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Special Report Roundtable - November 8

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been talking with Don Rumsfeld over a period of time about fresh perspectives. He likes to call it "fresh eyes." He himself understands that Iraq is not working well enough fast enough.


HUME: And so, Secretary Rumsfeld goes. But does he go because the president has a new policy in mind that he believes that Donald Rumsfeld does not want to put it into place or does he go just because after a bad political loss, somebody has to take a fall and the policy in Iraq has proved to be enormously unpopular and some would certainly argue, at least, it's highly unsuccessful. So what about it?

Some thoughts from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Mara Liasson, welcome back Mara, national political correspondent of National Public Radio -- all are FOX NEWS contributors.

Mara, what do you think?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think Donald Rumsfeld goes because the president knows that at least his -- not so much the overall strategy and goal, but the plan in Iraq isn't working and I think he wants a new one. I don't think he has a policy ready that Donald Rumsfeld refused enact. I think what he's hoping is that the Iraq Policy Group, a member which is now replacing Donald Rumsfeld, Bob Gates, is going to come up with a way to salvage the situation there, to somehow get it in some kind of shape so it's not a haven for terrorists and it's a stabilizing force in the region instead of a destabilizing force.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yeah, I agree with that. And also Rumsfeld would have been an anvil for the new Democratic Congress. They would have pounded on him unmercifully.

HUME: He'd have spent all of his time up in hearing.

KONDRACKE: Absolutely. And so Gates will at least get a fresh start in a lot of ways. Look.

HUME: I suspect they'll hail the pour departed defense secretary before hearings anyway.

KONDRACKE: Oh yeah, I'm sure they will. But he can concentrate on just testifying.


He doesn't have to run the Pentagon, either. Look, this is -- what's underway here is a Bush 41 takeover of American foreign policy. I mean, you've got Jim Baker and this commission. The president is practically -- not quite saying, he's going to accept the results of this commission, but the -- he's so lauding as being distinguished and all that that it sounds like he's going to accept it and he's got one of the members of the commission to put it into place.

HUME: You buying that -- Fred.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Maybe. I mean, well, look, what Mort has said is right. He has been lauding it, he talks it up, it's along, you know, here in the end of November and I hope he...

HUME: He must know -- do you think he knows what's in it, basically?

BARNES: Sure, well, of course. He better be manipulating it if he has any sense because you don't want something out of left field, because look Brit, you start with this, whatever the report says to the extent it's different from the Bush strategy, and it will be different, the press, the Democrats, half the Republicans will be out there screaming you have to adopt it.

HUME: Whatever it is?

BARNES: Yeah, whatever it is.

LIASSON: Well wait a second. If they have a plan that's going to make progress happen in Iraq fast enough and well enough, which is what he said, he would have already done it.

BARNES: Of course.

LIASSON: It's not like he's waiting for some outside group tell him what he knows he should do. The point is, there are no good options right now in Iraq. Iraq is a very difficult problem. The parties in Iraq don't seem to be willing to stop massacring each other and share power, which is an essential political predicate there.

HUME: Isn't -- look, Mort, I'm intrigued by your theory that this is a Bush 41 takeover of the Bush 43 foreign policy. Is it not at least likely that what we have here are two men with very close ties to the Bush family -- the whole Bush family? I mean, after all, the reason why Bob Gates is at Texas A&M and not some other university is that's the seat of the Bush Presidential Library and that he is very close to the Bush family overall, so is Baker and that these are people that Bush 43 knows are not going to hand him a pack of recommendations that are going to be a hot potato.

KONDRACKE: Well, look, their job here is going to be get the son out of the trouble that Cheney and Rumsfeld got them into. And, you know, clearly and I don't know what.

HUME: You heard what he said about Cheney today, didn't you?

KONDRACKE: Well, Cheney stays, but you know, but he's alone now. You know, Rumsfeld's gone and the whole gang of so-called neocons -- they're not really neocons, but they're basically all gone, you know?

HUME: Well, the neocons are -- the neocons are coming out against the policy. They didn't like this policy.


LIASSON: Or the execution of the policy. Everybody liked the policy.

BARNES: You are acting like President Bush -- he's been putty in the hands of Cheney and Rumsfeld and now he's going to putty in the hands of somebody else. I don't think that's quite the way it works. I think the president has very strong feelings on this war that has been -- and that has been the guy that's pushing these things.

You know, this is -- this is one of the common things in Washington journalism that, you know, who has the president's brain, you know, who's in charge of it. It was it Cheney and Rumsfeld and now somebody else is going to take over.

KONDRACKE: You know, he is the decider, there's no question about that.

BARNES: Well, he's more than the decider.

KONDRACKE: OK. We'll know the difference if the Baker Commission recommends negotiations with Iran and Syria that will be a major departure from the policy that we've had up to now. And if Bush accepts it and tries it out, don't tell me that that's not a turn toward realism of the kind that was practiced in the Bush 41.

HUME: All right, what about Gates, himself? What can we say about Gates, himself, that will give viewers some insight into him?

BARNES: Weaker than Rumsfeld.

HUME: No, does that mean that transformation, which is even more difficult to manage at the Pentagon.


.the military force, the Army in particular and so forth? Is that dead now after Rumsfeld is gone? I've been told that at the Pentagon, when he's not involved in it, he's distracted by other things, he's not driving it, nothing happens.

BARNES: Well, I'm not sure they can really turn back. Can they? You know, undo what's done so far?

HUME: Well, I'm talking -- but the project is not complete.

LIASSON: We don't know what Bob Gates thinks about it.


BARNES: Look, I put President Bush on that subject, personally, but in the same conversation, he said, he supported Rumsfeld 100 percent, but you know, forget that.

LIASSON: Forget that, right.

BARNES: Put that aside, he said he supported completely the modernization and the streamlining of the military that Rumsfeld was doing, loved it.

HUME: He had that -- that was a Bush agenda item before 9/11 came along, before there was any plans to go anywhere near Iraq.

KONDRACKE: Look, running the Pentagon is a very tough job and you got to use a little bit of intimidation, but that's the stock and trade of Don Rumsfeld. Diplomacy, cooperation, negotiation, conversation, I mean that kind of stuff could worked, too, and if Gates knows how to do that, that'll be good.

LIASSON: If Gates has time and energy left over to transform the Pentagon after he's solved Iraq that will be a great, great thing.

BARNES: One other thing.

HUME: Quickly.

BARNES: The president said he liked Rumsfeld is the fact that he ran the Pentagon and the generals didn't. I'm not sure the Gates can run the Pentagon like that.

HUME: The generals and admirals have defeated many a defense secretary.

Yeah, but they didn't Rumsfeld.

I know they didn't. When we come back with our panel, we'll look at what the Democrats are likely to do with their new power in Washington. How will Republicans cope? Stay with us.



NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We will make America safer bypassing the 9/11 Commission, making the economy fair with raising the minimum wage, college more affordable, health care more accessible, dignified retirement to be guaranteed and move us to energy independence.


HUME: That was Nancy Pelosi in the conversation I had with her this afternoon over in the U.S. Capitol in her leadership office over there, soon to be a bigger office, I can assure you. And she was ticking off some of the things on the Democrat's agenda. She also -- she didn't go into great depth about it, but there's also the issue of immigration reform in which she and the Democrats in the House were in closer agreement with the president and the Republicans in the Senate and some Democrats, as well, than they were with -- the president was with his own Republicans. Are there some issues, that one and others, maybe even with the minimum wage, where there's something that they'll get together on in your judgment?

LIASSON: Oh, there's plenty of them, I think. And Clinton -- there is the Clinton model, he lost both Houses of Congress and then went on to pass a lot of centrist things -- welfare reform, NAFTA. I think that immigration is a classic example. The only reason it didn't get passed was because of the president's own party in of the House. If he want to pursue it, the kind of comprehensive plan he wanted including the guest worker program, pass the legalization, he's got some willing partners now. I think the minimum wage, the Republicans were ready to pass that at the end, anyway.

KONDRACKE: The president mentioned a whole lot of stuff like reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind bill, reauthorizing the S-Chip for children's health, there's just a lot of stuff that they can work together on.

The wonderful thing -- I mean, I feel like Linus with the football, but every single election, you start getting everybody talking in the sweetest terms about how they're going to be bipartisan, they're going to reach across party lines, the president is...

HUME: This is a setting in which it is not possible to do anything without bipartisanship.


HUME: Nobody wins -- nobody wins...


HUME: ...unless there's bipartisanship.

LIASSON: And there's powerful motives for both sides.

KONDRACKE: Look, if there's one -- I -- look, if there's one thing that comes out of these results, it's that moderates and independents who formerly who were inclined to vote Republican, went Democratic this time, they are the key swing vote in this thing and they want stuff done. They don't...

HUME: All right, let me ask a question to Fred, here about -- she also said to me, that yes there'd be investigations in the sense of legislative oversight, they're going to look into Pentagon contracting in Iraq and whether there was waste and god knows what else in that. And she said they're going to look at what happened with Katrina, although it seems to me that's been investigated, but I guess they're going to try that again. But she said pay back, no way. Now, she's got some pretty regressive investigators in her lineup of committee chairmen, not to include Henry Waxman and others. Will she be able to keep that no payback motto in effect?

BARNES: Absolutely not.

HUME: Why not?

BARNES: there is no chance of that. Look, you think all these Democrats -- I mean, what have they been saying for years now about Bush, the hatred out there, the desire to impeach him, that they're going to just roll back and say let's compromise on immigration...

HUME: She said impeachment's off the table. Do you agree with that?

BARNES: No, I don't agree with that at all. I mean look, John Conyers has been around a lot longer than she has. John Dingell has been around a lot longer than she has. And I think Henry Waxman has as well and those are the three horsemen in the apocalypse in this scenario in Washington.

HUME: From a Republican's point of view, right?

BARNES: Well, of course they are. They're -- look, when she talks about no payback, there's not a single Republican in the galaxy who believes that she can pull that off. Now, you're going to have two roads here, you're going to have the one that will be some of the negotiations over immigration and heaven knows they ought to be able to agree on an immigration bill and maybe something on energy and a few of these other things, but the main thing, all these Democrats want is payback, because they think it's the right thing. You know, they think, you know, the country's been lied to by the Bush administration and they think behind the facade of the White House there is just horrible evil stuff going on. They really believe that, so Conyers, Dingell and Waxman, just remember those names.

KONDRACKE: Pelosi is going to have to discipline her chairmen, I mean, there is going to be -- the rank and file...

HUME: She made it sound, by the way, like Alcee Hastings is -- the congressman from Florida who happens also to be an impeached former judge, impeached in a bribery scandal by a Democratic Congress...

KONDRACKE: Which she was a member of.

HUME: Which she was a member of. She says that the Intelligence Committee, there's no seniority there, it starts fresh every time. She made it sound like that she's going to do something about that.

KONDRACKE: Somebody different.

HUME: Somebody different. She made it sound that way, she didn't say that in those words.

KONDRACKE: And the other thing that she could do, within her own caucus, is to convince John Murtha not to run against Steny Hoyer. If she where to do that...

HUME: For whip, right?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, for whip. That would create a lot of peace -- for majority leader. Yeah, that would create a lot of peace.

LIASSON: Look, I think there's a big difference between impeaching the president and having some investigations. Congress has the proper oversight function and they can do that without going wild.

BARNES: But they won't.

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