This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Feb. 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BUSH: We now know that in October 2001 Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door and fly the plane into the tallest building on the West Coast.
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CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: That was President Bush Thursday talking about a terrorist plot to crash into a Los Angeles skyscraper that was broken up through international cooperation.
And it’s panel time now for Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, FOX News contributors all.
Well Fred, the president has talked about this failed 2002 plot before, but never in this much detail. Why do you think he did so Thursday?
FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it shows that the threat of terrorism is not just theoretical. You know, that there have been attempts to have attacks in the United States since 9/11. And I think that’s important. Most of his speeches have been, you know, they sound as if they are vague and the threat is out there but it’s not — it doesn’t sound as eminent when you’re talking about a direct — a particular building and a particular plot.
It fits with his notion that the most important thing he can do as president is fight the war on terrorism. It also fits with the political interests of Republicans who would rather have terror be the issue than the big issue going into the 2006 mid-term election rather than say corruption or something like that. You know, there are certain issues that help one party and not the other.
WALLACE: Mort, there’s no indication that the president’s warrantless wiretap program played any role in breaking up this plot. But clearly the statement today and the fact that we’re covering it comes in the midst of the debate over that program. Do you think it has an impact on?
MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well if, the NSA had been involved in this, you can be sure that the president would have said that we foiled this plot, because of that NSA program. And so this suggests that it was by other means.
And in fact the White House in explaining what the president was up to here said that this is emphasizing multilateral cooperation, which is kind of interesting itself, that this administration now, you know, wants to get credit for engaging in multilateral cooperation. And I think it deserves credit for doing that.
So, you know, I guess it was designed to weigh in to this debate at this time, in effect saying the menace is there. We’re dealing with it. We have dealt with it successfully. So trust me.
MARA LIASSON, NPR: Yes. And also as he said in the speech, there’s a tendency for people to get lulled into complacency. And I think this was an effort to keep people feeling pretty urgent about the War on Terror.
Look, he could have given this speech at any time. There have been a number of years that have passed since this incident was foiled. But it does come at an interesting moment where on the Hill you’ve got growing numbers of Republicans who are coming to believe that the NSA program needs congressional oversight, doesn’t need to be stopped, but needs congressional oversight.
You have got Arlen Specter who is introducing a law to send this thing to the FISA court for review to see if it’s constitutional. You have members of the House calling for more briefings, which they have gotten. The administration changed its mind on that. It decided to talk to more members of Congress than it had originally had wanted to.
So I think that this is the president trying to keep people focused on the number one issue for him.
WALLACE: Let me just change — or pivot the subject a little bit, Fred. Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday made a speech in which she said that Republicans are trying for the third election in a row to win on national security. And she also weighed in on Karl Rove’s game plan. Let’s take a look at what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: Contrary to Franklin Roosevelt, we have nothing to fear but fear itself, this crowd is all we have got is fear and we’re going to keep playing the fear card.
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WALLACE: Do you buy that?
BARNES: Look, Republicans both think that the War on Terror is the most important thing that the government has to do now. And they also realize it’s healthy for them politically. I mean, it’s always been, Chris. I mean, think of domestic issues. When the issue is taxes — helps Republicans. When the issue is health care — helps Democrats. Now when the issue is terror and the terrorist threat against America, it helps Republicans.
But the truth is certainly President Bush and Karl Rove believe that it is the most important issue.
WALLACE: Mort, do you think that Senator Clinton and the Democrats are still vulnerable on national security? And if so, and she gave a speech that said I don’t take a back seat to the president or anyone, how do they get off the dime on this one?
KONDRACKE: Well, I think they are vulnerable insofar as it’s mainly Democrats who have been resisting extension of the Patriot Act, it’s mainly Democrats who initially when they heard about the NSA spying thing said this is illegal. You know, implicitly saying let’s stop this. They backed off that somewhat to say, you know, let’s make it legal. Let’s examine how we can let it go forward.
I think what Hillary Clinton was doing in this speech on this point was actually demonstrating a pre-9/11 world view in which Rove criticized in saying that they are fearmongering, and a post-9/11 world view in getting to Bush’s right and saying, you haven’t caught the tallest man in Afghanistan yet.
LIASSON: Usama bin Laden, the tallest man in Afghanistan.
Look, Mrs. Clinton has tried, Senator Clinton has tried on a number of occasions to get to the right of the president, whether it’s on homeland security or other War on Terror issues, and Thursday in that speech she said we have lost two elections because of security. I mean, she seems to have diagnosed the Democratic problem pretty well.
WALLACE: That is the problem, but what’s the solution?
LIASSON: I think she considers she’s going to try to — she is on the Armed Services Committee. She’s been a pretty staunch supporter. She has not been a liberal lefty on national security issues. And I think she’s going to run as somebody who’s as tough on terrorism as the Republicans, if not more so.
BARNES: She is already being pounded from the left wing of the party, the MoveOn.org crowd, for voting for the war in Iraq in the first place and a number of her statements now. And — I mean, she has a very — to win the nomination now, she needs to win the votes of these left-wing people. She has got a real narrow road to walk, I think.
LIASSON: I don’t think that’s going to be. She has a lot of credit in the bank from the left. She has some running room there.
BARNES: Not much. Her nomination is not a slam-dunk.
LIASSON: No. Certainly not. But not for that reason.
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