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Special Report Roundtable - October 10

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


RICE: I think the Chinese are certainly willing to have sanctions of some kind. I think they recognize that this was a serious step over an important line, from their point of view. Their language is quite unlike anything that China has ever used about North Korea.

And, yes, in fact, using language that they've used maybe only four or five times in decades, and really never about North Korea.


HUME: That was Secretary of State Rice talking to FOX NEWS today at the State Department. Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard." Welcome back, Fred. Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, FOX NEWS contributors all.

So, Secretary Rice seemed optimistic that the U.N. Security Council was going to do something and that China, which has real leverage, unlike the United States, which has limited leverage because it's already exercised whatever, you know, sanctions it could impose of any moment of North Korea, would go along. Is she right? Is something really going to happen here? What does it look like?

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Well, she would know a lot better than I would. But, as she said, the Chinese where quite vociferous about this, they used word like "flagrant" violation of their norms, it was actually -- they felt as though the Chinese -- North Koreans had humiliated them.

I mean, they had said a lot of things, Hu Jintao, the president, had said before -- the weekend before that the North Koreans should not do this and then they went ahead and did it. And when the Chinese heard about it from the North Koreans they actually gave us some warning that the announcement was coming. So, one can hope that certainly they've got the leverage. They, you know, they've got a chokehold on supplies going into North Korea.

HUME: They and South Korea.

KONDRACKE: Yes, they and -- but the Chinese particularly, especially energy supplies. And you know, if they could bring the place to a halt. Now what they're afraid -- they've always been afraid of is that the place is going to collapse, but.

HUME: And if it did collapse they'd get a streams of desperate refugees.

KONDRACKE: Refugees.

HUME: In huge numbers.

LIASSON: And not to mention all of this plutonium or all this nuclear material that might be -- falling loose. Look, China wants a very stable North Korea. It wants a stable region, it's got the Olympics coming up in 2008, which a very important event for it and what it has to do is somehow get the North Koreans to obey it without destabilizing the country and I think the ball is really in China's court now. We certainly want it to be there. They don't want a nuclear armed Japan, which I guess is the alternative to China solving this problem.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Look, this is not a stable situation, now. When you have a government like that in North Korea that's shooting missiles over Japan and doing missile tests and at least claiming to do a nuclear test -- that's not a stable situation where you have millions of people starving, you have a crazed man at the head of government. That's not stable.

And China has the leverage. Look, the ball has always been in China's court. As Condi Rice has been saying over and over again for a long time. I think the new development that makes the most difference is Japan. One thing China doesn't want -- I mean, they may -- look, they can stop the refugees from pouring in. They can shoot them.

HUME: China?

BARNES; Yeah, China can. But they don't want Japan to go nuclear and look.

HUME: Well, Japan has all but ruled that out.

BARNES: Well, no, no, no. They've ruled it out, but they're now talking about ruling it in. And if you're going to have an aggressive North Korea, with nuclear weapons, Japan is inevitably going to go nuclear. They're not going to stand for that.

Look Brit, the Chinese have enjoyed watching North Korea twit (ph) the U.S. and so on and that's (INAUDIBLE) and they don't want South Korea to have all of the Korean peninsula, but now it's gotten where China has it real interests are stake an they may have to move. So I think Condi Rice is correct that China may do something.

KONDRACKE: I was surprised that Prime Minister Abe -- the new prime minister of Japan actually ruled out going nuclear today.

HUME: He said like, not now or something.

KONDRACKE: Well I think he said more then.

HUME: No, I agree, he acted like he had no intention of doing it. Right.

KONDRACKE: Right. Now, I think that the move to look for is whether the Japanese agree to base a -- one of our anti-ballistic missile sites, which was previously going to be put up in the state of Washington and also in Alaska -- in Okinawa, say -- allow that to happen so that they become a part of our missile defense system. Now that would be a signal to China too, that the Japanese were moving closer to our security orbit -- that might move the Chinese.

HUME: All right. Let me move this on just a little but. Hillary Clinton said today, I guess, that we're seeing the fruits of a failed Bush policy on that. And Senator McCain shot back at her fairly strongly. Let's listen to part of what he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We and a carrots and no sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didn't work, we offered another, now we are facing the consequences of the failed Clinton administration policies.


HUME: And he warned anyone on the Democratic side not to go there on this issue. Mara, is it your judgment that this an issue that the Democrats will try to highlight and run on and -- or is this a one off by Hillary Clinton, not likely to be repeated.

LIASSON: Well, first of all, I think the Democrats will run on it, but what you heard between Senator Clinton and John McCain is a different fight that will happen in 2008.

HUME: I understand that.

LIASSON: What's happening this year is that the Democrats are running on this. They're saying look, the president took his eye off the ball. Jim Steinberg, who's the former national security advisor, he said today, well, in terms of the "Axis of Evil" are you -- four years later, do you feel any safer? And you look at Iran and...

HUME: Is this a good issue, Mort, for the Democrats?

KONDRACKE: Well, yeah, I think that the North Koreans -- both -- look, both policies have failed. Bush policy has failed. If they did blow off a nuclear weapon, we didn't stop them, but neither did the Clinton administration. I mean, I think both parties have failed. Now, the question is whether, in terms of this election, this takes the Foley story off -- out of topic A status.


BARNES: Well, it could hurt but I don't think it will. And people saying, like Jim Steinberg and.


BARNES: . real Republicans -- I don't think it will -- saying that -- well, the president took his eye off or it wasn't his top priority. What are they -- what would they have done? I mean, look, we could talk to the North Koreans, we have in the six party talks -- what's their strategy?


BARNES: They do not have one.

LIASSON: The challenger gets to ask, you know, four years later, do you feel any safer? Do you feel the situation.

HUME: Yeah, but the challenger is Jim Steinberg, he was associated with the previous administration.

LIASSON: Yeah, but he's -- there are Democratic candidates asking this question. I'm just saying, yes, they're using it.

BARNES: Yes they are. But you mentioned Jim Steinberg. He's not a guy to be taken seriously. What's his strategy? What would he do?

HUME: We got to go here.

BARNES: When he was there the policy failed and he's partly responsible.

HUME: All right. Next for the panel: How big worry is the Mark Foley scandal for Republican candidates. We'll look at some polling data on that. Stay tuned.



MCCAIN: I think the sooner that we get this issue brought out in its -- all its complexity and completeness and put behind us, the better off we Republicans are going to be.


HUME: Gee, do you think?

Senator McCain also said that it would be well to have a panel of distinguished former members of Congress investigate the Foley scandal and that way everybody would have respect for the results.

There's some polls out today which -- a couple of which are really quite disturbing for the Republicans who had been doing a little better in what's called the generic ballot. This the question where you say, you know, would you rather vote for a Democrat, unnamed, or a Republican in this year's election and you get people's opinions of the two parties and as you can see Democrats have a wide (INAUDIBLE) and that is an average of about four or five polls, and it's you know, 15 points up. Democrats tend to be ahead in this number, but this is big.

So, and it's a lot worse than it was for the Republicans before the Foley scandal hit. So, question: Is the Foley scandal going to turn out to be a voting issue? And, if so, what effect? And what -- and how is -- and are their further developments lately that seem to be really feeding it or is it fading?

LIASSON: Well, I -- first of all we haven't had any developments lately. Now, I think you this you have to assume that these polls are measuring some of the effect of the Foley scandal. Now in the CBS-"New York Times" poll people were asked "will this be a voting issue" and very few people said it would be. But it does increase the number of the people who say that Republicans were just protecting their own power instead of these children.

Look, these are likely and registered voters. This is a broad national poll. What we're talking about is 40 or 50 tightly contested House races, that's where it counts, and in a...

HUME: We're not having an election where Speaker Hastert is on the ballot as speaker of the House.

LIASSON: That's right, however in a shameless plug, next week, NPR will have its poll which only polls in the 50 most competitive districts and, that's -- I think, will tell us something hopefully more accurate.

HUME: Well, we'll certainly wait with baited breath.

LIASSON: With baited breath, that's right. But, look, it's clearly hurting the Republicans. The other thing that's happened in a lot of these polls is that the president's approval ratings, which had inched up, are now back into the 30's and the White House really wanted them into the 40's going into this election and now look...

HUME: Well, their 39?

LIASSON: Well, 39 some less. Some of them are a little bit less.

HUME: Well, somebody had one that was down 33. Which an outlier.

LIASSON: The point is, they've got four weeks left to see if they can either change the subject back to national security, Korea might help them, but certainly the Foley scandal is hurting Republicans. I think that's pretty clear.

KONDRACKE: Look, in 1994 when the Republicans picked up 52 seats, they had a popular vote edge in that election of seven percent. Right now the generic shows, as you showed, that the Democrats are ahead by 15 percent.

HUME: But they didn't get that edge until late.

KONDRACKE: Well, that's right. But, as.

HUME: Later than this.

KONDRACKE: The generic -- yes -- the generic number gets more and more like the final outcome the closer you get. We're still four weeks away. But at this point, what the Democratic experts that I talked to factoring in gerrymandering and all that, say that if they get seven percent more than the Republicans, they pick up 15 seats, which is what they need.

HUME: I don't know how they calculate that, but that's all right.

BARNES: The generic ballot has never been predictive. Even pretty close to the election, as we know.

KONDRACKE: Oh, yes it is.

BARNES: No, no it hasn't been, Mort. Mort, go back and look at it.

KONDRACKE: Fred, I've looked at it. I've looked at it.

HUME: Stop arguing about that. What's your point?

BARNES: Look, how much did it -- well, I would dispute your point that you made in the beginning that it's gotten a lot worse.

HUME: Well, the generic number.

BARNES: No, it hasn't. Look, in the CBS-"New York Times" it went from 50-30 you went from 50-35 to 49 to 35.

HUME: Yeah, but look at Gallup.

BARNES: OK, well look at Gallup. Everybody knows that the 48-48 of September 19 was an outlier because they even had it 53-43.

HUME: They went from zero to 23. That's.

BARNES: Brit, Brit, here's -- look.

HUME: Quickly.

BARNES: I'm not saying things are good for the Republicans, they aren't. I'm saying that -- look at this number, for instance, it matters a lot, and that is, what do you think of your own congressman? I think we have this from the ABC-"Washington Post" poll. And that is shows it hasn't changed at all. Sixty percent are fine with their congressman, were a month ago and are today. Now, that's an important one that hasn't changed at all. It's bad for Republicans; the Foley thing didn't effect it much.

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