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Special Report Roundtable - April 4

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: We expressed our concerns about Syria's connection to Hezbollah and Hamas. We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process. He was ready to engage in negotiations with peace with Israel.


HUME: Well, she also apparently said that, did Nancy Pelosi, to the Syrian leader, that she had been assured by the Israeli government that it was ready to sit down with the Syrians. And there were, apparently, some issues with whether that's indeed what their position is, but all-in-all, quite a day from her. Some thoughts of it now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, same job at Roll Call; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Well, I mean, she said, Nancy Pelosi said, coming out of her meetings, that there was no daylight between her views expressed to the Syrian president and those of the Bush administration, of Republicans and the White House have been complaining about the trip. But if that's true, why?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, I didn't hear, I said earlier in the week that this trip would be defensible if it was a fact-finding trip and or if she was tough on Bashar Assad over the issues of Hezbollah and Hamas and allowing terrorists to cross the border into Iraq. You don't get any sense that she was tough.

She expressed our concerns, you know. And she -- there was no daylight on the subject of what they raise, but I have no sense that she read the riot act to Bashar Assad or said that your relationship with the United States is contingent upon solving the problems. And it wasn't just a fact-finding mission, she fancies herself an international diplomat, carrying messages, trying to make peace between the Israelis and the Syrians and totally credulous. I mean, she said that Syria had agreed that it too wanted to make peace with the Israelis. Well, that's not what the Israelis said. The Israelis said: We'll engage in peace talks with you if you quit supporting terrorists. And she didn't state that.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: She misstated the Israeli position, she didn't misstate the Syrian position, they are ready to engage in negotiations with Israel, but she just stated the Israeli position. She misstated the Israeli position which is that there are preconditions to any talks that they were to have.

Look, it doesn't seem like she misstated the U.S. policy toward Syria, but what she was over there to show is that she has a different view of what the American approach to Syria should be. She feels that isolating them hasn't worked, she's over there to talk to them. I don't think that there's any indication that she was tough or not tough. I don't know if what she did will have any material effect one way or another. I don't think it undercut U.S. policy and I don't think it advanced it.


HUME: Well, it certainly was played up by the government, Damascus, as a diplomatic coup for them. And you see these pictures that, obviously they were happy to get out of her walking long with the party of hosts and so forth, it looked impressive, I suppose, from their point of view.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: You know, I was reassured that she said there was no division between her and President Bush on the issues they discussed and it sounded like she took the right positions. On the other hand, just being there shows division with the president. And it was a P.R. coup for the Syrians who are hungry for any sort of legitimacy they can get from anybody. You know, you don't get that from some low-level Republican congressional group that goes among the...


But you do from here.

HUME: Yeah, but on the other hand it is the case that the White House was remarkably quiet about the Republican Congressional Delegation that went over there.

BARNES: Yeah, they were, it is different, as I think Mort said yesterday, and maybe Mara too, that when you have the House speaker, she's in a different position. But the White House has said all along they didn't want any of those people to go. Senator Bill Nelson, last year; Senator Arlen Specter or any of these people to go.

You know, I have been in the palace...

HUME: Yeah, me too.

BARNES: ...where they -- and I interviewed Assad's father when he was there. And I remember it very well because you talk to him about what he wants and they want a lot, you know, they want recognition, they want the Golan Heights back, but then when you talk about what they're going to give up, and it's basically nothing. Nothing at all. They don't offer peace to Israel, they don't say well look, we'll stop supporting these groups, Hamas and Hezbollah that are killing your people. They offer nothing, and yet Nancy Pelosi comes out and acts like they've made some significant offer when it wasn't significant at all. That was the flaw in her appearance.

KONDRACKE: She says that there's between her and the Bush administration on the subject, I'm sure, on the subject. She raised the concern, but she says: "we came in friendship and hope and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace." Now, that's not tough. You know, that is not saying that you want relations with the United States, here buddy, here's what you have to do. I mean, you don't have to say "buddy" in a press conference, but you know, some emotion --some negative emotion about this whole thing would have been appropriate.

BARNES: The Assad families, they're just not folks that want to give up anything. They are hard characters.

HUME: Next up with the panel, Democratic presidential candidates are raising record sums of money, what does that mean? We're with the all- stars when we come back.


HUME: Well, the first quarter of the latest quarter fundraising reports are now in from all of the Democratic candidates and Barack Obama is the latest to be added and boy, did he do OK. Hillary Clinton who broke records raised $26 million, but Barack Obama raised 25 and you can see John Edwards raised a healthy 14 and the others less. But, what's striking, of course, is the Obama number, and what might be most striking about it is that he now -- he raised it from a very much larger number of people then did Hillary Clinton. He had something like 100,000 people, she raised from 50,000 people, which means that a lot of those people are what they call maxed out and can't give any more, where as it would appear that Obama, what, can go back?

LIASSON: Can go back and back and back. And not only did he raise it from 100,000 people, the vast majority, 23.5 million was for the primary election and Hillary Clinton hasn't yet disclosed her percentages of primary and general election, but generally if you...


HUME: (INAUDIBLE) divided between primary and general?

LIASSON: Yes, but when you give to the general, generally, you're maxed out. You've given your 4,600, because you can give 2,300 to each fund. That's the suspicion about Senator Clinton's numbers.

The other thing was that 90 percent of this money, according to the Obama campaign, was in donations of $100 or less. That means these people have a long way to go before they're maxed out. I other words not only is there a big pool, but the donations are small, and that's pretty much what you want if you're kind of cultivating a fundraising garden. He did this very fast. You know, he started from scratch. She had many, many Clinton campaigns and Bill Clinton working with here, but she's still way ahead in money. She has the $10 million from her Senate campaign added to that 26.

HUME: That she can just dump in -- and she can spend that in either the primary or general? She can spend it anyway she wants. So, she's leading 36-25.

LIASSON: Yeah, but still he is now a serious contender. It gives her a real run for her money.

BARNES: Absolutely. And what Mara was talking about exactly shows what is most important here. It's not the amount of money, it's not where you stand in the polls, it's the excitement you generate. And by getting all these small donations and so many more, that really shows the kind of excitement he has generated. That's what to look at in these candidates now, a year, 10 months, whatever we are before the primaries, is who's generating excitement, enthusiasm. Who's whipping people up? It is not Hillary Clinton, that's for sure. She may have this great fundraising operation, but she's not doing it. The one guy who's doing it is Obama. And so, you know, if you see another poll where she is leading him by 15 points? Ignore it.

KONDRACKE: Obama's a rocket. And he's out there in the sky -- shooting star. We'll see whether he can sustain it.

LIASSON: Well, he's got the resources to sustain it.

KONDRACKE: Well and he's got the resources to sustain it. We go -- everybody's -- even Edwards has got enough money to carry this thing through.

HUME: I was talking to Martin Frost today about this. Of course, he's the former member of the leadership of the D triple C, the Democratic Campaign Committee in the HOUSE, knows his way around fundraising. And he thinks that Obama is in the same position, roughly speaking, that Gary Hart was in and that other insurgent candidates have been in when they really got some steam. And he thinks that Hillary Clinton is in the same position that say, Al Gore was in, in an earlier race, and that Walter Mondale was in. She's now, in affect, the establishment candidate, the heir apparent, and that since candidates can be bedeviled by an insurgent candidate like Obama...

LIASSON: But that doesn't mean that the insurgents win.

HUME: That doesn't mean they win. And it sometimes mean that if the establishment candidate wins the nomination after a fight, it doesn't bode well for the general. Do you agree with that theory?

KONDRACKE: I agree with the theory up to the point of the general. You know, I don't think -- it depends on what kind of campaign they wage. If it's a nasty, mean campaign and they...

HUME: Do you have any doubt it will be if it stays close?

KONDRACKE: No, no, not necessarily that way. It's going to be combative, maybe, but it does not have to be nasty and does not have to ruin a...

HUME: Would you say the Hart-Mondale campaign was nasty?

KONDRACKE: No. And I don't think that Mondale was necessarily hurt by Hart in the general election. He got -- Mondale got beat -- wait a minute -- Mondale got beat because he was running against Ronald Reagan, you know, and he was going to get walloped no matter what. And the two of them, you know, they were both in favor of the nuclear freeze at a time when Reagan was strong against Soviet Union. I mean there was no hope for Mondale.

LIASSON: You know, let's -- before we relive you know, the great Mondale campaign, the thing about what's happening in the Democratic Party now is there is tremendous excitement that Obama is generating. The Hillary camp thinks that's ultimately good for them, assuming that they are still going to be the nominee...


HUME: Wait a minute, Mara's got a point. The Hillary camp view is that Obama's doing something they need done which is blocking Edwards.

BARNES: Yeah look, that's the Clinton talking point -- block Edwards, they'll block Clinton.

LIASSON: Of course they're very rattled by Obama and they've acted very defensive and kind of brought out the brass knuckles maybe a little bit too much and unnecessarily. But the fact is Democrats are very excited about the field. They're energized; they're getting lots of money.

KONDRACKE: They are.

LIASSON: Yes, they are.


BARNES: Now wait a minute, Mort -- look, now here's what's wrong with Martin Frost -- what he says -- and that is he's suggesting that the establishment candidate wins. In the Democratic primaries, the establishment candidate loses sometimes to the insurgents. Look at George McGovern.

HUME: Jimmy Carter.

BARNES: Jimmy Carter -- I was going to get to that -- Bill Clinton to a certain extent was an insurgent candidate...

LIASSON: Hmm, who was the establishment candidate?

BARNES: Not as much as...

KONDRACKE: There wasn't an establishment candidate.

LIASSON: There wasn't an establishment candidate.

BARNES: Clinton, McGovern, and Carter were. And...

HUME: In fact, by the time New Hampshire rolled around, Clinton was the establishment candidate and Paul Saunders (ph) was the insurgent. Remember that, in New Hampshire?

BARNES: I guess so. So look, the...

LIASSON: None of these analyses are correct.

BARNES: ...from the Hillary campaign, no matter what happens, it's great for them.

LIASSON: No, only if they become the nominees.

KONDRACKE: Look, there's no question about whether Obama is a threat to Hillary and all that and they're going to run -- what's -- Bill Bradley, Gore's opponent in 2000, said the other day that having a lot of money often leads to profligate habits and we don't know if the burn rate is for either of these campaigns. How much money they've on hand and something like that and how efficiently they're spending the money. And what you don't want to do is hire up all kinds of aides who bump each other and get in their way. I mean, that's what Al Gore did in 2000 and his campaign just was a mess. And he had to, you know, flee to Nashville and reorganize the whole campaign.

BARNES: You're in the weeds. I agree with Bill Bradley who didn't stir excitement, but we do have here -- look, I don't agree with the orthodox liberalism of Barack Obama, but the truth is, he is an unusual candidate. Candidates do not stir this kind of excitement, either Republicans or Democrats and haven's since Ronald Reagan and Bobby Kennedy. So, this is a unique guy who is doing something that is not usual in presidential campaigns.

HUME: At the end of the day, can you seriously picture Democrats, who probably might figure that they could have Hillary and Obama as a running mate, choosing Obama over her?


BARNES: Oh, sure.

KONDRACKE: I think it is entirely possible.

LIASSON: Possible, but it would be very difficult. But I do think a lot of Democrats see the ticket right there. I think it's difficult. I think even though he's coming on a really strong, and this is incredibly impressive. Here organization is still formidable, she's kind of vacuumed up these state party apparatuses and incorporated them into her campaign.


And she -- but you know what, she's got deep roots, she's got -- she's been laying the groundwork for a long time. I think she'd going to be tough to beat. Can she be beaten for the nomination, yes. But I think it's going to be difficult.

KONDRACKE: You know, it's not as though Obama has a bunch of slouches working for him. Bill Daily was one of Bill Clinton's trusted advisers, former secretary of Commerce, is one of the key people -- David Axelrod...


BARNES: Well, they are very able, but -- you know, Obama just changes everything with the kind of excitement he stirs.

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