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Roundtable: Craig, the Rise of Russia

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume




CRAIG: I'm a respectable person and I don't do these kinds of...

KARSNIA: And (INAUDIBLE) respect right now though.

CRAIG: But I didn't use my left hand.

KARSNIA: I thought that you...

CRAIG: I reached down with my right hand like this to pick up a piece of paper.

KARSNIA: Was your gold ring on your right hand at anytime today?

CRAIG: Of course not, try to get it off, look at it.

KARSNIA: OK. Then it was your left hand, I saw it with my own eyes.

CRAIG: All right, you saw something that didn't happen.


HUME: As if things were not already mortifying enough for Senator Larry Craig, we now have the release of the police tape, which that was only a small excerpt, in which he and the arresting officer argue about which hand or foot or whatever he used in what way when they were seated side by side in bathroom stalls at the Minneapolis Airport back in June in an incident that led to his arrest on lewd conduct charges, reduced, ultimately, to a plea for him to disorderly conduct.

Some thoughts on all this Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor for Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

This comes, Fred, as Republican Party leaders, state and federal, are trying feverishly to get Craig to see the handwriting on the wall and resign the Senate effective immediately, as I understand it. How's it going?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, they haven't gotten him yet. He is resisting. He doesn't want to. He wants to dispute the case and retract his guilty plea.

I don't think that's going to happen, and Republicans think--and, Brit, this is from top to bottom, this is from the White House to Congress to committees, all the party committees, to people in Idaho, the remnants of the Bush campaign, Republican National Committee Officials, it's everybody--believes that the Craig case is a huge setback for the Republican effort that have been going on now for months to cleanse themselves and rid themselves of this horrible scandal and corruption issue.

And then the Larry Craig thing comes along, and the think that every day he is in office, it hurts Republicans. And I agree with them.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Look, he's got no political future. He was up for reelection this next year. Everybody in Idaho, all the Republicans and the Idaho Statesman have called for him to resign, and he may as well do it, and I anticipate he will.

If all you had to go on was this little clip and the transcript, actually, you could say well, there might be a case that he was pressured into this, or scared into this by something. But the fact is that John McArdle the Roll Call reporter who broke this story and has checked into it further said that this is a notorious pick up bathroom in the Minneapolis airport.

HUME: Well, that's why they put the cop in there.

KONDRACKE: Right. And it's way out of the way, way out of Craig's way.

HUME: It's in a shopping area, right along the airport.

KONDRACKE: It's not on the way from the plane from Washington to the connecting flight to Idaho. You have to go out of your way to get there.

He was under scrutiny. It's almost self-destructive for him to be anywhere near this place. He was under scrutiny from the Idaho Statesman. So why he got himself into this--and then you have the guilty plea.

He is not going to survive this.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, it's over. And this story will be gone by Labor Day, for sure, and probably tomorrow.

And it's obviously the ridicule, the idea that his defense is so inherently absurd it lends itself endlessly to comedy. I think Leno must have had nine jokes in a row last night, and he could have gone all night, but he quit because of the mercy rule like you have in Little League.

But, if I could, this is a very sad story, on the other hand. This is a man's entire life, everything he has ever done and achieved, dissolving in three days. And it's a pathetic story, and you want to call for a moment of silence. It's a tragedy.

And it makes you realize, this horrible incident in the bathroom, that there is a virtue to what's happened over the last 20 years, in which it's socially OK to be openly homosexual and you don't have to be in the closet. And that was not true when you and I were growing up, and young gay people have a choice now.

Not everybody wants to be publicly a gay person, but you can. And you don't have to live in the kind of repressed hell that apparently Craig did.

KONDRACKE: Well, if you are an Idaho Republican--

KRAUTHAMMER: And for that you can thank people like Barney Frank, Andrew Sullivan, and others who, before it became common, came out openly and publicly and showed the younger people it is OK.

HUME: But is that an option really open to a western state Republican conservative?

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course not, but I'm making a point about him. I'm making a point about how society has changed for the--

BARNES: Society has changed, no question about that.

But it is not just that he is a laughingstock. It's that this is seen by most people as another example of Republican conduct that is corrupt and unbecoming.

And they all remember when the Mark Foley scandal broke in early October of 2006, and what happened to the polls of every Republican running for office around the country. They dropped about 10 points.

HUME: Basically, what they are saying is that Larry Craig should give up what's left of his career to preserve what's left of theirs.

BARNES: Well put.

HUME: You could see why that would sound like a good deal to him.

Let me ask one more question, though. He has attempted to make this into a fight with The Idaho Statesman. Does he have a leg to stand on in criticizing that newspaper?

KONDRACKE: No, I think not, because The Idaho Statesman when it was a "he said he said" situation, they held off. They have been very responsible in this case.

But to follow-up on Charles's point, it is a problem among conservative Republicans, especially westerners, they are still repressed. They are back in the pre-liberation days, where they can't be open about this.

BARNES: Mort, you don't know what he means about Republicans, they're repressed.

KONDRACKE: If they are gay, they're repressed.

BARNES: Mort, you're winging it.

HUME: We will wing it on something else here in a minute.

When we come back French President Nicolas Sarkozy and tough talk about Iran. Stay with us.



NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT: France will be willing to assist Iraq. That is the message Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner carried to Baghdad. It's a message of solidarity and availability. He was right to go to Baghdad, and he accomplished his mission in a remarkable way.


HUME: And not only did Nicolas Sarkozy say some things that were pleasing to American ears about the willingness of his country to help in Iraq, he also said some tough things about his view of Iran.

Back with our panel now. We have someone completely different, do we not, in France now--Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: We do. He still has a sense of France as a great nation that ought to play a role. But Chirac, and De Gaulle, who preceded him, of course, imagined that role as opposing America, and standing up. And that was most dramatically seen thing during the Iraq issue at the U.N., when France not only opposed the American resolutions, but lobbied other countries to oppose us as well.

Sarkozy has a sense of France being a great nation by being involved, and not just by opposing America. Involved in Iraq, Kouchner was on a visit there, in fact, he supported the war. He is a socialist, and he is former doctor who is a humanitarian who worked in the Kurdish areas and knows the Kurdish leaders. He could be an intermediary in negotiations internally in Iraq.

HUME: You're talking about Kouchner?


And with Sarkozy sending him on that kind of role. He spoke well of Israel, he spoke tough on Iran, where he said that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable. He vacations in America weeks after he is elected, and his ratings in France are about 70 percent favorable.

So he really is a new kind of leader, and I think it's going to have a huge impact on the European opinion over time.

KONDRACKE: I agree with all that, and I think Americans who are hostile to President Bush ought to take note that in Britain and Germany and France, you have people who are going against the notion that America is hated everywhere in the world, that President Bush himself is a pariah. It's just not so anymore.

Also, I think, in the case of Sarkozy, he made some very strong statements about Iran. He's called for growing sanctions to prevent the catastrophic alternative of either an Iranian bomb or someone's bombing Iran.

The question is, now, what does he do about it? The Europeans really do have the power to put the financial screws to Iran and force it to back off its nuclear program.

For example, I think it was The Wall Street Journal that suggested that Sarkozy could get the French oil company Total to cancel or postpone progress on this $2 billion natural gas deal that they have got with Iran. The Economist said another thing he could do is rejoin NATO, have France rejoin NATO, and start contributing to peace-making missions around the world, and stuff.

So there a lot of things he can do.

BARNES: The amazing thing to me is that now France is more pro Bush on Iraq than the Democrats are, which is a great turn of events.

And I think Sarkozy also realizes the benefit of something else, and that is saber rattling--to suggest the possibility that if Iran doesn't agree to limit its nuclear facilities, they may be taken out militarily. I think the Iranians need to be reminded of that, that that is a possibility.

I think President Bush ought to talk about the things that the U.S. can do.

HUME: Sarkozy clearly isn't talking about France doing it.

BARNES: No, but he is suggesting it being done, and the Iranians have to concentrate their minds.

I think he's also figured out a couple other things. One is that France's enemies are America's enemies and vice-versa, and that in the global context France's most important ally is America. And the best way to get the most out of your relationship with America is not to be hostile as Chirac was, but to be friendly. And that is what he is doing.

HUME: What is striking to me about it is how it could have been seemingly good politics for Chirac to be anti-American, basically, and good politics for Sarkozy to be pro-American.

KRAUTHAMMER: Part of that is a rise of a recalcitrant and threatening Russia. And that is changing the way that Europe is looking at itself.

It imagined in the 90s it was living in a paradise end of history--who needed friends if you had no enemies. Well, in fact, in the speech he gave, Sarkozy spoke of the Russians brutally using their assets, their oil and gas as a weapon.

And I think Europeans are reacting and understanding that you have to have a friend in the world, and the best, ultimately, is the United States.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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