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Special Report Roundtable - November 20

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


ROMNEY: The issue now before us is not whether same sex couples should marry, the issue that we're talking about on these steps today is whether 109 legislators will follow the Constitution or not.


HUME: That's Mitt Romney, Republican governor of Massachusetts. What he's talking about is a ballot initiative that people want to place on the ballot in Massachusetts which would limit marriage to one man, one woman, but the state legislature adjourned without voting to put it on the ballot. He's saying they're denying people the right to vote on the measure.

Some thoughts on Romney and his possible presidential candidacy now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Bill Sammon, senior White House correspondent of the Washington Examiner -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Bill, you talked to the governor himself today. We want to get a -- debrief from you about that, but before we do, let me just put up this Rasmussen poll of likely voters. Now includes Democrats and Republicans alike, but -- "Could you vote for a Mormon candidate?" No said 43 percent, not sure is 19 and you can see 38 percent said they would consider it. That no is a big number.

Bill, your thoughts on -- and what'd you get from him today?

BILL SAMMON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I interviewed -- first of all, I interviewed him about the Mormon thing back in September and I talked quite a bit about it and I think it is his biggest political obstacle. He told me, he said look, I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal savior etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

HUME: And that's what Evangelical Christians believe.

SAMMON: I think that's is the kind of talk that starts to win over some of these skeptical Evangelical Christians, so I think he's got that rap down pretty well. And once he starts -- he's been meeting with groups of Evangelicals recently and he's continuing to meet with groups of them to ask their advice and I think also to win them over.

But when I spoke to him today, this afternoon, what I thought was interesting was he was essentially characterizing himself as the -- without -- in so many words, as the real conservative on the Republican side of the presidential hopefuls, more conservative, certainly, than Giuliani and McCain who are the two frontrunners, at least when you look at the polls. And he ticked of a number of issues, there's gay marriage, whether it's immigration, whether it's the treatment of detainees, where he actually has a more conservative...

HUME: Taxes.

SAMMON: He didn't mention taxes, but he is more conservative, certainly...

HUME; Than McCain.

SAMMON: Than McCain, not Giuliani. Giuliani is a tax cutter in New York City, although he's much more liberal on a bunch of other social issues. But he generally said, "I'm the real conservative, here." I think that's actually a pretty legitimate argument, it's hard to argue with. It's probably also a shrewd political move to stake out that ground because Giuliani is a centrist, perhaps even liberal and McCain's a maverick who is wobbly on taxes and so forth, so why not grab the right, especially with George Allen having imploded?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yeah, well, he is the establishment conservative candidate.

HUME: Establishment?

KONDRACKE: Well yeah, I think, you know, if you're an ordinary, you know, mainstream conservative Republican, Mitt Romney would fit the bill, the new Mitt Romney. The now anti-abortion...

HUME: Isn't he a little bit new to be called the establishment candidate?

KONDRACKE: Well, I mean, who else is there going to be. I mean, Bill Frist may be, but -- OK, but look, the Allen people, the people who are not going for McCain who are not going to go for Giuliani, looking around for somebody, he's the natural -- he or Bill Frist are the natural repositories of that...

HUME: Do you think he can be? Does he have any serious rivalry in the roll of the conservative in the race for the Republican presidential nomination?

KONDRACKE: Well, if Sam Brownback were to run, he would be the -- might call, the right-wing candidate, the social conservative candidate, if he runs. We don't know if he's going to run or not.

Bill Frist doesn't seem to be offering much in the way of competition, at least to judge by the polls. Mitt Romney's getting more publicity, so Mitt Romney seems to have that role iced, if you will.

HUME: Fred, you're an Evangelical Christian, yourself, how big a problem is his Mormonism for people who believe as do you? Not yourself necessarily, but others.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: You know, I think it's less of a problem than people think. You know, he spent a lot of time talking to people like Richard Land of the Southern Baptists Convention and others who, I think, are going to take the view that we're not electing -- I think Richard Land had said this, we're not electing a theologian-in-chief, we're electing a commander-in-chief. An while an earlier generation of Christians might have said, "Look, I'm not going to vote for a Mormon," I think now most of them will just set aside -- are willing to set aside his faith.

They better, because the one group, the biggest unclaimed group, among the Republican primary voters, is social conservatives and they vote. They're the people who care about abortion; they care about gay marriage, and so on. We know their agenda. And the Mormon thing may bother some of them. He's got to get over that hurdle because he can claim them. McCain's not going to get them, Giuliani's certainly not going to get them.

HUME: Let's assume for the sake of discussion that he succeeds in becoming the more conservative choice in the field and is the strongest candidate on the right. How good then are his prospects against such well- known quantities as McCain and Giuliani in the Republican field?

BARNES: I think they're very good. Look, McCain is out in front because he's been there before, he's the next guy in line. He's been signing up a lot of people, he's been trying to win over the Bush people. He's gotten some at the top, he hasn't gotten the grassroots yet. I mean, there's a long ways to go here, but my point is that Romney has a real shot at winning the social conversation?

HUME: Do you agree with that?

KONDRACKE: I completely agree with that. I think that 43 percent, or whatever it was, would never vote for a Mormon is based on total ignorance. I mean, nobody knows what Mormons are. It's a name and...

SAMMON: Some people think that Mormons are polygamists. The church actually outlawed polygamy in 1890. Romney talks very eloquently about, he says "I abhors polygamy. I believe a marriage should be between one man and one woman."

The other issue that you brought up, abortion, I think is his other weakness is because...

HUME: He was pro-live -- or pro-choice, I mean.

SAMMON: He was pro-choice, now he's pro-life. And he said to Chris Wallace, "My position has evolved." So people are going to mistrust that, but those are the two...

BARNES: They'll mistrust it, but he's better off if he's going to get the social conservatives being pro-life.

SAMMON: That's true.

HUME: Well, we'll keep an eye on this. This is an interesting story. We're going to keep an eye on this. When we come back, though, we'll review the latest options being discussed for Iraq including the proposal to reinstate the draft, that next.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We got to arrest the momentum of the death squads, we got to continue training the Iraqi army and American presence in Iraqi units and put Americans into the police force. Do we have enough troops to do all that? No, we do not. and so we have to have additional forces or we will be playing Whack-a-Mole, as I described earlier.


HUME: Senator McCain, on Sunday, talking about his idea of adding troops to Iraq. The current number that's kicked around by the people who think as he do, is 50,000 more. General Abizaid, who is the CENTCOM commander, the man in overall charge of the war, says we shouldn't do that. We don't need them there and it might make things worse.

In the meantime, Charlie Rangel says what we ought to bring back the draft. The Pentagon is said to be drafting a set of options, crudely described as "Go Big," the short-term buildup would be "Go Big," that's the 50,000 option, roughly speaking. "Go Long," that is smaller number of Americans but it would be there for a couple of decades, maybe. And the other one is "Go Home," which is obvious.

So, we're in the season now when the president is said to be awaiting the view of many, including the Baker-Hamilton commission known as the Iraq Study Group, for whatever they're going to recommend, which is supposed to include something about bringing in Syria and Iran. Iran already seems to be getting involved and the Syrian foreign minister was in Iraq today.

So, where does all this stand and how much chance does any of it have of really changing anything in the president's mind in the next couple of years -- Bill.

SAMMON: Well, I think it's a little silly to -- you know, it's funny how the town gets riled up about a supposedly new story on Iraq. I mean, it goes without saying that when you're talking about troop levels in Iraq, obviously you could increase, you could decrease, you could stay the same. Giving them new names...

HUME: Or you could leave.

Or you could leave. I mean, you know, Murtha has talk about leaving for months. McCain's been talking about adding troops for months and Bush has been talking about keeping it roughly where it is for years. So, I'm not sure there's a whole lot new there. And the one thing they didn't seem to contemplate in this story is that, you know, Bush is actually they guy who's going to decide this.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, well, but the president himself says that he is dissatisfied with the way things are going and he's...

HUME: And he's open to ideas. Has anybody got one that's -- have you heard anything that's truly new in any of this?

KONDRACKE: Well, it's not exactly new, but the idea -- one of the options which is the go big for a short time and then transition to going long is -- seems to be something which is...

HUME: Home or going home.

KONDRACKE: Well, not the -- look, pulling out is a solution that -- pulling out soon is something that only a minority of people believe in who are -- happen to be influential Democrats, but not even a majority of Democrats believe that. Fascinatingly, I thought, Anthony Zinni the former CENTCOM commander, was quoted in the paper the other day and was opposed to the war in the beginning, as saying "We cannot pull out too early," and he's basically in favor of the McCain-like position, if you like, add 20,000, clean up Baghdad, try to get it pacified and then you can talk about withdrawals, but you got to train up the Iraqi army and you got to be there a while.

HUME: You hear anything new in any of this -- Fred.

BARNES: No. No, nothing new at all.

HUME: What do think's going to happen?

BARNES: Well there is one thing, and it's very cleverly done by the White House. They don't want to be the prisoner of the Baker-Hamilton report. So, they're going to have two other reports out there, they're going to have one from the Pentagon and they're going to have one from the National Security staff at the White House. And those ones, they should have as much credibility.

I mean, look who's on the Baker-Hamilton commission. Now, Vernon Jordan's a wonderful guy. What does he know about Iraq? Ed Meese was a great attorney general and a great advisor to President Reagan, but I don't know that he has great wisdom on Iraq.

HUME: Sandra Day O'Connor?


HUME: Sandra Day O'Connor?

BARNES: And Sandra Day O'Connor was...

HUME: Someone who most of us don't like.

BARNES: Yeah. These people, I mean, these people we should listen to them more than we should listen to, say, the Pentagon or the National Security staff? So, that's clever. And it sounds like what they're going to come out is a short-term send in more troops...

HUME: So, you think that's what some of this new business with the Pentagon and all of that, it's just something to create a sense that there's a bunch of different reports coming even though two of them are coming from the same people that gave us what we've got there now?

BARNES: Well, they may have, but look, they're going to propose something different, it's not something different that we haven't heard proposed before, so it's not...

HUME: What about the idea of getting Iran and Syria involved in a helpful way (INAUDIBLE)?

BARNES: Well, Syria would love to get in there, that's -- look, they got into Lebanon in a bad situation and it took them 20 years to get them out of there.

HUME: Bad idea?

KONDRACKE: I think it's a bad idea.

SAMMON: Bad idea, certainly to talk to Iran.

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