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Special Report Roundtable - July 27

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: He has testified truthfully, trying to be very accurate. And what also happens is you have an interesting situation, when members of Congress knowing that somebody is constrained by matters of classification, they can ask very broad questions. And those are questions they know the person sitting on the other side cannot answer thoroughly in open session.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President believes that Alberto Gonzalez's credibility is intact?

SNOW: Yes.

BAIER: There you have White House Spokesman Tony Snow defending the Attorney General. Democrats are calling for a Special Prosecutor to look into possible perjury charges against the A.G. after his testimony on Capitol Hill, that is conflicted with FBI Director Robert Muller, who said that there were some internal disagreements about surveillance programs run by the NSA.

It is pretty technical, but we are going to try to get into it. Now some analytical observations from our Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mory Kondrake, Executive Editor at Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

So, basically, Muller goes up to the House Judiciary Committee, says there was an internal dispute about surveillance programs run by the NSA. Gonzalez is in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee, he says there was no disagreement about the terrorist surveillance program.

Charles, are Democrats barking up the wrong tree, calling this perjury?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Yes, because Gonzalez and Muller are talking about different aspects, different programs. Gonzalez is careful to say that the program of which he says there no disagreement is the one that the president has acknowledged in 2005 and 2006, which is the program that was narrowed in 2004, after there had been objections.

So what Muller is referring to is the original program from the 9/11 attacks, until it was changed. There were objections. The president sided with the Justice Department against Gonzalez, who was in the White House at the time.

The program was narrowed, and the program as it was narrowed, and as it is today, is not in disagreement. So, if you look at it that way, which I think is an accurate understanding of how Gonzalez has framed his responses, there is in contradiction.

The tragedy is here that National Review explained it well, Tony explained it. I think I have explained it. But Gonzalez is incapable of explaining it, and that is why he is in trouble. He is just inarticulate and can't explain how there was a real difference in timing.

BAIER: And, Mort, there is a problem with the White House, too, being able to explain it because of classification.

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Whatever it was that Gonzalez was allegedly talking about is still secret. And so you can't say well, no, this is what we are talking about, not this.

But, this could have all been cleared up today very simply if Robert Muller had come out and said, what I meant yesterday was exactly what the administration is saying about this. I'm sorry I made a mistake. If I left an impression that I was contradicting Alberto Gonzalez, I'm sorry.

Did he do that? He did not. So we still have a situation where there is a contradiction between the FBI Director and the Attorney General.

Now, is it perjury? Perjury involves criminal intent, right? You have to knowingly, purposefully lie. I don't know if they can ever prove that. But the Democrats at least have still got a trail that they can bark down.

BAIER: So the fallout here, this is one after another attacks against the Attorney General. What is the fallout? Who is winning this battle, and does the A.G. continue to stick around?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: There is a battle, and then there is a longer war. Obviously, the Democrats are winning this battle, they are embarrassing the White House, embarrassing the Gonzalez. Tony Snow has to say the president has full confidence in him.

As Charles pointed out, he is a lousy witness when it comes to talking about classified information. And he really clutches when that happens. And somebody described it, when he is before these committees and he is asked about this stuff, and he gets super cautious, they said it was like watching the clubbing of a baby seal.

And then poor old Gonzalez is the baby seal being clubbed by all these members of Congress. He cannot--as Charles said--Tony Snow explained it pretty well. He brought into the analogy of a meal, and then all of this intelligence gathering is a meal, and Tony said he could confirm the peas but not rest of stuff on the dish. There was something else on the dish that, presumably, Gonzalez was talking about.

Bret: I think we did pretty well for a technical topic.

We will move on. Up next on the panel, the verbal sparring continues between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But just who is winning this war of words? The FOX all-stars weigh in on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CLINTON: I thought that was irresponsible and, frankly, na

BARACK OBAMA: I don't want a continuation of Bush-Cheney. I don't want Bush-Cheney lite. I want a fundamental change. It is time to turn the page on how we do business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are looking for what's wrong in Washington, why the system is broken, why the system doesn't work, one perfect example is what has been happening just over the course of the last four days.

We have had two good people, Democratic candidates for president, who spent their time attacking each other instead of attacking the problems that this country has faced.

BAIER: Well there you get a flavor of debate. John Edwards weighing in today about this whole question of whether the next president should meet with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Syria. Who is winning this? Clinton-Obama back and forth.

We are back with our panel. Fred, is there a winner so far?

BARNES: I'm not sure there is. I thought at first--obviously, during the debate, my reaction was that Hillary was clear winner, her answer was the right one. The notion in a we go out and talk to Hugo Chavezs of the world and the Fidel Castros is a nutty answer.

But it was a snap answer by Barack Obama. I mean, he has tried to clarify it later, and saying of course we do the diplomatic work ahead of time to find things up.

But this is one of the unusual issues, where both sides think it is a good issue for them. Hillary went out, actually to my surprise, after the debate, the next day, and was attacking Obama. He certainly fired back. And they both think they are doing it right.

John Edwards's complaint is--look, this has nothing to do with how Washington works or not. His main complaint is this is a debate that is getting up attention, and he is not getting it.

KONDRAKE: Rasmussen reports comes out today with a poll, and let's take a look at this. On this poll "Should the next president meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, and North Korea without preconditions?" Forty-two percent said yes, the next president should meet with those leader.

Mort, is Obama touching a nerve here?

KONDRAKE: That poll--the word "without preconditions" is the key item. I don't know that half the people understand what "without preconditions" means. "Without preconditions" means that you just go in and start talking, and you don't have any agenda, practically.

And I can't believe that the American people, if they understood that, would vote that substantially in favor of it.

But look, there are two things going on here>&
nbsp;One is the merits, in which I think Clinton was exactly right. You don't go without preconditions into these negotiations. She has been around the Oval Office a lot in her husband's administration, and she knows that diplomacy works a certain way.

What is really interesting is the politics of all this, why they decided to fasten on this thing and have a donnybrook about it. And, as Fred says, each of them thinks that it is going to work for them.

I'm not sure who it does work for. After all, this is a Democratic Primary. Obama is appealing to left wingers, basically, and he may be ahead.

BAIER: In fact, Obama is running some web ads in Iowa and New Hampshire on this issue.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it may help him in the early stages here with the Democrats. But if he ends up as a nominee, it is going to hurt him.

This was a novice's error. You do not have a summit with the bad guys without conditions, preconditions. He cited Kennedy. John Kennedy never offered to meet without preconditions with Mao Tse Tung or Kim il Sung, who were the bad guys of that time.

He cited Reagan, who had a summit with Gorbachev in the first year of his second administration, after he held out for an entire administration, and was under attack this his re-election by campaign by Walter Mondale, who said you are the first president who has never had a summit. And he didn't have a summit because he wanted to wait until Gorbachev and the others were actually beaten and had to accept his conditions.

If Obama wants to say "I'm the candidate of change," I'm not sure that the change America wants is a man who is showing up on a stage with a clown like Hugo Chavez.

BARNES: I always liked Reagan's answer. Remember what his answer was? He said Soviet leader, he said they kept dying on me. And I couldn't meet with them because they kept dying.

Look, I disagree. I don't think how this is going to play. The American people in the polls have always showed they like American presidents talking to foreign leaders, even bad ones, whether the preconditions are looked at or not. So this may work out to his benefit.

BAIER: All right, that's the last word.

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