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Special Report Roundtable - October 2

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: No one in the Republican leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public. When they were released, Congressman Foley resigned and I'm glad he did. If he had not, I would have demanded his expulsion from the House of Representatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And so it went today for Speaker Denny Hastert in the House of Representatives who did everything he could going on television, holding a news conference, putting out statements to say that look, I didn't really know how bad this was and what little I did know I did something about.

Some analytical observations now from Michael Barone, senior writer of "U.S. News and World Report"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; and Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of "Fortune" magazine, FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Well Nina, what about what they knew and when they knew it, and what they did and didn't do and what about how long this all will last -- your thoughts?

NINA EASTON, "FORTUNE": Well, clearly the pages knew this -- back to 2002-2003. It went up to the leadership ranks in 2005, as far as we know, through the campaign operative for the Republicans, which Tom Reynolds which, is what the Democrats now are making hay about. Went to Hastert's office last Fall and I think what Hastert's trying to do here is make a distinction between e-mails, which both he and a newspapers that looked at considered overly friendly but not sexually suggestive and these IMs, which, these instant messages...

HUME: Text messages.

EASTON: Text messages.

HUME: They send them on the computer, they don't normally keep them, the go away unless you copy them and save them.

EASTON: You copy them and save them.

HUME: And someone did.

EASTON: And someone did, thank god, really. As I say as the mother of two teenage boys. But that's what he is trying to distinguish between - - he's -- Hastert, right now, is saying he didn't know about these text messages.

HUME: Do we have -- is there evidence that Hastert knew more than what he said and if he knew only what he says he knew, how'd he do?

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Well, the Democrats are all saying that he should have taken decisive action and he should have investigated.

HUME: I know what the Democrats are saying that. I'm trying to find out what you know.

KONDRACKE: All right, what -- here -- there were a lot of news organizations that knew about these e-mails. Apparently what happened.

HUME: The e-mails or the text messages?

KONDRACKE: The e-mails -- just the e-mails. Now -- just, let me just do some background here. Rodney Alexander, the congressman who tipped everybody off to this because a constituent in his -- child was involved in this, switched parties back in 2004. Some staff members who -- Democratic staff members -- who left Rodney Alexander's office kept in touch with people in his Republican staff and apparently they were the ones who eventually -- who went by intermediaries, tipped off the newspapers. So, the newspapers all have these, and news organizations have these e-mails and they didn't think anything of them. They -- nobody ran them in print until ABC went on the air with them.

(CROSSTALK)

So that's what Hastert knew.

HUME: So Hastert knew the same thing the news organizations did they didn't do much and neither did he.

KONDRACKE: That's my point.

MICHAEL BARONE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Rodney Alexander went to Tom Reynolds the chairman of the campaign committee with the allegations from the parents and the parents said that they were overfriendly e-mails but they did not say -- there was no indication they were sexually explicit.

Tom Reynolds to John Shimkus, who's the public head on the committee on the pages. Here is, I think, Shimkus made a mistake, in my judgment. I think he should have brought in Dale Kildee, the ranking Democrat on that committee, not a partisan cheap shot guy, and done this on a bipartisan basis. They chose not to. Shimkus went to Mark Foley and said cut this out don't have any more contact with these people. Foley said he would. Then fast forward.

HUME: Said he'd cut it out?

BARONE: Said he'd cut it out. Then on fast -- and Reynolds says he informed Hastert that he was doing this. Hastert said he doesn't remember that, but it's entirely possible.

Fast forward to this September 29, last Friday, when the instant messages, which are entirely different character from what anybody else had seen. I mean, the papers that had seen something about these e-mails were the "St. Petersburg Times," the "Miami Harold," the head of the "St. Petersburg Times" which is, generally speaking, considered a pretty liberal newspaper in Florida, did not see fit to print these. They thought they were a little odd, but not newsworthy. Tom Feiler, executive editor of the "Miami Harold" whom I know, who's certainly not a conservative politician.

HUME: Yeah I know Tom. Good guy.

BARONE: Yeah, good guy. Good newspaper man. Said that he decided that this was not something worthy of print. So, that same decision that the House Republicans made, not bringing in a Democrat, as I think they would have been wise to do, and that the newspapers made, nobody has proved that they had these instant -- that any of those papers or those politicians had those instant messages, which they acted on immediately when they got.

HUME: All right, let's talk about this for a minute. All right, let's assume that these facts as we've heard them here turn out to be the facts -- that we don't have further revelations that say, oh no, they all knew.

Does this have legs, is this likely to plague the House Democrats -- I mean the House Republicans through the rest of the campaign that goes on now for, what, a month before the election.

EASTON: One thing none of us and nobody's mentioned this may not have stopped at e-mails. I mean, that's...

HUME: Well, I understood that.

EASTON: So that's.

HUME: I know, but let's assume these leaders knew what they say they knew and no more. Does this have legs to hurt them or not.

EASTON: I think it does. I think it absolutely -- it hurts them with values voters. I think it hurts -- and this is the fourth member of Congress, Republican member of Congress, this year to resign under an ethics issue. And, you know, William Jefferson the Democrat may have had cash stashed in his freezer and so on, but that story really got...

BARONE: $90,000.

HUME: You're view is does it have legs?

KONDRACKE: I agree. This is the sexual equivalent of cash in your freezer. I mean.

HUME: For Hastert? Will Hastert survive as the speaker?

KONDRACKE: Well, if the Republicans lose their majority I think Hastert is gone.

HUME: As leader.

KONDRACKE: As leader.

HUME: Let's assume they don't. Will he lose it in the next month? Is he going to survive the month?

KONDRACKE: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think he survives it.

HUME: What do you think, Michael?

BARONE: Yeah, I think the leadership will survive but this is not a help for the Republicans rather to the contrary.

HUME: Next on SPECIAL REPORT the White House fervently denies there's some in it and some out, denies several charges in the new Bob Woodward book. We'll talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: As for many of the statements, Condi Rice has come up to dispute some, Andy Card has been out. A number of other players have come out, the First Lady's office. And you know what? You got a lot of juicy gossip in the book and people will have all the time they want to go through it. But the fundamental question, about whether the president is, "in denial," flat wrong, absolutely wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That was Tony Snow today responding to the new Bob Woodward book which follows two earlier books about the inner workings of this administration that were mostly favorable in their conclusions. This one, as the title suggests, is much less so. The White House is saying that a lot -- as you heard Tony Snow say that the fundamental tenant, the fundamental theme of the book is wrong. Others are come forward to say that some of the specific facts are wrong. Specifically, in particular, the question about whether there was a campaign led by Andy Card to oust Donald Rumsfeld at the beginning of the second term and secondly whether Condi Rice and Rumsfeld were on terrible terms to the point where she couldn't get her calls returned by him and also whether she ignored a particularly important piece of intelligence presented pre-9/11.

So, in terms of the things that have been disputed in all of this, where's this stand -- Nina.

EASTON: Well, I think one of the interesting -- if we would take this like a little bit more broadly than this book in particular, there is this interesting question...

HUME: Well, let's talk about this book for a minute.

EASTON: OK, as to which -- the White House disputes a couple -- several like, detailed scenarios of it. But the overall question of why Donald Rumsfeld remains in place when the war isn't going well, when there were troop questions -- wait a second, questions early on about troop levels, when Andy Card maybe didn't make a specific -- wasn't campaigning for him, but thought maybe James Baker would be better in that job, when Michael Gerson said let's try Joe Lieberman, why is Donald Rumsfeld still there? And that to me is the great mystery.

I this book we have Karl Rove worrying about a contentious Senate hearing. We have Andy Card worrying about well, maybe it'll, you know, disrupt the morale of the troops.

HUME: I still want to talk a little bit more about the book. Mort, how does it stand in terms of what has been disputed and what has been asserted?

KONDRACKE: Well, you know, the Andy Card denial, that there was a -- he says there was no campaign to get rid of Rumsfeld at the end...

HUME: Well, let me just -- well, you know Andy Card and you know Donald Rumsfeld. Can you imagine Andy Card leading a campaign against Donald Rumsfeld?

KONDRACKE: No, I can't. But I can imagine Andy Card raising the issue and then there's this whole issue of Laura Bush being part of it. She did -- flatly denies it. Condi Rice denies it. Look, everybody is going to deny things. Other people who claim to have been in meetings have gone to ground. You can't find Cofer Black who was in this meeting allegedly with -- was in the meeting with George Tenant in July of 2001.

HUME: Well, you heard Jim Angle's reporting on that.

KONDRACKE: I did. I did. But I haven't heard anybody on the record. Look, we'll get to the bottom of this.

HUME: Bob Woodward doesn't quote anybody on the record either.

KONDRACKE: No, but he cites people so firmly that you have a belief that he talked to them.

BARONE: Well, there's a big contrast here, Brit, between the basic attitudes in interpretation in this book, which I have not fully read yet, I'm relying on accounts of it and excerpts. And Bob Woodward's first two books which took a positive attitude toward the decision-making processes of the Bush administration, not totally positive, he chronicled the -- you know, disputes between Secretary Powell at the State Department and Secretary Rumsfeld at the Defense Department and other things which were not hugely surprising.

In this book he goes back over some of the same historical ground. I mean, one of the issues that's been raised is about this July 10, 2001 supposed meeting where George Tenant supposedly alerted Condi Rice that there was a huge chance of attacks in the U.S., she denies that that was the purport of any of that meeting.

HUME: But according to what Jim Angle reported tonight and what she said, she spread the warning around to a lot of people.

BARONE: Yeah. And you know, they were -- so, it seems to me that it's an interesting case. I mean, Bob Woodward has been in bad odor with many people in this town, inner workings of Washington D.C., it's not a Georgetown dinner party circuit anymore, on the Valerie Plame case which he discounted as a scandal long since and it turns out quite correctly. He was rebuked by the "Washington Post." I think executive editor, Lynn Downy for not disclosing that he this rich.

HUME: Quickly.

BARONE: He's back in tune with the town.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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