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Special Report Roundtable - February 1

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


SEN JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Nothing in this resolution should be construed as indicating that there's going to be a cutoff of funds. Given the complexity of this situation, there's been a lot of press written on the subject, our resolution, all resolution. And colleagues have come up to me and said, well if I can assure them that this doesn't provide a cutoff of funds?

SEN CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: The legislation that my good friends John Warner, Carl Levin, and others have reached a compromise on last evening is, with all due respect, essentially an endorsement of the status quo and for those reasons, I cannot support it.


HUME: And so the negotiations continue in the Senate over whether they can agree on a non-binding sense of the Senate -- which some people think is a contradiction in terms -- resolution to disapprove the president's new approach in Iraq. Senator Dodd, as you heard, says he vote for the compromise or even reach between Senators Levin and Warner or the Armed Services Committee.

Some thoughts on all of this now from Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Well, where are we? What's going on? And is this -- is this going to pass? What do you think -- Mort.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, Senator Dodd is exactly right. This is a resolution says we disagree with what the president wants to do, we want to oppose the status quo, and we're not going to do anything about it. We do not want them to increase the number of troops, we're not going to call for withdrawal of any troops. We're not going to cut off funds. So, it really is the status quo. And everybody acknowledges that the status quo is not working.

So, I do not know what they think they're going to get done here, but it is a way of demonstrating dissatisfaction with the president, and that's the political impetus behind it. Now...

HUME: Senator Kennedy says this thing is a total repudiation of the president's policy.

KONDRACKE: No, no, no. No, it's not. It's a disagreement with the president's policy. But, will it pass? OK, now at some stage there has to be a vote requiring 60 votes. I don't think they're at 60 votes yet. If it's either on a motion to proceed -- a procedural motion or maybe on the final passage, it's unclear about that, but I don't think they've got 60 votes.

HUME: What's the political effect of this in the end?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think it brings the Congress into the game. I mean, it does have that effect. Finally they're going to have a debate next week.

HUME: But, if they can't pass anything?

WILLIAMS: Well no, I think -- they'll get close to it, but I think what you're going to see is some defections among Republicans. Already you have, I think, three Republican co-sponsoring, and the idea is to see exactly how many Republicans, especially those who are in -- vulnerable in races coming up in '08, feel the need to put some distance between themselves and the president. At moment, the White House is involved in a very aggressive campaign to try to hold the line. They say to people, give us time, don't hurt the president, don't hurt the troops. That's the way they're posturing it. But, I mean, they're going against a tidal wave of public sentiment.

HUME: Well, certainly Juan one is true to say that there's -- as we reported from the FOX NEWS poll earlier, by something like 49 to 41 when you frame the issue the way the president likes, as give it a chance -- only 41 percent say give it a chance, 49 percent say no, it can't succeed.

On the other hand, there's a second poll question was asked about a resolution opposing the president's plan would make a positive difference in U.S. policy, 24 percent say it would make a positive difference, 47 percent say it would encourage the enemy and hurt morale. So, it's a good question whether they get anything politically are doing this, wouldn't you say?

WILLIAMS: Well, here's the thing, the same poll, when the question is asked what about sending additional U.S. troops, 57 percent...

HUME: Say no.


HUME: I don't understand that. On the other hand, they don't seem to like what Congress is doing. Bill, your thoughts.

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, Mort's absolutely right. If you take seriously -- if you take it seriously, this non-binding sense in the Senate resolution that Warner and Levin will come up with, it endorses the status quo and the president has said the status quo is not working, and Democrats, certainly, have said the status quo is not working.

So, they're passing a resolution, not to repudiate the president's past policy, but to repudiate his change of strategy. The new strategy which includes a surge of troops into Baghdad and in to Anbar, to try to protect the population and turn the momentum around in Iraq. So the Democrats are in the ridiculous position, in my view, of erasing the status quo, denying -- trying to weaken the president's ability to change strategy in a way that is incoming commander wants to do. General Petraeus, and they just voted to confirm, unanimously.

And I think in a short Time, you look at the polls, snapshot, people are unhappy with the war, they're nervous about sending more troops and it looks good for the Democrats. I think as this plays out, the president is in a pretty strong position to say, "Are you serious? You don't think with troops on the way over there and a new general, you just voted to confirm, that he should have a chance to make this work? You think it's fine to have 137,000 troops engaged in what you have said is a failing strategy, and we don't get to have 160,000 troops try to turn this around?"

WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, the problem here is that, you know, you can - - look, the Congress, and I think especially the Democrats don't want to -- if you read through the resolution, there's lost of soft soap in there, all sorts of hosannas to the troops and to the military leadership and wanting to protect them and not wanting to endanger them. And then it comes down finally to the resolution that we opposed this surge.

You got to understand, when you say they haven't said anything in the past, you're exactly right. These guys have been silent and some would argue negligent, that's why you get all these comments about -- you know, Hagel says "Don't be a bunch of shoe salesmen" today people are saying "Don't be a council, if you believe this, act on it."

So, what could they act on, Bill? Could they cut off the funds, would that stop the surge? I don't think so. They don't have that power.

KONDRACKE: But they don't even have votes for that. They have nowhere near the votes to cut off funds right now.

WILLIAMS: Right, because, essentially, they're afraid to say what they think.

KONDRACKE: The worst part is that they quote General Abizaid, back in November, as saying that we don't want more troops, but they fail to Petraeus who says, to the new commander, who says, "I need these troops in order to make it work."

WILLIAMS: The president's hands selected commander.



Everybody says that he's the best general we've probably ever had in Iraq.

HUME: Next up with the panel, how long can Senator Clinton hold onto her claim as a centrist? We'll look at that next.



SEN HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I grew up in the middle class in the middle of America in the middle of the last century, so...


By definition, middle-of-the-road.


HUME: And in many ways over the last couple of years or so, Senator Clinton has been doing a good job of being middle-of-the-road, but our colleague Fred Barnes, who's not here with us tonight, he's 64-years-old today, we wish and the best, happy birthday -- has an article in today's Wall Street Journal in which he speaks of Senator Clinton and he says, quote, of the national elections, "Voters usually opt for a presidential candidate who is though-minded, rather than wavering or vulnerable to fleeting passions, on one issue above all, national security. Hillary Clinton was well on her way to becoming such a candidate. Until now."

He cites what he takes to be, and others have thought this as well, her increasingly critical view of the war in Iraq, a war for which she voted and about which she said very little critical for quite a long time. So, back with our panel. Where does this leave her, in your judgment? Juan, what do you think is happening with her? Is she giving up her position in the middle of the road or not?

WILLIAMS: No, but she's to win a primary and the base in the party, especially the far left on the Democratic Party who wants to hear strong voices, who come out very clearly and say things, things that aren't being said by the U.S. Senate and the Congress, come out and challenge the president and speak to mainstream American opinion on this. And so, in fact, Hillary Clinton is far more centrist -- it's so interesting. I think people are reluctant to accept, but even Fred says she it in the piece, she's far to the right of most of the other candidates...

HUME: And still is.

WILLIAMS: Running the Democratic nomination.

HUME: What direction does she appear to be going in, though?

WILLIAMS: Well, for the moment, I think she's trying to be a stronger and more strident voice in opposition of the president's policies, make it clear that she is not one who is standing by silently, trying to get out of that posture.

HUME: And if she gets there, satisfies the...

WILLIAMS: I think she's the leading candidate for the nomination. That's the big challenge for her, that is the tension in Hillary Clinton's campaign. How does she handle the war in Iraq? And that's what -- going forward, not only now, it's when the general election comes. How will she handle it?

HUME: If she gets over there, where Juan says she's trying to get to, can she get back?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, I think she can get back. The question is how far does she go? Now, she is to the right of John Edwards and Barack Obama. She does not want an immediate pullout, she does not want to cutoff of funds, she wants a cap. She's more or less where, we discussed in the last panel, she's for status quo situation and then a gradual withdrawal to follow that, everybody to be out by the time she takes over as president, presumably, at the end of 2008...

HUME: Yeah, she said she resented this is an issue that may be headed down to the next president.

KONDRACKE: Right. Now, on domestic issues, and all of that stuff, she said at the New America Foundation, which is a centrist new ideas think tank, that she's middle-of-the-road. I've seen her at left-wing events where she says that she's a progressive, and that's a -- sort of not a Teddy Roosevelt progressive, but that's a sort of Henry Wallace progressive kind of thing.

HUME: That's the new word for liberal because liberal is a little out of style.

KONDRACKE: Exactly. So, I mean, on policy grounds, for example, she is in favor of universal health coverage. The question is -- is she going to be in favor of any kind of market-based cost container? That's the question. If she is, then she becomes a centrist, if she does want to have a government program, that she's not.

On energy policy, she actually voted against an ethanol subsidy, which I think speaks well of her, on the other hand, what she wants to do is set up some sort of a new government corporation that's going to invest oil money in alternative fuel, so I think it's yet to be determined whether she's a centrist...

HUME: She's a work in progress, is she?

KONDRACKE: Work in progress, she was, during the Clinton administration, a liberal, however.

KRISTOL: Look, the war is the key issue, and on this issue, something big has happened this month. Which is the Democrats have gone left. They are the anti-war party. There were the picture of moderation, sole of moderation in September and October. There were careful, they did not go far left, they were critical of Bush, but we're going to work -- were going to be responsible. Then after the election, the anti-war Jack Murtha did not beat Steny Hoyer in the race for No. 2 in the House, and the Democrats were going to move this modest, moderate domestic agenda in the House in the first few weeks. Speaker Pelosi was going to move it -- it's all been overtaken by the anti-war momentum in the Democratic Party. The Dems have gone wild, they're embracing their anti-war sentiments and their anti-war grassroots and short-term, I guess, you know, and Hillary's moving along with them. She's trying -- they're hopscotching each other. You know, Edwards goes here, then Obama goes here, Hillary goes there and it's dangerous. It's dangerous. The country will not, in 2008, elect an anti- war party, I don't think.

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