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Special Report Roundtable - August 17

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I believe very strongly that the president does have the authority to authorize this type of conduct in a time -- generally, in a time war, conduct is very consistent with what other presidents have done in time of war.


HUME: That is Alberto Gonzalez, the attorney general commenting on the ruling out of Detroit, today, from Senior Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in which she found that the -- what the administration refers to as Terrorist Surveillance Program, which is an intercept program for phone and internet communication from those deemed to be or to those deemed to be terrorist- connected outside the United States -- inside and outside, that it was unconstitutional.

Some thoughts about this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke, same job at "Roll Call"; and Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of National Public Radio, all are FOX NEWS contributors and all probably have thought about all this and have something wise to say.

Mort, you get to be wise first.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Yeah, well I read the opinion and, you know, what the judge seemed to be saying is that the -- is that -- is that the right of journalists, scholars, and lawyers to have private conversations with people that they think might -- maybe terrorists and may be under surveillance.

HUME: That they may think.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, that anybody may think, trumps the ability of the United States government to protect the entire population from terrorists. That's who this program is aimed at. These people say, including Christopher Hitchens who really surprised me. Christopher Hitchens is an old lefty -- used to be a lefty who has now become a staunch defender of the war on terrorism, in most cases, and the Iraq war, but he -- but apparently he wants to phone up some people in the Middle East who he thinks might be al Qaeda connected. You know.

This -- no -- reading the opinion made me think of Robert Jackson -- Justice Jackson's famous lirne that the U.S. -- the Bill of Rights borts is not a suicide pact, I mean, that -- this judge is basically throwing out what's deemed to be a varietyal protection that the administration insists that it has to do -- has to have in order to fight terrorism. You know, I hope that the courts will restrers it, and if they don't reverse it, that Congress will get busy and do whatever it needs to do to authorize the program.

NINA EASTON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The feedback I got today was that this is going to be overturned by the sixth circuit. And I thought the legal analyst you had on earlier was remarkably measured. I got -- some of the feedback I got was that this was overtly ideological, that the legal reasoning -- it was thin.

And this question of the standing of these folks you're talking about, the scholars and journalists and so on, and whether they actually had stanting to bring this suit, well she wrestled with some of those questions, but then she dismissed the concerns saying well, if they don't have standing then who's going to keep the president -- who's going to keep the president -- hold his feet to the fire and who's going to let courts come in and hold him accountable? Like, well, I got to give them standing.


So I thought that was extremely telling, and the opinion really very much did read, she is -- she's a liberal Democrat, and it did read like an opinion of somebody who had -- was very happy to overturn a program that she really didn't like. I mean, you didn't see any struggle in the reasoning or anything. It was, you know, a lot of legal scholars thought, thin.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Yeah, no, I certainly agree with that. That was well said by Nina. You know, there's a situation at a time of war, a soldier could go and if he encountered terrorist -- someone he thought was a terrorist to shoot him, right in the head immediately, but he -- but he couldn't wiretap his phone. You know, I mean -- I mean, that's absurd situation and I think this was an absurd opinion that will be overturned. You know, obviously, the ACLU was "judge shopping." Five of the 11 Court of Appeals circuits in the country have already ruled that there is a national security exception -- or an intelligence exception to the fourth amendment rule that would require a warranty before wiretapping. I mean, the second -- the ninth circuit, the most liberal in the country said foreign security wiretaps are a recognized exception to the general warrant requirement. The judge didn't seem to take this into account at all.


HUME: (INAUDIBLE) opinion, that while she said it was a violation of the FISA law, that's the law requiring that one get a warrant in mostly law enforcement situations where you'd want to conduct a wiretap, she also wanted to say, though, that it was also a violation of the fourth amendment which suggested to me that even if Congress authorized it, she would find it unconstitutional anyway.


KONDRACKE: But if there were a method to get a warrant, I mean, the fourth amendment requires a warrant on probable cause and the administration has acknowledged that it hasn't gone to get FISA warrants in order to carry this out.

But what I thought was interesting, politically, is that the Democrats all piled on saying ah-ha, you know, this proves that the administration's been violating the -- however, they all said, including John Conyers and Pat Leahy and all -- you know, the liberals said we believe that terrorists ought to be wiretapped so let's work with the administration to make it


OK. Go. Let's do it fast.

HUME: Next up with the panel, what's wrong with Wal-Mart? Democrats say plenty if you're talking about its employment practices. Do the customers agree? That's next.


HUME: We learned, courtesy of the "New York times" today, that Democratic politicians, a number of them, are deciding that taking on Wal- Mart is good politics. And, for example, we have a comment from John Edwards, the former North Carolina Senator believed to be running for president.

"Wal-Mart, as an example of the problems that exist in America today, is a powerful political issue. I think our party, pretty much across the board, agrees that people who work hard should be able to support their families."

That's in reference to Wal-Mart's practices towards its employees. Senator Biden says:

"My problem with Wal-Mart is that I don't see any indication that they care about the fate of middle-class people."

Panel, is this good politics for the Democratic?

KONDRACKE: I -- you know, I was at a Wal-Mart last night, by happenstance I did not see any of the Rodeo Drive crowd at Wal-Mart. I mean, it looked to me as though most of the people who were working there and shopping there were perfectly middle class people. I mean, there are unions in this country. The law allows unfettered rights to organize, if they can win an election, and the workers at Wal-Mart don't seem to want a union. So, that would suggest they don't feel oppressed, that they don't feel as though they're not getting their just desserts otherwise there would uprising against Wal-Mart and the employees would organize.

EASTON: Well, the Democrats are trying to make -- to tie this to their issues about minimum wage and healthcare. However, I think it has the potential to become the John Kerry windsurfing moment because, it does reveal that elitist's strife (ph). At Wal-Marts where, by the way, there's -- the numbers are that there's more shoppers at Wal-Mart than there are voters, at any time -- and this is a red state institution. You're trying to appeal to red state people and swing voters, according to Howard Dean, and yet you're attacking this institution. Then you got Teresa Heinz attacking it in 2004 and then it turns out she owns a million dollars worth of stocks. You've got Hillary Clinton attacking it, it turns out she was on the board of directors, which feeds the elite thing. That's No. 1.

No. 2 is it's outstripped -- it's been out stripped -- the criticisms have been outstripped by events because Wal-Mart is changing. It's changing to some degree on the benefits question, but it's also changing on this, it's going green. It's got this environmental mission that our reporting has shown is somewhat serious. So.

HUME: What are they doing?

EASTON: They are trying to -- it's the biggest electricity user in the country, and it's got the second largest fleet of trucks of country -- a huge -- of course, a huge energy user, so they're -- they've figured out that it saves money to save energy, so they are doing things like changing light bulbs and changing the way their trucks drive and all sorts of things to change.

But wait a second, so a couple of months ago, Al Gore, of all people, was standing at the headquarters of Wal-Mart, in front of 800 employees, having just shown inconvenient truth and saying, "Aren't you proud you work for Wal-Mart?"

BARNES: Yeah, well, they'll wind up selling all that green laundry detergent that doesn't clean your clothes. Look, these democrats -- all they're good -- who's their audience, their audience is the union bosses. They know Wal-Mart's enormously popular. The customers, because they're standard of living increases, the people who work there, I mean every poll show that Mort loves polls -- shows they love it -- when they open a Wal- Mart.


BARNES: Now wait a minute, Brit. When they open a Wal-Mart, this year, early -- they show in Illinois -- for 325 positions, 25,000 people showed up to apply for those jobs that were supposed to be so horrible and oppressive. What these Democrats are doing, and all the liberals in the Northeast is practicing snob populism. That's what it is, snob populism. Americans all over the country love Wal-Nut -- Wal-Mart, but you know, the people in Greenwich who voted for Ned Lamont, don't.

HUME: Is that all there is to it? I mean, is it -- first of all, who doesn't like Wal-Mart besides labor unions? Environmentalists don't much care for it. People who worry about the preservation of the atmosphere in small towns don't like it either, right?

KONDRACKE: And they don't like the fact that they put small local businesses out of business, that, presumably.

HUME: They drive them out.


BARNES: They obviously undersell them.

KONDRACKE: Because they charge low prices, exactly.

EASTON: I mean, it is a symbol of stagnating wages, I mean there's -- and.

KONDRACKE: It ha nothing with the minimum wage because the average wage is $10 an hour, so -- which is not a lot of money, it's about $20,000 a year, but again, if workers weren't interested in those jobs they would - - they'd go begging and they'd have to raise the price -- the wage.

BARNES: Most of them are part time workers, second earners and third earners and families.

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