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Special Report Roundtable - November 28

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by uh -- by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal.

THOMAS FERRARO, REUTERS: (INAUDIBLE) blame the surging violence in Iraq on al Qaeda deny the country is in the midst of a civil war?

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER-DESIGNATE: My response on the president's representations are well known. But the 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again.


ANGLE: OK. Nancy Pelosi suggesting the president is crazy for thinking that al Qaeda and Iraq is behind some of the sectarian violence. Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

So, Mara, incoming House speaker Pelosi is asked, so the president is suggesting al Qaeda and Iraq is trying to foment sectarian violence and she goes back to the 9/11 Commission...

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: She wasn't actually asked that, she was asked -- he said that President Bush, today, blamed the surging in violence on al Qaeda. I think what she heard was al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. Did the president actually say al Qaeda in Iraq? Because that is the full name of the group that has been fermenting this violence. It's an Iraqi group that is certainly modeled...

ANGLE: Do you think she thought it was the wrong chapter?

LIASSON: Yes, I think she thought it was referring to al Qaeda. Because she's referring to the 9/11 Commission, which dismissed this notion of this link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, as in Osama bin Laden, clearly there are terrorist groups, one of them is named al Qaeda in Iraq, and they're fomenting violence there. I think that's what she was responding to.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yeah, I agree. But you mean Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda link-up. That's what she was confused about.

LIASSON: Yeah. That's what I'm talking -- yeah, right.

KONDRACKE: And I think she was also disputing the idea and somehow that got all mixed up, that, you know, Bush has always said that this is the central front of the war on terrorism, and the Democratic line is, oh, no, it's a diversion from the war on terrorism. So she's -- whatever Bush says, she's got to, you know...

ANGLE: So mean, she didn't want to concede that al Qaeda, of any stripe, had any role...

KONDRACKE: No, no, no. No, I think she would concede that al Qaeda is now active in Iraq, but, you know, the Democratic line is that it's there because we went into Iraq -- that al Qaeda had nothing to do with Iraq before the war started. But, you know, that's not the most important thing, it seems to me, that happened today, the most important thing is that Bush reiterated we are not pulling out until this job is done, which sets up a much bigger confrontation with the Democrats down the line than this little mix-up today.

ANGLE: Fred.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: It wasn't a mix-up. I don't know why you all are excusing and apologizing for Nancy Pelosi. She clearly screwed up here. The question was absolutely clear. President Bush today blamed the "surging in violence in Iraq." This is not -- the question is what about al Qaeda back before 9/11 or before we invaded or was there a link. The question was clear. She gave an answer that was about something else. She doesn't seem to think that al Qaeda is active there in Iraq, which it is -- according to her answer.

Now, if some Republican had done this, if Bush had done this at a press conference...

KONDRACKE: Oh please.

BARNES: If Newt Gingrich had said it, if John Boehner, if Roy Blunt had said it, you'd have been all over him, it would be inexcusable.

KONDRACKE: Oh, please. Oh, that's nonsense.

BARNES: Look, Nancy Pelosi is now going to be the speaker of the House. Her party won. She did a tough job leading them in the last two years and we shouldn't go around just excusing the things she says, when you don't know what really happened.

KONDRACKE: It was one of those things that you say...

BARNES: I think we have to judge her by her work, and that's what I'm doing.

KONDRACKE: It's one of those things where you say the president misspoke. The speaker-to-be misspoke.

LIASSON: The president misspoke here too, because he didn't say al Qaeda in Iraq. He referred to al Qaeda, which to me means Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a group...

BARNES: Look at what he said. He said -- the president today blamed the surge in violence in Iraq on al Qaeda. He's got Iraq and then there's an "on" in the middle and then there's al Qaeda.

LIASSON: No, that's not what I'm talking about.


ANGLE: Let's go back to the big story. Now, you think that because the president said "I'm not going to remove troops from Iraq" that that's big news?

KONDRACKE: No, he said it before. But look...

ANGLE: You mean like every other day.

KONDRACKE: If he persists -- yeah -- if he persists...

BARNES: That wasn't the big news, though.

KONDRACKE: Wait a minute. If he persists in this policy, then there is going to be a confrontation with the Democrats. I mean, they are going to have to try to force him to get out of Iraq at some stage by some legislative device, and that's going to be a big fight...

BARNES: Mort, that was not the most important thing he said. He said it many times, we knew there was going to be a fight. What he said was "When I see the Prime Minister Maliki on Wednesday, I'm going to land on him. I'm going to tell him that he has to do something about these militias right now."

LIASSON: And what if he can't?

KONDRACKE: He can. What if he won't?

LIASSON: What if he won't or can't? The fact that he hasn't done it so far suggests that he either can't or won't.

BARNES: Well, it suggests -- we know he can, but it suggests that he won't. Well, maybe his government should fall.

LIASSON: We don't know that he can because he hasn't ever done it.

BARNES: Yeah, maybe Sadr is right in saying that "I'm going to pull out, his government falls and we get a new prime minister." It looks like we need one.

ANGLE: All right, we need to go, but one other thing, Mort, on this whole question. Actually, a number of Democrats in the Senate are calling for some sort of symbolic pullout to remind the Iraqis we won't always be there. But Senator Levin told us he would not set any timelines or deadlines. After that it would be up to commanders in the field, and that sounds remarkably like President Bush's position.

KONDRACKE: It sounds a lot like senator Levin now that he is in authority is developing a much more responsible position. I mean, not to say he was irresponsible, but he's being responsible.

ANGLE: OK. All right. Next up with the panel, Illinois senator -- Illinois senior senator urges Illinois's junior senator to run for president -- what's up with that? We'll look at him and other contenders, maybe one of your favorites, right after the break.



SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: During this last campaign, Barack Obama was the most sought-after Democrat in campaign after campaign across America. He visited 30 different states, 50 different public meetings, red and blue states, alike, and the crowds that he drew in those states were amazing.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Do I have something unique to bring to a presidential race that would justify putting my family through what, I think everybody understands, is a grueling process?


ANGLE: OK, there you have Senator Durbin and Barack Obama. Senator Durbin is trying to ignite some sort of petition drive to convince Barack Obama, after only two years in the Senate, to run for president. Now, admittedly it seems, these days, that you have to start running for president when you're in high school. Nevertheless, isn't it just a tad early for everyone to be -- and he's headed to New Hampshire...

LIASSON: Well, oh, it's not a tad early in the cycle, are you kidding? People have been out there -- many people have formed exploratory committees or the pulmonary versions, there of. Many people have been to New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina for months and months. No, so it's not too early.

Now, whether Obama has enough experience is a whole other question, but I do think he's expected to announce something in the next, you know, month or so.

What's interesting is Dick Durbin doesn't have to ignite anything. The Democratic Party, at least the part that thinks that Hillary Clinton would not be the best candidate, is already ignited when it comes to Barack Obama. And I think that if he does get in he will be one of the very few candidates that will immediately become a real rival to Senator Clinton.

ANGLE: Well, on that point, Mort, if I may -- Quinnipiac, we mentioned a poll earlier in the show, it's actually a reading of people's warmth -- the warmth of their feelings for politicians -- for national politicians, and here you see the top three: Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama, and John McCain. People were asked on a scale of 1 to 100 how warm do you fell about these people. Here you go.

Barack Obama is right there in No. 2.

KONDRACKE: My theory about all this is that the American people are yearning for somebody who would be a real uniter, not a divider, in this poisonous polarization of politics. All threes of those people are sort of independent-minded, presumed to reach across party lines, calm down these fierce wars that have been going on. And I think that's what that reflects.

Now, I don't think the public knows -- as a matter of fact, that same poll shows that something like 50 percent or 40 percent of the people don't even know -- have a good enough opinion -- don't know enough -- don't think they know enough to have an opinion about Barack Obama. Only nine percent think they don't have an opinion about Rudy Giuliani. But most people don't know Rudy Giuliani, either. All they know is that he was a hero of 9/11 and that's what their image of him is. I mean...

ANGLE: They like him.

KONDRACKE: The scrutiny machine has not been turned on those two yet.

BARNES: Well, I didn't know Mort had been out there asking people what they know about Rudy Giuliani, but apparently he's talked to thousands of Americans on that.

Look, I will answer Barack Osama's question, I'll answer his question. Does he have something unique to bring to the presidential race? And the answer is yes. And I agree with what Mara said. If he gets in the race, he's the challenger of Hillary Clinton, and I think he could be a strong challenger. He stirs people in a way -- I don't think for the reason Mort said, but in a way he stirs Democrats, in a way that Hillary can't. I mean, she's very substantial, but the other guy I would watch -- yeah, go ahead.

ANGLE: While you're talking...

BARNES: I'm through.

ANGLE: Let's look at one of the other parts of this Quinnipiac warmth thing, thermometer, they call it, which actually had Hillary Clinton in a group. There we go, John Edwards, 49 percent; Hilary Clinton -- 49.9, Hillary Clinton 49, you see, on down the line. This is sort of in the middle of the 20, here. So Hillary Clinton does well, but she's not as well as you might have expected.

BARNES: That's about what I would have expected, actually, right in the middle. She's not -- look, this doesn't mean the person that wouldn't necessarily make the best president or he want to be president, it's somebody you like. But, likeability helps with voters. It does help.

KONDRACKE: But it's not everything.

BARNES: It's not everything.

KONDRACKE: I mean, substance does count for something. Experience counts for something. Testing counts for something. You know, this is going to be a long grind and, you know, maybe Barack Obama will prove to be -- you know, walk right through it and march right up to the top of the heap. But it's going to be a tough fight, and Hillary Clinton knows how to fight.

BARNES: Yeah, but on the Republican side, Mort, you touched on something...

ANGLE: Quickly.

BARNES: ...and that's testing. Rudy Giuliani has been tested and he came through strongly.

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