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Special Report Roundtable - February 16

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


PETER KING (R), NEW York CONGRESSMAN: If you want to cut of the funding for troops who will be in the line of fire, don't be cute. Don't try to sneak in through the back door, have the guts to do it directly.

RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN: From the beginning, this war has ban saga of miscalculations, mistakes, and misjudgments for which America will pay, in many ways, for years to come. Let us not compound those bad judgments by ratifying another.

THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R), MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: One side believes we must win in Iraq top avoid a catastrophe, another side assumes we can lose in Iraq without consequence. One side believes we must support our troops in harms way and continue their funding, another side claims we can support our troop in harms way and cut their funding.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The passage of this legislatelation will signal a change in direction in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops home safely and soon.


ANGLE: Well, there you get a little sample of today's debate over the non-binding resolution against the president's surge in Iraq. Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Jeff Birnbaum, columnist of the Washington Post; and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Gentlemen, you heard -- you heard what both sides were saying and at the end there, Charles, we had Speaker Pelosi saying this would signal a change that will end the fighting in Iraq. How so?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't think it will, I think it signals a change -- a loss of heart on the part of Democrats. I think it's very responsible, if anything is going to help our enemies it's as if the House of Representatives on the eve of D-Day voted a disapproval of the envision of Normandy. You can't have this in the middle of a war. If they want to end the war the way to do it is to cut off the funds, withdraw the troops.

Here there's a sense of the House resolution, what they're going to move to, what we've heard about, is to try to micromanage the war by restricting the funding on certain deployments, equipment, you know, you cannot have Congress dictating the shoe size of our troops on the ground. We tried that once, it was called the Continental Congress and we had a new constitution as a result which made the president the commander in chief.

It's unconstitutional and it also is not going to pass. Democrats, only 10 percent of -- less than 10 percent of Republicans supported this resolution. Democrats are not going be unanimous in supporting a resolution which bleeds our troops by restricting how they can be reinforced.

ANGLE: Jeff, what do you make of this whole debate?

JEFF BIRNBAUM, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think the most notable number here is 17. That's the number of Republicans who voted in favor of this motion of disapproval. That is a lot less than was predict, maybe half of what was predicted and -- which means, I think, that this was at worst for President Bush and Republicans only a glancing blow. This does not put a lot of pressure on the Senate to act as was widely expected. In fact when the Senate comes in on Saturday to vote, there is no question that it will amount to nothing. There will be no approval to go ahead and debate anything like this resolution and in my view, the subsequent efforts to limit funding in any way, I think, are really in trouble. I don't think the Democrats are showing that they have the votes to make a change in the war.

ANGLE: Fred?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, there are a lot of Democrats worried about this next step with these limitations they want to apply. I mean, it is a, certainly, a clever way to go about defunding the war...

ANGLE: You're talking about the Murtha proposal to not let people go over unless they've had a year's rest and all their equipment is ready and all that sort of thing.

BARNES: Yeah, but it's clear what they are up to and it's mainly clear what they're up to because they say so, what they're up to, which is an indirect way of defunding the war. If they can say they're protecting the troops and so on, it really is transparent. And I agree with Jeff, I think there are going be a lot of Democrats who are warry of that.

Now, I think the problem for Democrats is that they have overinterpretted the results of the election last November. Clearly it was not an endorsement of the war in Iraq or an inducement of the president, quite the contrary.

But did the voters say that they wanted -- they wanted this war ended right away on any terms and no reinforcements? No new strategy? You see, one of the keys here -- Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have to pretend the president learned nothing from that war and he's just doing more of the same, when in fact, he has a new general and an entirely new strategy.

ANGLE: Well, let me point on thing. There was a AP-Ipsos Poll today that suggested something very interesting. In the absence of any real positive news you have the number of people who support the surge groing 26 percent to 35 percent and the number who oppose it dropping from 70 to 63.

Now today, Charles, Tony Snow was saying that the Democrats are gambling on failure and that if something changed the Democrats could be left out there standing in a different position than the one the public was moving toward.

Do you see any dangers for the Democrats here? I mean, we haven't had any upside surprises in Iraq, but if the surge were to start to work and there was some evidence today, would in fact, that cause some difficulties for the Democrats?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, you can see already in Iraq there are a few Iraqis close to the scene who think this might work. Moqtada al Sadr is nowhere to be seen, he's either in Iran or hiding in Iraq.

Al Maliki government is cooperating. There's obviously a sense in the streets of some (INAUDIBLE) of the violence. If this surge succeeds, which is our last attempt to actually win this war, the Democrats are on the record as opposing it, they will not regret the vote as much as they now regret the war to authorize the use of force originally.

BIRNBAUM: I'm not sure it's a free vote, really, it's a non- binding resolution. Every Democrat will say if somehow the surge works and violence declines they'll say great, thank heavens, isn't that a wonderful thing. But the danger is that there might be a kind of false negative here. That is, a lot of the insurgents are backing away from Baghdad right now and maybe amassing to do some sort of violence later on that could -- within the time period that members of Congress are looking at, could be a problem for this surge...

ANGLE: Fred's brow is furrowed.


BARNES: That is why you surge -- that's why you clear and hold. Obviously if you cleared and didn't -- and the American troops moved on then they'd fill it. Look, you know how Democrats are going respond to victory with the surge and with the counterinsurgency strategy? They'll deny it, they won't admit that there's any victory at all, that any improvement has been made. They'll deny it over and over and over again.

ANGLE: OK, next on SPECIAL REPORT, Ralph Nader blasts Hillary Clinton calling her a bad version of her husband and threatens to get into the race himself. More with the all-stars after the break.



RALPH NADER, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: She is another bad version of Bill Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad in what sense?

NADER: Flatters, panders, coasting, frontrunner, looking for a coronation, she has no political fortitude.

CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The idea that someone's dictating and saying already this race is over with, I think is offense to people.


ANGLE: Well gentlemen, it's nasty to be in the lead in a primary fight. Charles, "flatters, panders, looking for coronation, no political fortitude."

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that's Ralph Nader who, himself, now he's talking about he's not ruling out running for the presidency, which I think. I would welcome him into the race. after all, almost everybody else is running.

But he's the Harold Stassen of our politics. For the young people out there -- he was Harold Stassen was once a young and promising governor who ran nine times for the presidency and each one more increasingly ridiculous. And that's happening with Nader who was once a young and promising consumer advocate who's now an old and unpromising man who thinks he's the man to import the European leftist politics into American.

He says he's going to wait and see if there's a Democrat who is acceptable. There's never going to be any acceptable Democrat in his view. His job, and this is his row, is to run in the presidential race and throw it to the Republicans as he did in the year 2000.

BIRNBAUM: Well, you're skipping a race and the last time that Nader ran he had around one percent of the vote and that's not enough to throw anything and so, he may not be as much of a factor. And in fact, though, Dodd came close throwing a punch, in fact, he's only pawing at the leader in this field, Hillary Clinton, and I think that's also true of the other sort of major candidates on the Democratic side.

And throwing punches really is what the primary season is all about. The American public wants to see how well candidates can take and throw punch and that's one of the leading reasons they vote for or against someone and so, I think, we're sort of preflight time at the moment.

This is just warming up and unless it gets tougher, then it's clear that all of the people who are running against Hillary Clinton merely want to pursued her to select them as her vice presidential candidate. So, that's, I think, an important test.

ANGLE: Fred.

BARNES: Look, the notion that this race is over is nonsense. The truth is the polls I've seen that Rudy Giuliani's farther in the lead among Republicans than Hillary Clinton among Democrats. Here she has this guy, Barack Obama, running who is -- has become a rock star turning out these great crowds. So, look, it's not decided. I think Ralph Nader is looking for a pretext to get in the race. He enjoys it, running for president, gets more attention, he gets his ideas out. I think he's serious about it, and I suspect he will be running.

ANGLE: Well now, Senator Clinton has -- also has problems from the anti-war left which is insisting that she not just say that she wouldn't have gone war had she been president, but to apologize for her vote.

KRAUTHAMMER: If she does that, her campaign is over because it would show no steal and no spine and if she has anything it's steal and spine and discipline. She's explained her vote as a kind of a triangulation, if you like, it's not the most eloquent explanation, but it'll do. If she capitulates on the left, she doesn't have a chance. She's positioned herself as a centrists and that's how you win elections.

BIRNBAUM: Well, that's maybe how you win a general election, but not necessarily a primary. She has to give some policy positions and stick to them, I think if she really has a chance to beat the fields.

BARNES: Yeah, she's getting in a position where she's moving to the left and it'll hurt her in a general election if she gets the nomination.

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