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Don Powell, Joe Biden, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The fury of Katrina and the political finger pointing. One year later, where do things stand now? We'll get a report from the region and talk with the president's point man on rebuilding, Don Powell, along with (INAUDIBLE). Democrats and Iraq, with the recent improvement in security, will opposition to the war still help Democrats win in November. We'll ask Senator Joe Biden.

Plus, the FDA's decision on a morning-after contraceptive pill outrages conservatives, a topic for our panel, Brit Hume, Nina Easton, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

And our power player of the week, a business legend with a big new idea, all right now, "FOX News Sunday."

And good morning again from FOX News in Washington. FOX News journalist, national correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were freed early this morning after being kidnapped for 13 days in Gaza. For the latest on their captivity and sudden release, we go live to Jerusalem and correspondent Amy Kellogg.

Amy, what's the latest?

AMY KELLOGG, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. When we heard first thing this morning that another video was likely to surface today, many of us just had such a pit in our stomach, not knowing what that would mean, but then suddenly there was a lot of joy in very short time, Chris. Steve and Olaf released, looking physically very well and basically back to safety.

Shepard Smith spoke to Steve Centanni just a short while after he was released. Here is what he had to say.


STEVE CENTANNI, RELEASED FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We started (ph) into these big either workshop or warehouse or something. We later found out it was a garage, with a big generator rumbling, loud motor going constantly, steady sound. I was thinking, "Oh, God, OK, so a remote warehouse with a big, noisy generator. I'm toast. They could simply shoot me in the head and nobody would hear it. But also thinking my better nature let me think that I'm no good to them dead, so I kept my hopes up.

But we were pushed down onto the dirt floor, the dirt-covered concrete floor of this warehouse or garage, and being forced to lie face down, with our hands cuffed behind us, laying down on the dirt, face down. And Olaf was in the same room with me because we were talking slightly. I said, "Olaf, are you there?" and he went, "Yes."

He said, "I'm here, and I hurt like Hell, but I'm here."

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX ANCHOR: Were there demands made?

CENTANNI: We had to write and write and write, and then we were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint. And then, don't get me wrong here, I have the highest respect for Islam and learned a lot of very good things about it. But it was something we felt we had to do, because they had the guns and we didn't know what the Hell was going on.

They requested videotapes, and I'm sure you've seen one or more, and we didn't want to do those, particularly, except the one where we told our friends and family that we were alive and well and to please do everything you can to help us. That I was happy to do and I'm glad they did release it.

SMITH: Well, Steve, I feel like I should let you go so you can collect yourself. We're just so glad to see you alive and well and...

CENTANNI: Well, I'm emotional because I'm so happy to be out. There were times that I thought, I'm dead, and now I'm not, so thank God. But I'm OK, and thank you for, again, all your help, and I'm going to be fine. I'm just very happy.

SMITH: And you'll be back on the air soon, I know.

CENTANNI: I hope so. I really hope so.


KELLOGG: And, sure enough, shortly after that, Steve Centanni did pop up on the air. He met with the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. A lot of dignitaries stopped by the hotel in Gaza City to which he and Olaf were delivered, and then there was an impromptu press conference, when Steve and Olaf thanked all of the Palestinians for their help in securing their release.

And Steve and Olaf I have to add were really unified in their message. It really wasn't about them. It was about hoping that the Palestinian story will continue to be told.


CENTANNI: I just hope this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover this story, because the Palestinian people are a very beautiful, kindhearted, loving people who the world needs to know more about. And so do not be discouraged. Come and tell the story. It's a wonderful story, and I'm just happy to be here.


KELLOGG: So, again, Chris, a huge sense of relief both here in the Jerusalem bureau, as well as across the whole FOX network, I think, and very many viewers sending in their prayers and thoughts.

Steve and Olaf made a quick exit from the Gaza Strip late this morning, early this afternoon, local time, and their first stop in Jerusalem we know was the U.S. consulate. After that, don't know too much about their plans, but we know they'll be agitating to get home very soon.


WALLACE: Amy, you're exactly right about the feeling across the FOX family. We had all put up yellow ribbons. I have one in front of my door, and I'm personally waiting for Steve, personally, to pull it down. We've never been happier to get one of your reports. Thanks for that. We'll have more on Steve and Olaf, much more, a little later, but there is other news today.

It was one year ago Tuesday that Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, devastating parts of Mississippi and Louisiana. To where efforts to rebuild the area stand now, we turn to FOX News correspondent Jeff Goldblatt.


JEFF GOLDBLATT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, one year ago, Katrina was getting stronger over open water, and many in New Orleans seemed unconcerned about evacuating. Today, however, the concerns in the region run the gamut. Some are well into rebuilding, some don't know where to start.

Mississippi seems to be the beacon of an efficient, speedy cleanup, despite the fact Katrina wiped away 80 miles of coastline structures. But legislation was passed in the fall that paved the way for casino expansion and multi-billion dollar development projects, and a building boom is well underway.

A chief difference between Mississippi and New Orleans seems to be the lack of a firm master plan here. Fewer than half the city's population is back, half the hospitals remain closed and a fraction of the more than 100,000 homes red-tagged for demolition have indeed been demolished.

On the smallest of scales, it could be said that this represents the current situation in New Orleans. It used to be New Orleans had two telephone books, but now the Yellow Pages and White Pages have been condensed into just one book.

Chris, back to you.

WALLACE: Joining us now, Don Powell, the president's point man for rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

Mr. Powell, thanks for coming in.


WALLACE: Let's start with Tropical Storm Ernesto, which has just been upgraded to a hurricane, and could, according to some forecasts, hit the Gulf Coast over the next few days. Now, the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said yesterday he doesn't know if the rebuilt levees in New Orleans could withstand another hurricane.

What kind of shape is New Orleans and the whole Gulf Coast in to handle another major hurricane?

POWELL: I think we're in good shape. I know that the local people, the local officials, the state officials, have been coordinating with the federal officials to anticipate this day. Hopefully, this will not come, but there is a widespread coordination, and I think we're ready. There's no question in my mind, we're ready.

WALLACE: And what about those levees that the Army Corps of Engineers says maybe can't withstand another hurricane?

POWELL: There's been an extraordinary amount of effort by the Corps of Engineers on restoring and repairing the levees, and I believe that the levees are ready for the hurricane season.

WALLACE: Let's take a look at the general rebuilding situation in New Orleans today, one year after Hurricane Katrina. Here it is.

More than 200,000 former residents -- that's roughly half the pre- Katrina city -- are still displaced. Only 29 percent of the schools have reopened. Only 17 percent of the buses are now operational.

Mr. Powell, a year later, are you satisfied with what's been done so far to rebuild New Orleans?

POWELL: Chris, let's step back just a minute and talk about this devastation. The city of New Orleans, 80 percent of the city of New Orleans, was underwater for 57 days. That's an area seven times larger than Manhattan. There was more debris in the Gulf Coast than all of Andrew and the World Trade Center, combined. There was 1,500,000 people affected by this storm, of which 800,000 of those were displaced citizens.

So this was a gigantic, catastrophic event, so I think it's important for us to understand how large that is. The city of New Orleans, if it were a country, its gross national product would be the port, tourism and energy. The port is back to pre-Katrina levels, tonnage is back. Ship calls are more than they were pre Katrina.

The port is active. It touches 33 states in America, affects 62 percent of all of the consumers in America and it's back. Energy, 25 percent of the domestic production is supplied by the Gulf. It's all back. Refineries, oil, gas...

WALLACE: So you're saying there are no problems?

POWELL: I'm saying that those three components, tourism, energy and the port, is back to pre-Katrina levels, and that's critically important. Lots of jobs served by those industries. It's very important. WALLACE: You are the president's point man for rebuilding the region. I want to take you back to the speech that President Bush made two weeks after Katrina, from Jackson Square in New Orleans.

Take a look.


GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. We will identify property in the region owned by the federal government and provide building sites to low- income citizens, free of charge, through a lottery.


WALLACE: In fact, Mr. Powell, two of the three promises that the president made that night to fight poverty were never kept: the worker recovery accounts to help evacuees as they were looking for jobs after the displacement of the hurricane and the Urban Homestead Act, which was going to provide free land. Neither of those things ever happened.

Would New Orleans be in better shape today if the president and Congress had kept those promises?

POWELL: Chris, there has been an unprecedented amount of federal aid gone to the Gulf Coast, $110 billion has been allocated. Almost 50 percent of that money has been spent to the Gulf Coast. The balance is not unlike your checkbook. When you receive payment for your wages in your checkbook, you wait and you draw down on that checking account when you have bills to present.

So the balance of that money is going to be spent. So there has been an enormous amount of aid from the federal government to the Gulf Coast.

WALLACE: But, having said all that, we've got the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying the levees are, at best, state-of-the-art 1965 flood protection. Crime was so bad last month that they had to call in the National Guard. There's no city plan for rebuilding the city. A lot of people are just doing it on their own and building houses the same level, no elevation at all, could create another flood.

Aren't we spending those billions of dollars of taxpayer money to build another New Orleans with all of the same problems?

POWELL: The levees are back to where they were pre Katrina, and they're on their way to be the best, better and stronger than they have ever been. They will be certified to the 100-year floodplain by 2010.

The planning process for rebuilding New Orleans is the responsibility of the local people, and just this past week, the city council and the mayor agreed to the planning process, together with the Louisiana Recovery Authority. There's lots of progress that's occurring in New Orleans.

WALLACE: So, basically, you're saying, "Good news."

POWELL: I'm saying that we still have a long way to go, but the president's in it for the long haul. This is a process. It's not a one- time event. But there has been lots of progress.

WALLACE: Mr. Powell, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for updating us...

POWELL: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: ... on the situation along the Gulf Coast.

POWELL: Thank you, sir.

WALLACE: We've also invited the president of the New Orleans City Council, Oliver Thomas, but he is running a little late this morning. When he gets here, we'll talk with him.

But, next up, we'll talk with Senator Joe Biden about Iraq, Iran and the role foreign policy will play in the November elections.

WALLACE: Stay with us.


WALLACE: Joining us now to discuss trouble spots around the world and politics here at home is Senator Joe Biden, the Democrats top man on the Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate for 2008. The senator joins us from the campaign trail in Charleston, South Carolina.

And, Senator, let's begin with the good news. Your reaction to the release of our two FOX colleagues and what their prolonged kidnapping tells us about the situation right now in the Palestinian territories.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: Well, it tells us, Chris, I think that the situation in the entire region is perilous, number one. But number two is just a great joy. I mean, as I was literally coming over to this site to do your show, I saw on the hotel monitor that they had been released. And I guess had the same feeling everybody did. You just went, like, "Great."

But I don't know, and I'm not sure anybody knows, the full circumstances of their release. But it does say one thing, that there seems to be some element within the Palestinian lexicon over there that in fact thinks that it was not a good idea to keep them. It's hard to read, though, at this moment, but I'm just delighted, like everybody else in America is, that they're released.

WALLACE: Senator, let's turn to what may also be some good news out of Iraq. Take a look if you will, sir. After a deadly July, the murder rate in Baghdad has fallen 41 percent so far this month.

In two of the worst neighborhoods, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a new offensive, the murder rate is down 83 percent in Amariyah and as well in Dora. And, Senator, on Saturday, hundreds of tribal chiefs signed on to Prime Minister Maliki's reconciliation plan.

Is it possible -- possible -- that President Bush's plan for Iraq is finally beginning to work?

BIDEN: I pray it is, but I don't think this -- the answer is, I don't think there's any reasonable prospect, Chris, for, quote, "things to work in Iraq," until, and, in fact, the Sunnis get a buy in with a piece of the oil to deal with the insurgency. And Maliki has the ability to jump in and be willing to take on the competing elements within the Shia coalition made up of the Mahdi Army, the Askari (ph) and the Dawa parties, mostly the Badr Brigade.

Unless you are able to take control of the militias, I don't think there's much of a shot here. But we have had good days and good weeks like this before. I pray this is the beginning of an ultimate reconciliation, but I'm doubtful of that.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about your doubts, because in an op-ed column this week, you said the following, and let's put it up.

"Unfortunately, this administration does not have a coherent plan or any discernible strategy for success in Iraq. Its strategy is to prevent defeat and hand the problem when it leaves office." But, in fact, Senator Biden, there has been, if not a new strategy, at least a new tactic. U.S. and Iraqi forces have started what they call the ink blot strategy of going into some of the toughest neighborhoods, flooding them, gaining control and then gradually spreading that out, their control.

And this week, the commander of all U.S. forces in the Mid East, General John Abizaid, had this to say. Here it is.


GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I believe that there is a danger of civil war in Iraq, but only a danger. I think Iraq's far from it. I think that there's been great progress on the security front here recently in Baghdad.


WALLACE: Is it possible, Senator Biden, that General Abizaid has a better sense of what's going on on the ground in Baghdad than you do?

BIDEN: Well, I'm sure he has a great sense of it. I've just been on the ground in Baghdad just four weeks ago. I sat with General Casey. I sat with General Chiarelli. They both said the same thing. They said that things are really in difficult shape. They pointed out that since the unity government, the insurgency has not abated in any way, and you had a considerable increase in the number of people joining the militias, because there are no jobs at all.

There is no strategy to deal with getting the 60 percent unemployment rate among young people and young men, who get paid to carry weapons and join the militia. There is, in fact, no reasonable prospect that there's enough troops that we can get this ink blot strategy extended throughout the country, Chris.

We're talking about unable to sustain 135,000 troops there for another year. I mean, I can go on and on. So this is a momentary and, pray God, a long-term decrease in the sectarian violence in the region, but look what we've had to do. We've had to bring troops back in. We have had to have them essentially take the lead. They're going to say they're not in the lead, but essentially take the lead. And, in fact, there is no reasonable prospect to expect that the folks out in Fallujah and the folks out in the Anbar province are going to say, "Hey, you know, this means we got a really good deal here. Why don't we end our insurgency here?"

I hope you're right, Chris, but this is the same strategy we've had before and I don't know how you do this unless you give the regions, the people, the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds a little bit more breathing room. Don't force them together the way we're doing it now, have a loosely knit federated government, like we did in Bosnia.

WALLACE: Senator, let me ask you about that, because your plan is to decentralize the country and create sort of semi-autonomous regions for the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shia. But I want to put up a poll taken recently of Iraqis.

BIDEN: I can't see your polls. If your staff could turn this TV so I can see?

WALLACE: I'm going to read it to you.

BIDEN: Oh, OK, sorry.

WALLACE: Ninety-four percent support a unity government and 78 percent oppose the country being segregated by religion or ethnicity. Do we really want to be in the position, Senator, of pushing something that the Iraqis apparently don't want?

BIDEN: Chris, I'm not talking about segregating the government by religion or ethnicity. I'm talking about them having the same kind of autonomy in the three major regions -- their constitution right now says any three of their 18 governorates can get together and form a region.

All I'm saying is that they should have control over their local laws of marriage and property and education the same way the state of South Carolina is different than the state of California today. That they should have their, quote, "South Carolina State Police," and there should be a California State Police, that they have local control and local autonomy.

That's the only way you're going to get the Sunnis to buy into a notion that they're going to be part of a government that's controlled by 61 percent of the Sunnis. And if you do that, you're going to find each of the sectarian forces deciding they better get themselves straight and have their power base in their own area.

I went to down Basra, one of the few people to go down there, met with a British two-star general. He said, we don't have an insurgency down here. We don't have a civil war down here. What we have is warring Shia factions deciding who's going to fill the vacuum here. I think it's time to get real and we ought to talk to the generals on the ground.

WALLACE: Senator, we're running out of time, but I want to ask you a quick question about Iran, and also a little politics. In Iran, Iran's president yesterday inaugurated a new heavy water reactor -- rather, production plant -- and he said that his country's nuclear program poses no threat to any country, including Israel. Meanwhile, the Russians, who gave us their word, apparently in July, that they would go along with sanctions, are now saying, no, they won't go along with any economic sanctions.

Question: what do we do now?

BIDEN: Well, it's a really bad situation, and it seems to me what we have to do is continue to push to see if we can hold this coalition together to increase gradual sanctions. Without that, we don't have a whole lot of options here. We don't have -- as the president of the United States said, we have been sanctioned out.

And our military option to go in and take out any one of their multiple sites that they may use to produce nuclear weapons over the next decade, is pretty limited. So we ought to be getting to the point where we are trying to get the rest of these nations to keep their deal.

Look, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution. They said if the Iranians didn't step up, that we would step up. This is a test for the diplomacy. This is a test for the United Nations. If it fails, then what we're going to have to do is begin to come up with a serious containment policy, here.

In the meantime, by going out into the region and making sure that everyone from the Sunnis to the Turks have a sense of what their interest is and begin to make it clear that we're going to build up the capacity to contain Iran while we settle things in Iraq, to give us more flexibility to deal with Iran. We don't have any clear options right now.

WALLACE: And, finally, Senator Biden -- finally, we've got about 30 seconds left, but I can't let you go without some politics. As we've mentioned, you're in South Carolina right now, on the campaign trial. Thirty seconds or less, what kind of a chance would a Northeastern liberal like Joe Biden stand in the South if you were running in Democratic primaries against Southerners like Mark Warner and John Edwards.

BIDEN: Better than anybody else. You don't know my state. My state was a slave state. My state is a border state. My state has the eighth- largest black population in the country. My state is anything from a Northeast liberal state.

WALLACE: So you think you could go into the lion's den and against the other lion tamers?

BIDEN: I know I can.

WALLACE: Senator Biden, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for joining us today.

BIDEN: Thanks. WALLACE: We promised you an interview with New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas, but he apparently overslept this morning. Not only did he not make it to our studio for this interview, but we also understand that he missed a briefing on Hurricane Ernesto this morning.

Coming up, our Sunday panel on the great news about the release of our two FOX News colleagues and what it tells us about the situation in the Middle East.

WALLACE: Stay tuned.


WALLACE: Those are our two FOX News colleagues, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, just after they were released this morning, and you can see Steve there. And that is pure joy, my friends. I've seen these pictures 20 times already today and I can't get enough of them.

It's panel time now for Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of FOX News, and Fox contributors Nina Easton of Fortune magazine, Bill Kristol of the "Weekly Standard" and Juan Williams from National Public Radio.

Well, we all woke up today at our various times to the great news about the release of Steve and Olaf after 13 days in captivity.

Brit, what are your thoughts about the kidnapping and about the release?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Well, my first thought is one of enormous relief. I feel terrible in the mornings, but when I was awakened by this news, I feel great, and still do, about it. Obviously, we're all waiting for the moment when Steve walks through that door, back to his home base here in Washington. We've all been praying for his release and worried sick about him.

There you see him with the Hamas leader, who we are given to believe was instrumental in effecting his release.

WALLACE: And that's Olaf's wife, Anita, who was just tireless in fighting for his release and making statements. You can see they're happy, but you can see they've been under terrible strain.

HUME: I think you can, and it's characteristic of Steve, this morning, in the interview, of which you showed a portion, that he did with our colleague Shepard Smith this morning that he, despite the emotion of the moment, was able to give us a sense of what a gruesome and grim experience he'd been through, in Steve's dispassionate way, which is characteristic of Steve, a very mild and even-tempered guy, whose personality kind of embodies our whole creed here of fair and balanced. So we're eager to have him back.

NINA EASTON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I thought it was an obviously very happy ending, but a very tragic episode, journalistically. Steve very graciously this morning said, don't let this dissuade reporters from coming in. Come in and tell this story.

But, in fact, if you're an editor, a producer, and you're responsible for these people's lives, you've got this area where gangs are on the rise, unemployment has doubled since Hamas was elected not long ago. You've got young men roaming around. Two dozen reporters have been kidnapped over the last couple years there.

It's a dangerous situation, and I think the tragedy is, and we're seeing this in Iraq already, is that it's become so dangerous that there are fewer journalists and they're confined to a smaller safe space. So it's very difficult to tell these complex, nuanced stories that the world needs to hear.

WALLACE: Bill, before we get to our side of it, and of course we always are overly concerned about our side, what does it say about the state of the Palestinian territories that in this particular case, and I'm sure in others as well, that our FOX News representatives over there were having to negotiate with various political factions, with various street gangs, to try to get these people released?

BILL KRISTOL, FOX NEWS: Well, first of all, I would say it's just great that Steve and Olaf were freed. But, yes, Steve said journalists shouldn't be afraid to come back here. We need to cover this story.

One way to encourage journalists to come back would be if the kidnappers were brought to justice, if the criminals were arrested. The Palestinian Authority knows who they are. Let's see if there's a serious effort to get to them.

There's reports that it could be the same group, some intelligence services seem to think so, that killed three Americans about three years ago in Gaza. They haven't been brought to justice. So I think it's great to have Steve back, but we'll see if the kidnappers are brought to justice.

And I think the sadness that chills me, that the story's not over in this respect, is we were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint, which Steve was forced to say.

Well, it's what Steve said now, that he was forced to have this phony conversion on air. I mean, that is a chilling thing, and it says a lot, I think, about the enemy we're all fighting in the Middle East.

WALLACE: We should point out, because it's kind of getting lost in all of this, that in Amy Kellogg's piece, you saw that they were wearing Islamic robes, and they were all talking to the camera, a hostage tape, they all put up their finger and swore their allegiance, their conversion to Islam and also made some anti-Western statements.

This was all obviously under extreme duress and it may have been a get out of jail free card, but it does give you a sense of the thugs that we were dealing with.

KRISTOL: I don't know if the Hamas leader, the prime minister of Palestine, condemned, if other reputable Islamic authorities in governments in the Middle East, unequivocally condemned this forced conversion or pseudo-conversion of hostages at gunpoint. I mean, that would be a helpful thing to do.

If they want to maintain the position that a few thugs have hijacked Islam and that Islam disapproves of this, it's important that the authorities say so.

WALLACE: But, Juan, when we're negotiating with one street gang that says, well, they don't really know the other street gang, is this the wild west there?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: It is the wild west. It's utter anarchy. But, I mean, I was surprised and pleased that somehow negotiations were able to go forward, that somebody was able to establish a hierarchy and say, we want these men returned safely and make it clear.

I don't know if they offered some incentive. It's not clear if any incentive was offered to the bad guys in this scenario. To get back, though, to what Bill was saying, I think Bill was onto something very important here in the two videos.

The one video clearly had them saying that they were now advocates, adherents of Islam. And that would suggest that if you're not an adherent of Islam, therefore you're an enemy, somehow, of Hamas, of the Palestinian people, which is madness.

WALLACE: And could be killed.

WILLIAMS: And could be killed, that you're deserving of death.

And the other part of it, and I think this is truly something that historians will look back on this episode and see, is that for the first time, it wasn't directed at Israel, but at the United States. In the second of those videos, you have Steve and Olaf asked to condemn the United States for shipping helicopters over there that are used by the Israelis.

That whole issue previously was all contained in an anti-Israeli tirade or hatred. Now, all of a sudden, the United States is being specifically targeted, and FOX News.

HUME: Well, this would hardly be the first time the United States has been targeted or spoken ill of in that part of the world. You see that tape, it does really make you think.

WALLACE: Again, this is a tape that was released early today, and when we first saw that tape, not knowing, of course, they were going to be released, this was pretty scary and we didn't know that this was going to have a happy ending.

HUME: Yes, and what an appealing faith these thugs must believe Islam is, that conversions have to be effected at the point of a gun. And what of the argument that all of the ills and troubles that beset the Palestinian people, that lead them to terrorism, are the cause of what they endlessly refer to as the illegal Israeli occupation.

Consider the latest rounds of trouble in Gaza and Lebanon, two places from which Israel has withdrawn.

It has been noted that not for one day after the Israeli pullout from Gaza did the rocket attacks that came from Gaza ever stop. We're not dealing here with something that is susceptible to a political resolution of the kind of which the State Department and many a president has dreamed.

We're dealing here with a lawless enemy whose goal far transcends any side-by-side, two-state solution. That isn't going to do it. We're dealing with a terrorist, gangland-style enemy, which I think it's fair to conclude, and this episode only further illustrates it, must be defeated.

WILLIAMS: I don't think there's any question that these people have been beaten down, occupied, oppressed, and that you're going to say, all of a sudden, you know what, it's gangland. All true, Brit, but you're saying because, suddenly, Israel pulls back, you expected that immediately there would be hats off, hey old fellow, have a beer on me?

These people, not only is their chaos, they don't really have a government. And, as you know, there have been sanctions put in place against them and their government because of the activities of Hamas.

HUME: I can imagine the conversation that must have unfolded, Bill, in which these hoodlums sat around in a basement somewhere and decided that because of the sanctions that have been imposed on the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of the terrorist organization Hamas that they must go out and snatch a couple of unarmed, innocent Americans and hold them at bay and then force them to convert to Islam by gunpoint.

Somehow, Juan, I just don't see the...

WILLIAMS: I just don't think it's going to be an instantaneous turnaround to a peaceful, organized group of people after the horrors that they have been through and their history of fighting against Israel and the deep enmity that exists.

I mean, it's a horrible situation, but to say, oh, because the Israelis pulled out, that they should behave now in a better way. We should not have any more problems.

HUME: Well, Juan, let me ask you this. Should they behave better?

WILLIAMS: I was hoping that they would behave better. I hope that they will organize themselves. I think Bill and I would agree that the reasons the sanctions were put in there was because people view Hamas as a terrorist organization and you want...

HUME: With good reason.

WILLIAMS: Right, so that's the hope. But you can't then turn around and make the argument here this morning, oh, because this happened, there's no hope and all we can do is beat them into the ground.

KRISTOL: The Hamas government knows who these kidnappers are and they negotiated with them, they got the release. Maybe they could even have been a set-up group by Hamas to distract attention from the fact that there's an Israeli soldier still kidnapped and still held hostage...

WILLIAMS: Still held hostage.

KRISTOL: ... in the Gaza Strip, of course, (inaudible) knows, with the approval in this case, perhaps, of the Hamas government. Let's see if the Hamas government brings these kidnappers to justice.

WALLACE: Nina, you get the last word.

EASTON: To state the obvious, Hamas was elected, and what will be the effect, not just of this kidnapping, but the rise in unemployment, the chaotic conditions there?

Will the Palestinian people throw them out?

WALLACE: But it is, I think, Bill, once again, as you pointed out, a pretty good test. Let's see whether or not the Palestinian authorities bring the captors of Steve and Olaf to justice.

We have to take a break here. We'll have more in a moment, but let's take one more look at that very happy scene, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, just moments after they were released this morning.


WALLACE: On this day in 1883, a massive volcano exploded on the Indonesian island of Krakatau. More than 36,000 people were killed when the eruption generated giant, 120-foot waves. Stay tuned from more from our panel and our power player of the week.



TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: In order to placate Democratic opposition that he has maybe gone along with some compromise that gives them what they want.



U.S. SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): Maybe we're going to be back on the right track, to have non-political decisions made.


WALLACE: That was an unhappy social conservative and a happy Hillary Clinton, commenting on FDA approval of over-the-counter sales of the morning-after contraceptive pill. And we're back now with Brit, Nina, Bill and Juan. Well, after years of political and scientific wrangling, the FDA finally this week approved selling the drug Plan B over the counter to people 18 and older, but still by prescription to people 17 or younger.

Nina, what do you make of all the back and forth there?

EASTON: And I would say 18 and older, you have to have an I.D. and it's in pharmacies, so there's controls over it. And the big issue, for a long time, was should it be sold to underage girls, 17 and younger? And I think that becomes a parental authority issue, should this kind of thing be allowed? Should a medicine like this be allowed to be accessed by girls?

The fact that they went from 18 and older, you've got to look at this and say -- the critics are making it a health issue, first of all. But 18 years old, a woman can get married, she can buy cigarettes. She can get a body piercing, a tattoo. I mean, there's lots of things that are dangerous that a woman can do at age 18. I didn't mean to say that marriage is dangerous, but you know.

EASTON: So they raised the health concerns. I really think what these social conservatives are concerned -- the real underlying issue here is they're worried about increased promiscuity.

They do have a point, I think, that the men being able to access this is a loophole. An 18-year-old man can go buy this for his 16- year-old girlfriend. I do think that that's a cause for concern.

But I do think the anti-abortion rights folks are worried and concerned that this is somehow a pseudo-abortion, in that there are times that it prevents the egg from settling, attaching to the uterus. Mostly it works by just preventing fertilization.

WALLACE: That's also true of prescription birth control.

EASTON: Which is also true of prescription birth control, but it's available by prescription.


WALLACE: ... ovulation or fertilization.

But, Bill, let me ask you, and this was one of the things that interested me most about this story. It's kind of an interesting twist, because family planning groups, Planned Parenthood, say, look, this is great. It's going to cut the number of unwanted, unintended pregnancies, in half. It's going to reduce the number of abortions.

But the pro-lifers, the social conservatives, are saying, no, no, because it's going to increase promiscuity. So it's almost like there was a twist on who was siding on which side of the idea of cutting unintended pregnancies and abortions.

KRISTOL: Well, I think pro-lifers think this can be a kind of abortion, a very early abortion. So that's why they oppose it, and if you're pro life, you're not happy about this being more widely available.

If it causes fewer late-term abortions, fewer surgical abortions, that would be a good thing, but people promised that the wide availability of birth control in this country over the last 30, 40 years was supposed to reduce abortions, and at least for the first 20 or 30 years, it certainly didn't.

I don't know, I came into FOX this morning and one of our colleagues who works here, a guy just out of college a couple of years, said all of his friends who are still in college are very happy about it. All of his guy friends, his male friends who are still in college, are very happy about this, because they have a wild night and if precautions aren't taken, the burden is now totally off them.

They just tell their girlfriend to go out and get this drug and no problems at all, and I don't think that's a very good thing for the country.

WILLIAMS: Well, but the woman doesn't have to do it. The woman has some choice in this matter, and, in fact, what it does is it increases her ability to manage her life, her future and to decide whether or not she's ready to be a parent.

And the fact of the matter, contrary to people who say this is an abortion, it's not an abortion. This is preventing pregnancies, just like taking a birth control pill. That's good news. I don't see how you get around that.

To my mind, what's really at stake here is credibility. The FDA approved this three years ago, then they had an advisory panel, scientists who have said it's a safe way for young women to deal with this situation. And then you had politics intervene, the politics of abortion, and people say, "No, don't do it. It's about promiscuity."

That to me was playing to the base and it was, to me, pandering to people who are opponents of abortion. They have a legitimate case to make in terms of opposition to abortion, but there was no scientific case to be made that this wasn't safe and a good way for us to handle it. From a parents' point of view, this is an important step and one that should have been taken.

Politics should never have gotten involved. You didn't need Senator Clinton, Senator Murray having to hold up Andy von Eschenbach , who is to be the new FDA.

WALLACE: Let's put up his picture, and then let's just talk just briefly about the politics of this. Andrew von Eschenbach, there he is, was nominated to be the new FDA commissioner and Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray, the senator from Washington, were so upset because they felt the White House was pandering to social conservatives, that they put a hold on his nomination, trying to push, force, the FDA to make this ruling.

HUME: Chris, let's be clear about this. There's no getting the politics out of an issue that burns as intensely as this issue does. And there are enormously important groups in both parties who have a stake in this.

The abortion rights lobby obviously does. The pro-life groups do on the other side as well, and this as much a pitched battle between them as it is a scientific issue. And you're never going to get the politics out of politics, which is where this is and where the outcome, dictated in part, as it was, by the political act of holding up a nomination, was manifested.

So the question I think is the one that's the hardest to figure out is, is the administration and the president hurt by this in some lasting political way? Probably not. He's not up for reelection. He has no immediate heir who's going to be part of the administration, I shouldn't think, so we'll see how this plays out.

I don't think it'll have much effect on the congressional midterms.

WALLACE: But let me ask you about that, Nina, because in this particular case the liberals, the pro-choice people, the family planners, won, and the social conservatives, which one would regard as the president's base, lost, people like Tony Perkins. Is that going to affect their zeal in going out and supporting Republicans in these congressional elections?

EASTON: Well, let's be clear. President Bush agreed with Hillary Clinton on this matter. They're on the same page on this. I do think that this, along with some other issues that have hurt President Bush's standing with the base, it could have an effect in November. It makes the base less likely to turn out, if in fact these groups -- and I'm not always sure that these groups actually represent a broad enough base of voters.

They are, just as the liberal groups are in Washington, raising funds, able to gin up -- this is a great direct-mail opportunity to criticize over this. But I'm not sure at the end of the day that people are going to go to the polls or not based on something like this.

WALLACE: Bill, this sort of gets into even a bigger question that we've also seen in the debate over stem cell research. Does this White House, and in fact do all politicians, play politics with science?

KRISTOL: I actually think the president has not played politics here. He's pro life, he vetoed the bill that would have provided federal funding for embryonic stem cell lines derived from embryos that would have been created and destroyed to create the stem cells.

In this case, he let the FDA go ahead because the pill was already legal by prescription and the FDA judged that it would be safe to have it available over the counter for people 18 and over. This was not a huge priority.

I talk to a lot of social conservatives and religious conservatives, I suppose I am one, in some way. This was not at the very top of the list, compared to a bunch of other issues. If you go to National Right to Life's Web site -- I did this last night -- there's actually no discussion of it on their Web site.

So if you're pro life, you're not happy about this, but compared to his veto of the federal funding for embryonic stem cell bill, compared to his court appointments, compared to his general pro-life policies, which he's been very consistent on, I think this is a case where, look, abortion is legal in this country. Some of us don't like that, but it is, and if abortion's legal, this pill's going to be legal, and then it becomes a practical, scientific judgment about how exactly it should be regulated in terms of prescription or having to get it over the counter in the pharmacy.

WALLACE: But, again, Juan, it took years to get the FDA to approve it.

WILLIAMS: Three years. Then they approved it and it takes three years afterwards. We talk about the whole business of the Christian Coalition, which seems to be...

KRISTOL: It didn't take three years for the FDA to approve it. It's been available by prescription. I don't believe it was very hard...

WILLIAMS: Over-the-counter version.

KRISTOL: Do you know a single 19-year-old that couldn't go to a college pharmacy, say, "Unfortunately, something happened last night. I need a prescription for this." And is there a college doctor in the country, except at maybe six Christian colleges, who wouldn't give that young woman a prescription?

WILLIAMS: That's for your children and my children, but there are many kids who aren't in college, who don't have access to the infirmary.

WALLACE: And the other interesting aspect of this, very briefly, is that you don't need a prescription to get this, but you do need a prescription to get a birth control pill.

EASTON: And at 18, you're an adult...

WALLACE: Thank you, panel. That's it for today. See you next week.

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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