This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight, confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito began on Capitol Hill today, with both sides of the Senate Judiciary Committee giving their opening statements. The tone could turn really nasty tomorrow when senators begin questioning the nominee. But even today, the differences in opinion were obvious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: While every Supreme Court nominee has great burden, yours, Judge Alito, is triply high. First, because you've been named to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the pivotal swing vote on a divided court. Second, because you seem to have been picked to placate the extreme right-wing after the hasty withdrawal of Harriet Miers. And finally and most importantly, because your record of opinions and statements on a number of critical constitutional questions seems quite extreme.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I know that there is a pitched battle going on outside the Senate with dueling press conferences, television ads, e-mail petition drives, and stacks of reports and press releases. The Senate can rise above that battle, if we remember the proper role for the Senate and the proper role for judges.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: In an era where the White House is abusing power, is excusing and authorizing torture, and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito's support for an all-powerful executive branch to be genuinely troubling.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The reason why these groups are trying to defeat your nomination, because you won't support their liberal agenda, is precisely why I support it. I want judges on the Supreme Court who will not use that position to impose their personal policy preferences or political agenda on the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLMES: Now, throughout this segment, pay close attention to the bottom of your screen, because we'll be recapping the day's events and what some key senators said in today's hearing.

Joining us now with reaction, syndicated columnist and our newest FOX News contributor, Robert Novak. Bob, welcome to FOX News.

ROBERT NOVAK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Nice to be here. Thank you.

COLMES: How's it going for you so far? Is the green room OK? Do they give you good snacks and everything?

NOVAK: They treated me like a king.

COLMES: All right. That's important.

All right, look, I know you work the phones. You're still a hard-working journalist. What are you hearing about Alito? How ugly do you think it's going to get, if at all?

NOVAK: It could get very ugly, because there is an all-out attempt to deny him confirmation. They're not messing around like they did with Chief Justice Roberts. This is going to be — any weakness they can find, they're going to attack him on.

But the principle issue, and the thing that some of his supporters are worried about is they're going to say he's bad on civil rights. That is a crime in America in the 21st century, to be weak on civil rights, and that's what they're going to assail him on. But I think this is going to be one of the — this is going to be a potentially as nasty a hearing as you've seen since Clarence Thomas.

COLMES: But do they have a point about civil rights? For example, it turns out he was a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton. The story is that that group tried to challenge the admission of women and minorities, not friendly to the disabled. Bill Bradley spoke out against this group, as did Bill Frist. Will issues like that cause him big trouble?

NOVAK: I think they could. They've done some statistical things on how many times he didn't vote for so-called black civil rights proposals in the court. The CAP, the concerned — the Princeton alumni group, they're just trying to get Princeton off the left-wing bias.

And there's no signs at all, no evidence that they were against women. But that — I think anything that they can find — you see, the way it works is they try to find the things — they decide in the first place that they're attacking him, they're against him, and then they try to find matters to try to substantiate that assault.

COLMES: But aren't there some — I mean, you look at his record on abortion. He talked about 1985 in a memo, wanting to work toward overturning Roe vs. Wade. We've got issues of deference to government institutions, like the right of a police officer to shoot a fleeing, unarmed 15-year-old, strip-searching a 10-year-old girls. These are issues that Americans have every right to be concerned about, do they not, especially in a time of increasing executive branch power in this country?

NOVAK: Well, I don't think that is a very good issue for his opponents. I think the danger the Democrats have is they're going to be looking weak on law enforcement and weak on national security. And those are issues that Americans feel very strongly about. I think that is one of Judge Alito's strengths.

The weaknesses, as I say, is a possibility that he's going to be looking weak on civil rights. But that isn't going to be enough to defeat him for confirmation. They have got to find something else, some mistake, something that's hidden. And, boy, they have done a terrific job of trying to find anything at all on this man that would resound against his confirmation. He looks squeaky clean.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, by the way, Bob, Sean Hannity. Welcome to the program.

NOVAK: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: And I think you more than anybody else in America, having sat next to Carville and Begala, you know what I go through here every night.

COLMES: Oh, you poor thing. He's complaining after nine years.

HANNITY: By the way, in the strip-search case, which I think is very, very important, because they're distorting his record on a whole variety of issues, he did write at the time that he shared the visceral dislike of the intrusive search of the young daughter, but he pointed out that dealers, drug dealers, sometimes use little children to carry out their business. And that is overlooked in the analysis here.

NOVAK: I don't think that's a very good issue for his opponents. And I don't think they're going to press that very much. They seem to have attached onto this...

HANNITY: Race?

NOVAK: ... Princeton alumni group. You know, the idea — I think that is really the liberal mind at work, the idea that people are going to really be worried about being too conservative at Princeton. That may be one of the worst — least worries in the world. They've got to find something that hits a little harder than that, and they're looking for it still.

HANNITY: Well, they're looking for it. But they're running out of time very quickly here.

I had Lindsey Graham on my radio show earlier today. And he said it's going to be a party-line vote in committee. He thinks it may be — Ben Nelson is the only one on the Democratic side that would vote in favor of confirmation. And he thinks there will be a couple of Republican defections. Do you agree with that assessment?

NOVAK: That sound about right. And then you have — the defections are probably Senator Chafee of Rhode Island. And he's got a Republican primary, so that may be a very costly vote, if he votes against Alito. And then the two senators from Maine are possibilities.

That's still is a majority vote, a small majority vote for Judge Alito. The question is, would the Democrats then wage a filibuster? I think the so-called nuclear option, now called the constitutional option, would be exercised if that is the case, because that would violate the little agreement that they had of the Group of 14 that, boy, oh, boy, we are not going to do any filibusters, except in exceptional circumstances. And this is not an exceptional circumstance.

HANNITY: I guess, in a liberal's mind, an extraordinary circumstance is when a conservative president follows through on his promise to appoint conservative judges.

You know, I just wonder how far they go — and I wonder why there's this double-standard, Bob, with Republicans. Because you go back to Bork in 1987 and Ted Kennedy saying Bork's America is a land in which women are going to be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters. He gets away with that type of rhetoric. They're trying...

NOVAK: Because the press...

HANNITY: Go ahead.

NOVAK: Because the media is liberal. That's why. But the big difference, Sean, is that, in those days, they weren't ready for Teddy Kennedy's attack. That was — I was covering that story, and everybody was just stunned. Oh, man, it was like a body blow in the first round.

You couldn't do that today. I thought Senator Kennedy in his opening statement today tried something like that, but it didn't come over at all.

HANNITY: You know, even on the abortion issue, they won't point that Judge Alito sided with Planned Parenthood and voted to invalidate New Jersey's partial-birth abortion statute. That doesn't seem to get much press. Just the opposite impression is given.

NOVAK: There's also the question of personality. He is a soft, mild- mannered person, Italian immigrant family. So he doesn't come over as somebody who's really...

COLMES: All right, Bob, you...

NOVAK: It's going to be very difficult to make a case against him.

COLMES: You know all about commercial breaks. We've got to take one. We'll be right back with Bob Novak, his first appearance on "Hannity & Colmes."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: There you have it. The election countdown is back after a year's hiatus. And we are now just now 302 days away from the election. And for the rest of the year, of course, “Hannity & Colmes” is your place to get all of your election news.

And one thing we know already is that the leadership in the House of Representatives will look a lot different moving forward. That's because, over the weekend, Congressman Tom DeLay announced that he will not try to return to his position as House majority leader, although he will run for reelection from the 22nd District of Texas.

DeLay appears to be the first casualty of the Jack Abramoff scandal, but he may not be the last. Members of both parties are preparing for the worst as the former super-lobbyist prepares to cooperate with federal authorities investigating attempts to corrupt members of Congress.

We continue now with our newest contributor here on the FOX News Channel, Bob Novak.

By the way, Bob, I want to thank you. And I'm probably the only person in America that can fully and completely appreciate, you know, why you took the mike off and you got off the set with Carville. It was either that, because I — the day is coming where I'm going to have to do that...

COLMES: I've been trying to get Hannity to do that for years now. Will you do it?

HANNITY: I want to thank you, because when I do it, I'll say, "Well, I learned from Bob," and I don't blame you. I want you to know that.

NOVAK: I shouldn't have done it, but, you know, sometimes you just can't control yourself if you're a young fellow like me.

COLMES: I'm pushing him. I'm pushing him in that direction.

HANNITY: You know what? You've always had a great sense of humor. I think we all need that.

Did DeLay do the right thing, in your view? And how much was he really pushed behind the scenes?

NOVAK: He was pushed terrifically. The string had run out on Tom DeLay, who was one of the most powerful House leaders in my nearly 50 years in Washington. But life is unfair. And it was unfair to Tom DeLay. And that nasty, little Democratic prosecutor in Austin, Ronnie Earle, got him in the crosshairs and shot.

But I can tell you right now that he just didn't have any support left and it was a case of, "You can't fire me. I quit."

HANNITY: Yes. Well, who are the people most responsible for pushing him out, number one? And, number two, do you really — do you think the Republicans are going to hold on to Congress and the Senate? They've got some tough Senate races coming up in '06. And what do they need to do to hold on to it?

NOVAK: Well, I think the Senate races — this is the best two-year cycle for the Republicans. I think it's going to be very hard for the Democrats to win the Senate.

I think the House is very touchy right now. And it's so gerrymandered, it's in favor of no changes at all. But it doesn't take many changes to get the Democrats in.

What it takes, I think, to keep control is, I think, that the Republicans have to show that they are reform-minded. They are going to change, that they're going to get tough on the lobbyists, that they're going to be — going to stop this earmarking and this pork-barrel stuff.

I thought Tom DeLay was a great leader, but I thought his weakness was he was in favor of this pork-barrel spending and the earmarking.

COLMES: You say the best two years...

NOVAK: And that is not good conservative principles. Pardon?

COLMES: You say the best two years for Republicans, the best two-year cycle? They've indicted the chief of staff to the V.P. You've got a majority leader in trouble. You've got all kinds of issues about wiretapping and...

NOVAK: No, I'm talking about the Senate. The Senate is divided into three groups. Every two years, one-third of the Senate is up. And the third that is up this year falls better for the Republicans.

COLMES: Given the issues I just mentioned, don't Republicans have big problems heading into the '06 elections?

NOVAK: Well, all politics is local, as Tip O'Neill said. And I really believe that the Senate races are going to be very difficult for the Democrats to win. I can see how they can win the House more easily than the Senate.

COLMES: I know that you make news. And I want to respect the things you can or cannot talk about. Will the day ever come when you will come on here, on the FOX News Channel, and tell everything you know about the Valerie Plame affair?

NOVAK: Well, I can't — I'm not supposed to talk about it at all until this grand jury investigation, which I thought was going to end several weeks ago, is going to end. And then I'll talk about it.

Up to the point is, I am not going to be the first one to reveal my source. If he reveals himself, or if somebody else reveals the name, or if the special prosecutor reveals his name, that's another matter, but I'm not going to reveal my source on television.

COLMES: Do you think it's likely that one of those other options will take place?

NOVAK: I think it's possible.

COLMES: What would you predict for the '06 elections? You say you don't think Democrats can take over the Senate. You don't think they'll take over the House? You don't think it's going to happen?

NOVAK: I think the Senate — no, I think the House is very close. I wouldn't make — about two weeks ago, I would have said the Republicans would hold the House. I think that is up in the air right now. And maybe, if the election were held today, the Democrats would probably win the House. But we've got a long way to go before the election. And I think it's going to be a very close thing who wins the House.

HANNITY: Bob, last question. You were quoted recently as saying you regret writing that column with Valerie Plame's name. Why?

NOVAK: I didn't really say that. I said, if I had to do it again, I probably wouldn't do it. I don't think I'd made any mistake at all. She was not — I don't believe she was an undercover agent. I never have. The CIA never told me that it would cause any damage, because I don't think it would.

So that is not the regret, but it's caused me a lot of difficulty. In this town, if you're perceived as being in trouble, people run away from you. And Tom DeLay felt that.

So that's — just from the standpoint of self-protection near the end of your career, I probably would have just assumed not done it, but I don't think I did anything wrong. And I thought it was an interesting part of the story, in about the seventh paragraph of a story, showing why they named this very strange Clinton appointment, the CIA did, to make an inquiry into a very important matter regarding the activities of the Iraqi government.

HANNITY: The only thing I disagree with you on — this is not the end of your career. And you just started tonight on the FOX News Channel, Bob.

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