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Special Report Roundtable - June 21

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

HUME: Let's take a look at the latest poll from the esteemed Gallop Organization, and the question how many people, or what percentage of the public has a great deal, or quite a lot of confidence. You can say the military did very well, 69 percent. T.V. news, which has done badly for years, way down at 23 percent. HMOs lower than that. And Congress way down at 14 percent.

So, what's going on here? Some thoughts on this now from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," Maura Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

This, of course, come on the heels of another poll that showed that Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, had an approval rating of 19 percent, which I think was exactly half of the president's at 38 percent, and president's is pretty bad. So what is going on here, Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, look, this poll indicates that the public is in a foul mood about practically everybody. Not only were all of those organizations in a bad way, but the presidency down to 25, that's the lowest ever. The medical system is down to 31 percent, the lowest ever. Criminal Justice System 19 percent, lowest ever. Church and public schools, newspaper, they're all --

HUME: What about Congress?

KONDRACKE: Well, what about Congress is that all the public expects stuff to get done, and nothing is getting done, except that what they see is a lot of rancor, both between Republicans and Democrats--

HUME: We have had that before. We had gridlock through much of the 90's, and the public was fine with that.

KONDRACKE: Well, I think that they blame the fact that nothing is getting done more on Congress than anybody else. But as I said, especially in the context, I think, of losing a war, I think that that puts a depressing affect on--

HUME: On Congress --

KONDRACKE: On everybody, and Congress especially.

LIASSON: A couple of things are happening. First of all--Congress, by the way, a year ago in the same poll was at 19--so it's not like it was doing great and all of a sudden it fell off a cliff.

HUME: But that was before the big protest vote that threw them all out of office.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, that's right.

HUME: But that when they all voted for change right? Now it's worse.

LIASSON: Now it's worse. It's worse.

But I think two things have happened. First of all, in terms of this Democratic Congress, the falloff is among liberals, among their own base, because they expected them to end the war and they haven't. That's one problem for the Democrats, their base has started to sour on them because of the change they wanted on Iraq.

The other thing that's happening is they haven't gotten done any of the things they said they would do, with the exception of the minimum wage, which was signed into law. And don't forget that vote to kick out the Republican Congress was interpreted by many as a vote to get more bipartisanship, more things done, more cooperation, just solve the problems that the country faces. And that hasn't happened yet either, and I think that is why a lot of moderates and independents are also viewing Congress unfavorably.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I agree that part of the falloff with Congress has to do with the left. There was a change in Congress last year, there were expectations, the major expectations were on the left, that they would somehow stop the war, and that accounts for part of the drop.

But I disagree with you and Mort that what people are hungering for is a Congress that is active, that is going to do stuff. I think people have given up on Congress decades ago, and what they want is a Congress that is going to do no harm.

If anything, what is harming Congress now is the fact that they are trying to do something, which people do not like, on immigration. It's not the absence of immigration reform, it's the presence of reform. If the left is angry about the non-stopping of the war, the right and the center are hugely upset about immigration bill that they see as legalizing illegals.

I find, what is interesting, is the stuff that is constant here--

HUME: So if that bill fails, as it may well do--

KRAUTHAMMER: That's going to be good, numbers will go up.

HUME: The numbers will go up?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, they'll go up a point or two.

Look, we are in low seminar range here. We are way deep in the ocean, if you had 14 percent, you are in Saddam Hussein territory. So a number up or down two or three is not going to make a lot of difference. But if anything, the absence of immigration reform will probably help Congress.

HUME: All right, suppose, Mort, these numbers persist into 2008. Does this mean that the Republicans have a chance of getting back in in the Congress or is it going to be a pox on all houses?

KONDRACKE: Every indication is that what the public wants is a change. and my guess, the next change is to deliver the entire government into the hands of the Democrats, and let them try it, try their--

HUME: So the public, in your view, is blaming the Republicans, and that's why they don't like Congress?

KONDRACKE: They don't like what is happening in Washington, but one formula that has not been tried lately is all Democratic rule. We haven had a Democratic president, a Democratic Congress since the Clinton administration. And I think that the public will want to try that.

KRAUTHAMMER: I find it hard to interrupt a drop in Congressional approval when liberals and Democrats take over as an indication that the public is going to want them even stronger in 2008. I think if anything, this bodes ill for Democrats.

LIASSON: I think it's hard to extrapolate from Congress to the Democrats. The Democratic Party, right now, is polling better than the Republican Party. Congress is polling worse than it did when Republicans were in charge. But I think it's a kind of pox on all their houses. I think the landscape still favors the Democrats controlling Congress in 2008.

HUME: When we come back with the panel we'll discuss outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair's characterizing the British media as a feral beast. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The fear of missing out means that today's media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack. In these moods, it is like a beast, just tearing people and reputation to bits, that no one dares miss out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That's just a small piece of a long and fairly thoughtful address that Tony Blair made in front of a Reuters group--you could probably see the name "Reuters" in the background. It apparent was something about the British media, but probably not only the British media. Certainly similar laments have been heard from public figures worldwide about the recent dispositions of the world's media, particularly in the west.

What about this critique, Mort? What do you make of it? And what do you think was the--had do you take it?

KONDRACKE: Well, look, he has certainly been the victim of feral attacks, wild attacks, by the media if Britain, largely over Iraq. But the whole idea that he is Bush's poodle, George Bush being one of the most contemptible figures alive, or maybe who has ever lived, in the eyes of much of the British press.

But, in any event, I think his critique has a lot of soundness to it. I mean, he says news is rarely news unless it generates as much heat, or more heat than light, and attacking motive is far more potent than attacking judgment. It's not enough for someone to make an error, it has venal and conspiratorial.

And I think that is largely true. What he says is that there is fragmentation of media, there is not domination by major media groups. Every single organization has a smaller share of the total pie, and it is fighting like crazy in order to attract eyeballs or readers--

HUME: So competition is the problem?

KONDRACKE: Well, that is part of it. And so they sensationalize, and they sensationalize, partly, by commenting, by hyping up the level of conflict, and maybe scandal. And I think it, basically, has got a case.

HUME: Maura?

LIASSON: Look, I think he made some interesting points. And it's one thing to remember that when Tony Blair came into power he had one of the most sophisticated media operations ever. And I think the press resented that, and became another line of attack, that he was spinning all the time, and that was using American-style media handlers.

But he does talk about the kind of conflation, or, as he calls it, the confusion of the news and commentary, which used to be separate. The Wall Street Journal has always held up as an example of this, where the editorial page is very clear in its point of view, but the news pages were straight. And he is saying now you can't tell difference, and that is a problem. And that is something that has been complained about for years and year and years, including in the United States.

And it can be confusing. He said now you get "views papers" instead of newspapers.

HUME: Well that is a function, perhaps, of the fact because the newspaper editor no longer believe that they have first crack at the audience with the news, or their readers with the news--

LIASSON: That opinion and commentary are the only things that they have got left.

HUME: The only thing they have got left to give them that they haven't gotten from somewhere else. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't agree. I think this is a man reacting to a savage press about him, like Bush in this country. I think Mort is right-- largely as a result of war, also as a result of fact that the press in Britain felt that it had give him a free ride early on. Here liberals have a sense that Bush got a free ride after 9/11 and they have been particularly aggressive in attacking him since.

But, look, we have had this for 200 years. What was written about Jefferson, particularly in wartime. Abraham Lincoln was called an ape. Truman had a savage press. We had a history of yellow journalism in the nineteenth century. This is mild in comparison. I think, if anything, what he is talking about--

HUME: What about the argument that competition is the problem?

KRAUTHAMMER: We have always had competition, we have always had tabloids, we've always had sensationalism. I mean, "read all about it"? I mean, all the stuff--what is new is the internet, and you might argue that the blogs are more angry and profane and edgy than the mainstream press. But do Prime Ministers really pay attention to what is on the blogs?

LIASSON: Sure, they have an effect on the mainstream press.

HUME: Senate Majority Leaders do.

KRAUTHAMMER: It could have an effect on the mainstream press in pulling them into edginess. But I look at the mainstream press, evening news, I find it as dull, and sort of dimwittedly left-leaning as ever.

So I don't see all the edge.

KONDRACKE: One problem is that it is very difficult to find out what actually happened yesterday. He is right. Everybody is trying to figure out what the motive for something is, why did they do it? what were the interest groups involve? and so on. To actually find out what senators said, what they actually did, what the vote count was, and stuff like that, you got to go look on the internet. You can find it, but, in the newspaper, it's often not there.

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