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Special Report Roundtable - October 5

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: Any time that a person has to - - as a leader, be on the hot seat and be as a detriment to the party, you know, there ought to be a change. I became speaker in a situation like that. I don't think that's the case, I said that I haven't done anything wrong.


HUME: And so Dennis Hastert says that not only will he stay, but he's got a bunch of measures that he'll be undertaking to make sure that nothing like this happens again and the pates -- the capitol pages will be protected.

Some analytical observations now from Bill Kristol, editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; and Jeff Birnbaum, columnist with the "Washington Post," FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well, Jeff, today we didn't learn anything that changed the character of the case but we had some process developments, the House Ethics Committee (INAUDIBLE), is it possible this is dying down, or is this -- are we still in the very early stages?

JEFF BIRNBAUM, "WASHINGTON POST": My view about Washington is that scandals, crises, we like the word crisis, they're never as bad as they are at the moment, nor are good things as good, ultimately, as they appear to be at just the time when they're really hot. And I think that's probably going to the case here.

We are five weeks, or just less than five weeks away from the midterm elections, that's a long time, all sorts of things can happen and will happen and I don't think that we should imagine that what we're focusing on right now, which Washington is completely obsessed, I think, with the Foley message scandal, I don't think that we'll obsess about it then. Who knows what we will. I don't believe that it will simply go away. I do think that the corruption issue as the Democrats have pounding it for the last year and a half or so has been rekindled by this and that is a problem for the Republicans, but not as bad as the dire predictions at the moment appear to be.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Well, it's not only what everybody in Washington is talking about, but it's what every member of Congress and candidate seems to be asked about by the local media, especially if they're Republicans. You know, well, do you stand behind Denny Hastert? Should Denny Hastert have step down and stuff like that.

So it's in the bloodstream until something supercedes it. And now if North Korea tests a nuclear weapon, that will become topic A, you can be sure, and will wipe this away the way that Foley wiped Bob Woodward away. But North Korea with a nuclear weapon and an arms race -- nuclear arms race in the Far East is not going to be very good for George Bush either. I mean, the Democrats were already saying that his unilateralism was -- you know, Bush's unilateralism it's what led to the North Koreans having a nuclear weapon, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera So, you know, so far I don't see what displaces -- what good news for the Republicans displaces all of this bad news.

BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Democrats in the media are trying to sell the following syllogism, Mark Foley is a Republican, Mark Foley is a creep, therefore all Republicans are creeps and you should vote against them, and it is not going to work. I believe it will not effect a single vote and I have empirical data.

The "Associated Press" has a new poll. They were on the field Monday through Wednesday night, just this week, at the height of the scandal. In a generic congressional ballot, 51 Democrat, 41 Republican. In a generic congressional ballot in the previous AP/IPSOS poll, 53-39, slightly bigger gap on the Democratic side.

PEW -- PEW was in the field for about 10 days and they split it up. People who were interviewed before the Foley scandal broke over the weekend, and people interviewed this week -- no change in the generic ballot. It's a total con, and the Democrats are trying to sell the notion that the Republican voters, socially conservative voters, are so stupid that because Mark Foley is creep they're going to vote against a Republican if they agree with him on the issues? It's just not going to happen.

BIRNBAUM: I think that broad brush may not work in a race as close as this one. You have to look, you know, race by race. I think Tom Reynolds in upstate New York, the chairman of the Republican House Campaign Committee, I think may have a more difficult race than he did before. It was already closing a little bit and his involvement in the Foley case, I think, is something he's going to have to fight against and I think he knows that. There are a number of races where women voters are very important or there are women candidates against incumbent Republicans, Chris Shays, for example, where they may have more sympathy after this as a result. I think you have.

KRISTOL: (INAUDIBLE) This is not a women's.

BIRNBAUM: No, we're talking about protecting children, which is a women's...

KRISTOL: Oh, hogwash. This is not going to work. Let me just say, Nancy Johnson's numbers have gone up in the last week. Why? Because she has a very effective ad on the terror issue and the Guantanamo interrogations issue and the eavesdropping issue, look, it can hurt in -- and races are going every which way.

I've talked to several people who have looked at current polls today, and some states have gone worse for Republicans and other places Republicans are coming back.

Here's an amazing fact, Foley's district is the 16th Congressional District for Florida, the 13th Congressional District is next door, it's Katherine Harris' district, she won it with 55 percent last time, somewhat competitive race, a tough Republican primary -- they're doing daily tracking polls, the Republican in that race has ticked up this week just because normally he's running a slightly better campaign than the Democrat. I just do not believe that this spills over.

KONDRACKE: Well look, you cited some generic numbers, and it's a 10- point gap, the generic number isn't predictive until October, but the later -- the closer you get to the election the more predictive it is of the final outcome and if the Democrats beat the Republicans by 10 points, they're going to take over control of the House.

HUME: This scandal doesn't seem to have affected that -- that's -- you're saying it would have closed without.

KONDRACKE: I still -- unless it's displaced by something else, I think that it's still tough.

KRISTOL: One footnote, on "A.P." article, the "Associated Press" article about their own poll, they don't give you the generic congressional ballot. They say oh, voters seem very alarmed by this. I had to go into the, you know, through many links to get the actual numbers, compare them with the numbers from four weeks ago and it turns out there's no movement at all.

HUME: Investigative reporting on the "A.P." congressional (INAUDIBLE), we're grateful for that, Bill, thank you.

Next on SPECIAL REPORT, Democrats and House control. What happens if they get the place back? We'll talk about that next.



NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We propose transitioning the U.S. mission in Iraq to counter-terrorism, training, logistics and force protection, and beginning the phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq no later than December 2006.

The war in Iraq is not the war on terror. Just because the president says that, doesn't make it so.



HUME: So, that was Nancy Pelosi who would probably become speaker of the House if the Democrats recapture control of the House, talking among other issues about what the Democrats would do or would seek to do if they got control of the place.

So, what about this prospect? What kind of an agenda would we see, Jeff? Would it help the Democrats if they only got the House to be in a situation where they would be obligated to set forth an agenda? They've been a little shy about their agenda, so far, during the latter Bush years. What about it?

BIRNBAUM: Well, the first and most important thing that -- if the House were to change control would be a vast array of investigations, oversight is what we'd hear, into Bush administration policies, into the former Republican majority's policies, so there'll be a lot of subpoenas being issued.

There'll also be an attempt to pass a few things that the Republicans might, I think, have trouble preventing or not voting against, for example an increase in the minimum wage, which this past month or so Republicans, moderate Republicans, actually got on the Republican agenda, that would be another example. But after, that I think it's likely that everything would fall down in gridlock. There may be attempts to withdraw early from Iraq or reduce the -- or get rid of the tax cuts on the wealthy, as the Democrats like to say, but those are going to fall.

HUME: Short of cutting off money though, even if Congress were in agreement that we should withdraw from Iraq; it would be hard for them to force that, wouldn't it?

BIRNBAUM: It would be -- they could have resolutions, the could -- right. But the power of the purse is important. What I'm saying is that I don't think it would get to a final resolution. There would not be new laws because even if, let's say, the Senate went into Democratic hands, it would not -- there would not be a 60-vote majority that could move the Senate and certainly the president would use his veto pen a lot more than he has already.

KONDRACKE: Right. I agree with all of that. The danger would be that the Democrats would -- in the House, would use the power of the purse the way they did at the very end of the Vietnam War where they did cut -- they attached amendments of all kinds to -- this was a Democratic Congress -- to all kinds of bills, you know, hampering the way the Nixon administration was trying to run the war and ultimately did cut off money to the South Vietnamese at the very end.

Now, I don't think that that can get through because the majority in the House would be -- probably be so narrow that there would be enough Republicans and conservative Democrats that would regard that as a bad thing. But look, the leadership of the House is going to be very liberal and what you're going to see is legislation like tax increases, like a requirement that the Medicare system set prices of drugs with -- through part D. It won't pass, but there will be emblematic legislation. All kinds of energy legislation, I'm sure, that Democrats will think is a very good idea to set forth a platform to run on in 2008.

KRISTOL: Well, Democrats care about the children, Brit, and so I think they should pressure states to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18 so that it's clearly illegal for people like Mark Foley to hit on 17-year- old pages. They pressured states to raise the age of drinking, right? -- from 18 to 21 by threatening to cut off funds. They could do the same thing for age of consent laws in terms of the sexual predators. They could certainly pass a resolution supporting the Boy Scouts in their effort to keep people like Mark Foley from becoming scout masters, I think the Democrats could really do a lot of good for our children.

KONDRACKE: Actually they could do some good for the children by raising the support for the S-CHIP program for children's health insurance which the Republicans want to freeze.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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