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Special Report Roundtable - November 13

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


BUSH: I'm not going to prejudge the Baker Commission's report. They want us to succeed in Iraq, just like I want to succeed and so we had a really good discussion.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We've got to put greater responsibility on the Iraqis and that the way to do that, probably the only way to do that, is to let the Iraqis know that within four to six months of the president notifying them that we're going to begin a phased redeployment of our troops out of Iraq


ANGLE: OK, the search for a new way of doing things in Iraq is well underway. 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 the president says today, after meeting with the Iraq Study Group, that what we're looking for here -- and he seemed to approve the questions they asked -- what we're looking for is a way to succeed. In fairness, I think that's what Senator Levin is also saying, though he sounds like, Mara, he sounds like he is beginning to move over a little bit to the John Murtha, the House Democrats position.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It's really unclear about that. I mean, the Democrats, if you can divide them into groups, some of them think the war is lost, there is nothing we can do.

ANGLE: That would be the John Murtha House.

LIASSON: Let's cut our losses and get out. And Howard Dean said something more or less like that this weekend. Then you've got people who think maybe there is something are those who think there is something to salvage, skip Iraq being a democracy, I think everybody's gotten over that one, but that maybe we could actually have it be some stable, nonterrorist- harboring country that doesn't implode and spread violence all over the region, and maybe the way to do that is to give the Iraqi government more incentives, or actually hold a stick over them, is what Levin is suggesting, that you better shape up or we're going to start pulling out. What's not clear about the Levin position is where is what step two. In other words, let's say you say this to them, they can't or won't get their political act together over there, then what do we do?

ANGLE: We asked him about that today and his position has been fairly clear until today when it became a little less clear, and his position has always been, and we gather still is, that you have this initial withdrawal. He was initially calling for it to happen in December, now he's saying four to six months down the road that you would have that initial withdrawal to remind the Iraqis that we won't always be there. And then no deadlines or timelines after that. No, that's a very different position, Mort, from, say, John Murtha and the House who want an immediate pullout

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: That's what happens when you become responsible for the policy. And Senator Levin's going to be the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and what happens there will be partly his responsibility. And, you know, what he is now proposing is more pressure. The administration has been applying a lot of pressure on the Maliki government to shape up, to -- and it did in fact -- Maliki did announce that he's going to shake up his cabinet, but he's going to get the militias under control, he's going to achieve national reconciliation -- and those things he has not done. And what Levin seems to be doing is to underscore that by starting withdrawals, you know, as of a not fixed time. Because he says in there, there's the line, four to six months after the president says that we're going to do that.

ANGLE: Right, which I believe he anticipates would come after the Iraqi Study Group announces its proposals in December and after the Pentagon study, which is we don't know when.

KONDRACKE: Right, I mean there's a lot of studying going on. And something different is going to come out of this from what we've got, but lord knows what it's going to be.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: You know, I've thought through history, the history of warfare, and I haven't come across a war yet that was won through withdrawal. So, I -- look, I agree with Senator Levin's goal, as does the White House, that that sense of urgency needs to be instilled into the Iraqi government. That when Maliki said at one point, this was a couple of months ago, said, oh, we'll put off dealing with the militias until next year. Well, you know, with the kind of bloodshed that's happening there, I mean the -- that's not acceptable. So, but still, look, there is no third way. Look, you're going to have a democracy or not, Mara. You can't tell them well you've had these three elections, but now you're not going to have a democracy, you're either going to have a democracy that's reasonably stable or you're going to have chaos. We're going to either win or lose. I don think there's a third way.

LIASSON: You don't think you can have something stable that's not a democracy?


LIASSON: You don't think you can have something stable that's no a democracy?

BARNES: Yeah, how are you going to do that? What are you going to do, sponsor coo? The U.S. tried that in Vietnam, didn't work too well.

ANGLE: Now, one of the things that's interesting here, Fred, is that Levin, Senator Levin seemed to say today that the president had told him that it was useful for members of Congress to be raising cane over some sort of withdrawal date as a way of instilling exactly the sense of urgency that you were talking about.

BARNES: Well, it may be, but I hope it doesn't come to a point where they actually have to start the withdrawals, that would be a huge mistake. We have to win there. It would be so disastrous for the Middle East, the world, the United States, and withdrawing is -- withdrawing even, you know, starting with, what -- 30,000, 40,00 troops, I think, would be a huge mistake.

KONDRACKE: I think one big test is, does the United States pull out of combat with the insurgency and with the militias before the Iraqis are ready? I mean, there's one idea that they would just -- they would leave Baghdad, U.S. troops would leave Baghdad, go -- guard the borders, guard the oil fields and stuff like that and leave the fighting to the Iraqis. I don't think the Iraqis are ready for that.

ANGLE: Right, well, what will make them ready is the question at this point.

KONDRACKE: Well, you know, I don't know that -- I don't know that the absence of U.S. forces fighting with them will make them ready.

ANGLE: Now, we've got the Pentagon doing its study, the Iraq Study Group doing its study. Any new ideas that you've heard that you haven't thought of before? About 30 seconds left.

LIASSON: Well, the Iraq Study Group, I think, is going to perform a political function. It might not find a silver bullet to solve Iraq, but it might give some way with this regional conference or something that it can make it seem like something's happening, so that both sides maybe can come up with some kind of solution.

ANGLE: So that everyone would have something to embrace.

LIASSON: Face saving -- yeah.

BARNES: You win or you lose. Those are the only two strategies.

ANGLE: OK, I'll put you down as a skeptic on the Iraq Study Group. When we come back with the panel, the war in Iraq is just one of many issues in the Democratic leadership elections in the House, where Nancy Pelosi has embraced anti-war John Murtha as a majority leader. What does the panel make of the leadership battles among Democrats? When we come back.



NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: They spoke out for new direction to bring integrity, integrity back to Washington, and we will make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history.

REP JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Some dumb bastard would go start talking eight years from now about this whole thing and say, "Jesus Christ, this happened, then in order to get immunity so he doesn't go to jail, he starts talking of finger at people and the son of a bitch all falls apart.


ANGLE: OK. That last voice you heard was John Murtha, as the screen indicated there. Those are the tapes the FBI shot in the ABSCAM investigation, back in 1980. John Murtha ultimately was not prosecuted on that, he cooperated with officials and testified against some of his colleagues. It does raise a question, Mara. Nancy Pelosi has made a lot out of the fact that it's going to be the most ethical Congress ever, and she has just embraced John Murtha as majority leader, and those two, based on this, wouldn't seem to fit that well together.

LIASSON: Oh yeah, and I'm sure that you're going to hear a lot more about John Murtha's role in ABSCAM from Republicans who were eager to kind of expose the hypocrisy in this. I think there are other issues here too, you know.

ANGLE: While you're saying that, we also heard from a group that -- not allied with Republicans today, a group whose acronym is CREW, the Citizens for Responsible and Ethics in Washington, the people who are suing Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. And here you see it:

"How can Americans believe that the Democrats will return integrity to the White House when future Speaker Pelosi has endorsed an ethically- challenged member for a leadership position? Representative Murtha is the wrong choice for this job."

These are the people who were suing on behalf of Joe Wilson and his wife.

LIASSON: The interesting thing about this whole development is that she didn't have to endorse anybody. Dennis Hastert chose that approach during other leadership fights, he just stepped aside. But Murtha did run her own campaign for minority leader, and Steny Hoyer is someone who she does not have a great relationship with, and she has now really entered herself into this race. I think it was an interesting kind of risky move. If Hoyer wins, she's already kind of announced that she doesn't get along with the guy who might be the majority leader, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. But it is a risky move.

ANGLE: Was this her friendship with him or was it also a statement on the war in Iraq where Murtha is the leading proponent of a quick withdrawal?

KONDRACKE: Well, I think both. But it's also vindictiveness. I mean, Steny Hoyer had the temerity to run against her and she's never forgiven him. So, you know, it's a split in the caucus. Also, on that, what -- here's -- that FBI sting operation featured an FBI Man with $50,000 in cash on the table, when Murtha goes in there, now...

ANGLE: Which he was going to use to pay off congressmen to help Arab sheikhs get into the country.

KONDRACKE: So, Murtha does not take the money, but he says "Now, I want to do business with you. I want to get the blank-blank jobs in my area, get a few bank deposits at banks in my district and we might change our mind. We want to do more business with you sometime later." Now, he was a member of the House Ethics Committee. He did not report the transactions to the -- the offer to the House Ethics Committee; he did not call the FBI. You know, he later testified against other Congressmen who were involved in the thing and has always claimed that this only had to do with his trying to get jobs for his district. But, you know, this is not what somebody who's totally on the ethical up and up does in this case. I mean, if it happened to you, you'd call your local cop, I would think.

BARNES: You know, it's interesting that Mara said, well, this is something Republicans will charge and make hypocrisy.

LIASSON: Well, and Democrats.

BARNES: It shouldn't be left to Republicans. Where is the press? Are they going to ask Murtha about this? Are they going to ask Nancy Pelosi about it? Are they going to -- look, believe me, if this were a Republican with that background, the press would be all over it, as they should. So, I think at the very least, that should happen. And it's a very questionable appointment purely on ethics grounds.

ANGLE: Let me throw in one other issue here today. Late today, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that he has taken the first step in the 2008 presidential bid. What do you think, Mara?

LIASSON: Well, I think that the Republican field needs to be filled up, because it got decimated by the 2006 election. I mean, you had George Allen's hopes be eliminated, I think, severely diminished -- Rick Santorum, Bill Frist, I mean, those were some of the people who were going to run for the nomination and Giuliani has been considering it for a while, I don't think it's a surprise that he's formed an exploratory committee. But, it's possible that Newt Gingrich will get into the race and then you, of course, have John McCain, the frontrunner and Mitt Romney.

ANGLE: Mort.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, no, Giuliani's entry was anticipated. He campaigned like crazy along with John McCain for all kinds of Republican candidates. He wasn't doing that just for fun or party loyalty.

BARNES: He enters at the top, though, he's in the top tier along with McCain and Mitt Romney.

ANGLE: All right, I want to take the last 30, 40 seconds here to congratulate Mort Kondracke, who was the greatest predictor of the race. You saw here what Mort had said, what he had predicted for the outcome. And you got the award from.

KONDRACKE: The Washington Post Crystal Ball Award, yes. And it was the Tournament of Champions, all those who had previously won -- won this award. I think you get a glass crystal ball and a lunch. And a lunch from the editor of the Outlook section.

BARNES: What? No money?

KONDRACKE: No money. Not as valuable as a football pool.

ANGLE: So are you going into poker tournaments now? What's next?

KONDRACKE: No, I am not, no, no, no. Wait until next election and see how it comes out then.

ANGLE: Where were you -- Fred.

BARNES: I was trailing.

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