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Special Report Roundtable - August 16

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Today's incident is once again a reminder that the TSA now allows four-inch scissors aboard planes, it allows for cargo into the cargo hold of passenger planes. We once again reawake to the reality that the Bush administration has turned a blind eye to very real security threats, even though in this incident today, here in Boston, it turned out to be a false alarm.


HUME: False alarm or not, Ed Markey held a news conference at Reagan Airport in Washington and then when something happened in Boston he got on a plane and then went on up there and held another one up there. And his point was that both in the area of port security and in the area of air cargo security, the Bush administration is not doing enough. Obviously this is all continuing fallout from the incident overseas and this attempt to fly stuff into the United States to kill people on the way here.

Some analytical observations now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke executive editor of "Roll Call"; Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of "Fortune" magazine, FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well, what about this issue as a political matter? Obviously it was a hell of a big story when that terrorist attack was foiled. There was some speculation, I suppose, that it would work to the benefit of the Republicans. Congressman Markey seems to think the issue can be made to work otherwise. What about it -- Nina.

NINA EASTON, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Well, Congressman Markey has been making this case for years since 9/11. He's been making the case particularly in the case of cargo, 2002, 2004. The difference now is that there's an environment for this to stick, this question of whether the administration is really protecting us. What's happened since 2004, we've seen Katrina, people don't feel like the federal government is equipped to protect them in an emergency. They've seen failures in Iraq, the Democrats have jumped on this.


Well, the because the Democrats have jumped on this and said, OK, this administration's incompetent, it's negligent, it's not on duty. And if you look at the polls, if you go back to 2002, the administration was like 20 points up over the Democrats on whether -- on who do you trust to protect you? Now they've lost that. That's slipping. They haven't lost it all the way, but it's slipping. They only enjoy a five percent advantage. It's the one thing that people still trust Republicans more than Democrats, but that advantage is slipping away.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": That's overall on terrorism. Now look, we're supposed to have a detection system for airport cargos. That's supposed to detect explosives in the cargo that goes on to planes and we're way behind in the implementation of that program. It could be speeded up. John Mica from Florida who's a -- who's the Republican expert on airline security has complained that this isn't moving fast enough. So, Congress on port security now, what Markey wants is for every container to be inspected. That's a job that can't be done. But the House.

HUME: He wants point of origin inspections, right? He doesn't just want.

KONDRACKE: I'm not exactly sure on what exactly he wants, but he wants every container inspected. That's billions of containers every year. That'll never happen. The House of Representatives just did pass almost unanimously a bill to require that the Homeland Security secretary to conduct studies to make sure that the current system is adequate and to install nuclear and radiation detection devices at ports beginning in the middle of 2007. And you know, everybody voted for it practically. So there's still more that can be done and Markey correctly points out that it was an undetected plastic explosive that knocked down Pan Am, the Pan Am plane over Lockerbie, Scotland and a plastic explosives, we don't have any tests for yet.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": The record's pretty good, actually, since 9/11, for the U.S. I mean, Democrats do play this both ways. When Bush talks about the threat of terror, they say he's sowing fear around the country and because, my own view is, I think it's Mort's too, that Democrats fundamentally don't believe that there's a huge terror threat facing the United States. And then they go into this stuff -- I mean, look, a four-inch nail clippers? Somebody tell Congressman Markey that cockpits are now safe, that pilots are now armed, and those are not a threat.

What they're focusing on, and Mort's right, they're a little behind, in dealing with what is the real threat -- there was a terrific article in the "Wall Street Journal" on this just today -- the real threat is bombs, and bombs that can blow up airplanes or blow up other things, to stop them. You know, basically once a terrorist gets to the airport and is about to get on the plane, you've lost. You have to break up these conspiracies and these people who want to create bombs at the plot level when they're still plotting and that was successfully done.

EASTON: But Fred, it doesn't bother you that just two percent of the cargo is inspected? That doesn't raise any kind of alarms?

BARNES: I've talked to the experts on cargo and they tell you that would be the stupidest use of time and money in any anti-terror campaign, that we don't need to inspect them all, they inspect a certain in number of them, that that's not some avenue the terrorists would ever use because terrorists are smart. They're not going to waste their time doing that.

HUME: Wait a minute, why is it a waste of time to try to slip a bomb into a piece of cargo that air shipped. There is cargo that's transported on some of these passenger airplanes.

BARNES: Because -- well -- how would -- look, I'm not talking about the cargo -- they check most of that cargo -- the that's been on boats, they just do a sampling of what's coming in. I mean, that's one of the things that Democrats and Republicans were talking about how we have to do -- inspect all of that. It's crazy. It would be difficult to do, as Mort says, because there's so much of it, but you don't need to do it.

EASTON: But there's technology underway, Lawrence Livermore Labs, right now, is looking at ways to detect nuclear devices that could come in to Long Beach, for example, where I just was, and you know, wipe out the entire, you know, South Bay of Los Angeles and...


BARNES: Well, they're going to do it some way anyway. They'll send their own boat over.

EASTON: But it's technologically possible, so...

BARNES: Lots of things of technologically possible, you get the terrorists at the source. That's where you break it up.

KONDRACKE: Well, I don't understand why, in the long run, you couldn't do both. You obviously would want to inspect stuff overseas before, or at least, have it clears overseas, but have a nuclear detection, radiation detection device at the major U.S. ports. I don't see anything wrong with that if the technology exists, it ought to be done. And it will be done.

BARNES: There are better ways to use your money.

KONDRACKE: Wait a minute -- and the House of Representatives just voted 400 and something to two, to -- I don't know who the two were, to require that this kind of thing be done.

HUME: Fred.

KONDRACKE: Yeah -- by 2007.

BARNES: You want to use your money wisely.

KONDRACKE: Of course you do.

BARNES: You don't want to deal with -- spend all this money on things that are essentially not a threat or -- and you want to spend it intelligence, training people to speak Arabic and so on and Farsi and get them at the source, and that's what happened in this plot being broken up in England last week which was essentially, you know, people what the British thing, it was Americans who were going to be killed. Who do you think flies United and Continental and American Airlines from England to the United States? All the Brits flying Virgin Airlines and British Airways. This is Americans. That's who they're trying to kill. OK.

HUME: When we come back with our panel, Connecticut Democratic Senator -- Senate nominee Ned Lamont says Democrats mean business. What do we expect from his campaign? That's next on the all-stars. Stay tuned.



NED LAMONT (D), CT DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE: I'm a strong fiscal conservative. I think we've got to live within our bounds. I don't know whether that breaks with liberal Democrats or not, but I can tell you there's nothing conservative about this administration, you know, $9 trillion in debt.


HUME: Ned Lamont, born -- born again fiscal conservative or maybe, as he would have you believe, always has been a fiscal conservative. He's certainly a businessman, successful cable news executive, ran as an anti- war candidate and now would like one to believe that on some matters he is very much a conservative. This is what he wrote in today's "Wall Street Journal" about the people -- a class to which he says he belongs --

"Entrepreneurs invest in human resources. Our business strives to pay good wages and provided good health benefits so that we can attract employees that give us an edge in a competitive marketplace. Well-trained and well-cared-for people are essential for every business these days, particularly in a global economy."

Is that a conservative businessman talking or is that something else?

KONDRACKE: Well, guilt by association is a bad thing. Right? You should not indulge in it, however, it's little -- makes me a little suspicious, the people that Ned Lamont had around him during the campaign and who are in favor of him, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Bob Borosage, who's a -- use to be Jesse Jackson's policy adviser back in the 70's, I guess when Jesse Jackson..

HUME: In `88 he was the policy advisor on his campaign.

KONDRACKE: Right, exactly. So, what these people tend to want is not fiscal conservative, but higher taxes and more spending on just about anything you could possibly name. It's worth noting that Ned Lamont is against No Child Left Behind. He was endorsed by the teachers union. That does not suggest that he's serious about improving, really truly, improving American education with standards and testing and accountability and that sort of thing. I would guess that he's against free trade, even though he's a business man. That tends to be what the, quote-unquote, "progressive agenda" is all about. He said we should incrementally work toward Canadian-style single-payer healthcare, which is not exactly a fiscally responsible or even effective thing to do. So, you know, I'm deeply suspicious that he's any kind of a moderate.

HUME: Well, what does it say, then -- I mean, assuming he's emphasizing this now for the purpose of attracting voters who might otherwise recoil from him, but, what does his win tell us about the Democratic Party's current situation -- Nina.

EASTON: Well, I think the comments in particular.

HUME: He's now the Democratic nominee.

EASTON: Right.

HUME: Joe Lieberman's an independent, Republican candidate is somebody, nobody anybody's ever heard of, so...

EASTON: I thought the comments provided a fascinating window on the Democratic elite today because, you know, the stereotype of Republicans, particularly in liberal circles is, they're rich, right, you know, rich Republicans, country club Republicans, but in fact there's a huge number of very, very well-off Democrats in this country, most of the voters for Ned Lamont had incomes over $100,000. There's all these 527 issue groups, pacts that are funded by very well-off, a lot of them entrepreneurs, people that he's trying to speak to. They're anti-war, they're anti-Bush and see themselves as being -- a way to attack Bush, of course, is to go after the spending for them, so that makes total sense for them.

But then the rhetoric, you know, and as Mort points out, you also have this sort of net roots around them which to me recalls the young conservatives of the `80s who -- because -- let's face it, Joe Lieberman was a squish, a common conservative term in the `80s, because he was cavorting with the enemy. It's a very common -- it was a very common methodology that you saw among young conservatives in the `80s that I think you see among the net roots now.

HUME: .Lieberman was not thought to be a true liberal, these people are not thought to be conservatives.

EASTON: And not just true liberal, but a sell-out -- a sell-out, someone who plays with the establishment.

BARNES: You know, I read that article that Lamont wrote, I thought it was fundamentally bogus. I don't think his experience as a business man has anything to do, as Mort well pointed out, has anything to do with his positions in politics. Not that they necessarily should. What is interesting is, as Nina was suggesting, he won the areas -- he won the areas that Richard Nixon won, back when Nixon was running for president and the parties have fundamentally changed now because you can't tell how people vote by the income level. You can tell better by asking whether or not they go to church weekly or have a gun in their house or whatever.

HUME: Or married.

BARNES: Or married -- yeah, that's another one. But the truth is, I don't care whether he calls himself a fiscal conservative or not, but is he frugal or is he a spender? I mean, to say you're a fiscal conservative means nothing today.

EASTON: Just to go back quickly on the Democratic Party and the problem is going to be 2008, Hillary Clinton, Arianna Huffington, who's part of the net roots crowd in our magazine and in current issue attacked Hillary Clinton as a sellout. She may show support for Lamont, but this is going to be -- this is really going to be interesting in 2008.

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