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Special Report Roundtable - February 14

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


REP STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: We will not abandon, we will not underman, not undersupply, we will not undertrain and we will not defund those who we have put in harm's way. We will support our troops today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

REP KAY GRANGER (R), TEXAS: The nonbinding resolution before us is at best confusing, at worst immoral. It pledges to support the troops in the field, but washes its hands of what they're doing. We can't have it both ways.


HUME: So, there's the debate unfolding on the House floor over a nonbinding resolution of the kind that failed to pass the Senate because of a 60-vote requirement. This one probably will pass the House but the Republicans are accusing the Democrats, and you heard Steny Hoyer disputing that -- of making the first step toward defunding the troops in the field, thereby -- to thereby stop the war in Iraq.

Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio -- all are FOX NEWS contributors.

Before we get to topic A, however, a correction, it was said on this panel last night that John Boehner, the House minority leader, is backing Mitt Romney for president. John Boehner's office assures us that he, while he may have said a kind word or two about Romney; he is not committed to him and remains neutral. We're sorry about the mistake and we'll proceed with the other subject now.

So, what about this -- what about this charge Republicans are making which Democrats were hastening today to dispute that this is all really part of a strategy, the first step in a strategy that will lead ultimately to an effort to defunding the Iraq war and thereby stop it?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, everybody in the leadership, except for Steny Hoyer has said -- even Steny Hoyer actually, in the speech -- said that there will be further steps and what -- when I heard Steny Hoyer say this, by the way, on the floor, I thought, now has Steny Hoyer talked to Jack Murtha, who's the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Pentagon and handling the supplemental that's coming along and he says what he's going to do is condition the money for further troops arriving in Iraq on meeting certain readiness benchmarks which, you know, I assume is a disguised way of denying the funds for more troops to be sent after a certain point.

Now, Steny Hoyer may say that we will not defund the troops who are there, but in effect, what Murtha is going to do is deny them reinforcements which seem to me is at least as bad as denying them equipment.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, when it comes to that, if the Republicans can make it seem that Murtha's doing that, what Murtha is trying to do, I think, is something that's a little bit more politically nuanced than just saying we're going to cut off funding. He's saying the troops that are going over there are going to have to meet certain -- be declared ready and trained, which on the face of it seems like how could you possibly object to that? You don't want to send troops that aren't ready and trained.

But look, I think the Democratic Party is divided about this issue of whether to cut off funding and that is why the Republicans and president today are so eager to get to that phase of the debate. Debating this nonbinding resolution, it's going to pass and it's going to get bipartisan support, but when you're talking about funding it's going to be a lot more difficult for the Democrats to vote against it, as you heard Steny Hoyer say today.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, but this is a test, this vote and it seems to be going well for the Democrats. There are at least 10 Republican defectors, the Move-On Republicans who, they've been called that at least by Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard who's been covering and writing about this debate for the last few days. And so it's.

HUME: Nice plug.


BARNES: I thought that was a good thing to call them, the Move-On Republicans, you know, led by Walter Jones of North Carolina. And, but -- and Mara's right because President Bush is already talking about this. What is his test? He said today, "Well of course, you know, you don't have to support the troops to be patriotic. You can be." but once they're there, he said, the proof of whether you support the troops will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary to do the mission.

Now, Democrats are going to be faced with the surge, these extra 21,500 troops, they're already going to be there. Half of them were already there. They're going to be there in Iraq. Now, are they going to defund them?

Look, John Murtha can come up with these fancy schemes, but the obvious next steps down the road are defunding. I mean, that's the biggest power Congress has is the power of the purse. And they're going to move to that and they know it and President Bush knows it and he's trying to set a marker of what they should or shouldn't do if they're going to be considered supporters of the troops.

HUME: Mort.

KONDRACKE: They are going to gradually move toward that and I think the Murtha resolution -- the Murtha limitation.

Will that pass, in your judgment, the Murtha.

KONDRACKE: I don't -- I'm not sure, I don't think so. I mean.

HUME: Pass the House, I mean.

KONDRACKE: I don't think so. You know, I hope not anyway. I mean, it seems to me that is a step toward imposing a defeat. And Steny Hoyer said there's not a single member of this chamber, Republican or Democrat, who wishes us anything but success in Iraq. He should talk to the left- wingers in his own party. They have been rooting for failure from the beginning because it's a Bush policy and they hate Bush.

LIASSON: There's no doubt that there are many Democrats who would like to defund the war, but Steny Hoyer is not just speaking for himself. I mean, I think there's a large number of Democrats...

HUME: Yeah, but is he right to say that not a single Democrat wants to see us do anything other than succeed in Iraq?

LIASSON: Well, if he means by that that we're not going to get a majority of Democrats to defunding, he may be right.

HUME: When we come back with our panel, we'll talk about who exactly is arming Iraqi militants with explosive devices and what's going on between the U.S. and Iran. Stay tuned.



BUSH: There are weapons in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the Quds force. And, as you know, I hope, that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't think we know. But we know that they're there and I intend to do something about it.

SEN HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: The administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary; the president must come to Congress to seek that authority.


HUME: So, does that mean Senator Clinton -- does Senator Clinton mean to say that if Iranian agents are found in Iraq transporting weapons that we must come to Congress before any action is made to take to disarm them? Does she mean in Iranian forces are on or near the border with weapons to come into Iraq that the United States can't do anything about it at all without going to Congress? What does she mean? What is going on here -- Mort.

KONDRACKE: Specifically I don't know what exactly she means, whether -- in other words capturing -- we've already captured Iranian agents in Iraq. So, she's not demanding a resolution for that. I think she means if we invade or go into Iranian territory, bomb Iran or something like that, that he has to get a resolution first. Look.

HUME: That isn't what she said, though.

KONDRACKE: Well, she said -- she did say against Iran, OK, except that she did not say that -- she did not complain about what we've already done. She did not.

HUME: Well, not in that passage.

KONDRACKE: No, but in the speech she did not.

HUME: But, isn't what we've already done part of what has set off this round of tremors and worries among Democrats and.

KONDRACKE: It is where it is a leading. What the Democrats and a lot of media, as evidenced in that press conference today, smell here is a lead-up to an attack on Iran in parallel to the lead-up that we experienced to the invasion of Iraq.

HUME: Do you smell that?

KONDRACKE: I don't. What I think is happening is that Bush is ratcheting up pressure on the Iranians and using every device that he possibly can and every lever that he possibly can to do that.

HUME: Is it wise -- hold it a second. Would it be wise for the president to foreswear the use of force against Iran at this point?

LIASSON: Probably not. He wants to keep every option on the table and keep Iran guessing, I think. And he's already said every option is on the table and look, Democratic candidates, including John Edwards has said (INAUDIBLE).

KONDRACKE: And Hillary Clinton.

LIASSON: And Hillary Clinton -- every option is on the table in terms of Iran, especially where the nuclear threat is concerned.

Look, I think that the politics of this is Mrs. Clinton has been moving generally to get herself right with the left-wing base of the party and there's a lot of discussion that President Bush is planning something against Iran similar to what happened in Iraq, an invasion, a regime change invasion, that's quite different than, I think, these smaller.

KONDRACKE: Or bombing the.

LIASSON: Or bombing the nuclear sites or something like that and I think that that's what she's responding to.

BARNES: She hasn't exactly been moving to the left on Iraq or to please the left, she's been sprinting. She's like she's turbo charged going in that direction. Look, what I wonder about is why is there all this great skepticism about what the president has said and what his administration have said. It's a very measured charge. It said, look, we found there's no dispute, we found these Iranian-made explosives that have been used against Americans in Iraq and we know it from this Quds force which is part of the Revolutionary Guard, part of the Iranian government. They haven't said, and President Bush carefully did not say today, that this meant that the higher-ups in Iran had actually ordered this to happen, but there is a history here of the Iranians. Remember Korin A (ph) in 2002, the boat intercepted by the Israelis, it was arms, rockets and everything, from the Iran's to Yasser Arafat. How do you think the Hezbollah gets its weapons? From the Iranians.

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