Senators Conrad, Specter and Thune on "Fox News Sunday"

Senators Conrad, Specter and Thune on "Fox News Sunday"

By Fox News Sunday - October 18, 2009

WALLACE: I'm Chris Wallace, and this is "FOX News Sunday."

The battle over health care reform intensifies. What will a final plan include? And who will have to pay for it? We'll ask three senators at the center of the debate -- Kent Conrad , Democratic chair of the Budget Committee; John Thune , head of the Republican Policy Committee; and Arlen Specter , a recent Democratic convert who says there must be a public option.

Then, the Obama White House targets Fox News. Will the new strategy work? We'll ask Karl Rove, former top adviser to President Bush, and Terry McAuliffe, former chair of the Democratic Party -- Rove and McAuliffe, only on "FOX News Sunday."

Also, is the president leaning toward sending more troops to Afghanistan? We'll ask our Sunday regulars -- Brit, Mara, Bill and Juan.

And our Power Player of the Week has pro football players thinking pink, all right now on "FOX News Sunday."

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. Well, after months of public debate, the battle over health care reform has gone behind closed doors. White House officials are meeting privately with Senate leaders, Democrats only, to merge two very different committee bills before bringing a compromise to the floor.

Joining us now to talk about what they would support are Democratic senators Kent Conrad and Arlen Specter , who are in their home states, and Republican senator John Thune , who joins us here in studio.

Senators, let's start with the public option.

Senator Conrad, you have been an outspoken opponent of the idea of a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Will you vote for a Democratic plan, a final Democratic plan, that includes a public option?

CONRAD: Well, it's probably not wise for me to negotiate in public, Chris, but let me say this. I will not support any public option tied to Medicare levels of reimbursement.

My state has the second to third lowest level of Medicare reimbursement in the country. That would work an extreme hardship on my state. So I will not support that.

As you know, I have proposed not-for-profit insurance competitors to the for-profit insurance industry in the form of cooperatives that are run by their membership, not run by the government. That is included in the Finance Committee bill.

There are a series of compromises being suggested, including allowing states to opt in or opt out. And of course, Olympia Snowe has proposed a triggered mechanism so if the other reforms in the bill aren't as successful as we hope, that a public option would be triggered down the line, but not one -- and I want to emphasize this again -- not one tied to Medicare levels of reimbursement. That is unacceptable and could not get the votes.

WALLACE: But just to button this up real quickly, you are suggesting that you could accept some of those compromises.

CONRAD: I could accept something that is -- number one, cannot be tied to Medicare levels of reimbursement. I strongly favor a not- for-profit entity to compete with for-profit insurance. I have proposed a plan. That's what I favor.

WALLACE: Senator Specter, you, on the other hand, are a strong supporter of the public option. Could you support a final Democratic plan that does not include a public option?

SPECTER: I'm not prepared to recede at all. I think the public option is gaining momentum. We had a very forceful speech by President Obama yesterday on his Saturday talk show emphasizing the importance of the robust public option to hold down the profits and bonuses, and I'm not going to step back a bit.

I'm going to continue to fight for the robust public option. When I listen to what my friend Kent Conrad has said, those conditions which he articulated at the very end I think could be consistent with a robust public option...

WALLACE: You're talking...

SPECTER: ... not -- not...

WALLACE: ... you're talking about, Senator Specter, either the trigger a couple of years down the line if the private health insurance companies don't provide affordable options, or the idea of state opt-ins. You're saying that those would be possible compromises you could support.

SPECTER: No, no, no. I'm not saying that at all. When Senator Conrad says he doesn't want a plan tied to a Medicare reimbursement, you don't have to have a public option tied to a Medicare reimbursement, so that when he is looking for conditions to protect his state -- and I respect that; that's what I do for Pennsylvania, fight for my state -- I think that that would be consistent with a public option.

WALLACE: All right. Now, I'm glad we clarified that.

Senator Thune, let me bring you in. You're against any government-run health insurance plan to compete against the private insurers.

How many Republicans, including -- not that you speak for them, but you do talk to them -- Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine -- how many Republican votes do you think there are for a public option? THUNE: I -- I can't -- it's a little speculative to say exactly, but I -- you know, we know that Olympia Snowe did vote for the bill when it left the Finance Committee. She has sponsored a public option with a trigger.

But I think that Republicans for the most part in the Senate at least, Chris -- and I would think most -- for the most part in the -- in the House -- I'm not sure it's unanimous in the House, but it's very close -- reject the idea of government-run health care.

And I think the American people have turned a thumbs down on government-run health care. I think this is a very heavy lift to try and get this through the Senate and/or the House. But they want to do it.

I think the Democrats clearly want the public option. They want to call it something else. They want to label it. They want to call it a trigger, a state option or co-op. But it's still a government plan.

And as far as we're concerned...

WALLACE: Well, wait...

THUNE: ... that's -- that's -- as far as we're concerned, that's not something that the American people want to see happen. And where it's been tried, it hasn't worked.

If you look at some of these other countries around the world -- and frankly, for that matter, a lot of the states that have tried to implement some sort of government-run health insurance plan -- it has been a disaster. And you can look at some examples of that here in our country.

WALLACE: Senator Conrad?

CONRAD: Let me just say, if I can, on the question of cooperatives, cooperatives, as Senator Thune knows, are not government-run. Cooperatives are run by their membership.

And the model that has worked in other parts of the world is a model in some ways like our own, employer-based coverage, with employees putting in, employers putting in, the government putting in for those that can't otherwise afford it -- but not-for-profit insurance intermediaries. That model has been very successful in Germany, in France.

WALLACE: But -- but...

CONRAD: ... in (inaudible)

WALLACE: ... wait, let me -- let me just interrupt, Senator. Senator Conrad, let me just interrupt, because the CBO, the non- partisan Congressional Budget Office, was asked to score the idea of these cooperatives. They said they'd have no effect at all because they wouldn't get any market share. CONRAD: Ah. The best -- the best actuaries in the country have told us that the co-ops as we have designed them in the bill out of the Finance Committee would get 12 million members, be the third largest insurer in the country.

Look, CBO has to score based on what is past. What the best actuaries in the country have told us -- when you have a reformed insurance market, when you have 30 million new entrants, and when you have co-ops structured as we have in the Finance Committee bill -- that they would be a very effective competitor.

And again, if you look around the world -- look at these other countries that have not-for-profit insurance intermediaries to compete with for-profit insurance. Those systems have produced the best results -- universal coverage, costs one-half of ours, and health care outcomes that are at least equal to ours and, on many metrics, better than ours.

WALLACE: Senator...

CONRAD: So if we want a reality test, I think we can look around the world and see systems that do work.

WALLACE: Senator Specter, the other big issue is how we're going to pay for this. And a number of critics say that all the Democratic plans hide the real cost of health care reform.

They point to a couple of things -- that the plans would start raising taxes and fees in 2011 but the real programs wouldn't start till 2015, so you're raising money for 10 years, but you don't have the programs for the whole first 10 years.

The other thing is that you called -- the Democratic plans call for hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts, and a lot of people doubt that this Congress or any Congress will ever have the will to impose those.

Aren't these really just ways to dodge what the real cost of health care reform is?

SPECTER: Well, the Republican objections are wrong. President Obama has pledged not to sign a bill which adds to the deficit at all, and there are many savings. For example, the annual exams will cut down on chronic ailments which are so debilitating and expensive.

We're going to have some tough criminal penalties so people will go to...

WALLACE: But, Senator, could you answer my...

SPECTER: Well, let me -- let me...

WALLACE: But could you answer my question?

SPECTER: Well, I can -- I can if you give me a little time to do so, Chris. I'm answering your question that the plan will not -- will pay for itself, which is the Obama contention.

Let me tell you why, if I can finish an answer just a little here. One way is that the annual exams will cut down tremendous costs, catching breast cancer, for example, at an early stage.

Second, lifestyle changes, smoking and checking your cholesterol.

Third, advanced directives.

Fourth, criminal penalties to put Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud in jail so that there are specific savings which can be accompanied.

Listen, on the Republican side, it is no, no, no, a party of obstructionism. This is no longer the party of John Heinz and Mac Mathias and Lowell Weicker. You have responsible Republicans who had been in the Senate like Howard Baker and Bob Dole and Bill Frist who say Republicans ought to cooperate.

Well, they're not cooperating. Bob Dole reportedly wouldn't even return a telephone call from a Republican leader who wanted him -- who wanted him to back off. Take a look at the absence of any Republican plan.

WALLACE: Senator Thune, let me bring you into this, since Senator Specter is going after his former party, which -- of which you're still a member.

There is a price tag for doing nothing, and let me put that up on the screen. These are figures from your home state of South Dakota. Thirteen point five percent of adults under 65 are uninsured. Thirty- three percent of insured families spend more than 10 percent of their pre-tax income on health care, compared to 25 percent of families nationwide.

I know Republicans have their own ideas, but aren't you at this point -- doesn't Senator Specter have a point in this -- doesn't it look at this point as if you're going to end up blocking any change at all?

THUNE: Well, the people in my state, if these bills go through, Chris, are going to pay more. I mean, that's pretty clear. We've seen that.

All the studies show -- the Congressional Budget Office, when asked whether this would lead to higher insurance premiums for people, said roughly dollar for dollar, based on what the tax increases in the bill are going to be.

The one thing that's clear about all these bills -- you've got higher taxes. You've got Medicare cuts. And you're going to see higher premiums.

Now, I can't imagine trying to go back to South Dakota or Senator Conrad trying to go back to North Dakota and telling the people in our states that we reformed health care, we've created a $2 trillion new entitlement that's going to include new taxes that you're going to pay, that studies show -- CBO and the Joint Tax Committee -- that the middle class is going to be hit hard with the tax increases -- we're going to cut seniors' Medicare -- oh, and by the way, your premiums are going to go up, too.

This doesn't do anything to reform health insurance. And with respect to the public option, the government plan, I -- co-ops have worked in South Dakota. They're local co-ops. They allow people to buy things. They use group purchasing power. But that's not where this bill is going to end up.

Kent Conrad may like to see that option. Others may like to see that option. But at the end of the day, this is a down payment on -- this is the gateway to -- the government-run plan, which is what most Democrats in both the House and Senate want to see.

WALLACE: Senator Conrad...

CONRAD: Chris...

WALLACE: Yeah, no...

CONRAD: ... can I -- can I just respond to...

WALLACE: Well, no, let me..

CONRAD: ... a couple of things that I...

WALLACE: ... I'm about to ask you a question, so you can respond when I ask the question.

CONRAD: OK. All right.

WALLACE: What are the -- what are the chances that Congress is going to end up passing and the president will sign a major health care reform bill this year? And how are liberal Democrats like Arlen Specter and moderate Democrats like yourself going to resolve your differences?

CONRAD: You know, it's the way it always happens. There is at some point a principled compromise. But I can tell you on the question of public option, it is not going to be one tied to Medicare levels of reimbursement. That would work a real hardship on Senator Thune's state and my state.

But there are other things that Senator Thune said there that really require a response. Number one, CBO has said this bill will reduce the deficit by $81 billion over the first 10 years and by hundreds of billions of dollars over the second 10 years.

On the questions of premiums, the CBO has said they've only analyzed the administrative cost portion. Twenty-three percent of every dollar goes to administrative costs. They say the legislation out of Finance will reduce that amount by 4 to 5 percent.

Number two, John Gruber, the noted health economist at MIT, has said the measure out of Finance will reduce premiums for people at every age level and at every income level.

With respect to taxes, the proposal out of Finance Committee provides $461 billion of tax credits to help people, to assist people, buy health insurance they would not otherwise be able to afford.

The one part of this that...

WALLACE: Senator Conrad, we're...

CONRAD: ... represents taxes...

WALLACE: Senator Conrad, we're running...

CONRAD: Let me just say...

WALLACE: ... out of time.

CONRAD: ... on taxes...

WALLACE: Very quickly.

CONRAD: Just very quickly, on taxes, the biggest component is a levy on companies that offer Cadillac plans. That was the proposal by John McCain when he was running for president of the United States. John Thune ...


CONRAD: ... endorsed John McCain .

WALLACE: And it was President Obama who opposed it and said that you -- that there had never been taxes on health care benefits.

But anyway, I do want to talk about one other subject. And we've got you here.

Senator Thune, you, of course, are also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. There are reports that a U.N. commission is going to, in the next day or so -- possibly today -- is going to say that there was widespread vote fraud in Afghanistan and that there should be a run-off.

Should the U.S. insist that President Karzai agree to a run-off before the president sends any more troops to that country?

THUNE: I think it depends on the information that comes back from the commission. It looks like that's what they're going to recommend. And I think this is where I would hope that if the conclusion is drawn that there was fraud, that he's under 50 percent, that there would be a run-off with his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, and perhaps they can come to some power-sharing agreement.

But either way, this needs to be an honest, fair election or we won't have the confidence of the Afghani people in their government, which is essential, I think, for us in order to succeed there. WALLACE: But the basic question is does the political situation have to be resolved before the president makes a military decision to send more troops in?

THUNE: I don't think so. I think the fundamental issue with that decision, Chris, is America's national security interest. I think we're going to be dealing with some government in Afghanistan under any circumstance.

What's important to me and I think what's important to most Americans is that we have a strategy that can succeed and that it be properly resourced. And I think that's the decision the president needs to make, and I hope he'll make it soon.

WALLACE: Senator Thune, Senators Conrad and Specter, I want to thank you all so much for joining us today. We could have talked about this longer. Please come back, gentlemen.

THUNE: Thanks, Chris.

SPECTER: Thank you. Nice talking.

WALLACE: Up next, the White House versus Fox News. Karl Rove and Terry McAuliffe square off after the break. Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.


WALLACE: This week the Obama White House turned up the heat on Fox News. Communications Director Anita Dunn called us, quote, "opinion journalism masquerading as news."

We wanted to ask Dunn about her criticism, but as they've done every week since August, the White House refused to make any administration officials available to "FOX News Sunday" to talk about this or anything else.

So what about their strategy? Joining us are two men who have worked at the highest level of politics. Terry McAuliffe is former chair of the Democratic Party and one of Bill Clinton's closest friends. Karl Rove was a senior adviser to former president George W. Bush .

Gentlemen, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

Let me start by playing a clip from my interview in the Oval Office with President Obama in February and then some of Anita Dunn's remarks last Sunday. Let's watch.


OBAMA: I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that's part of how democracy is supposed to work. You know, we're not supposed to all be in lockstep here, and you've always been very gracious to me, and...



ANITA DUNN: The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.



WALLACE: Karl, you're not in the meetings in this White House but, best guess, why the dramatic change in strategy?

ROVE: Look, I think this White House is dominated by Chicago- style politics, so if you don't like the questions that are being asked by Major Garrett or Wendell Goler or Chris Wallace, then you try and demonize Fox News.

If you don't like what the Chamber of Commerce is doing in opposing health care reform, you go out and you start telling CEOs to pull out of the chamber.

If you don't like -- you know, if you don't like a Democrat, a wayward Democrat, voting against the stimulus bill, then you have the president of the United States in a House Democratic Caucus meeting say to him in public, "Don't think we aren't keeping score, buddy."

So this is -- this is -- this is demeaning to the White House and unnecessary.

WALLACE: Terry, why do you think -- I mean, those two clips are pretty dramatic. Why do you think that Fox News was, quote, "part of how democracy is supposed to work" a few months ago, and now we're the opposition?

MCAULIFFE: Oh, I think clearly President Obama has said he would -- he's been on the show. He'll come back on Fox. He said that. Anita said that later in the interview.

But there are some issues. I mean, listen, we're talking about a huge issue, health care reform. And I think people were annoyed that Fox was the only broadcast station that did not broadcast his speech in front of the United States Congress.

You had some crazy show on about how to learn to dance. I think that was very problematic. I thought that was a very crazy decision, whoever made that decision. It's a very important issue.

If you look at the chyrons on Fox News, they're the talking points of the Republican National Committee.

You have Glenn Beck, who is one of your big opinion leaders on Fox -- went on the morning show, a news show, and actually called President Obama a racist. There is no place for that.

So President Obama's going to talk to all the networks. He's going to go out there. He loves competition. He loves being engaged in the battle. But he's got to deal first with those folks who are going to give him a fair hearing on health care.

ROVE: Well, look, Fox News carried the president's speech to Congress. It was Fox the entertainment channel. So Anita Dunn was not attacking Fox the entertainment channel. They were attacking Fox News.

And look, there are lots of objectionable things said on MSNBC, and NBC, and cable channels, and CNN for every president, for him or against it. And that ought not be the standard by which a White House determines whether or not it's going to demonize a news channel as an enemy.

And they called it an enemy, a White House enemy. That is over- the-top language. We heard that before from Richard Nixon. And we have this White House prone to that kind of -- kind of attitude. And it's not helpful. It's demeaning to the president.

If -- the president of the United States should not be picking out enemies in the media like that, and personalizing it, and allowing his people to personalize it as well.


MCAULIFFE: What is offensive is one of your top folks on Fox calling the president of the United States a racist on a news show. Nobody came out and said anything against it. It wasn't on the broadcast Fox, the health care speech.

You've got to be kidding me. Here you put on a show about teaching people how to dance. The president of the United States is...

ROVE: Well, look, that was a...

MCAULIFFE: Wait a minute. Let me...

ROVE: That was not on Fox News.

MCAULIFFE: Karl, let me finish. It was not... ROVE: Anita Dunn is attacking Fox News.

MCAULIFFE: ... on the main -- let me just finish...

WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait, wait.

MCAULIFFE: ... on the main broadcast channel.

WALLACE: Wait, wait. Let...

MCAULIFFE: It wasn't on...

WALLACE: I never thought I'd say this, but let Terry speak.

MCAULIFFE: And then -- and then the president went around and did all the different networks and cable shows. He didn't do Fox News because they should have had a dance person on. He went to Univision, which has a huge audience out there.

The bottom line is if you watch Fox, they have an -- opinions on it. That's -- President Obama gets that. We understand that. He's going to come on Fox. I think people are probably overstating this. But there are instances where Fox has gone over the top and that's what I find very offensive.

WALLACE: You know, Terry, you did not always have such a negative opinion of Fox News. In fact, last year, during...


WALLACE: ... the campaign, you were complaining about all the other broadcast networks in the tank to Fox... MCAULIFFE: Yeah.

WALLACE: ... or to Obama, rather, over your candidate, Hillary Clinton. And I want to play a clip...

MCAULIFFE: Sure, let's do it.

WALLACE: ... of what you said on the night of the Pennsylvania primary.


WALLACE: Here it is.


MCAULIFFE: And let me congratulate Fox, because you were the first ones to call it for Hillary Clinton. Fair and balanced Fox, you beat them all.


WALLACE: So, question.


WALLACE: Is the definition of a fair and balanced news organization one whose stories you like?

MCAULIFFE: Well, fair -- sure enough, she was -- they were supporting my candidate that night. You bet. Whoever is helping me at the time, I love them. But as you know, I have had many statements about Fox. You go on. I said it's a tool of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. That's fine.

I -- you know, listen. I believe that Fox News is an appendage of the Republican Party. That's fine. I love...

WALLACE: But then why were we fair and balanced in the Pennsylvania primary?

MCAULIFFE: Because you called it for Hillary first.


MCAULIFFE: Good work for you.

WALLACE: No, no, that wasn't the point. And you said it over and over again, that you thought we were giving a fairer shake to Hillary Clinton in our campaign coverage than any of the other networks were.

MCAULIFFE: I always say fair and balanced -- no offense -- I always have a little tongue in cheek and a little smile on my face. I have many statements about Fox. But we shouldn't debate Fox. I love coming out, because there are people who watch this who are independents.

But there's no question -- you watch the show, it's part of the Republican National Committee. I've said it for years. That's fair. I enjoy coming on, getting my point out. I ought to -- believe we ought to be in the battle. I grew up as a boxer. I love a good fight. I love coming on with you and Karl. This is exciting.

ROVE: Look, MSNBC has over-the-top left-wing hosts, but you should not then denigrate NBC for having -- for having liberal opinion programs for their -- there is a difference between opinion and news, and Fox does a good side on the news side.

And it's being -- and again, I love it. Fox News is being attacked for supposedly not -- for Fox broadcast not running the speech. I mean, why don't they -- why don't they say we're attacking Fox broadcast rather than Fox News? Let's not kid ourselves.

This is a White House engaging in its own version of the media enemies list. And it's unhelpful for the country and undignified for the president of the United States to so do.

MCAULIFFE: Fox broadcast should have shown it. So if you want me to use the word broadcast, I'm happy to do it.

WALLACE: OK. I -- let's talk about Anita Dunn, the communications director...


WALLACE: ... who's leading this fight. She criticized "FOX News Sunday" last week...


WALLACE: ... for fact-checking -- fact-checking...


WALLACE: ... an administration official. They didn't say that our fact-checking was wrong. They just said that we had dared to fact-check.


WALLACE: Let's fact-check Anita Dunn, because last Sunday she said that Fox ignores Republican scandals, and she specifically mentioned the scandal involving Nevada senator John Ensign .

I want to show you what she said, and then a question that I asked a top Republican official in July. Here it is.


ANITA DUNN: Did you see coverage of that on Fox News? I'm not talking Glenn Beck. I'm not talking Sean, not talking "The Factor". I'm talking about Fox News. (END VIDEO CLIP)


WALLACE: When you've got Republican leaders like Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina or Nevada senator John Ensign admitting to extramarital affairs and staying in office, questionable use of either private funds, or state money in the case of Sanford, doesn't the GOP, with all its talk of family values, risk looking like a bunch of hypocrites?


WALLACE: Terry, a number of Fox shows have run -- Fox News shows have run stories about Senator Ensign.


WALLACE: Anita Dunn's facts were just plain wrong.

MCAULIFFE: Well, I can't speak to Senator Ensign. I think the broader point, Chris -- and I know I talked to the White House before I came on the show to find out what had happened with this. They spoke to you, I guess, and asked how many times have you had an administration official on -- Secretary Duckworth was on.

A week later you went back on and fact-checked her on the air. Apparently, that has never happened before with an administration official, Democrat or Republican. So I think it was the issue, Chris, in fairness -- have you done it before?

WALLACE: If you want to go into that, and I suspect you don't know the...

MCAULIFFE: OK, let's do it.

WALLACE: ... you don't know the details of it, but the fact of the matter is that I had never had an administration official of any administration come on and so directly misrepresent the facts as Secretary Duckworth did.

She said the law prevented her from taking off the "Your Life, Your Choices" counseling book to the V.A. There was no such law, and nobody at the White House had ever said there was.


MCAULIFFE: Well, we should fact-check everyone who's been on, then, and see what's right.

ROVE: Look, two points -- two points. Anita Dunn is making these charges because she's leaving at the end of the year. This gives them a chance to send somebody out there to throw the grenades, turn on the flame thrower and then be gone at the end of the year.

The second thing is -- look, again, it gets back to attitude. The White House attacked the insurance industry this week for issuing a report -- having the temerity to issue a report critical of health care reform and said we were blind-sided.

I mean, this is an administration that's getting very arrogant and slippery in its dealings with people. And if you dare to oppose them, they're going to come hard at you and they're going to cut your legs off. And that's exactly -- Fox is not being -- you know, Fox is asking tough questions.

Fox has got on the opinion side of it some very tough critics of the administration. They're conflating the news side and the opinion side in order to -- in order to attack a media outlet. Again, it's undignified for the president of the United States to be doing.

MCAULIFFE: But that report, in fairness, that Karl talks about -- the accounting firm has already come out -- let's be fair...

WALLACE: All right. I'm not...

MCAULIFFE: ... and said that it was misleading.

WALLACE: ... I'm not going to talk about the health care...

MCAULIFFE: OK. It was misleading.


MCAULIFFE: They were paid to do a tiny piece of it. Don't mislead the American public on health care. It's too big of an issue.

ROVE: Yes, but don't...

WALLACE: Please, let's not get into the health care report.

MCAULIFFE: All right.

WALLACE: They can have their own show.

MCAULIFFE: All right, fair enough.

WALLACE: But let's talk about presidents. Presidents -- Terry, you were very close and are very close to Bill Clinton. He had plenty of problems with the press, especially during the Lewinsky scandal.

ABC news was hitting him hard on the Lewinsky scandal and apparently, reportedly, getting leaks from the special prosecutor's office, Ken Starr's office.


WALLACE: Did he ever consider going after and cutting off ABC News?

MCAULIFFE: I don't think so. But you know, when...

WALLACE: I mean, do you think this is a good strategy, to individually attack, call out and attack, an individual news organization and, frankly, to cut off doing any business with them?

MCAULIFFE: Well, they're not doing any business -- they know I'm on here today, and...

WALLACE: Well, with all due respect, you're not an administration official.

MCAULIFFE: It's hard for anyone to prove what I do. I just do what I -- but I spoke with the White House before I came on this morning. It was a different time back then. Honestly, with the 24/7, the -- with all the new media and all that, it's a different world than it is today, Chris.

But the bottom line is Anita Dunn has said -- she said on that interview that President Obama is -- you know, he loves to engage in a good debate on the issues. He just wants a fair debate. But he's going to come on Fox. He'll be on your show.

WALLACE: You know, we're...

MCAULIFFE: He went on "The Factor" with Bill O'Reilly.

WALLACE: ... not pleading with the president to come on Fox.


WALLACE: But for instance, there's going to be a decision made on Afghanistan and sending more troops. And there are a lot of people -- and you have to remember, 61 percent of our audience, according to the studies, is middle of the road and liberal, self-described.

A lot of people would like to hear from an administration official when they decide to send thousands of more troops in harm's way.


WALLACE: I'd like to ask some questions.


WALLACE: As of now, they're not going to -- they're going to cut us off and not give us...

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think that will change...

WALLACE: ... anybody to ask questions of.

MCAULIFFE: A good debate, having everybody on -- that's why -- listen, I don't agree with much that Fox does, but I love to come on. At least you give me the opportunity to talk, and I think it's important to present our side.

ROVE: Yeah, look. Look. Last -- between March and June of 2008, Hillary Clinton availed herself of Fox, and that's the time when she began winning the primaries. And between March when she came on and June at the end of primaries she got more votes and more delegates, as you will recall, Terry, than President Obama did. And why? Because this network is watched by a wide variety of open-minded independents and Democrats who want to hear the news.

And the administration -- again, this gets back to the administration's making a mistake for itself but, more importantly, it is demeaning the office of the president by taking the president and moving him from a person who ought to be talking to everybody and communicating through every available channel to saying, "If you oppose me, if you question me, if you're too tough on me, by gosh, me and my people are not going to -- are not going to come on. We're going to penalize you," and that just is wrong, fundamentally wrong.

WALLACE: Karl, Terry, thank you both. Thanks for coming in.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you. Right. Democrats, big win, Virginia and New Jersey, coming up.

ROVE: No, no, no, no, and I agree with Terry McAuliffe when he said -- McAuliffe says Deeds can't win, and we'll win in New Jersey as well.

MCAULIFFE: I said Deeds can win. Of course he can win.

ROVE: Yeah, because...

MCAULIFFE: And he's going to win.

ROVE: No, no, you said he can't beat McDonnell. Right there. Right there. McAuliffe says Deeds can't beat McDonnell.

MCAULIFFE: Is this a Fox data?

ROVE: No, no, this is from the Richmond Times Dispatch in June. And you said he couldn't win because he's -- because Deeds is for higher taxes. And guess what? He's for higher taxes. You're right.

MCAULIFFE: No. Well, this is the -- you're going back to the primary.

ROVE: I agree. I agree with you.

MCAULIFFE: OK, you're going back to the primary.

ROVE: I totally agree with you, man.

MCAULIFFE: Well, why don't you have a...

ROVE: Right there.

MCAULIFFE: ... (inaudible) about me (inaudible)?

ROVE: (inaudible) I just agreed with your opinion.



WALLACE: This is going to get out of hand and you -- and you didn't disappoint.


MCAULIFFE: I got 250 people at my house today with (inaudible) campaign manager. We are kicking off -- Bill Clinton's coming Tuesday.

ROVE: No, no, no.


MCAULIFFE: Barack Obama 's coming in.

ROVE: Moment of candor.


WALLACE: All right. All right. Thank you.


WALLACE: Thank you both.


WALLACE: Thank you, gentlemen.

Up next, will election fraud in Afghanistan change the president's decision about how many troops to send there? Our Sunday group weighs in right after the break.



ROBERT GIBBS: I don't think anybody regardless of where they stood on the spectrum of strategies and numbers of troops -- there's nobody that could credibly tell you that the government doesn't matter.


WALLACE: That was White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs emphasizing the importance of having a stable and credibly elected government in Afghanistan.

And it's time now for our Sunday regulars -- Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, and contributors Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.

So there are a number of reports that a U.N. commission will find that there was rampant fraud in the Afghan election last August and will call for a run-off between the two top contenders, Hamid Karzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. But now a spokesman says that Karzai may resist -- may, in fact, stonewall and not allow a run-off.

Brit, how does that factor into President Obama's decision on whether to send or how many more troops, American troops, to send to that country?

HUME: This election, with its attendant fraud, is the only real justification for this soul searching that's going on now.

The president did, after all, announce a comprehensive strategy -- or a strategy, I should say, after what he said was a comprehensive review back in March. He was unequivocal about it.

What General McChrystal has done, to go over there and examine the situation and give a recommendation for troops, is very much in keeping with what the president sent him there to do.

The president is obviously having second thoughts. This election, which came as no surprise to anyone who was following the habits and ways of the Karzai government, was nonetheless a conspicuous event and gives the administration something to hang its hat on if it decides to change its mind about what it wants to do in Afghanistan.

However, it's a bit of -- it's a little bogus. Let's hope that if the run-off is called for it will be held and a more legitimate result achieved. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking that we thought that the Karzai government was pure as the driven snow until this election. Nobody did.

LIASSON: Yeah. Look, I think that's true. Certainly, corruption existed before this election. But it's also true that many people in the White House will tell you that in order to do counterinsurgency, you have to have a credible, reliable partner. And right now, they don't have one.

Now, hopefully, they can get a run-off that's relatively free of fraud. They'll get somebody. Maybe it will be a power-sharing agreement -- I think the White House would love that -- between Abdullah and Karzai, if Karzai would agree to that.

I think the problem for the White House is that this -- the disputed election makes their job even more difficult. In other words, if you're going to do counterterrorism, which is what Vice President Biden and others think should be done, you still need a big element of counterinsurgency.

You still need American troops in and amongst the population to get you the kind of intelligence you need to carry out those targeted surgical strikes correctly. So I think the question before the White House is still the same regardless of this election, which is how many troops do you need to be successful in Afghanistan.

WALLACE: But, Bill, I want to go back to this question of the election, because you've got -- it appears that the U.N. commission, independent commission, is going to say there was rampant fraud and there should be a run-off.

The Karzai people -- now, maybe it's just posturing; maybe it's negotiating -- are saying, "Well, we're not sure we're going to have a run-off." There's a question about power sharing. They don't know about that. They don't know if there's going to be an election. If there is going to be an election, is it going to be now or is it going to be next spring because of the bad weather in Afghanistan?

Isn't it awfully hard for the president to commit 10, or 20, or 40 or 60,000 more troops when he doesn't know what the government of Afghanistan is going to look like and whether it's legitimate?

KRISTOL: No. President Bush committed 30,000 troops to Iraq in an equally messy political situation with a government that had been elected in an election that the Sunnis had boycotted and that had questionable legitimacy.

President Obama announced the counterinsurgency on March 27th. This election happened at the end of August. What were we doing all that time? Richard Holbrooke, this wonderful, gifted diplomat, was put in charge of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We had some leverage in how this election would turn out. People went to Holbrooke and others and said, "Can't you make sure that it's conducted honestly?" "Oh, no, we're staying out of it." So they stay out of it. They let Karzai run a pretty corrupt election. There's an Afghan electoral commission, incidentally, that's reviewing this. We'll see what they come up with today or tomorrow.

I mean, it's pretty impressive that they had an election at all. It's pretty impressive that the question of legitimacy is so prominent in Afghan politics, for a country that's allegedly so under-developed they couldn't care less about these things.

But if there was a failure, it was a failure, in part, by Richard Holbrooke and the Obama administration. And because they have failed in that, they're not going to send the reinforcements necessary for our military. It's ridiculous.

The best way to have a decent, strong, political government there is to go and win the war, just as in Iraq. We'll end up with a decent government if we send the troops and if we work diplomatically to try to push the forces there to compromise and to -- and to -- and to be more honest.

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. You're saying if we send the troops, we'll end up with a good electoral result?

KRISTOL: No, I think we'll end up with a more -- we have much more pressure, much more ability to use our leverage to pressure the civilian government there to be -- to do the right thing.

WILLIAMS: So in other words, the 68,000 or however many American troops on the ground now have not had that impact because corruption pursued nonetheless...

KRISTOL: Because...

WILLIAMS: ... and the electoral commission that you're referring to is run by Karzai, that -- he controls them. He'll tell them what to do. The U.N.-backed group, the electoral complaints commission (inaudible) is a separate unit, and that's the one that people are counting on.

And apparently from all indications, including indications from one of the ambassadors, is that already they have found sufficient fraud so that Karzai won't be over the 50 percent, and a run-off will be required.

So the question now is on a timetable in terms of President Obama's decision-making. Do you have this election now with harsh weather coming, or do you wait until the spring?

And even inside the...

LIASSON: You can't wait until the spring.

WILLIAMS: ... White House, what they're saying is you know what, this means that the decision that President Obama's going to make is not going to happen by the end of October. They've got to wait at least until you have a run-off election in November.

HUME: The question I have is how all of this fuss over the election informs the decision about what to do in our national interests in a place that President Obama, corrupt government or not, said was indispensable to our defense, said it was a war of necessity and not of choice.

Whether the government is corrupt or not, the enemy will still try to make a stronghold there. It will greatly ease the pressure that the Pakistanis are imposing on the Taliban.

WILLIAMS: Can I answer that question?

HUME: Just let me finish my point here, and of course you can, Juan, or if Chris recognizes you.

WILLIAMS: (inaudible) go quickly so he can get his word in.

HUME: Yeah, let me get in. Anyway, the point -- the point about it is that the military necessity of which the president spoke with some urgency remains while we talk about whether the election was up to our standards, which it certainly was not.

WILLIAMS: Well, the only thing I wanted to say, Brit, was that if we have a partner that's not recognized by the Afghan people as a legitimate government, if they feel somehow -- you know what, the Taliban is more legitimate than these people, that acts against our national interests.

HUME: I agree with you.

KRISTOL: Did the Taliban get a lot of votes in that election?

LIASSON: Wait a minute. Wait a second.

KRISTOL: On August 17th -- on August 17th, President Obama said it's a war of necessity. That was one week before this election. It was totally clear that there was going to be a lot of corruption and a lot of fraud.

Does President Obama not know that was going to happen? Did Richard Holbrooke not understand what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan? If it's a war of necessity, it's a war of necessity.

LIASSON: But wait a minute.

WILLIAMS: Right. But the question is...

KRISTOL: Do you think -- do you think the majority of the Afghans like the Taliban?

WILLIAMS: Go ahead, Mara.

LIASSON: Well, wait a minute. You know what? Guys, we're not talking about -- you're acting as if it's a question between fighting the war in Afghanistan and not fighting it.


LIASSON: That's not the case. The president said over and over again we're not going to withdraw one single troop. We've got 68. What we're talking -- the question on the table at the White House...

WALLACE: Sixty-eight thousand.

LIASSON: Sixty-eight thousand, that's what I meant. The question on the table at the White House is how many more do you need?

HUME: I understand that, but how does -- how does the election...

KRISTOL: So let 68,000 troops fight for a corrupt government and not 100,000?

WILLIAMS: No, no, no, the question...

KRISTOL: It's not a legitimate moral position for the White House -- we'll leave these troops there under-resourced because we don't like the election process? That is the position you're taking.

WILLIAMS: No. No, it is not. It is about...

KRISTOL: Do you want to pull out?

WILLIAMS: ... how you fight. Nobody's pulling out.

KRISTOL: OK, so you want 68,000 troops to fight...

WILLIAMS: Obama has said he's not pulling out...

KRISTOL: ... you want 68,000 troops...

WILLIAMS: No, Bill, it's about...

KRISTOL: ... to fight under-resourced...


KRISTOL: ... because you don't like the election process?

WILLIAMS: Bill, that's -- Bill, it's about how we go about it and how we go about it in a smart way that limits our losses of American young men and women.

Do we want to put additional forces in to say that we're going to conduct this counterinsurgency, or do we want to do it in such a way that we really are focusing what's going on, specifically in Pakistan, which is imploding at the moment?

LIASSON: There's no distinction -- there's less distinction between those two choices than you'd think.

WILLIAMS: Right, but that's -- those are the choices. It's not about pulling out.

WALLACE: Panel, having resolved that issue, we have to step aside for a moment.

But when we come back, the NFL sacks Rush Limbaugh's bid to be one of the buyers of a pro football team. We'll tackle that controversy and see how many football metaphors we can work into the discussion right after the break.


WALLACE: On this day in 1968, rumors of a bombing halt in Vietnam sent stocks soaring. Later that month, President Johnson stopped all bombing raids over North Vietnam based on recent peace talks.

Stay tuned for more from our panel and our Power Player of the Week.



NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL: ...polarizing comments that we don't think reflect accurately on the NFL or our players.


RUSH LIMBAUGH: I tell you with absolute sincerity I am more sad for our country than I am for myself.


WALLACE: That was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Rush Limbaugh on the radio personality's failed bid to become a part owner of the St. Louis Rams.

And we're back now with the panel.

So, Brit, why do you think Limbaugh was dropped so quickly from the group trying to buy the Rams? And is he the victim here?

HUME: This is a wonderful example of the way the issue of race is used, manipulated and, I would say, in this case abused in America.

This country has reached a consensus a long time ago about racism. Racism is intolerable, and to call someone a racist is one of the harshest things you can possibly say about such a person, and it should be said only with the greatest care.

It is a charge that is flung about regularly by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. And yes, here they were, had up -- banners flying at the front of this parade, hurling these charges at Rush Limbaugh based in considerable part on what turned out to be unsubstantiated quotes attributed to him which he denies.

The NFL, like innumerable...

WALLACE: There was no indication that he ever said.

HUME: No indication he ever said this. He denies it. It's unsubstantiated. It has to be considered false. It should have been not only by Jackson and Sharpton and others who repeated them but by major media outlets who participated in this as well. The NFL responded the way corporate entities do to situations like this. They just don't want to mess around with this issue. They have a lot of black players. The players' association was involved in this. And so they acted the way -- and I would say in not a particularly admirable way -- by bouncing Limbaugh from the group of people who wanted to buy the Rams.

WALLACE: All right. But there are a couple of comments that Limbaugh did make that have attracted some attention, and let's put those on the screen. In 2003, he said Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb was mediocre and overrated, and added this, "The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well."

Then in 2007, he said, "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips," two gangs, "without any weapons. There, I said it."

Juan, over the line?

WILLIAMS: Not -- the Donovan McNabb comment, by the way, is something I've heard, you know, in the barber shop, you know, people talking football, because, in fact, the NFL, sad to say, had a history of excluding black players.

I mean, they came along after Jackie Robinson in terms of breaking the color barrier, and in terms of certain positions, especially what people consider to be the thinking position like quarterback -- there was a dearth of black quarterbacks.

And so when Donovan McNabb came along -- and he was struggling at the time that Limbaugh said this -- Limbaugh said the press -- and by the way, some people have said this about President Obama -- that the press was getting on the bandwagon and wanted to break through this color barrier at a key position, quarterback.

I thought he introduced race into it. Maybe -- and I know the NFL doesn't want to talk about race and how many players are black. But that wasn't a racist statement. I don't even think -- I mean, I guess you could say it was racial, but that wasn't the point.

And coming back to the other idea that somehow now he is too divisive -- I think the history here is that people make all kinds of divisive and crazy statements who are owners of teams, and NFL teams, and -- goodness gracious. And the big issue is about excluding people.

You know, I just thought this was so unfair to Limbaugh -- not here to defend Limbaugh, but here to defend the idea that people should be able to say things -- and Limbaugh is a controversial guy who's made his name oftentimes by mocking people, saying funny things about people.

And he does it about black people, too. But I think that's all legit, as long as he doesn't cross the line. It certainly should not have made him ineligible to have a...

LIASSON: But he wasn't...

WILLIAMS: ... an owner of a football team.

LIASSON: But he wasn't an owner of a team who said something controversial. This was a business decision. This wasn't about free speech. This was a group that was trying to put in a bid to buy a team, and his business is to be controversial.

WILLIAMS: That's correct.

LIASSON: He makes a lot of money on it on the radio. But he wasn't going to help them make any money and get the team by being on their team.

HUME: How do you know that?

LIASSON: That's what they decided. This is a private business decision.

WALLACE: Well, it's really a private business decision by the NFL, which made it clear -- and you know, let's talk about this, Bill.

They are the king of sports. They're -- in this country, the NFL, I think we'd all agree. Do they want to take on somebody like Rush Limbaugh as a member of the club, given not only the controversial statements he's made in the past but controversial statements he'll make in the future? Just the idea he's bad for business.

KRISTOL: Well, I guess they didn't. I mean, I guess they are a club. And I guess they're exempt from antitrust laws. I mean, thank God that M.S. -- that NBC and CBS and ABC don't get to vote on whether Fox News gets to exist, which is the bizarre situation you have in the NFL, where all the owners get together and decide whether someone has a franchise.

I don't know quite -- I always wondered why major league sports has such a cushy antitrust situation.

WALLACE: Sort of the health insurance industry as we now have just discovered.

KRISTOL: No, you can -- well, you can start independent insurance companies, and you don't -- and if you want -- as Juan sort of suggests, if you want to have a controversial guy on your board, I don't think the other insurance companies get to tell you not to.

But this is part of just a broader thing, I'll just say quickly, I mean, which is there really is an attempt -- and I'm a little -- I'm not one to complain about liberal media bias and all that stuff. And I think conservatives are doing fine. Limbaugh's done fine. Fox News has done fine.

The degree to which there's a concerted attempt to de-legitimize popular conservatives who really can have an effect politically and just try to marginalize them and get them beyond the pale is a little shocking, I would say.

And this is a conservative attempt by the left. I think the White House is part of it. Some of the liberal media's part of it. Liberal institutions are part of it. And I think...

LIASSON: You think that's what the NFL was doing?

HUME: Wait a minute.

KRISTOL: The pressure on the NFL. That's what they -- was doing. This wasn't the NFL -- independently, black players talked -- Limbaugh...

HUME: Do you think (inaudible) do you think if Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and the others hadn't been raising Cain about this that Roger Goodell would have ended up saying what he said? I think he did what he thought he had to do.

But let's think about it in another way. Was this really such a great business decision? I mean, Rush Limbaugh has a vast audience. I think it is absolutely fair to suggest that a huge number of these people, perhaps numbering in the millions, are NFL fans.

WILLIAMS: No, let me...

HUME: Why offend them?

WILLIAMS: Well, let me just say I think a lot of this, coming back to what Mara said...

WALLACE: With all due respect, I think people are going to watch football or not watch football, and they don't care about Rush Limbaugh.

WILLIAMS: People are going to watch football anyway. But a lot of this is a business decision, because...

HUME: But it's a brand.

WILLIAMS: ... what's going on right now is that there is a player negotiation, a contract up, and I think Goodell does not want this to be on the table. And I think DeMaurice Smith, who's the executive director of the players association, understood that he could use race as a point of leverage against Goodell, and Goodell backed up quickly.

So in that sense -- but let me come back to something else Mara said. Oh, it's a business decision and people don't make divisive statements. I watch MSNBC sometimes. I see their talk show hosts. They're mocking liberals, going -- this is Keith Olbermann.

LIASSON: What, about football?

WILLIAMS: Yeah -- no, no, about politics, right? Conservatives are terrible, they're a bunch of jerks, blah de blah. And then he's announcing the game. Nobody says, "Well, because he makes divisive statements, he can't announce an NFL game." I don't see that.


HUME: Good point. Good point.

LIASSON: I can't -- I don't watch them. I have no idea. I mean, I don't...

KRISTOL: (inaudible)

LIASSON: ... I don't watch football either, but I...

KRISTOL: Thank God most of business isn't a monopoly and thank God most of the workforce isn't unionized. Why could this happen? This could happen because all the NFL players are in one union, and because all the NFL owners are in one club, and their -- pressure can be put on them.

Thank God there's more diversity in this country in terms of different industries and different businesses, and people can be controversial and can still find places where -- that are willing to have them.

WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week. And I was about to ask Mara about Donovan McNabb, but I won't.

LIASSON: He turned out to be a fine quarterback, as I have read.


WALLACE: And don't forget to check out the latest edition of "Panel Plus" where our group here continues the discussion on our Web site,, shortly after the show ends.

Time for some comments you posted to our blog, "Wallace Watch," and you had plenty to say about one of our guests last week, Las Vegas billionaire Steve Wynn.

Daniel McCarty sent this. "For the first time ever watching the Sunday morning political shows, I cheered at my TV instead of throwing something at it."

And Jimmy B. and a bunch of others had this suggestion, "Steve Wynn for president in 2012."

Please keep your comments coming. You can find us at and later check out my "Wallace Unplugged" post-show comments.

Up next, our Power Player of the Week.


WALLACE: You might wonder what pro football and the fight against breast cancer have in common. Well, this month it turns out there's a great deal. Here's our Power Player of the Week. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNYDER: The number one goal is taking the support or the power of the NFL and making sure that the message is from coast to coast.

WALLACE: And what is the message?

SNYDER: The crucial catch, early screening saves lives, and it's take care of yourself.

WALLACE: Tanya Snyder is the wife of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. But these days she's got her own cause. She is the face of the NFL's program this month pushing breast cancer awareness.

Why is the NFL a good platform to reach women?

Snyder says the league hopes to educate men, but in addition...

SNYDER: I think there are a lot of fanatical female fans, and I run into them every day. WALLACE: The NFL is trying to build awareness by passing out information at stadiums and raising money.


ANNOUNCER: Good afternoon, gentlemen.


WALLACE: And if you haven't noticed, players are wearing pink on the field.

How did players react when you said to them put on pink gloves or pink shoes or pink arm bands?

SNYDER: There aren't too many players that you talk to whose lives have not been touched, you know, by breast cancer.

WALLACE: Snyder got into the cause 11 years ago when her husband took over the team. She partnered with a Zeta sorority handing out pink ribbons before games.

SNYDER: And my daughter that's 11 would chase anybody around that wouldn't -- a male that -- and she would say, you know, "Real men wear pink," so -- which I think is a campaign.

WALLACE: But Snyder's fight got personal last year when she was diagnosed with the disease.

SNYDER: I'll never forget it. I felt like I was about, you know, 12 inches tall, helpless and, you know, am I going to be alive.

WALLACE: Snyder's treatment has gone well and her experience only reinforced her commitment.

For such a private person, is it hard to be out front? SNYDER: Yes, it is. This is -- this is not my comfort zone at all. This cause is -- gives me the reason to be here.

WALLACE: These days Snyder faces another challenge. The Redskins aren't doing well, and some media and fans have decided who's responsible.

How do you feel when you hear your husband being blamed for the problems with the team?

SNYDER: Well, you know, everything starts from the top down. I understand that. I mean, I hope and wish the best for the Redskins and for the fans, you know. And I certainly -- he's a number one fan, so for everybody we want the Redskins to do great. Nobody likes to be booed. And that makes me sad, you know. And I just -- I know we'll get it, though. We'll get it.

WALLACE: And maybe winning at football isn't a matter of life and death when you're fighting something that is.

SNYDER: I have two daughters and a son that are very afraid. And for me to be an example to them and to now make a difference, you know, if I possibly can, hopefully, we'll save some lives.


WALLACE: Lovely woman with a good heart. So if you're watching pro football today, check out all the pink on the field and remember what it's about.

And that's it for today. Have a great week and we'll see you next "FOX News Sunday."

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.
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