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Special Report Roundtable - September 28

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on the American homeland in history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second guessing. The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.


HUME: And those words spoken at a Republican fundraiser in Alabama today are what you call strong medicine, folks, pretty strong medicine. Analytical observations now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio. FOX NEWS contributors all.

Mara, what do you think of that?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, if there's any doubt that this election has become nationalized, I think that just put those doubts away. I mean, here is the president of the United States, before Congress is even out, there wasn't even that kind of ritual, coming out really, really touch against the Democrats on national security. Very, very harsh and I guess he's going to be the clear leader of his party's campaign effort in all these Senate and House seats. Obviously the Democrats don't have a national figure that's equal to the president to respond to him, but I think we're going to see an incredibly tough six weeks.

HUME: Well, he did have a comment from the Democratic Senatorial Committee campaign chairman, Chuck Schumer who said, "When the president pays no attention to the findings of the 16 non-partisan, non-political intelligence agencies in our government, there's only more trouble ahead for our country and our soldiers. Democrats want a strong policy on the war, but also a smart one."

That was his reaction. Mort, what do you think?

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Well, the Democrats' official policy in this -- to the extent they have a platform, they don't really have one. By the way, yesterday was the 12th anniversary of the Contract with America in 1994 that the Republicans used before they won the election. That day passed without a Democratic contract with America. There will be none.

What passes for the Democratic platform says.

HUME: On this.

KONDRACKE: That we're gong to be -- on this -- that we're going to begin troop withdrawals in 2006 and a redeployment, it doesn't say by what date certain. Their policy is out of Iraq. Now, you read this in National Intelligence Estimate that Schumer was referring to, it says two things. It's says, one, that Iraq is now the "cause celebre" for the world jihadists and it also says if we beat them, if we win, in Iraq that the cause of jihad will be defeated.

And the Democrats -- what the Democrats want to do is basically leave the struggle, not win it. Schumer says he wants to win it, but they have no plan to win it. So, I think that the advantage -- political advantage here is on the side of the Republicans.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": I think so too. Really, look, when your strategy is -- when your plan is to basically get out of Iraq as soon as possible, "immediately," is what John Murtha said who's been heralded by Nancy Pelosi in the House, then I don't think "cut and run" is harsh at all. I think that's just normal political language.

HUME: It's unusual to hear from the president.

BARNES: Yeah, that's the one distinction I would make. It's from the president. I agree with Mara in particular, you know, the notion was for Republicans the strategy was going to be not to have a referendum on the president and his policies, particularly Iraq, but to let each House race be decided on a choice thing.

LIASSON: Choice not a referendum.

BARNES: Well, that may still be the strategy, but Bush is not going along with it. He's overpowering everybody else in politics and -- which he can do. I think it may work, but it's not the strategy that they started with in House races.

LIASSON: That certainly is not. They were going to make it a choice, not a referendum; Ken Mehlman said that over and over. However, I think that the Republicans have, over and over again show that when they have a weakness or a problem they tend to confront it held-on instead of trying to change the subject. Although I do think Dennis Hastert today, who's the speaker of the house said the Democrats want to coddle terrorists. Now, that's going even further and.

HUME: Well what -- how does that.


BARNES: The senator from Vermont.

HUME: Pat Leahy.

BARNES: Pat Leahy called Republicans un-American because they wanted to not allow habeas corpus; I think that's what it was, habeas corpus to the terrorists who were down in Guantanamo.

LIASSON: He actually said Republicans were un-American?

BARNES: Well, that was the way I read it in the paper.

KONDRACKE: It was an un-American bill.

BARNES: It was an un-American bill. Well, that's the kind of thing if a Republican says that about a Democratic bill, he's tarred and feathered and run out of town by the Democrats and the press joining along with it.

KONDRACKE: And we don't know yet how Democratic senators are going to vote on the final passage of this detainee trial bill.

HUME: We know the Democratic leader will vote. He will vote against it.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Right. And -- but the vote yesterday where 82 percent of the Democrats voted.

HUME: In the House.

KONDRACKE: In the House, voted against that bill, is going to be hammered away at all the time. I mean, the president, Karl Rove is going to be on the stump, the Republican National Committee is going to -- is going to be mounting ads.

And I think that the important thing, which hasn't been pointed out is that this bill does not apply to American citizens, so that when the Democrats somehow imply that we are losing our constitutional rights, we're not -- it doesn't -- it's not true. It only applies to foreign.

HUME: Foreigners captured. Yeah, foreigners.

KONDRACKE: Yes, exactly and they do get -- they don't get full habeas corpus rights, full judicial, you know, review, but they do get a military court of review and an appeal to the second highest court in the United States.

LIASSON: Well, on habeas corpus the Republicans were not unified on that.

HUME: Well they were 100 percent unified, but.


KONDRACKE: You mean the Senate.


BARNES: Remember about habeas corpus, one of the greatest of all American presidents, Abraham Lincoln, suspended it during the Civil War. You do things in wartime that are necessary to win. I don't think these terrorists should.

HUME: The charge here is, basically, is that Democrats aren't really serious about this whole war on terror. Mara, will that stick in your judgment?

LIASSON: You know, that is clearly what Republicans hope. I think the Democrats feel that the war in Iraq is such a mess, regardless of what you think about whether it was right to go there and regardless of whether you think withdrawing is the right answer, things are going so poorly there that that might overpower that message -- the Republican message.

HUME: Do you think it will work?

KONDRACKE: Look, if it's terrorism, the president -- the Republicans win and if it's Iraq and Iraq is going badly then there's some horrible incident between now and then, then the Democrats win.

BARNES: Well, 160 in the House, the Democrats that voted against this bill, they were not serious about fighting terrorism.

HUME: When we come back with our panel, al Qaeda's top man in Iraq asserts that 4,000 foreign fighters have died there since the 2003 invasion and he's not talking about the U.S. soldiers there. So, what condition is al Qaeda in in Iraq? We'll talk about that next.



ABU AYYUB AL MASRI, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): More than 4,000 Muhajir and many more of the supporters of righteousness have given their blood to Iraq.


HUME: That comment today from the man who is said to be the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. He goes by the name Abu Ayyub al Masri -- that 4,000 foreign fighters, and he wasn't talking about Americans, have died in Iraq -- is a number that the Pentagon says, look, we don't keep track of those numbers, I mean, we think that's a little low. On the other hand it struck me. Did it strike you, Mara, 4,000 terrorists killed in Iraq?

LIASSON: That sound like a lot. I does. And I think there's no doubt that al Qaeda itself has taken tremendous losses and has been weakened and we have reports on that all over the place. We also have reports.

HUME: The thrust of that -- the trust of the NIE or at least the claims made about the NIE was that Iraq had given new life and new recruits.

LIASSON: To terrorism not to al Qaeda.

HUME: Well, to al Qaeda as well.

LIASSON: Yeah. Yeah.

HUME: But if that's the case, Mort, and the result is they're dying by the thousands, you don't hear the administration making the case for the Iraq war based on the fact it's a place where we can kill terrorists by the thousands, but one wonders.

KONDRACKE: We're doing that. That's exactly what we're doing. Look, Iraq has become the magnet for jihadists, they're going from other countries and they're getting killed. We don't know how many there are. You know, there was a famous Don Rumsfeld memo sometime back that asked the question, are we killing them, are they growing faster than we can kill them? We don't know the answer to that. If we've got 4,000 dead, that sounds like a lot, but if there are 12,000 there then that's.


HUME: But wait a minute, the total number of enemy that we're fighting has never been pegged at anything like 12,000.

KONDRACKE: Look, I don't know how many enemy there are. But the truth is that the major problem in Iraq now is sectarian violence and the security of Baghdad.

HUME: So al Qaeda's not even No. 1, huh?

KONDRACKE: Well, it's No. 1 which our own.

HUME: Go ahead, Mara.

LIASSON: Top officials have said this over and over again. Look, the goal -- President Bush's goal was to make Iraq into a stable democracy. The problem is not just because there are some terrorists there, it's because Shiites and Sunnis are killing each other every single day.

HUME: Doesn't this feed back into the debate about what to do about Iraq in the sense that, you know.

LIASSON: Oh, you mean whether it's a good idea to leave or not?

HUME: What you hear often from critics of the war is, look, we've taken our eye off the ball, we've lost sight of al Qaeda and we're off in Iraq. Well, here's the guy who's the leader of al Qaeda saying that 4,000 al Qaeda types have been killed in Iraq, so what does that say? How does that feed back into the debate?

BARNES: Well, I think it feeds back into the debate this way, whether it's President Bush or others in his administration have said or hinted that, look, it's good to get these terrorists in Iraq, we can kill them over there so we don't have to kill them here. Well we are killing a lot of them there. You know, I wouldn't move the goalpost quite as much as Mort and Mara have, making it just a question of -- in Iraq of this (INAUDIBLE) and violence. Al Qaeda does matter, the terrorists still matter.

The good news is I talked to one of the generals from other there the other day and they're going to go after Muqtada al-Sadr, you know, who's responsible -- he's -- the army is responsible for a lot of the killing of innocent Sunnis and so on. There have been break offs from his army, you know, there are not gangs, there are now criminal gangs. They can certainly go after them and others or the death squads, they can go after them.

They're building berms around Baghdad to secure it. Look, we're going to know, in six, eight weeks we're going to know whether it worked or not, if they can secure Baghdad that's a huge step toward making Iraq a stable Democracy.

LIASSON: Look, the NIE also made the point that the reason why the terrorist threat has increased is because Iraq is a "cause celebre" it's a rallying cry, the terrorist movement has metastasized. It's not just al Qaeda, which is some finite army of terrorists, it's cells in Europe and people who are inspired by what's happening there and the causes of that, at least according to the NIE, haven't been addressed there.

KONDRACKE: But look, the bottom line of that NIE and I think the bottom line of the whole story is that if we win in Iraq, if we can establish a stable government, big if, but if we can do that, that our side wins a huge strategic victory. If we lose, if we bug out, if we're driven out, if it doesn't work, if the Iraqis can't get it together and it turns into a catastrophe, then we will suffer a strategic loss of monumental proportions.

HUME: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned because while you don't know what the Iranian president didn't drink on his visit to New York, you don't know what he did eat. That's next.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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