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Special Report Roundtable - April 5

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT: She's not entitled it make policy, she, in this particular case, by going to Damascus at this stage, it serves the reinforce, if you will, or award Bashar Assad, for his bad behavior. I'm obviously disappointed, I think it is, in fact, bad behavior on her part, I wish she hadn't done it.


HUME: Now, that was Vice President Cheney who can fairly be construed as a conservative. What is not conservative, of course, is the editorial board of the Washington Post which similarly criticized. In fact, I can -- think it's fair to say, more sharply criticized Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria and the outcome of it, or at least the what was said during it, in an editorial today.

Some thoughts on this trip and the reaction to it, from several people, here. Fred Barnes executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Mara Liasson national political correspondent of National Public Radio -- all are FOX contributors.

Well, this kicked up more of a storm than we might have thought when we discussed this here last night. Why do you think -- Fred.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: We should have know about it ahead of time. When I thought about it later when she said, you know, about going to Damascus, that the road to Damascus is a road to peace. Well, you know, I checked this with Mort, who's followed the Middle East much longer than I have, and you know, one thing that's true of the road to Damascus has never been a road to peace in the Middle East, never, ever -- as long as the Assad family and even earlier than that.

And I think Nancy Pelosi made some mistakes we, a day later, now know that she really made. She was way over her head in the Middle East. This was a complicated area, she didn't understand what the Israelis had told her about their readiness or now to have peace talks. She took, at face value, this boilerplate from the Syrians about, oh yes, we want to have talks and so on. It's just their usual propaganda stuff.

She seemed to believe what, I think, is spin from the foreign policy community and from a lot of Democrats that, gee only problem we really have with the Syrians now is we're not talking to them. Well, she talked to them, and got nowhere, just got the usual stuff from the Syrians, and then, you know, the thing that the Post pointed out, and I think it is true, she was really trying to usurp presidential power.

HUME: You think so. You think she's really trying to do that? Wait a minute. To be fair to her, it should be said, that she said that, made the point, explicitly, that there was no daylight between her position and the position of the administration.

BARRENS: I know, but she's not the one who's assigned to carry out the administration position and I think hers would be different, now maybe not in what she said there. But she even said so, Tom Lantos, the congressman from California, who was with her said: oh, we will build -- we'll build on this meeting. And she said, you know, that she offered herself as someone who could, continue to be someone to work out peace between Israel and Syria. That is usurping presidential authority.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: You know, my reaction yesterday was that any damage she did was to herself. In other words, that she misrepresented the Israel position but certainly didn't do damage to U.S. policy, which she can't actually affect. But I think the ferocity of the Post...


HUME: But Mara, what about the question of whether the Syrians, might be...

LIASSON: The Syrians certainly milked this and got some kind of P.R. advantage from it.

HUME: Is that not damage?

LIASSON: I don't know if that's damage to the long-range interest of the United States, it certainly is a boost -- it's a boost to Syria in the short-term that they can show the U.S. is divided on this. But I think the ferocity of the Post editorial was interesting and significant.

You know, they said it was counterproductive. They, accused her of attempting to establish a shadow presidency, which I think is certainly -- was...

HUME: Well, it does raises a broader question -- Mara touches on this, broader question and that is whether the Democrats, in general, Speaker Pelosi and others, with this extraordinarily aggressive effort to try to countermand the decision making in the executive branch on the war in Iraq, right down to when we would be out of there, and in this intervention in the diplomacy surrounding the Middle East, is going beyond any kind of mandate that they really have, whether it might be political overreaching. Your thoughts?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, I think that certainly this is an example of way overreaching. She is presuming to, to be the fulfillment of the Iraq Study Group. I'm sure she would say: Well, since the Bush administration is isolating Syria and since the Iraq Study Group, this bipartisan commission, suggested that we negotiate with Syria, I will do it.

You know, well, she's completely unqualified to do it, as everybody on the program here has demonstrated. The Washington Post said in spades. But, you know, I think this is -- and in the case of Iraq, certainly she is -- the Congress is trying to micromanage the conflict, which they think is the fulfillment of the will, but this is not the fulfillment of public will. There's nothing in the Iraq Study Group report that says members of Congress should go off freelancing to Syria and try to make peace. As Fred said, Tom Lantos and she think she is capable of being the peace broker in the Middle East. I mean, that is just wildly presumptuous.

LIASSON: You know, I have to say, in contrast to that, Bill Richardson is actually on his way around the globe with the Bush administration's blessing. To talk to North Korea and other places. And it's interesting -- the point is sometimes, members of Congress or ex- members or members of the opposition party do get these kind of assignments, but in very specific situations.

BARNES: Look, the policy of the Bush administration, right now after talking for five years or so, all the time with the Syrians and getting nowhere, their strategy is isolation. And maybe that will get the Syrians to offer up some concessions. So far they haven't. And it was this isolation strategy that was contradicted by the visit by Pelosi.

HUME: When we come back with our panel: what price, if any, will Iran pay for seizing those British hostages? We'll look into that.



JOHN BOLTON, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Unfortunately Iran has emerged from this in a win-win situation. It won by taking the hostages in the first place and it won by giving them up.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think that what has actually happened is that we have managed to secure the release of our personnel, I think, more quickly than many people anticipated and have done so, incidentally, and I want to make this very, very clear, without any deal, without negotiation, without any side agreement of any nature.


HUME: Well, what John Bolton was getting at, which Tony Blair partly address in his comment there, in fact he was, Tony Blair was, in fact, asked about the John Bolton comment -- what he as getting at was that the Iranians managed to get the world's attention, they held onto the hostages as long as they usefully could, and they determined by what they did, that the British were not going to make, what he called -- Bolton called -- a strong response and by establishing that they won and then of course, they had no more use for the hostages so, they look like good guys giving them back. Mara, what do you think?

LIASSON: Well, I think that, you know, they gained some things domestically, But I don't know if they gained in the long-term inferentially in terms of their position in the world. I think that certainly domestically, this probably played really well. They looked like they kind of stuck their finger in the eye of the West and were tough and, you know, made the West do something. It's unclear what exactly they got since Tony Blair says he didn't apologize and they said they got an apology from him.

HUME: Well, they don't really...

LIASSON: Yeah, but they're claiming that he did.


LIASSON: You know, they say that they got an apology from him and then they released. But I think that in the long-term, I think this shows them to be rather erratic actors and I don't see how it can help them in negotiations over all the other things that are going on with Iran including the nuclear program.

So, a short-term win, maybe, in the region and with their own population, but long-term, I don't see how it's a win for them.

KONDRACKE: Well, I mean, the Mideast experts I've talked to say that it Iran blinked, here. That this was a Republican guard -- a Revolutionary Guard operation, Ahmadinejad is a creature or a leader in fact, of the Revolutionary Guards. He had to back down, he got nothing in return for these hostages, no apologies, nothing and what people think is that the powers that really be in Iran, namely the Mullahs, said wait a minute, you're embarrassing us, you're making us look like a...

HUME: A thugocracy?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, a hostage taking regime back like the old days and this is not what we want, so they gave back the hostages and he did it with a lot of fanfare and tried to make it seem...

LIASSON: And goody bags.

HUME: Goody bags and free suits.

KONDRACKE: And all that kind thing.

Now the one thing that Bolton has going for him that's correct is that the Europeans provided no backup to Blair, here. He couldn't get them to limit export credits or anything.

HUME: In Germany in particular.


BARNES: I think the French, too. Yeah, I mean, the Europeans were terrible. But the British weren't very good, either. Look, in the first place why did they let their boat be taken? I think it was six Iranians took some British ship with 15 sailors on it, while another bigger British ship that could have fired on the Iranians, just let it happen.

That's one thing. And then, you know, this was -- I don't know what kind of duress these sailors were under there.

HUME: When they said all that stuff?

BARNES: but that was bad behavior and one of the British columnists pointed out that Brits who were captured didn't act that way in World War II, Korean War or (INAUDIBLE) or any other British engagement, that they acted much, much worse.

Now, maybe they're under duress, but they certainly didn't looked like they'd been beaten or anything. When saw when they got out. So, I think the Iranians, while they were smart to call it off when they did, because they were being seen as a pariah nation again, as they should be, learned their opponents in negotiations and so on, over nuclear weapons, are pretty weak.

KONDRACKE: There was one thing that Blair said that's kind of intriguing, and I don't know what the meaning is, that new and interesting lines of communication were open.

HUME: What was that all about?

KONDRACKE: I don't know, but it suggests that he's talking to somebody besides Larijani and you know, the regular channels of negotiation. Maybe, you know, I don't know what he's talking about, but it's just interesting.

HUME: Does this have implications for American policy vis-a-vis Iran or not? If in fact the U.S. had any role here.

BARNES: Yeah, if we're backing the Europeans doing negotiations on nuclear weapons, we're not going to get very far.

And we know one thing, that well, there may be divisions in the Iranian government, and particularly over the seizer of the British ship, there aren't divisions among the Iranians on going nuclear.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, I think actually it kind of undercuts the U.S. approach, I mean you've got op-ed pieces in the New York Times, for example, saying: see, negotiation really works. You can solve all kinds of problems by just talking and keeping the thing going, instead of going to the sanctions route or going to military route, or something like that. So, Bush's policy of kind of isolation of the Iranian regime seems to be undercut by all this.

HUME: You think?

LIASSON: I don't think so. I really don't. I think the policy of the United States and the Europeans have decided on is going to...

HUME: For my part, there much I wouldn't do for a free suit.


LIASSON: And a goody bag.

HUME: Yeah, I was trying to figure out if that tailor there had a website.

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