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Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Al Sharpton, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. Attorney General Gonzales makes his case to keep his job, next on "Fox News Sunday."

The political showdown in Washington over the war in Iraq -- can Democrats force the president to accept a timetable for pulling out? We'll ask the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Don Imus gets fired for his racially charged comments. Does the story end there? We'll sit down with controversial civil rights activist, the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Plus, how will John McCain's strong stand on the troop surge play on the campaign trail? We'll ask our Sunday regulars, Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

And our Power Player of the Week gets the government to give up some secrets, all right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And good morning again from Fox News in Washington. Here's a quick check of the latest headlines. Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended himself today, saying he did nothing improper in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

But writing in the Washington Post, Gonzales, who testifies before Congress on Tuesday, apologized for causing confusion about his role in the controversy.

While Republicans campaigned in Iowa Saturday, we learned more about the finances of the top three candidates. Mitt Romney leads with almost $12 million still on hand. Rudy Giuliani is a close second, while John McCain has less than half the cash available to the other two.

And the bloodshed continues in Iraq this weekend. In the worst incident today, two car bombs exploded just minutes apart in a Baghdad market, killing at least 18 and wounding another 50.

Joining us now, two of the leading voices in the congressional battle over Iraq: Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who comes to us from his home state of Michigan, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is in his home state of South Carolina.

Gentlemen, this week Democratic congressional leaders sit down with the president to discuss the war funding bill while House and Senate conferees try to work out what they'll actually send the president.

Senator Levin, you know, because he's said it over and over, that the president will veto any bill that attaches a timetable for withdrawal, so what are Democrats, either before or after the veto, going to send him that he can actually sign?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Well, we're going to send him, first of all, hopefully, a very strong bill which would say that we're going to begin to reduce troops in four months as a way of telling the Iraqi leadership that the open-ended commitment is over, not just rhetorically but, in fact, to try to force them to take responsibility for their own country.

If we don't have the votes to override, and it appears that we don't, but we never know until that vote is taken, we will then hopefully send him something strong in the area of benchmarks as the second best way of putting pressure on the president to put pressure on the Iraqis.

And those benchmarks would hopefully have some teeth in them, telling the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they must meet their own benchmarks which they set for themselves to reach a political settlement on the sharing of resources and the sharing of power, or else there's going to be a response in terms of reduction in support both militarily and economically.

That was the recommendation of the Iraq study group, and I would think that that would be the second step. It's not as strong as that first bill, which we hope to send him, but promptly thereafter, if he vetoes it and we can't override, we will send him something I believe that has some very strong, clear statement about the Iraqis needing to meet their own benchmarks and consequences if they don't.

WALLACE: Senator Levin, there's also been some talk among Democrats about sending him a smaller spending bill -- what Senator Obama says -- giving him a shorter leash so he would have to come back to Congress more often. What do you think about that idea?

LEVIN: Well, I think that's a possibility, but less likely because it's a fairly short period that this supplemental lasts. It only lasts through the end of September.

So I think we have to make a very strong, clear statement to the president. Now we're going to support the troops -- there's no doubt about it -- we're going to fund the troops -- there's no doubt about that -- but we're going to try to use this opportunity to change this course.

The president was told by the people last November they want a changed course in Iraq. He has not done it. He's gotten us in deeper militarily, although there is no military solution. We're going to try to use this opportunity to change course.

WALLACE: But bottom line, Senator Levin, before I bring in Senator Graham, the Democrats will not allow money to run out for the troops. LEVIN: That is absolutely correct. We've made that clear. We never have allowed that to happen. As a matter of fact, it was Congress that added $20 billion last year to the president's request.

Senator Graham, what do you think of what you're hearing from Senator Levin, and specifically this idea of some sort of benchmarks, maybe benchmarks with teeth, that would say the Iraqi political side has to live up to its part of the bargain?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, number one, the president will veto the legislation in its current form, and he should. If you really want to support the troops, don't cut their legs out from under them.

We sent Petraeus off 81-0. He got unanimously approved by those voting in the Senate. He had a specific game plan in mind. Timetables, time lines for withdrawing troops, benchmarks that give your enemy a road map of how to drive us out of Iraq are bad ideas.

These are Congressional micromanagement of the war that will have short- and long-term effects. The president will veto this bill. He should veto it.

And I do believe that time lines and deadlines undercut Petraeus. They empower the enemy and people start making political deals, Chris, in Iraq when America leaves, not what's in the best interest of Iraq in the future.

So I don't buy this at all. I think it's disastrous. If you want us out of Iraq, just cut off funding. Don't bleed General Petraeus dry and undercut him.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the situation on the ground in Iraq.

Senator Graham, you just came back from a trip there where you said that you had seen some -- and you were somewhat couched in this -- some signs of progress from the surge.


WALLACE: The New York Times reported this week -- and let's put it up on the screen -- in the first seven weeks of the surge, 116 U.S. soldiers were killed. That's actually up slightly from the 113 who were killed in the seven weeks preceding the surge.

And A.P. reports that the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed over these seven weeks is down in Baghdad, but actually up dramatically in the rest of the country. And of course, we've just seen more carnage this weekend, bombings in Karbala and again just today in Baghdad.

So, Senator Graham, where is the progress?

GRAHAM: The progress is on political, economic and military fronts. I went to Anbar province, the western part of Iraq. Sixteen of 21 tribal sheiks have now joined with the coalition forces and rejected Al Qaida. The sheiks made a call to join the police force. Seven hundred people had to be turned away in Anbar to join the Iraqi police force.

There are parts of Sadr City that we've never gone into before. The mayor of Sadr City joined with us to try to clean that place out. Al-Sadr is on the run.

There's a rule of law program in place where a Sunni and Shia were tried on the same day for killing different people. The Shia police captain was tried for torturing Sunnis. A Sunni insurgent was tried for randomly killing civilians. There is progress.

It is a fight on our hands. Baghdad is the central fight. We're gaining ground in Baghdad and the insurgents are moving out of Baghdad. Only three of the five brigades are in place.

Now is the time to pour it on politically, economically and militarily, and build on this momentum. We're not going to let car bombers define the fate of Iraq, our own national security. That's the hardest problem to control.

I'm not going to give in to that. I know there are things going on in Iraq other than car bombing that make me cautiously optimistic the surge is working. Give it a chance. Don't undercut.

Timelines, deadlines -- when you start withdrawing troops, it just kills everything we're doing.

WALLACE: I'm going to let Senator Levin respond in a moment, but I want to ask you one more question, because you said, Senator Graham, that one of the keys is political progress, and I think everyone agrees ultimately...


WALLACE: ... that this is going to have to be won by political reconciliation. But let's look at the record.

GRAHAM: Right.

WALLACE: For all of President Bush's talk in January about Iraqi benchmarks, the government there still has not passed oil revenue sharing, not allowed members of Saddam's Baathist party into the government and army, not scheduled local elections and not started amending the constitution.

I guess I have to ask you again, Senator Graham, where's the progress?

GRAHAM: There's a lot of progress on the oil front. The council of ministers have passed an oil agreement. It needs to be ratified by the parliament. Here's where Senator Levin and I...

WALLACE: But it's been sitting in the parliament for weeks, Senator.

GRAHAM: Well, the parliament got bombed yesterday. It's pretty hard to be a democracy when people are shooting at you.

WALLACE: Well, wait a minute. It was sitting there for weeks before the parliament got bombed, sir.

GRAHAM: My point is that it took us 13 years to write our Constitution. Then we had our own civil war. Political reconciliation is moving forward.

Did we tell the Iraqis while we were there, Senator McCain and myself, they need to get on with it? Yes. Senator Levin understands political reconciliation is necessary to win in Iraq. He has a different way of getting there.

The day you set timelines and deadlines, you undo the ability to reconcile, you empower our enemy, and you give them a road map to defeat us. So I do expect soon rather than later a local election law to be passed.

The Sunnis are ready to vote. The Sunni Anbar province has had a dramatic turnaround. They boycotted the '05 election. If local elections were held, I do believe Sunnis would vote in large numbers, and that is a test for me of the Maliki government.

Let's move on with this. But I do understand that statements made by Congress are just not to the Maliki government. They're to the insurgents and Al Qaida members.

I don't want to push the Maliki government by congressional action that will empower the terrorists. That's the difference between me and my Democratic friends.

WALLACE: Well, let me bring in your Democratic friend, Senator Levin.

And I want you to respond to that, but I also want you to respond to Vice President Cheney, who went after Democrats this week, comparing what you're doing now to what George McGovern did in Vietnam back in the '70s. Let's watch.


VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: That was the last time the national Democratic Party took a hard left turn. But in 2007, it looks like history is repeating itself.


WALLACE: Senator Levin, how do you respond to Vice President Cheney?

LEVIN: Well, no, I'm going to respond first to Senator Graham.

You know, he talks about pouring the pressure on. The pressure which is being poured on is military pressure. There is no military solution there. There is only a political solution. We've got to pour the pressure on the Iraqi political leaders to reach a political settlement. They made commitments that they would reach political settlements on oil revenues, on power sharing and on other things by last December.

The president, over and over and over again -- our president -- has said, "We are going to hold them to their political commitments." Is the president serious about holding them to their political commitments? Did he mean what he said?

They've been dawdling over there in Iraq politically for four years. This insurgency, which has now taken place in spades in Baghdad, is something which is fairly recent.

They had plenty of time to reach a political settlement. They committed to do it. The Iraq study group said they must do it. If they don't, there should be consequences.

All we've gotten from this administration is hollow rhetoric about the Iraqi leaders need to meet their commitments. But there's no teeth behind the hollow rhetoric of this administration.

WALLACE: And what about Vice President Cheney?

LEVIN: Vice President Cheney has zero credibility. I don't think anybody more than 5 percent or 10 percent of the hardcore solid Republican base believes much that Vice President Cheney says. He has no credibility.

He's been wrong consistently on Iraq. He has misled the people consistently on Iraq. He has misstated. He has exaggerated. And I don't think he has any credibility left with the American people.

WALLACE: Senator Levin, let me ask you, then, about another Republican. John McCain this week blistered Democrats, talking about how your party reacted when you succeeded on the Senate floor in attaching this timetable for withdrawal to the spending bill. Let's watch.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender?


WALLACE: Senator Levin, are Democrats playing politics with the war?

LEVIN: What we are doing is taking our responsibility very, very seriously, which is to change the course in Iraq. The president will not do it. He just sends more military forces into Iraq when there's only a political settlement.

And we are very, very serious about what the American people said in November. They want a change of course. The Republican leaders will not change course. It's going to take Democrats that are going to have to force this change.

And by the way, ironically, according to today's New York Times, Senator McCain was using our votes that he voted against -- using our votes in Iraq at a dinner with Maliki to put pressure on Maliki to reach a political settlement.

Senator McCain -- and I think Senator Graham was at that dinner -- according to the New York Times, told Maliki that those votes portend a reduction in support of Americans for the Iraqis. And I'm glad he said that to Maliki.

WALLACE: But let's ask somebody who was at the dinner.

Senator Graham, is that true?

LEVIN: I'm glad he used that pressure, by the way.

WALLACE: Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: We have been putting pressure on the Maliki government every time I've been there. I've been there for six trips.

The precondition to political reconciliation is security. The biggest mistake we made as a country and the Bush administration made was let security get out of hand.

We're reinforcing Iraq politically, economically and militarily. This surge is just not about 21,500 troops. It's about a political, economic and military strategy to bring about the conditions for reconciliation.

The Democratic bill that the president is going to veto undercuts everything we've done in a positive way. It may be intended to empower Maliki and to push him forward, but it empowers those who are trying to destroy Maliki. It empowers Al Qaida.

And the president should never again give in at all to deadlines and timelines by the Congress to destroy our chance to get this right in Iraq.

We have pushed Maliki. Democracy is hard. I am optimistic sometime this fall or sooner there will be a local election deal. There will be oil revenue sharing so the Iraqis will have something to fight for, not just against.

WALLACE: Senator Graham...

GRAHAM: But it took us 13 years to write our own Constitution, and people are dying for their freedom in droves in Iraq. I want to stand behind them.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, we have about a minute left, and I want to ask you about one area, and I apologize for interrupting you.

GRAHAM: That's all right.

WALLACE: On Tuesday, Attorney General Gonzales will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. You're a member of that.

Obviously, as his op-ed piece in the Washington Post indicated today, he understands he's in real trouble. What do you want to find out from him? What does he need to do to save his job?

GRAHAM: Well, from the evidence I've seen, I don't believe that there was any firing of people to stop an investigation. He needs to explain what he did and why he did it.

There are three or four different versions of his role in this, and he needs to bring clarity to what he did and why he did it. And we'll just wait and see what he has to say.

WALLACE: But at this point, do you feel that he can save his job, can turn this around, or has he been so badly wounded?

GRAHAM: Well, he has been wounded. The op-ed piece explains in pretty good detail it was not about firing people for investigating friends or not investigating enemies. If that holds, yes, he can save his job. I can still work with him.

But he has got an uphill struggle to reestablish his credibility with the committee, given prior statements. And let's hear him out.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, Senator Levin, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you both so much for coming in and talking with us. Please come back.

LEVIN: Thank you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

WALLACE: Up next, Don Imus was fired for his controversial comments about race and women. Where does the debate over insensitive language go from here? A fair and balanced interview with the Reverend Al Sharpton when we come back.


WALLACE: Joining us now from New York to discuss the fallout from the Don Imus controversy is the Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist who was among the first to call for the radio host to be fired.

Reverend Sharpton, now that Don Imus is off the air, will you go after the rappers who say a lot worse things than Imus ever has, as well as the radio companies, the music record companies and the broadcast companies that make so much money off this kind of language?

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I think the real question is whether or not the major media will cover our already having gone after some of the rappers and record companies that they have in some cases not covered. In some cases they have.

I led a campaign against the whole song "It's Hard Out Here to be a Pimp" and said it should have never gotten an Oscar nomination. I led a campaign and had marches against the show "Boondocks" that used the "N" word. Both are blacks involved.

So we did not get the kind of attention -- we got some, but we didn't get the kind of attention on that we got on Imus. But this has been an ongoing campaign of National Action Network, and it will absolutely intensify and continue.

We have our national conference this week, and we'll be naming those that we will go after from here. I even had a meeting with FCC about this that even one of your competitors did a national piece on.

So the real question has been the media that now comes and says will we start doing this -- the question is why they have not made a major issue when we have in the past on this.

WALLACE: Well, Reverend, let me ask you about this. Do you plan in this new wave to picket these companies, to urge advertiser boycotts the way you did for Imus?

And let me ask you about another aspect of this. There's a report today in the New York Daily News that Hillary Clinton a couple of weeks ago raised, I think, $800,000 from the hip-hop producer Timbaland.

I have to say I'm not familiar with him, but apparently he's a composer and producer, and some of his music is as vile as a lot of the other rap music is. Would you urge Democratic candidates not to accept money and, in fact, to give back money that they get from these producers?

SHARPTON: Well, let me say this. Again, it is not new. I would hope that there is a new intensity in terms of people like you and those in broadcasting to cover those ongoing campaigns.

Just two weeks ago, there was a picket that -- I held a press conference with those that were doing it and one of the music companies about a situation in the hip-hop community in new York. So I think it's unfair to say a new.

I would say it would be even more intensified. But we have been doing that, including our meetings with FCC.

WALLACE: Well, but you didn't answer my question, sir, specifically, for instance, about Hillary Clinton.

SHARPTON: No, I was getting ready to say that.

WALLACE: Would you urge Democrats not to raise money from these people?

SHARPTON: What I would do -- and I certainly intend to in our conference, since all of the Democrats are appearing, is discuss that as well as discuss the fact that President George Bush hosted one of the leading hip-hop artists in the country, Sean "Puffy" Combs, at the White House and had him to the Republican convention.

So whatever position that we would take with Senator Clinton or Senator Obama we will also take with the president.

I don't understand how people would question us and have not asked the president why he would bring a leading hip-hop artist to the White House when he wasn't even meeting with civil rights leaders and have him as a guest at the Republican convention.

So the question becomes who draws the line where when it comes to politicians, whether those politicians are, in fact, supporting these artists since they're hosting them even in the Oval Office, or whether those artists are supporting them on specific cases.

I think that you raise a very legitimate dialogue that we need to have.

WALLACE: Well, let's play a clip, if we can, right now from one of those videos while I read you some of the lyrics. This is from Ludacris. They're saying, "Shake your money maker like somebody's 'bout to pay you."

We looked at, Reverend Sharpton, the top rap songs on Billboard this week. They're filled with words like "ho" and "bitch" and the "N" word.

As you point out, back in 2005, you lobbied the FCC to ban artists who were engaged in actual violence. These were artists who were actually shooting each other.

Have you led marches -- and educate me, because we couldn't find any record of it. Have you led marches? Have you called for boycotts when it involves this kind of racist and misogynist language?

SHARPTON: Again, maybe you're not hearing me. We've marched on the show "Boondocks" because of the use of the "N" word on HBO. A black young cartoonist -- it was very much -- I don't know if you get your own station.

I talked on this station, I believe on Mr. O'Reilly's show, about this. I mean, I don't know why you can't find it. We marched on that. We went after advertisers on that.

We've gone after various lyrics of various songs. I just recounted it to you. When Bill Cosby came out with a sweeping attack on this, we were one of the organizations that stood with him. In fact, he has frequently appeared on my radio show.

So again, if you would call me, I would be glad to give you a copy of this, because I don't understand why people would not give that the same intensity.

It seemed like they only got disturbed when we would question Imus. When we were questioning men and women in our own communities that were doing this, it seems like there was not the same attention.

There was some, to be fair, but it certainly wasn't the kind of attention that Mr. Imus got, who did the same thing, and in some ways worse because as we are told "60 Minutes" will show tonight -- Bob Herbert of the New York Times did a very credible piece on this.

He actually had someone where he said his job was to do "N" jokes. So this was something that seemed to be part of his programming operation, which makes it even more egregious to me.

WALLACE: In this whole controversy, some people have asked questions about you, Reverend Sharpton. I'm going to ask you some of those questions.

You have a history of getting involved in racial conflicts in which whites allegedly victimize blacks. Back in 1987, you pushed very hard, were very public in the case of Tawana Brawley, a black teen who said she was raped by white police officers and a white prosecutor.

A grand jury found it was a hoax, and a jury made you pay one official $87,000 for defamation. Question: We can't find any record that you ever apologized to any of those white officials the way Don Imus did this week.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, that was a civil case based on a case that I believed, and I stood by a young lady that came to us.

So I did not get involved without an invitation -- a case I fought, just like I fought a case with Central Park two years later that a jury convicted young men. They went to jail 13 years. People said...

WALLACE: Yes, but I'm asking you about Tawana Brawley. A grand jury found it was...

SHARPTON: If you would allow me to finish the answer...

WALLACE: If I may, sir -- if I may ask the question, a grand jury says it was a hoax. A jury found you guilty of defamation and made you pay one of the white officers $87,000.

Did you ever apologize to any of them for your comments?

SHARPTON: May I answer the question?

WALLACE: If you answer the question about Tawana Brawley, sure.

SHARPTON: I'm answering the question, yes. Just like I have done in other cases where juries find in criminal cases -- there's no guilt in a civil case -- and did not apologize and come to find out we were right.

I believed I was right on Ms. Brawley. We paid the penalty, just as I felt Mr. Imus should pay the penalty. I did not apologize for something that I believed were right.

I believed many Americans disagreed with the jury in O.J. Simpson. Do they have to apologize and say they were racist because they believed O.J. Simpson was guilty and the jury said he was not, or Michael Jackson?

I mean, all of us have the right to disagrees with juries. If people feel that you did it wrongly, they have a right to pursue an action, and you should stay and stand up and pay the penalty of that. I did. And so should others, including, in this case, Mr. Imus.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about another case. When those three students charged in the Duke rape case were charged in the case, even after people found holes in the prosecutor's argument, you continued to side with the accuser.

Here's what you told Bill O'Reilly.


SHARPTON: This D.A. is probably not one that is crazy. He would not have proceeded it he did not feel...

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: I'm not criticizing him. SHARPTON: ... that he could convict.


WALLACE: Reverend Sharpton, now that all of those students have been found innocent by the state attorney general, will you apologize to the Duke students?

SHARPTON: Mr. Wallace, maybe you played the wrong tape. I think what I said in that tape was that the D.A. is apparently not crazy, and this is what the D.A. said.

You said that you were getting ready to play a tape where I said that this case must be pushed despite the holes in it. That's not what you played. And the reason you didn't play it is because I never said that.

What I said is that the D.A., we felt, brought the charges because -- the charges he felt he had evidence for. If the D.A. misled us, you want me to apologize for what, being misled?

WALLACE: Well, one could argue that, in fact, you -- a lot of other people were saying let's see what happens in the court case. You were siding with the prosecutor. You were saying he's not crazy.

SHARPTON: No, I said that I did not...

WALLACE: What about the presumption of innocence, Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: Wait, woah, woah.

WALLACE: What about the presumption of innocence, Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, again, what you are trying to do is compare a man who gets on radio that involved no case, no allegation -- nobody said anything about these students -- and called them nappy-headed ho's with cases that people -- whether it's O.J., whether it's Michael Jackson or anything else -- people have a right to take positions on what they believe in a case.

You cannot take an individual case and compare that to people getting on federally regulated broadcast stations and making, for no reason, no context, no accusation, just blanket statements. You're trying to compare apples and oranges.

WALLACE: And, Reverend Sharpton, even after the case has been completely disproved, even after the attorney general in North Carolina has said that it was an overreaching, overzealous prosecutor, you're still not willing to say...

SHARPTON: Oh, absolutely, but...

WALLACE: ... "I, Reverend Sharpton, was wrong, I owe an apology to those students?" SHARPTON: ... you didn't ask that question. You did not ask that question.

WALLACE: Well, I'm asking it to you now, sir.

SHARPTON: I wish you would, rather than assume my answer. Not only would I said today I think clearly the prosecutor misled us, and that what happened to those young men were horrible, I said it on my show Friday. It said it immediately after it happened.

So to act as though I have not said that is not true. You should have asked that. I've said that as soon as it came down. I said it on my radio program Friday.

But again, you didn't ask that. You assumed an answer and put it in my mouth and then asked me to apologize for it.

WALLACE: I don't think that's exactly what I did. Actually, what I said was now that the attorney general says they're all innocent, do you apologize to the students.

SHARPTON: No. You said will I now...

WALLACE: In any case, Reverend Sharpton, let me ask you one...

SHARPTON: ... do it, as if I had not done it.

WALLACE: Reverend Sharpton, let me ask you one...

SHARPTON: I did it.

WALLACE: ... final question, if I may.

SHARPTON: I will again do it. I did it on Friday.

WALLACE: You're holding your annual National Action Network convention this week and all of the leading Democratic candidates, presidential candidates, are going to be there. Are you now a king maker in the Democratic Party, sir?

SHARPTON: No. I'm no more of a king maker than when Republicans go see Reverend Jerry Falwell and others that represents constituencies on the other side.

Why does it have to be something -- if Democratic candidates come to people that have constituency bases in one segment of society -- but if John McCain goes to see Jerry Falwell, or if some others go to see environmentalists or gay activists or immigration activists, that it is something else?

Everybody in America should have a right to hear from the candidates they are choosing from. It's no more and no less with us. It's not about king making.

It's about our having the ability to hear from people that we are considering to give our vote. I think that it is a real double standard when it is understood in other areas, and all of a sudden it's inflated when it comes to some of us.

WALLACE: Reverend Sharpton, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for coming in and joining us and talking with us today, sir.

SHARPTON: Thank you, sir.

WALLACE: Coming up, our band of Sunday regulars and America's new dialogue on race. What have we learned from Don Imus' firing and the dropping of all charges in the Duke rape case? Stay tuned.



DON IMUS, FORMER RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What I did is made a stupid, idiotic mistake in a comedy context. I didn't open a microphone and say, "This is what I think of these Rutgers women."


WALLACE: That was former radio host Don Imus apologizing for offensive comments he made about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

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.

Juan, did Imus get what he deserved? And how much confidence do you have that once this whole storm of controversy dies down that there's going to be a serious continuing effort to try to stop the hateful language, the rap music that bombards the African American community?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: I just think that music is so destructive. I think it's evidence of a dysfunctional culture in black America at the moment, and I don't see -- you heard Reverend Sharpton say he's been leading.

There's no crusade. You don't see the marches. You don't see people standing up and saying very clearly, "This is wrong. It's hurting the community," certainly hurting the people who are most vulnerable in the community, young black people searching for a sense of identity.

So I don't see that happening at all. I think it's a vacuum when it comes to the Sharptons, the Jacksons, the NAACP.

This music not only celebrates drug use, the gangster life, the thug life, it dehumanizes young women in such an awful way. And this week the defense has been, "Well, you know, there really are some bad women out there, that we're not talking about the Rutgers team, we're talking about these women." Nonsense.

You're talking about a class of people on a racial basis in a country with a very strained racial history, and to do so is reckless.

WALLACE: And it's interesting, Brit, and I have to say I was unaware of this, but here's Hillary Clinton who, on her Web site, is embracing the Rutgers women's basketball team, and on the other hand it turns out, according to the New York Daily News, a couple of weeks ago she went to Timbaland's -- I know you have a lot of his music -- Timbaland's mansion in Miami and raised close to $1 million.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: Well, you know, I think there's some sort of intellectual and moral confusion about how to react to this sort of music and these sorts of musicians.

On the one hand, there's a temptation, because they're obviously very successful and they're enormously popular, in our desire to show respect for the black community and for black culture to celebrate them.

On the other hand, there's an awful lot of overlooking, as Juan suggests, going on about exactly what these people are selling and saying. And it's pretty rough stuff, there's no question about it, and it is fabulously successful.

It's made a lot of people rich, and as you point out, it's enriched some political coffers as well.

WALLACE: Mara, we looked at Imus' record over the years this week, and he has said as bad, if not worse, things about Jews, about Italians, about Hispanics.

And let's face it, that was part of his act. That's what made him popular, is that he was offensive, and edgy and naughty. Clearly, he was more than naughty this last time.

But why do you think this time it was unacceptable? And is that good or bad that he's off the air now?

MARA LIASSON, NPR: I think there was -- this was accumulation. He not only said those things about those ethnic groups that you listed, he also had a history of racist comments, and some of them, like the things he said about Gwen Ifill, came out during this controversy. They were little noticed at the time.

And I think there was a consensus. I think there were a lot of things that happened this time that were different. He picked a target that was not only deemed unfair by majorities of people who looked at this, but they were somebody that -- that team was somebody who was admired.

They were considered heroes. They didn't seem in any way to be an appropriate butt of his particular kind of humor. I don't even think it was funny.

But look. There was a consensus formed. He didn't get punished because of some protests outside of CBS' doors. He got off the air because advertisers decided it was not worth the cost, that they were not going to be able to make money anymore on this. It was a liability instead of an asset.

And look. I have no doubt that after a certain period of time, he'll probably show up again on satellite radio. But maybe this has sparked a debate about this language elsewhere.

And maybe if Al Sharpton says, as he did, that he does actually hold these protests, maybe they will get covered. Maybe other people will start talking about it.


BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm less hopeful than Mara. I mean, I think this has been such a spectacle of vulgarity and idiocy and pomposity and hypocrisy on all sides that it's hard to believe anything good will really come out of it, but it's been fun for conservatives to watch.

You know, basically, this has been an incredible spectacle of liberalism in America. Imus is basically a liberal. His favorite guests were certainly liberal media figures.

And one of the best things this weekend is to read the sort of thumb- sucking self-referential pieces by Frank Rich and Sam Tanenhaus. The New York Times Week in Review has three pieces on this this weekend which are not, of course, about anything serious, if there is anything serious in the controversy.

They're all about these individuals -- Frank Rich speculating should he have been more offended in the past when he went on the show, and Sam Tanenhaus -- is he a hypocrite? Is he complicit in this? It's wonderful to have liberals agonizing about this kind of thing.

The cowardice of the corporate CEOs, of course, is wonderful -- Sharpton and Jackson being legitimized as sort of moral arbiters for America. This has been a wonderful view into major parts of the liberal establishment, in my view.

WALLACE: But let me ask you one last question on this, Juan, before we move on. You wrote a book, a terrific book, called "Enough", in which you went after Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and said that they undermined black America.

Were they doing the right thing in this case?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know what? I'm amazed that they get so much credit. To my mind, the credit here goes to people like Vivian Stringer, the Rutgers team.

By the way, the Rutgers team, I think, performed splendidly in the midst of all this. They're a class act, and I think America saw that. And Oprah Winfrey got involved -- so many people -- Bruce Gordon, who's on the -- former NAACP chief who's on the board of CBS. All these people had something to say, but the face of it becomes Sharpton and Jackson, people who only focus on the weaknesses in black America, always talk about grievance, victimization, don't talk about the strength in the community.

The strength is these young women who are struggling not only for education but for athletic excellence.

When it comes to Imus, you know, I don't see Imus in the tradition of Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor. I see him as someone who is titillating the audience and playing to our most base instincts. And I just think it's wrong.

WALLACE: Let's turn to the Duke rape case, which also involved race. North Carolina's attorney general this week dismissed all charges and went after the prosecutor, Mike Nifong, for pursuing the case so overzealously. Let's watch.


ROY COOPER, NORTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked. There were many points in this case where caution would have served justice better than bravado.


WALLACE: Brit, what does this case tell us about race relations in America these days?

HUME: Well, it shows the difficulty at times of people talking and being honest about it. I think there are a lot of people who still have a lot to answer for in this case.

The attorney general's vindication of those former lacrosse players could hardly have been more complete, more utter.

So what does the president of the university, Brodhead, now say about his decision to cancel the team's schedule based on what turns out to be a fraudulent claim against them, to let the coach go -- and what about the New York Times, which along the way, well after the major doubts had been raised about this case, which to any thinking person would have made you say, "This case is going nowhere," wrote a story about -- based on exclusive access to documents which said that there was a body of evidence that supported the charges?

Well, the attorney general of the state found no such body of evidence. Indeed, he seemed to find virtually no evidence. The New York Times has remained silent on the subject. It needs to tell us something about that exclusive story it wrote.

And what about the 88 faculty members who participated in not one but, I guess, two manifesto-type ads or statements which were just redolent with the sense of the obvious guilt of these students? It seems to me they have a lot to answer for, too.

WALLACE: The New York Times taking a hit on "Fox News Sunday." Panel, we need to step aside for a moment.

But when we come back, John McCain's strong words on Iraq -- what do they meant for the war effort and for his presidential campaign? Some answers in a moment.


WALLACE: On this day in 1865, Abraham Lincoln died from a bullet wound after being shot the night before by confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was at Ford's Theater watching a play when Booth shot him.

Stay tuned for more panel and our Power Player of the Week.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Our defeat in Iraq would constitute a defeat in the war against terror and extremism that would make the world a much more dangerous place.


WALLACE: That was Republican presidential candidate and Senator John McCain this week urging Americans to be patient and give the troop surge in Iraq more time.

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

So, Mara, McCain delivered a strong defense of the troop surge this week and a strong attack on what he called the small politics of the Democrats. Is it god policy? Is it good politics?

LIASSON: I think that on a policy level it certainly is consistent. This is not the first time that McCain has delivered a more eloquent defense and explanation of the Bush policy than President Bush has been able to do.

I think that on a policy level, it's consistent and it makes sense, and what McCain says is that if we leave before we're successful and Iraq implodes, as so many people have warned, we're going to be back anyway, and so what good would that do.

He also has been for years advocating just this kind of thing, only more so. He's been an advocate for more troops, for a counterinsurgency strategy.

And as he said at VMI this week, "Having done this for so many years, it would be dishonorable of me not to support the surge and also would be against my country's national security interest."

As far as the politics go, this comes at a very difficult time for him. He's lagging in the polls. He hasn't been able to make himself into the frontrunner. This is a very difficult issue. This has cost him with independents.

But I do think that on some level, standing up for what he believes in, which is McCain's supposedly stock in trade, is a good thing for him in the Republican primary. WALLACE: Bill, let me follow up on that. And let's take McCain at his word. He says this isn't about politics. He said, "I'd rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

But according to a recent poll -- and it's interesting -- two- thirds of Republicans still support the president's policy in Iraq while, conversely, only one in four Democrats do.

On the other hand, all the other leading Republicans, Giuliani and Romney, also support the president. So does this help McCain against the people he needs to beat in the GOP field?

KRISTOL: I think it reminds a lot of conservatives and, I think, a lot of Americans why they admire John McCain, whatever their differences with him on other issues.

And it never hurts to get in a fight with Democrats if you're running for the Republican presidential nomination.

WALLACE: Or with the media.

KRISTOL: Or with the media. And John McCain said on Wednesday the Democrats are playing small politics with this war. The Democrats squealed.

The next day, Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, said the following amazing statement, which, needless to say, was buried way in the middle of the newspapers on Friday.

Here's what Harry Reid said. "We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding."

What were the numbers that Senator Schumer, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Committee, showed him? They weren't numbers about casualties. They weren't numbers about whether getting out would hurt or help Al Qaida. They were poll numbers about Senate races. So the Democrats are playing politics.

For the Senate majority leader to say this war will cost the Republicans Senate seats is really a disgrace. And I think McCain is vindicated in his notion that he has made a serious argument about how we have to win.

The Democrats have made no argument about the consequences of following their policy. They just want to pick up Senate seats.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about the debate. That brings us into that.

And it is going to be an interesting week, Juan. The congressional Democrats wavered but finally decided that they would go to the White House and meet with the president to discuss this whole controversy.

Meanwhile, House and Senate conferees are going to sit down and try to figure out what they are going to send the president. Where does this debate between the White House and congressional Democrats stand now?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's a poker game, but it's a poker game in which the Democrats say they're going to hold, and they have to hold because of the way that some of the liberals voted to give permission to Pelosi in the House to put in there some kind of timetable.

They're going to have to hold to putting some kind of timetable in the deal. The Senate is going to push in terms of benchmarks, as you heard this morning from Carl Levin in your interview. And that will go over, and my sense is that the president will veto it.

Now, Senator Reid has said, "If the president vetoes this, I'm going to put in place a bill that calls for immediate withdrawal." So I think the stakes get ratcheted up.

But to Bill's point about the politics of it, Bill, most of the American people don't want this war. Of course the playing field, according to every poll, favors Democrats heavily because the war is so unpopular.

KRISTOL: People are elected. Admiral Byrd gave a famous speech on this 200 years ago. Senators, congressmen, members of parliament in Britain are elected to cast their votes based on their best judgment of the national interests of the country.

They really aren't supposed to pull the plug on a war against Al Qaida in Iraq because polls show that people aren't happy with how Bush has handled the war and people understandably want to get the troops home.

WILLIAMS: Well, maybe people...

KRISTOL: It's really inappropriate for the Senate majority leader...

WILLIAMS: Maybe we could trust in the judgment of the people. Maybe people are making a principled judgment about it not being in our best interest.

And in terms of the consequences of a pullout, people are saying, "We could, in fact, put troops in place who are not engaged in direct combat, involved in a civil war, but are protecting us against a breeding ground for terrorists."

WALLACE: Let me bring one more thing into the equation, and that's the real situation on the ground in Iraq. As we heard Senator McCain, Senator Graham saying that there are signs of progress from the troop surge -- but then we saw this. Let's watch.


WALLACE: This week, a deadly explosion in the parliament building inside the Green Zone.

Brit, whatever progress is being made, when you see this kind of thing it makes it awfully hard, doesn't it, to claim progress?

HUME: Well, it does in a certain sense. I mean, people are citing the casualty figures. When you decide to fight -- which is basically what's happened here. We've decided to put the necessary troops into Baghdad to try to secure the capital in the hopes that that atmosphere created by doing that will allow political progress to go forward.

There's going to be more bloodshed when you do more fighting. And the enemy is not going to sit still and just take this. So the enemy is going to pull out all the stops.

What we have is a situation where some people seem to be reading the newspapers every day, and if there's a big episode it shows that the strategy is failing. That's not a mature way to look at it.

And we desperately need some people looking at this in a mature way right now. McCain, I think, has set an example for that, because when you listen to the speech that he made, this is the judgment -- it's a very sober judgment, a very serious speech, probably the best speech that's been made on Iraq, certainly this year and maybe in some time.

And I think he is showing leadership.

WILLIAMS: Well, don't you think that the violence indicates continuing civil war outside -- literally, some of the Shia militias have moved out.

KRISTOL: Who set off the bomb in the Green Zone?

WILLIAMS: Who set off the bomb?

KRISTOL: Who set off the bomb in the Green Zone?

WILLIAMS: The militias.

KRISTOL: No, Al Qaida in Iraq.

WILLIAMS: Yes, they took credit.

KRISTOL: No, I'm sorry. This was Al Qaida in Iraq. The Democratic position is we're supposed to fight Al Qaida, we just shouldn't get involved in a civil war.

Then Al Qaida kills people, attacks members of parliament, a democratically elected parliament. We're trying to foster some democracy in the Middle East -- not a bad idea. Al Qaida attacks. Then the Democratic position and the liberal...

HUME: Let's run.

KRISTOL: ... media position is let's run. I thought they wanted to fight Al Qaida.

WILLIAMS: Al Qaida is exploiting the civil war ongoing in Iraq in the absence of political...

WILLIAMS: Mara? Five seconds.

LIASSON: General Petraeus says that in a number of months, not years, he's going to know whether this is working or not. That is going to occur long before anybody casts a vote in a primary.

WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week.

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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