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Special Report Roundtable - Aug 14

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Mr. President, the world has turned many times since our journey began. We have been at this a long time. It was over 14 years ago that you began your run for governor, and over ten years ago that we started thinking and planning about a possible run for the presidency.

And it has been an exhilarating and eventful time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of Karl Rove's resignation?

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good-bye and good riddance.


BAIER: That was "Good bye and good riddance" from one of the candidates back in 2004. What about the other?

We have a quote here from Senator John Kerry. "It is a tragedy that an administration that promised to unite Americans has instead left us more divided that ever before. Without doubt the architect of that political strategy was Karl Rove, who proved the politics of division may win some elections, but cannot govern America."

So Karl Rove steps down. What does that mean to this White House? What does this mean for the political environment?

Some analytical observations now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune Magazine, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributors all.

Fred--the legacy of Karl Rove, what will it be?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the biggest thing he did was help the president win the 2004 election. It was Karl's insight --and had been all along-- that the younger President Bush had to do what the older President Bush didn't do, and that is hold on to his conservative base in the party.

And you could work out from that, because a conservative base is closer to the political center in America than the Democrats' liberal base. So you can use it, reach out from that to independents and swing voters, and so on, and win that's election at a time when the war in Iraq was becoming increasingly unpopular.

I think that was Karl's greatest single event. He didn't have as much impact on the 2000 election.

I read some stuff today, though--one piece in The New York Times about blaming Karl for the 2006 defeat. That is ludicrous. There was a bad situation for Republicans, and you have to understand what people like Karl do. They can't change the situation. They can deal with it either well or sloppily--and he is very good at dealing with political situations--but they don't create that situation, and they can't wipe it away.

BAIER: He clearly took the President--governor, first, to the presidency, across the finish line in 2000, 2004. But on policy issues, Karl Rove was seen as not really getting it done--Social Security was under his wing, and also the immigration reform.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: I think that is a better look at him, in some ways. There's two ways to look at Karl Rove--and, by the way--everybody loves to either demonize or deify--he evokes these strong emotions in people. And George Bush, by the way, calls him "boy genius" and "turd blossom," so he makes fun of him while also acknowledging his political smarts.

I think that that is some way to look at him. He's not some genius, but he is a very smart political adviser. He was smart in 2000, 2002, 2004--three Republican gains. We haven't seen that since the 19th century. In congress, those were major electoral gains.

And I agree with Fred, I don't think that you can blame him for 2006. It was the war, congressional scandals, so you can't, necessarily, blame him there.

But you touched on something that I think is important--Social Security, immigration reform. There are some of these key domestic agenda items that he was charged with, it was part of his purview in the White House, and was not able to move those forward.

And while I think he his legacy ultimately, though, will be wrapped up in the president's legacy.

BAIER: Charles, this White House post-Karl Rove--does it change significantly?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYDICATED COLUMNIST: I think not. It is an exhausted White House, and its agenda is limited. They will being playing defense in September for the rest of this year in trying to veto the Democratic appropriation bills, and playing hard-line on fiscal responsibility.

I'm not sure he would have been that required to do that. The vision he gave was early in Bush's career. I think his political genius was most shown in the first election, 1994, when they beat Anne Richards, who was an popular governor of Texas, unbeatable, and he beat her and launched the career of George Bush.

I think on domestic issues, yes, on immigration and Social Security-- although, I think on Social Security, that proposal, which was too early and failed, will be seen historically as probably the way to go as a way to bridge differences. And it was rather visionary.

But his main success, or the president's main success, which he helped engineer, was the tax cuts, which gave us the post 9/11 economic expansion.

In general, his legacy, like the president's, will be filtered through the war in Iraq. If the ear in Iraq ends terribly, that will be a historical judgment on Bush. But if it ends reasonably, I think that the Bush presidency and the Rove influence will be seen benignly, and--

BARNES: I think you have to understand what political strategists do. Karl Rove didn't draft the tax cuts. He helped support them and sell them. He didn't write the Immigration Bill, he didn't write the Social Security Reform Bill.

Now, he was for both of those, he thought they were good ideas. They didn't work. But he is a political strategist. And particularly on immigration, when the president's popularity had gone down because of Iraq, where he was not a strategist at all, there was nothing Karl could do to give the president more influence on Capitol Hill.

He tried. He was in favor of it. He thought it was essential for Republicans in particular, that they pass this Immigration Reform Bill.

But when I talked to him today, I asked him if he thought that political strategists are overrated. He said he's overrated in everything he's ever done, and that he is myth. And that is true, and it is mainly the fault of the press elevating political strategies as if they're the people who decide elections and the success or not of legislation.

BAIER: Quickly, Fred, I want to ask you, since you talked to him today, do you think that he will weigh in on the 2008 campaign someplace?

BARNES: I don't.

BAIER: At all?


BAIER: Well, that was quick.

Last word. When we return with our panel, the fall out from the Iowa Republican straw poll, and how is the GOP field shaking out? Stick around, we'll be right back.



ROMNEY: If you can't compete in the heartland, if you can't compete in Iowa in August, how are you going to compete in January, when the caucuses are held, and then how are you going to compete in November of 2008? Because, fundamentally, you have to win Iowa if you want to win the presidency. This is a purple state.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that when it comes down to it, people elect a president that they believe understands them and will lead them--not necessarily that will buy them, or even rent them.

And what we saw Saturday was that there was an extraordinary amount of money spent, and some people stood back and said, "You know, if he will spend that kind of money when it is his own, what will he do when it is somebody else's, like the taxpayers and federal treasury."


BAIER: There is one and two in the Iowa straw poll--Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee. As you take a look at the results from this weekend in Ames, there you see Mitt Romney at 31 percent, Mike Huckabee at 18 percent.

Of course, notable, three big candidates didn't post in that Iowa straw poll. Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain--there you see their percentages.

So what does all of this mean, the Iowa straw poll? And how much does it affect this race? We're back with our panel. Charles, weigh in on what this means.

KRAUTHAMMER: Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. In Iowa it is 100 percent. Do you think the reason that the three other candidates, Giuliani and McCain and Thompson did badly? Is it because the Republicans in Iowa disagree with their positions? Of course not. It is because Romney who showed up.

And the one issue in Iowa, always--it is never the war or the economy, it about who came to flatter Iowa the most with money and attention and appearances. And that's what Romney did.

Look, he spent a lot of the time and effort in the state. He shows that he can organize. But on the other hand, we knew that from his history as an entrepreneur, and also running the Salt Lake Olympics.

So he solidifies his position as one of the frontrunners. And Huckabee--I predict a year from now Huckabee will be a footnote of a footnote.

BAIER: Nina, weigh in. Mike Huckabee, he made a big deal out of his second place finish there--former Arkansas governor.

EASTON: Or vice presidential candidate. I have always thought Huckabee was running for Vice President.

KRAUTHAMMER: I will bet you lunch on that one.

EASTON: But, look, for Romney, he is running a very different campaign than Giuliani or McCain, of course. He needs to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina. Giuliani and McCain, Giuliani in particular, is focused, of course, on a more national strategy.

So Romney had to do well. And what you see now is Romney trying to set himself up now as the conservative candidate. All of the other candidates who came in well behind him in Iowa.

Now Romney is positioning himself against Giuliani over immigration, which is an interesting fight to watch, because immigration, of course, is a real touchstone with the conservative primary voters.

So I think we're going to see right now the sort of knuckle, head-to- head going between Romney and Giuliani, especially over immigration.

BAIER: So Fred, clearly Romney has a lot of organization, a lot of money. Let's say he wins in Iowa, New Hampshire--South Carolina, he competes, maybe he doesn't win. But Giuliani doesn't post in those three states.

How does Giuliani run nationwide race to get the nomination?

BARNES: If he loses those three states, it is curtains for Giuliani.

BAIER: But, clearly, that is his plan.

BARNES: Look, the early primaries mean, practically, everything. You have to do well, and it may set you up for February 5 when you have 25 primaries, and you need money for that too.

But none of that will be affected at all by what happened last Saturday in Ames, Iowa. Practically nobody showed up--about 14,000 people voted. Huckabee thinks he is in the top tier because he got 2,587 votes.

There were 10,000 fewer Republicans showed up than they did in 1999. Romney says I got a higher percentage than Bush did in 1999. He got 3,000 fewer votes than Bush did, which I think the number of votes shows how interested people are in this race.

I think Ames meant zilch.

BAIER: I don't think you'll get an invitation next year, Fred.

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