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Special Report Roundtable - January 31

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I mean you got the first, sort of, mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man..."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That was Senator Biden on the day, at least this emerged from Senator Biden, on the day in which his presidential campaign became official with the formation of an exploratory committee.

He was speaking of course, about Barack Obama and his attributes, and some took that to mean that he didn't think previous -- very much of the previous African-American presidential contenders which include Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Late in the day, said Senator Biden, "I deeply regretted any offense my remark in the New York Observer," that was the newspaper that published the interview, "might have caused anyone. That was not my intent." And he says he expressed that to Senator Obama. It is not all, however, that he said about his rivals.

Regarding Hillary Clinton, he said, talking about Hillary Clinton on Iraq, "From the part of Hillary's proposal, the part that really baffles me is, `We're going to teach the Iraqis a lesson.' We're not going to equip them? OK. Cap our troops and withdraw support from Iraqis? That's a real good idea."

And regarding John Edwards and his dispositions on Iraq, he says, "I don't think John Edwards knows what the heck he is talking about."

Now, there were no apologies for the latter two remarks, as Senator Biden and emerged as a candidate today. Some thoughts on all this now from Bill Sammon, senior White House correspondent of the Washington Examiner; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well, what about this?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, it's not the greatest beginning in the world. Look, some of what Biden said was refreshing and frank. What he said about John Edwards' plan to pull 40,000 troops immediately out of Iraq is absolutely dead on. You know, don't we have any long-term interest there? Do we want to just give up? What about the chaos that's going to ensue, et cetera, et cetera? And rising questions about Obama as saying that this is a one-term guy who's only served four years, that's a perfectly legitimate criticism. Unfortunately, you know, there were -- he.

HUME: What about the stuff on Mrs. Clinton -- Senator Clinton?

KONDRACKE: Well, the stuff of our policy -- what she's doing is threatening that we would withdraw support from the Iraqis if they didn't meet the benchmarks. That's clearly meant as a prod to the Iraqis to meet benchmarks, not necessarily an automatic withdrawal of support. But, you know, Biden's problem, as everybody knows, is that he talks too much and he couldn't stop and he got himself into this mock with -- you know, or doo- doo or whatever it is with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and then has to apologize for it. If your opening day announcement is -- has to be corrected with an apology, you didn't begin well.

BILL SAMMON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I agree that there was some legitimacy in all of his criticisms, and those things have been voiced by conservatives and by pundits, but you can dismiss those, but when a Democrat says them -- a fellow Democrat that's running for the Democratic presidential primary -- says them a year before the first primary -- the first caucus, that's news.

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it's a very clever move by Senator Biden.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, he had -- seriously, if he had just announced his candidacy, he'd be like the ninth Democrat in the race, who would care? He'd be on page A-7 in the papers, we would not be discussing him here, right -- anymore than we didn't discuss Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd an all the other people who are running. And here we are and he's on every news show. He's got people airing his criticisms of his competitors, Senator Edwards and Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

HUME: But mostly about the Obama stuff.

KRISTOL: No, and that was an unfortunate comment.

(LAUGHTER)

HUME: What I wonder is why he's apologizing to Obama. He said nice things about Obama. He said he's comparing him favorably to the predecessor candidates. I don't know why he's apologizing to Obama.

SAMMON: He's apologizing to Obama because of the racial sensitivity. He said -- he made it sound like Obama was the first clean-cut, you know, nice, upstanding, young black man that's ever -- or black person.

HUME: But that's a slam at others, not a slam at Obama.

SAMMON: I know that, but he used the word, you know, he's the first African-American who is "clean," which was an odd choice of words, and it caused all this anguishing today over whether he was being racially insensitive or if he was trying to say some kind of racial thing. And meanwhile, you've had -- you know, not just Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but Moseley Braun -- what's her first name?

HUME: Oh, Carol Moseley Braun?

SAMMON: Carol Moseley Braun, who's also from Illinois, has run for president last time around. There have been a number of African-Americans. And so, while Obama accepted Biden's apology, he made a point of saying, well, "I accepted his apology but there have been these other African- Americans that were every bit as outstanding."

HUME: Yeah, he called the comments "historically inaccurate."

SAMMON: Exactly. Exactly, so that's why he apologized to Obama...

HUME: So, is this a one day story and does he get by this? I mean, or is he going to be caught in a mess here?

KONDRACKE: Well, it's a small mass, but we'll have to see what Al Sharpton says. He will probably respond sharply, I would think.

KRISTOL: Well, he should apologize to my former roommate from graduate school, Alan Keyes, who is actually an upstanding and articulate guy who's run for president twice. So, that's what I say to -- I have two messages to Senator Biden. First of all apologize to Alan Keyes and secondly, please stay in the race.

No seriously, some people were saying today, he'll have to get out, this will be the shortest presidential race in history, the one day campaign.

HUME: What will happen? Will he have to get out?

KRISTOL: I what Senator Biden out on the stage when you're moderating that debate in New Hampshire.

HUME: Do you think that he'll stay in or get out?

KRISTOL: Stay in.

KONDRACKE: Stay in.

SAMMON: Stay in, but he will remain a loose cannon.

HUME: When we come back with the panel, is President Bush gearing up for war against Iran or just keeping options on the table? Are Democrats overreacting or not? Thoughts on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Do you think we are drifting toward a military confrontation with Iran?

JOHN NEGROPONTE, DEP SECY OF STATE NOMINEE: I don't think that has to be, Senator. We -- we would -- uh, I think we would strongly prefer that the issues between us and Iran be resolved peacefully.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, that business about preferring a diplomatic settlement is not going to do it in all likelihood for a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill, and as you heard there from Senator Hagel, probably for him as well where there is an increasingly noticeable case the vapors of the idea that the Bush administration may be gearing to attack Iran militarily.

In the meantime, of course, the president has outlined a fairly aggressive approach to Iranians inside Iraq, who are believed responsible for causing more than a little bit of trouble and there's a real suspicion that the deaths of those five Americans who where killed, I guess it was, just the other day, was an attack so sophisticated that the increasing belief among military intelligence is that it was Iranian sponsored.

So, what about this? First of all, how bad a problem is Iran in Iraq, and how likely is it that this will lead somewhere other than trying to get at Iranians in Iraq?

KONDRACKE: Well, evidence suggests that there Iranians are up to lots of no good in Iraq, that they're equipping the Mahdi Army, that they're teaching people how to use sophisticated IED weapons, that they may have participated in this Karbala operation, which was, apparently, intended as a hostage taking, which raises all kinds of terrible possibilities.

HUME: Yeah, I said five -- it's one soldier.

KONDRACKE: Five were killed. One was killed outright, four were seized and were in an SUV that was leaving, and then when we started chasing them, they were executing. But presumably, they wanted to take hostages, which has all kinds of implications. Look, that statement by Negroponte was ambiguous, and I think it's part of the psychological warfare aspect of a broad campaign to pressure that Bush is applying to Iran and I think some of it's working.

HUME: So, it is a good idea to either get or seek assurances from the White House publicly that there'll be no military attack on Iraq?

KRISTOL: On Iran.

HUME: On Iran, excuse me.

KRISTOL: Only if you think that Iran should be a safe haven for people who are shipping IEDs, and be training terrorists to come to a kill us -- our soldiers in Iraq. Only if you think it's acceptable for Iran to get nuclear weapons. Only if you think it's acceptable for Iran to otherwise sponsor terrorism around the Middle East and, indeed, around the world.

I mean, what's amazing to me is not what the Bush administration, which has been rather restrained, I would say, in its response to Iranian provocations of all sorts, not just in Iraq, but I think has to its credit toughen up in the last two, three, four months -- sent an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean, has threatened reprisals in Iraq, good financial sanctions, which have had some bite now, in Iran. So the Bush administration's gotten a little tougher, but it's Iran that's provoking this and the Democrats' and Chuck Hagel's position seems to be with all these provocations from Iran -- we should reassure them that there'll never pay a price for doing...

SAMMON: It's almost like they're saying we should rule out the military option, which of course, is the last thing you want to do to a country that is pursuing nuclear weapons, that is talking about annihilating Israel, that is clearly destabilizing Iraq, sending fighters in, weapons across the border into Iraq. And I think it only makes sense to become a little bit more confrontational with Iran in the way Bush has, the way you've described it.

He's not waking (ph) another preemptive war. I think Democrats know that politically there's no well in either party or in the American public for another preemptive war in the Middle East.

Now, there could be a reactive war if Iran did go nuclear after Israel. I think that there would be some will for us to then get involved, but at this point, no one's really talking about a preemptive war.

HUME: So, what is the point of these efforts to get the administration to commit to no military action against Iran -- publicly?

KONDRACKE: Look, these -- the dogs think that George Bush will do anything. I mean, they have the experience of Iraq, they suspect him deeply; they think that in a desperation move because his polls are low that he might do something to escalate.

HUME: Are you saying really unpopular?

KONDRACKE: Escalate. Yeah. That he might escalate instead of backing down or pulling out. That he might pursue, you know, a wider -- I really think they believe that.

HUME: Well, but can you explain Chuck Hagel in 10 seconds?

KONDRACKE: Same thing. I mean, I think that they've all got a sense in their heads that George Bush is Richard Nixon, you know, that he's liable to do a Cambodia, here.

SAMMON: It's become fashionable to beat up on George Bush, I think.

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