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Special Report Roundtable - June 25

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


SEN JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: It will crank up in September. Most normal Americans are out there on vacation and enjoying the summer. I think in September you will see us starting to move out in a more effective fashion.


HUME: John McCain talking about his fund-raising. And those are, obviously, not the kind of remarks you are going to make when you're in the middle of having a really great quarter of fund-raising.

And there is also the question of polls. Let's take a look at a couple now from Rasmussen's reports, showing that back in May 30th and 31st McCain had a six point lead in the national election over Hillary Clinton. Now the same two are pitted against one another only a few weeks later.

And you see that this is all roughly within the margin of error, but you can certainly deduce from this that McCain is losing a little ground and Hillary Clinton is gaining a little ground against him.

So where does this leave the McCain campaign? At this desk it was predicted not too long ago that he was going to make a resurgence. Fred Barnes is now the executive editor of the Weekly Standard, and he is the one who said that. Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and she did not disagree. And Mort Kondracke is the executive editor of Roll Call, and I cannot remember what he said.


HUME: You were rooting for him. All right, so how do you think it's going. Go ahead.

KONDRACKE: He did have a bounce. It was after his big Iraq speech down at VMI, a military institute in Virginia, and he did. He jumped, I don't know, five or ten points, and now he has gone down. I did not say he was going to stay up there forever.

And thanks for agreeing with me, Maura. We were both right.

HUME: I don't remember what--you did not disagree, as I remember.

KONDRACKE: He did have a bounce, come one. I'll tell you what his problem is now. He is campaigning as just another politician, as a guy who's talking about energy, and he's talking about global warming, and he's talking about spending cuts.

He needs to talk about one thing--what is it that makes him somebody that you would want to be president? That he would be a great Commander- In-Chief, that he is credible there. That he will fight the war on terror. That he is right about what is going on in Iraq. And the biggest issue of the day, I think he is correct, and most Republicans think he is correct. That's what he needs to talk about.

On his website today he put out a statement about Supreme Court decision, shaving back on McCain-Feingold, a law that is hated by most Republicans. I don't know why he did not ignore it, he did not have to put out a statement--

HUME: Wait a second. Mara, how much of his decline can be attributed to the fact that he is one of the principle proponents, although not, perhaps, one of the principle negotiators of this non-too-popular with Republican Immigration Bill?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, it's not that wasn't sliding before. Look, McCain subscribes to a code of honor that is foreign if not incompatible with running an election--

HUME: Politics?

LIASSON: --which is, you take a stand and you stick to it, and you don't run away from it, and you say what you believe, even if it's unpopular.

And look, McCain was--I am sure he is the author of the McCain- Feingold Bill, he was asked a lot of questions about the decision. You cannot ignore that it has happened. The campaign was being asked for a response.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EIDTOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, you just say, hey, the law still stands. They just shaved it a tiny bit.

LIASSON: Yes, which is what he said in the statement.

Look, he has been, you know, prescient on a lot of issues, on global warming, on immigration--although I don't think his party realized how prescient he is on immigration yet.

But, look I think that he has structural problems with the base of his party. He knew that all along. McCain has said all along he did not know if he could capture lightning in a bottle twice. In other words, have the same kind of excitement that he generated--

HUME: Although the last time it was not particularly from Republicans--

KONDRACKE: Right, exactly. I mean, look, he is principled, he is courageous, and, generally speaking, he sticks to his guns almost entirely- -he changed a little bit on taxes, for example.

But in the last time that he ran in 2000, he had the press as a cheering section because he was flying in the face of what his party stood for, the Republican party. Now, he is supporting the President or he is even in advance of the President on Iraq, which the press detests as a policy, and so he is not getting the kind of cheers that he used to get from the media.

LIASSON: But that is not why he is doing badly in the Republican primaries.

KONDRACKE: I know, but look, and he is older, and he is not a new, fresh guy, and the base is never agreed to like him. He did not win the nomination.

BARNES: When I made that prediction about McCain, I was younger.

KONDRACKE: Look, all I am saying is play to your strength. And he is not playing to his strength. His strength is as a Commander-In-Chief, as somebody who thinks the war in Iraq can be won, and someone who can fight terrorism. It is not talking about global warming.

LIASSON: He has given some pretty elegant speeches on exactly that topic.

BARNES: He needs to do more every day.

KONDRACKE: Well, I don't think he can limit his presidential campaign to just one issue. He has to talk about all the other issues across the board.

BARNES: Well, not much.

KONDRACKE: Well--and part of his principled position is about things like global warming and immigration and that sort of thing. And if he is going to go down in flames, he may as well go down being John McCain.

HUME: Next up with our panel, this whole question about Vice President, which branch of the government is he in, is he exempt from an Executive Branch Order on the handling of secrets? That subject next


SEN DIANE FEINSTEIN, (D), CALIFORNIA: You now have the 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.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: What I do know is that when the President wrote the EO, it's clear in the reading of it that he does not intend for the Vice President to be seen as separate from himself. And they are not asking someone who is subordinate to them to come in and investigate them.


HUME: Yes, but the EO, Executive Order, which was issued by the President and governed the National Archives Authority to come in and examine the handling of classified material, the EO did not contain language that the president and vice president are excluded from it.

And this is small problem, even though the president still has the authority to order it any way he wants to, it is, after all, his order.

So what about this latest controversy about the Vice President?

KONDRACKE: Well, look, I think that this controversy about the National Archives and this office investigating whether classified documents are handled properly is a silly dispute.

What is really important is the issues that are being raised the in this Washington Post series about Cheney, about his extension of Executive power to the further reaches practically imaginable, where he says the Geneva Convention does not apply because the Congress cannot inhibit in any way the powers of the President to conduct foreign policy or conduct a war.

And they set up these military commissions, which would have had zero civilian review no matter what they did with these detainees. The could have kept them forever, they could have killed them, fried them, or anything.

And all of that stuff is being knocked back by the courts, putting the administration in worst shape than when it started.

LIASSON: There is no doubt that there are limits on the Executive power, and it's called the Supreme Court. And that's what is happening now.

But, I think in terms of this controversy over the archives, the problem is is that the Executive Order did not state clearly that it was meant to exempt the President and the Vice President's office. It could have stated that. The president could simply issue another order stating that today.

I don't understand why, it seems very--

HUME: Tonight. While we're on the air.

LIASSON: It seems very self inflicted to me. Why they have left this to hangout there for so long and made the argument that he is not even a member of the Executive branch, which seems--

HUME: Well, I think that argument is no longer operative. What a stupid argument that was.

LIASSON: But the response of congress, with great glee, Robert Manuel decided, fine, we'll take your office out of the Appropriations Bill and no longer fund the Vice President's office.

BARNES: He was being above the law, or claiming to be above the law. He is not above the law. He is above the Information Security Oversight Office, that all-powerful office at the National Archives.

I agree with Mort, this is a silly process issue which Washington loves.

HUME: Well, Mort seems animated by the Washington Post series.

BARNES: The Washington Post series that most of our viewers haven't read. Thanks, Mort.

Look, I think Cheney--there was an emergency situation, we have been attacked on 9/11, and Cheney wanted to establish things quickly about how we were going to handle the unlawful combatants, people who have never ever in human history been considered as people who were covered by the Geneva Convention, and the laws of war.

And now the Supreme Court has said they do, but they dreamed that up out of whole cloth. And Cheney moved quickly in ways that were not the normal process of things working at the White House.

I'm glad he did. And Mort's wrong, we're not in worse shape than we did before. We have military commissions, there is some judicial review. But most of the terrorists that we have seized we have kept at Guantanamo or other places.

And what the Washington Post series left out, Brit, all the stuff about how Cheney was in favor of really rugged, or as he would call it, robust interrogation--

HUME: "Torture" they call it.

BARNES: Well, they call it "torture." But that's where, from these high value terrorist that were captured, that's where we learned so much, and broke up further terrorists attacks. Not even mentioned in the Washington Post.

KONDRACKE: There were people who were arguing inside that, and these were hard liners, John Yoo, who was one of the authors of this, said that these interrogation techniques should be conducted by the CIA, and not routinely by the military, that it would inevitably be abused and would cause blow back and cause backlash. And it has.

BARNES: Is it a tactic yet, or not?

HUME: Sorry, that is it for the panel.

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