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Special Report Roundtable - May 21

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Like some of my colleagues, I have reservations about the agreement that was reached. The bill impacts families in a number of ways I believe are unwise.

SEN JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: This bill will grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants all over this country.

SEN DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: If the American people fully understood what was buried in this bill. There would be a massive outcry against it.


HUME: Well, I think some people would say there was -- already has been -- have guessed it might add up to a massive outcry. That's sort of a bipartisan sample about the thinking of this compromise unveiled between -- among Senator Kennedy, some Republicans, some other Democrats, and the White House, last week on immigration reform.

Some thoughts it now from Fred Barnes executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and her colleague, Juan Williams more, senior correspondent of National Public Radio. All are FOX NEWS contributors.

So, what is the likely -- at the rate this is going -- Fred, you follow this issue carefully, does the size of the reaction to it -- negative reaction surprise you?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: It did surprise me, actually. I didn't think conservatives, you know, from national review to people who just don't like immigrants would be as strong as it is. On the other hand, there's very broad base support for this measure in the Senate, and I think when some changes are made to, there'll be even more -- there will obviously have to be some made, there are complains about the worker program, there are complaints about that there weren't benchmarks...

HUME: You're talking about that so-called "Z visa" part of it.

BARNES: Well, there are complaints about the "Z visa."

HUME: "Z visa," by the way, would be available to people who are here illegally now and who could sort of, overnight, become legal.

BARNES: No, no. No, no. They can't over the -- then they will get a probationary period leading in about a year-and-a-half.

HUME: But they'd be legal in that probationary period?

BARNES: They'd be legal during that period, but there would be -- they would have to step forward, they'd have a preliminary background check, I believe, they'd have -- and they would get a card which would allow them to continue working. And then the "Z visa" comes a year later, then they get a full background check, they have to pay a find, they have to do all kinds of things. It's not what I would call amnesty, but it is...

HUME: But that is a provision that has given rise to the calls and cries of amenity.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, that is what people point to when they say amnesty. Now the question is, is there anything short of deportation that would satisfy people who considered this particular set of obstacles, amnesty? And I don't -- I think for many of them, there isn't anything.

I do think one of the things that could be fixed which might bring in some more support is if it allowed for an easier process in the guest worker program, more illegal immigration, for more immigration for employers, because employers are key to this and they were part of the original coalition and a lot of them are nervous about what's in here now.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well I think, you know, the question is, how can the center hold? And from my -- what I saw today it looks like there's a lot of posturing going on. I understand it, politically, you got to play to the right, you got to play to the left. I think that's what we saw when you just saw that bite from Harry Reid.

Harry Reid's a guy who says listen, they got 10 to 12 million so- called illegal immigrants living in this country and asks a basic question: what are you going to do with them? As Mara says, you going to kick them out? are you personally going to go take them out? And the idea is, of course, that you have some reasonable compromise, here, and the thought was to push it quickly. Now they're going to wait until after Memorial Day.

HUME: To really debate it.

WILLIAMS: To debate it. But the problem is, I think, you know, you can hear things like this Robert Rector suggestion, oh it's going to raise taxes because these people are not -- these people are picking apples. These people are in states with lots of farms and the like and tending to peoples' lawns. Exactly how is that going to drive down the American economy? The American economy relies on so much of this low-skill labor. In fact, I think the criticism that comes from Harry Reid and others, which is to say are we creating a subclass of workers by saying you can only stay two years, no path to citizenship, whatsoever.

HUME: What do you think is the likely fate of this bill?

WILLIAMS: I happen to think, and I remain very optimistic about this, I think the center will hold because there are enough big players. Dick Durbin, you know, who's No. 2 in the Senate on the Democratic side, says he's opposed, he's got these concerns, but ultimately, do you really believe Dick Durbin's not going to side with Ted Kennedy? And I believe the same is true of Harry Reid.

BARNES: Yeah, you're right about Kennedy, you're right about Harry Reid; you're right about many of the Democrats because if Teddy Kennedy's there, they're going to be here. It means the Hispanic groups will be there among others, and other ethnic groups for whom Senator Kennedy has been the greatest ally in the Senate for a generation or more, so they'll be there. You have a broad base of support. You know, it goes to people like Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, conservative senators from Georgia to the most important Republican in this was Jon Kyl of Arizona. These were people who opposed the McCain-Kennedy bill last year and I think based on what Republicans complained about last year and the year before.

HUME: These critics, David Vitter and others, they're going to need something to allow them to say OK, the bill has been sweetened to my satisfaction. What is that likely to be?

BARNES: Well, Brit, we've only heard what they say, no matter what the bill, unless we go and take 12 million people and get the moving vans to get the troop carriers and take them back to Mexico or to Ireland or wherever they were from, unless we do that, any bill that doesn't do that, they will call an amnesty bill, no matter how big the fine...

HUME: So those people -- so what you're saying is it's going to be passed without the votes of people like that.

BARNES: Exactly.

LIASSON: I think that's right. I think the big question is what happens in the House where Democratic leadership is requiring 65 or 70 Republican votes and that is where you always -- don't forget the Senate passed something, they passed something more liberal than this when there wasn't a Democratic Congress. So, I don't think the Senate is the problem. I think that what's going to happen in the House where you have a lot of Republicans that are even more against this then in the Senate -- and also you have a lot of nervous Democrats. Democrats have to decide is this a good thing for them to do right now?

WILLIAMS: And is it good for, you know, even the hardliners on the Republican side, you look back at the '06 election, people who took the hard-line against immigration did not fare well. One last thought on this is, I think business has not been hurt from it. I'm just curious as to when business kicks in and says, hey we have a stake here, if we value these workers, we're willing to take the precautions and we're on the side of this. And I think their presence in terms of support for Republican candidates.

HUME: In the end, pass or not pass?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's you know, who has a crystal ball? I'd say past.

LIASSON: Pass the Senate.


HUME: Maybe House?

LIASSON: Unclear.

BARNES: Remember what happened last year that the Republicans who controlled the House would not even take their bill into a conference with the Senate. This time Democrats control the House. There will be a bill passed there, it will have momentum coming out of the Senate and I think we have a pretty good chance of getting a final act of legislation.

HUME: When we come back, former President Jimmy Carter, today, tried to soften the impact of his criticism of the Bush administration. We'll have more on what he said and what he said he said, that's next.


JIMMY CARTER, FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: I think as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.

What I was actually doing was responding to a question about foreign policy between Richard Nixon and this administration. And I think this administration's foreign policy compared to Richard Nixon's was much worse.


HUME: Huh? So what he says was the worst in history, he didn't really mean he meant it was only worse than Nixon's. Well, OK, but this is not the first time, of course, that former President Jimmy Carter has stirred controversy by strong comments made.

Fred Barnes, you covered the Carter White House, as I recall.

BARNES: I did.

HUME: What about this? And in the end, does it matter that he says things like this?

BARNES: Well, in the end it doesn't matter, but you know, he's become a bitter, unhappy ex-president. And you know, Ronald Reagan's diaries have just come out. Reagan found that he couldn't warm up at all to Jimmy Carter. He'd beaten Jimmy Carter in 1980, of course, by 10 percentage points and just did not find much to like their. He found that there were a couple of awards to, posthumous to -- one to maybe John F. Kennedy, maybe it was two, and another to Hubert Humphrey, that had actually been enacted or issued during the Carter administration; Carter didn't award them to the families and Reagan had to do it. I think he's a bitter guy.

HUME: Why? He's regarded by many -- many, not all, but he's regarded by many as having had this very successful post-presidency.

BARNES: Yeah, but that's the post-presidency. He's a failed president. Here's a guy who did not understand the Soviet threat, was shocked when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, the economy was in stagflation and worse during his administration. Things that Reagan dealt with easily, with tax cuts and deregulation and energy decontrolled, when he took over. I think he's just a bitter guy.

WILLIAMS: I do not think he's a bitter guy, but I think he's no historian, I mean makes -- I don't know how he gets to make this judgment, I guess he is a former president, and in that level, that's where you say he just does not like George W. Bush. He thinks that -- he's a guy who loved treaties, you know, SALT-2 and the like, and here's a guy, he says, this president goes out and violates all the environmental treaties, he's alienated much of the -- much of Europe and the Western world...

HUME: You're saying that or he's saying that?

WILLIAMS: That's what President Carter said. That's what he said in this interview. And I might say it's an interview that was supposed to be about his book on Sundays and plans or something, about religion. How this got going, I don't know, but I think he stepped it.

LIASSON: Well, he clearly tried to kind of revise his remarks, today. And you know, it's interesting Ex-presidents have a lot of choices on how they conduct themselves and Jimmy Carter has been very outspoken about a lot of things and he's gotten in trouble before for some of his comments. But then you've that Bush and Clinton who have become, you know, boon companions, practically.

HUME: You mean the first President Bush?

LIASSON: Ayah, the first President Bush -- who give commencement addresses together, and do charitable works together and it's quite a different model. Of course, you know, President Clinton has some long- range political plans that are still live and active and Jimmy Carter doesn't. But, you know, I think Carter clearly felt that he went too far with these remarks and tried to...

BARNES: Yeah he didn't -- but I think he believed them though. That's what he does think about Bush. Look, Carter's remarks were unprecedented. These are the harshest ones from him. They may be the harshest that an ex-president has aimed at.

HUME: At the sitting president.

BARNES: At a sitting president. And there used to be two things that former presidents didn't do, they didn't criticize their successors and they particularly didn't criticize them when they were overseas.

HUME: Well, he wasn't overseas.

BARNES: Well, he wasn't this time, but he has done that in the past.

HUME: All right, let's get a quick round with you all on the fact that Mitt Romney has made this dramatic upsurge in the polls in Iowa and now is leading by double digits over both McCain and Giuliani. Juan, what do you think? Do you think that's real? Do you think it's just a temporary blip? What you make of it?

WILLIAMS: It is a blip that's caused by advertising, he's the leader in terms of money, and he's had an extraordinarily intense round of advertising going in his favor.

LIASSON: Yeah, I do not think it is a blip, on the other hand, I don't think we should put a whole lot of stock in a poll that comes out at this point in the race, but one thing about Romney is he does have a plan.

HUME: We didn't put a whole lot of stock in it. It's last minute for this panel.


LIASSON: He has a plan, he's carrying out the plan, and there are an extraordinary number of Republican insiders who think that in the end he'll be the last on standing.

BARNES: And I am not one of those Republican insiders, who thinks he'll be the last man standing. Blip.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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