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Special Report Roundtable - July 25

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, (D) NEVADA: The American people already know that President Bush is the worst president we have ever had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, whether that is true or not, he is, at the moment, at least, one of the most unpopular we have ever had.

Let's take a look at some disapproval ratings, these compiled from polling done by Gallop and by The Washington Post, ABC News polling organizations. Richard Nixon reached a historic high of 66 percent disapproval back in August of 1974 before he quit. And a month ago George W. Bush stood in a similar poll at 65 percent disapproval.

And what a fall it has been, because we also looked at numbers showing the highest presidential job approval. And there again, George W. Bush tops the list going back in October 9, 2001, about a month or so after 9/11. His father in the post Gulf War, first Gulf War atmosphere, attained 90 percent. As you can see, the list goes on down.

Now, question, panel--what about--well, I have to introduce the panel first. Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor for Roll Call, FOX News contributors all.

What about this issue of the place in history? We see all this a little dimly, of course. This president has been ranked the highest and nearly the lowest. Where will he end up? Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think it all depends on how Iraq turns up. If the worst happens there, and there is regional chaos, and so on, a collapse, I think he becomes a failure like Lyndon Johnson--without, I might say, the redeeming factor of civil rights advances to weigh into the balance.

If it succeeds in Iraq, somehow, and eventually--

HUME: It's all Iraq, in your view?

KONDRACKE: I think so. And, eventually, it turns out that a democratic wave sweeps the Middle East, then he will go down as a near great president like Harry Truman, who was the founder of containment in the Cold War.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think Harry Truman is clearly the model here, the hope that Bush has, somebody who was really excoriated when he was in office--and you see the terrible disapproval rating numbers, 65 percent--but was seen as, really, the architect of the post-World War II long era of stability.

I think the other thing about George W. Bush's disapproval rating is a very high percentage of those are strong disapproval, I think way up in the 40s. So he is not just disliked, he is strongly disliked, intensely disliked.

HUME: Those who dislike him dislike him a lot.

LIASSON: Yes. And I agree with Mort, I think this is about Iraq. This is the biggest project of administration, and how it turns out is going to affect his place in history.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Iraq is big, but it is not the only thing. And I agree that Harry Truman is a good model. If you look at his numbers, they were terrible because the war was going poorly. But, ultimately, it was clear, and I forget exactly--

HUME: And that war didn't end in victory, it ended in a stalemate.

BARNES: No. That war didn't end in victory at all. The North Koreans were pushed back, but it was a stalemate, Mara's right.

But Harry Truman laid down the path and the structure for, ultimately, winning the cold war, as Mort was saying. And Truman deserves credit for that. We didn't know it for a long time after that.

I think another good model is Abraham Lincoln. It you went back and looked at the political situation he faced in, say, July of 1864, you would think he was going to lose his reelection fight. George McClellan would have won. And what would have happened? We would have settled with the South on terms that slavery would have been preserved, and think about what American history would have been after that.

It turned out, however, that Sherman took Atlanta in September, and General Philip Sheridan did very well in the Shenandoah Valley, and so on, and those victories spurred Lincoln. He won, and was a great president.

So I think President Bush's number now, as bad as it is--and it is certainly bad--his disapproval really doesn't mean--

Here is what I think he is going to get credit for. The economy is great. He gets no credit for that, nobody cares about that when they look back in history.

But they will look back and see that what he did was change the courts in this country, particularly The Supreme Court. No false dawn about it becoming conservative. This is the real thing. He produced it.

And, basically, like Truman, laid down the plan and the strategy, and so on, for winning the cold war, he has laid it down for winning the war on terror--being well forward looking and on offense. I think he will get credit for that. Even more credit if Iraq turns out well.

HUME: Let's assume for the sake of discussion that Iraq turns out badly, and that Democrats in Congress succeed, ultimately, of pulling over enough Republican votes to, basically, cut the project off, and it goes down as a defeat.

Will Bush be blamed for that, or will the outcome, if it turns out to be as bad as people think, tend to support his warnings?

KONDRACKE: No, I think he will be judged the failure. I mean, he got us in under false pretenses--he didn't know that they were false at the time, but they were false, on weapons of mass destruction.

The enterprise went badly because of policies that he agreed with. And he has not sustained the confidence in America around the world or in the United States.

And as for his domestic accomplishments, I agree with Fred, that changing the courts to the right will be his significant accomplishment. And he has got a good economy, but he has not solved the immigration problem. He has not established an ownership society. He has not delivered on the promise of a Republican ascendancy, and so on.

So I think--

HUME: So it's all Iraq?

KONDRACKE: I think it is all Iraq.

LIASSON: He has had a tremendous affect on American life in terms of the court, but that doesn't mean that he is going to be judged by history as a success. He is going to be judged as having a major imprint that will last for generation

But I think it comes back to Iraq. If Democrats pull troops out of Iraq, force his hand, and then the place goes up in flames, they are going to share a lot of the blame. I don't think he is going to escape from it.

But if then--and they are also going to have to deal with the aftermath if they win the White House in 2008.

BARNES: I actually think Iraq is going to turn out better than anybody thinks.

HUME: Why?

BARNES: Well, because of the surge.

But there is a broader issue than that, and that is the war on terror. And Bush has done extraordinarily well there, and he really has laid down the strategy for winning that war that everyone will follow, and they will forget about immigration and Katrina and other things.

HUME: When we come back with our panel, where in the world is Usama bin- Laden? Has the trail gone cold? More with the all stars on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How hard is the administration working right now to get Usama bin Laden? Is it a focus to get him? As a person how has made different comments over the years about how hard you are focused on him, how hard are you focused on him right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how you measure that. It is a constant focus, and it is certainly something where we continue to have assets looking for bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: But everybody talks about this. The question is, is bin Laden still alive? And if so, what evidence do we have of that?

What evidence do we have of that?

KONDRACKE: You said everybody talks about it. I thought you were going to say--

HUME: Say nobody does anything about it.

BARNES: Yes, like Mark Twain and the weather, you know, everybody talks about it and nobody does anything about it.

I don't think they are really doing a whole lot, actually, because it would be a titanic undertaking to send enough troops into that part of Pakistan to try to find this guy in the worse possible countryside. You would lose all kinds of people, and a needle in a hay stake. You may not get him, even though it would be important symbolically to get him.

HUME: Do we know he is still alive. Do we really know?

LIASSON: --he is still alive, even though he doesn't have any evidence.

HUME: Who?

LIASSON: The new director of--

HUME: I understand that, but in terms of us as citizens, watching the passing show and what comes out of there--

LIASSON: A one-year-old tape is the most recent public--

HUME: And what we hear from Zawahiri was some regularity, but not from Usama. One wonders if he--

BARNES: Yes. He was supposed to be on dialysis for his kidneys, and who knows he could be dead. But, certainly, al-Qaeda is not dead.

KONDRACKE: Lawrence Wright, who wrote The Moving Tower, thinks that he might have had Addison's Disease, which is the same disease that John F. Kennedy had. And that can be fatal. But he doesn't know, and nobody knows. The trail has gone cold, and we don't know why.

But we do know that al-Qaeda is resurgent. The National Intelligence Estimate that just came out says that. And there is no question but what al-Qaeda is active in this region of Waziristan and the travel territories in Pakistan. They are butchering people there who are pro-Pakistani government. They are creating a reign of terror in order to have allegiance and the haven.

And al-Zawahiri is a very effective guy.

LIASSON: But the other thing--what I think is interesting, the Interior Minister of Pakistan said that Usama bin-Laden is not present in Pakistan. That is there stance, and they are sticking to it.

But they certainly have no evidence that he is not there.

BARNES: Even if he is killed, al-Qaeda is going to be there, and we are going to have a terrorist threat from Islamic radicals from Morocco to the Philippines.

HUME: What is the effect if he is found? Will the Democrats in Congress, who have said that we have taken the eye off the ball, then say that the war on terror is won?

LIASSON: No. They will say we are glad they captured him, but--and they will be right in saying that Usama bin-Laden is not the problem. Al- Qaeda is the problem.

HUME: But now they are saying Usama bin-Laden is the problem.

BARNES: Well, they will change their tune, Brit. Have you ever heard of that in politics?

LIASSON: But they are certainly not saying that he is the only problem.

KONDRACKE: Whatever they can find to beat Bush over the head with they will find. And if Usama bin-Laden is killed, then it will be al- Zarqawi that we will need to get.

LIASSON: And it will be.

BARNES: --Usama bin-Laden was tortured, whether he was read his rights, whether he was offered a chance to appeal his case through the Habeas Corpus Petition, and so on.

KONDRACKE: That's an exaggeration, obviously.

HUME: How so? Is that really an exaggeration?

KONDRACKE: Yes. If we could kill him, we would kill him.

HUME: I understand that. What if we captured him and put him in Guantanamo? With would happen then?

LIASSON: We are not going to capture him.

KONDRACKE: I hope we don't capture him. I hope we kill him.

BARNES: If he is sent to Guantanamo, you know who his first call will be to? The ACLU.

HUME: Let me ask this question. We did have this interesting poll out from the Pew Research Center which shows, except for the Palestinian territories, a striking drop the acceptability to people in the Muslim world of the terror techniques, suicide bombing and so on.

What does that tell us about the ultimate fate of al-Qaeda? Anything?

BARNES: It does tell us that who are the main victims of terror attacks? It is not Americans. It is not Brits. It's Muslims. Those are the ones who dying in huge numbers, particularly in Iraq.

LIASSON: And that kind of result, if it is true, should encourage some of these Arab leaders to speak out against terrorism, because we usually hear nothing but silence.

KONDRACKE: I wish, somehow, that we could capitalize on his unpopularity. But America is not gaining in popularity while they are losing.

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