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Special Report Roundtable - July 23

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

HUME: Some analytical observations 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.

Let's look at a couple of polls who Mr. Carl Cameron was just reporting on these. These from Washington Post, ABC News just out. And the first one deals with who has the best chance to defeat the Republican nominee in the general election?

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming choice, as you can see there. For whom would you vote? Well, same thing. Hillary Clinton not nearly so overwhelming.

It appears from the difference between those two poll numbers that some Democrats, or people who would favor the Democrats, are more in favor of Barack Obama than they are convinced he could win, perhaps attributing some feelings of a certain kind to the rest of electorate.

In any case, is it fair to suggest, now, that Hillary Clinton's campaign and nomination has taken on a certain aura of inevitability? Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Are you asking me? No, I don't think so at all.

Brit, the most important fact is it's July. The first actual contest is in January, sometime in January. So this one--

HUME: This one started--

BARNES: Let me finish. These polls, remember who was the ahead about this time and gained a lot? It was Howard Dean.

HUME: He hadn't even emerged yet. So this was before he had even emerged.

BARNES: Things are about to pick up. Ed Musky was--you and I, campaign after campaign, you find somebody ahead in July, and Carl said that Hillary Clinton is solidifying a commanding lead.

I don't think you can solidify a commanding lead at this time.

HUME: Well, it certainly has been a consistent lead over many months.

BARNES: Let me ask you this about her. Does she excite audiences? No. Does Barack Obama? Yes.

Is she likeable? Does she campaign with ease? No. Not at all. She is basically stiff. What about Barack Obama? Does he campaign with ease, and more like, actually, Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill? Yes.

Is she substantive? Yes, she is. Is Barack Obama? Not really at this point. But two out of three is not bad for him. I don't think she is inevitable at all. I don't think she is likely--in fact, I think she over polls.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: She is not inevitable, that is for sure. She is the juggernaut candidate, and there is a history of juggernaut candidates. It's Al Gore in 2000. It was Walter Mondale in 1984--

HUME: He won the nomination.

KONDRACKE: Yes, they won the nomination. There is always the moment of challenge. In Walter Mondale's case was Gary Hart, who suddenly came out of nowhere. Now, Obama is not going to come out of nowhere, so there will be a challenge--

HUME: Let me just ask this question. Hasn't this whole comparison of July--July is way early, even than in past years, before, even, the challenges emerged.

But this is an accelerate schedule, is it not? We have seen the emergence of Obama as a challenger to Hillary Clinton far earlier than we probably would have had the season not been so accelerated.

So, isn't it fair to say that this challenge from Obama may have peaked? That he has been behind her consistently for months on end?

KONDRACKE: She has managed to stay well ahead all the way along, and these latest results seem to explode the one serious vulnerability of hers, and that is she can't win.

Most of the people, Republicans, Independents, and everybody else thinks that she has got the best chance of any of the Democrats to win.

HUME: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The answer is "yes." She is inevitable, it is a juggernaut, and he is not going to stop her. Obama was a Rocky, he came out of the sky, and then he plateaued. He has had a chance to inch up on here, he hasn't.

Now, of course, there could be a collapse on her. But she is very disciplined, extremely steely. If anything, she is so disciplined it makes her look android like, at times. But she is not a person given to flights of fancy, or a lot of mistakes.

She has a machine with her--a machine of money, a machine of supporters, a machine of operatives. It is hard to see how this gets upset. Perhaps a catastrophe in Iowa, and then, all of a sudden--

But I think you are right about the schedule. This is a different type of schedule. July is not the old July. We are, essentially, halfway through the process. In the old days July was not halfway through, July was very early on. It is not early on.

I think she absolutely has--if you had to put your money, it is safe, I think, with Hillary.

BARNES: I think she is vulnerable in the general election.

HUME: What about a general election. Let's move on--

BARNES: I think of all the candidates, Republican and Democratic out there, she has the best chance of becoming president. Nobody else seems to have done much, except for Obama. Obama is a very attractive guy.

I would summarize Charles position as this--It is inevitable, unless she collapses.

HUME: Do you think that she is likely to collapse?

BARNES: If she loses in Iowa or New Hampshire, I think she would.

HUME: But she would have to collapse to do that, wouldn't she?

BARNES: Well, she would have to lose, that's all.

KONDRACKE: There are very high expectations for her, and she is going to have to fulfill expectations. There is going to be a contest before this is over.

In the general, what the polls currently seem to show is that if the Republicans have the whip to nominate somebody who can appeal to Independents, Giuliani or McCain, then it is a close contest--

HUME: You don't think any of the others could appeal to Independents?

KONDRACKE: So far the indications are that it is double digits, that the Democratic, any of the Democratic candidates beat Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney.

KRAUTHAMMER: One rebuttal on Fred. A juggernaut is a candidate who can lose in Iowa, or lose in New Hampshire, and still win. That's why you had George Bush winning, why you had Mondale winning, and that is why if you have all the stuff behind you, you can afford a lot, and the others can't.

HUME: OK, do you think she gets the nomination in the end?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely.

HUME: Do you believe she gets the nomination in the end?

KONDRACKE: I do.

HUME: Do you believe she gets the nomination in the end?

BARNES: Yes, probably. But I just don't think it is inevitable.

KONDRACKE: Ok, good.

HUME: Next up with out panel, The New Republican has been scammed again, has it? Maybe, maybe not. More with the all-stars in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: The long storied, liberal political journal The New Republic is out in a current issue with what purports to be an article by an American soldier in Iraq writing under the pseudonym Scott Thomas. And he describes some disgusting behavior by American forcers.

He is talking about a woman who is badly burned and is the place where soldier were eating, and he says " after a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabs his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes. 'Man, I can't eat like this with that f-ing freak behind us'. 'Are you kidding?' says another, 'I think she is f-ing hot. I love chicks who have been intimate with IEDs.'" Of course, you know what that is.

And there is another quote here worth mentioning to give you a sense of the flavor of this article. "I know another private who really only enjoyed Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. His favorite target--dogs. A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun did not have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. It's front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all."

Pretty florid stuff, pretty dramatic, pretty disturbing. Our colleagues at our sister publication, The Weekly Standard, raised some questions about this. Fred Barnes is part of that magazine. Fred, what is the factual sequence here? What happened?

BARNES: What happened here is this piece that you cited--there had been a couple of earlier pieces by Scott Thomas that people had wondered about. But this last one, in particular, had raised questions about Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which not a wheeled vehicle, it has treads, and experts saying it couldn't have hit a dog, it couldn't have gone to the right--

HUME: Veered, you mean?

BARNES: Yes. It just was mechanically impossible.

This one about the woman, there, whose face had been melted off on one side by an IED. Now, would she still be there? No. They send the wounded back, particularly, the disfigured ones.

Then there was a third saying, in this particular story, about they dug up the skull of a child, and some soldier was playing with it, and stuck it under his helmet, which would have made his helmet stick way up. Unlikely.

Anyway, these things appear unlikely, so The Standard raised questions about it. All The New Republic would say is well, this guy is at forward- operating base Falcon in Iraq. That's all they said so far, except that they are investigating it.

HUME: They have said other soldiers have verified his account.

BARNES: They haven't mentioned any. They claim that, but the have not presented any evidence. They have just said that.

Now, we have at The Weekly Standard drummer up a lot of reports from people there, from officers and enlisted men, not one of whom has come to the defense of Scott Thomas, not one of them has verified a single one these events.

And now, Major Kirk Luedeke, who is the Information Officer of this unit says we want The New Republic to come forward with some evidence, and then we will investigate and take appropriate steps.

I mean, obviously, if this stuff is true, that The New Republic says, it is horrible, it is criminal offenses by American troops over there.

We are waiting on The New Republic, but let me add one thing. I don't know what the answer is here. I think this stuff is suspicious, but I think the burden of proof is now on The New Republic.

KONDRACKE: Just the way the articles are written. Steven Glass, who famously flummoxed The New Republic and printed wild, made up stores, and was fired at the center of a scandal at The New Republic--

HUME: They made a movie out of it.

KONDRACKE: Yes. But he could write. And so could Janet Cook, the famous makeup artist at The Washington Post, about a crack addicted eight- year-old.

Just the terminology, and the writing of this, reminds me of Penthouse Forums. It is pornography. It really is military pornography, is what it is. It smacks of being dreamed up.

Now, maybe it will be turn out to be true. But it just is so over- the-top that it is almost too bad to be true.

KRAUTHAMMER: I have looked at it, I have read the blogs that have attacked it. I would say that some of it looks invented, and the rest embellished.

But what is important here is the intent of this article and the people who publish it. It is not an attack on the troops. The left has learned after the Vietnam War that spitting on troops and portraying them as in "Apocalypse Now," as psychotics, is a mistake.

It is an attack--it is a way of saying "Look what the war has done to these people." The author says I work with disabled in the past, and now we are turning into a monster. George Bush, of course, is destroying Iraq, destroying that neighborhood. And now we are destroying the goodness of Americans soldiers. That is what this is all about.

HUME: Thank you, Charles. Thank you, panel.

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