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Sens. Lott, Feinstein on Immigration Bill

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. A key member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle is sentenced to death, next on "Fox News Sunday."

Today, two key senators go back at it over the tough issues facing Congress.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: ... that are about...


LOTT: OK. Sure, go ahead.


WALLACE: Immigration reform, the war in Iraq and the new controversy over talk radio.


LOTT: Horror of horrors.

FEINSTEIN: That's fine.

LOTT: My goodness.


WALLACE: With its approval rating at rock bottom, can Congress win back the support of the American people and get something done?

We'll ask Republican Senator Trent Lott and Democrat Dianne Feinstein in a "Fox News Sunday" rematch.

Then Michael Bloomberg engages in the big tease.




WALLACE: How would an independent campaign change the race for president? We'll poll our Sunday regulars, Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

And our Power Player of the Week. The iron man gets injured on his way to the hall of fame, all right now on "Fox News Sunday." And good morning again from Fox News in Washington. Let's get a quick check of the latest headlines. Saddam Hussein's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, was sentenced to death by hanging today for his role in the slaughter of more than 180,000 Kurds.

Two other Saddam advisors were also sentenced to death.

Meanwhile, insurgents continue to target U.S. troops who are part of surge operations around Baghdad. This weekend seven soldiers have been killed by roadside bombs, raising the American death toll this week to at least 30.

And from Iran, a warning that any new sanctions by the U.N. against Tehran's nuclear program could derail ongoing talks to halt the program.

Well, joining us now, two key senators, the number two Republican, Trent Lott, and one of the Democratic leaders, Dianne Feinstein.

And, Senators, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.

LOTT: Glad to be back, Chris.

WALLACE: Let's start with the controversy over talk radio, because, Senator Lott, you stirred up quite a hornet's nest this week when you said this, "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."

And here was the reaction from some conservative talk show hosts.


RUSH LIMBAUGH: Talk radio is the American voter. That's what bothers Trent Lott.



MICHAEL SAVAGE: Trent Lott saying today that talk radio is running America and we have to deal with that problem is gangsterism.


WALLACE: Senator, your response?

LOTT: Dianne and I were just talking about that. One of the mistakes that we have made many times on legislation is it's introduced, it comes out of committee, we bring it to the floor. We never bother to explain what we're trying to do and what is in it.

I think that was the mistake that was made with immigration. Talk radio defined it without us explaining that there were reasons for it and the good things that were in it.

So the onus is not on them, it's on us to do a better job of communicating what we're trying to do.

And I just want to make -- you know, look, I've been defended by talk radio many times and I will support their right to tell their side of the story, right, left or the middle, forever.

I don't think this fairness doctrine that would try to require that there be X amount on both sides is fair. So you know, it's caused quite a stir, but, you know, it goes with the territory.

WALLACE: But, Senator, I'm not going to let you off the hook quite that easily. Take a look at this. You said this also last week. "I'm sure senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk radio people who don't even know what's in the bill."

Now, I talked to some of the talk radio people, and they say you make it sound like they're leading around their listeners like a bunch of sheep. They say look, they know what's in the bill, their listeners know what's in the bill, and they don't like it.

LOTT: Well, let me tell you why I said that. As a matter of fact, I do talk radio in my own state in particular, but others, and I'm sure Dianne does, too.

I was doing one interview, and the talk radio host said, to his credit, "What are you trying to do here?" And I explained that we were trying to improve a bad situation. And that's a summation of it.

Then he said, "Well, tell me four things in this bill that you think are significantly better than the current law." So I ticked them off. He said, "That's in there?" I said, "Yeah."

See, that's the point. It's not that they're maliciously trying to, you know, distort it. And this is a complicated bill with a lot of moving parts. Some of it I don't like.

You know, I'm not committed to voting for the final product. The wheels may come off. But I am committed to trying. That's what the United States Senate should be trying to do...

WALLACE: All right. Let me...

LOTT: ... address a problem.

WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Feinstein.

Oklahoma Senator Inhofe says that he overheard Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton three years ago complaining about talk radio and saying that there should be a legislative fix. Both of them deny it ever happened.

But let me ask you about yourself. Do you have a problem with talk radio, and would you consider reviving the fairness doctrine, which would require broadcasters to put on opposing points of view? FEINSTEIN: Well, in my view, talk radio tends to be one-sided. It also tends to be dwelling in hyperbole. It's explosive. It pushes people to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information.

This is a very complicated bill. It's seven titles. Most people don't know what's in this bill. Therefore, to just have one or two things dramatized and taken out of context, such as the word amnesty -- we have a silent amnesty right now, but nobody goes into that. Nobody goes into the flaws of our broken system.

This bill fixes those flaws. Do I think there should be an opportunity on talk radio to present that point of view? Yes, I do, particularly about the critical issues of the day.

WALLACE: So would you revive the fairness doctrine?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm looking at it, as a matter of fact, Chris, because I think there ought to be an opportunity to present the other side. And unfortunately, talk radio is overwhelmingly one way.

WALLACE: But the argument would be it's the marketplace, and if liberals want to put on their own talk radio, they can put it on. At this point, they don't seem to be able to find much of a market.

FEINSTEIN: Well, apparently, there have been problems. It is growing. But I do believe in fairness. I remember when there was a fairness doctrine, and I think there was much more serious correct reporting to people.

WALLACE: Let me move on to the underlying issue, which is immigration.

Senator Feinstein, Democrats are going to bring back immigration reform this next week. Where does it stand now, and what are the chances that you're actually going to pass something?

FEINSTEIN: Right, right. Tuesday there will be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. It will ripen on Thursday. We'll see if between the two parties we have 60 votes.

Both Senator Lott and I are on the same side with respect to this. And I'm hopeful that we will.

Let me point something out that's a little different this time. There will be mandatory spending, $4.4 billion up front, to do the following before anything else happens -- that's about 600 miles to 700 miles of border fence and vehicle obstructions, UAVs, employer verification, no more catch and release.

There has to be detention of people coming across the border. So there will be border enforcement, 3,500 additional border patrol, before any other part of the bill goes into place. People don't understand that.

WALLACE: Senator Lott, a group called NumbersUSA is running an ad in Mississippi that attacks your support for the bill. Let's watch.


ANNOUNCER: Why is Senator Trent Lott selling out Mississippi in favor of illegal aliens? He's joined with Ted Kennedy in strong- arming senators to support amnesty for millions of illegals.


WALLACE: And, Senator Lott, if you think that's bad, I want to show you this quote. "Since the security of our border is where there is the most agreement, we should tackle border security first, then work out a tightly constructed temporary worker program, no amnesty and no expedited citizenship."

And if you wonder who said that, it was you...

LOTT: It sounded like a good quote to me.

WALLACE: ... in your weekly column on June 1st, 2006. Weren't you saying then exactly what your critics are saying now?

LOTT: Look, I agree with a lot of what they're saying, and so does Dianne. I do think we need to secure the border. And when people say, "Well, you haven't had the law enforced all these years," no.

Going back to the '80s, beginning with President Ronald Reagan, our presidents and our administrations, Democratic and Republican, have not, in my opinion, sufficiently enforced the law.

That's why a lot of what is in this, you know, changes the law and puts mandates in there to actually do what they say. Yes, we should secure the border first, but there's more to it than that.

We do have people here in the country. We don't even really know who they are. There are no requirements as to how we're going to deal with them in the future. We need to do that. They are going to come in here and look for jobs.

Look, there's a powerful force involved here. It's called freedom and opportunity for economic advancement. We need to harness that. We need to make sure we know who these people are, where they're going, that there's a job for them, that they are not treated like animals, and that they have to go back to their homes of origin.

I really haven't changed. But I am trying to get a result here. Look, the people in -- I have been in Congress for 35 years representing the people of Mississippi.

They know that I would not consciously do anything that would hurt my state, but also I want to do the right thing for my country. And I do think they are compatible in this instance.

WALLACE: This all brings up a bigger question, and take a look at these numbers from the latest Gallup poll. Only 24 percent of Americans now approve of the job that Congress is doing, while 71 percent disapprove.

And look at this. Just 14 percent now have confidence in Congress. That's an all-time low for the Gallup poll.

Senator Feinstein, why is Congress sinking like a stone, especially, I've got to tell you, in the last few months, among Democrats?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'll tell you, that reason, in my view, is Iraq. Most Democrats want us out of Iraq. Virtually every Democratic candidate running for president says the first thing they will do is get us out of Iraq.

When we took over the House, took over the Senate, although the Senate is just a bare majority, I think people had the expectation, not knowing the rules of the Senate, "Wow, we would be able to move this country out of Iraq." Well, the Senate works very differently.

You need 60 votes for virtually anything that's controversial, and so it's not that easy to obtain the goal. I think people don't understand this. I think people think we wanted it done now. It hasn't been done now.

Health care is another area where people have wanted reform. Many of us believe we may well have to change presidents before some of the major areas that people find they want reform is actually achieved.

WALLACE: Senator Lott, why do you think Congress has fallen into such disfavor? And to be honest, haven't Republicans contributed to this by trying to play obstructionist on almost every issue?

LOTT: There's no question that Iraq is, you know, a big part of the problem. I do think that how we deal with immigration reform is a part of the problem.

But over the last three years, Republican and Democrat Congresses quit acting. We quit producing results. We couldn't find a way to come together on anything, on energy, on health care.

And when the new Congress came in, the House of Representatives under Speaker Pelosi thought, "Well, we'll just pass our agenda and ram it right through." That's not the way it works in the Senate. That's not the way it works in Congress.

Nobody has the trump hand. I'm working on a bill now involving aviation reform. And I tell everybody, "Look, let's quit arguing over what we disagree on. Let's see what we can agree on that will be positive."

So the Democratic Congress has not produced their agenda, and yet right in the middle of things like energy and immigration, we have a no- confidence vote, which is non-binding, meaningless, on Gonzales, would have no effect.

This week, right in the middle between energy and immigration, we're going to have a vote on union card check. Not only is it not going to happen, you know, it agitates Republicans, and it just makes it more difficult for us to come together and produce a result.

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid...

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein? Wait, let me...

FEINSTEIN: Let me...

WALLACE: Let me bring Senator...

LOTT: ... are going to have to come up with...

FEINSTEIN: Let me just...

LOTT: ... a different agenda.

FEINSTEIN: Let me just respond to that. I think if you look at the actual record of the time the Democrats have been in power, you will see substantial things have happened.

You will see major ethics legislation that's in the process of being passed. You will see the minimum wage that was passed and into law.

You will see a major energy bill that we just passed out of the Senate this past week that will be going to the House. I think the record is replete with accomplishments.

I think one of the things -- Trent's making notes. I think one of the things that is difficult to do is bring that case across to the American people.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you, because the fact is you can say this, but the American people don't believe it.

There does seem to be tremendous frustration with both parties, which brings us to this issue of Michael Bloomberg, who announced this week that he's leaving the Republican Party and might, might just run for president.

Does that indicate a frustration with the two-party system? And how seriously should we take a Bloomberg candidacy?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, yes, it does. I think people are fed up with partisanship. And I think back here everything drives the bodies into intense partisanship. That's got to stop.

Many of us have tried to stop it. Many of us have tried to work bipartisanly, work across party lines, develop legislation that is bipartisan.

WALLACE: Do you think Bloomberg has a serious chance?

FEINSTEIN: The immigration bill is a bipartisan bill. You've got both sides coming together. There's a lot that Trent doesn't like in this bill. There's a lot I don't like in the bill. But it fixes a broken system.

Don't smile like that.


Therefore, we're both prepared to say we're going to support it, we're going to work together, and we're going to see that the votes are there.

WALLACE: Senator Lott, she wouldn't answer the question about Michael Bloomberg. Will you?

LOTT: What do you want me to answer?

WALLACE: Does he stand a serious chance?

LOTT: I don't think he'll run. If he does, he'll go the way of that great American, Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party and Ross Perot and others. I just don't see that's in the cards.

I want to comment on the energy bill. Now, there's a case where, clearly, we need to do something, and it needs to be broad-based and bipartisan.

Yet the bill we came up with, while it had some good features, and we worked together on some of them like the CAFE or mile standards for automobiles, it's about a one-third bill.

It's not about that -- energy should be about more production of everything, not just conservation and alternatives -- the whole package, and we...

WALLACE: All right. No, Senator, we've got to take a quick break here. We're going to bring you right back.

And when we come back, we'll also talk about a new controversy involving Vice President Cheney. Stay with us and the battling senators.


WALLACE: And we're back now with Senators Trent Lott and Dianne Feinstein, who have been talking non-stop throughout the entire commercial.

We found out this week that Vice President Cheney is refusing to comply with an executive order about classified information because he claims that as vice president and also as president of the Senate, he's not just in the executive branch.

Senator Lott, is this the kind of fight the White House needs at this point?

LOTT: Oh, I don't know that they need it, but I'm sure that the vice president and the president are willing to take it on.

Remember, Vice President Dick Cheney served in the House, was secretary of defense, and has been in administrations. He's been at the White House.

And he does feel that, you know, there are certain prerogatives the executive branch should have and should protect, and that Congress has over the years gotten out of control, Republican and Democrat, in probing and trying to get information or testimony, sometimes from the White House officials themselves they really don't, you know, deserve under the law.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, some Democrats are suggesting to hold up funding for the executive operations budget for the vice president's office until he decides whether or not he's in the executive branch or the legislative branch.

FEINSTEIN: Well, that might not be a bad idea. Let me give you my view of this, and I differ 100 percent with Trent.

In my view, this is the height of arrogance. "I, the vice president, don't have to abide by any law, any act of Congress or any executive order, particularly," and I serve on the intelligence committee and have for a long time, "the laws as it relates to intelligence."

And I find this just amazing. Not only do you have all these signing statements where the president will say, "I will carry out this part of a law passed by Congress...

LOTT: I'd like to say I don't like those statements.

FEINSTEIN: "... but I won't carry out..."

LOTT: I agree with you. I don't like those.

FEINSTEIN: "... that part of a law," more than has ever been done by any president in history.

You now have a vice president saying, on something as controversial as intelligence, where we know prior to the war he made a number of trips to the CIA, a substantial number, saying, "I will not adhere to the rules that are set up by the executive branch over the handling of intelligence."

I think it's the height of arrogance.

LOTT: You know, going back to Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Jackson, there were conflicts between the Congress and the executive branch, and they were ultimately, in many cases, resolved by the third branch of government. Let the courts decide if there's something wrong here.

WALLACE: Do you really think that's unreasonable, Senator, to say that the vice president is part of the executive branch?

LOTT: No, I think he is a part of the executive branch.

WALLACE: Well, he doesn't.

FEINSTEIN: He's saying because he's president of the Senate...

WALLACE: Right. FEINSTEIN: ... which is sort of a super numerary position, although it's in the law -- he's using that as a dodge so that he doesn't have to comply.

LOTT: Look. There are certain conversations in the executive branch that they have with their staff and with the executive branch itself which they shouldn't have to, necessarily, turn over to the Congress, which likes to, you know, dig into these things. It's good media.

WALLACE: Well, actually, this isn't to turn over to Congress.

FEINSTEIN: This isn't turning over to the Congress.

WALLACE: This is to turn over to the National Archives.

FEINSTEIN: That's right.

WALLACE: But let's turn to Iraq, if we can...

LOTT: All right.

WALLACE: ... because the next big event is the progress report that General Petraeus is going to deliver to the president and to Congress in September about the status of the war.

And here's what he said on "Fox News Sunday" last week.


WALLACE: But you certainly don't think the job would be done by the surge by September, do you, sir?

MAJ. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: I do not, no. I think that we have a lot of heavy lifting to do.


WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, are you prepared to ignore the general if he comes back in September and says we need more time and renew your legislative request to cut off almost all funding by next March?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'd never ignore anything that General Petraeus would have to say. There are four reports that are going to be due beginning July 15th, four reports that will comment on readiness as well as on the state of the benchmarks.

The Democrats -- we will try to add something to the defense authorization bill, probably along the lines of having troops out by April, by the end of April. Whether we'll be successful or not is always difficult to predict, but we intend...

WALLACE: But you're saying that regardless of what...

FEINSTEIN: ... to continue. WALLACE: ... General Petraeus is...

FEINSTEIN: I would say this. The death rate of our people has tripled between May and the early part of this year. The surge is in place. It looks like still there are not enough people.

We see no signs of the benchmarks being carried out. Ergo, the question comes, "How long should Americans be in the middle of what is essentially a civil war?"

I think September becomes an important month, because in addition to the four reports, you will have the assessment of General Petraeus, which most likely will say the situation is mixed.

Now, is a mixed situation such that the Congress is going to lie down and stay quiet? I don't think so. I hear even from some Republicans, "Well, September is an important month. We may well change. We know that this can't go on forever," in September.

WALLACE: Well, Senator Lott, let me ask you about that, because you and your Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, have both talked about a new strategy in the fall if Petraeus comes in and seems to indicate they're going to need more time for the surge, some months, possibly even into early 2008. Who's going to give?

LOTT: You know, war does not fit a confined description. It is a changing situation. You have to look at what's going on and make decisions at that point of where you want to be in the future.

Look, the Senate confirmed General Petraeus unanimously. We said, "We believe -- we trust you," and then he was given an assignment.

The last of the troops, 30,000 that came in for the surge, just got there in the last two weeks. Let's at least give him and our men and women that are fighting a very important war there and, you know, putting their lives on the line every day -- let's at least give them a chance, and see how it goes, and get a report as to how things are going come September.

At that point, we can make decisions about how we want to proceed in the future. I do think status quo is not acceptable. I do think the Iraqi government has got to do a better job in running their government, and trying to be more inclusive and deal with problems like oil revenue, obviously, but also the -- how they deal with the former Baathists.

So this is an evolutionary thing. But the worst thing we can do is to say...

WALLACE: Senator, let me ask you something.

LOTT: ... on a date certain...

WALLACE: If you are about where you are right now, you haven't seen some tremendous change, and it looks unlikely in the political situation, what do you do in September? You say the status quo is not acceptable.

LOTT: Well, you used the word tremendous. I think it will depend on the circumstances. Let's wait and see what happens.

It does look like they're making some progress in Baghdad. They are sweeping down the Tigris. Violence has probably ticked up in other areas. That's what happens in war.

Even in battles, the circumstances change, and you have to be prepared to change with it.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, where do things stand on Attorney General Gonzales and the subpoena of those two former White House officials?

Is Gonzales going anywhere? And what about the subpoenas of Harriet Miers and Sarah Taylor?

FEINSTEIN: Well, clearly, it's a deteriorating situation. You've now had five people on the top level essentially resigning.

I think the Department of Justice has never enjoyed a lower credibility, certainly in the Judiciary Committee of the Senate and, I think, among the American people.

My own view is that the only thing that can change this deterioration is some new leadership. Yes, I believe the subpoenas will be issued. Clearly, the chairman of the committee, Senator Leahy, will try to negotiate a solution with the administration.

But I think the administration ought to understand that what happened with the U.S. attorneys was really sold to us on false premises. It was sold to us on the basis that these were poor performers. It turns out they were excellent performers, but there were other reasons, and the reasons were political.

Do we want a Department of Justice to function on the basis of political decision-making in cases brought to court by powerful United States attorneys, or do we want a Department of Justice that is for the law only? So I think...

WALLACE: Senator, wait, let me bring Senator Lott, because we're running out of time here. We've got about a minute left.

I mean, Senator Feinstein is right. Regardless of what you think about the firing of the U.S. attorneys, a half dozen top officials have left justice since this whole controversy began.

Are you satisfied with the way the department is running?

LOTT: No, not really. But then, you know, I don't -- if you talk about the Justice Department being at a low ebb, it has been consistently low ebb with me for, you know, 30-something years. So what's new?

But also, you know, the very idea -- U.S. attorneys are going to be removed because, what, I mean, politics? Hey, by the way, how did they get their jobs? Some of them were not enforcing law or not following instructions to pursue matters that needed to be investigated.

This is all about politics. This is about trying to score "gotcha" points, and that's what we're masters at in this city. Who would want to stay at the Justice Department and take the pounding that these good men and women have had to put up with?

WALLACE: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Senate -- and let's put the video on the screen. The Senate had Seersucker Suit Week this week with a bunch of you decked out.

Senator Lott -- I understand you can't really see it there -- that you were wearing pink socks along with your suit. I must tell you, you're a very secure man.

LOTT: It was the first day of summer, and as Dianne and I have noted many times, we need a little more bipartisanship. We need to loosen up and lighten up. And those outfits are certainly lighter.

Right, Dianne?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, they are.

LOTT: And Dianne, by the way, is the one that made sure that the women were involved in this, too.

FEINSTEIN: That's right.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, a good fashion statement?

FEINSTEIN: Well, it's exactly as Trent says. It's just an opportunity -- everything we do is serious. We never have a chance to laugh at each other. And this was a good opportunity.

And you know, I thought Trent looked great. So we enjoyed it.


WALLACE: Thank you both, Senator Feinstein, Senator Lott. Thanks for coming in today, taking all our questions. Please come back, both of you.

LOTT: Thank you.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.

WALLACE: Up next, our Sunday regulars on what happens to the presidential race if New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decides to run as an independent. Stay tuned.



BLOOMBERG: We do not have to accept the tired debate between the left and the right, between Democrats and Republicans, between Congress and the White House.


WALLACE: That was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announcing he's leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, and starting a wave of speculation about whether he'll run for president.

And it's time now for our Sunday group, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, and Fox News contributors Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.

So, Michael Bloomberg. Brit, what do you make of this trial balloon that he has sent up? And if he runs, does he stand a chance?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: I love his message there -- we don't have to have a -- accept this debate between the left and the right, between Congress and the -- what does he think our constitutional system was designed for anyway?

But whatever you think of that, and I thought it was a ludicrous remark, this is a man who has the standing politically and the dough to basically nominate himself.

Everybody's -- you know, we've got this wide open struggle in the two parties, and he can wait around and wait around, and if the political opportunity seems to be there, he can walk in and, if he's willing to spend the significant chunk of money, make himself a viable candidate.

Now, how well he'll wear, whether he can win -- that's all way too early to tell that. But I think he can certainly become a candidate and become a factor in the race.

MARA LIASSON, NPR: Well, he said something on Friday that I totally agree with. He said, "I'm not going to be president." I think that's true. He might run for president, and he might have a lot to do with who becomes president, but he's not going to become president, and I think he understands that.

Look, throughout history, third party candidates, from Strom Thurmond to George Wallace to Ross Perot, have prospered if they have an issue that they're pushing that neither of the other parties are paying attention to. I mean, Ross Perot did it with the deficit in 1992.

I don't see, other than, quote, competence or non-partisanship, what Michael Bloomberg -- what void he actually fills.

Now, he also has said, and I think this is correct, that he's not going to make a decision till he sees who the two parties nominate. And I think that's really significant.

I mean, he's going to see if there's a void that he can fill. And right now, I don't see what it is.

WALLACE: Bill, all most of us know about Bloomberg is that he's a billionaire who's been a reasonably successful mayor of New York City.

Any insight at all into whether he could conceivably be president of the United States?

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, he could be. If he wants to be president, he should run in the Democratic primary, because he basically has conventional, moderate, liberal Democratic views and, I think, would be a pretty strong candidate as a Democrat.

But I don't see any room for him as an independent. I don't think he'll run. He's an intelligent man. He knows he's not going to win. He would split the Democratic vote and elect a Republican, I think.

WALLACE: So what is he up to here?

KRISTOL: He's getting a lot of good publicity. He's increasing, I guess, his national stature. Lightning could strike, I suppose, but I don't think he's going to run.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: You know, actually, the numbers show that more Republicans are open to Bloomberg than Democrats right now, that Democrats -- Republicans are the ones who are, I think, moving away from President Bush, moving away from that hard line political stand and thinking about, "Well, look at Bloomberg."

Now, I was with Bloomberg this week when he was at what they call a cease-fire conference out there with Governor Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles, and he gave us a little talk in a garden of the Getty House, the mayor's residence.

And he said, "You know what, pragmatism is the order of the day. Things aren't working in America. Look at the immigration debate in Washington. It just get paralyzed. You've got all these loud voices, talk radio, and suddenly nothing gets done." And I think there is an appeal for that. I think the center that everybody's after in American politics feels at times that it's not being well served by the extremist politics on the left or the right.

WALLACE: Were you impressed with him?

WILLIAMS: He is an impressive guy. He's not charismatic by any means, talks a little too much. But I think that he's the kind of guy you say, "You know what, he's done well in private industry." He's 70 percent -- he's more powerful in New York than Rudy Giuliani is in New York. And you say, "You know what? This is an impressive individual."

WALLACE: Let's talk, Brit, about something that Mara brought up. The biggest impact that independent candidates have historically had in presidential races is their effect on the two major party candidates.

You look back at Ross Perot, who may well have cost George H.W. Bush the election in 1992; Ralph Nader, who almost certainly cost Al Gore the election in 2000.

We've already heard a little bit of disagreement here. Who do you think, if Bloomberg were to get in, he would help or hurt more, the Democrat or the Republican?

HUME: Well, I think Bill's right. His views are really conventional Democratic views. He was, after all, a Democrat until he decided he need to be a Republican for the purposes of running for mayor of New York.

I think he basically is a Democrat. I think he basically would affect Democratic voters more, or at least take more votes from the Democratic candidate.

I guess his appeal, if there were any, would be among independents who might tend toward the Democratic Party. That's sort of, I think, where he would line up. So I think that would be the way it played out.

LIASSON: Certainly, the list of candidates as they exist right now on either side suggests that.

I think the idea of a Bloomberg is if you have some kind of very conservative social issue Republican running, he could conceivably peel off moderate votes from that candidate.

But right now, when you look at the list of Republicans, none of them fit that traditional profile. So that's why I think, you know, he's going to wait and see.

If it's Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, he's not going to run. I mean, it really depends on who the other two candidates are.

KRISTOL: Why are we even talking about Michael Bloomberg? Because he's rich. That's the only...

LIASSON: Absolutely.

KRISTOL: Right. What does that say about our campaign finance laws, incidentally? That's the disgrace here, is that Michael Bloomberg -- and he should be free to run if he wants to spend his own money.

But why can't a retired general, or a cleric, or a retired politician, or someone who's devoted his life to public service and hasn't made $5 billion be able to run for president and get financing from someone like Michael Bloomberg?

I mean, I really think this highlights our crazy our campaign finance laws are. We listened to Trent Lott and Dianne Feinstein praise bipartisanship for 20 minutes here in your excellent interview of them.

Our campaign finance laws are a product of wonderful bipartisanship -- McCain-Feingold -- and before that, in the early '70s, a bipartisan effort to overhaul our campaign finance.

What Bloomberg's candidacy tells me is we need to fix our campaign finance laws and resist all this talk about bipartisanship.

WILLIAMS: What are you suggesting?

KRISTOL: I'm suggesting...

WILLIAMS: Maybe we should have public financing of campaigns. We do away with rich people throwing in. Obviously, the Supreme Court disagrees and says it's a freedom of speech issue.

HUME: I love it. Bill Kristol comes out for campaign finance reform.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, really.

KRISTOL: I am for -- rich people should be able

LIASSON: If he wants to have soft money, he should be in...

KRISTOL: Well, a retired general who spent 35 years serving the country can't run for president, and Michael Bloomberg can. Is that a sensible system?

LIASSON: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Colin Powell...

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. Michael Bloomberg has a record.

LIASSON: Excuse me. Colin Powell was somebody who could have run for president.

KRISTOL: And why did he -- one reason he chose not to is that he had to go around raising money in $2,300 increments, which -- Michael Bloomberg doesn't have to.

Why can't Michael Bloomberg -- why shouldn't he be able to give $10 million to someone? They could fully disclose...

WALLACE: So we need those suitcases filled with cash again?

KRISTOL: ... fully disclosed, transparency, campaign finance reform. That's my lesson from the Bloomberg boomlet.

WALLACE: Let me ask you all, though, something, sort of the bigger point here, which is if you believe the polls, according to the latest Gallup poll, I think it is, people believe we're on the wrong track in this country by a margin of 3-1.

As we pointed out with Senator Lott and Senator Feinstein, Congress is at historic lows in terms of public confidence. Is that part of the reason we're also talking about Michael Bloomberg...

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

WALLACE: ... because people are so fed up and feel, as we talked about a week or so ago, that we can't solve any problems?


WILLIAMS: It's pragmatism. It's all about pragmatism. And people say -- that's why -- why is Congress unpopular? Because they haven't stopped the war. Why is the president unpopular? Because of the war.

But then you go beyond that to issues like the deficit spending, you talk about immigration, you talk about health care. Here's Michael Bloomberg saying, "I know how to solve problems." And a lot of people say, "You know what? We could use a problem solver in America today."

LIASSON: I disagree with that.


LIASSON: I think right now, the bases of the parties are pretty happy with their parties. In other words, I don't see huge numbers of -- you know, like we had with Reagan Democrats willing to kind of en masse leave the Democratic Party. I don't see that.

I see a Democratic Party that's very confident, resurgent. I don't think Republicans have en masse deserted their party either.

HUME: You talk about how the system is supposed to be, and we're going to have a -- we have no incumbent or heir apparent in either party. You have a tremendous selection of candidates. You have them out there campaigning.

The political system is more vibrant than I've seen it in a long time. Some nominees are going to get -- the nominees are going to get chosen in both parties, and there's going to be a huge debate on all these issues. We've had a whole bunch of them already.

This system is doing just fine. Take a step back. It looks fine from that perspective.

WALLACE: And from the standpoint of a Sunday talk show host, the more the merrier. All right.

We need to take a quick break here, but up next, is Vice President Cheney a member of the executive branch or not? Our panel tries to sort that out when we come back.


WALLACE: On this day in 1970, the Senate voted to repeal the Tonkin Gulf resolution to limit presidential war powers. Lyndon Johnson had used the resolution to increase U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war.

Stay tuned for more from our panel and our Power Player of the Week.



DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The vice president has a unique role in our United States government. He is not only the vice president of the United States, but in that role he is also president of the Senate.


WALLACE: That was White House spokeswoman Dana Perino not only giving a civics lesson but also explaining why Dick Cheney is ignoring an executive order on the handling of classified material.

WALLACE: And we're back with Brit, Mara, Bill and Juan.

Well, it turns out that back in the '90s, Bill Clinton issued an executive order, and President Bush renewed it, that all executive offices must report to the National Archives on how they handle classified information.

But after complying with the order for the first two years as vice president, Vice President Cheney has -- since, I think, 2003, has declined to comply with this order because he says he's not only in the executive branch, but as president of the Senate he's also a member of the legislative branch.

Brit, what's going on here?

HUME: Well, that's a dumb explanation, to put it bluntly. The president has the -- this all has the force of law because of an executive order issued by the president, who is perfectly free at any time to modify it any way he so chooses.

It appears that he has given some sort of a de facto modification of this, excluding himself and the vice president from it, but there's nothing on paper about that, so far as we know, and so it looks -- it appears, therefore, to be a violation by Cheney of this executive order.

It's easily remedied, saying it's because he has the constitutional duty to be the president of the Senate is, I think, not a good explanation.

LIASSON: Yeah, and it gave Rahm Emmanuel the perfect opportunity to say, "OK, if that's the case, then we'll just remove him from the appropriations bill which we're just about to consider to fund the executive branch." You know, "We will no longer fund the office of the vice president."

Look, I think it doesn't make any sense. I mean, if this executive order was not meant to include him and the president, then the president should say so or maybe put it in writing.

But look. This is just part of the ongoing battle between Congress and the executive over how much power the executive should have. And we know that Dick Cheney is a strong proponent for greater executive power.

WALLACE: And I think Senator Lott didn't maybe quite understand what was going on here. This isn't like they're turning over this information to Congress.

This is an order to the National Archives, and it's basically a bookkeeping function. We'll understand how much classified information has come into an office, how much has come out. The National Security Council in the White House falls under this, a number of other executive agencies fall under this.

Al Gore complied with this when he was vice president. So did Dick Cheney for the first two years. Why on earth would they make a fight over this, Bill?

KRISTOL: Well, they like to fight to preserve the prerogatives of the White House, and it is a pain in the neck having some bureaucrat from the archives come and inspect your safe to see whether you're locking it up properly each night.

I remember that when I was the vice president's chief of staff, and I complied. But if the president wants to exempt his own office and the vice president's office from that, that's reasonable enough.

There's no reason the archivists have to come investigate the security procedures in the vice president's office.

WILLIAMS: Maybe they have a reason because he stopped complying with the law.

KRISTOL: There's no law. There's an executive order.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it's an executive order.

KRISTOL: It's an executive order which the president understands to have exempted his own office and the vice president's office.

WILLIAMS: The president has not written anything about this, as Brit has said. He didn't amend the law. And so what you have is not only is it that there's classified documents -- we don't know where they go, what happens to them -- e-mails disappear in this White House.

And you say, "Well, what happened to the e-mails." "Oh, no, we have a private account." This is all a dodge. This is a game, in order to, I guess, keep Dick Cheney in some kind of secured undisclosed bunker of his mind so that he can't let the American people know what's going on with there government and how decisions are made.

KRISTOL: There's been zero...

WILLIAMS: He won't tell people who's visiting his house, who's visiting his office. Scooter Libby is letting people know who works for the CIA. This is ridiculous.

WALLACE: Let me ask a bigger question.

HUME: I think that's one of the more compelling indictments I've ever heard. Well done, Juan. WALLACE: Let me ask a bigger question here, Brit. I mean, clearly, when he came into office, Vice President Cheney, looking at the events of the last 30 years or 40 years since the Ford administration, wanted desperately to expand the powers of the executive branch vis-a-vis the rest -- or maybe you should say...

HUME: Reclaim them.

WALLACE: ... reclaim the powers of the executive branch vis-a- vis the powers of the rest of the government.

Having said that, when you look at everything that's happened, all the controversies, the Supreme Court decisions, is the executive branch stronger or weaker as a result of Dick Cheney's efforts?

HUME: I think it's stronger, but this is a struggle that will never end. We have the never-ending struggle that Michael Bloomberg so dislikes between left and right, Congress and the White House.

This is part of the struggle between Congress and the White House, and it's been going on for a long time. Dick Cheney's view is that the executive branch of the government started losing ground badly in the period right after -- as the Vietnam War was ending and the Watergate scandals came along, and that the executive branch has been in retreat on this.

He believes that it makes the executive branch ill-equipped to respond to national emergencies and to war situations. And I think 9/11 only sharpened that conviction on his part, and I think it is generally shared by the president.

But I think Cheney may regard whatever reclamation of power by the executive branch that occurs as perhaps his principal legacy.

LIASSON: But not a legacy that he can pass on. In other words, to the extent they've tried to write this into law, the Supreme Court has slowly but surely chipped away at that.

And I think it might be stronger right now, as long as they're in office, but it's not something that can be passed on to the next president.

HUME: Sure it is, if the next president makes the same assertions and...

LIASSON: Well, if they make the same assertions...

HUME: Well, presidents I don't think -- unless they're in politically desperate straits, do not cede power. And if the next president chooses to do so, I suppose he or she could. But it seems to me less than likely.

KRISTOL: Look. I think a lot of these fights are within the executive branch, as you've pointed out, Chris. This is not a fight with Congress. This is an executive order and a question of whether the archivists should be able to come in and inspect Vice President Cheney's office or his staff's offices.

I think the vice -- what happened is the president inherited a pretty dysfunctional executive branch. We know that from the 9/11 Commission. The FBI didn't talk to the CIA, and the CIA was a deeply broken agency.

Lots of other agencies in the government, in my opinion, were not working terribly well after eight years under Clinton and in the new world we live in.

I think instead the mistake the Bush administration might have made is instead of trying to reshape the executive branch institutionally, they felt a sense of urgency, understandable after 9/11, and went around some of the established agencies which the president and the vice president decided weren't to be trusted and weren't functioning very well.

I don't disapprove of what the vice president did. He thought national security was at stake. We have not been attacked for the last 5.5 years. I think that has a lot to do with the things that Dick Cheney and his staff have done.

Having said that, over the longer term, it would be better to have a more functional CIA, FBI, Justice Department than have to do things kind of around the edges of the bureaucracy.

WILLIAMS: I think the way you look at it is it's just an administrative fight, is what you're saying. And I look at it as this is part of our government and there should be some notion of openness or transparency to the procedures, especially with regard to classified documents.


WILLIAMS: No, no, what you classify is legitimate, Brit. But at some point you have to justify and at some point you have to say justify not only the fact that you classified it but then say here's why we're not going to have it classified any longer.

You can't have it done willy-nilly by one person, the vice president, you know, on the basis of his own thinking, and anybody else who asked about it is, therefore, non-patriotic or a threat to the government or inviting another 9/11 attack.

Those are bully tactics, Bill. That says you can't hear anything or know anything the vice president knows, and he'll make all the decisions.

KRISTOL: Well, some things need to be kept secret, and Dick Cheney, I think, was right to think that too many secrets have been leaking out. It remains the case that our agencies leak much too much.

And it wasn't crazy for Dick Cheney to think we have to tighten up on classified...

WILLIAMS: What did Brit say about American democracy, that's what we get, people talking to each other and making decisions, we trust our elected officials?

WALLACE: On that note, we have to leave it there. Thank you, panel. See you next week.

Time now for some mail about last week's show regarding our interview with the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Nancy Jancourtz writes, "General Petraeus' patriotism, coupled with pragmatism and creative thinking, was most obvious and left this viewer concluding that our military men and women, as well as the Iraqi people, are in excellent hands."

As for our power player segment with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, Bill Calore from North Carolina writes, "Mr. Friedman managed to mangle one point: Thor did not throw any lightning bolts from Mount Olympus. If he was throwing anything, it would have been from Asgard and not Mount Olympus, which was the home of the Greek gods."

Thank you, viewers, as always, for keeping us all on a short leash. Be sure to let us know your thoughts by e-mailing us at

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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