: He saw the tape.
MCCARTHY: And had actually obtained a copy of it.
HEMMER: Who else was there at this meeting in 2003?
MCCARTHY: Well, we don't know everyone who was there. We do know that, from other reporting, that Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, the former Weatherman terrorists were there.
HEMMER: OK. Now, the Obama Team is saying that McCain was chairman of a committee in Washington that gave money to this same group. Is that claim valid?
MCCARTHY: Well, I don't know if it's valid or not. I do know that Obama isn't even contending that McCain has the same kind of relationship that he personally has with Khalidi. The families are close. And when Obama and Bill Ayers sat together on the Woods Fund board, they gave tens of thousands of dollars to an outfit, the Arab American Action Network that was started by Khalidi and his wife. And that's — again, a rabidly anti-Israeli.
HEMMER: And then Bill Ayers apparently was there, and this the gentleman we are looking at the former domestic terrorist that he has been labeled for the past three months or so.
HEMMER: . as he's been the media spotlight.
Now, John McCain makes the case if that were him at this meeting, people would be coming down on him pretty hard.
MCCARTHY: Well, I don't think there's any question.
HEMMER: Do you agree with that?
MCCARTHY: I not only agree with that, I think Senator McCain is right about that. But I also think if it was a CIA tape that had national security secrets, and it passed as prologue (ph), that would be the subject of continuous page one story. So, why, all of the sudden, a reluctance to put a tape out there?
HEMMER: Is there a suggestion the L.A. Times is going to budge on this?
MCCARTHY: Not that I know of. I'd be surprised if they did. I think they should.
HEMMER: What does it tell you? Does this tell you that the catapulting a new politician into the national scene on a time period that is much faster than most other presidential candidates have been put forward is probably taking us into areas that we are just discovering six days away from election that are quite revealing? How would you characterize it?
MCCARTHY: Well, I think it tells us two things. Number one, we've transcended media bias into an area where parts of the media are actually almost subsidiaries of the campaign. And I think, secondly, they don't want to put the videotape out because people would then be able to compare the videotape to the public's report and get a real idea about how accurate and fair the public report is.
HEMMER: You know, look — a lot of Jews are very upset with this, and obviously so. In Florida in 2004, they went for John Kerry 80 percent to 20 percent over George Bush.
HEMMER: Is this the kind of thing that could change that voting group?
MCCARTHY: Well, you know, I think, if it's a close election, anything could be important. But a lot of people don't vote their self-interests. A lot of time, they vote their ideology, and these people are, you know, frankly, if they're stuck in a liberal ideology or even a conservative ideology, for that matter, sometimes, they simply won't vote their self- interests.
HEMMER: My bet is McCain is going to bring this up again tomorrow. We'll be there when it happens.
Andy McCarthy, thank you for your time.
MCCARTHY: My pleasure, thank you.