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Special Report Roundtable - March 22

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The campaign goes on, the campaign goes on strongly. Elizabeth and I have talked at length about this already, talked with our children about it.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: It's important that American people have the opportunity to have a president like him, and I can't deprive him of that just because I want to sit home, feeling perfectly well, but wanting his company.


HUME: And so, said the Edwards, the campaign will go on, as you heard him say, despite the fact that his wife is suffering from bone cancer now. Originally, of course, she was a breast cancer survivor.

Some thoughts on this and the effect on the campaign 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.

Well obviously our hearts go out to the Edwards', we certainly wish Mrs. Edwards well and I gather that there's hope that she can hold this incurable form of cancer off for a protracted period of time.

NINA EASTON, FORTUNE: Yeah, there's a couple of things here. One is, it's interesting that this couple, they deal with tragedy with motion, they move, and they lost their 16-year-old...

HUME: You just finished quite an extended profile on him.

EASTON: Of him, yeah.

HUME: Forthcoming.

EASTON: Forthcoming.

HUME: We'll watch for that.

EASTON: Yes. But one of the things that's interesting about them is that while some people hunker down after a tragedy, they move. And so after their son, Wade, was killed, a 16-year-old in a car accident in 1996, shortly after that he launched -- John Edwards launched his campaign for Senate, and they had two more children. And then -- to me, this didn't come as a surprise. And then combine that with the breast cancer that she literally started treatment on the breast cancer hours after John Kerry's concession speech in 2004, that Election Day.

So they've been through a lot. And, yet, she keeps - and the other thing to keep in mind is she thrives on campaigning. She's written in her book, "I love this fight, I thrive on the campaign trail." So I think this decision today was at least as much hers, probably more than his.

HUME: She is quite well liked, isn't she?

EASTON: She is. You know, I saw them in Iowa at a town hall, and I have to say, it was a crowd of about 800 people, and afterwards a number of people came up to talk to him, but it was her. She has written this book, "Saving Graces," which detailed her fight with breast cancer and which also talked about the death of her son.

These women were scores deep, you know, waiting in line with her book, pen in hand, wanting to tell them of their story of breast cancer survival or a lost child, especially kids killed in Iraq. And so she's a huge hit on the campaign trail. And I've always thought -- I have a number of reasons why I thought Edwards could emerge -- very well emerge as the counter to Hillary Clinton and not Obama, but I've always thought that she was a key reason because she's a big hit out there.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: I've met her, too, she's a wonderful lady. Great to talk to, easy to talk to and obviously, a campaign asset. I mean, I think that when you get hit with a tragedy like this that you -- you know, as Edwards said, you can either cower in a corner or go on. And what they decided to do was to live their lives and hope for the best through the medical treatment, and to go for their goals.

HUME: As a practical matter, the effect of knowing that she has advanced and dangerous form of cancer is likely to have some effect on the perception of the campaign and of how long he can last in it. What effect?

KONDRACKE: Well, I mean, it depends on how the disease goes, obviously. If it stays manageable, then I think that there's an automatic kind of poignancy about the whole campaign and there's a bit of sympathy, I would guess, that they will be the beneficiaries of. I don't think it's a lasting thing, you know, the business of choosing a president...

HUME: You think they might get a bump out of this?

KONDRACKE: Well, a slight bump. But you know, there will be kind of a glow around them, I mean, there's a sense of poignancy, that's the best word I can think of. I would think that the one other political outcome of this is that there's going to be renewed attention to the two other cancer survivors here, John McCain, who had...

HUME: Skin cancer.

KONDRACKE: Skin cancer...

HUME: Rudy Giuliani, who had prostate cancer.

KONDRACKE: ...and Rudy Giuliani, who had prostate cancer. But usually prostate cancer is a manageable thing. Melanoma is a more serious thing.

HUME: Yeah, he had melanoma, the more serious kind of skin cancer.

KONDRACKE: That's the most serious kind of skin cancer.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: This is a sad moment for the Edwards'. I don't see how -- you know, the strength of John Edwards is he's been out there as a full-time candidate. He doesn't have to come back and be in the Senate and vote here three or four days a week. He's out there full-time and has been in Iowa and is obviously...

HUME: Leading.

BARNES: Leading in Iowa. And it's important to be there. You know, these are caucuses in Iowa, they're not primaries. You got to come on a cold Monday night in January and stay there a while at some schoolhouse or church or something, it's not like just dropping into a polling place on primary day and voting and going home. And he's really drummed up a lot of support by being out there and getting all over the state.

And his campaign and his success, whether there is any or not, is based on Iowa. He's got to score in Iowa, be first or second or something like that and or his campaign dies. I just don't see, with his wife suffering this way, that he can be out there quite as full-time as he was.

HUME: Well let's look at...

BARNES: And she may not be out there that much as all.

HUME: He's ahead in Iowa, but he's around, what, 12 percent in national poll of Democrats? He has a ways to go, right?

EASTON: Well, but there's a number that goes around inside John Edwards' head, I think, and that's the number that Howard Dean plummeted in the weeks before Iowa. He loses Iowa and then he plummets in New Hampshire and he's basically out of the race.

I mean, Iowa, and then you've got the Nevada caucus, which is largely going to be controlled by labor and service workers, casino workers and he's very tight with them. So, you could see, and Edwards taking off in Iowa, Nevada and then getting that lift into New Hampshire.

HUME: Momentum...


BARNES: Well, I agree with Nina on the chance of Edwards replacing Obama as the real challenge to Hillary. I mean, Obama thrills so many Democrats in ways that no other candidate does and I don't think that's going to go away no matter what happens to the Edwards' family.

EASTON: I saw them back-to-back before the Democratic National Committee, several weeks ago, and the ovation for Edwards was at least as strong, and the reception for him was at least as strong as for Obama.

KONDRACKE: Well, look...

BARNES: I don't think that's a fair test with those people.

KONDRACKE: Well, look I think...

BARNES: A lot of Democratic voters are thrilled, inspired, and so on by Obama.

KONDRACKE: Both Hillary and Obama have got to prove weaker than they look at the moment for Edwards to surge. I mean, he still is trailing the field and even if he wins a primary or two, he's got to collect a lot of money in order to do this February 5 thing.

HUME: Next up with the panel, the House debates how to finance the war in Iraq and get the troops home at the same time. We'll look at how that's going when we come back.



REP PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: This is the first enforceable challenge to the president's plan to escalate and continue a stay the course, open-ended commitment to a war, a war that was launched with massive deception, an unnecessary war.

JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Our commanders and troops have been waiting for this funding for over two months now, and Democrat have argued amongst themselves over mandating military failure. And they're trying to buy support for this dangerous proposal by loading it up with unnecessary spending.


HUME: And so it is that the House comes presumably tomorrow to vote on a measure which the Democratic leadership strongly supports, but which the Democratic leadership is under pressure from the left, which doesn't like the bill because it apparently keeps the war going too long and conservative Democrats don't like because it would block the war eventually, and Republicans don't like for all kind of reasons, not the least of which it's loaded up with some pork that was added to it to try to attract Democratic votes. So it looks to be a very close vote. What is likely to be the outcome? Anybody got a thought -- Mort.

BARNES: I think it'll pass.

HUME: Do you think it will pass

BARNES: Yeah. I think they'll get it and then they'll lose in the Senate. I think the Senate vote's going to be early next week on a very similar set of things added to the appropriation bill.

HUME: You think it'll fail the Senate for lack of votes or because of filibuster?

BARNES: No, no, no they're not going to filibuster. Here's where it'll fail. The effort will strip out the language that requires the removal of troops, beginning of the removal of troops from Iraq and leaving in the benchmarks, which are inoffensive anyway, and then passage. They added to it today more money to continue a milk support program has been put in the Senate bill. So, they're -- I mean, they're working overtime to get stuff that'll attract all the Democrats, but I think it'll pass the House but lose in the Senate. There'll be a conference and we'll see what happens there, but I suspect Bush will get the money, it'll be all the pork for the Democrats, and the troops will stay.

HUME: So in other word, that pork which has been so roundly denounced by everybody will survive in the final bill that passes?


KONDRACKE: If it passes, they will pull it down and won't have a vote, I think, if they can't pass it, the Democrats...

HUME: In the House?

KONDRACKE: In the House of Representatives. I mean, this is really ugly, the way they're working this. This is Tom DeLay redux, you know, except that Tom DeLay use to sort of silently twist arms and beat people over the head. This is all done in public, people are talking about how they were threatened with a loss of committee chairmanships and the pork is out there for everybody to see, and there's a closed rule, which was against their -- you know, they were going to have full debate of all kinds of bills. But it probably will pass.

The problem is delay, not Tom DeLay, old-fashioned delay. That is Bob Gates had a press conference today at the Pentagon and he said that by April 15, if this supplemental bill isn't passed, you begin to -- the ability of training and building and all that kind of stuff begins to deteriorate because this money isn't there.

And by May 15 you really can't redeploy troops to Iraq and you'll have to extend the tours of the men and women who are already there, which is the he can act purpose that this bill was supposed to correct.

So, what you've got is a game of chicken here, and at some point the president and the secretary of state -- the secretary of defense are going to say pass this bill clean or the troops in Iraq are going to suffer. Exactly, and somebody's got to blink.

EASTON: And that's right, the Democrats are going to -- Nancy Pelosi has as much as said if this doesn't work she's willing to pass a clean bill, and will have to, because Democrats can't have that hanging over their head, that they weren't funding the troops. I mean, if this strategy doesn't work, it's going to be difficult.

This may be a little inside the beltway, speaking of Nancy Pelosi, but I do think if she had appointed a different whip, and that is Rahm Emanuel, who knows how to bust heads quietly, as he did in getting the Democrats to take over Congress, instead she put in this guy, James Clayburn -- Clyburn, I'm sorry, of South Carolina, who's considered a little too soft, accommodating, I think if she had taken a bold move and bold step and put Rahm Emanuel, the congressman from Illinois in there instead, this would have gone a lot more smoothly for her.

BARNES: She blames Jim Kiberg -- Clyburn. Mort blames Tom DeLay for this.


HUME: The consensus seems to be here that the administration may win on this in the end.

BARNES: I think they're going to win, but I think, the part I disagree about is there's going to be a lot of pork in there. Look, the president can't veto that bill just because there's pork. He could veto it because...

EASTON: Because of a deadline.


HUME: Got you.

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