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Special Report Roundtable - April 9

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R), VIRGINIA: This is not the last throws. This is not mission accomplished. This is a long, hard, difficult process. We are making some progress. The American people are not being made aware of that progress. I believe we can succeed and I believe that there's a very good chance that we will succeed.


HUME: And as never before, Senator John McCain has hitched his wagon, so to speak, to the possibility of success in the Iraq war. He is defending it more vigorously, at least the current phase of it, and more visibly than ever before.

Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Before we get to McCain, a quick question, it's just emerged that NBC is suspending Don Imus, at least his radio program which is broadcast every day the NBC cable channel -- MSNBC, for two weeks. There are some in the black community led by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who are calling for his scalp over the comments he made about the Rutgers women's basketball team. He has apologized repeatedly and asked for forgiveness. Should he get?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yes. I think fundamentally he should. Look, he's a famous dirty mouth, right? I don't know why anybody listens to him or goes on his show, but he's not a notorious racist. And you know, he's apologized and apologized again, as you say, and I don't think he should be thrown off the air for the likes of Al Sharpton who's famous for the Tawana Brawley case or Jesse Jackson, famous for Hymietown. I mean, they were forgiven those things, he ought to be forgiven this.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, what he said was offensive, he has apologized and he's now being punished by his employer who's going to decide whether he's should keep his job permanently or not. I mean, I don't think that -- I have no idea whether the guy should lose his job or not, but it sounds like some retribution is being taken.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are famous Christian ministers. How can they not forgive him? What are they, hypocrites? Of course they ought to forgive him.

HUME: On to McCain. What about this bet he's made? I mean, is there any reason to -- there doesn't seem to be an ounce of political calculus or at least or insincerity in the position he's taken here. He sort of bet the ranch now.

LIASSON: Certainly not. No, he's bet the ranch on it. And he has been consistent. All along he believed that has been consistent all along. He believed that there should have been more troops committed. And that he's kind of the school of if you're going to do something, you should do it right and you should commit sufficient resources and he's been very critical of the way the war has been managed, but has been a completely steadfast supporter of succeeding and doing what it takes to succeed and now he's a supporter of the surge. Now there are more troops going in. The tragic thing about this is it might be too little, too late, but he said repeatedly that he'd rather lose an election than lose the war and I think right now it certainly is hurting him with the general public, certainly with independents.

What's unclear is whether his troubles on the Republican primary trail -- and he has slipped in the polls considerably -- how much of that is due to Iraq, and I actually suspect it's due to other things.

KONDRACKE: I agree with all that. Well, I think that this is the gutsiest sort of straight talk expressed behavior that John McCain has ever engaged in -- the riskiest. I mean, he is dissing, among others, his former worshipful constituency, the media, you know, who loved him when he was beating up on the Republican establishment, loved it when he was beating up on Don Rumsfeld and now that he's defending the Iraq policy, it's suddenly playing gotcha, with him and, you know, anytime he makes a mistake, the mistake gets amplified, his remark that General Petraeus could walk around in Baghdad with -- or ride around in an unarmored Humvee, they acted as if that was the only thing he had to say, and he said that was a mistake and they used it to discredit the whole idea that we're making progress. But, we are making a little bit of progress, and he's not overstating it.

BARNES: McCain has adopted what is, in effect a maverick position for 2008. That's support of the war in Iraq, support for the insurgency -- for the surge, rather, support for the counterinsurgency and I think this helps McCain enormously, the war and President Bush are still popular for the Republicans. Remember, he's running for the Republican nomination, he's not running for the media nomination. Mort's exactly right on that.

So, he has a cause, he has a rational for his campaign and has the right enemies, the media, so I think this helps him enormously.

HUME: Well, when do you expect it to show up, though? I mean, the thing that's so striking is that he has been down in the polls -- Mara was saying earlier that she's not sure that the war, one way or the other, has much to do with it. What about that?

BARNES: I don't think the war's hurt him at all among Republicans, They're mad about...

HUME: But can he recover with Republicans by virtue of the strength of his position on this war?

BARNES: I think he can recover from Republicans and we'll know pretty well. You don't have to waif for polls or anything. Let's see when he goes out and campaigns how Republicans respond. If he gets an enthusiastic response, that will show up and more money will come in and his polls will improved, so let's watch him over the next few weeks.

HUME: You think he'll recover?


HUME: Mort. Quickly.

KONDRACKE: I think he can recover, and I think he's got to make a lot of speeches on a lot of different subjects to prove that he's relevant that this is not his one issue.

LIASSON: Which he is planning. Actually he's got one on domestic policy attacks on spending coming up.

HUME: Do you think he'll recover?

LIASSON: I think that -- yes, I think there's going to be a bounce back for McCain. I don't think -- unless Giuliani has more staying power than anybody thinks he does...

HUME: You heard it here, folks, John McCain on the comeback trail.

And next up with our panel, we're talking about President Bush's proposal for immigration reform. That issue has been tough before. Stick around.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These failures help create a perception that America was not serious about enforcing our immigration laws and that they could be broken without consequence. Past efforts to reform did not do enough to secure our nation's borders. As a result, many people have been able to sneak in to this country.


HUME: So that was President Bush today down in Yuma, Arizona, on the subject of the border and of immigration reform. You will note there that he had a new and stronger emphasis on border enforcement and border protection than he had in the past. He's now trying to come forward with a proposal that will have a combination of reform, which means pass to citizenship or at least to worker permits and tough border enforcement.

Question to panel: Is this the path to a bill that he can get passed through the Congress and through the Republicans -- at least not controlled but the Republican-influenced Senate?

LIASSON: Well, that's the big question and that's why the enforcement part is getting tougher and also why the hurtles were earned legalization - - earned legalization are getting higher in this new iteration of the bill. Illegal immigrants would have to go home, they'd have to pay repeated fines if they wanted to finally become legal residents I think they'd have to go back to Mexico, apply at the embassy and pay $10,000.

It's much tougher than the earlier versions were, and I think the big question was how willing is the President Bush to triangulate and how willing are the Democrats to triangulate with him?


Meaning to try to make a majority with the Democrats.

Now Nancy Pelosi has said look, we want you to provide 70 Republican votes, we're not going to just carry the water for you, unlike the way Republicans did with Clinton with NAFTA or welfare reform, when he did triangulate on those issues. And I think that's the question. I mean, what kind of bipartisan majority is going to get built? How many Republicans are going to be willing to be with the president?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, what bush is trying to is put together 20-plus, or 23, 25 Republicans to go along with 40-odd Democrats and send the bill -- in the Senate, and send the bill to the House with a big wind behind it so that Republicans will...

HUME: They need about what a third of the Republicans in the House to go along with this?

KONDRACKE: Well, yeah because they're going to lose some Democrats. I mean...

HUME: No, I understand that. But I'm just talking about to meet the Pelosi threshold. She could...

KONDRACKE: Well, Pelosi has been quoted as saying 70.

HUME: So, she said it.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, I know, but a lot of activists think that 50 will do. But they're at about 10 of 15 right now, so they've got to build a lot of Republican support. There's going to be a negotiation between Jon Kyl on the Republican side and Teddy Kennedy on the Democratic side to fashion some sort of bill and they've got to find a sweet spot. And the question is, can they find it? I mean, it's...

HUME: Well, over the weekend, the -- this new visa proposal, the Z- Visa, as it's called, which has a lot of -- you have to pay up to get those visas, generated protest from the activist community in California.

LIASSON: Well, that's the first bid.

HUME: I know, I understand that, but you can see that...

BARNES: I was dumb anyway, because those numbers were way too high. They're not going to be on any bill that finally passes. I hate to shatter the image here of President Bush, but he's not much of a player in this right now. It's out of his hands. We're going to have legislatures that legislate. Mitch McConnell is much more important than Bush is. He didn't wait for Bush to come along and have the speech in Yuma, Arizona and talk about a comprehensive speech. He's had Republicans negotiating for weeks now from Jon Kyl to John McCain. They're going to get -- they're going to agree on something that's going to have a lot more than 20 Republicans on it or else McConnell will McConnell will failed and then, of course, they have to go to Teddy Kennedy with the proposal because, I mean, they don't have a majority in the Senate.

HUME: Well, Kennedy is a little bit different posture than Pelosi, though. I mean, Kennedy really wants a bill for the sake of the bill.

BARNES: He wants a bill for the sake of the bill and he's not looking for some issue to batter Republicans with. But, it has to be a comprehensive bill. And look, they can agree on border security, that's not a big hang-up. I think they can agree with Kennedy, at any rate, on a temporary worker program. It's just hard to find -- I mean, the trick is the 12 millions of illegal immigrants here in the United States.

HUME: To pass the citizenship for them, you mean?

BARNES: Yeah, for citizen. But I can tell you one thing that's for sure, all this stuff about paying a $10,000 fine here and a $3,500 fine here which was apparently leaked from the White House, I mean that was stupid for the White House to come up with that idea. That stuff will be knocked out immediately, I think probably by the Republicans on the Hill. They're not going to pay any attention to that.

LIASSON: And also that you can't bring your families...

HUME: Will there be a bill?

LIASSON: I think there might be.

KONDRACKE: I think there will definitely be a bill passing out of the Senate. Will there be a final bill? I think they may go for a partial fix to the and not a full fix.


BARNES: It'll be. No, there will be a full fix, but it'll be a trigger, you know first you have...

HUME: OK, you think it'll pass?

BARNES: Yeah, I think it probably will.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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