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Special Report Roundtable - October 17

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: This program has been a -- one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists. It's been invaluable both America and our allies. Were it not for this program our intelligence community believe that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeed in launching another attack against the American homeland. By allowing our intelligence professionals to continue this vital program, this bill will save American lives and I look forward to signing it into law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And as you see there the president later on did indeed sign that bill into law. But it remains controversial even now that it has been passed. Democrats were critical of it today as they have been in the past. Arguments that they have made were echoed today by a human rights activist who is we saw earlier in the program. Let's have a look at what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER DASKAL, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It precludes the detainees from ever challenging the legality of their detention. This is essentially the administration saying, we can throw people in military custody, take away the key, and throw away the key.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, that is one of the arguments made about this bill. There are many others. Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, executive of the Weekly Standards; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune Magazine -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well Mort, what about this? The president said that this will save lives. We know the CIA very much felt that this detention and questioning program that it had was important. The bill now authorizes that. It was passed over not unanimous but majority Democrat opposition, and you heard some of the criticisms.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, as to that human rights watch spokesperson, it's just false that this is -- you can lock them up and throw away the key is not correct. I mean, these detainees have a right to go to a military -- they have been tried in a military tribunal. The case goes on appeal to the U.S. district -- the Circuit Court of appeals for the District of Columbia, second highest court in the land, which reviews the evidence. And so there is judicial review of a conviction, at least, and so, you know, it's just flatly false.

I mean, I think that the president made a strong case for this bill at the time and he made a strong case today that this has saved lives and no one has challenged that. I mean, people on the intelligence committees certainly has reviewed how Muhammad and others were interrogated and what it produced and nobody's challenged that lives were saved as a result of that.

The chorus on the outside here is just all over the top. The Republican National Committee had a website declaration today that Democrats would let terrorists free. Now, that's over the top and it's certainly over the top as well for Russ Feingold and others to say this is a stain on America's -- on country's history. The fact is I think it's a necessary thing, but the politics are being plagued with it.

NINA EASTON, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Well, the Democrats are also arguing, like Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, they're arguing, rightly so, that this is going to get tied up in court. Why? Because the ACLU will challenge this. It's certainly going to go back to the Supreme Court. And the question is, will it withstand Supreme Court scrutiny? Now, Arlen Specter doesn't think so and certainly the ACLU and critics like that.

HUME: Well wasn't -- when the Supreme Court ruled in the Hamdan case, which is what lead to this, the court ruled that the military commissions that the president designed and were going to set up to try these people, had not been authorized by Congress. And that that was a problem, now Congress has authorized these. So, where do they see the legal opening here for.

EASTON: That's the question is that when you talk to legal scholars about this, on one hand that you do have a court that is -- there's a minority conservative faction that has blessed George Bush's pursuit on this issue -- on Hamdan as a good case. But you weigh that against the fact that two political branches, the two political branches, have blessed this plan. Is the Supreme Court even politically going to overturn that?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think not and on the other hand, where will these terrorists be while it's on appeal? They're not going to be, you know, roaming around Washington, D.C. having lunch near the White House, they're going to be in the slammer in Guantanamo, so, you know, if they think the ACLU is helping them by leaving them there, potentially for a longer period of time, fine.

You know, when I read these Democratic comments, and Mort's really right, I mean, they were so furious. I mean, they didn't get their way, they had a contrary bill, there was this Warner Levin Bill that one of the Democratic senators mentioned, and so they didn't get their way. But, I mean, this is not that far off from it and yet they, you know, talk about a stain on the Constitution and how this will ruin us.

HUME: Does this issue get enough visibility to make a difference in this campaign?

BARNES: It should, but it probably won't. You know, I'm reminded when I read the Democratic statements, and that statement -- that famous statement by Robert Jackson, the attorney general, Supreme Court justice under Franklin Roosevelt, when he said the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

HUME: And the Bill of Rights is.

BARNES: And it's not.

KONDRACKE: There's nothing in the Hamdan decision that requires that habeas corpus, these detainees, who were not American citizens, get the right of habeas corpus. I think that the one vulnerability here may be on the question of whether harsh interrogation procedures, evidence derived from harsh interrogation procedures, passes muster. It's possible that the court will say it doesn't, but that that will still not free these guys. You know, I think they'll be in the slammer forever.

HUME: When we come back, we'll talk about the congressional races, where the party stands three weeks before the midterm elections. And we got a new poll we want to show you, it's kind of interesting. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: And our friends at National Public Radio did some polling recently and they did something a little different. They went to the battleground races, the 48 or so seats where the incumbent may be in some trouble which could result in a shift. Now, 38 of those races involve seats held by Republicans, nine by Democrats, one by an Independent. And they asked, with the names of the candidates, they asked for which party -- which candidate you favor. And Democrats were favored 50 percent to 43 percent and that's the same -- essentially the same as it was back in July which shows that a race that was favoring the Democrats then is favoring the Democrats now, though not by much more.

Now, let's look at the races in the districts that are now held, 38 of them, held by Republicans. The margin is 48-44 percent Democrat. That's not good news for the Republicans, but it's not nearly as bad as the national picture where you have this large margin for the Democrats over Republicans in what's called a generic ballot.

And finally let's look at the races, the nine districts with Democratic incumbents. You can see the Democrats appear to be way ahead in those that they chose. So, what is the meaning of this? Three weeks to the election, Republicans trail, the predictions across Washington among political consultants are almost universal that the House is gone, the Senate may go for Republicans to the Democrats. What about it? Is -- what do these numbers tell us, if anything?

KONDRACKE: Well, in those 38 districts with Republican incumbents, you would normally expect that the Republican advantage would be 52, 55, 56, 57 up 57...

HUME: But these are not just -- he's are not any Republican seats, these are the Republican seats that are really contested this year. The ones where the Republicans were thought to be in the most trouble.

KONDRACKE: Clearly they wouldn't have Republican incumbents if a Republican hadn't carried a majority of the ballots in the last election. So, for the Democrats to have a four-point edge in those districts is significant and it's not good news for the Republicans.

BARNES: Well, it's significant, but wasn't as bad as I thought, actually. And if you think that Republicans in a year where their president, their party have been pilloried all year by Democrats, the press, and so on, then, you might think they'd underpoll a little bit, and I do, then it's probably roughly even in those competitive districts. And what this means, Brit, is that.

HUME: Well wait a minute, it's roughly even in those districts? That sounds like.

BARNES: No, if you'd wait I'll give you one more sentence. If, at the end of the day there is a tilt toward Republicans at the end of the campaign, there's not one right now, but I say if there were one, if Republicans can gain some momentum, a lot of those close seats would tilt in their direction and they might avoid disaster. They're going to lose seats but not the House.

EASTON: I thought there was an interesting other piece to poll which is that when you look at the basket of issues, immigration and war on terror, it was a wash. Democrats were tied with Republicans. It was on the economy and the war in Iraq and how things are going in Congress that the Democrats had a huge lead on. And I thought that was interesting that when you talk to pollsters today -- the Foley matter does seem to be having this kind of ripple effect. One pollster said to me today, that it's kind of shifted the whole.

HUME: But, you don't shift these numbers, though.

EASTON: But you see it -- you don't see it -- it's conceivable there's a different basket of issues then there were in July. But you do see it in these numbers that it's 54 percent say the Foley scandal doesn't affect their vote. That leaves a lot of people where it does affect their vote.

HUME: But how many of those people were already predisposed to vote against the Republicans? That's the question.

EASTON: Right, some of them. But it doesn't take that many in these tight races, but what this one pollster was saying that a Republican pollster, the whole universe after post-Foley have stopped the momentum and the universe has shifted five to seven points against the Republicans, so if were you in a dead heat, you are now trailing. If you were up, you're now in a dead heat.

KONDRACKE: OK, the other.

BARNES: And I want to mention one other thing in this poll.

HUME: Quickly.

BARNES: Shows that women are more Republican, at least young women, are more Republican than men are. Now that's just not right and yet that's what this poll found.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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