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Special Report Roundtable - November 17

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One lesson is -- is that we tend to, uh, want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while, but I would -- I would make it beyond just Iraq. I think it's the great struggle we're going to have is between radicals and extremists versus people who want to live in peace and that Iraq is a part of the struggle.


ANGLE: There's President Bush in Vietnam today where he was asked if there are any lessons from Vietnam for Iraq. Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Morton Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well, it was to be expected, Charles, that the president would be asked about that, going to Vietnam, with whom we had a lengthy war and 58,000 Americans were killed. Very controversial here in the States, critics of the war in Iraq insist on drawing parallels. Do you see any?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think -- look, they are very different wars because of the nature of the enemy and the strategic stakes. You know, the communists were quite conservative, they were not reckless, unlike the fascists who were, and they were apocalyptic. Hitler attacked Britain; the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor. They wanted to hasten the thousand year riot. And the Jihaddists are like that, they believe the end of history is near and they're job is to kill and to be killed in order to hasten it. And that's why they are as fanatical as they are. And one of the reasons that we have not had a second attack since 9/11, in part, is because they are in Iraq, we're confronting them there.

The difference between the Jihaddists and the communists in Vietnam is the Jihaddists will follow us here. And the last difference is this, the area of Iraq is very strategically important because it sits on oil and oil is the source of power and wealth. Vietnam, on the other hand, to quote Daniel Moynihan who once said, 30 years ago about India, "It only exports cholera," was a country like that and it didn't have any strategic importance.

You lose Vietnam, you can recover. You lose Iraq, you're going to lose the whole Persian Gulf and the whole balance of power and the region in the world changes radically.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, it was bad enough when we lost Vietnam and we left the helicopters off the apartment house roof across from the embassy and all that, it was humiliating. And the communists all over the world took it as a sign that the United States was weak and they decided that the correlation of force was in their favor and they attacked Afghanistan and stuff like that.

But, as Charles points out, this -- a defeat for the United States, in this region of the world, will be colossally greater, partly because of oil, but partly also because the Jihaddists are a movement, a worldwide movement, that will use the resources of Iraq, if they can possibly get a hold of them, to build all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, buy them if necessary. We will be humiliated, all of our adversaries will be encouraged, and this war will go on and we'll be suffering a strategic defeat in that conflict with Islamic fundamentalism.

ANGLE: Fred, what's your sense of this? I mean look, people look at Vietnam and say, OK, we had a defeat there. We lost far more people. Now the loss of lives, every Life is precious, but we've lost less than 3,000 lives. We lost 58,000 in Vietnam. We had national demonstrations, hundreds of thousands of people, in part because there was a draft at the time. Now you have a volunteer Army. We talked to a guy a few days ago, had done his third tour, had been sent twice and volunteered for the third tour. Does it make a difference in this whole controversy?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Sure it makes a difference. And you know, you also have this incredible re-enlistment rate among those who have served in Iraq, much higher than military people or naval people who haven't served there.

When I was in Iraq I talked to the soldiers there whenever I could and they were so different -- I was in a draftee Army, as you were and Mort was, and it was completely different. You know, there all the draftees spent most of their time grousing. And you don't find that in the military as much as you used to.

I think there's another way to look at this though, and that is there are some more specific lessons of Vietnam than I think President Bush doesn't quite understand and particularly this one. And that is, remember, Lyndon Johnson was criticized for micromanaging the war, picking out the bombing sites, a terrible mistake. But President Bush has gone to the other extreme where the generals, he says they can do whatever they want and I'm with them. All the decisions are theirs.

And then he said in an interview when I was with some -- others with him he said, look, "If General Casey is wrong, I'm wrong." I think he needs to -- there needs to be much more accountability on the part of the generals than the president is willing to insist on.

ANGLE: Well, not much time left in this panel, Charles, but that's an interesting point because when you heard General Abigail the other day, he says, we can't leave. We can't leave. And the president has obviously embraced that point of view. Democrats may find it hard to challenge the members of the military in the same way because they've been saying that the administration was blaming the military.

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely. Look, and we can leave if we can leave behind a self-sustaining government. In South Vietnam we had a government that might have succeeded had we not cut it off. And so it's not a great objective. It's not an unreachable objective. It's not that we have to defeat the insurgency or end the civil strife. We need to leave behind a government, and for that it's too early to leave.

ANGLE: OK. We're going to take a quick break and then the Republican leadership elections. The new leaders discuss where they went wrong and how to earn back the majority, when we come back.


JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: To work hard so that we can earn our way back to the majority and to do that means that we need to fight for smaller, less costly and more accountable federal government.

ROY BLUNT (R-MO), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Our conference has come together with an appreciation for the opportunity to redefine who we are, to provide the kind of alternatives that we want to provide, to look toward the future. Frankly, to get rid of the bad habits that we may have developed in the 12 years as majority.

ADAM PUTNAM (R-FL), GOP POLICY COMMITTEE CHMN: Today is the beginning of our march back to regain the trust and faith of the American people and we will do that by offering them an agenda.

ANGLE: OK. There you have some of the new Republican leadership today. No surprises, gentlemen, in who was elected among Republicans. What was surprising was the talk here, which made it sound as if they had concluded, Fred, that they'd lost because somehow they hadn't been true to the principles of smaller, less costly federal government.

BARNES: Uh-huh.

ANGLE: There wasn't any mention of corruption, except a vague illusion to, you know, we might have lost our way over the 12 years, right -- and no mention of Iraq until they were asked about it. What is your sense of what they were saying here today?

BARNES: Look. When they were -- the complaints they heard the most of were from conservatives who complained about excessive -- what they thought was excessive spending and there was some excessive spending. The truth is though, the conservatives all went out and voted anyway and voted for them. So, that was not problem in the election.

I think their biggest problem, of things they could deal with; obviously they couldn't deal With Iraq. What they did was not going to make it any more or less successful, probably, but they could have dealt with the issue Of reform. Which, reform, remember, is the opposite of corruption.

Did they reform Congress? No. Did they go anywhere with tax reform? No. Did they go anywhere with immigration reform? No. Did they go anywhere with Social Security reform when President Bush was pushing for it and all the Republicans hid? No. And I think that -- that's a lesson they ought to learn going into 2008, which is going to be hard enough any for them to regain Congress, and that is to with a reform agenda, just you know, cutting spending isn't going to be enough.

KONDRACKE: Right. I mean, they became all about maintaining the majority and using whatever it took to hold on to power. And they used lobbying firms and they used earmarks and they used spending, and they used whatever leverage they could and they forgot where they came from and that led to corruption. That's what the Abramoff scandal was all about. It was earmarks and that sort of thing and -- Fred's right, I mean, they couldn't have done much about Iraq. They have a president in office who's the author of Iraq and they have to defend him. They probably would have been probably -- if they'd had the gumption they could have called for Rumsfeld's head a lot sooner than it was handed to the Democrats, but that would look disloyal.

ANGLE: Charles, they talked -- several of them talked about earning their way Back into the majority. Now, Iraq is essentially out of their control. The White House, the military And the Democrats who control Congress will have much more Say about that. So what can Republicans do to earn their way back into the majority?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, they have to prove that they were the kind of revolutionaries who took over the House 12 years ago. Revolutionaries always stormed the presidential palace and then a year later are hiring their own butlers and chauffeurs and that's how the Republicans acted after 12 years.

When you talk about the corruption, it's not so much the Foley scandal and all the obvious stuff, the stealing from the Treasury. It's the sense of entrenchment. These guys had come in as reformers and they got comfortable and they were spending. If Republicans stand for one thing, it's restraint in government, and they were promiscuous of spending and they didn't restrain themselves. It's easier to do it in opposition, they are in opposition, and if they at least stay with that, they're going to have at least a theme in '08 and in the future.

KONDRACKE: But I hope they don't say no. That's not their job to just say no.

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