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Special Report Roundtable - February 26

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


SEN JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: It's really accurate that I'm in depended. I tend to agree more often on domestic policy but Democrats, I tend to agree more often on foreign and defense policy with Republicans.


HUME: That was Joe Lieberman talking with FOX's Neil Cavuto, today. Earlier today, it published in the op-ed page of -- editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, an article in which he said a couple of things about the situation in Congress and in Iraq.

"If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and look to Baghdad, we would see for ourselves what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts."

He went on to say, "Unfortunately, for many congressional opponents of the war, none of this seems to matter. As the battle of Baghdad just gets underway, they have already made up their minds about America's cause in Iraq, declaring their intention to put an end to the mission before we have had the time to see whether our," as he calls it, "our new plan will work."

That from Senator Lieberman, today, the senator has also, in recent days, at least left open the possibility that if -- on this issue -- if the Democrats' handling of the issue is something he can't stomach, he might switch to the Republican Party. Not much chance he would do that, but it is -- it would have a huge effect, because it would put the percentage back in the control of the Republicans, something that members of his caucus in the Senate cannot take lightly.

Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Well Fred, obviously nobody thinks it's likely that Senator Lieberman would switch, but if you're a Democrat in the Senate at work on these anti -- these anti-war resolutions, would seemingly have to be a factor, wouldn't it?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: It would have to be a factor and they should stop and think about one issue in particular, because it is the one that could trigger a party switch or something on the part of Lieberman and that is cutting funds for the war in Iraq -- cutting funds for the troops. This -- you know, obviously, Iraq and the war on terror are the issues that are most important to Lieberman right now, and if Democrats go to that point, and that seems to be the next step, if they failed, and now their effort is to withdraw have to appeal the war resolution, and that's probably going to fail. Their next step may be to go and try to cut funds, and that is, I think, that is what Senator Lieberman fears the most and if they read his piece today in the Wall Street Journal and have listen to him, they should fear what he might do if they do try to cut funds.

You know, he is -- there is a name for him, that -- for Lieberman and as he described, you know, he's with the Democrats on domestic policy and the Republicans on national security policy -- we use to call these people "Cold War Liberal." And in the Democratic Party, he's the only one left.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yeah, that -- and it's a sad fact, that there is no John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman wing of the Democratic Party anymore. He's just about it, everybody else has fled to the left. But, you know, I don't think that he -- this is like a nuclear weapon that he's got, and it's best used for deterrence and not actually used, switching parties, and I don't think he'd going to have to use it because the Republicans also have the filibuster to block...

HUME: But if his party becomes all-out for this, with his -- him the lone exception, might he then switched?

KONDRACKE: You know, I just -- the -- all the signals coming from him, I've talked to him about this and I've talked to aides of his, and this would be -- this is the last ditch that he would defend, it would have to be -- it would have to be to try to actually block a fund cutoff resolution?

By the way, this op-ed piece was brilliant, I thought, I mean, it -- what it basically made the argument is, here we've got Petraeus, just confirmed and sent over there...

HUME: Unanimously confirmed.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Trying something new, the new stuff is showing signs of progress, he says that he'll know by the end of the summer whether it's working or not, give him a chance to have it work, and I do not know why that position shouldn't appeal to everybody, since the senators can't pass any anti-war resolutions as it is, so they may as well proceed with this policy.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Lieberman says that a switch in party is remote -- a remote chance of that happening, but I think this is a serious threat. I think he knows exactly what he's doing. It's like the president saying to Iran, I'm not taking anything off the table in reference to a military attack. He's saying I'm not taking anything of the table and he means -- look, he ran as an Independent, that means that has the option of switching...

HUME: Yeah, he is a free man isn't he? Because a lot of people -- his Senate colleague kind of bailed on him.

KRAUTHAMMER: He doesn't owe any of them anything. All of them support his opponent in the general election. And unlike Jim Jeffords, who ran as a Republican, he switched and you had Phil Gramm, who was a Democratic Republican, the congressman in Texas, he switched...

HUME: But he switched and then he ran again.

KRAUTHAMMER: He resigned and then he ran again. But if you're an Independent, you don't quite have that kind of obligation, and Jeffords, of course, he felt no obligation, he switched without the resigning and running.

But there's another element here, in terms of him switching. He ran on the war, he didn't run away. He risked his career by supporting an unpopular war in a blue state, and he essentially he won a mandate on that issue since it was the main issue of this election. So, if he were to switch and to say the reason I'm doing this is because, on the war, an issue on which I ran openly and did not hide anything, my party is running away and destroying our chance of success, I feel obliged to switch. I think it would be a credible position.

And, he said this afternoon, on FOX, the party -- "the Democratic Party use to stand for a strong foreign policy, I fear that has gone from that," that's a clear warning. He cares about national security. If his party abandons it, he'll abandon the party. I take it as a serious step.

BARNES: Yeah, there's one other thing. To follow up on what Charles said, he didn't win at in Connecticut on Democratic votes. He only got about a little over a third of the votes of Democrats in that Senate race and so he won with Republican votes and Independent votes. So, he's not beholden to Democrat -- a majority of Democratic votes...

HUME: And the truth is, he could remain anomaly an Independent and simply vote to organize with the Republicans.

BARNES: Yeah, one other thing, though, Mort seemed to suggest, and maybe didn't mean to, Mort, that you had to have a successful fund cutoff by Democrats in order for him to switch. No, what I think, if Democrats attempt and their in a united way, to cut off funds, that would be a moment of truth for Lieberman.

KONDRACKE: He certainly could use power to threaten to deter that kind of possibility...

HUME: Well it would put the Democrats in a position where they got control of the Senate on the strength of this issue and then might lose it on the very same issue. That would be an ultimate irony, wouldn't it?

KONDRACKE: It would, and I think that he would use the threat, rather than the reality, and they should back off of it. I don't think that they can get...

HUME: Suppose he threatens, and they do not back off. Would he switched?

KONDRACKE: You know, I honestly don't think that he's going to switch.

HUME: OK, I got you. Mort says he won't switch, Fred thinks it's possible, Charles does too. We'll see.

Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the five permanent Security Council members and Germany vow to work on a new U.N. resolution regarding Iran's nuclear program. The all-stars on that, next.



CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, they don't need to reverse gear, they need a stop button. They need to stop in enriching and reprocessing and then we can stop down and talk about whatever is on Iran's mind. But the international community has been steadfast, we have a chapter seven resolution that demonstrate that Iran is isolating itself, it's time for Iran to take a different course and we hope that well.


HUME: That was in response, of course, to the statement by the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, that there's no reverse gear for Iran's nuclear program. And as you heard her say, well, we're not looking for reverse, we need a stop button. It may seem like more of the same, and we start hearing about the U.N. and chapter seven and the international community, that might not cause people to quake, but Charles, to see anything different here this time around with Iran?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, what has surprised her and me and a lot of others who've been skeptical about the process, is the amount of flack that the president of Iran is getting at home for his defiance opened and brazen of these U.N. resolutions. There's a lot of criticism he's getting from other leaders in the press and what appears to be happening is that the Rice strategy of the slow ratcheting is having an effect. Now, is it going to have an effect in time? It's a race between the effect that might have and the uranium enrichment that may end up with the bomb, we may lose that race.

But remember, she hadn't been dealt a lot of good cards. The country is in no mood for a military attack. You had the Iraq Study Group recommending that we abandon our condition of negotiation, which would stop the Iranian enrichment and just negotiate anyway. But the president, to his credit, responded to the Baker recommendation by sending a carrier into the Gulf. That got the attention of the Iranians and began a lot of the internal sniping.

So, with ratcheting of pressure in the Security Council and the treasurer squeezing Iranian banks, which is hurting the Iranian economy, and the carriers in the Gulf, the Iranians are thinking twice about the open defiance, and there may be an opening here.

HUME: Probably worth noting here that at the very moment when all this is happening, Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican of Nebraska, has weighed in with a speech recommending that we deal directly with the Iranians. Go figure.

KONDRACKE: There's a lot of fascinating psychological warfare here. There was a report in the Sunday Telegraph, in London, that the Israelis and United States had been negotiating about air corridors across Iraq for Israeli planes to go bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. Meanwhile, there's a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper that that three Gulf states, including Oman and the United Arab Emirates, are also negotiating with the Israelis over flights possibilities.

Now, who knows whether they are true or not, but the message is, watch out, you know, somebody's coming at you, if you do not stop here. And I think this is all, at least, psychological pressure in addition to moving the carriers around in the Gulf, that is starting to rattle the Iranian establishment. I mean, Rafsanjani, who's Ahmadinejad's rival, has been saying maybe we ought to have negotiations and stop uranium enrichment and even of aides -- the aides to the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei has hinted that they might do that kind of thing. So, psych-war is working.

BARNES: You know, I missed that a story in the Kuwaiti press.


HUME: You should know, Fred, should have learned by now, that very little escapes Mort's notice.


BARNES: That's true, but I did an A.P. story today...

KRAUTHAMMER: You've got to freshen up on your Arabic.

BARNES: ...that I printed out that said -- this A.P. story says "Iranian leaders criticize president." I assumed it was President Bush, but it turn out to be President Ahmadinejad. And so there is a lot of political turmoil there, because he's -- he's not exactly the world's most loved man and I do think that the sanctions are squeezing a little bit. But here's the problem, I think we can read too much into this that the Ahmadinejad stuff, all the so-called moderate leaders over there, too, they want a nuclear bomb almost as much as he does -- they would just go at it a little more subtlety and the good news is, though, they may be more -- feel the pinch of the sanctions in a way that Ahmadinejad, obviously never will, he's a crazy man.

So, I think though, if they're going to win the race, they're going to have to step up the sanctions and make them bite a lot harder, sooner.

HUME: But you think Iran is susceptible to sanctions?


BARNES: Yeah, particularly the people who -- Yeah, absolutely I think they're susceptible, they're a country that has enormous commerce with Europe.

HUME: We would like you to know folks, that Fred and Mort and everyone on this panel really dose know -- really do know how to pronounced the guy's name, but we just don't want you to give him the satisfaction.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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