HUME: The panel is going to join us in just a moment to talk about what has become a heated issue in this campaign.
But before we start that, let's take a look at this. This is from John Lewis, the congressman from Georgia who was a prominent member of the civil rights leadership at one time-
"Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.
There was a Governor of the state of Alabama, George Wallace. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights."
This is what Senator McCain said in response to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And Senator Obama refuses or has not jet repudiated those comments.
That's not from some, quote, "party official." That's from one of the most respected people in America.
It's unfair. It's unfair, and it's outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Some thoughts on this controversy now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
John Lewis has since said that, "Gee, you know, I really wasn't trying to link Senator McCain and Governor Palin to George Wallace." Fred, what about it?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": It certainly sounded like he was. He said what they were doing, and the he goes right to George Wallace and what George Wallace did.
The truth is the race card is being played in this campaign. It is being played by people like John Lewis. It was played yesterday by Joe Biden, where Biden said, you know, the charges against Obama are unhealthy. You don't throw race and terrorism into the presidential campaign.
Well, I don't believe McCain or Palin has thrown race into the campaign. But the other way of playing the race card is to accuse somebody of doing that. Barack Obama has repeatedly accused the McCain campaign of making a big deal, reminding people that he's an African-American and so on.
I mean, we have been through this a long time in the campaign. Brit, normally what you do in a campaign with your opponent, you say "Here is what he says, here is what he has done."
Here is Barack Obama. He said he's going to bring us together, he's a moderate. But here is what he has done. He has spent a lot of time or some time working with this guy who is an unrepentant terrorist, Bill Ayers.
And this is what you do in any campaign. The difference in this campaign is that all of a sudden when the McCain campaign does that, they're accused of being racist, that somehow it's a racist attack when-- and it's a way to discredit the attack. And you know what? It has worked pretty well with the media, because they buy into this thing.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, race is never going to be far away from a campaign where there is an African-American running for president. I think the big question is to what extent is John McCain himself or his campaign involved in this?
HUME: You mean in trying to-
LIASSON: I mean, there are bloggers and supporters of McCain--
HUME: I understand that, but what about the McCain-Palin campaign, which is what John Lewis was talking about?
LIASSON: I think John Lewis went too far and tried to walk back his remarks.
The Obama campaign issued a statement right after Lewis issued his statement saying that they don't think McCain or Palin are in any way, shape, or form like George Wallace.
McCain himself when he has encountered anything like this in a crowd or town meeting, he has tried to walk it back and talked about how you should be respectful. We don't know whether Sarah Palin actually heard some of the things that were shouted at one of her rallies in Florida.
I do think it is incumbent upon candidates if someone in the crowd shouts something that is racist and they hear it. They should say something about it right then and there if not shortly thereafter.
I think McCain has tried to be really careful here. One of the things he has done, to the great frustration of his campaign, is that he has ruled Reverend Wright off limits.
He might have done that because he feels he already laid down the marker in the primary or because he's afraid of being called a racist, but here are a lot of members of the McCain campaign that think it is a legitimate attack, and they are barred from doing it.
HUME: It does raise an interesting question why it would be racist to bring up Reverend Wright? Reverend Wright is black and Barack Obama is black. Why would that be racist?
LIASSON: I don't think it would.
If you're going to play the guilt by association card, which he is with Ayers, why not Wright who has a longer association and a more intimate one with Obama? But he has ruled that out of bounds.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When John McCain runs an ad with a white woman, Paris Hilton in it, he is accused of racism. He runs an ad with Franklin Raines, the former head of Fannie Mae in it, who is African-American, and that's racist. And then he runs an ad with William Ayers, who is a white male in it, and that's racist.
If it weren't so comical, these promiscuous accusations of racism, it would be tragic.
The Obama campaign has been playing the race card over and over again. Look, this is a campaign that in the primaries succeeded in painting Bill Clinton as a racist.
Now, Clinton, with all of his flaws, this is a man who throughout his career from Governor of Arkansas to president of the United States and beyond, has been a great and sincere friend of African-Americans who shared and tried to advance their aspirations. So if you can pull off a trick like that on Bill Clinton, you can pull it off on Republicans.
And look what Obama has said. He's the one who raised the Barack Hussein Obama a year or two ago in which he said the Hussein is actually an asset and would be an asset in dealing with Muslims abroad.
He's the one who openly said that the Republicans will say I'm black, they will say he's scary. They will say he's different. They will say he doesn't look like the guy on the dollar bill.
That is Obama preemptively accusing McCain of racism, which is a scurrilous charge. Racism is a serious charge in our country, and a false accusation is doubly serious. As we saw in the Duke lacrosse case, it can destroy lives. Given our history, it ought to be used with great care.
And to accuse preemptively McCain of racism even before there is any evidence of it, and there has not been any evidence of it before or since, is scurrilous.
They say patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Accusations of racism is the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel, and it has been used again and again on the part of the Obama campaign.
BARNES: That's because it works. It's another tactic--
HUME: I guess you have to wonder if that isn't what McCain is afraid of by refusing to bring up Reverend Wright, as Mara suggests.
BARNES: Right, because when they use it, it neutralizes an attack, and then you don't have to answer it.