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Special Report Roundtable - March 28

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), SENATE JUDICIARY CMTE CHMN: We'll continue to ask people, but it is very, very difficult to get the facts when you have key people of the Bush-Cheney administration, taking the fifth.

SEN ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Many of us may be subject to a comment and a political situation, and Senator Schumer has a right to make political hay out of whenever he chooses to, but I think that it is inconsistent with leading an inquiry, and I can understand Ms. Goodling's decision not to testify in this context.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: So what are those two guys talking about, those members of the Senate Judiciary Committee? What they're talking about is a decision by a senior -- or a -- important Justice Department official named Monica Goodling to take the fifth amendment and not testifying before the committee its investigation into the firing of those eight U.S. attorneys, and to be specific, her lawyer has said:

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real. One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby."

That, of course, the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby for obstruction of Justice and prudery and in the courthouse recently here in Washington in the Valerie Plame case.

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

So, where the matter stands now is that she won't testify, Kyle Sampson the departed top aide, executive assistant or whatever, to chief of staff to the attorney general, will, but where really, does this case stand?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, you know on the Monica Goodling issue, this is worse than the Lewis Libby case, I mean...

HUME: Why so? From her you mean? From her point of view?

KONDRACKE: Well yes, because in the Scooter Libby case, presumably, Patrick Fitzgerald was conducting an open inquiry and trying to get to the facts. In this case, we have a hanging the party, and it consisting of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who are after somebody and they're using.

HUME: Why do you say it's a hanging party?

KONDRACKE: Well, because every time there's an inconsistency in somebody's testimony, however minute -- and is offer often turns on the definition of what is political and what is not political -- they're ready to pounce and accuse them basically, of prudery or volatizing the law or something like that.

I mean, she does not -- she has every constitutional right not to stick her head in the noose that they are prepared for her. So, you know, and then the idea that Leahy is making some nefarious conclusion on the basis on the fact that she's exerting her Constitutional right, sort of reminds you of McCarthyism, way back when anybody who took the fifth under those was suspected of being a communist. In this case it's not a communist, but it's some sort of lawbreaker.

HUME: Republican.

KONDRACKE: Yeah. Right.

NINA EASTON, FORTUNE: But of course, I think the administration isn't helping itself at this point. We've got all of these finger-pointings going on. You know, you've the White House saying that the attorney generals are responsible, you've got the attorney general -- it sounds like sources...

HUME: Wait, wait a minute -- what did the White House say?

EASTON: Well, the White House seems to be making this Alberto Gonzales' problem and it seems like there are sources around Gonzales -- senior justice official sources who are saying that no deputy attorney general Paul McNulty was causing a problem because he went on the Hill, and he was not in line with what the White House wanted him to do, or the Justice Department wanted him to do and he said that, well, these attorneys we dismissed were weak performers. He consulted them, and that took it another step too far, so there's finger-pointing at him now, and then we're going to have more testimony tomorrow from Sampson and -- who said that -- he says he's going to -- that U.S. -- in his testimony tomorrow, he's going to say: "U.S. attorney who is unsuccessful from a political perspective, is unsuccessful." I'm not sure that's going to help.

HUME: Well, what -- what -- what -- what is -- what is the -- I'm a little unclear (INAUDIBLE) what is the alleged underlying wrongdoing here?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: That somehow, for political reasons, the Republicans fired these U.S. attorneys because they were either being too tough on Democrats in investigations or they were firing people who were conducting.

HUME: Being too tough on Republicans and not tough enough on Democrats.

BARNES: Yeah, that's what I was getting at. I didn't say that. OK, well thank you.

HUME: No, you said it the other way.

BARNES: Thank you for your help. You had it exactly right.

Of courser there's no evidence there that there's any wrongdoing there at all. And the truth is this is a total fishing expedition. You know I saw a quote from Dick Durbin, the Republican No. 2 in the Democratic hierarchy in the Senate and he said about getting Karl Rove, he said oh, he wanted to go beyond just these eight U.S. attorneys, he wants to find out what else Karl Rove was doing in dealing with other departments of the administration, and so on, and that really encapsulates -- this was in an interview with Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times a couple of weeks ago -- and that really encapsulates what they're up to. It's a total fishing expedition. There is no evidence of wrongdoing. There's no evidence of obstruction of justice in anyway and so...

HUME: So what you have is that these U.S. attorneys, who served at the pleasure of the president, were fired.

BARNES: And they were fired, as Kyle Sampson is going to say tomorrow, we know from his text of his testimony that's come out, that they were fired because they were not following it with the policy of the Bush administration -- I think in voter fraud cases and immigration cases, and they were fired, unfortunately -- McNulty was a problem when he went to No. 2 in the Justice Department because his instructions were not to discuss personnel matters, but he went, at least according to ABC, and testified anyway. He thought since he knew Chuck Schumer things would be fine. But testified -- yeah, I know, how naive can you get? You know? If it weren't for Pat Leahy, Chuck Schumer would the most partisan man in Congress.

But, in any case, McNulty goes and testifies, as Nina was saying, and says they were fired for performance reason, as if they're duds. And naturally these -- the fired U.S. attorneys got their back up. They took umbrage and came -- then you remember, six of them came and testified.

HUME: Would I be correct in describing this is a regular mess?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, and it's a mess -- no, witch hunt would be better.

EASTON: And a dangerous distraction from.

HUME: I don't think they're mutually exclusive, Fred, you can have a witch hunt that's also a regular mess.

BARNES: Yeah.

EASTON: I would add just a dangerous distraction from what Congress should be focused on.

HUME: Next up with the panel, what does that incident with Congressman Boehner and the Builder's Union tell us about the left position on the war on terror? Stay tuned for that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Who doesn't believe that if we just pull out of Iraq and come home, that the terrorists won't follow us here and we'll be fighting them on the streets of America? This is a -- this.

(BOOING)

This is a -- this -- ladies and gentlemen, this is a.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: .Afghanistan.

BOEHNER: This a serious fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: So that was John Boehner today before the Building and Trades Council, a lot of presidential candidates, Democrats, went before that group and were reasonably well treated, and for most of what he said we was reasonably well treated, but when he talked about the war in Iraq, he was booed. It's not common when an organization like the Buildings and Trades Council, a labor group (INAUDIBLE) that they would boo someone who's invited to speak there, but today they did.

And it raises an issue about where the left is, and I'm not saying all of the left, because obviously not everybody booed, but elements of the left that may be driving the Democrats on the Hill, are on this on this war. What's going on here?

BARNES: Well, that was a group -- you know, the strange thing is, that was a group that was not a part of the left. If you remember during the Vietnam war.

HUME: Back in the day.

BARNES: Back in the days of the Vietnamese War, they were -- I mean, they were Democrats, but they were -- they produced the hardhats. Remember, these construction workers that would go out and beat up antiwar protester, particularly in New York, and there were a lot of them who did that. And then they were the kind of people, who in their early 80's became a Reagan Democrats who voted for Ronald Reagan and backed his anti- communist policies.

Now.

(CROSSTALK)

Like other unions, they have drifted to the left and have now become just partisan Democrats, on the war in Iraq, and on the war on terror, they're a quite different group now, politically.

EASTON: I disagree. I think they -- I think it was very tempting initially to say this is an example if illiberal liberalism, but these are the hardhat guys, a big proportion of them are gun owners. They've had a good relationship with Boehner in the past. They've had other, like the Carpenters Union, which is not them, but related -- had Republican leaders.

HUME: So what (INAUDIBLE)

EASTON: I think it shows the depth and animosity about this war, and I think you ignore it at your own risk. You know, George Bush may be right in pushing forward on this war, but I just think the breadth and depth of the opposition to it, is -- I thought that's what this was about.

HUME: So, you -- this is basically sort of conservative Democratic opposition?

EASTON: Not conservative, but not -- these aren't the hardcore lefty liberals.

(CROSSTALK)

KONDRACKE: Yeah, it's sort of mainline. It's not like the bloggers. You know, the bloggers are really vicious and when they start working somebody -- the tend to work over their own people who don't fall into line, Moveon.org and Huffington Post and the people who are on the blog.

But you know, what this is all setting up is the question of how the Democrats in Congress are going to behave in this confrontation to come with the president over deadlines. And you know, there's an argument on both sides that ah-ha, this is 1995 all over again, when the government was shutdown in a conflict between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, and Bill Clinton, the president.

HUME: That was over the budget, of course.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, right. With the bully pulpit, beat the Republicans. But, however, what the left is arguing now, is no, no, that is not the exact parallel. It is that the Clinton, in that case, was defending popular programs, and Bush is now defending a deeply unpopular war, and therefore,

HUME: Isn't there a.

KONDRACKE: Democrats stick to their guns.

HUME: Isn't there a..

KONDRACKE: .and they could win this.

HUME: Wasn't there another important factor in that equation as to how that issue played -- Fred.

BARNES: What, on that one?

HUME: Yeah.

BARNES: Well, Newt Gingrich was very unpopular. He blew it.

HUME: Well, it was also the case.

BARNES: He tried to govern from Capitol Hill, which is exactly what Democrats are trying to do now in micromanaging the.

HUME: But the media were important that, and which way did they go then, and which way will they go now?

BARNES: They were with Clinton and against Gingrich, this time they'll probably be with the Democrats and against Bush.

HUME: So, it could play out just the way it Mort says.

BARNES: It could play out that way, but it's clear.

HUME: Quickly.

BARNES: When asking for a negotiations the Democrats, they're afraid they may wind up being the ones who cut a -- being blamed for cutting off the troops.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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