This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 25, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes".

We now continue with reaction to President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair's joint news conference. Joining us now, syndicated columnist and FOX News contributor Robert Novak.

Welcome back to our show, Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

COLMES: You know, I heard the same rhetoric tonight I've been hearing for weeks, months, and years from this president, Listening to commanders on the ground. When a commander named Eric Shinseki told him more troops, all of a sudden he faced early retirement. He's not listening to commanders on the ground.

What did he say tonight that was new?

NOVAK: One thing I'm required to do as a reporter is correct urban myths. Eric Shinseki, when he answered that question, his retirement had already been announced.

COLMES: But it was 14 months they before he was going to leave, and they'd already announced his replacement, which was very unusual.

NOVAK: No. It had been announced before he answered the question. Look it up and don't repeat the misstatement.

COLMES: I did look it up.

NOVAK: Now, if you want to know what was new tonight, what was new was admitting mistakes. Now I'll tell you something about admitting mistakes. Can you imagine Churchill going to the British people and saying, "We've got to stick it out with a long haul against the Nazis, but I really screwed up in Norway"?

The trouble with admitting mistakes is it delights the news media. They just cannot have enough of that. They're going to just revel in it in tomorrow's news. But the American people, who have to be behind this effort, I don't think are going to be energized by the president saying, "Gee, I made misstatements and mistakes."

COLMES: What I'm curious about — by the way, I stick with my timeline on the Shinseki issue.

NOVAK: Well, you're quite wrong on that.

COLMES: We'll have to disagree.

NOVAK: I'll tend you a piece of paper on it.

COLMES: Please do. I'd like to get to the bottom of that if we disagree.

But in terms of what the president said, so many conservatives have defended the president on terms of Abu Ghraib and defended him on the phrase "bring it on." And I just wonder, as I asked Ollie North a few minutes ago, if they're not going to suddenly agree with the president again, now that he has finally admitted that those were mistakes?

NOVAK: Well, Alan, you're engaging in all this partisan claptrap. What the American people — what's important is whether the American people are going — how long they're going to stand for a war in which there is no clear conclusion.

It's very difficult to wage a war, any war, when you don't have the American people behind you. It's also very difficult to have the American people behind you when you have a media buzz against the war. So there is a great yearning to get this thing over with.

The thing that really worries a lot of people, including me, is when we finally leave, will the situation be much better than it is right now? I hope it is.

HANNITY: Hey, Bob. Bob, welcome back to the program.

NOVAK: Thank you.

HANNITY: It's funny, as I — just about every liberal I here speak, and they're all saying the same thing here tonight. I think a lot of news came out of this press conference.

Beyond the headline that I think we'll hear a lot of, is that, yes, mistakes were made. But they've been made in every conflict that I can think of in the history of warfare, unfortunately.

But the people of Iraq now voted on numerous occasions. A government has been formed. They're saying in 18 months that their security forces will be able to be in charge of every province there. That basically, I think what the president and the prime minister are saying here is that we're now beginning — we're going to finish this job, see it through to the end, but we see an end in sight. That's what I took out of it.

NOVAK: Well, think that's what they are saying. But as somebody who was a Cold War hawk and a right winger, as you know, Sean, I've always been skeptical about this war, whether it was the right war in the right place at the right time, and what I do believe is that we cannot stay there indefinitely.

There's no question that if we walk out tomorrow...

HANNITY: Yes.

NOVAK: ... like some of your Democratic congressman on this network are saying it would be a catastrophe.

HANNITY: Bob...

NOVAK: But there has to be a calculation made at some time that we're going to go out, even if things are not perfect there.

HANNITY: You know something? But if you think — there's always friendly fire in war. There's always miscalculation in war. Things never go as they are planned or anticipated in war. Mistakes are made by some of the best generals, as we look at the decisions they made through the prism of history here.

You know, don't we need a little context in all of this? And if the president is right, if democratization begins here, what it could mean for safety and security for the entire world when we look at a big picture?

NOVAK: If he is correct, he's going to be one of the great heroes in the history of this country, no matter if his — his popularity goes down below 20 percent. Just like Harry Truman, rightly or wrongly has become a great hero.

But the question is I'm not sure he is exactly right. I have been to Iraq, and I'm skeptical that democracy can succeed there. I pray that it does succeed, and I do know right now that we cannot walk out as your congressman wants to do.

COLMES: We've got to run. Thank you for being with us tonight, Bob Novak.

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