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Special Report Roundtable - March 14

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: To this day, President Bush lacks a plan to complete the mission so our troops can come home. His current strategy of more of the same is not working.

MAJ GEN WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. MILITARY SPOKESMAN: We've seen positive indicators at the moment, already. As General Petraeus has said, once all the forces in -- are in place, he in fact, then expects to start seeing a more significant difference in the levels of violence and activities that occur within the city of Baghdad and the surrounding area.


HUME: And there was this from the Associated Press today, "Bomb deaths have gone down 30 percent in Baghdad since the U.S.-led security crackdown begin a month ago. Execution-style slayings are down by nearly half. Then once frequent sound of weapons has been reduced to episodic, and downtown shoppers have returned to outdoor markets -- favored targets of car bombers. There are signs of progress in the campaign to restore order in Iraq, starting with its capital city."

So, what about this? Can we believe this, or is this just a temporary lull, prelude to more of the same? Some thoughts on 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 -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, I mean, the answer is we do not know what's quite happen in the future, but the signs are good, and the -- what the Democrats and some Republicans in Congress are demonstrating is that they are impervious to evidence of any improvement in the situation. They don't care whether things are going in the right direction or not. They're ignoring that evidence, they don't cite it, they're convinced that this is a loser and they're going to go on on that assumption regardless of the evidence.

Now, on the "we don't know," I mean, a lot of it has to do with the fact that the militias have faded into the woodwork, or into closets in these various areas in Baghdad, and they put their guns away. We can't find their guns. They may, you know, maybe banking on the fact that our presence there will be temporary and that they'll come back in the streets. But, if we can -- we're in the hold phase and we're holding areas. Now, if we can -- that's to say, we're clearing and if we can hold now, and get the Iraqis to help us hold, and establish some security and then begin to build, you can transform the situation and I don't, even then, it's the Democrats...

HUME: Has this amount of progress, Mara, seemed a little easier than one might have thought?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Not as necessarily. I think that -- no, I don't think so. But I...

HUME: There hasn't been a lot of fierce fighting.

LIASSON: No there hasn't been a lot of fierce fighting...

HUME: In Sadr City and Sadr's gone and the militia's...

LIASSON: Sure, and that makes perfect since. I mean, why should they confront the Americans, why shouldn't they let the Americans take on the Sunnis, their enemies, and then come back in when they think the coast is clear. But look, but any kind of breathing room or any kind of hiatus in Shiite militia violence is good, even if they are planning to come back. As Mort said, there could be some kind of a space where you could build something that would change the situation.

Look, I think that it's going to take awhile to find out that this really is a turning point. But, we're going to have that time, because nothing that the Democrats are proposing in Congress is going to have an actual practical affect to stopping the strategy that's in affect in Baghdad now, so we're going to find out. We're not going to be -- it's not want to be stopped.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Strategy, contrary to what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, and we just heard, is a new strategy, there's no question about it. But this is one of the things that Democrats -- Nancy Pelosi says it all the time, you know, that it's just more of the same, there's not a new strategy. There is a new strategy, it's a new counter-insurgency strategy. That's why General Petraeus is there. And who know, General Petraeus may do for Baghdad what Rudy Giuliani did for New York City. Who know, it might work out that way. But nobody's claiming any irresistible trend, now. What did General Caldwell say, he said there were -- they've seen some positive indicators. Well, there have been positive indicators, not just ones that Republicans...

HUME: It almost sounds like, when you look at the facts that were cited from the Pentagon by that AP, that they're downplaying.

BARNES: Yeah, but look who's found positive indicators there -- Brian Williams of NBC has, Brad Henry the governor of Oklahoma and Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona. They're Democrats, they don't have a vested interest in saying anything that's going to help President Bush. But everybody's making very mild, very hesitant, very tentative, assessments here.

LIASSON: They should.

BARNES: And of course they should. So far, so good, but imagine if we didn't see any of these indicators at all. They would be, I think we would seeing in the media and we'd see Harry Reid and we'd see Nancy Pelosi saying this thing had already failed.

KONDRACKE: See it didn't work.

HUME: Well, they're saying that anyway, in a sense.

KONDRACKE: You know, and there are some beginning signs of progress on the political front as well. There is an oil agreement, it hasn't been completely ratified yet, but it's -- a draft agreement is around. Various Sunni...

HUME: That's a big deal because the Sunnis, who really don't have any oil in their territory, get to share in the oil wealth.

KONDRACKE: Right, and some Sunni sheiks, apparently, have turned against al Qaeda, although we've heard that before. General Petraeus got Maliki to go to Ramadi, to Anbar Province and visit where he hadn't been, so you know, that kind of thing is promising, and I don't see how anybody can deny that at least things are looking up temporarily. And there -- that -- the argument that I would make is, give him a chance. You've going to have to give him a chance anyway.

HUME: Next up with our panel, we'll look at relations between the U.S. and Mexico and between the two presidents over the issue of immigration, or, excuse me, migration. Stick around.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We spent all lot of time on -- on the important and sensitive issue of migration. I say uh, sensitive because obviously this is an issue um, uh, that because people can use to inflame passions. I say important, because a good migration law will help both economies and will help the security of both countries.


HUME: Now, you may ask, when did the immigration bill become the migration law? Apparently it happened when the president went to Mexico and found that Felipe Calderon was calling it a migration bill. Now folks, there is a difference between migration and immigration. Migration refers to the movement of from one place to another, you can migrate from Saint Paul across the river into Minneapolis or you can migrate from Saint Paul to Las Vegas, but if you're going across a border, you're immigrating.

Anyway, back with our panel on this.

BARNES: That's a helpful definition. That's not the one they use at the White House, at least...

HUME: Well, it isn't migration; Migration is normal movement of people. This is migration across -- Calderon said, by the way, today -- he said the border should be used to unite people not to bring them together. No, no, no, that's not what borders are for. Borders are for to divide people.

BARNES: Didn't you ever read that Robert Frost poem? What is it, good fences make good neighbors? You don't buy that?

HUME: Well, Calderon doesn't buy that. What's going on here?

BARNES: Well, here look, I asked somebody at the White House if they could explain to me why all of a sudden Bush uses the word "migration." And here's the best they could come up with. This was several people. That migration means when you're just moving up from one place to another temporarily. But immigration means you're going and you're going to stay. You got that?

HUME: That's not what Webster says. I looked it up.

LIASSON: Well, but you know what -- but the president also talked about staying because he talked about a middle ground. He said, "I think we can find a way forward, somewhere in between automatic citizenship and kicking people out of the country." And he was talking about the people, the 12 million illegal people...

HUME: Who are already here.

LIASSON: And now want to stay here. So, he wasn't talking about migrants, he was talking about immigrants.


And that clearly is the sticking point, here. Temporary workers is one thing, people who just want to for a week or two, but look, the real problem I swat do you do with the 12 million people who want to stay here. And this a problem he has with his own party. He proposed a bill that a lot of Democrats supported, a comprehensive bill, he wants to do it again, but he's got to get his own party onboard.


And the Democrats have to be willing to get on board.

HUME: I know that, but the fact of the matter is that the Democrats are now in control. I suppose the Republicans could block a bill in the Senate by filibuster, if they wanted to, but isn't this really a case of the president -- the president probably has the votes...

LIASSON: If he wants to get them from the Democratic side.

HUME: If he wants some from the Democratic side to pass the bill. Will he do so?

KONDRACKE: Well, what the -- the White House is really working this - - the White House and through the secretary of Commerce and the secretary of Homeland Security are working very hard with Republican senators to try to boost the number of votes from 20, last year, to 25 this year, Republicans, in the senate, to go along.

HUME: You get 25, you ought to be able to pass...

KONDRACKE: Or you can pass it with a big tailwind. You could pass it with maybe 70 votes, which would send the bill into the House and convince people that something good might happen here and that the Republican Party is...

HUME: But the House is a place where if the Democrats want the bill, and a lot of them do, they can ram it through regardless of what the Republican...

BARNES: A lot of them ran against a comprehensive bill. A lot of these new Democrats ran against it.

KONDRACKE: And the unions are against the temporary worker idea, at least the AFL-CIO is, and wants all temporary workers to have very high- level of worker protection, including maybe even prevailing union wages at, you know, these various localities. That's a deal-breaker as far as the Republicans and the chamber of commerce are concerned.


BARNES: They could have card checks for the temporary workers.

LIASSON: This is one of the few issues where a bipartisan solution is out there to be had if both parties decide they want it, and you know, Democrats might say, well they don't want to give the president any kind of victory at all, but on the other hand, there are a lot of Hispanic voters out there who had their hopes raised last year are going to be disappointed.

HUME: Let me pose a question. I really have no idea what the answer is. Let's assume an immigration bill, or, excuse me, the migration bill, passes. What does that do to the Republicans for `08? Help, hurt, what?

BARNES: It helps them for this reason.

HUME: Why?

BARNES: It helps them a lot. Because it won't be an issue.


BARNES: They'll knock it off the table. It won't be an issue.

LIASSON: Yeah, it won't be an issue.

BARNES: Well if that's -- remember when Republicans passed the Medicare prescription drug benefit that a lot of Republicans didn't even like and some voted against it and they kept it open. The vote open for 13 hours or whatever it was? It did -- it was off of the table.

KONDRACKE: And passing it gives them a chance to reclaim some of the Latino vote that they blew in the last election.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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