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Special Report Roundtable - October 26

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: There's a wide consensus among many Democrats in the legislature that we need to redeploy our troops, that we need to think carefully about how we're -- what we're doing and that consensus is built around the idea of bringing the Guard and Reserve home fairly quickly over a period of several months.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're constantly changing to defeat this enemy, but if the Democrats were to take control, their policy is pretty clear to me, it's cut and run. Oh, they try to claim it's not. They try to claim it's not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: Well, there you have it. Howard Dean lays out where -- a place where he says Democrats now agree on an approach to Iraq that you can get Guard and Reserve home.

Some thoughts on this whole issue now of whether the Democrats have a strategy, what is it, and what would happen if they got in power? Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and the syndicated columnists, Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

So Mort, what about it? Do the Democrats have a plan and whether they have a plan or not, what would they do if they got in? Let's take the first question first.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, they don't have a plan. There are plans all over the place. There's the Kerry-Dean-Pelosi-Murtha plan which is an immediate beginning of withdrawals and everybody out within a certain time. Nancy Pelosi said all out by the end of 2007. Kerry has said out within a year, which is the about -- punch line, the same thing. Then there's the moderate position is that we've got to have a redeployment, but it's not a specific -- there's nothing specific about it and, presumably there were a -- if the Democrats took over, they would have a debate about what they want to do They've got, you know,...

HUME: Mara, your thoughts.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, I think that right now Democrats have certainly been benefiting by just saying it's a mess over there and it was a big mistake, but as along as election day is over and if they do take over one house, they are going to be confronted with the reality which is things are not going well now, on the other hand, if you pull out precipitously, there will be terrible chaos and bloodshed and that won't be good either. I think it's going to be very difficult. I don't think the Democrats have a plan now. I think things will look a lot different when they are -- actually have more responsibility for the policy.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think when the president says this is the cut and run, he's wrong. This is worse than cut and run. What Dean and Kerry are proposing is to arbitrarily drawdown the troops. Deans talks about the Reserve and the Guard, regardless of its effect on Iraq, on our strategy on Iraq and even though the remaining troops -- American troops are in Iraq.

If you believe the war is lost, you should do cut and run and withdraw immediately. If you believe the war is still winnable then you don't propose, as being proposed here, some arbitrarily drawdown of troops without thinking about a strategy of how you deploy them in order to win.

What it does is it sets an automatic timetable, which can only disrupt our strategy and cause more losses. Look -- and the worst part is, if we have a legislature under the Democrats, promising as we heard here, to pull against the administration, Dean used the phrase to restrict what the administration can do. In a middle of a war, that will be a disaster for the country.

The analogy is what happened at the end of the Vietnam War. After our troops had left, the Republican administration, supporting the government in South Vietnam, with military and financial aid, the Democrats in Congress, in control of Congress essentially cut it of and we ended up with a humanitarian -- the catastrophe in the area and a humiliation of helicopters on the roof of our embassy in Saigon. And that's what would happen if you have a Congress restricting the administration's policy in Iraq. If you want to get out, OK. But a half-way, automatic drawdown.

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Well, what about the argument the Democrats advanced, which is look, if we don't have at least the threat of removal of our troops, believed by the Maliki government, he will not made the tough -- make the tough choices he's balking at making now, to get his own forces in order to take over the job?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, but it seems to me what the Democrats want or the New York Times editorial page wants is a public set of ultimata, that's what it amounts to, ultimatums that you do this by such-and-such a date or we're pulling out.

I mean, that puts extreme pressure. I think that there probably are, as the administration says, benchmarks and loose timetables. Maliki himself has said that he believes that such-and-such things ought to be done by such-and-such a time, but -- and I wouldn't be surprised with what the administration isn't so insistent.

HUME: You don't sense.

KONDRACKE: .that it amounts to a threat of withdrawal.

LIASSON: Look, I think we should be so luck if all it took to get all those things that we want to have happen over there, was the threat of withdrawal. I don't think that that's going to -- even that won't work. I think that's the prospect that we're facing in Iraq, right now. That he can't -- Maliki cannot do what is necessary, politically or militarily, to bring security to Baghdad and the rest of the country, so that some kind of political settlement can happen.

KONDRACKE: Well, the less he does, the more disorder there will be and the more calls there will be for these Vietnam-style limitations on what we're able to do, impose deadlines. And for sure, there's going to be quote, unquote "oversight hearings" which are going to be designed to expose every flaw in the administration's policy.

KRAUTHAMMER: But Maliki knows that the Americans are not going to stay there forever. And what we ought to do, rather than argue about troop levels, is to try and see if we can change his government, either leaving him at the head or somebody else, so you remove the elements who are restraining him from doing what he has to do.

Isn't that precisely what we're trying to do now?

KRAUTHAMMER: That is our policy, but if you're going to announce a withdrawal, nothing is going to happen. It'll make it a lot worse.

HUME: Next up with the panel, the issue of gay marriage gets into the Virginia Senate race. Where else will it go? The president weighs in as well. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Yesterday, New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage.

GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: The families's the most important and I'm standing with values that marriage should be between one man and one woman, my opponent's against that and I think that shows he's out of touch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: George Allen's in the race of his life down there in Virginia and he was quick to try to seize on the gay marriage issue. There is a gay marriage ban in effect on the ballot in Virginia and in seven other states. So does the New Jersey ruling inject this into the fall campaign in a way that might be meaningful one way or the other in terms of the outcome of the election beyond the ballot measures -- Mort.

KONDRACKE: Well, I think not as much it would have been had this been a Massachusetts-style decision mandating that marriage was legal. What the court did in this case was to say that gay couples are entitled to all the rights of marriage, but that they bumped it to the legislature and in fact demanded that the legislature act within 180 days to define either by marriage or by some other terms these equal rights. Civil unions would be the easiest way out of this situation Vermont-style.

HUME: Does the Supreme Court have the authority to order a legislature to do something?

LIASSON: They can request, yeah.

HUME: Order it to do something?

KONDRACKE: Well, the.

HUME: I don't know the answer I'm just.

KONDRACKE: I don't know. Look, personally, it seems to me if marriage is a civil institution, forget about the religious aspects of it, that people are -- people who are gay ought to be allowed -- ought to be allowed to have the same rights of adoption and visitation in hospitals and stuff like that and that a constitutional court is entitled -- I haven't read the New Jersey constitution, but you know, the principle of equal rights would seem to imply that they ought to be treated equally.

LIASSON: Look, I don't know if you can call this a late October surprise, because I guess people knew that it was on the docket up there, but I think this is one of those things, late in the campaign, that can have an effect. I don't think it is a seismic effect, but there are two states, Virginia, as you just heard George Allen just talk about, there is an amendment on the ballot there -- he badly needs to energize his conservative base, he's running neck-and-neck with this complete neophyte under-funded opponent, Jim Webb, who, by the way, says he's also -- believes that marriage should be against one man, one woman.

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: But he's against the amendment.

LIASSON: Yes. And in Tennessee, another incredibly close race, there's a gay marriage amendment on the ballot. So, you know, you'd think that at least in those states, and of course perhaps in New Jersey, which doesn't have the same number of Christian conservatives, but at least it's state where the ruling came down, might help the Republicans in all of those battles.

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't think it's going to have an effect in Tennessee because, Ford, the Democrat who's a moderate, is against gay marriage and in favor of the constitutional amendment, so he's covered on that. And it's not going to have an effect in New Jersey either because of the incredibly clever and political way in which this court wrote its opinion. It essentially left it open -- it did order the legislature to actually change its laws, which of course happens...

LIASSON: But I thought conservatives wanted the court to.

KRAUTHAMMER: .in America and Banana Republics, but it allowed it to choose whether to call it a marriage or civil union. But the real scandal is how do you get the courts ordering the legislature to do this? We're the only country in the West -- I mean, what we're doing here is exactly what happened on abortion where a court decided, and tike it off the table of the other institutions of our Democracy.

LIASSON: But this is the opposite.

KRAUTHAMMER: We are the -- no, this is -- a legislature is going to have to do what the court tells it to do.

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: .it is not the court.

HUME: No, no, no what he's saying is, it set the boundaries and then ordered the legislature to meet them.

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course.

KONDRACKE: Well, of course.

LIASSON: But the legislature could decide that we don't want.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's deciding only on what word it's going to use, not on the entire idea of having these essentially to marriage equal among hetero and homosexuals.

KONDRACKE: But the courts are always deciding what the Constitution says. What the law -- and this is an equal rights sort of case. I mean, it use to be that -- wait a second -- the U.S. Supreme Court decided that laws that said that sodomy was a crime were unconstitutional.

HUME: Right, that takes the law off the books because it violates the Constitution. But the court didn't then turn around and say to the Congress or the states, you must now pass different laws or some laws to enforce this.

KONDRACKE: Well, when the Brown versus Board of Education decision came down, the court said that by all deliberate speed that the schools must be integrated over -- you know, it didn't say when, but it said that they had to be done, that was legislating, if you like. And it seems to me that was based on equal rights. That's -- you know, that's part of the Constitution.

KRAUTHAMMER: These are decisions in every other country are decided by people either in referendum or in their representatives and not by rogue eminences.

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