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Special Report Roundtable - July 24

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration in Washington, or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

SEN BARACK OBAMA (D) ILLINOIS, : I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment for to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.

SEN HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort, because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.


HUME: Well, that was thought by many to be a moment last night--Obama saying that, without any preconditions, he would sit down with all the tyrants that the questionnaire had listed.

And Senator Clinton followed up today, saying she though of his answer "I thought that was irresponsible and, frankly, naive."

Obama, for his part, responded to that by saying "What she somehow is maintaining is my statement could be construed as not having asked what the meeting was about. I didn't say they were going to come over for a cup of coffee some afternoon."

"Continuing," he said "from what I heard, the point was, well, I wouldn't do that, because it might allow leaders like Hugo Chavez to score propaganda points. I think that is absolutely wrong."

So Obama, apparently, stands by what he said last night in the debates. And thoughts on all this now from our Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, same job at Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all three.

Well, what about this? Is this a moment to remember? A moment that gives Obama something that he is going to have to live with for a while? Or is this just background noise?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Sure, he will have to live with it for a little while. I watched all two hours of this debate, it the one thing that just jumped out at you.

And I think he was, basically, na

Then we got the third person, then, was the bellwether, John Edwards, he spoke after, and he sided with Hillary. So her answer must have been better.

Obama was also wrong when he cited the example of Ronald Reagan. He said Ronald Reagan, he met with the leader of Soviets, he called them an "Evil Empire," but still met with them. It was in the fourth or fifth year of his administration as president when Reagan first met with Mikhail Gorbachev, he hadn't met with the earlier one.

So this was clearly a moment where Hillary Clinton did better than Barack Obama.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I thought Hillary did much better than Obama--

HUME: With a Democratic audience, did she?

KONDRACKE: I think so.

HUME: And the questioner might have--clearly, the questioner seemed to get from Barack Obama the answer he was looking for. The questioner, or does Hillary reflect the sentiments of the Democratic Party at the moment?

KONDRACKE: I'm sure that there are lots of Democrats who would look to negotiate right away with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. But I don't think that that represents--

HUME: And Kim Jong Il, right?

KONDRACKE: --that represents the bedrock of the democrat party, which I think is still, more or less, centrist. And I think she gave a presidential answer.

However, I would note, in both cases, neither one of them said--she was talking about still defensive kind of diplomacy. I don't want to be used as a propaganda tool. The real answer is I won't negotiate with those people until I have leverage to get from them what is in America's interest.

That's right answer, and that's the Reagan answer. Reagan did not negotiate with the Soviets until he had missile deployment that we were going to make in order to countervail their missiles and get them to stand down.

HUME: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, look, it pains me to say this, but even Democrats are not silly enough to think that the president ought to be in a summit with Hugo Chavez, who is a clown, and that would only elevate him.

I don't think this helps Obama, and particularly because it is not first time he has stumbled in an answer on national security. In the debate in South Carolina in April he was asked a question, if al-Qaeda attacked two American cities, what would you do?

His response was I would make sure our first responders are ready as they were not in Katrina. Hillary answered shortly afterwards and said I would retaliate. And Obama knew it was a mistake. It hadn't even occurred to him.

Now if it happens once, it is, perhaps, a blip. If it happens twice, it tells you something about him. The only person on that stage who could be a competent Commander in Chief tomorrow is Clinton. And Obama is not.

She is right that it was a naive answer, and not just because it would elevate these tin pot dictators, but because if you go into a summit unprepared, and without the outcome wired in advance, you could end up in a catastrophe.

When Nixon had his outreach to China, he was all wired in advance. You had to have an outcome, and China was a real enemy. But when Clinton had his summit at Camp David with the Palestinians and the Israelis, it was not wired in advance, it collapsed, and the result was that the Palestinians started a war six years later.

This was not an incidental question. It is a serious question of national security, and if you can't answer it, you are a novice.

HUME: Fred?

BARNES: Some of us remember when John F. Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev in Kennedy's first year as president in 1961, and Kennedy, obviously, was not either psychologically or otherwise prepared for this. Khrushchev drew from that that he was faced with a weak president who he planned to take advantage of, and did.

KONDRACKE: I thought the hero of the debate, actually, was Joe Biden last night, who embraced Obama and Hillary about their votes against the wartime supplemental, which would have provided, among other things, anti- IED vehicles for the troops in Iraq, and also said that you could not get out the way Bill Richardson was saying, you know, overnight, but it would take months and months, and, in fact, we have to leave residual troops behind.

HUME: You think Biden gained any ground with Democrats by saying those things?

KONDRACKE: I don't care whether he did or not. He did with me.

HUME: My question, now, and I got to ask the questions--

KONDRACKE: I know, I know.

HUME: You have to try to answer them anyway.

KONDRACKE: Of course not.

HUME: I didn't ask whether you cared--

KONDRACKE: Of course it didn't help him.

HUME: All right. It works better that way.

When we come back, Democrats are touting their achievements in their first 200 days of Congress. The panel will look more closely at that after a break.



REP NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Here we are one week later, gathered here to observe a remarkable thing, an increase in the minimum wage.

SEN HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, (D) NEVADA: We have had 100 hearings on Iraq, and we are going to have 100 more, and we are proud of it. That's in preparation for us to get our valiant troops to come home.


HUME: Well, that was the sense today at this event. It was sort of a labor sponsored event to celebrate the enactment of the actual taking effect of the new minimum wage increase, which is the one item on the Democrats political agenda from the campaign last year that they have succeeded in getting passed.

But, as you heard Senator Reid, point out, they have done a number of things on Iraq. They have certainly kept the pressure up, and kept the complaints coming about our presence in Iraq, although there are more troops now in Iraq fighting than there were when the Democrats came to power.

So the question, what about the Democrats? How well have they done? How badly they have done, or what? Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: They have done badly. And I think this will give the Republican the one opening they are going to have in 2008. Everything is running against the Republicans, but I think they have a chance if they argue that the Democrats have been in charge, and they are the do nothing congress.

Just like Truman in 1948, who had the luck of losing the House and Senate two years earlier, he ran against it, and said these guys have accomplished nothing.

Look, the Democrats have done two things--hearings, without any success, unlike Watergate, Iran Contra. You have to have a trophy at the end of it, you have to be holding a head and put it on a spike, and they don't have any.

Lots of hearings on the CIA leak, on the NSA eves dropping program. Lots of hearings on all kinds of stuff--nothing. And people, the way to frame it is to say, is this how you want Congress spending its time and your tax money?

And, secondly, even on the war, Republicans can say, if you believe that the war ought to end, the Congress has the power to do it, hasn't had the courage to do it. If you believe the war ought to be won, all that Congress has done is to impede our attempts to actually win.

KONDRACKE: I agree that after both parties said after the 2006 elections, the lesson of this election is that we got to work together, and the public wants us to work together. And I think that is true.

They haven't worked together, and they haven't gotten much done. They are going to get a few things done--lobbying and ethics reform done before they go home for the August recess. They will probably get an SCHIP--they might get an SCHIP Children's Health Bill pass, which the president is vowing to veto.

HUME: Will that, therefore, not be an accomplishment, or what?

KONDRACKE: I think that that works against the Republicans, actually. If the president vetoes children's health after the Congress had approved $400 billion over a five year period for senior's prescription drugs, but they won't approve $50 billion for children's health? And it's the president veto that blocks it? I think that hurts the Republicans.

BARNES: It would if it were a bill that didn't have so many horrible things on it--a bill that would go way up 400 percent of poverty. And yet, that's what the Bill does. Mort, read the bill and you will see what it does.

KONDRACKE: I read it.

BARNES: Ok, but you got it wrong then.

KONDRACKE: Well, you read it.

HUME: No, you read it. Have you read it?

BARNES: What it would do, it would attract an awful lot of people who want private insurance just to take a government handout insurance, that's what it would do. And it doesn't apply.

And it's the Bush administration's fault on this. They have given all kind of waivers to states. This SCHIP money for children has gone to adults in many, many states. So the program is not a great program.

Judge the Democrats by--Mort says it's they, Republicans and Democrat have to work together. Democrats are in charge. They said--in the House, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of them said--we are going to have six in 2006. They got one passed this year, one. That's the minimum wage, and it had to be tacked on to the Iraq Supplemental Bill.

Harry Reid had 10 top items--one he has achieved, the minimum wage.

If you are a quarterback, you are supposed to complete 50 percent of your passes to do OK. If you are a baseball player, you need to hit 300 to be doing well. They are way below those averages.

The fact is they just haven't accepted the fact, particularly in the Senate, that Republicans have 49 votes. And I think anybody in the Democratic Party will tell you privately, would you rather have Mitch McConnell as your leader in the Senate, or Harry Reid? And they would all say Mitch McConnell.

BARNES: I want to quote a distinguished authority on this whole subject, namely Fred Barnes.

"In Washington, the Democrats are stymied, foiled, and frustrated. Republicans have hindered or obstructed them at every turn."

BARNES: They are the minority.

KONDRACKE: That is not a fulfillment of the promise that even Mitch McConnell made at the beginning of term, that he would work with Harry Reid. Now, Harry Reid is difficult to work with, but obstructionism is what is going on.

HUME: Got to go. Got to go.

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