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Special Report Roundtable - July 30

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think that we can, potentially, achieve some measure of stability. And that is far preferable for our interests than complete collapse of the state and all out genocide and regional war.

So I think that while it is too early to say that we can achieve stability, we have a chance, and the military tactics themselves, at least, look quite good right now.


HUME: That is news because of person from whom it comes. And it came from Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, and no friend of the Iraq policies of this administration.

And it also came in a joint op-ed piece from a colleague of his, Pollock, and here is the piece, as you see it there. Kenneth Pollock and Michael O'Hanlon are now calling this, "A war we just might win." That is a considerable turnabout for both of those gentlemen in terms of the way they believe this war is being waged.

Some thoughts on the meaning of this now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, FOX News contributors all three.

So, Fred, what about this? We hear it from people in the military, we hear it from long-time supporters of the war. Now we are hearing it from people who have opposed the way the war has been waged. Tell us.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It tells us that something is happening in Iraq, and it is good. I think you are referring to John Burns in the New York Times, who had been very pessimistic several years ago about the future of Iraq and the possibility of creating a stable democratic government there.

Now who has seen what happens in Anbar, and where the Sunni Sheiks have turned against al-Qaeda and have joined the U.S., and so on, and he is much more optimistic now. I wouldn't say bubbling over, but than neither is Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollock--

HUME: But they do say this, and I quote, "Morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel they now have a superb commander in General David Petraeus. They are confident in the strategy, they see real results, and they feel, now, they have the numbers needed to make a real difference."

BARNES: There is undoubtedly real progress there. We have seen some in Iraq, some in the belt around Baghdad, where al-Qaeda mounts it's attacks and suicide bombings, and on.

And what they asked for, what they suggested in their piece, O'Hanlon and Pollock did, was something, actually, not very radical at all, just saying look, let's let this thing go past September at least until the end of 2008.

HUME: In the next year.

And that is a pretty modest request. But it is not one that Democrats like to hear. They don't want to hear this.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I talked to Michael O'Hanlon last week before this piece aired, or was printed in the paper, and he basically said he hopes the Democrats will stay open- minded about the surge. Now he agrees--

HUME: Stay open-minded? Don't they have to get open minded?

LIASSON: Or be open minded about the surgeon.

And I think this is significant. He calls himself a hard-powered Democrat, in the tradition of Sam Nunn. He isn't somebody who is reflexively against the surge, but he has been hard-nosed about looking at whether it was working or not.

And although he says there is absolutely no political progress that he can point to, or at least no significant political progress--

HUME: You mean by the central government. He certainly noted the ground up progress in Anbar.

LIASSON: Yes, yes, sure. But no political progress, but he does think that this should be given chance to work. And I think that we are now starting to see bits and pieces of the debate we are going to have in September when David Petraeus makes that report.


HUME: John Burns is the Baghdad Bureau Chief of The New York Times, and he enjoys a very good reputation among all who cover the place.

KONDRACKE: And there is an interview that is being carried right now by Hugh Hewitt, the radio talk show, as we speak, I believe, in which he says that there is undeniable progress militarily in all these places that we have mentioned, and some we haven't.

Deaths are down. Attacks are down. Suicide bombings are down. Al- Qaeda is on the run, et cetera, et cetera.

He does say, however, that there has been no narrowing at all of the gulf between the Sunnis and the Shia in the central government, no progress toward any kind of political settlement, as O'Hanlon and Pollock also say.

And my fear is, my guess would be, too, that the Democrats will fasten on what hasn't been done, that the benchmarks haven't been achieved, that the Iraqi Parliament is on vacation for the month of August, and will use that as the excuse regardless of what Petraeus an the Ambassador Crocker say in September to declare that the war as lost. I think that they are impervious to good news about Iraq.

LIASSON: But they don't have the votes to force an actual change in the policy.

BARNES: See, that is why--I agree with what Mort said, and Mara as well--that's why the important people here who might be affected by Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollock and John Burns, and others by General Petraeus and what he says are Republicans.

Because if you can hold on to Republicans--the fear has been that there would be a bunch of Republican Senators in particular who would be fleeing from the president's policy. We have already seen some go soft- Lugar, and Warner, and Gordon Smith, and others, but that there might be a real retreat by these senators come September.

I think when you get more like this from people like Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollock, I think it gives you an indication of what we are going to hear from General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker come September, and it can affect the Republicans.

I agree with Mort about the Democrats, they are not going to change much. We saw yesterday on FOX News Sunday, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin declaring that the surge is not working. Well who knows better? These guys who have just been over in Iraq, or Senator Feingold who hasn't?

KONDRACKE: One person whose testimony will be very influential will be James Jones, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, who has been sent over there by Congress to assess the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces to handle the job. And I think his report on that--

HUME: He is going to be saying what everybody is saying--it is not as good as we'd like, but their better?

KONDRACKE: If he has got anything positive to say, it seems to me that would bolster the Republican too.

HUME: All right panel. Next up, a new chapter in the special relationship between U.S. and Britain, what kind of rapport will President Bush and Prime Minister Brown have? Stay tuned.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He is a Scotsman. Not the dour Scotsman that you described him, or the awkward Scotsman, he is actually the humorous Scotsman, the guy that we were, actually, able to relax and share some thoughts.

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Call it the special relationship. Call it a joint inheritance. Call it when we met as a form of homecoming, as President Reagan did, then you see the strength of this relationship.


HUME: Well, expressed in somewhat less formal and more personal terms by President Bush, but there you saw the two leaders today, for the first time, meeting with Brown as Prime Minister up at Camp David, which, of course, carries a certain significance.

Presidents do not always invite heads of state to Camp David, but in this case he did. That raises questions. Gordon Brown is a different personality from Tony Blair. President Bush managed to develop a relationship with Tony Blair at least equal to the one that Tony Blair had with Bill Clinton.

So will it be the same with Gordon Brown, who has not been as enthusiastic and an advocate of the Iraq policy, for example, as, perhaps, Blair was. What about it? Mort, what do you think based on what you saw today?

KONDRACKE: No way. What you saw today was, I think, cool and correct, or, as Brown said, full and frank discussions.

It was not warm and chummy, and all of that. And it couldn't be, I don't think. Here you have a lame duck president who deeply unpopular, especially in Britain, on the one hand, Bush, and you have a brand new prime minister, who just a trying to find his legs, and the idea that they are going to be as chummy as Blair and Bush were.

HUME: What about close on politics, close on issues, work together, see eye to eye on the business that they are--

KONDRACKE: Well, Brown did Bush the favor of not announcing a pull from Basra--

HUME: Indeed he suggested the opposite.

KONDRACKE: What he said was that when Parliament comes back, they will consider in October whether to go into something called "over-watch."

HUME: He said they have been in that.

KONDRACKE: No. He said were going to go to over-watch in three to four, in the fourth province they are going to over-watch, which means that they are going to pull out of a combat role in Basra. That seems to be coming.

And there is a report from the International Crisis Group that indicates that the Brits are not that very effective in Basra, anyway.

LIASSON: Yes. And then the question is what happens after they leave, and is there a vacuum created or not.

Look, I think that on the one hand there is going to be more in-sync between British and American policy than people think for a successor of Tony Blair. On the other hand, you are not going to have the kind rhetorical hype and the more underpinning that Blair would always provide, sometimes more eloquently than George Bush--

HUME: Sometimes?

LIASSON: Well, I guess every time, we could say.

But Brown, I think, discharged his end of the special relationship completely appropriately today. He says our aim, like the United State, is step by step to move control to the Iraqis authorities. Of course, he probably wants to move a little bit faster than George Bush did.

I don't think you are going to see any big gulf between Britain and the United States anytime soon.

BARNES: I don't really, either. But there is a balancing act that Brown has to perform here. And on the one hand, in the U.S., he says how he agrees with Bush on everything from Darfur to Iran, and more sanctions, and so on, and loves America.

And he, actually, has spent a lot of time here, and does understand the American economy, which Tony Blair didn't quite. And he likes it, because our economy is vibrant and growing.

On the other hand, he has to show the Brits that there is some distance, that he is moving away from Bush a little bit. And I'm sure he will to that too, he has even said so.

HUME: Let me ask you a question. What is the single greatest source of source of influence in the world of any British Prime Minister?

BARNES: The U.S. Look, the special relationship with the U.S.--

HUME: It is the relationship with the President of the United States, isn't it?

BARNES: It's the most important relationship. Some in England would like to tell you it is the British Prime Minister's relationship with the European Union. It is not. It's the U.S., and it has been that way for well over 100 years.

HUME: And are there any broad issues and disagreements on basic issues between the U.S. and Britain at this time?

BARNES: There is some difference on Iraq, but it certainly didn't show up today. And if the British take their troops out, it is because there is not a lot of combat going on there anyway.

But on everything else, even global warming--I was sorry to hear that, to think of Bush agreeing with him on global warming, but they seemed to agree.

I mean, Brown went through a long, long list of all the things they agree on. It ought to cover the globe.

KONDRACKE: It is, as Brown described it in the Washington Post op-ed piece, "An alliance for the ages." And he is going to continue that alliance between the Atlantic partnership, and all that. But is it going to be as tight as Blair and Bush? Heavens, no.

HUME: Mort, you know what you remind me of? You remind me of the correspondents in London during the NATO summit there, when George Bush the first had just become president. And the British press was aflame with reporting that the special relationship that Margaret Thatcher had enjoyed with Ronald Reagan, and this new guy was going to have a special relationship with Helmut Cole.

Then came the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, and where was the first person, George Bush, the father, turn to? It wasn't Helmut Cole--

KONDRACKE: Do you honestly believe that a prime minister who appointed Malloch Brown, the critics from of the United States from the United Nations, to his top job is going to be as close as Tony Blair? I don't think so.

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