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Special Report Roundtable - October 3

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that he wants all the facts to come out, and he wants to ensure that these children that -- up there on Capitol Hill, are protected. I'm confident he will provide whatever leadership he can to law enforcement in this investigation.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: This isn't just about Speaker Hastert. This is about everybody who had any knowledge of this member of Congress doing something that is against the law, and the Republican leadership, not just him, protecting the political future of Foley at the expense of protecting children.


HUME: And so the controversy raged on today, and the question, of course, is would the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert survive the aftermath of the Mark Foley scandal?

Some thoughts on this now from Michael Barone, senior writer at "U.S. News & World Report"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio. All are FOX NEWS contributors.

Mara, did the speaker's fortunes, based on what we saw yesterday, improve a bit today or diminish?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I guess you would have to say they improved. I mean, nobody -- no member has called for his resignation. I think that would be a very important tipping point, that hasn't happened. Even though I think in every one of these.

HUME: Because we had the "Washington Times" editorial...

LIASSON: "Washington Times" editorial, the president kind of rallied to him, as you heard. Although John Boehner, the majority leader, did do this radio interview in Cincinnati where he seemed to kind of dump it in the speaker's lap, saying it's in his corner, it's his responsibility. He also wrote a letter to the "Washington Times" saying he shouldn't resign.

So, I think that it's -- this is not a good thing for Republicans. I think it's almost unthinkable that the Republican speaker would resign five weeks before an election. I think Republicans are pretty clear that would be a disaster. That doesn't mean it's not problems for Republicans.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Yeah, I agree with all that. I mean there's.

HUME: Hastert is going to survive?

KONDRACKE: I think Hastert will survive. There is no lynch mob out for him, especially among his colleagues. And even, you got one newspaper, that's it at the moment.

HUME: Michael.

MICHAEL BARONE, "U.S. WORLD & NEWS REPORT": Yeah, we have to make a clear distinction here between the e-mails that came to their attention in Spring, 2005, which have been described as "overfriendly".

HUME: Yeah (INAUDIBLE) they were weird, but they weren't sexually explicit.

BARONE: And the sexually explicit text messages which were disclosed on last Friday.

KONDRACKE: No this is not.

BARONE: .September 29. So basically I think Hastert's story, that he only saw those emails last Friday has held up, and I think he holds up as speaker.

HUME: Is it fair to say that if you're a Republican caught in the sex scandal, whether with an underaged person or whoever, that you're in worse trouble than if you're a Democrat caught in a sex scandal. Fair?

LIASSON: Well, if you look -- and there have been articles written about this going over all the scandals in the past and who survived and who didn't, you can make the argument that the Republicans have suffered worse consequences than the Democrats. However, I think there -- you could -- and there's plenty of theories about that. Republicans are the party of family values, they seem more like hypocrites when they do these things, Democrats don't.

I think that any member of any party today who did -- had inappropriate conduct with a page would be forced to resign. Jerry Studds would not be able to survive now as he did back then.

HUME: Really?

LIASSON: I believe that.

HUME: OK. What do you think -- Mort.


HUME: Jerry Studds, by the way, Massachusetts congressman, 1983, was found to have been having not just messages but actual sex with an underaged page. He was defiant in the face of censure by the House and re- elected repeatedly after that.

LIASSON: I don't think that could happen today.

HUME: You don't think it would happen because the voters of Massachusetts would turn him out in today's atmosphere or.

LIASSON: I don't think the Democratic Party would want him in their cause. I think for a number of reasons.

HUME: You think the Democrats would take him down?

LIASSON: Yes. Yes, I do.


LIASSON: I think they'd have to, especially after they've gone on record about this behavior.

KONDRACKE: Now they surely would. But -- you know, I'm not sure their basic instinct would be to do that. I mean, look, Bill Clinton committed what you would regard as not impeachable offenses, I don't think, but certainly disgraceful offenses, and the Democratic Party stood behind him, especially under Republican attack.

So look, there is a double standard, there's no question about it. But it's partly got to do with what the Republicans claim as their advantage, you know, that they are the party of values, and their voters are the party of values, so that when they violate the standards, they get punished for it worse because their base won't support them, whereas the Democratic base being more secular and less morals minded will sustain them.

BARONE: Well, there's a clear inconsistency here between the response that Denny Hastert gave to this disclosure last Friday, and what the Democrats seem to say. They all say he should be expelled for sending messages to people who are former pages, I believe, at the time that the messages were sent, whereas in 1983, two members of Congress were just censured, not expelled, because of sex with pages.

LIASSON: Nobody expelled Foley, he resigned.

BARONE: No. But he would have -- I think the -- the all likelihood he would have been expelled from the Congress, or at least that was what the speaker was calling for, his own party.

Maybe if it hadn't been five weeks.

BARONE: We've changed standards here and I think one reason may be because.

HUME: You think the standard is tougher now? Higher bar?

BARONE: I think one reason is that.

HUME: And the Clinton analogy, when he remains a hero to his party, the Clinton analogy doesn't hold because Monica Lewinsky was not underage? Is that.

BARONE: Well, I think part of it is that we have more explicit detail on these Mark Foley messages than we had, although we had some explicit detail on Bill Clinton. And I think the other thing is, the Democratic Party did suffer for Bill Clinton's sins.


BARONE: You know, Al Gore was not able to deploy Bill Clinton in the 2000 campaign as he wanted to because while the opinions about his job performance was high, personal favorability towards him was very low. The Democratic Party did suffer. It did not regain control of Congress; it did not regain the presidency in 2000. So there was a cost.

LIASSON: Oh, high cost. High cost.

HUME: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, Bob Woodward tells the "Today" show he and his publishers wanted to time the release of the book -- well, you'll see. Stay tuned.



BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "STATE OF DENIAL": Simon and Schuster, the publisher and my bosses at the "Washington Post" said that the real obligation here to use your analogy, to get up on top of the mountain and tell the full story is to tell it before the election. That's what we're doing, people can judge for themselves.


HUME: Well, that was an interesting revelation which will be taken by those who believe that Bob Woodward did a good thing to get the information in the hands of voters before they're supposed to make an important choice, and those who doubt his motives as thinking he's trying to influence the election in favor of the Democrats.

So Mara, first of all, what about that rather innocent sounding comment, at least innocent in the way that he said it, for Bob Woodward?

LIASSON: Well, we know in the past that Woodward has written books that are very favorable to the White House, this one clearly, if it had come out, you know, six months ago or eight months ago wouldn't have been as damaging as things that comes out five weeks before the election. But he's talking about one of the inherent contradictions of being Bob Woodward. He scoops his own paper.

You know, the "Washington Post" did not have the benefit of all this incredible reporting and these nuggets of information that he unearthed, he saves them for these books. It happens over and over again.

And the book got into the hands of the "New York Times".

LIASSON: Then the book was bought by -- retailed by some enterprising person who saw somebody unloading a box at store in New York.

HOME: And the "New York Times" beat the "Post" on the story. That was kind of an amusing footnote.

LIASSON: Yeah. But this has happened before and it raises the question, what is he doing working for this paper and keeping everything for his books?

KONDRACKE: Well, I think that the "Washington Post" gets plenty of benefit out of him, not in this case, just having Bob Woodward there, I mean, he's an icon.

Look, it's not like the revelation about George Bush's DUI arrest on the eve of the 2000 election or the indictments in the Iran-contra case that basically beat his father in 1992. There is a month for this to settle out, but, it is a fact, I mean, I looked up the publication dates of the pro-Bush books that Bob Woodward wrote. "Bush at War," which is the book about the Afghan operation which puts Bush a hero in and in charge and decisive and all of that, November 19, 2002, after the elections.

HUME: So no urgency then, apparently, on the part of the "Post" and Simon and Schuster to get it out before the.

KONDRACKE: Right. Before the congressional election. "Plan of attack, which was a pro-Bush book about Iraq, the beginning of the Iraq war, April 2004. Well before the election. So, you know, in this case, a month before the election -- timing's different.

BARONE: Well, James Carville in the first years of the Clinton administration said he wanted to come back in his next life as the bond market because it's the most powerful thing in the world. It seems like the most powerful thing in the world now is Simon and Schuster.

Bob Woodward says he can't get his book out until Simon and Schuster tells him to. We saw Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan at the press conference with President Bush saying he couldn't talk because Simon and Schuster told him to shut up.

But obviously Simon and Schuster decided that they'd market this as an anti-Bush book. And one things we know about Bush publishing is that you got to have -- you know, you want an Ann Coulter book, you want an Al Franken or a left-wing book. The right-wing books and the left-wing books sell. Books that have a more mixed message tend to not sell as well, and I can attest from personal experience. And I think that that's one of the things that's going on here. This was going to be marketed as an anti-Bush book and, you know, we...

HUME: So the timing of the election is what?

BARONE: The timing of the election is.

HUME: Sales purposes?

BARONE: Sure. I think.

HUME: But not political purposes?

BARONE: Well, it may be political purposes too. I don't know the political of Alice Mayhew, his editor at Simon and Schuster, but.

HUME: The legendary Alice Mayhew.

LIASSON: Mayhew has been his editor before.

BARONE: Yeah, well I would expect -- she's probably a Democrat, being in New York publishing, most people in that area are, who knows, but it's - - you know, that's a decision.

HUME: Now there's a couple of things in the book, an important fact set forth or alleged in the book was that there had been this meting at which George Tenant and others had warned Condoleezza Rice, in somewhat urgent terms, two months before 9/11 that an al Qaeda attack was something they were very worried was about to occur. The book indicates that they got the brush-off from Rice. However, that -- those facts are now in dispute, seriously in disinstitute -- Mara.

LIASSON: Well, we know a little bit more than at first. First we thought that the 9/11 Commission had never been told about this meeting, now it turns out, yes, they'd been told about it, but in the version that Woodward describe.

HUME: Tenant did not say.

LIASSON: Because Tenant didn't say that he felt that Rice didn't get it or wasn't listening to his.


BARONE: (INAUDIBLE) who is probably the most partisan Democrat on the commission, basically backing Condoleezza Rice's story. They both, in this case, presumably contacted.

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