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Special Report Roundtable - August 1

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIAZ-BALART: As soon as Castro -- Fidel Castro is dead, that regime will dissolve like a -- if you grab a sugar cube and you put it in a cup of coffee there that you have, that just dissolves -- that`s what`s going to happen to the regime as soon as Fidel Castro is no longer a reality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Some very wishful thinking there from Cuban-Americans. Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, FOX News contributors all.

Mara, there was a lot of wishful thinking in the Cuban-American community today, as there would be. But it`s fair to say that for the first time in a very long time, there is just a hint that Castro`s days may be numbed, obviously...

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, they certainly have been numbed. At some point, the guy is going to die. He`s quite old, but we`re not -- it`s not clear what comes after him, although it`s hard to imagine any Cuban dictator holding the kind of iron grip he does. I mean, according NPR`s reporter, Tom Gjelten, he`s somebody who has made every decision for the last 50 years completely by himself. So, that might change.

Now whether the Cuban communist dictatorship dissolves like a cube of sugar is another matter entirely. It`s seems pretty well entrenched. But his is the moment that certainly the Cuban-American community in the United States has been waiting for, for a very long time, and we don`t know yet exactly whether he`s going to come back out of the hospital back into power or be permanently sidelined. ANGLE: Mort, there was a TV statement a short time ago saying that Castro was in stable condition and everyone has suggested, oh, it`s just surgery, it`s a temporarily (INAUDIBLE), but he, himself noted that this was a complicated surgery...

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Complicated surgery with an intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding. And I don`t know a lot about gastrointestinal, but...

ANGLE: Go ahead, Dr. Kondracke.

KONDRACKE: But it suggests that it`s more serious than diverticulosis which is something you can repair with a tube.

ANGLE: Its sounds serious.

KONDRACKE: It does, it sounds very serious and it suggests that perhaps cancer, you know, which would not, you know, not be unusual for somebody that age. You know, Castro is a fading star under any circumstances and his place as the revolutionary leader of Latin-America has been taken over by Hugo Chavez, who has a lot of money because he`s got oil and has, in fact, been propping Castro`s economy up. I mean, it`ll be -- we don`t know what`s going to happen in Cuba. The United States would like to see a transition period. There was a report just issued, 95-page report, of -- on U.S. transition plans which called for $80 million to be spent helping opposition groups on the understanding that Raul Castro is not the boss down there. But Raul Castro at least temporarily will be the boss.

ANGLE: Fred.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, a lot depends on the Cuban military, of course, what they do. If they`re loyal to the Castro family, then...

ANGLE: And Raul just happens to be...

BARNES: The head of the military. The one thing to remember about Castro, in 47 years -- 47 years of communist rule there, he has left Cuba as an economic basket case. The country with no independent newspapers, TV stations, or magazines. A country that doesn`t allow any nonauthorized news to be released, a country that even the slightest sort of democratic dissent gets you thrown in jail for 30 years. Librarians get arrested all the time. This is about as far from being a paradise as any place in the world. And you could imagine what Cuba could have been, though. I think it could have been the Switzerland of the Caribbean absent a cruel dictator like Fidel Castro.

KONDRACKE: The question is, does the population get enough information from the outside, the way the communist populations did or -- in Eastern Europe to -- when the pressure`s off, you know, tear down the wall, in effect? That`s the big question. The exile community is trying to foster civil disobedience inside the country. There`s no suggestion that it`s actually taking place yet.

ANGLE: Well, we certainly know how industrious Cuban-Americans are.

BARNES: Look at Miami.

ANGLE: Yes. And so you do get a sense that if Cuba were ever to change that people there might be thirsty a little (INAUDIBLE)...

LIASSON: Oh, and it`s not only that, look the Europeans are already investing there. There would be a wave of foreign investment. There already is talk about doing that. Certainly there are segments of the U.S. economy, agriculture, and other businesses that want to invest there. So, I think this is all just a matter of time. This is almost like -- we knew that at some point we understood that communism was -- days were numbed in Europe and in the Soviet Union, it was just a matter of when the wall would fall. I think the same thing is true with Castro. I wish the rest of the world were so -- had such an optimistic future.

BARNES: But the wall didn`t fall in Europe just quite naturally it fell because it was pushed real hard by U.S. and Ronald Reagan and so on.

LIASSON: Right, we know about the...

BARNES: We can -- I`m not sure how much push we have here. I hope a lot, but -- I mean, the natural thing would be that people want to revolt. I don`t think they need news from the outside to know that they`d like to live in a democratic country and not in the squalor that Castro`s left behind.

KONDRACKE: Well, don`t forget what we did with Eastern Europe, we invested there. We went there. We did not boycott them, we did not try to ruin their economies the way the United States is doing for 50 years with Cuba.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We boycotted them, that`s all.

LIASSON: We had an embargo.

KONDRACKE: We flooded them with information, with dollars, with attention and all that kind of stuff and encouraged the rebellion.

ANGLE: OK, that`s the last word from Mort on that. When we come back with our panel, Israel broadens its offensive in Lebanon as the U.S. and others talks behind the scenes about an international force to help disarm Hezbollah. The all-stars tackle the latest mess in the Middle East when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Why is there no cease-fire today? The answer is very simple. Every additional day is a day that wears down the strength of this cruel enemy.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: That if we really put our minds to it and work, that this week is entirely possible, certainly we`re talking about days, not weeks, before we are able to get a cease-fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: And there is Secretary of State Condi Rice who appears on Bill O`Reilly`s programs tonight, and she is talking about stabilization force and in fact, we learned late today, there`s a meeting on Thursday at the U.N. to talk about those who would donate troops to a stabilization or peacekeeping force, though Israelis are not fond of that term since there`s been a peacekeeping force there for a long time that doesn`t seem to have had much effect.

Now, Mara, as far as what the Israelis are doing, they seem to have -- they moved in deeper into Lebanon, established a sort of line about 19 miles in at the Litani River. Then went in with helicopters 60 miles from the Israeli border into Northern Lebanon, or in the Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border, apparently looking for, I would think, weapons and Hezbollah.

LIASSON: Sure, but they are -- we have reports that they are skirting some of the bigger towns. So they are trying to be careful about this. But I think the Israelis know the clock is ticking and they do want to do enough damage to Hezbollah so that when some kind of a force comes in, that they are able to maintain some kind of a buffer zone. Now, you know, the questions about exactly what this peacekeeping force would do, who is it that actually disarms Hezbollah, assuming that the Israelis will have not finished the job by the time this force has arrives, if it even can be agreed upon and sent to Lebanon is still pretty unclear.

KONDRACKE: Well, I hope that when Condi Rice says this is going to be days and not weeks, that she is saying this for worldwide consumption and this is not what the United States is really telling Israel. I would hope that we`re still slow-walking this thing to the point where, that the Israelis can really do the most damage they possibly can to Hezbollah, because it`s going to be very difficult to get any kind of a force in there, French or Turks or anybody like that, that are really going to be able to fight Hezbollah in case that`s necessary or disarm Hezbollah. And the Lebanese army is, one, not strong enough, and two, the Israelis had to attack Lebanese army installations on two different occasions, because they had what they regarded as proof positive that the Lebanese army was supplying Hezbollah with targeting information against ships and stuff. So the Lebanese army is not reliable.

BARNES: Well, not now, that`s for sure.

ANGLE: Well Fred, I mean, the problem here is that if they don`t disarm Hezbollah, then as Mort was saying, it would be very difficult for whatever force comes in. But you don`t expect French peacekeepers to go in and start disarming Hezbollah if the Israelis weren`t able to do it, in a massive military invasion.

BARNES: Well, the idea of the U.S. -- as I understand, what the U.S. wants is that the stabilization force, the French and the Turks that you`re talking about, would help the Lebanese army disarm Hezbollah. Not likely that that`s going to happen. But here, Jim, the Hezbollah is less of a problem for Israel and more of a problem for Lebanon if it`s pushed back 19 miles or so. In other words, if there`s a 19-mile zone where the international force comes in and Hezbollah is not there, Israel is going to feel a lot better. And Hezbollah is going to be above that and a problem for Lebanon sovereignty.

LIASSON: We don`t even know if they can be pushed back beyond that line.

ANGLE: On that very point, there`s some debate in Lebanon over that. Let`s hear what President Lahoud said today and then I`ll show you something else that another Lebanese figure said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMILE LAHOUD, LEBANESE PRESIDENT: Do you know what it means to finish with Hezbollah, which is the resistance of Lebanon? It means that Lebanon will go back like it was in the past before the resistance. It means that Israel can go inside Lebanon, go whenever it wants and nobody will bother her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Now there`s the president of the Lebanon suggesting that Hezbollah is protecting Lebanon from the Israel. But Walid Jumblatt, who is the leader of the Druze, someone we know from the early `80s, had a different opinion a few days ago.

He said, "Either we will have a state able to establish control over the country or we will have...a reduced weakened state and a strong militia beside the Lebanese army that decides war and peace at any time and has its scheduled decided by the Iranians and the Syrians. I don`t see a state of Lebanon surviving with a militia next to an army."

ANGLE: Now that is the dilemma you`re talking about.

LIASSON: That -- he just described Lebanon as it is today. Now, I don`t know exactly how the international community is going to transform Lebanon into an actual viable state that can on its own do something about this state within a state that has a militia. That`s -- I mean, what he was just describing is exactly what Lebanon is today.

ANGLE: Which is why what Israel is doing is essentially a favor in some respects to Lebanese authorities if they intend to...

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: Depending on which level he`s --that`s the pro-Syrian president of Lebanon.

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: ...remember is a Syrian stooge, basically.

LIASSON: Puppet.

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