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Special Report Roundtable - September 25

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: You got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could.


HUME: Well, that was just a brief moment from Bill Clinton's remarkable interview yesterday with our FOX NEWS Sunday anchor colleague, Chris Wallace. The president was -- has been given to flashes of public anger from time to time, but rarely flashes that lasted longer than a few sentences or paragraphs, that went on for almost 15 minutes.

Some thoughts on it now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent, National Public Radio, FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well, there's some speculation in conservative quarters, today, that President Clinton knew exactly what he was doing, that his anger was carefully calibrated and it was thought through ahead of time and that this was designed to help rally Democratic forces, show Democrats how one can forcefully answer arguments that they aren't strong enough on the war on terror and so forth. You covered President Clinton, as president, as did I. What is your view of that?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, you know, our colleague, Bill Kristol, basically laid out just this argument today.

HUME: And he's not the only one.

LIASSON: And he's not the only one. And he called it a "thought experiment." Let's imagine that this was premeditated what would be the purpose of it. Now, I want to say at the outset I have high, high opinion of Bill Kristol's thinking equipment, but this thought experiment, I think, just doesn't wash. I mean.

HUME: Why?

LIASSON: Bill Clinton has a temper and we've all seen him explode at various times and little explosions or big ones and this steamed to me to be very genuine. This didn't seem to be premeditated. As a matter of fact, I've never seen him have a premeditated tantrum. And I think that, you know, now, you can make the argument that once he did it, where his supporters cheered and were kind of the left-wing critics of the war and of Bush administration's cheered and heartened, sure but not that it was premeditated.

HUME: Well, what about how he came off Obviously if you're...

LIASSON: He came off absolutely in the moment and not...

HUME: Is this Clinton at his most or least attractive when he's in this -- when he's erupting...

LIASSON: Yeah. I think it's generally his least. I think that things that were the least attractive were saying that Chris Wallace had a little smirk on his face. But, Bill Clinton is a great communicator and can I imagine a lot of ways that he could have made the same points about how he tried and failed and that he wasn't -- that he did everything that he could given what he knew at the time and made the points just as well.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": "Tantrum" was the right word that you used. Now, I've talked to a former high ranking official in the Clinton White House who said that he had been out.

HUME: Can't be named.

KONDRACKE: No, cannot be named -- was on the receiving end of this kind of treatment often in the White House, and what he expects on the basis of this performance is that Clinton did not want to do this interview, that he got talked into it by staff, that he was tired at the end of, you know, this grand performance at the World Summit and he basically got furious at his staff, as I understand it, after the interview that he felt he was mouse-trapped and that he was going to be asked about his moment of glory.

HUME: Well, he was asked about that.

KONDRACKE: Well he was. He was. And, you know, I think he's got sticking in his crawl this ABC program, the "Path to 9/11," which points up all the failings of the Clinton administration, some of them invented, about what he didn't do. And there's one point on which I think Clinton is correct and that is the amount of attention that's been devoted to his failings during all the years from 1993 if the first World Trade Center bombings through the end of his administration, and the utter failure of the Bush administration during the first nine months or eight months of the administration, to even pay attention to terrorism.

I don't recall ever hearing a Bush speech saying, you know, there's an al Qaeda out there, there's a terrorist threat. And Richard Clarke -- I reread Richard Clarke's testimony. He was the -- both the Clinton and the Bush terrorism expert.

HUME: He's the person that President Clinton cited yesterday or in that interview as the ultimate authority on this and the person whom we should believe.

KONDRACKE: Right, well, he's got his problems about, you know, changing his story, no question about that. But, he did come in January and lay down two documents, whether they were a strategic plan or not, they were none the less documents, handed them to Condi Rice and they were relegated to the second level of the administration's national security bureaucracy and they didn't get up to the top level until seven days before 9/11.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Look we'll (ph) explain that both ways about whether Bush did more or Clinton did more. One of the reasons the questions asked to Clinton did you have a number of attacks during Clinton's years in office. You didn't have one in the first eight or nine.


Well you don't start.

BARNES: Wait a minute.

KONDRACKE: Bush people had the same evidence.

BARNES: Calm down!

LIASSON: It's not like you get to start with a clean slate and nothing ever happened before you got into office.

HUME: Fred, I want you to know, Mort's anger at you on that is not premeditated. He's really mad.


BARNES: Well look, for a guy who did not plan this ahead of time, I'm not talking about Mort, but about Clinton, he sure had a lot on his mind and it was really politically loaded, as well. Obviously he's mad about the ABC thing and wants to get off his chest the notion that he did so much to go after it and try to kill bin Laden. In fact, people who went back and -- and look, Byron York of "National Review," for instance, went back and looked at the book and found that Richard Clarke book really doesn't back up Clinton that much. What it says is he wanted to kill bin Laden, but when the Pentagon or anybody else said no we can't do that now, Clinton didn't overrule them. If he had really wanted to do it, he could have stepped forward and done it. Now, I think that's before 9/11, we didn't know how big a threat bin Laden was, but...

HUME: We didn't realize.


HUME: We didn't realize.

BARNES: Of course not. Bush didn't. Clinton didn't. But leaning on Richard Clarke since he has been on both sides of this thing so many times, he's not reliable enough to buttress Clinton.

HUME: What is the -- is there any endearing political effect on this? Does the focus of the war on terror, Clinton's record and all of that, does that have any political effect in the season for more than a few days or what.

BARNES: I think it'll probably blow over, but he did have advice for Democrats and it wasn't very disguised or anything and that is treat all the stuff about terror, every speech that President Bush gives about terror and threat of terror as merely a Karl Rove ploy, because that's the way Clinton treated it in his entire appearance yesterday.

LIASSON: Well, you know what.

HUME: Quickly.

LIASSON: Actually I disagree with that, the part of the interview that got very little attention was when he did talk about this year's elections and the Democrats do have to have something to say about national security and that was, I think, good advice.

HUME: When we come back, we'll talk about National Intelligence Estimate and the debate its partial leak has set off.



SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: According to media accounts of the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, this consensus estimate of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concludes the war in Iraq has made global terrorism by -- worse by fanning the Islamic radicalism, by fueling terrorist recruiting drives and by creating a battleground in which terrorists can to hone their skills.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SEC. ADVISOR: This is not a report about Iraq; this is a report about global trends and the war on terrorism. There is one paragraph of the nine-page summary that mentions the war in Iraq.


HUME: Well, whatever it is, this document has triggered a request now, tonight, from the Democratic leadership in the House that there be hearings on this National Intelligence Estimate, some small part which leaked and appeared to have the conclusion that the effort in Iraq was making things worse in the war on terrorism and leaving the world more vulnerable than before. What about this whole controversy on this?

KONDRACKE: Well, the first thing is, let's see it, take out -- if there are any sources and methods in it, take it out. There probably aren't any, according to Pat Roberts the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's in favor of declassifying it, so...

HUME: The White House says they not going to do that.

KONDRACKE: Well -- well, that -- we'd like -- you know, the "New York Times," apparently, hadn't seen it either. They were briefed on the contents.

HUME: A part of the contents.

KONDRACKE: Part of the contents -- so, we don't know really what we're deal with. It would be better to get it out and actually see it. You know, on the main point it seems to me, reasonable, that just as when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, al Qaeda got formed in response to that, there was an organization of Jihadists, we invade Iraq, there's an organization of Jihadists, there are a lot more jihadists, they have a place to recruit and stuff like that. That's true. But the question is, what -- so what? What are we going to do now? Are we going to bug out?

If we bug out, and all of our allies there, the democrats, small "d" democrats, get killed and the insurgents' taker over the Sunni areas and the Shiite radicals take over the Shiite areas, what's going to be the situation in the war on terrorism then? It'll be infinitely worse.

LIASSON: Well, that's that's the thing that's interesting about this whole election campaign because -- that question's not being addressed. I mean, this -- the leaked portions of this got -- were more fodder for people to say, ah-ha, the war in Iraq is a mistake. But the fact is that nobody is talking about it now that we're there and there are all these incredible problems there, what are we going to do next? And I guess that has to wait for a long time after an election.

BARNES: I don't think we're going that. We're going to see if they can secure Baghdad, the capitol city.

LIASSON: Well, they've been trying for a while.

BARNES: Let's watch that for the next couple months. They've been trying and they have a new plan. We'll see if it works or not. If it doesn't it won't look good in Iraq.

Now look, if -- it's obvious that the terrorists are going to try to use Iraq as a recruiting tool. But remember, when the big growth period was for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, it was the 1900's. What was the argument used by Osama bin Laden then? Not that the U.S. went into Somalia and Lebanon, it was that the U.S. cut and run from those -- ran from those places.

HUME: Well, it was also -- he also claimed that there was outrage in the Muslim world, or should be, because we had bases in Saudi Arabia. Remember that?

BARNES: Yeah, that was another thing.

HUME: And then we withdrew those bases from Saudi Arabia.

BARNES: It had had no impact whatsoever. But, look -- and I think the best recruiting tool of ala that al Qaeda's and other groups could possibly have would be to point to an Iraq where the U.S. cut and ran. Then they'd say, hey, look, we're triumphing. Join the victory.

KONDRACKE: If you want to defeat al Qaeda, Iraq is the place to do it. We win in Iraq. We set up a stable government and the Jihadists around the world will lose.

LIASSON: Oh, whoa.

HUME: And apparently.

LIASSON: That's one step. There are a whole lot of other.

HUME: apparently the National Intelligence Estimate in question goes on to make that point that -- and we don't see it but this is what we're told that...

LIASSON: But that's an argument for releasing it, because if you don't see where -- what their conclusion were, then everyone's free to draw their own like ah-ha, we shouldn't be in Iraq or ah-ha, we should stay there until we win. I mean, I just think this is -- the problem with discussing any of this, seven weeks before an election.

HUME: Because we don't have it.


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