This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 24, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Twenty-three-point-six million Americans watched this interview...
BUSH: Well, I was one who didn't.
QUESTION: ... enormous interest in it.
BUSH: There was 270-some million Americans, and I was one of the 250 who didn't watch it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ANGLE, HOST: Well, the president didn't watch, but I know three people who did. And joining me now, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and Jeff Birnbaum, Washington bureau chief for Fortune magazine. All are Fox News contributors.
Now, until now, Democrats have been reluctant to openly criticize Condit. That seems to have changed after Condit's performance last night. In fact, it seems to have pushed them over the edge in some respects. In fact, let's listen to what House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEPHARDT: I was disappointed by his statement. I think not being candid and straightforward was disturbing and wrong. And I think that Gary should have been straightforward in this statement. I -- that's what I had hoped for. I think other questions as to his service on committees and all of that we've got to figure out. I've got to talk to others in my leadership and others on committees in the Congress and sort those things out and figure them out.
Obviously his political future, as always, depends on his relationship with his constituents, but what I hoped for last night was a candid statement. Didn't have to be highly specific, but a candid statement, and hopefully an apology to his family and to people and his constituents.
I think if there is an improper relationship with an intern and a congressperson, that's improper and wrong. And I'm not saying, again, that people don't make mistakes. We all understand that. But the best way to deal with it is just to be straightforward. I think people understand and forgive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANGLE: "Disturbing and wrong," Jeff. The dam seems to have broken on Democrats' being a little more straightforward about Condit.
JEFF BIRNBAUM, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Yes, that's right. I think what we witnessed in the ABC interview was political self-immolation by Gary Condit, and now the leaders of the Democratic Party are applying a little bit more gasoline to the fire.
It was -- it was really astounding. I mean, it was -- Gary Condit was a political accident that happened, and I think the Democrats have no choice but to push him overboard or be tarred by that brush.
MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: It's very curious. I mean, this was in parallel to what Bill Clinton did on August 17, 1998...
BIRNBAUM: Very close. Very close.
KONDRACKE: ... when he addressed the country, was defiant, said, It's my privacy, dadadadadadada...
ANGLE: It's my business and family's and nobody else's.
KONDRACKE: Right, so Gary Condit followed that model. Now, Dick Gephardt did not throw him over the side at that, at that point. It's curious what the differences between a congressman and a president, the leader of your party. But, but, no, I mean, Gary Condit clearly did the wrong thing. He showed no remorse, no, no contrition, no sympathy, no empathy, ex -- I mean, no emotion, what looked like a cold fish, and...
ANGLE: I mean, after watching how much worse Clinton made things for himself...
ANGLE: ... what could he have been thinking? Fred?
FRED BARNES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I hard -- I found it hard to believe that he thought he could help himself at all with that kind of an interview, knowing ahead of time exactly what the questions were going to be...
ANGLE: Well, sure, he had to know.
BARNES: ... I knew, you knew, Mort knew, Jeff knew. We all knew. And then knowing that he wasn't going to answer them, and actually raise more questions than were even asked there, I mean, no good come of it. I mean, I assume he thought that, well, the important issue here is whether I'll appear publicly or not and say something. And if I do that, then I'll put this behind me.
If that was his assumption, it was a wrong one.
ANGLE: Well, if he thought he could just say anything...
BARNES: ... but there had been a great clamor for him to appear and answer questions. Instead he appeared and responded to questions but not responsively.
ANGLE: But the idea, as Gephardt said today, he hoped he would clear the air. And as Tom Sherrill (ph) says in "The Washington Post," he didn't break his silence so much as he did bend it.
KONDRACKE: You know, and the other thing is that he appears to have told a flat lie about Anne Marie Smith, the, the, the, the flight attendant, when he said he denied having a relationship with her, yet there, there, there are these endless numbers of calls to his favorite love line, you know, the, the, the 518 area code number. And cell phone number. And, and, you know, if that's not the basis, proof of a relationship, I don't know what is.
And it's fairly...
BARNES: Well, now, she says she has other proof as well, including knowledge of physical characteristics.
ANGLE: Oh, we don't want to...
ANGLE: ... let's don't go down that road again...
BARNES: That's as far as I'm going.
ANGLE: But, but, I mean, he also accused her of trying to take advantage of the situation, and profit from the situation. I -- there's no evidence that she has profited in any way from this.
BIRNBAUM: I don't think she sold her story anywhere. This, this was -- this was com -- this was a textbook example of how not to handle this situation. You know, all politicians in the future, when they get in trouble, they ought to look at this, and, and their consultants ought to say, Don't do that.
And, and, and it was really -- he, he should have -- he should have asked forgiveness and, and did not. I, I think the real end will come when the Levys step in front of the camera and lambaste him. They criticize him. What -- it, it had to have gone the other way for, for it to have any chance of working, that is, Levys say, We understand, and he's really trying.
But what's likely to happen is the opposite, and that will be the coup de grace.
BARNES: This isn't just, though, a, a PR problem he has. I don't think there was -- and, I mean, there was nothing good could have come out of this interview. If he said, Look, I did have this torrid affair with her, went on for a long time, she was younger than my daughter, and on and on about it, and had been very specific about all the questions, I think that would have, that would have hurt him tremendously as well.
So there was no good way out. I mean, look, he's involved with her, she disappeared, at best, and it's not just...
BARNES: ... not just PR here.
KONDRACKE: Just to go back to the Clinton parallel again, you remember Dick Morris conducted a poll on how Bill Clinton should handle the Monica Lewinsky case, and decided that if he confessed up front that it -- and tried to apologize for that he, that he would suffer, so he said, Well, we've got to fight it.
So here's Gary Condit trying to fight it. But...
ANGLE: Yes, but, you know...
KONDRACKE: ... it doesn't work the same way for congressmen.
ANGLE: I mean, you know, it strikes me that people are pretty forgiving. And I've always wondered in politics, when people tried to deny the obvious, how much better it would be if they just said, You know, I screwed up, I'm sorry. I -- I mean, it's always seemed to me that people would say, OK, I may not like you, I may think what you did was terrible, but, all right, at least you recognize the principle that what you did was wrong.
BARNES: But we don't know what he did yet.
ANGLE: Well, yes, but, but, why...
BIRNBAUM: Well, but we know he had a relationship with an intern.
BARNES: We know he had a relationship with an intern who is now missing, and by many people presumed dead. But that makes it a lot more difficult for him.
BIRNBAUM: I think wonder -- his consultants, I mean, they're going to distance themselves from this, otherwise they're not going to get any more clients or -- and/or, and/or, they could be sued for malpractice in this case. So I...
ANGLE: Well, there's only one point about that, Jeff, and that is the -- you could have said the same thing about Clinton's lawyers. And you have to wonder how cooperative the client is and how forthcoming the client is with his lawyers and his PR people.
KONDRACKE: Well, in the August 17 case, obviously there were, there were two drafts, there was the famous Bob Shrum draft, and then there was the -- I don't know who wrote the other draft that he actually delivered. But the Shrum draft was, was the right one, and, and he didn't, didn't use it.
ANGLE: Right, right.
All right, well let's take a little break. We'll take a little break here now, and we'll have more with the panel when we come back. You don't want to miss it.
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