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Special Report Roundtable - November 3

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Truth is the Democrats can't answer that question. Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory. Second guessing is not a strategy.

GEN WESLEY CLARK (D), FMR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are at risk abroad in Afghanistan, in Iraq, with a military that's overstretched with threats from North Korea and Iran and Osama bin Laden on the loose and a government that doesn't have a plan.


ANGLE: OK, there you get two different views of what this election is about. And some say this election is about Iraq and Iraq only along with other foreign policy issues, of course. Others say that all issues are local.

Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll call; and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Now Charles, every sixth year of a presidential term, usually brings losses, there had been some exceptions, but ordinarily brings losses, people get a little weary of an administration being in power and of the Congress and so forth. If ,in fact, the Democrats do as well as some are predicting next week, would it be a mandate to have the Democrats laid out enough to be a mandate? Would the margin be likely to suggest that they have earned a mandate?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I'm sure the Democrats will claim a mandate. But if the result is somewhere between loss of 20 to 30 House seats or say a maximum of six seats in the Senate -- remember the historical average, if you go back to FDR, is 35 loses in the House and six is the average of losses in the Senate, so it would be about or below.

As you say, it's the weariness of have people six years in power. And we've seen a lot of seats are going to be lost here on corruption alone, having nothing to do with Iraq, at least the five Houses on corruption, perhaps 10 others tainted by it. And if you take that all together, look at Reagan in his sixth year, he didn't have a war, he didn't have scandals, Iran Contra happened after the election, he lost eight in the Senate.

So -- and the last point I'd make this is. If the Democrats had offered an alternative on Iraq, then there would be a mandate for an alternative approach. What will be registered, I think, on Tuesday is going to be discontent on happiness with what's happening, but not a mandate to do something else other than, you know, decry what's already happened.

ANGLE: Mort, I get the sense that a lot of Democratic voters who seem to think that, judging by some polls, that this election is about withdrawal from Iraq, are going to be deeply disappointed if, in fact, the Democrats take over the House and/or Senate and that turns out not to be the Democratic position.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, the Democrats are divided and they have been divided almost from the beginning, or certainly ever since John Murtha came up with his withdrawal plan. They all want out, but it's a question of when and it was -- some want a timetable -- a specific timetable and others don't.

Nancy Pelosi, who will be the speaker, presumably, said that she wants all troops out by the end of 2007. Now, there are 51 percent of the American people want something like that, want a withdrawal, you know, by then, but 41 percent don't -- 41 percent according to one poll want to city until the job is done, you know, so, I think there is a danger that some Democrats, at least, will be over interpreting the mandate and others will be disappointed.

ANGLE: Now Fred, I want to -- obviously Iraq is an important issue, but there are those like Tom Reynolds who is trying to get the Republicans elected and reelected to the House who argue that it is more about incumbents than anything, that even though people don't like Congress, they do like their member of Congress.

And we got a couple of polls we want to show you here, one done as recently as a few days ago. I think we have those polls -- there's two.

I knew they were there.

This is the job approval for your member of Congress, here is the New York Times poll, 58 percent approve of their own member of Congress and in a second poll the numbers are even higher at 62 percent in a Washington post poll. So, people don't like Congress, they don't like the war in Iraq, they don't like lots of things, but they like their own member of Congress. So, how do you factor that in with everything else?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, you have to compare it to 1994 when Republicans won 52 seats and took over the House of Representatives. That number, how do you like your own congressman, fell through the floor. It usually means all congressmen, it means congressmen of the party that's taking the heat in the election and it was Democrats then.

So, that number should be encouraging to Republicans and also Republicans are finally getting a slight bump up. I talked to a pollster today or actually e-mailed him back and forth who is doing many, many of these House races and he said that we're seeing a bit of an edge up, some progress. And heaven knows they need it because it's been pretty horrible for these Republicans.

Here's what matters, though, on whether there is mandate or not, it's how many seats they win. If they win just a numerical majority, say 18 or 19 in the House, that won't even give them a governing majority. If they don't win the Senate, well, then that shows you how limited their gains actually are. But, you know, if they win 35 seats in the House and seven in the Senate and control both of them, they'll have a better claim on a mandate.

ANGLE: Quickly.

KONDRACKE: I was talking to a Democratic strategist who seemed all of their polls and he's indicating that undecided who usually break 2-1 against the incumbent are breaking more than 2-1, so the Democrats are optimistic. More optimistic.

ANGLE: OK, next on SPECIAL REPORT, President Bush is touting some good economic news from today and says the tax cuts made it possible. Democrats have a different view, but some insist they won't roll them back. More with the panel, next.



BUSH: The Democrats predicted the tax cuts would not create jobs, they predicted the tax cuts would not increase wages, and they predicted the tax cuts would cause the deficit to explode. Well, the facts are in. Tax cuts have led to a strong and growing economy and this morning we got more proof of that.

BILL CLINTON, FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: There is a role for tax cuts in our policy and we ought to do it, but we ought to do it in a way that has a balanced budget and says to people like me, we at least want you to pay your fair share.


ANGLE: OK, there's President Bush and his predecessor, President Clinton talking about tax cuts and the economy. There was -- and we're back with the panel -- there was some good news today, Charles. A rare piece of good news for Republicans in the last few weeks of the election and that is that this month there were 90 -- or last month, there were 92,000 jobs created. The unemployment rate dropped yet again, down to 4.4 percent, which is about as close to full employment as you can get. Over the last three months, 470,000 jobs created. That is good news, economically, even though the president doesn't get much credit for it.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it's underplayed by the press. But it is a miraculous economy. What we've done since August of 2003 is created more jobs in the entire industrialized West combined. Our growth rate since August of 2003 is higher than any other country in the West. We have low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment, a growing economy. It's amazing and especially given the shocks that we had at the beginning of the decade, of course the terror attacks, the bubble, and all that. And it's a tribute to the policy of the administration who has followed (ph).

But the way the way that the press has played it, A, it's as if it's a non-story. And secondly, I just saw on-line today, the New York Times covering these job numbers and had the headlines something like -- on-line version, something like: "mixed news on jobs." It's not mixed news, it's fantastic news. And that's the way it's been played. So, it's a great story, but given the war in Iraq and given how the press has played it, it played a very small relative role in this election, the way, generally, it hasn't in the past.

KONDRACKE: Well, Bush had gotten a bit of a bump on the economy because, I think largely because of gasoline prices going down, his approval rating was something like 38 percent in June and it's now 46 percent. It's almost 50/50 on handling the economy. Look.

ANGLE: In some polls, but others he's way underwater.

KONDRACKE: Well, that was the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which is a reputable poll. The problem with this economy is that it is growing, there's no question about it and GDP growth has been great. There is a delinking or at least a big lag between increases in productivity and overall growth and wage growth that the average worker sees.

Now, we're just beginning to get wage growth that workers can see. And maybe it will have an affect -- a political affect, usually, I mean, the pattern of such things is that people sort of make up their minds about what the state of the country is along about July or August of an election year and not late and these new wage gains, I don't know if they will help.

BARNES: Are you a Republican.

ANGLE: Well Fred.

BARNES: Let me ask Mort. Have you ever heard of the concept of a lagging indicator?

ANGLE: Yeah. But it is.

BARNES: Now wait a minute. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

ANGLE: It's lagging further and further behind.

BARNES: No, no it's not.

ANGLE: Yes it is.

BARNES: It's been picking up. It didn't just start this month. It has been picking up for a number of months. And, but it always -- wage growth always follows economic growth and productivity growth. This is the way it works. There's another poll question that they sometimes ask that tells us more how people feel about the economy and that is how are you personally doing, financially and economically. They're two-thirds of the people say "fine."

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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