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Special Report Roundtable - March 30

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The politicalization by Senator Schumer reaches an all-time -- I'm not whether it's an all-time high or an all-time low. I guess it's an all-time low.

DANA PERINO, WH DEPUTY PRESS SECY: .have made such a spectacle of this. They have wanted to have the show trials, they have drug it out. They continue to make demands whether moving the goal posts in what they asked for for the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: OK, there you hear a Republican senator and the White House complaining about the hearings in the Senate this week, over this whole firing of U.S. attorneys. And then the White House suggested that Attorney General Gonzales could probably do with a little more explanation, which he did today. We'll get to that in just a moment, but first some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Now gentleman the White House gave Attorney General Gonzales a nudge today, sort of said he's scheduled to testify before the Senate in about three weeks, but three weeks is a long time, perhaps a little more explanation would be justified since his chief of staff suggested, yesterday, first that he hadn't been entirely accurate in his description of his role, then said but he had changed his view. The attorney general mentioned that today and explained what his role was. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't recall being involved in deliberations involving the question of whether or not a U.S. attorney should or should not be asked to resign. I didn't focus on specific concerns about individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: OK, Charles, he's saying: look, I wasn't involved in deciding which attorneys went on this list. I was aware of the list. I was talking to him about the list. I told Kyle Sampson, my chief of staff, you check with all the senior officers in the department, you check with the White House, you come up with a list. And he signed off on the final list. So, when all is said and done, what do we have here?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I believe the attorney general, but I believe this is a bit of parsing and fine tuning. After all, when the scandal broke the attorney general wrote in USA Today that the attorneys, he said, seven at the time, were fired because "they lost my confidence," which would imply that he knew something about them. Now he's implying he doesn't. I believe him, but look, he's having trouble explaining himself and that is not good if you're the attorney general of the United States in a self-created scandal.

I think his problem is incompetence and the problem is that the Democrats, Schumer specifically, are trying to accuse him of impropriety. There is not a shred -- we know what that is, here. If they were obstructing an investigation, if they fired somebody who was on the verge of indicting a friend of the presidents. An example would be when Clinton fired all of his district attorneys, he fired one in Chicago, who was a month away from indicting Dan Rostenkowski, and who was later, of course, convicted and pardoned by the president, ally of Clinton. If something like that happened here, you would have a case of impropriety, otherwise, it is a hanging in search of a crime.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yeah, I mean, there have been allegations that the Democrats have made that the Democrats have not really stepped up to prove that various of these attorneys were involved in corruption investigations that were stifled, et cetera, or that a senator or congressman intervened. That's what they ought to be going after. Instead they're going after these inconsistencies in Gonzales' statements and there have been inconsistencies.

Kyle Sampson, yesterday, said that he was in involved in at least five meetings. Previously he had said -- or indicated, I mean, it's hard to parse everything he says, that he wasn't involved at all, that it was all up to Sampson. and stuff like that. So, you know, he's got a conflict and he's going to have to straighten it out. But as to, you know, as to real wrongdoing, you know, there hasn't been any proof. They're going to nail him on grounds of inconsistency and they're going to use the grounds of inconsistency and the possibility that there was impropriety to try to go after Karl Rove, who they're not going to get.

ANGLE: Well now -- go ahead, Fred.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: No, I'm just going to say, look, this is of no substance whatsoever, it's all about words. It is all about involved, deliberations, discussions and the truth is we know what Gonzales did, exactly what he did. There were all these (INAUDIBLE) by his aids, they were figuring out who should be fired and so on. He was periodically given an update. I don't know, do you call that a discussion? Is that involvement? And then at the end there was a meeting in which he signed off on the firing of these guys. I mean, there maybe different words used, but it's just all about these words. It's pretty.

ANGLE: Well, it seems to come down to this, that even though no one has found any evidence of real wrongdoing, of any improper reason to fire them, that these inconsistent explanations have given people a reason to think they are hiding something or else why would you have all of these inconsistent explanations? And.

BARNES: Because you always get this. Why do you think they want to question Karl Rove under oath? Because they'll find some inconsistency with what he said and Harriet Miers said, and hopefully, because this is what these Democrats really would really like is they can find -- this can be a perjury trap and it can be the criminalization of politics, which they are pursuing aggressively and they'd like to see Karl Rove wind up in jail.

ANGLE: Well, and Senator Specter said today: it's really not smart to try to start talking about all these reasons to get rid of these people. Well you don't need a reason to get rid of them. They're political appointees; you can just say we want to make way for someone else.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that is why it's a scandal that should have never happened. All the attorney general had to do -- the president can fire a U.S. attorney if he doesn't like his hair color. He could even have said, look, I am leaving in two years. I want a younger generation to inherit these jobs, have experience in law and enforcement of prosecution, and that would have been enough. Instead people talked about performance, implying there was something wrong with the way these attorneys had acted and that created a scandal out of nothing.

ANGLE: And embarrassed them and forced them to respond.

BARNES: What has hit the road here -- a bogus investigation, in the first place, by Democrats -- totally bogus.

ANGLE: OK, next up with the panel -- even critics of the war in Iraq fully embrace the war in Afghanistan. Is there a difference where al Qaeda is concerned? Which is now the most important war in the war on terror? The FOX all-stars have some strong views on that up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al Qaeda wants us to fail in Iraq. This is what their leaders have clearly said and they're willing to kill innocent women and children to achieve their objectives.

REP JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm deeply concerned that this administration has concentrated too heavily on Iraq and not heavily enough on Afghanistan.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It calls for the strategic redeployment of U.S. combat troops by the end -- or sometime in 2008. Only then can we refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan to the extent that we must.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: OK, so there you hear the president and two Democratic leaders in the House -- John Murtha and Speaker Pelosi. Both Houses have voted in one way or another, different ways, to begin the process of withdrawing troops from Iraq. But even the harshest of critics of the war in Iraq, are gung-ho about Afghanistan. Charles, what is the difference between Afghanistan and Iraq, especially as far as al Qaeda is concerned?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, what's interesting is you get Pelosi and many other Democrats saying, explicitly, that we have to redeploy out of Iraq in order that we can fight what they call the "real war on terror," and that's a quote, in Afghanistan. Howard Dean has said that, a lot of other presidential candidates have said that and Pelosi and members of Congress - - as if Iraq is a side show and Afghanistan is the prize.

That's absurd. Afghanistan is a backwater, it has no infrastructure. Iraq is centrally located, it has a highly educated population, it could rearm in a few years, it sits on a sea of oil and control of Iraq, excerpts tremendous control over the entire Gulf region and its resources.

Iraq is the prize, which is what al Qaeda has said explicitly, it's the most important battle and it's the reason all of these jihaddists are streaming into Iraq and not Afghanistan.

So, you've to ask yourself why are Democrats pretending that Afghanistan is more important. The reason is, as Joe Biden has said, Afghanistan is the most just war since World War II. Democrats like wars or righteous indignation and righteous revenge, and anything that is morally problematic, as many see the war in Iraq, is unsustainable in their eyes. And I think what they're pretending is that it's a strategic decision. In fact, their decision, Afghanistan over Iraq, is a decision of a guilty conscious.

KONDRACKE: Well, it also was that there was more international support for the war in Afghanistan than there has been in Iraq and what Democrats love is to be cozy with our allies. The fact is that NATO is not performing in Afghanistan and if we were in Afghanistan, we would soon find ourselves alone there and the Democrats, my guess is, would be -- if Afghanistan were the only war that we were involved in and it was going at all with any difficulty, they'd be trying to bug out of there, too. Now, look.

ANGLE: You mean they like Afghanistan better because it is easier?

KONDRACKE: Yeah well, and because it's not Iraq -- the hard one, you know, it's someplace else. But if that was hard I think they'd be trying to get out of there, too.

But look, al Qaeda is practically is the Sunni insurgency now, in Iraq. I mean, it's basically killed everybody else in Iraqi -- in the Sunni insurgency, so that's who we're fighting there. Now, what the Democrats say is, well when we pull out the main forces out of Baghdad, we're still going to fight al Qaeda in Iraq. Well, suppose al Qaeda goes into Baghdad and starts bombing -- that's what they do, they bomb Shiites in Baghdad. So, we're going to stay out and let them do it?

ANGLE: Well, this is what I don't understand about, especially the House plan. We get out no matter what by the Fall of next year. Well, what if al Qaeda is, you know, in some sort of ascendance at that point? I mean, is that what Senate Democrats are worried about because they don't want to set a firm deadline -- Fred.

BARNES: They just want to get out, that's all. They just want to get out and they want to do it in a way that's politically palatable where they won't get in any trouble. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said yesterday or the day before, that he didn't think a single drop of American -- one single more drop of America blood should be shed in Iraq. Well, then he ought to be for the immediate defunding of the war, but no he's for timetables and a deadline that vague. They don't give a hoot about Afghanistan. Mort's entirely right, if Afghanistan was the only place we sent troops, they'd be against it.

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