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Special Report Roundtable - November 16

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER-ELECT: I agree with Nancy Pelosi. Jack Murtha has been a courageous and outspoken leader for that cause. We have had differences, Jack Murtha and I, but Jack Murtha will continue to be one of the most significant leaders in the Congress of the United States, as chairman of the Defense Appropriation Committee.



BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Republican Congress -- I mean, Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, newly elected as the majority leader of the House of Representatives, on the day that Nancy Pelosi was designated by Democrats to be their candidate for speaker, and, therefore, the speaker-designate.

So, the question -- but the man that -- that Hoyer was talking about, of course, Jack Murtha, was backed by her against Hoyer to be the majority leader, and he lost badly, 149-86. But, as you heard Hoyer say, he will continue to be a major figure on the issue of the Iraq war.

So, what -- what does -- what does all this mean? Some answers now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer -- FOX News contributors all.

Charles, your thoughts.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it tells you something about Pelosi's leadership. This was a big mistake, a blunder, on day one.

HUME: Why?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because she was promoting a candidate who is, to say the least, ethically challenged. This Murtha has a history here.

He is an unindicted co-conspirator in Abscam. He is a man who told a bribe offer, "I'm not accepting it yet." He's a man who was the king of the deal-makers in -- in the back room. He's a man who has done earmarks in the night to a degree that almost no one else has.

And he is a man who, just a day or two ago, told a group of Blue Dog Democrats that they -- the very ethical reform that Pelosi is pushing is something in which he used a scatological term.

HUME: He said total crap.



KRAUTHAMMER: Well, if you're -- if you're allowed to say that on the air, then let's say it.


KRAUTHAMMER: And here is Pelosi, who, just a week ago, had said that she is going to produce the most ethical Congress in history, and this ends up as her man. It's a slight contradiction.

Also, it was a losing proposition. If you're going to -- to be the boss and appoint a henchman against a Hoyer, who has been there, and who has a big constituency, you have got to make sure you're going to win. You don't want to lose on day one. And when you lose 2-1, what she has done with Hoyer is not only created a number two who is -- who now has a grievance. By his -- the -- by the amount of his win, 2-1, he becomes a rival.

She is going to have to look over her shoulder. If she stumbles in this term, he is going to end up inheriting her spot in the next Congress.


Well, so, the history on House leadership is, we had the Hammer, Tom DeLay. And now we have the wicked witch of the West, Nancy Pelosi, who is twisting arms and making -- you know, having her aides making threats, and stuff like that.


HUME: Was that -- was that really happening?

KONDRACKE: Supposedly.

I mean, that's -- that's -- it got heavily reported. And I have heard no contradictions of that.

And, you know, the fact is that, when Tom -- Tom DeLay, in his day, got his way. And, in this case, her first outing, she -- as Charles said, she lost by 2-1.

Now, I kind of disagree. I think Steny Hoyer is a team player. And I think that he -- that this experience will make him , at least temporarily, super-loyal to -- to Nancy Pelosi, that he will try his best to make her a successful speaker...


HUME: Why would -- why would -- here is a man who got himself elected majority leader, against her opposition...


HUME: ... over her opposition.

KONDRACKE: But he's not going to cross her.

HUME: Well, maybe. But why would that make him more, rather than less, loyal to her?

KONDRACKE: Because of -- because the experience is not a pleasant one, to be challenged. I mean, it's nice to win, but the whole idea, normally speaking, he would have just risen without a challenge.

And, so, now, having -- having been challenged, he survived the challenge. But I think that it will make him -- he is a team player, anyway. I think he will be more of a team player.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Boy, I don't. I think she is probably going to ignore him.

HUME: How can you ignore the majority leader?


BARNES: On the Murtha thing, this was a win for Nancy Pelosi.

HUME: How so?

BARNES: Just think if Murtha had won, and was actually the majority leader. Then, she would be in trouble.

You know, Brit, as I said a couple nights ago, I thought the media was going to give Murtha a pass. Boy, was I wrong on that. The media has not done that at all, has brought up all the old, and some new, ethical charges against him, even more than the ones Charles mentioned.

And, if Murtha were there as majority leader, this would be a continuing story day after day after day. And the whole leadership of the Democrats in the House would be bleeding. Now she has got to deal with another problem. And that is, who is going to be the chair of the House Intelligence Committee?

And she is inclined, it's been reported over and over again -- and I think it's true -- inclined toward Alcee Hastings.

HUME: No, she's -- I think she's inclined -- well, what she told me when I asked her about that last week was, the first thing she said was, there is no seniority. He...


HUME: If seniority held on that committee, he would be in line to be the chairman.


HUME: She said, there is no seniority on that committee.

The leader -- the two leaders, Democrat and Republican, appoint the members from scratch at the beginning of each term.

BARNES: I know all this.


HUME: That didn't sound to me -- I may have misinterpreted it, but it didn't sound to me like somebody who is leaning toward Alcee Hastings.

BARNES: Well, it's certainly been widely reported by people who cover Capitol Hill, since your interview...

HUME: Right.

BARNES: ... that she is still leaning towards Alcee Hastings.


HUME: And Major Garrett -- and Hastings himself told Major Garrett, our Major Garrett, today that he fully expects -- he's -- he's bidding on it -- he fully expects to get the job.


HUME: And the members of the Black Caucus, who -- who are a very important voice in the Democratic Party there, say they expect that, too.

BARNES: Well, he does have a bit of an ethical problem, of course, since he was a -- a -- impeached and convicted, a federal judge, removed from the bench.


HUME: Well, he -- he was acquitted in the criminal charges, but impeached and removed from office by the...


BARNES: Well, that's what I said. Yes, he was removed from office on a charge of taking a bribe in a drug case.


BARNES: And now to make him a chairman of a committee, when it's her discretion to decide -- and I think there are other problems, obviously, that she faces.


BARNES: Wait a minute. I want to mention a couple others.

One, Howard Dean. They all hate him as chairman. And -- and I think they sort of propped up James Carville yesterday to say that Dean ought to get out of there. He's terrible. And, then, you have poor Rahm Emanuel, probably the most talented of the House Democrats, who couldn't take a real leadership post. He is caucus chairman. That means nothing. He is obviously unhappy.

KONDRACKE: Well, but Rahm -- Rahm will -- Rahm Emanuel is one of these people who will be depended on to do lots of important work. And he will be -- he is the kind of person who...


HUME: What do you think she will do on Hastings?

KONDRACKE: I think -- what I -- here is what I hope she will do, that she will...


HUME: I don't care what you hope, Mort.



HUME: I want to know what you think.


KONDRACKE: I think she is inclined to go for Hastings, but I think it's a big mistake.

And what she should do instead is to reappoint that committee, and find the very best, smartest people on foreign policy she can find.


HUME: What's she going to do on Hastings?

KRAUTHAMMER: Appointing him would be a catastrophic error.

But, given what she has just done with Murtha, I think she actually is going to try it.

HUME: Next up with the panel: The words maverick and McCain have almost become synonymous. We will look at Senator John McCain's prospects for a job he just filed papers for today.

Stay tuned.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We were elected to reduce the size of government and enlarge the sphere of free and private enterprise. We increased the size of government, in the false hope that we could bribe the public into keeping us in office.



HUME: And, he said, they didn't, and then suggested, perhaps, that they shouldn't have -- John McCain today before the Federalist Society here in Washington, a conservative organization, this on the same day that he filed papers, making it official at least that he has an exploratory committee to look into his presidential -- possible presidential candidacy.

We all here, I think, think it's a likely presidential candidacy.

John McCain has to do some fence-mending, it is fair to say, and has been trying, with the right wing of the Republican Party, which carries enormous influence in the nominating process.

And just to give you a little -- a little sample of how he's regarded among conservative activists, there was an Internet poll -- not scientific -- at Free Republic, which is a group of conservatives who exchange views with one another. They got about 6,000 people responding, some members of Free Republic and some not. And it was 90-9 against him. Now, that's not scientific. And people can vote more than once. But it gives you a little taste, at least, of the distance that John McCain may have to go to get right with the right, as we suggested earlier in the program.

So, first of all, Fred, how far had -- has he come in that quest, and how far does he have to go? What are his chances, as you see it?

BARNES: Well, I would say his chances among the Republicans are better than anybody else's. But he has got some real problems.

And one of his biggest problems, of course, is conservatives.

HUME: And he has -- he's stronger among -- than anyone else because name recognition, standing, what?

BARNES: Well, he is the second guy in line. You know, Mort has this theory about primogenitor in the Republican Party, that they take who is ever the oldest guy left over, the next guy in line, the oldest guy. You know, they did it with Reagan. They did it with Dole. They did it in the past.

HUME: Yes, McCain ran in 2000.


BARNES: And he ran pretty well. And he's still there. And he's the next guy in line. And they, unlike Democrats, who will reach way back in the pack, you know, and pick out a Jimmy Carter or a George McGovern or something, Republicans usually do nominate that guy.

But he had some real problems. I mean, it's great to be a maverick, though he flipping on that a little bit. You know, he flipped on ethanol. He flipped on Jerry Falwell, which, actually, was not a smart thing to do.

What he ought to flip on is the -- is the marriage protection amendment. And that would please a lot of Christian conservatives, because that's become a litmus test with them. But he needs just the conventional conservative.

HUME: He's against it.

BARNES: Yes, he's against the marriage protection amendment. He avoided -- voted against it.

But he did some things that I don't know how he's going to overcome with conservatives. You know, he voted against all the Bush tax cuts. He voted for, was the architect of campaign finance reform, which, you know, drives a lot of conservatives crazy. He is for gun control and all those things.

He's -- look, what he's done is, he has hired or brought on his team some people associated with the Bush campaigns in 2004 and 2000. But the - - the Bush grassroots, hasn't gotten them, by any means.

KONDRACKE: Well, he -- he certainly has knocked himself out for Republicans. I mean, he was campaigning all over the country.

For somebody who is going to be -- who is almost 70 years old, you know, to be campaigning the way he was, he will be -- he would be the oldest president ever in -- by 2008.

HUME: When elected, upon election, yes.



Look, he -- he said today that he's convinced that a majority of Americans still consider themselves conservatives. That's simply wrong. I mean, the fact is that a majority of Americans -- almost a majority of Americans, 47 percent, according to the exit polls, consider themselves moderates.

And, now, they don't run the Republican Party. But, you know, those are the people to whom John McCain will appeal, or can appeal, and I don't think he is going to go so far off, you know, the independent reservation that he can't appeal to them. And his strength will be that he, among -- not -- among all Republicans, could probably beat Hillary Clinton.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, he knows his problem is on the right. He has indictments. He is a hero of the media.

He has been working assiduously for -- over these six years to repair his relations on the right. Now, we heard him in the sound bite. He spoke about reducing the size of government. And, yes, the conservatives like the fact that he has opposed all this spending.

But he has also -- but he hasn't opposed the increase in the reach of government. And that's where conservatives are upset, in the reach of government, in campaign regulations, which is essentially what he did -- he's a hero of campaign regulation -- and also voting against the tax reductions.

So, he has got a problem on those issues. Now, the -- the one lucky event he has had is that his -- his chief rival, at least presumptive, on the right, the man who was sort of a Reagan Republican, a traditional conservative, popular governor, was George Allen. And he would have been the one who could have coalesced as the anti-McCain conservative.

Well, he's gone. He blew himself up in this election. So, you have a vacuum, where McCain is going to look to pick up support. You're going to have also Romney and others. But, by clearing Allen out of the field, I think it helps McCain. And I think he can repair relations on the right enough to actually win the nomination.


KRAUTHAMMER: And he is the strongest candidate for the general election.

HUME: So, you think he can do it, right?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think he can. I think he will.

KRAUTHAMMER: You think he will?

KONDRACKE: Oh, I think he -- I definitely think he can, yes.

HUME: I'm tempted to ask you what your hopes are for him.



HUME: Can he?

BARNES: I hope...


HUME: Can he, and will he?

BARNES: I certainly hope so.


HUME: All right, that's enough out of all of you.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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