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Special Report Roundtable - May 29

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time for a new beginning, for an end of the government of the few, by a few, and for the few. Time to reject the idea of an on-your-own society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity. I prefer a, we're- all-in-it-together society.

SEN BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan begins by covering every America. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less than what you're spending now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: So, it was Hillary Rodham Clinton on the economy today and her ideas for it. Barack Obama on the healthcare system, or at least the health insurance system, and his ideas for that.

Some thoughts on this and the race in general, from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Nina Easton, the Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

And a special welcome back to Mort.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Thank you.

HUME: Good to have you back, Mort.

Let's take a quick look at a couple of -- a poll today. This is from the American Research Group which did a national -- it was also polled in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. And what this poll shows that is that Hillary Clinton is leading everywhere. It's only a plurality, of course, then John Edwards is, apparently, second everywhere. With Barack Obama, who is thought -- and is thought by many to pose the greatest threat to Ms Clinton to Senator Clinton running third in these places. And Bill Richardson, as you can see, is -- constitutes the second tier of the top of it, anyway.

So, with all that in mind, what about these speeches? What do they tell us? What is the situation in the race appear to be -- Nina.

NINA EASTON, FORTUNE: Well, I think the most interesting thing about these speeches was the extent to which both candidates borrowed from the No. 2 candidate we saw there, John Edwards. In the case of Hillary Clinton there was almost a "to America: speech theme running throughout her remarks today. You know, the haves and the have-nots, the trickle-down hasn't occurred and how can we address that.

She even talks about unions. And she used almost the same language that John Edwards used with me in an interview about unions saving the middle class.

Then Barack Obama borrowed from Edwards on the healthcare plan. You know, the details are different, yes. But it involves both their healthcare plans are large government rolls that would be subsidized by business taxes and increasing taxes on individuals at the wealthy end. So, it's very -- to me it's like they're all joined at the hip on domestic policy, in particular, and so the race starts to become who do you like better, who you trust better, who do you believe?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, it's populism busting all over here with both Obama and Hillary blasting away at drug companies and.

HUME: There doesn't appear to be any new Democrats in this race, does there?

KONDRACKE: There are no new Democrats and they all want to increase taxes on the rich, back to the -- at least back to the Clinton levels and provide a lot of benefits.

Obama says that this is curious. He says that insurance premiums will come down and yet, he's going to eliminate the ability of insurance companies to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. So, if have a serious illness, you get coverage just like everybody else. Now, if that's the case, it's going to raise everyone's premiums. So, I don't know how he gets away with that. And needless to say, not one of them addressing healthcare problems has anything to say about medical malpractice claims, you know, trial lawyers and all of that, because they're part of the Democratic constituency.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, the worst thing is they don't have anything to say about using market forces which you need very much. You know, Hillary's speech was pure liberal boilerplate. You'd never think that the economy was in great shape over the last few years, particularly after the stock market bubble burst in her husband's administration leading to a recession early in the Bush administration and so on. And the effect the tax cuts have had.

I mean, when you see Hillary use words like "fairness," that means big tax hikes and I think that's what she has in mind.

Obama, I thought his speech was better. I thought he made a valued effort to healthcare reform without engaging in getting new free-market forces. And the family he talks about in the beginning is a family that buys their own -- individuals buying health insurance and it costs too much, they're going bankrupt, but he doesn't mention there is a simple solution. John Shadegg of Arizona has proposed this for years -- and that is to have a national market. This guy is in Iowa, he can only buy health insurance in Iowa. And I'm sure there are cheaper plans in other states, but he can't go there. That's a simple solution that might work, there. But mainly, look, you're not going to get any cost controls without competition and free market forces getting involved and they're not talking about those.

HUME: Next on the panel, one day after his historic talks with the U.S., Iran charges two Iranian-Americans at least held in that country with espionage. Just what's Iran up to? The FOX all-stars on that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS CASEY, STATE DEPT SPOKESMAN: These are individuals who are private citizens. They are not party to any of the policy disputes between the government of the United States and the government of Iran. It's absolutely absurd to think that they in any way, shape, or form pose a threat to the Iranian regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And yet these three Iranian-Americans -- and we will show you what they -- who they are and what they look like -- are charged with espionage or at least espionage-related crimes by the Iranian government as of today. This on, one day or so after the U.S. has engaged Iran in direct talks, subject was Iraq, of course, for the first time in decades. So, what does all of this say to us about, A, first of all, what about the -- what chances there are these people ever getting out of there and secondly, what about -- what we -- what can we do to get them out and secondly, what good did the talks do?

BARNES: They did not good. And what's even more true is, these are people, particularly Mrs. Esfandiari, who lives out here in Potomac, Maryland. She works for the Woodrow Wilson Center for Lee Hamilton. Lee Hamilton is probably the foremost American advocate of engaging the Iranians. Remember, he and Jim Baker wrote the Iran -- the Iraq Study Group before, advocating that. She has been one who's tried to have scholarly conferences with Iranian scholars and so on.

HUME: And she wanted to visit her mother.

BARNES: She's been visiting her mother for years. She had a visa to go in -- had an Iranian passport. She'd been there dozens of times to visit her 93-year-old mother. And suddenly they arrest her. Look, it shows you, for one, what the Iranians are like and it shows you two, how much they care about having engagement with those in -- Americans who want to talk to them.

KONDRACKE: Look, I think there are two things going on here. One is that we've been squeezing them on various fronts, economically and so on and so they're squeezing back using people with dual nationality. Secondly, I think that the regime over there is scared to death of individual contacts with Americans. It's a deeply unpopular regime. The United States is very popular, in fact, among ordinary Iranians and these people represent contacts for them. And the Iranians were afraid of a so- called velvet revolution, the way there was in Eastern Europe, that somehow might topple them. There're paranoid to begin with, so they're taking it out on these people. I don't know what we're going to do to get them back.

EASTON: And I suspect that Haleh Esfandiari's big crime was she wrote a book on women in Iran and how they are trying to live with dignity under this fundamentalist regime and trying, in some ways, to subvert it on a day-to-day basis as they live their lives. Nothing could be more threatening to this regime than women gaining rights and being part of society and being exposed as operating underneath -- underneath in a way that...

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: She may be charged with writing propaganda. She's charged with espionage. Which is a capital offense.

KONDRACKE: And it may be that what the Iranians may are doing is setting up a trade. They'll release these people in return for their so- called "diplomats" who are in fact terrorist agents of.

HUME: That were captured in Iraq.

KONDRACKE: Captured in Iraq.

BARNES: Her husband didn't believe that this was really serious when they first attained her, and kept everything quite. Didn't want to go public with this at all because he just assumed the Iranians would questioned her and then let her go. And now he's gone public, of course, and actually now -- particularly now that they've charged her with espionage. Look, these are not people who are interested in sitting down and having chats and maybe they'll change their mind that way.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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