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Special Report Roundtable - June 6

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Senator Clinton says this is Mr. Bush's war, that this is President Bush's war -- when President Clinton was in power, I didn't say that Bosnia, our intervention there was President Clinton's war. When we intervened in Kosovo, I didn't say it was President Clinton's war. What he does - what Senator Clinton doesn't understand that presidents don't lose wars, political parties don't lose wars, nations lose wars...

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: During the debate the other night, the Democrats seemed to be back in the 1990. They don't seem to have gotten beyond the Cold War. Iran is a threat, a nuclear threat, not just because they can deliver a nuclear warhead with missiles, they're a nuclear threat because they are the biggest staged sponsor of terrorism and they can hand nuclear materials to terrorists.


HUME: A couple of sample himself from the comments made last night in the Republic debate in New Hampshire from the two candidates who, most the morning after commentary, seems to think they had particularly good nights.

Some thoughts from all this now, from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Well? What be it -- Fred?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I thought you picked out the two guys who did the best. McCain -- McCain later in the -- in the two hour debate, in the second half when they were sitting in chairs, you know, get up and answer a question by a very lovely young woman whose brother had been killed in Iraq, and she asked whether he had died in vain, and whether there was, you know, they were going to find a way to win and to get the troops home?

And he got out of his chair and walked up to the edge of audience and looked at her right in the eyes and gave this really compelling, strong answer. It was the best moment in the thing and it -- and look, John McCain needed a good debate. There have been three now and this was the one he was really good in. No question about it.

I mean, they're not winners and loser here, but McCain looked good and Giuliani, you know, he's been leapfrogging the rest of Republican candidates by going after Democrats in a very, very effective way. You had McCain doing it as well, but it's mainly been Giuliani who's done that.

He is really good in format, I'll have to say. You wouldn't think one guy could stand out, you know, with nine other candidates there, but he does. He's really mastered it and so for that reason, hey -- oh, the other thing I wanted to say about Rudy was notice how he has now answers the abortion question without raising more questions than he answers. He's done it very well now...

HUME: Of course at the moment when the lightning knocked the lights down and he make a joke out of that.

BARNES: Yeah, that was about the criticism from the Catholic bishop in Rhode Island. But he's mainly speaking now -- he's the guy, national security is his issue.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, what's interesting is he is free to attack the Democrats because, even as a frontrunner, nobody seems to be going after him. Usually it's the frontrunner who has the target on his back, instead it's been McCain and Romney who've been sniping and I thought what was interesting about last night was McCain really was kind of on the hot seat about immigration and he very forcefully defended the bill that on the floor of Senate. Giuliani called it a typical Washington mess, it's just a big compromise. Of course, that's what McCain says is what you're sent to Washington to do.

HUME: So how did -- you've followed watched -- you've followed Romney's campaign with some fascination, how'd you think he come out?

LIASSON: Well, I think Romney comes out fine, I don't think he necessary hurt himself. I do think that he has yet to develop a kind of intellectually coherent position on the immigration bill, something that he supported a more lenient version of last time it was up. Now that it's gotten more draconian he's decided it's amnesty, but last night he said, for instance, that the answer -- the answer to the problem of the 12 million illegals in the country is to merely enforce the current law. The fact that it is not being enforced or can't be is why we have this new legislation in the Senate, now.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yeah, but the whole idea that Romney is not going, basically, to try to force out 12 million people is simply ridiculous.

Look, the -- I don't see how you can look at these debates and not gain an administration for John McCain. I mean, he was the truth-teller about the war in Iraq and he said that the Bush policy was not working against what his own president -- he's backed up the Bush surge and now on immigration he is not giving an inch. He believes in comprehensive -- solution, which I think is the only -- sailing against the wind.

And Rudy Giuliani, you know, once upon a time was one of the most pro- immigration mayors in the country. He refused to allow the New York police department to go pick up people on the basis of their illegal immigration status. Romney was pro-immigration at one time, too. Now that they -- the base is furious at so-called amnesty, they flipped. McCain has not.

HUME: All right, let's talk for a minute about the decision made by McCain -- by Giuliani and then followed by McCain to skip Iowa Straw Poll.

Now, the Iowa Straw Poll, obviously, sounds like small potatoes, but it has been a turning point in the early season for a couple of cycles now and has been a place where candidates got weeded out. Does this thing now become meaningless because two of those guys are out?

BARNES: (INAUDIBLE) it allowed somebody who's not a top tier candidate to really shine. Remember Pat Robertson won in 1999, won the Straw Poll.

And look, I think Giuliani and McCain did the write thing. He realize that no matter home how many people they got in there, Romney was going to bus in a lot more was going to win the thing.

LIASSON: It's about money...

HUME: So, this concedes the Iowa Straw Poll to Romney...

LIASSON: I think it effectively does and of course at the same time Giuliani and McCain hope to undercut its importance.

HUME: Any development, that we're looking at now, this debate -- the Straw Poll -- does anything seem likely that -- to winnow some of the people out of the field? I mean, it doesn't appear that the people like Jim Gilmore or Tommy Thompson or Ron Paul are making any real inroads?

KONDRACKE: No, no it doesn't.

HUME: And then maybe they are, but it's hard to see it.

KONDRACKE: At some point, you know, they have to decide whether this is really worth it for all of them to keep, you know, plotting on when they don't get out of below five in the polls. I mean Tommy Thompson is banking, by the way, on being able to invite in a whole bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts from Wisconsin.

HUME: Well, he's one of them. He doesn't look like it, but that's what he is.

KONDRACKE: Yes. I know.


BARNES: He's a smart guy.

KONDRACKE: ...The Iowa caucus -- he is a smart guy.

When some debate sponsor says if you are not above existing in the polls, you are not on stage, I think that will be --

HUME: Quickly.

LIASSON: I'll tell you what's going to win on the field. When some debate sponsor says if you are not above X percent in the polls, you're not on the stage, I think that will be -- be the turning point.

BARNES: Until then...

LIASSON: Until then it's...

HUME: Until then we're...

BARNES: Debates are free. You have to pay for ads on TV, but the debates are free and you get a big audience.

KONDRACKE: One other point here, I think what is being set up here is a decisive general election issue over the idea of going to war with Iran. All the Republican candidates last night seemed to think it was just fine to use tactical nuclear weapons against an Iranian...

BARNES: They said they wouldn't take it out of table. What debate were you watching?


LIASSON: Wouldn't take it out of table.

KONDRACKE: No, no, they wouldn't take it off the table, but believe me, you know that the Democrats don't want to go to war with Iran, they want to stop...

HUME: When we come back with the panel, Republican and Democratic senators successfully compromise on a proposed immigration bill. But what about getting it to a vote? How's it going? That is next.



GERALDINE WADE, NUMBERSUSA VOLUNTEER: I've been disappointed as most of his constituents are that he passively supported it so far and we hope he'll have a change of heart and vote down this bill -- it's awful.

D.A. KING NUMBERSUSA VOLUNTEER: I am calling once again to urge the senator to cease defense of the Senate immigration bill and to vote against cloture tomorrow and I just wanted my voice to be heard one more time.


HUME: That is a sample that our correspondent Major Garrett report on earlier tonight of what a group called NumbersUSA, which has apparently been able to generate some pretty big numbers of phone calls, faxes and other communication to congressional offices in option of immigration bill now on the floor of Senate. It has been learned that President Bush is going to go up to the Hill next Tuesday when me gets back from the G-8 Summit with immigration high on his agenda. That's something that doesn't happen very often -- the president making a big push, here. What, in light of what we all see, is the state of play of this bill in the Senate and in the Congress, generally -- Mort.

KONDRACKE: Well, it looked last night as though the whole thing was going to blow up because Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, was going to impose a cloture vote, I believe it was going to be today, now it's going to be tomorrow...

HUME: And the votes weren't there to invoke cloture, right?

KONDRACKE: And the Republicans thought that he was trying to stifle their ability to put in amendments and he was accusing them of trying to kill the bill, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It now looks as though the Republicans will get a lot of amendments, an opportunity to offer a lot of amendments and it's not resolved yet, but it looks as though there will be cloture vote sometime tomorrow and that question will go through.

HUME: Will the amendments get adopted and will any of them that are really killer deal-breaker amendments pass?

KONDRACKE: Well, it looks like killer amendments will not pass. I mean, so far...

HUME: Mara, as you agree with it...


KONDRACKE: The bipartisan coalition that wrote this bill, Senator Kyl...

HUME: Has the vote so far.

KONDRACKE: Is holding together. Yeah, quite nicely.

LIASSON: I think it is kind of marching forward against a pretty strong headwind, but it's moving forward and I think it's going to get out of the Senate.

HUME: It is in fact, I think, Fred you'd agree, that no lobbyist, no lobbying organization on earth, really is quite as powerful as an aroused public. We got an aroused public here, don't we?


BARNES: Well, we have an aroused part of the public, that's for sure, certainly the conservative base of the Republican Party is aroused and that -- and look, all the intensity, out in the public on this issue, is against the Senate bill. It was against immigration reform. There's no question about that even House members, I talked to a couple of them today, the bill hadn't gotten to the House an won't for a long time, or a bill won't, and they're getting these phone calls, you know, hundreds and hundreds a day, massively negative. And even in -- some of the senators who had seen the calls fall off now they are back up again and they're not supportive.

On the other hand it is going to pass. They knocked off...

HUME: Senate.

BARNES: The Senate's going to pass and I think the Republican opposition in the House is already beginning to crumble some and House members I talk to don't want all these amendments that might get in the bill that are conservative amendments in the bill. They'd rather do them in the House, they want the chance to shape the House bill for the better by their -- from their perspective.

KONDRACKE: I think it's really significant, there was a Rasmussen Poll that indicated that a huge -- that something like 48 percent to 26 percent opposed the Senate bill. That's -- but...

HUME: It's now 50-29, I believe.

KONDRACKE: OK, but 65 percent of voters would be willing to support a compromise including a path to citizenship, a long path to citizenship, and fines and so an and so father. I mean they -- what's -- the guts of the bill, the public supports they done like -- they don't think that Congress can deliver anything. This is a test of whether our political system, this polarized political system can produce anything to solve the national problem.

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