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Special Report Roundtable - September 12

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MINORITY LEASER: The president, in his address to the nation, spoke for himself, for his administration, and not for the nation. No bullhorn, only the bully pulpit of his office which he used to defend an unpopular war in Iraq and to launch, clumsily, disguised barbs at those who disagree with his policies.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: These people have been at war with us for 20 years and we've chosen to ignore them, and we paid a very high price. And so what's our lesson? Well, if you listen to the Democratic leader our lesson is let's continue to ignore them.


HUME: And so it went in the Senate today as the reaction came in to President Bush's nationwide television address, last night, carried by all the major broadcast networks, as well as all the news cable channels.

Some observations on the controversy 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 Political Radio, FOX NEWS contributors all.

In addition, I should note, that Leader Reid and Minority leader Pelosi wrote to the broadcast network leaders saying that the speech "was supposed to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy. Last night President Bush was given almost 20 minutes of primetime coverage on all major networks for a speech that continued to inaccurately link 9/11 to the war in Iraq."

Now that cry was taken up by members of the White House Press Corps at Tony Snow's daily briefing today suggesting that they had all been given some kind of bait and switch treatment which it was presented as a unity speech on the anniversary of 9/11 solemnly looking at the events and turning into an argument for his unpopular policies.

What about this controversy -- Mara.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think that there is so little unity that anything that you say about the war in Iraq is going to be -- there's such deep divisions about it that the other side is going to think you're being political. Now, the president believes that the war in Iraq is a central front in the "War on Terror." And he believes that leaving Iraq, as some Democrats believe we should, would lead to the terrorist taking over and perhaps making our nation less safer.

Democrats have a different view of this. And his speech came so close to Election Day at a time when both the House and Senate are up for grabs that I think that -- I don't see how you can do anything that is not seen as a-political right now, if it has to do with the "War on Terror" or war in Iraq.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Right, well as Charles Krauthammer said last night on our air that this was a political speech without being partisan. I mean, he never mentioned Democrats or Republicans or Republican or Democratic positions, but he certainly did advance his own positions on things and that's what the Democrats are complain about.

I mean, I find this whole thing, frankly, disgusting, here we are -- these guys, the Republicans and Democrats think that the great ideological struggle of the 21st century is between them as though there aren't people out there trying to kill us. Instead of trying to find unity, what do you have? John Boehner saying that the Democrats are -- want to let the terrorist run amuck. You know, that's a slander, that's not true.

You got Democrats saying "Bush lied, people died," you know. This is time when we ought to try to figure out how we beat these people, you know? How we come to terms with them. I thought the president went over the line last night when he said that if you pull out -- that people -- somebody, if you pull out of Iraq thinks that we're going to get along with the terrorists...

HUME: The terrorists will leave us alone.

KONDRACKE: Will leave us alone, and Tony Snow today said well, he didn't really mean the Democrats. Sure sounded like he meant the Democrats.

LIASSON: Well, who was he talking about?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, exactly. Well, he was -- Tony Snow said he was referring to something that General Abizaid had said, that doesn't square. I think that that was over the line, but you know, enough already. You know? I mean, these people are our enemies. They're going to try to kill us. We've got to combat them.

LIASSON: And acknowledge that both Democrats and Republicans believe we should combat them.


FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, except for one thing. Except for Democrats spend a great deal of time and have for months and months and months, criticizing the way the president has carried out the "War on Terrorism." They don't like the way his administration has interrogated the terrorists, jailed the terrorists, wiretapped the terrorists, looked at bank transfers going to the terrorists, they don't like the Patriot Act, Harry Reid was exuberant one day saying they had killed the Patriot Act, which is the chief legislation to fire the -- to handle the terrorists. And that's what they spend their time on.

That's what makes somebody like John Boehner say they're more concerned about the welfare of the terrorists than they are in winning the "War on Terrorism."

LIASSON: That's not true.


BARNES: But that's what leads to it. That's what leads to it.


BARNES: That's what Democrats spend their time on. They called this speech last -- I mean Teddy Kennedy, Senator Kennedy in Massachusetts said, "well this was supposed to be a day of mourning." Well it wasn't just supposed to be a day of mourning and heaven knows there was a lot of mourning when the president and others got together in New York and then in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, there was a lot of it. But this speech had to be mourning and there was that, but what we're going to do.


HUME: I suppose it's fair to ask this question and that is this: Suppose the president had given a speech last night commemorating 9/11 and looking back with sorrow and anger at what had happened on that day and then talked about the "War on Terror" broadly speaking and never mentioned Iraq? What would his critics have said then?

LIASSON: I don't think they could have said as much.

HUME: Well what about, would not he have been accused of glossing over the unpopular war in Iraq in an attempting to...

LIASSON: Oh! Well, you know, well, I suppose they could have tried that, but Iraq is the controversial thing. The "War on Terror" -- there is a debate about tactics. You know, Fred just listed all the things the Democrats don't like. You can put John Warner and John McCain and Lindsey Graham on that list too, and I don't think.

HUME: Not all of them.

LIASSON: Not for all of them, but for many of them.


BARNES: No, no, not even on many of them. On one of them, and that is what we do, how we now handle the terrorists, legally. That's where their problem is.

KONDRACKE: I think you can argue specifically the NSA domestic surveillance program. You can argue specifically and argue that this is necessary to win the "War on Terrorism."

HUME: Suppose he had done that last night/

KONDRACKE: Well, the Democrats would have been after them. You know they would have. I mean, there's nothing, as Mara says, that's not ideological about this kind of thing and there is no unity, that's the sad fact about all of this. And it's going to --

HUME: So this day's reaction was inevitable.

You know, I think was.

No matter what speech he gave.

Unless it was strictly, you know, strictly a mournful speech, it...

HUME: They wouldn't have said anything, right?

Well, I mean it would have been commemorative, but it wouldn't have advanced the ball.

HUME: When we come back with the panel, potential Democratic Russ Feingold wants the president to stop calling Muslim terrorists "Islamic fascists." We'll talk about that next.



SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: The use of certain terms like "Islamic fascist," I think moves us in the wrong direction. I could care less what, obviously, what the terrorist think about what they're called. You call them anything you want, the worst names possible, but to use the name Islam in connection with fascism is an insult to Muslims all over America and around the world and I think that hurts. Our job is to isolate the terrorists, not to isolate Muslims.


HUME: And so Senator Feingold of Wisconsin has written a word to the president saying, Mr. President, stop using the term "Islamic fascism" which the president used back on August 10. I don't think we can find any his having used it since, but nonetheless, the White House has not repudiated the term and Feingold thinks he should. What about this? Feingold got a point? Is it foolish to call them "Islamic fascist" or what?

KONDRACKE: I think it's great for domestic consumption because it conjures up -- fascism was the good war. You know, fighting the Nazis and the fascist was the good war and it echoes back to World War II. But the State Department is upset before -- the State Department, Karen Hughes specifically, has told the president that all the information that she gets from around the world is that this -- that what people in Islamic countries hear is we're at war with them. When they hear "Islamic fascism" they don't hear it the way we hear it, they hear it that this is a part of a war against Islam.

And there's a DVD going around that, apparently it's classified, but it's an accounting of what is in the -- what is in the Arab media and on the Internet. And the points that the jihadis are making is one, that we're after their oil; two, that we want to humiliate them and, three, that this is a war against them and that we're crusaders, again. And you want to stop that. You want to fight against it. So, I would call them Jihadists that's what they call themselves. You know?

BARNES: I prefer that too.

HUME: Why not call them freedom fighters?

KONDRACKE: No, Jihadists is what they call themselves. The Nazis is what they called themselves and that's -- so that's what he called them.

BARNES: But here's the grounds for calling them "Islamic fascist" and is it fits perfectly. I mean, they are a violent totalitarian reactionary -- reactionary's important because they want to, you know, recreate this mythical time of the caliphate, you know, years ago, so a violent, totalitarian, reactionary, minority that tries to intimidate the majority, which they have done in many of the Islamic countries, and then impose its ideology on everyone. It's racist, it's anti-semantic and the important word as a modifier is Islamic for this reason, fascism which, you know, we associated with Italy and Mussolini and Hitler, was nationalistic, but this "Islamic fascism" is not a nationalistic, it's global.

LIASSON: But Fred, that's one of the arguments against using it, actually.

BARNES: Yeah, I know, but that's what makes it so perfectly accurate. Now, if it's alienating people who might otherwise be friendly toward the United States or at least neutral or something then maybe not use it, but it fits.

LIASSON: Yeah, look, there's a reason that the White House has stopped using it, I think. Otherwise you would have heard President Bush continue to use it if he hasn't used it in over a month. You know, fascism was national socialism. These people seem to want to create some kind of a theocracy or a dictatorship, a caliphate, but I don't know if they want to create a national socialist system.

But I agree with Mort. I think calling them what they want to be called, what they call themselves, is probably the most accurate thing, but I think you can talk about Islamic radicalism and at every stage you can make the point that Islam and what we are fighting are two very different things.

BARNES: Yeah, but you know, when you say "Islamic fascist" if they interpret that that you're saying we're all fascist, then why wouldn't Islamic Jihads say, in part to them the notion that they're all Jihadists?



HUME: Hold it a second. This is the meaning of the word. This is from Webster. "A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition."


BARNES: Fascism clearly applies. This is, you know, what they want to do is have a Taliban all over the world, you know Taliban, Afghanistan, all over the world. Fascism -- Russ Feingold was disputing fascism. I agree with fascism the question is whether you want to apply Islamic to it.

HUME: It is Islamic, thought, isn't it?

KONDRACKE: Well, of course it's Islamic; except that the question is do you want Muslims all over the world to think we're at war with them, when we are not?

HUME: But, but Mort, is it really possible for us to so cleanse our dialogue in this country that no Muslims around the world be mislead?

KONDRACKE: I just want to win.

HUME: tensions or propaganda about it.

KONDRACKE: I want to win this struggle and whatever it takes, let's do it.

BARNES: I want to win this crusade.


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