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Special Report Roundtable - May 31

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


THOMPSON: .there's a desire for someone to come in and run a different kind of campaign and a different message and address some of the issues that our country is facing. It is a daunting challenge. It takes a while to get your team together and get up and running, but we're taking the steps necessary to put us there if we make that decision.


HUME: And as he also indicated, he took about the first half of this year off as a declared candidate and indeed isn't one yet, but he's running third in some polls. So, some thoughts on the potential candidacy of Fred Thompson now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and the syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Charles, a lot of conservatives are very excited about the possibility of a Fred Thompson candidacy. Should they be?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, right now, he's like the New York Yankees. On paper they beat everybody, but then they actually have to go out and play the game.

Now, on paper, he's got everything. He's an affable personality, he's easy on camera, easy to like. And in terms of his positions, he appeals to conservatives in a way that the top three candidates don't.

Giuliani has a problem with guns, gays, and abortion. McCain has a problem with immigration and he's intensely disliked because of the campaign regulation. And then Romney is OK on the major issues except two years ago he wasn't.

So, Thompson OK on all of this stuff. But his problem, I think, is that, you know, -- well, we heard him say we have to get a different message. I saw a line in the Daily Tennessean which says he's been trying out his messages and speeches. Well, Ronald Reagan did not try out his messages. He had his message, he knew his message, he believed in his message. He was a conviction politician. Thompson is not, it's not a critique, I mean, he was -- he was eight years a senator and you can't name a bill or an issue or an idea that he actually promoted. It's OK to have an affable, likable conservative who doesn't have a burning idea, but that's not a Ronald Reagan.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: I completely agree with that. Carl Cameron asked him during this interview, what would you say of your years in the Senate, what was your top accomplishment? And Fred Thompson said "leaving." And they laughed, of course, but that's pretty close to the truth. I mean.

HUME: He didn't really like the Senate.

KONDRACKE: Well, he didn't make much of a dent there. He did run for the office, he held it six years. His highest opportunity, greatest opportunity was to lead this investigation of the 1996 Clinton alleged campaign scandals involving payoffs from Chinese interests and stuff like that...

HUME: Well, it was contributions alleged to have come from the Chinese government sources.

KONDRACKE: OK, yeah. But, Thompson was flummoxed in that investigation by John Glenn, who was not notoriously brilliant in legislative maneuvering, but he managed to outfox Fred Thompson. So, you know, there's just a lot of questions here about what does the guy stand for? It's not -- just not enough to be none of the above.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, I agree with that and yet Fred Thompson is running the greatest noncampaign campaign I've ever seen. Here we are talking about him, Carl Cameron interviewing him, story about him on the front page of the New York Times.

HUME: Lead story of this newscast.

BARNES: We have a piece on him practically every issue of the Weekly Standard. I mean, this guy -- why announce? This guy is running a great non-campaign campaign.

Look, but what he is doing is this: He is raising tremendous expectations for him when he comes in. And I think it's going to be very hard to meet these expectations. He is, as Charles said, he is very likable. I've got three tests that's one of them. The second one is will he excite people. You know, most candidates don't excite people. And it's possible he will. And the third one is he interesting. And that's basically, does he have a different message? Does he have something to say? Is he -- I mean, what is there. I mean, he hasn't.

HUME: In other words at this point you see him as a blank canvas on which people are writing their own hopes

BARNES: No. Not necessarily a blank canvas, but I mean, here's a guy that needs to say something interesting. Ronald Reagan was interesting. This guy -- I mean, I haven't heard him -- if he's been saying wonderful and interesting things in his speeches around the country, word of that hasn't sifted back to me, anyway...

HUME: All right, let's ask this question quickly: A, will he get in, and, B, how likely it is he will win?

BARNES: Yes and I haven't the slightest idea.

KONDRACKE: I agree with that. I think he's got a fair chance to get the nomination.

KRAUTHAMMER: He's going in and I give him two to one odds.

HUME: Against or for? Two to one is against.

KRAUTHAMMER: In a field of four, it's not bad.

HUME: No, that's not bad.

All right, up next, a cause for celebration in Lebanon as the U.N. takes up the case of the country's murdered prime minister. This is a big deal, but why? We'll find out next.



ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: By adopting this resolution the council has demonstrated its commitment to the principle that there shall be no impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon or elsewhere. Those who killed Rafik Hariri and so many others will be brought to justice.


HUME: So the U.N. is now going to investigate the death of Rafik Hariri, who, as you heard Zalmay Khalilzad say, he's the former prime minister of Lebanon who was murdered, it is believed a murder instigated by Syria, last year. Now, the question is, you know, people are saying this is a big deal. Charles, is the U.N. doing this a big deal or not?


HUME: Why?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because of our commitment here. It's an important commitment, a dangerous one and it's late. It's late because of the democratic wave in Lebanon crested two years ago. The U.N. investigation started back then, Syria was very weak. The Syrians were tossed out of Lebanon, but in the intervening two years Syria has had a comeback. There's been a weakening of democracy in the area. We've been weakened in Iraq. Hezbollah has been strengthened in Lebanon. You've al Qaeda in the Palestinian camps. The government is under attack.

HUME: In Lebanon?

KRAUTHAMMER: In Lebanon. And this resolution is a way to have a trial of those who killed the opposition leader and a way of supporting the government. But the problem is the government is now a lot weaker. So, we are committing ourselves here, under article seven of the U.N. charter.

HUME: We, being the United States?

KRAUTHAMMER: We and France and others, essentially, the West. We're committing ourselves under article seven, which means including the use of the military. And the question is the Syrians are going to react to this because this trial will be about Syria. It'll be about a Assad, it's going to be a way to try to indict him.

And that's why Syria has resisted it. Syria is going to instigate more attacks and more terror and more Hezbollah threats. And ultimately it'll come to a question: will America and France defend this government militarily, if it comes to that? And that's the open question.

KONDRACKE: Well, look, I think this is the U.N. doing something right for a change and surprisingly the Russians and the Chinese did not veto. They could have vetoed this. And it is an article seven move which does involve the possibility of sanctions or, as Charles says, military intervention if that's necessary. The.

HUME: So, what is exactly going to happen now as a result.

KONDRACKE: There is going to be -- there are people in jail. (INAUDIBLE) for months, including some Lebanese generals and security agents of the Syrian government who are.

HUME: Well, who's going to put them on trial?

KONDRACKE: The United Nations is going to have a tribunal, that's going to be a -- and it's going to be an international trial with a lot of dignity and international standing. The Syrians hate the idea. They're going to be exposed. I think this is a -- it's a fabulous move. And if and when these people are convicted it will put the onus on Syria where it belongs.

And I think people like Nancy Pelosi will have to think twice about, you know, cozying up to the Syrians when they're finally convicted of having killed a leader of -- an opposition leader of a neighboring country.

BARNES: Well, she should have known better in the first place. I mean, the U.N. investigators had already concluded that the Syrian government was not only responsible for the Hariri killing, but those of 14 other anti-Syrian Lebanese who were scholars and journalists and politicians. And Syria has gotten away with those.

Syria has literally gotten away murder and more than murder. We know that Syria's funneling al Qaeda killers into Iraq and now they are doing it into Lebanon as well, funneling al Qaeda into there and they have gotten away with it. And I think they believe they are going to get away with it again with this tribunal, just by ignoring the tribunal, boycotting it. But the truth is that's not going to work.

We'll see how the western media covers this. I mean, this can be something of great importance. But it does need to have what's going on there telegraphed to the world, including Nancy Pelosi.

KRAUTHAMMER: But Brit, justice requires a trial, but also a police that is going to enforce the verdict and that's what's going to be at issue here. Syria is going to resist this, is going to try to instigate new attacks in Syria to destroy.

HUME: In Lebanon.

KRAUTHAMMER: I mean, sorry, in Lebanon -- and bring it down and ultimately destroy any effectiveness of this trial. And the issue for the United States and France is going -- are we going to stand up when those challenges are issued and when the terrorism increases and when the government, a coup against it, is going to be planned. And that's going to happen.



KRAUTHAMMER: There has been an ongoing attempt to try to -- Hezbollah has been demonstrating this al Qaeda connected terrorist group is waging war against the Lebanese army.

KRAUTHAMMER: This will increase it.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it will and, but so far the West is holding together behind Siniora's government.

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