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Special Report Roundtable - May 23

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "The war on terror" is a slogan designed only for politics. It is not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you go so far to suggest that the global war on terror is a bumper sticker or slogan, it kind of makes the point that I've been making over and over again, that the Democrats, at least some of them are in denial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, there you have Rudy Giuliani seeing an opportunity to taking it. John Edwards seeing, I guess, what he thought was an opportunity. This on a day when President Bush in a speech at the Coast Guard academy had unveiled some previously classified information in which he said showed that Osama bin Laden had actually sent a message to or an emissary to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, tasking him to try to carry out some terrorist attacks against the United States outside of Iraq, establishing, presumably, that there was obviously a relationship between Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and the -- and Iraq.

Some analytical observations on this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and the syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well, what about this little dust-up here? What about what the president said and what Edwards said -- Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, what Edwards said, you can understand a critique of the term "the war on terror," and say it's not perhaps the most accurate. It ought to have been the war on radical Islam. But we know why the president chose "the war on terror," after 9/11 he didn't want to antagonize the Muslims around the world by using that phrase. So perhaps it's not the most accurate, but the underlying reality, whatever is the phrase that you're going to use is undeniable and for Edwards to...

HUME: You mean there is a war? Global war?

KRAUTHAMMER: There is a war against radical Islam that's out to get us. That's a fact, and to deny it or to minimize it and to mitigate it the way that Edwards appears to be doing is a complete sellout to the anti-war left.

I can understand a person arguing against the war in Iraq and saying perhaps it's irrelevant to the war on al Qaeda. I think that's wrong, but I can understand that argument. But the war on al Qaeda is real, it's all over the world. And the irony is that the president is the victim of his own success. Nobody expected that we would go six months or a year or two years without a second attack. People were saying oh, al Qaeda works on a two-year strike, on a three-year cycle, it doesn't work on a six-year cycle. It's out there. But the president has lulled particularly the left into a position in which it will believe this nonsense that the war is an exaggeration or a way to win political points.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: You know, I found this whole exchange rather confusing. If Edwards was saying there is no global war of terror, in other words there is no terrorist threat to us that would be completely out of line. But that's not what he's saying.

I think he was saying he doesn't like the way the president is waging war on terrorists. Which I don't think he denies is a threat here. Now, one thing about Rudy Giuliani, he takes any opportunity to remind people of his unique terrorist-fighting credentials, as the hero of 9/11. And he says John Edwards doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that they've been targeting us since the early '90s.

That's not what John Edwards said. He didn't say there isn't trying to hit us, he just doesn't like the way the president is fighting the war on terror. He didn't say we shouldn't be having a fight against terrorism. I think this was one of those debates where both parties were completely talking past each other.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, why would John Edwards be attacking the phrase "war on terror?" Of course it's a bumper sticker, it's shorthand, it's a way of -- in a few words, describe what you're doing, you're fighting a war against terrorists. Why would he, other than to appease the anti-war left, as Charles said, why would he make an issue over this? It seems there's only one reason and that's to pander to the anti-war left.

I wanted to add one thing, though, particularly Bush's speech today was very good, pointing out contact between Osama bin Laden and Zarqawi in Iraq. And we'd known earlier that the No. 2 to Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri, had had contact with Zarqawi as well. And obviously al Qaeda is incredibly active in Iraq, they're the ones doing the car bombings.

Now, that leads to one thing in particular, and that is what General Petraeus has been saying over and over again. How are these al Qaeda people getting to Iraq? They fly into Damascus, Syria, and come across the border and there they are and the car bombs have continued and these are al Qaeda.

Now, I think Bush has had some success, but he needs to do something about Syria. Talking to the Syrians isn't going to do any good. Nancy Pelosi certainly didn't talk them into anything. I can't understand to this day why the Bush administration allows this to continue. I mean, take out the Damascus airport, block the border, do something so the stream of al Qaeda terrorists doesn't continue to flow through the Damascus airport and Syria into Iraq and cause all this problem.

HUME: Up next on SPECIAL REPORT, another day raucous debate on the Senate floor over the immigration bill. The FOX all-stars will tell you what it all means. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: The people want to know that we are going to secure our borders. People instinctively understand that a country that cannot control its borders cannot long exist. And so they want that assurance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That is Trent Lott, who is trying to step into the breech on an immigration bill that is in some trouble and let me give you a sense of how much trouble it may be in the Senate.

This is the latest poll from the Rasmussen Reports poll, he takes very large samples on telephone -- automated telephone polls. Look at this. This is 48 percent oppose this bill or not sure about it, only 26 percent favor the bill. And if you break that down on party lines, you can see that the opposition is bipartisan, with Democrats slightly more against it than Republicans and Independence are, so it ends up being about half the people who identify themselves with one of those groups are against this bill. As we indicated in early polling, only a quarter of the people are for it.

Today, the Senate acted to cut the guest worker program in half, from 400,000 workers coming in here a year under that program, to 200,000. They took out a clause that would allow that number to grow automatically over time it would have to grow only by legislation, now. Where does this matter now stand in terms of its prospects -- Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it clearly -- when you get a public opinion poll that shows it has less support than the war in Iraq, you know it's got trouble. And, actually, for the president to add his on his plate when he's already reeling on the war in Iraq, very unpopular proposal is a form of political self-emulation. I'm sure is he sincere on this. I know he is. He has talked about it for decades. But this is a hell of a time to do it. And it's a hell of a bill.

The bill's problem is, as we saw in the earlier graphic, three quarters of Americans think that the crisis is the control of the border and only about a quarter or a third think there -- our crisis is the undocumented illegals.

HUME: That are here already.

KRAUTHAMMER: That are already here. And.

HUME: And that -- if people could be satisfied that the border situation had been rectified, as Trent Lott suggested, it might change the political climate.

KRAUTHAMMER: It would change everything. I'd support amnesty, whatever you want to call it, overnight if you could have the president tell us that we have reduced illegal immigration across the southern border by 80 or 90 percent, instead of bureaucratic triggers. And until you -- Americans believe that there's going to be control -- and this is the last cohort of illegals who will be legalized, there's going to be tremendous opposition and I don't...

HUME: And by bureaucratic triggers, you're talking about the fact that they've set these benchmarks that have to do with the number of border agents and other equipment and other devices that will be available to try to enforce it. It has to be results, not mechanisms?

KRAUTHAMMER: Right, it's all inputs, it's no outputs.

LIASSON: Look, there are many, many bills that have triggers that have outputs, where the president has to certify that immigration has dropped by some amount. I mean, you know, perhaps that will be an amendment. I think that would be a tougher trigger. I don't know if that would be adopted, but that certainly would be a tougher trigger. I don't know if it would go far enough to satisfy the opponents to this, Charles, because there are people who don't want any path to citizenship.

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: .bill than the one that actually passed the Senate last year.

LIASSON: That's why what I think is possible is that this thing, even though it's taking incoming fire from every possible direction, might still make it across the finish line.

BARNES: Yeah, of course it can make it across the finish line in the Senate, the House is (INAUDIBLE), that's a lot harder. But, Charles is exactly right. Look, what you need to do is have benchmarks that say where -- to show that you actually made progress in shutting down the border. It's not enough for the president just to certify its safe and that makes the trigger to move on to the other parts. You have to quantify it.

HUME: Measurable.

BARNES: Measurably. And that's why Charles is right. In fact, I've talked to some members of the Senate about this and I believe there will be an amendment that does exactly that.

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