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Special Report Roundtable - February 2

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: It's going to be hard and the president made it very clear it's going to be hard and there's no assurance for a success. The case the president has made is, he's looked at all alternatives and the alternatives have little if any prospects for success, whether it's slow failure, as I talked about, or fast failure. The president believes his strategy has a prospect for success. It's going to be hard; the NIE says that, the president has said that.


BAIER: Well, that was National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley talking about the National Intelligence Estimate, today, on Iraq, released, both classified and the public version. Saying how the NIE backs up the administration's new policy to add more troops to Iraq. As you can imagine, there's another point of view.

Senator Ted Kennedy put out some statements today, one of them, "The nation's intelligence experts have confirmed the nightmare scenario for our troops in Iraq," continuing, "Sending more U.S. troops into the cauldron of this civil war is not the solution to Iraq's political problems. Congress is right to send him a clear message of opposition to this strategy and if he continues the present course, we must act to stop it, protect our troops, and end this misguided war."

Now for some political observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; our own congressional correspondent, Major Garrett adding to the panel today; and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer.

Fred, talk to me about the different looks at the same intelligence estimate, today. The public version, it was grim, it did not paint a pretty picture, but two very different assessments of its impact.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it wasn't a lot different from the media version of what's going on in Iraq, it's something we've all known, and there's some of the stuff in the, at least, the declassified version of it, which I read, of the report stated the obvious, that stated, you know, if things don't get better then they're probably going to get worse. And that's why the president has changed his strategy.

You know, the major resolution that will be voted on next week, probably, endorsed by Republican John Warner and Democrat Joe Biden, would enshrine the status quo, not bring in more troops with the new General Petraeus and a general strategy of countering insurgent that might work, it would enshrine the status quo which, as this report says, is a disaster and it is a disaster. So, that's why there does need to be a change the strategy and this surge of troops, that's the only chance of winning, otherwise you're giving and that's what those who oppose it need to admit, that they're accepting defeat.

BAIER: Major, are Democrats, were they licking their chops today on this NIE?

MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaking of Democrats, if you don't want to believe Fred Barnes characterization that it's the status quo, why don't you accept Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat, who said that the Biden-Warner resolution one disapproving or opposing the president's new policy in Iraq, is exactly that, the status quo.

Now here is the political dynamic on the Hill, today. This NIE was in the papers this morning, senators could read it by midday. This afternoon Senate Republican said all 49 of them, on Monday, will vote to filibuster the way the Democrats have set up the debate on the Iraq resolutions. Meaning, even those Republicans who are publicly opposed to the troop surge are going stand together against the Democrats saying we want a fair process to debate this. What that tells me is, this NIE had no political affect on Republicans shaking their confidence, at least about how to approach a debate about the war, not necessarily about how their ultimately vote on these meaningless, non-binding resolutions.

BAIRE: Charles, you're not a big fan of NIEs to begin with.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, NIEs have a bad track record. We remember the one in 2002 that got the weapons of mass destruction wrong in Iraq, tragically wrong. So when I hear Democrats quoting it as an authority, especially after the Democrats attacked the old NIE as, obviously, in adequate, you've to wonder about the hypocrisy here. And when you hear Kennedy quoting it, this pretty odd because if there's anything definitive in this report, it is a statement about what would happen with the kind of withdrawal that Kennedy wants and it is the most dire scenario of extreme civil war, ethnic cleansing, and of course, probably invasion of other countries into this vacuum.

So it isn't exactly a document I would cite if I were an advocate of withdrawal. But as most NIEs, as Fred said, there really isn't a lot in here. It's quite obvious what the consequences are. It says dramatically that unless things improve in 12 to 18 months, things are going to get worse afterwards, you know, and you've got to wonder is that what you're paying $30 billion a year to deliver. I could do that for half a billion. I wouldn't ask for anymore than that.


BAIER: Fred, today there's a lot of talk...

GARRETT: I could probably underbid Charles...

BAIRE: Yeah, underbid.

BARNES: Well, they were a little -- it was a little fuzzy in the NIE about that, but I think the point they made was, well, a civil war would be the Sunnis versus the Shia. But in this you have so many different people fighting, you have Shia fighting Shia. I mean, you had the Iraq army and the Americans in Najaf a couple of days ago in that battle -- successful battle with that Shia group. You have the Kurds in there, so it's a -- it's a -- it really is not quite a civil war. It's certainly a lot of inner (INAUDIBLE) fighting, but not quite a civil war.

KRAUTHAMMER: It looks as if it was a negotiated settlement in how you use the word civil war in this document, in the same way that you have in the Senate the negotiations of what nuance of give a resolution of disapproval, instead of having a debate about a substance of an alternate plan. I mean, debating if it's a civil war or not is obscured. Something is happening, what you call is it irrelevant, how you going to change it?

BAIER: OK, we'll leave it there. Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the Democrats have opened their winter meetings, they're all talking Iraq. More with our all-star panel about all of that, right after the break.



SEN CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you have over 60 percent of the Iraqi people thinking it's appropriate, it's all to attack the servicemen and women of our country, then I think it's time to get our troops out of that country.

SEN BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every candidate for office in the next election should put forward in clear, unambiguous, uncertain terms exactly how they plan to get out of Iraq.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got news for you, Mr. President, you're not the decider, the American people are the decider and they have decided about you a very long time ago.

SEN HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will.


BAIER: All right there's the flavor of some of the Democrat speeches in the winter meeting tody. We're back to our panel.

Fred, this is a horserace, who can out-Iraqi each other?

BARNES: It is. Yeah, this was not planned. Remember the Democrats were going to be so orderly and they passed those six bills in the House and they were going to move so judiciously and it looked like it was going to be an orderly process. And then the, well, for one, President Bush changed his strategy and has come up with a new counterinsurgency strategy and wants to send in more troop and then the Democratic presidential campaign, all of a sudden, hit warp speed in January of 2007.

This is unusual. I know campaigns start essential, but not this early and this one did big-time and the Democrats are playing a game of leapfrog, you know, whoever has the most anti-Bush, anti-Iraq, anti-surge, anti-troops proposal, well then that person just gets leapfrogged.

BAIER: Major, you heard that last sound bite from Senator Clinton, where she said "I will end this war when I'm president" in 2009. Is that setting the timeline, I mean she's been reluctant to that before...


GARRETT: Senator Clinton has, with almost each appearance, since she declared herself an exploratory presidential candidate, ha, ha, she's in it to win, she says. She has been moving ever-closer to taking an all- out unambiguous opposition to the war. And today's statement puts her, and she probably doesn't like this comparison, in a Nixonian category from 1968, "I have a war to end the war in Vietnam." Well now, Hillary has a plan or a declaration to end it come January 2009 if she's the president.

All of this that we saw at the Democratic National Committee Winter meeting, these others who are not Hillary, is a competition for activists and money because they all understand, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, everyone else, that not only is Hillary leading in the polls, but she is leading in the money race, she has made it clear to her fundraisers that she wants bundling in tens of millions of dollars, and she alone, among Democratic competitors, can get it. Regardless of what she says about Iraq, so the more aggressive she is against Iraq, she seals that off, she's trying to seal off the money and pave herself a clear path to the nomination.

BAIER: Charles, your thoughts on the positioning here?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, each candidate, as you said, is trying to out- Iraq, out-demagogue the other on opposition to the war. But what saw here were Dodd, Edwards, and Clinton are all coming out strongly against the war, all of them supported the resolution in 2002.

Clinton today said "had I been the president in October of 2002, I would not have started this war," she voted in favor of the resolution. So, there's a lot of rewriting of history here and of course, Obama, who had the luck of not having been in the Senate at the time, he could take a pass on where he was in 2002. But again, none of them has offered a plan of any coherence. As a way of saying, you know, "I'll be out in 2009," it's an exonant (ph), it's also what Eisenhower did in 1952 where he said, "I will go to Korea, I will end the war" and he didn't explain how.

FRED: But there was a difference there, though, that war was won, I mean, the North Koreans had been pushed back across the, what, the 38th parallel and so...

KRAUTHAMMER: It was ending the war without a withdrawal or retreat and a defeat.

GARRETT: A catastrophe. And this is quite different.

KRAUTHAMMER: And the Democrats are arguing for ending a war in defeat.

BAIER: There were other issues today. Senator Clinton talked about big oil profits. Take a listen.


Clinton: The other day, the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence.


BAIER: Now that raised some eyebrows, today. Many people think she was saying we want to tax those profits in the windfall tax proposal that she's talked about before. Charles, you...

KRAUTHAMMER: She did say "I will take them away," and that's how you do it in Venezuela. I fact she ought to do a full Chavez and nationalize the oil companies. Look, this is pure Democratic demagoguery as if you're going to take the profits of one sector, at one era, when they have a god year. What are you going to do in years in which oil prices are declining, are you going to subsidize oil companies?

BAIRE: To be fair, Major, I mean, Democrats see this as a very attractive issue, as far as taxing windfall profits.

GARRETT: Of course they do. But there is a history of dealing with windfall profits tax. It was tried in the late `70s, it was a catastrophic failure, it didn't produce the revenue and it harmed the very industry that was supposed to produce the revenue. And when we talked about the budget figures a while ago, I showed that our history has taught us lower the tax rates, for both corporations and individuals, over time, produce more revenue not less. That's a bit of history and of fundamental factual economic a analysis one may or may not care to wrestle with.

BAIER: New on the panel and he's brining all this knowledge.


BARNES: (INAUDIBLE) to gamble money on technology that you don't know when, if ever, it's going to come on line, but it more expensive for the oil companies to produce oil here, we'll ay higher prices.

BAIER: Thank you all. Major, nice addition.

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