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SPECIAL REPORT Roundtable; Brit Hume, Mort Kondracke, Fred Barnes; ; Special Report with Brit Hume (Fox News Network) ; 10-03-2002 ;

HUME: Analytical observations now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard" — happy to be here, as you can see. Mort Kondracke, his fellow Beltway boy, also executive editor, he of "Roll Call." And Mara Liasson, pleased to be here as well, national political correspondent of National Public Radio. All are Fox News contributors and I'm telling you, I'm glad to see them.

Now, the debate is on. House and Senate. the House international relations committee send the Iraq war resolution, agreed to with the White House, to the floor by a 31-11 vote, something like that. And over in the Senate, the debate did get under way.

And let's — and the opponents really dominated the discussion today.

There's going to be a lot more of this. Let's listen to two of them, Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Barbara Boxer of California, Democrats both.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The whereas clauses are pretty.

They're pretty. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty whereas clauses. But they're just window dressing. That's all. They are window dressing. They're just fig leaves. Fig leaves.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: If the president hasn't decided to go to war yet, if the administration hasn't decided to go to war yet, if the military hasn't been told there's going to be a war, then why is the president coming to Congress now, before he's made a somber decision, and before he has answered many key questions?

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUME: That's an intriguing question. Mort Kondracke, what about that question?

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": My response to her is, duh! The fact is that, unless you mean to threaten war with Saddam Hussein, you are going to get precisely nowhere. Does she think that Saddam Hussein would be allowing — promising to let weapons inspectors in unless we were beating the war drums?

Does she think that the U.N. would, you know, get off its duff and do anything unless we were threatening war? I mean, that is the whole purpose. That's why Bush wants this...

HUME: The other question is, do you think that she'd like it...

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Maybe the president has decided to go to war.

HUME: That may be what she's implying. But on the other hand, would she be any happier if he'd made the decision and not come to Congress?

LIASSON: No, what she's saying is, don't come to Congress too far in advance, Mr. President, especially before the election. However, what is the appropriate period of time before the decision and the actual going to war and going to Congress? That's unclear.

But I think the president has decided to go to war, and that's why he's going to Congress. Now, maybe he has decided that the timing has also helped him.

(CROSSTALK) HUME: Wait a minute. If he's decided and he believes, as the White House has said, that he has all the legal authority he needs, then why is he coming to Congress?

LIASSON: Because it's better to go to Congress and get political support. It helps you rally the country behind you.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": I agree with Mara on that. And if Senator Boxer is implying, pretty heavily, that the president is doing this purely for political reasons, well, look at the other things he is doing now which tend to point in the other direction. For one, negotiating with House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt changes that Gephardt got in the resolution. Now, why would he do that and let Gephardt and Democrats off the hook?

Why would he have Democrats in marginal seats coming down to the White House, talking to him about the resolution, and then about a possible war, where they can go out and, when their campaigning, and say, I met the president down in the Oval Office and we talked about this, and he convinced me. I'm on his side — helping those Democrats.

Why is he going for a big vote to get as many Democrats as possible, letting them off the hook, if he's only using Iraq as a political issue?

He's doing it because he really believes in it, as does Gephardt, that this is the right thing to do. It's not because they're trying to do it purely for a political gain. And I don't think they're going to get much political gain from it.

KONDRACKE: And he wants to leverage this big vote in Congress against the U.N. to effect the U.N., to show that the American people are solidly for the use of force if it's necessary.

HUME: All of this is rolling along swimmingly from the president's point of view and, I presume, from the point of view of what will turn out to be at least a significant number, if not a majority, of the Democrats in the House. The situation in the Senate looks different, obviously, which is why Daschle, who would clearly like to get the issue resolved and behind him before this last stages of the campaign.

How do you all assess the political impact of what's happening in the Senate, not only on Daschle himself and how he seems to be doing these days, but also on the members of the Senate up for reelection who are in close races — Mara?

LIASSON: I think that most of those members, with the possible exception of Paul Wellstone, are going to vote for the president. And I think it helps them to vote for him, get it over with, go home, campaign on the issues they want to campaign on.

HUME: But the fact that the Senate is delaying...

LIASSON: Oh, I think the longer the vote takes, the worse it is for the Democrats. In other words, the Democratic Party as a whole wants to get the debate off of Iraq and back onto domestic issues, which they assume will happen once this vote occurs.

HUME: Is there harm to those candidates, who are eventually going to vote for the resolution, if it takes a while, or is that something that just once it happens, it will be over?

LIASSON: I think once it happens, it will be over. Now, there's also a school of thought that says no matter what the headlines say, there is so much money being spent on these campaigns, that with paid media, in other words, with ads, you can talk about the issues you want to talk about.

In other words, you can talk about Social Security or Medicare, prescription drugs. Your message will get to voters. It doesn't matter what people read in the paper.

KONDRACKE: Shifting back to the House for a second. Gephardt is being accused, in "The Washington Post" in an article today, where various doves are accusing him of playing 2004 politics with his support for the president. I mean, Iowa, New Hampshire, you know, the doves in those states, especially in Iowa, do not like this.

HUME: You're talking about the Democratic Party in those two states?

KONDRACKE: Yes. He's not helping himself.

(CROSSTALK) BARNES: The primary voters, the most liberal, isolationist voters you find in the country are in Iowa, in particular, and less so in New Hampshire. He's not helping himself there. I think this has practically nothing to do with a presidential campaign at all. But "The Post" sure knifed him in this front-page piece.

LIASSON: Although, what presidential candidate, potential Democratic presidential candidate, is coming out four square against Bush? Other than Howard Dean.

BARNES: How about Al Gore?

LIASSON: I'm talking about in the Congress today. Who's going to take a vote on this?

(CROSSTALK) KONDRACKE: Tom Daschle is a potential candidate, and he's not coming out four square against him. But I think Daschle, for various reasons...

HUME: He's resisting.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Part of it is institutional and part of it is that he's responding to his caucus and he doesn't want to offend the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and the ranking members and so on.

It's unclear whether he's going to vote for the president's resolution or not.

BARNES: There is a thing called leadership, though. It would be nice to see a little of that on the Democratic side in the Senate, as well as in the House. Certainly we're getting it from Gephardt, not from Daschle.

HUME: All right, so we've got more to talk about here, particularly about those two Democrats who just got back from Baghdad and they're Vietnam vets, they say, sort of. We'll talk about all that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Having been a physician who spent time in the Vietnam War...

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DAVID BONIOR (D), MICHIGAN: Many people have had 20 years working on the Agent Orange issue. When I came to the Congress, I formed a group called Vietnam Veterans in Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUME: Well, there you have it. Those guys have been going around for the last several days, since while they were in Baghdad and since they got back, suggesting and, in fact, stating that they are veterans of Vietnam.

And while they served in the military during Vietnam, Bonior, according to his own Web site, slung hash in California, while Mr.

McDermott was a Navy shrink who treated people who had actually been in Vietnam.

Now, that's just a prelude to a discussion about that particular wing of the Democratic Party, to which they belong, and this whole overall question about the trip to Baghdad, which we really haven't talked about very much, and I just wanted to get everybody's thoughts about it.

LIASSON: Well, look, there are people, Paul Wellstone, doves, who have a legitimate position. I mean, it's their ideological position that - - but these guys are a disgrace. Look, everybody knows it's 101, politics 101, that you don't go to an adversary country, an enemy country and badmouth the United States, its policies and the president of the United States.

I mean, these guys ought to, I don't know, resign. Bonior is through.

But McDermott ought to hid his head.

HUME: Bonior because he's retiring.

KONDRACKE: Yes, exactly.

LIASSON: This is the kind of thing that Democrats used to really bristle at, when Republicans did this to Clinton. And they did it plenty.

There wasn't a whole lot of nicety on their part about foreign affairs.

Politics should stop at the water's edge and...

HUME: I don't recall, during the Kosovo conflict, were there Republicans in Serbia...

LIASSON: Oh, come on. Trent Lott suggested that he did the strikes against Sudan, only because...

(CROSSTALK) LIASSON: No, no, no. This was the strikes against the — whatever it turned out to be, the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, precisely just because of Monica Lewinsky. I mean, there were plenty.

Believe me, Republicans did not always abide by the rules about politics stopping at the water's edge. I'm not saying that excuses these guys, but this is the kind of thing Democrats hated when it was done to them. And they shouldn't do it themselves.

BARNES: They ought to know it's bad politics to do it. And then you have also, you didn't include there, President Clinton yesterday speaking at the Labour Party conference, loudly — saying he's trying to help President Bush's ally, Tony Blair, the British prime minister — but loudly disagreeing with the Bush policy, which is exactly the one that Tony Blair shares in.

You know, there used to be a general rule, I think maybe it was a tacit rule. And it was certainly accepted by President Bush...

HUME: It's an accepted practice.

BARNES: OK, an accepted practice, that a former president didn't, at least for a decent interval, a number of years, attack the president who succeeded him.

HUME: Certainly the first President Bush observed that towards Bill Clinton. I don't think he's ever criticized him.

BARNES: He observed that all the way through the campaign of 2000, where he didn't criticize either Clinton or Gore. And yet Clinton's over there. He's done it on David Letterman. Now he's doing it in England, overseas on foreign soil, criticizing President Bush and saying a different policy should be adopted. I think that's not quite the same as being in Baghdad, but also to be criticized.

KONDRACKE: Now, I mean, I think Clinton was off-base, too.

HUME: There's a broader question here, political question, which is widely believed that one of the things that has kept the Democratic Party out of the presidency. for the long period in which it was kept out of the presidency — which has been really most of the past 35, 40 years — has been this sense that on some level they couldn't be trusted on the big national security issues, because of this deep, dovish strain in the party's majority ideology.

Now, you can see Tom Daschle trying to steer members past that here.

You see what's happened in the House, where they're signing up in large numbers on this Iraq war and have on the war on terror. To what extent do episodes like this one contribute to renewing that image, if at all?

KONDRACKE: I really don't think so.

LIASSON: Very little. No.

KONDRACKE: These guys do not represent the mainstream of the Democratic Party, particularly its presidential wing. I think they've learned a lesson.

(CROSSTALK) HUME: Do their views about the Iraq war and the exercises of U.S.

power, are they minority views?

LIASSON: Yes.

HUME: In the overall membership of the Democratic Party?

LIASSON: Oh, I don't know about the rank-and-file members of the Democratic Party. But I would say, as Mort said, in the presidential wing and, for the most part, in Congress. I think this is a party whose kind of scoop Jackson roots are coming back. Yes.

KONDRACKE: I wouldn't go that far.

BARNES: Mara, it's the George McGovern roots that are coming back.

And what they ought to recognize is, there was a window from 1991 to 2001, the Cold War ended. And September 11 on 2001 brought back a war situation in the U.S. And I think Democrats are in trouble again because of the foreign policy...

LIASSON: Tom Daschle is saying he wants bipartisans to work for the president. You have Dick Gephardt, who's actually out there with him.

You've got almost every single presidential wannabe Democrat from Congress, who's going to vote for the president. I think that the George McGovern Democratic Party is a thing of the past.

KONDRACKE: Look, Joe Lieberman is the only dependable scoop Jackson candidate.

HUME: Let me just stop you for a second on that. Would you say that the majority of Senate Democrats favor this war?

LIASSON: I think the majority of Senate Democrats will vote for it.

HUME: That's not the same question.

LIASSON: I think there are some who truly agree with the president, and there are some who feel they can't vote against him.

HUME: What's the majority?

KONDRACKE: Split down the middle. I'd say half.

BARNES: A majority is against the war. A majority will vote in favor of a resolution endorsing the war, however.

HUME: A majority of the Senate certainly will.

BARNES: The House is a little better. The House, Gephardt could get as many as 2/3 of the Democrats going along with him.

HUME: That would be an overwhelming vote, I suppose.

BARNES: It sure would be.

HUME: All right, this is an interesting question. We'll come back to it. But that's it for the panel. Stay tuned. The Republicans have possible candidate to head a new department of homeland security. Will he accept? Find out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HUME: It has been sometimes said that Republicans have a hard time getting and keeping good candidates for office, because Republicans don't think Washington, D.C. is necessarily the place to be. It was a lighthearted example of why, when Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott sat down today with outgoing Senator Phil Gramm of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Would you be interested in being secretary of the new department?

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R), TEXAS: No.

(LAUGHTER) LOTT: Even if we promised to pay you what you could make in the private sector?

GRAMM: Well, A, you can't, and B, no.

(LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) HUME: That's SPECIAL REPORT for this time. Please come again next time. In the meantime, stay tuned for news, fair, balanced and unafraid.

Transcript used with permission of Fox Network, Inc.

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