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Arlen Specter, Chuck Schumer, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. Victims of the Virginia Tech shootings remembered across America, next on "Fox News Sunday".

Moments of evil, shattering lives forever. In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, what can we do to keep our schools safe? We'll sit down with the lieutenant governor of Virginia, Bill Bolling, and the president of George Washington University, Stephen Trachtenberg.

Attorney General Gonzales tries to save his job on Capitol Hill. How did he do? We'll ask two of his Senate questioners, Republican Arlen Specter and Democrat Charles Schumer.

Plus, the top Senate Democrat declares defeat in Iraq.


SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: This war is lost.


WALLACE: We'll discuss that with our Sunday regulars, Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

And we'll remember those 32 members of the Virginia Tech family, all right now on "Fox News Sunday".

And good morning again from Fox News in Washington on what has been a tough week for our country.

If, like us, you are tired of all the attention Cho Seung-Hui has received, attention he apparently craved, you will understand the decision we've made. Over the next hour, you will not see a single picture of the killer.

We begin, as always, with the latest headlines. At churches in Blacksburg, Virginia and around the country, special prayers are being said today for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. Several of those who died were buried this weekend.

In Washington Saturday night, a subdued White House Correspondents' Dinner. President Bush decided against the traditional jokes, and the reporters organization gave Virginia Tech's student newspaper a check to help with the cost of covering the tragedy, as the audience chanted, "Let's go, Hokies!"

In other news, two car bombers attacked a Baghdad police station today, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 80.

Now more on Virginia Tech. We want to look ahead to any lessons about what we can do to make our schools safer. Joining us are Virginia's lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, who's in Richmond, and Stephen Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University.

Gentlemen, welcome to "Fox News Sunday".



WALLACE: As the father of college students, I have to say I was shocked this week to learn that someone with all of Cho's problems, someone who had been accused of stalking, someone who had been sent by a judge to get mental health counseling, someone whose writings were so violent that students didn't even want to be in the same class with him, couldn't be removed from school.

Lieutenant Governor Bolling, have our privacy and disability laws gone so far, perhaps too far, in protecting the individual at the expense of protecting the community?

BOLLING: Well, Chris, I think that's a very legitimate question that we have to ask and answer in the wake of this tragedy, especially given what we now know about the problems that the one who committed these crimes had experienced in the past.

As you know, this week Governor Kaine announced that we have appointed a bipartisan commission, a very qualified and diverse commission, to look at a number of the questions that have arisen after this scenario to see if it was handled appropriately from a number of different perspectives.

And looking at these mental health laws and how the interaction took place between the university and the judicial system, and the judicial system and Mr. Cho, is going to be right at the center of the work that that commission does.

WALLACE: Mr. Trachtenberg, last year your school, G.W., suspended a student because of serious mental health problems. And for all of that, he sued you under the Americans With Disabilities Act. And in fact, G.W. had to pay a settlement.

Are school administrators now hamstrung when they want to try to protect the student body?

TRACHTENBERG: Well, they're more thoughtful. Our staff have gone back, revisited our procedures and have made them, I think, more empathetic than they were before.

I was less concerned with what we did in the past, on looking at it, than how we did it. And it seemed to me we weren't as humane in dealing with the individual and concerned enough with their individual rights and balancing them against the community's rights.

I think we probably have got it closer to the way it ought to be now after that case. We learned things from that case.

WALLACE: But I guess what I don't understand -- if someone enters a college, don't they give up some rights? If they're going to live in a community, don't they have to give up some rights?

We used to think of schools acting as in loco parentis, but it seems now, with these privacy laws, these disability laws, not only are you prevented from being able to do that in all cases, sometimes you can't even tell the real parents that their kid is in trouble.

TRACHTENBERG: That's actually right. Between the FERPA laws and the Buckley amendment, we can't tell parents students' grades, much less that they are drinking in excess or having psychiatric problems or other kinds of problems.

WALLACE: Well, is there something wrong with that?

TRACHTENBERG: Well, I think it needs to be examined, and that's why I'm very grateful that the governor has appointed this commission, because I don't think we ought to do this episodically.

What we don't need is a series of blinking lights. What we need is a steady glow. And I am looking forward to this report being helpful not only to the Commonwealth of Virginia but to colleges all over the country.

And I hope it will serve as a national beacon that allows the 50 states, District of Columbia and campuses from New York to California to take a look at what we're doing and how we can make it better.

WALLACE: Lieutenant Governor Bolling, there are also questions about whether Cho's history of mental problems should have shown up on the computer background check when he went to buy those guns.

There are reports that Virginia and other states are failing to comply with federal laws about reporting to the federal government so they can put it on the background check when someone has been found to be a mental defective. Is that a problem?

BOLLING: Well, I think that, again, Chris, is another issue that we need to look very closely at. One of the specific issues that the commission that we've appointed in Virginia will look at is whether or not Mr. Cho should have been able to purchase firearms given his history.

Frankly, the information I've received in the last few days from authorities on that question has not been consistent information. I think there are some people who interpret the laws perhaps one way and some who interpret them a different way.

There may be some conflicts between federal laws and state laws. And we need to look at this, I think, from two perspectives.

Number one, in this specific case, was the law properly followed in making sure that Mr. Cho did not get a weapon that he should not have had. And then there is the more global question as to whether or not the laws that we have in place at the federal and state level right now are really what they ought to be.

And I think we're going to have a discussion about all of those things in the days and weeks to come.

WALLACE: Virginia Tech has banned guns from its campuses for years, but, Lieutenant Governor Bolling, two years ago you told a gun rights group when you were running for election that, in fact, you believed that people with concealed gun permits should be allowed to bring guns on campus.

If that had been the case, do you think that that might have prevented this tragedy?

BOLLING: Well, I don't know, Chris. I mean, those are -- you know, I have historically been a very strong defender of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I still am.

But all of these what-if scenarios -- quite frankly, I don't think we know the answers to those questions. I can't answer that question. I don't think anyone else can answer that question.

I will tell you that it's kind of natural, I guess, in the wake of a tragedy like this, that you hear folks on one hand saying, "Well, if we had had tighter gun laws, this wouldn't have happened," and on the other hand, you hear folks saying, "Well, if we would have just let people arm themselves, this wouldn't have happened."

The truth is we don't know the answer to that question. And to be quite frank, I don't have a lot of time for folks on either side of that issue right now who want to take advantage of a situation like this to ride their political hobby horse.

We still have families who are burying loved ones. And that's where our emphasis is right now. It's on these families. It's trying to help them get through this difficult time.

And these other things are legitimate questions. They will be asked and answered in due course of time. But right now, I think we need to keep our focus on the things that matter most, and that's these families who have lost sons and daughters and husbands and wives.

WALLACE: Mr. Trachtenberg, how do you feel about guns on campus? And what about this argument that some people have raised this week that if, let's say, professors were able to have guns in their class, they could protect against this kind of event?

TRACHTENBERG: I think those arguments are overheated. Not only do we not allow guns on campus, our security officers are not armed with firearms.

Given the data on the infrequency of use of firearms by conventional police officers, which suggests that it's very, very rare, I don't think we need guns on a university campus, particularly one like George Washington University, which is located in the midst of a city and is supported by security from the metropolitan district police, and is adjacent to security services from the Secret Service, and the FBI and many other security officers.

WALLACE: I want to ask you, Mr. Trachtenberg, about one other issue, and that was the two-hour-delay in notifying the larger student body about the initial tragedy.


WALLACE: I'm not asking you to second-guess what happened at Virginia Tech. I'm asking you as a college president what you would do.

If there were a double homicide at G.W., and the killer were still at large, even if you suspected it's a domestic attack, would you alert the campus community?

TRACHTENBERG: Well, your concern, obviously, is by alerting the community, are you perhaps unleashing other devils. Are you putting terror into the hearts of the campus, people doing things that might injure them in other ways.

I suspect we would, given the choice of yes or no, because we would immediately notify the metropolitan district police if we were aware of something like that, and I think they would insist on it.

We have a very good communications system on campus -- not perfect, but much improved after 9/11, when we reviewed our security services and enhanced them considerably.

But inevitably, this is Monday morning quarterbacking. And it's trying to apply theory to practice -- always, always daunting. I suspect in the end what we would do is what the security professionals thought was in the best interest of our community and our students.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, because you brought up another issue here. Obviously, G.W., urban campus on, what, 20 square blocks in the city of Washington, is very different than Virginia Tech, on a campus of 2,600 acres with thousands of students commuting to the campus.

But give us a sense. You say you've upgraded your systems since 9/11. Just, if you can, tick off the kinds of ways in which, if you need to send an alert to your students, you can do so.

TRACHTENBERG: Well, there's more technology than ever before. And we now have ways to electronically post and send warnings. We have blast e- mails. We have a variety of things.

We've even enhanced the communications between the dean's offices, for example, and the president's office, so if the regular telephone system were to go out, we have other means of...

WALLACE: All these kids have cell phones. Can you text message? TRACHTENBERG: We can, indeed. We can text message. The District of Columbia has a central information scheme that we can put information on so it would be available to anybody who had signed up for it.

We do everything, given the right situation. We have somebody running around posting written notices on the doors of buildings. It's primitive, but it works. So we've got things both technological and 18th century.

But we've also got more personnel, and we've trained the personnel differently, and we've made different services available to students, and we talk about this at inauguration when the kids come to campus for the first time.

So it's part of the culture now that you need to be looking after each other, that this is a community, and that you're in the middle of the city, and that every student has a responsibility to be concerned for the welfare of every other student.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. President Trachtenberg, Lieutenant Governor Bolling, we want to thank you both so much for talking with us today.

Up next, we'll talk with two key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Virginia Tech. And we'll get into the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Did he save his job?

Back in a moment.


WALLACE: Joining us now, two leading voices on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Arlen Specter, the top Republican, is in Philadelphia, and Democrat Charles Schumer joins us from New York.

Senator Specter, let's start with Virginia Tech. Does there need to be some adjustment in privacy and disability laws so that administrators can protect the larger community and can inform the parents of a troubled student?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Chris, I think that one thing is obvious, and that is that the state law ought to be in conformity with national law.

There appeared to be enough information on Cho to put him in a national registry, and there is not coordination between the state and the federal government.

And had that information been in a national registry, then I think some action could have been taken in a preventive way.

WALLACE: Meaning, in other words, he wouldn't have been able to buy the guns in the first place?

SPECTER: That's exactly right. If there had been the information available on a national repository, and an appropriate records check had been taken, there is no doubt that current law prohibits giving a gun to a person who is a mentally defective who has a mental problem of the nature he had.

So there was a definite failure of communication, and that ought to be changed with federal legislation.

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, you have been a long-time advocate of gun control. Will you propose anything to try to prevent this kind of an attack, this kind of event?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, indeed, just along the lines of what Arlen had said. Congresswoman McCarthy in the House and I in the Senate have had legislation that would do just this, that would allow the states or require the states, in effect, to update their databases, so that there would be -- if somebody was judged mentally defective so that they couldn't have a gun, it would be required to be on a federal database.

And we also give the states the money so that they can do it. Updating the records is harder than it seems. They're in all various different places. They're not automated. And we would do that. The good news about this legislation, Chris, is that it has a real chance of passing in the House. Congressman Dingell, who has been an NRA advocate, has teamed up with Congresswoman McCarthy.

When we tried this legislation in the past, Senator Craig, an NRA advocate, teamed up with me.

And given the horror that happened at Virginia Tech, I think there's a real chance of passing this, so that if the next Mr. Cho walks into the gun shop, the gun owner can put it on the database and not allow him to get the gun.

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, why not go further? Why not push, for instance, for renewal of the assault weapons ban which was on the books until it expired three years ago, and which would prevent the sale of some of these more dangerous weapons, as well as these big clips which have 20 or 30 rounds?

Some people suggest the reason that your party is not pushing that with control of both houses is because you've decided that gun control is a political loser.

SCHUMER: No, we just don't want to let, if you will, the perfect be the enemy of the good. That's something I've supported. I carried the assault weapons ban in the House when I was a House member.

But clearly, it doesn't have the 60 votes -- it would engender a filibuster -- that are needed, whereas smaller but really serious pieces of legislation, such as the one I mentioned, have a very, very good chance of passing.

And Congresswoman McCarthy in the House, me in the Senate -- we are going to move this legislation in a little while. Obviously, we want to let the period of mourning at Virginia Tech complete itself. And we can do some real good.

WALLACE: All right.

Let's turn, if we can, gentlemen, to Attorney General Gonzales and his testimony this week before the committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee that you both sit on. Let's take a look.


ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO R. GONZALES: I don't recall everyone who was there. I don't recall remembering. I do not recall knowing in my mind.



GONZALES: I have no recollection about that, but I presume that that is true.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALLACE: Senator Specter, it's been reported that after that testimony that you sent President Bush a letter giving your advice on how he should handle Attorney General Gonzales.

Gonzales aides say the fact that only one Republican senator, Senator Coburn, called for his dismissal, and specifically that you did not, is what they call a, quote, "positive barometer."

Should they, in fact, be celebrating that fact?

SPECTER: I don't think they should be celebrating that, because the attorney general's testimony was very, very damaging to his own credibility.

It has been damaging to the administration, because without answers as to what really happened, there is a lot of speculation. And the charges are being made that the Department of Justice was the political arm of the White House.

Now there is no proof of that, but there is no proof of anything else either. Look, the president can discharge all 93 U.S. attorneys for no reason at all, but not for a bad reason.

And when there has been so much speculation raised, then it's in the interest of the Department of Justice and the president to have a clear statement made as to why these U.S. attorneys were asked to resign.

I urged the attorney general to do that in advance. He called me, said, "What should we do?" I said, "Lay out the facts as to why they were asked to resign."

I talked to him on Friday. He called me after his testimony was over. And I said, "Look, Al, do it now. Lay out the facts to try to end the speculation, which is harmful not only to the administration but harmful to the day-in and day-out operation of the Department of Justice."

WALLACE: That's what I want to pick up on with you, Senator Specter. You said after his testimony that his credibility -- that he suffered a loss of credibility and that his ability to manage the Justice Department has been severely undercut.

Now, I know you don't -- are not going to call for him to resign because you say that's a matter for him and the president to decide, and any advice you're going to give is going to be in private.

But as the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- I don't have to tell you, a co-equal branch of the government -- in your judgment, is it good or bad for the Justice Department for him to stay on?

SPECTER: Well, I think, no doubt, it is bad for the Department of Justice. It is harmful. There has been a very substantial decrease in morale. There's no doubt about that. The other 93 U.S. attorneys don't know who is up next. There is a suspicion of improper motivation -- no proof, but suspicion, and it's kindled every day.

But I believe in the final analysis, there are two people involved in the decision, and that is the attorney general to make it himself, and, if he decides to stay on, for the president.

I do not think that it is appropriate for me to call for his resignation. I don't challenge anybody else who wants to do it. But my own mindset is to leave it up to the attorney general and the president.

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, it's been suggested that one reason that the president might not get rid of Gonzales is because you would hold up confirmation of any successor until you got testimony from Karl Rove.

As a way of breaking that logjam, are you willing to separate the question of Rove's testimony from the confirmation process for any successor to Alberto Gonzales?

SCHUMER: OK. Well, first, I do believe, Chris, that the testimony of Karl Rove -- I believe the testimony of Karl Rove is extremely important.

When Attorney General Gonzales says he doesn't know what's going on, and his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, says he doesn't know what's going on, or at least he didn't compile the list, the deputy attorney general the same, and so do all the lower-level people who we've interviewed in private, the arrow seems to point at the White House more and more.

Someone had to come up with this scheme. And getting Karl Rove, getting Harriet Miers and other White House officials to testify is really essential. So we can't gainsay that.

On the other hand, obviously, I think, as Arlen Specter does, that Attorney General Gonzales should not be there.

All of America saw why so many of us had felt for so long that he shouldn't be attorney general. He was not in command of the facts. He contradicted himself. And he doesn't really appreciate the role of attorney general.

There is a lot of talk that within the White House. Most of the president's advisors are telling him that Gonzales should not stay. And the president is loyal to his friend.

But loyalty doesn't have to be the most transcendent value. And just as Brownie shouldn't have stayed at FEMA, Attorney General Gonzales, despite the fact that he's the president's friend, shouldn't stay A.G.

WALLACE: But if I may, Senator Schumer, to answer my specific question, it's conceivable that you're holding up his replacement because of your insistence on Rove.

I'm not asking you whether or not you are going to give up your push for Rove. The question I'm asking is would you agree to not let that block confirmation of a new attorney general.

SCHUMER: Let me say, if the president were to nominate somebody, albeit a conservative, but somebody who put the rule of law first, someone like a Larry Thompson, somebody like a Jim Comey, somebody like a Mike Mukasey, my guess is that they would get through the Senate very, very quickly.

And if we could workout an agreement as to how we bring the White House forward, the Gonzales testimony makes it all the more -- and Senator Specter has put together a very good compromise that I'm supportive of.

You need a transcript. It doesn't have to be in public. The only people standing in the way of this are the White House. So I would not want to hold up the next attorney general nomination because we need to administer justice.

But at the same time, I think there's an imperative for the White House to help us interview people like Rove and Miers, because recent testimony, including Gonzales', more and more indicates that they may be -- may be -- at the nexus of this.

WALLACE: Finally, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, made some comments this week about the war in Iraq. And let's take a look at them.


REID: Now, I believe myself that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense -- and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows -- that this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.


WALLACE: Senator Schumer, do you agree that the war in Iraq is lost? And is that the consensus of Senate Democrats?

SCHUMER: OK. Well, what Harry Reid is saying is this war is lost -- in other words, a war where we mainly spend our time policing a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis.

We are not going to solve that problem. And we could stay three months or three years, and as soon as we leave, the Sunnis and Shiites, who have had 100-year enmity against one another, would continue shooting.

The war is not lost. And Harry Reid believes this -- we Democrats believe it -- if we change our mission and focus it more narrowly on counterterrorism, going after an Al Qaida camp that might arise in Iraq. That would take many fewer troops out of harm's way. That's what we're pushing the president to do.

So the bottom line is if the war continues on this path, if we continue to try to police and settle a civil war that's been going on for hundreds of years in Iraq, we can't win.

But on the other hand, if we change the mission and have that mission focus on the more narrow goal of counterterrorism, we sure can win.

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, we have less than a minute left. But I do want to ask you about one other issue. Those are comments that you and Senator Reid both made, not this week but the previous week.

Take a look at them, if you will. Senator Reid said this, "We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war." And you said this, "You look at the polling numbers of Republican senators, and the war in Iraq is a lead weight attached to their ankles."

Senator, is it appropriate to talk about political advantage -- is it appropriate to talk about polling numbers when we're discussing a war?

SCHUMER: Well, we were asked that specific question. But the bottom line is this. Our motivation for changing the course of war in Iraq is because we believe it is so wrong now.

And there is nothing wrong, when the American people signaled on November 6th that they wanted a change in course, to work hard for that course.

Will those who continue to follow the president suffer political consequences? Of course. That's as plain as the nose on your face.

But that is not the motivation for fighting to change the course of the war in Iraq, and we'll continue to do that regardless of the political consequences.

WALLACE: Let me give Senator Specter a final word here.

Your thoughts about the appropriateness of discussing poll numbers and Senate seats being won or lost when we're talking about a war in which American men and women are fighting?

SPECTER: Well, I think it is inappropriate in the context that it's been done. I don't think they ought to be gloating about it. It's too serious a problem.

But I'm glad to see Senator Schumer back off from what Senator Reid has had to say about the war being lost. Senator Schumer says Senator Reid doesn't think the war's being lost. Well, that's not what Senator Reid said.

And I think it's very destructive to say the war is lost in the context of where we are. Certainly, the war is not being won. But there are still some efforts being made to turn it around. And whether they're successful or not, we won't know. But for the men and women who are over in Iraq, to have somebody of Senator Reid's stature say that the war is lost, I think is just very, very demoralizing and not necessary. It doesn't advance the cause at all.

We're going to decide whether or not to have funding, and Congress will have a strong voice in perhaps withdrawal. But let's let the process work out, and let's not make inflammatory statements that are going to be very destructive, especially to the morale of our forces.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Specter, Senator Schumer, we want thank you both. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us, and please come back.

SPECTER: Nice being with you, Chris. Thank you.

SCHUMER: Likewise. Have a good day.

WALLACE: Thank you.

Up next, the Supreme Court approves the ban on partial-birth abortions. We'll ask our Sunday regulars what it means for a woman's right to choose. Stay tuned.



SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.: The court is starting to express the fundamental right to life and the dignity of each life in this country, and what a great message.



SEN. BARBARA BOXER, D-CALIF.: We will not go back to the dark days of illegal abortions. We will not allow it to happen. And that's where this court is leading us.


WALLACE: Those were Senators Sam Brownback and Barbara Boxer sharply disagreeing about the Supreme Court's decision this week to approve the ban of partial-birth abortions.

And it's time now for our Sunday gang, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, and Fox News contributors Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.

Well, understandably, with all the coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy this week, that was other news, other stories, that didn't get covered, perhaps fully, at least, and perhaps the biggest was the Supreme Court ruling on partial birth abortions.

Brit, how big do you think this ruling was? And what does it tell us about where the Roberts' court is headed on a woman's right to choose?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: Well, I think it was big in the sense that was a procedure that had been deemed by so many people to be so barbaric that it was out of bounds. But I would hesitate to go along with Barbara Boxer's view that this court is now on some slippery slope toward the erosion of the rights in Roe v. Wade.

The whole argument in the opinion written by Justice Kennedy was that this was actually consistent with Roe v. Wade, and it is replete with, in effect, affirmations of Roe v. Wade.

So while the court may allow some regulation around the edges of the right to an abortion, I don't see this court, or at least out of this decision, announcing any legal standard by which they would make any really serious inroads on a woman's right to an abortion.

WALLACE: Let me, if I can, put up -- because, I mean, there are a couple of key points here. The ruling affects only about fewer than 5,000 of the 1.3 million abortions that are conducted each year.

It specifically permits other late-term on abortions. And let's put this up on the screen. This comes from Justice Kennedy's ruling, and this is what Brit was refer to go. It says that the law does not impose an undue burden on a woman's right to abortion.

So, Mara, the question becomes how much did it do and how much did it not do?

MARA LIASSON, NPR: Well, I would say it had very little impact on abortion itself, big impact on the political debate about abortion.

I don't think it's going to change the number of abortions that are performed or not performed in this country. But it did open up a new chapter in the debate.

And both pro-life forces and the pro-choice forces were saying the same thing, that Roe v. Wade is just one step closer to being overturned.

Now, I think the balance on the court is still the same. They're still one vote away.

But I do think that state legislatures around the country are going to be sending more and more abortion restrictions to the court. And this court has certainly showed that it's open to deeming them constitutional.

The big question is when will there be a kind of frontal attack at Roe. Obviously, Justice Kennedy is still saying he is for the basic principles there.

But I do think that this reinvigorates the forces on both sides, particularly the pro-choice forces, who have been saying for years the Supreme Court really matters, but it's been an abstract concept. Now they have something to point to.

WALLACE: Bill, I mean, I think we'd all agree that partial-birth abortion was always the weakest link in the argument over abortion. Anybody who reads what goes on in this procedure cannot think that this is appropriate.

You know, I know President Clinton -- there was an argument about the women's health exception, but he certainly didn't defend it.

Does this raise the door or open the door to more restrictions, serious restrictions, more difficult restrictions on a woman's right to exercise the constitutional ability to have an abortion?

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the current court would entertain some restrictions, but the big fact, of course, is that these justices, the current justices on the court, won't be justices forever.

Assuming President Bush does not get any appointments in the next year and a half, the next president will certainly have one and quite likely, I would say, two or three appointments to the Supreme Court.

It looks, just looking at the actuarial tables, that one or two of them will come from the pro-Roe v. Wade wing of the court. And so I do think the 2008 election, more than any in, really, 30 years, 40 years, I would say -- the Supreme Court will be a central issue.

The next president will shape the character of the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court will shape law and policy in all kinds of areas, not just in abortion, but on the war on terror, religion and politics.

There are an amazing number of issues right now that go to the courts, more than should go, in my opinion, but they do end up in the Supreme Court. And we have a court that's pretty much balanced on a ton of these issues 5-4 one way or the other. And the next president will tip the balance.

WALLACE: But you know, Juan, I remember in 2000, Gore and Bush, Gore trying to say, "Look, this should be a key issue as people go into the voting booth." Kerry tried to do the same thing. It doesn't seem to be the kind of issue on which people vote.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Well, I think that the difference here is you've got Hillary Clinton as a candidate. You've got a female candidate. And I think that it's very clear that she's making a concerted effort to try to stir women as part of her base, and I think this issue plays right into that hand.

I also think it plays into the hand of just changing the landscape, the political landscape in the country at the moment.

I think people are going to say that if the court is going to start intruding in this way, well, what are they going to do on affirmative action? What are they going to do on election law? What are they going to do about religion in the public space?

This court has now become a real political symbol of the right wing in the country, and I think it's scaring lots of people in the middle and the left.

KRISTOL: The court upheld legislation that was passed with 65 senators voting for it and, I think, about 290 House members. That's an intrusion in politics? That's deferring to the legislative branch.

If the Democratic Congress wants to repeal the legislation that was passed in 2003, they can do so. The court is not imposing anything on anyone.

They are saying that one does not have a constitutional right to a medically unnecessary partial-birth abortion.

WILLIAMS: You know what? I think this is an interesting argument, because to my mind, OK, let the states decide. But the court is involved.

And if the courts are involved, how can they say to a doctor, "No, you can't do this on this woman? It's a matter of saving her life? OK, you can do it. But if it's a matter of her health, no, you can't do it?"

As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists...

HUME: The Congress did that.

WILLIAMS: No, the courts have also said...

HUME: I know that, but, Juan, this was not a ruling that the Constitution forbade partial birth abortion. This was a ruling that said that Congress has a right by its majority vote, representing the people, you may recall, to oppose such a ban. That's what happened here.

LIASSON: But in the past, the court has always ruled, at least in the Nebraska case, that a health exception was necessary.

WILLIAMS: Correct.

LIASSON: This week what was different was they said it was not.

WALLACE: Brit, let's turn to Alberto Gonzales', I think everybody would agree, poor performance before the Senate this week.

Can he survive? And why is the president standing by him when you'd be hard-pressed to find a single Republican who would say up on Capitol Hill, "This is a good guy, we want to keep him on?"

HUME: We are well past the time when all of us are accustomed to seeing a public official, particularly a member of an administration, in this much trouble and knowing that that person was soon to go.

However, I'm a little less than certain, because I'm not clear what the mechanism will now be by which he will leave. I mean, there's not going to be some vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate as to whether he stays or goes.

This is not Senator somebody or other's -- I guess it was Senator Schumer or Senator Leahy -- to the contrary, another confirmation hearing. This is a decision that rests with the president, and the White House quickly put out word after his testimony, in which he had done, by nearly all accounts, rather poorly, word that they thought he'd done fine.

So it seems to me that if the president wants to stand by him, he can probably sit there indefinitely.

And plus you have this issue that you raised, quite properly, it seems to me, with Senator Schumer about what sort of roadblocks would be thrown in the way of a successor. That is not an incentive to get rid of the guy.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about this, Bill. And it's a question you and I, frankly, have discussed off camera. Is this White House broken?

We have talked about the fact that the communications operation is a mess. Congressional relations are falling apart.

I mean, has the president basically decided, "Look, you know, I'm in trouble anyway, I might as well stand by the guys that, you know, that brought me here?"

KRISTOL: Well, I don't think he wants to open the door to criminalization of all of his staff and the calling up of Karl Rove.

But yes, the White House is not functioning at top efficiency. I think most friends and defenders of this White House would say that. I think Gonzales will leave. I think he'll leave in days, if not weeks.

WALLACE: What's taking him so long?

KRISTOL: Well, he wanted to have his chance to make his case. He made his case Thursday. He's got to be reflecting on it this weekend. I think the president does not want to fire him, but I think he'll leave.

WILLIAMS: And I think when you see -- you know, you said there's not going to be a vote. But when you see the likes of Tom Coburn...

WALLACE: I didn't say that. Brit did.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me defer to Mr. Hume. But when you see the likes of Tom Coburn, when you see the likes of -- you know, Arlen Specter says he won't call for it, but they're all saying, "Look, this is going to impact our ability to get business done with the Justice Department, conservative judges and alike."

And I think when you talk to prosecutors at justice, they've lost confidence in him, and that's really killing at this point.


LIASSON: Yes, I mean, it's hard to imagine how he can stay on. It's up to the president, and he's going to have to weigh the political advantages or disadvantages.

But you know, when Republicans start referring to him as a dead man walking, it's hard to get a lot of confidence that he's going to be around for much longer.

WALLACE: All right. We need to take a quick break here.

But up next, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Iraq war is lost. The panel discusses the fallout from that when we come right back.


WALLACE: On this day in 2000, federal agents raided a Miami home and seized 6-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.

After months in a bitter custody battle between his American and Cuban relatives, he was returned to his father.

Stay tuned for more from our panel.



PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Those who advocate pulling out of Iraq claim they are proposing an alternative strategy to deal with the situation there. Withdrawal is not a strategy.


WALLACE: That was President Bush on Friday responding to comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the Iraq war is lost.

And we're back now with Brit, Mara, Bill and Juan.

Well, Senator Reid said it this week. The war is lost. The surge has accomplished nothing. The secretaries of state and defense know it, although he wasn't sure whether the president had come to this conclusion or not.

Brit, what's the fallout politically? And when you look at the carnage this week -- more than 500 people killed across the country of Iraq -- is it possible that Harry Reid's right?

HUME: Well, of course it's possible, but he doesn't know that. I think he believes that, and that's what's interesting here. He said, in my view, what he thinks and what a great many other Democrats think.

They think this whole thing is a misbegotten mission from the start and a lost cause. And they don't like to say, "Let's retreat and let's withdraw and let's leave the battlefield," but that's what they want to do. So they call it transitioning the mission, which is truly almost laughable. The president has a point when he says that withdrawal is not a strategy. It isn't. And the troubling thing now, it seems to me, politically possibly for the Democrats, is if you look at the carnage that's occurring now, these spectacular suicide bombings that are killing people in such large numbers, this is Al Qaida in Iraq at work.

And if we were to leave now in the face of this, we would be, in effect, running away from Al Qaida, a very peculiar position for anybody to be in, it seems to me.

WALLACE: Mara, you heard Charles Schumer try to clean up what the senator said. It isn't what he said. He said the war is lost, not this war is lost, the civil war.

LIASSON: Right. He said that there's a different way to fight this war, and that we should just be fighting Al Qaida and not be in the middle of a civil war.

Now, the problem is that -- look, I think that many Americans agree with the Democrats that this is a hopeless cause. But then that raises the question, "OK, what do you do next?"

If you want to be over there fighting Al Qaida, but somehow not be in the middle of a civil war, what does that mean? How do you separate out Al Qaida from the same kind of Sunni insurgency that's trying to foment a civil war? I don't know. How many fewer troops would it take?

People who are experts on this say it wouldn't take very -- you couldn't really draw down the levels even if you wanted to change your stated goals to just fighting Al Qaida and not being involved in civil strife.

I just think that the dirty little secret of this is that there are no good options in Iraq, and any Democrat who is president right now would be faced with the mess that Iraq is right now and not be able to just pull us out.

WALLACE: But you know, Bill, I mean, if you follow the idea of what Senator Reid said, the war is lost, doesn't it put Democrats in a position -- how can you continue to fund a conflict in which American men and women are dying if you believe it's lost?

KRISTOL: No, absolutely. And I was looking at some letters from -- e-mails from soldiers over in Iraq online to Senator Reid.

You know, he is sending them over there. He is voting to appropriate funds for them to continue fighting in a war that I don't believe is lost, and I think we need to continue fighting.

If he believes it is lost, he has an absolute responsibility to cut off that funding and bring those troops home as soon as possible -- three months, six months, maybe, not 15 months, which is the appropriations bill that he just supported with this gradual withdrawal. I really think it's a disgrace. And Trent Lott, who was Senate majority leader in December 2002, was forced to resign by a rebellion within his own party because he had praised Strom Thurmond at a 100th birthday dinner for him. Thurmond had made it seem that the country would have been better off if we had followed segregationist policies back 40 years ago.

What Harry Reid said is much more disgraceful than anything Trent Lott said. And I do think Democrats should ask Harry Reid step down. I'm saying this. Of course, it's not going to happen.

But he is the Senate majority leader. He's not some back-bencher just spouting off. And he should not be Senate majority leader if he's going to say, "Well, we have 150,000 troops fighting over there -- that their effort is in vain." It's just a disgrace.

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. Brit says this is laughable. You say it's a disgrace. I think he simply said the truth. I mean, it's unavoidable.

How can you say, watching the kind of carnage that takes place there on a daily basis, that this is not an effort that is misbegotten at this point?

Most Americans think we should never have gone in there. So he's speaking in a voice that represents the majority of the American people.

Secondly, when he says that it's lost, he's talking about the idea that we need to have a diplomatic, economic, political solution. We're not seeing any political progress in the country.

In fact, the al-Maliki government looks to me to be weak and weaker, and getting weaker, with the withdrawal of people like al- Sadr's forces from the parliament, and from support of his government.

So what we have here is a civil war in which Americans are caught in the middle. So the idea of withdrawing -- it's not a strategy, as the president said. What Senator Reid is talking about, what most people are talking about, is trying to contain it.

I think that we have General Petraeus coming here this week. And the Republicans want to make the case that it's Senator Reid and the Democrats versus the troops, that the troops are standing tall and the Democrats aren't supporting them, or, as Brit said, it's pulling away from fighting Al Qaida.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. What we're doing here is we want to fight Al Qaida. We want to fight terrorists. We should have gone after them in Afghanistan.

Going into this war in Iraq -- well, we got rid of Saddam Hussein, but I don't know why we need to be there right now. What is the point?

HUME: Fighting Al Qaida. How about that? Do you like that idea?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'd love to fight Al Qaida. But do you believe that we're really fighting -- are our people dying because of Al Qaida? Or are we dying because of an intramural fight between three...

HUME: Well, they're connected, Juan, but Al Qaida is a very major actor in Iraq now. There is no doubt about that.

I mean, if you look at what we're now seeing from these spectacular -- we've done some good here in terms of the this terrible violence that was going on among the militias. That has subsided.

What we're getting are spectacular terrorist attacks by Al Qaida in Iraq.

WILLIAMS: I think you're getting spectacular attacks by Sunnis, by Shiites, against each other.

We're trying to build walls to try to separate. Why do you think we're building -- we're not building walls to separate Al Qaida out. We're building walls to try to separate one warring faction from another.

And I think it's just like -- there's no end in sight to this. Of course we should pull out. Why shouldn't we pull -- what are we doing there?

LIASSON: What do we do after we pull out?

WILLIAMS: Well, we have to...

KRISTOL: We are fighting Al Qaida. Have you talked to a single person who's fought over there? Have you looked at one of their -- what do they do each day?


KRISTOL: Do you think they just drive around aimlessly to get blown up randomly by Shia and Sunni? They are fighting Al Qaida in Iraq.

What is happening in Anbar province? What is happening in Fallujah? What are the Marines doing in Ramadi? They're fighting Al Qaida.

WILLIAMS: They're trying to stabilize the environment.

KRISTOL: They're fighting Al Qaida.

WILLIAMS: No. They're trying to stabilize an environment so that political progress can take place, and...

KRISTOL: And who is killing them? Whose bullets are killing these...

WILLIAMS: Both sides are -- everybody's.

KRISTOL: That's not true. Mostly it is Al Qaida.

WILLIAMS: Oh, you don't believe that there are Sunnis involved, there are Shiites involved in killing Americans?

KRISTOL: There are some Shiites involved in killing Americans.

WILLIAMS: OK. I'm just saying...

KRISTOL: But Al Qaida is the main enemy.

WILLIAMS: We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you, panel. See you next week.

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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