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Special Report Roundtable - July 31

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: It is out belief that this is not something that you can hold over. This is a top priority. It is urgent. You have got to streamline the system so that people can operate quickly on the basis of information, so they can protect American lives.

SEN HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, (D) NEVADA: According to Senator Rockefeller and Senator Leahy, this is almost done from their perspective. The only question is is how much involvement the Attorney General will have in it, as compared to the FISA court itself. Other than that, I think it is fairly well worked out.


HUME: So what are these people talking about? They are talked about an update of law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that would deal with the problem that is caused by new technical.

And that technical is, for example, is, say, internet messages between foreign terrorists, or terror suspects, both of them in a foreign country, may be routed through U.S. computers, and, therefore, fall under the jurisdiction of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which requires that if U.S. intelligence wants to intercept the messages, that they get a warrant from the FISA court, as it is called, and establish probable cause.

Nobody seems to argue that that isn't horribly unwieldy and a problem. The question is how much urgency is it to get it fixed? You heard the White House in the person of Tony Snow saying it has to be fixed before Congress goes on vacation. Harry Reid says it is happening.

Some thoughts on it 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.

So where does it stand, Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: It looks as though it is going to be a done deal. It is too bad that it took pushing and pressing, and even, maybe, threatening on the part of the administration to get it done, and other Republicans to get it done.

Admiral McConnell had proposed these changes back in April, and they kept pushing it, and he was getting nowhere. And, finally, the Republicans raised it into a pressing issue, especially after the National Intelligence Estimate came out a couple of weeks ago, saying that we were under increased threat of an attack.

For the Democrat not to put this thing through before they left on the August recess, the Republicans were, basically, threatening them with the blame if anything should happen, if there was ever an attack, and finally--

HUME: Or, perhaps, one during the recess.

KONDRACKE: Yes, during the recess.

HUME: Worst of all, right?

KONDRACKE: That's right, during the recess. And so they are going to act, which they should have done--

LIASSON: This is an island of bipartisanship in what has been a summer long stalemate on almost everything having to do with national security. So I would say I don't think we should load it up with expectations that there will be more of the same, but, good stuff that they could come together and fix the problem and not have it end up in a filibuster.

BARNES: I wouldn't call this bipartisanship. The Republicans have been beating them over the head now for some weeks. And McConnell, as Mort said, testified back starting in April. Left of their own devices, Democrats probably wouldn't fix this. Their pals at the ACLU say all this would do is give NSA, and others who do the wireless surveillance, would give them the right to wiretap Americans.

And, of course, that is not what it is. It says in the bill--they have narrowed it down to one thing--

HUME: Wasn't a claim made, and we heard it on FOX News Sunday from Senator Feingold, that the administration is using this provision, to fix this one thing, at the leading edge as a measure that has all kinds of stuff in it.

BARNES: That was the original bill, but they paired it down last week. Had should have known better from the letter that was sent to leaders on Capitol Hill on Friday, two days before making that charge.

It is just the one thing to fix the situation that Mort has described, to collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets overseas. It is just the one thing, and do that for a year.

And look, I don't think this is bipartisanship, though it will look like that because the vote will be overwhelming.

LIASSON: Wait a minute, if the vote is overwhelming, then it is bipartisan.

BARNES: When Republicans have to beat Democrats into doing it, and Democrats were not going to do it, you call that bipartisanship?

KONDRACKE: The administration did back of. This bill went from 66 pages long down to 11 pages, so there is a lot of stuff that got cut out--

BARNES: Yes, I know, and I don't call that bipartisanship either.

KONDRACKE: It is a deal thought. They did make a deal, and they got stuff done that they needed to get done in a hurry. So they got it done.

Now it did take pressure, unfortunately. I'm not saying that this was bipartisan love and kumbaya by any means. It was coercive diplomacy, shall we say, on the domestic sector.

BARNES: You called it a no-brainer earlier, and you were right.

HUME: When we come back, has the air gone out of the Fred Thompson presidential campaign before it gets off the ground? And what about Giuliani? What's up with his poll numbers? More with the all stars coming up next.



FRED THOMPSON, (R) FORMER TENNESSEE SENATOR: This is a matter of raising some money, and it is a matter of get your people together, and getting your organization together.

But, in the end, it is more important than organization, and it is more important than money. It is going to come down to ideas, ideas that are going to help this country. And it is not often that a person has the opportunity to really do that.


HUME: That was Fred Thompson the other day talking about his campaign, his hopes, his ideas about how it will go, and so on. He has got new money figures out today, which, as Carl Cameron reported early, are less by a million and a half or so than his aides had led people to expect. But he is seriously in play anyway, though he hasn't announced.

Let's look at a few new polls. This is from the American Research Group. New Hampshire numbers show that Rudy Giuliani has moved ahead of Mitt Romney, who had been leading in that state. Fred Thompson back at 13, John McCain appearing further to sink.

In Iowa with we have something similar--Giuliani ahead by a statistically meaningless point, essentially tied there. Thompson again at 13, McCain ahead of him there.

And in South Carolina, guess who? Rudy Giuliani ahead of Thompson, who would figure to do very well in South Carolina, and had been leading, I think, at some earlier polls there, announced or not.

So that is the latest polling data, put together with the latest money data, put together with the latest discussions that we is been having about how well Thompson's campaign is coming together as an organization. Fred, where are we?

BARNES: Well, I think Giuliani is ahead. Giuliani has run the best campaign, he has been the best debater in the Republican debates so far that have been on television. And he is, I think, just a better candidate as things stand now.

He has jumped ahead. He has a healthcare plan that he is talking that is a much more free market plan than the one that Romney has. Remember, Romney had to get his plan through the Massachusetts legislature, which is very Democratic, it is more of a government plan. I think Giuliani's plan would be an easier sell to Republicans in the Republican primaries. And he has done very well.

Fred Thompson, I don't know whether she doing this on purpose or not, but he is managing to lower expectations, and that is very good. By not raising as much money as at least one of his aides had said he might, and having staff squabbles, and stories about his wife ordering staffers around and getting them fired, and so on. It really is having an affect of lowering expectations--

HUME: Speaking of his wife, she showed a picture of her on the screens, she is quite glamorous. But she is no slouch as a political figure.

BARNES: Oh, I know. But expectations were getting out of hand for Thompson. They are still pretty high, but I think--

HUME: So you think that the little downturn in Thompson's fortune is a good thing? Just what he needed?

BARNES: Absolutely.

LIASSON: Look, Fred Thompson, first off, for somebody that hasn't gotten into the race, he is doing pretty good, and that is a good thing. Bad thing is that he has been having a little bumpy road getting ready.

But he has very high expectations. He has to come into the race--

HUME: Have they come down now as far as that goes?

LIASSON: I think they have come down. But he still has a big void that he has to fill. He is supposed to answer the dreams of all these Republicans for the southern conservative who has, until now, been absent from the race.

What I think is really interesting about these latest poll numbers is the sustained power of Rudy Giuliani. For months and months we have all been talking about how the inevitable implosion of Rudy Giuliani as soon as Republicans learn more about him. Well if they don't know about him by now, I don't know when they will, and about he various liberal positions of social issues.

He is tied with Romney in Iowa and in New Hampshire and in South Carolina. That is extraordinary. Romney has spent millions of dollars on the air. He is also has tremendous organization. And I think that is the most significant--

HUME: What is happening with this? I mean, it really did seem that Giuliani had surged ahead of everybody, and then begun to fade--

LIASSON: And then came down a bit, that's right.

HUME: --and that his campaign was beginning to sink a bit.

LIASSON: I think that, as Fred said, he is a great performing candidate.

HUME: So he hits these states, and people get fired up.

LIASSON: People get fired up. And also, they--I think Republican primary voters are sorting out in their minds how important they want social issues to be. And Giuliani argument is, they are important, but they are not the most important thing. National security, terrorism, and the economy are more important. And I think they are buying that to a certain extent.

KONDRACKE: And also, in his stump speech, he is always bashing the Democrats. But especially--Giuliani does it in a more aggressive way.

I mean, today for example, in announcing his health plan, he is accusing the Democrats of favoring socialized medicines. Now they are not in favor of socialized medicines. It is not like Canada where there is a single pair health insurance system, where there is no private insurance company, or like Britain, where all the doctors work for the government. It is not socialized medicine.

But he is accusing them of socialized medicines.

BARNES: Mort, they are moving in that direction.

KONDRACKE: Oh, please.

BARNES: You know they are. They want government healthcare.

KONDRACKE: There are 47 million uninsured people, and the Democrats have one scheme toward insuring them all. Now it is not necessarily the best scheme, but his is not the best scheme, either.

BARNES: The problem of their scheme is it would draw people off who are now on private insurance and draw them into a government healthcare plan. Now, you tell me they are not in favor of at least government health insurance? Come on, Mort.

KONDRACKE: The problem with his is that you have to be paying income taxes in order to benefit from the Giuliani system. Most of the people that we are trying to cover are poor people who don't have enough money to get--

BARNES: That's one plan. You look at the Coburn plan, you look at other plans that the White House has endorsed. They provide refundable tax credits.

And what that means is--

HUME: A great discussion. How did we get into a serious discussion of an issue? We are trying to do a horse race. We are done.

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