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Special Report Roundtable - March 15

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have remaining security vital national security interests in Iraq. I think we have a remaining military, as well as political mission, trying to contain the extremists.


HUME: And so, said Senator Clinton, she would be leaving some troops, at least some troops in Iraq, she imagined, even after becoming president. This, despite her promise to end the war there and bring the troops home. This comes as a new poll from Time magazine portrays the race between her and Barack Obama as having tightened further. Look at the progression across the months, there. She has dropped from 40 percent in that poll in January, down to 34 now, and he has risen by a comparable margin, 21 to 26. That's eight points, that's almost within the margin of error, there, plus or minus four. So, he is within shouting distance of her, at least.

In the meantime, here in Washington, in the Senate today, the measure proposed by Senator Reid to set a timetable and begin withdrawal of American troops actually failed to achieve even a majority. Fifty senators voted against it, 48 voted in favor, three Democrats defected to vote against the measure, and one Republican, that would be Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, who is up for reelection, I believe, voted in favor of it. And two others passed, one of them by Republicans, one of them proposed by a Democrat, which were support-the-troops measures.

Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Mort, what about this (INAUDIBLE) development? First, let's talk a little bit, if we can, about what the Senate did and did not do today.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, the Senate defeated the -- Harry Reid's resolution demanding that the troops began -- it have been a binding resolution demanding that withdrawals began, and I belief that it's all combat troops out by the end of March of 2008. Now, that raises the question of -- you know, that compared with Hillary Clinton said, if all combat troops are out by the end of 2008, how can we possibly deal with the al Qaeda threat? Al Qaeda's got somewhere between 5,000 and 25,000 hardened killers running at about in Anbar Provinces and Diyala Province and parts of Baghdad, and who's going to fight them if.

HUME: Some -- belief is that such a -- such a resolution, if it passed, which of course it didn't, would be a wake-up call to the Iraqis to further get their military operation in order so they can fight.

KONDRACKE: Well, that's the theory, but if you -- you know, it's -- today's story in the New York Times about what Hillary Clinton said was juxtaposed on the same page with the story about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who reminds you about what the enemy is that we're facing. I mean, this guy said, "yeah, I did 9/11, I'm glad of it," and now it turns out that he personally beheaded Danny Pearl. I mean, these to the kind of -- and they blow up people left and right, these are monsters that we're dealing with and they've got to -- and we've got to -- we've got to fight them. And we're going to have to fight them in Iraq and we're going to need troops to do it.

HUME: So, what's the significance this vote today, Fred? Does this mean that the Democrats are destined to be stymied in this effort because it'll never get though the Senate or what?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, had said if he didn't get this resolution passed, the one that was voted down today, and Mort described -- passed to day, he would bring it up on the supplemental, the supplemental funding of the -- for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remains to be seen whether he will or not. I mean, this was much worse than Democrats had thought. Even Republicans thought Democrats could get 50 or 51 votes, they got 48. I mean, they -- you needed 60 to win and they -- to enact this, and they didn't even get 50 and, you know, I don't know -- it's hard to know where they go from here. And their whole effort, if you saw Harry Reid's speech at the end, is based on a faulty premise, it's the same one that other Democrats use and it's that Bush is pursuing the same strategy that he always had, that there's no knew counter- insurgency strategy at all, and they -- and he dismisses General Petraeus this way, that it's Bush's war, not Piraeus's war. Problem with that is, it might be Bush's war, but it's General Piraeus's strategy.


HUME: Nina, let's turn, if we can, to Senator Clinton. She has had an uneasy relationship with the anti-war left, to put it gently. What does this -- does this statement she made about this add measurably to her problems, or is it what you'd expect?

EASTON: Well, t adds to her problems with the left, but like you say, she already had problems with the left. When she says -- it's interesting, while she's supported the senate resolution, which said we should focus on a political solution, she says no, it's got to be a military solution, as well. But keep in mind, she also, being a woman, in part, she's got to prove her bona fides as a commander in chief and I think that's got to be uppermost in her mind.

HUME: This position she takes, in the face of the rise of the Obama, documented in this Time poll, whether -- which differs slightly from other polls, but there's no doubt about the trend, suggests that there may be some ultimate confidence, on her part being expressed here, that she can afford to take this more moderate, sort of, general election, position at this stage. Is that what it suggest to you?

EASTON: Well, she is -- keep in mind, she is the one staking out a somewhat more centrist position. You've got Obama, and you've also got Edwards on the other side as more of an anti-war, you know, more troops -- getting troops out more quickly position. But she does, she's creating more of an area space in the center...

HUME: Is she in danger on the (INAUDIBLE) because of this.

EASTON: She's always in danger.

HUME: No, but do you think she's in serious danger or not?

EASTON: She's always been in danger on the war issues...

HUME: What do you think, Mort, you think she's in danger?

KONDRACKE: I talked to Howard Wolfson, her spokesman, today, who said that the reaction from the left was surprisingly muted, that there was a little bit of blog activity beating her up, but compared to what -- if you look at Obama and Edwards have said, even they talk about leaving troops behind...

HUME: Edwards says they're there to guard the embassy.


BARNES: The fact is, look, she's trying to go back to the middle of her original strategy which was not to veer way to the left of Iraq, which she has unfortunately done, but to preserve a position that would be good in the general election, not just the Democratic primaries.

HUME: Up next, is the attorney general doing a slow slide into political quicksand over his firing of some of the U.S. attorneys? More on that next.



SEN CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: This the worst crisis at the Department of Justice that I have seen in my time in the Senate. It's a crisis of confidence, a crisis of credibility, a crisis of management.

SEN ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I say this to Senator Schumer in the spirit of collegiality, but also in the spirit of fairness, that I believed there's a conflict of interest between Senator Schumer's position, the chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and the leader of this inquiry.


HUME: What the two gentlemen were discussing, of course, there's the firing of eight federal prosecutors, U.S. attorneys in the last couple of months, and the dust-up that has occurred over that when the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales failed at first to provide the congress with accurate information about how all that come about, something for which there are calls for his scalp.

Make no mistake, however, Senator Specter, although he was skeptical of Senator Schumer's leadership role in probing all this is himself interested in more answers than he says he's gotten, and he is not objecting, as far as we can tell, to the shower of subpoenas that either forthcoming or soon will be on the administration for witnesses that Senator Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Schumer and others, want to hear from.

So the question arises, where does this stand? How is this going, what about what Senator Schumann said and what about the fate of Alberto Gonzales -- Nina.

EASTON: Well, there's always the Rumsfeld recipe where you offer his scalp, appoint somebody as a substitute who's -- Congress is smitten by and enjoy a love affair with Congress for what, maybe two or three weeks.

HUME: Days.

EASTON: Days and then it passes over. I do think that.

HUME: Do you think that's going to happen?

EASTON: I think that's probably going to happen. I mean.

HUME: So you think Gonzales is going to get ousted?

EASTON: I think so. I mean, just based on -- based on a couple of things -- one, is that the issue is turning from the firings and whether those were legitimate to whether there is evasion of congress, and whether -- and the president -- the other thing is that the president expressed dissatisfaction with how this is handled, and that's not a good sign. He publicly, usually.

HUME: But in so doing he also stood by Gonzales.

EASTON: Yeah, but he typically doesn't do that if things are going -- if he's really going.

HUME: Mort.

KONDRACKE: The plot is thickening, here. You had Gonzales saying that he didn't know about any kind of White House involvement, now it turns out ABC News has got a story that in addition to the Harriet Myers memos is that there were e-mails...

HUME: You got a copy of it?

KONDRACKE: Yeah. Well, that there were e-mails referring to Karl Rove suggesting that all the.

HUME: No, he didn't suggest that e-mail doesn't say that.

KONDRACKE: All right. That Alberto Gonzales, himself, as White House counsel, was involved in this chain of e-mails discussing the possibility of the firing. Now, just a second.

HUME: And the possibility of firing would amount, would it not, to a discussion of doing what the predecessor president had done?

KONDRACKE: Except that Alberta Gonzales told Congress that the White House was not involved here. And he, himself, may have been involved in the discussions of this when he was in the White House.

Now, wait a minute, there's more than this.

HUME: Quickly.

KONDRACKE: It's one thing for the White House to say that these people didn't follow up on immigration cases or on voter fraud cases, but you know, the House Democrats have alleged that various of these attorneys were involved in public corruption investigations. For example, the woman in San Diego had completed the Duke Cunningham investigation, but had moved on to Jerry Lewis, who is now the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

Look, I think that the Democrats want to have a hanging before there's a trial. I think there ought to be a trial to find out whether somebody's guilty.

BARNES: Did they offer any evidence that -- about the San Diego case?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, the Sun newspaper reports that those investigations were underway.

BARNES: Yeah, I know, there had been intervention to stop the investigation?

KONDRACKE: No, that's not what you have to have an investigation of.

BARNES: Well, yeah, I mean, they didn't offer the evidence. I think this is a crisis of exaggeration, a crisis of partisan overkill, a crisis of unfound charges -- just to follow up on Chuck Schumer. And I have never heard such a wall of hot air from anybody in a long time.

I mean, look, if Chuck Schumer is your frontman, you know it's political overkill and nothing but that. But you know who I blame in this case, for all this stuff that's happened. I blame President Bush. He needed to come out in the beginning and say, "Look, I have a perfect right to do this, Bill Clinton did it, he had a perfect right to do it. There is nothing wrong here. These -- all these U.S. attorneys, eight of them were fired, either for performance or for policy reasons, I'm not sending Karl Rove up here or anybody else. And you know what would have happened? You wouldn't have had these soft Republicans with tough reelection races like John Sununu and Gordon Smith, dropping off. Everybody would have rallied behind him.

HUME: Gonzales stays or goes? She say goes.

KONDRACKE: Ultimately, he goes.

HUME: Fred.

BARNES: Stays.

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