This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from May 9, 2007.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the president comforts residents of that demolished Kansas town and promises better days ahead. And wait until you hear what Barack Obama says about what he said about Kansas. In Baghdad the vice-president tells the Maliki government to get moving and reports a favorable response. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, go off on different directions on war funding. There's a veto threat. And there's more tonight on how three of those New Jersey terror suspects got into this country. Plus, illegal immigrants hiding in churches. All that right here, right now. Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. President Bush saw for himself today what the tornado did to Greensburg, Kansas last weekend. And once again the commander in chief became the consoler in chief. Differences over the federal response to the disaster were set aside for a few hours at least as the president did what he could to ease the suffering of survivors. White House correspondent Wendell Goler reports.
WENDELL GOLER, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How do you help people pick up the pieces when everything is in pieces? When the house is gone and the car won't go? The kids' school is destroyed and you don't know where classes will be held in the fall? When the place you worked for years is ripped apart and you don't know if it will be rebuilt at all? The president offered hugs and reassurance, a kiss to a woman he said reminded him of mom. His presence telling the people of Greensburg, Kansas the nation feels your pain.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of us have seen the pictures about what happened here, and the pictures don't do it justice. There is a lot of destruction.
GOLER: Nearly 1,000 of Greensburg's 1,700 homes were completely destroyed last Friday. One hundred more sustained major damage in what meteorologists think was the most powerful tornado this country has seen in eight years. Nine people were killed. Mr. Bush praised the strength of character he found in those who survived. BUSH: People who refuse to be—refuse to have their spirit affected by this storm. As a matter of fact, who are willing to do what it takes to rebuild in a better way.
GOLER: Rebuilding was the talk of the day, but not at all assured. Most of Greensburg's businesses were damaged or destroyed. The town's population is aging and has declined over the past 40 years. But as the rubble was cleared away in big pieces and small, the governor spoke of a Greensburg better than before.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: I think we have an incredible opportunity to actually rebuild a better footprint, to really upgrade and update. We talked about having Greensburg be the greenest rural community in America.
GOLER: Meanwhile, as the president posed for pictures with National Guard troops, Governor Sebelius warned for the second day in a row that so many Guardsmen have been sent to Iraq the state could have been short-handed if there had been a second storm. And on Capitol Hill lawmakers blasted the president's latest budget for failing to replace billions in National Guard equipment sent to Iraq.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: It seems like a hole you can drive a humvee through. Well, if they had the humvees.
GOLER: Defense Secretary Gates says the Guard is moving equipment to states that are prone to hurricanes and other storms and he later suggested to reporters he is ready to make more money available.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are perfectly willing to sit down and look at this and work with the states. We understand the concerns of the governors. They are legitimate concerns.
GOLER: Secretary Gates says the Guard has only lost about 20 percent of its equipment to the war in Iraq. But the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lieutenant General Steven Bloom, says in light of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, expanding the Guard's responsibilities, his forces only have about 1/3 of the equipment they really need. Brit?
HUME: Wendell, thank you. Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama says he was tired and that's why he made a significant mistake yesterday. Here's what he said at a fund raiser in Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: This week will there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died. An entire town destroyed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: In fact, as Wendell reported, nine people were killed in the tornado in Greensburg and 12 overall in Kansas. Obama said later, quote, there are going to be times when I get tired. There are going to be times when I get weary. There are going to be times when I make mistakes, end quote. The windows rattled and reporters were hustled to a safer location when a large explosion took place in the vicinity of Baghdad's Green Zone today. But Vice-President Cheney stayed in place and his meeting with Iraqi leaders went on. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier, traveling with him, reports the vice president brought a bit of tough love to a very tough spot.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an unannounced visit to Baghdad, Vice-President Cheney started a week-long trip around the Middle East. Delivering a blunt face-to-face message to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi leaders that they need to work harder to push key legislation through the Iraqi parliament quickly and that a proposed two-month summer recess for lawmakers, still being considered, is unacceptable for Washington.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did make it clear that we believe it is very important to move on the issues before us in a timely fashion.
BAIER: The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said a two-month summer vacation for the Iraqi parliament is, quote, impossible to understand. Late in the day, the Iraqi defense minister predicted that parliament would forego the planned break. In a day filled with meetings, Cheney had lunch with Maliki's top cabinet members, met individually with Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, Sunni Vice President Tariq Hashemi, and Shiite Vice-President Adil Abdel Mehdi. And then he sat down with the leader of the largest Shiite block in parliament, Abdul Aziz al Hakim. One senior aid described the tone as urgent, with the vice-president making clear that all sides need to redouble efforts on reconciliation, a national oil law and local elections. Another described more of a high-level political pep rally, with the vice-president prodding Iraqis to, quote, step up their game. And Cheney said he heard encouraging words from the prime minister.
CHENEY: I believe Prime Minister Maliki plans an address to the parliament this week on many of these issues.
BAIER: On a possible war-funding compromise in Congress, the vice-president seemed to shoot down a Democratic proposal that a portion of the war funding be held back until Congress hears a progress report about the situation on the ground in two to five months. Cheney warned that Congress already knows what the White House won't accept in the bill.
CHENEY: Conditions that limits either the flexibility of our commanders on the ground in Iraq, or interferes with the president's constitutional prerogatives as commander in chief.
BAIER: Commanders say the final U.S. reinforcements in the president's troop surge are set to arrive here incoming weeks. A big part of the battle for Baghdad is now a race against time. (on camera): Senior officials acknowledge the pressure to show real progress here is building as the American public's patience is wearing thin. And as for pushing the Iraqis, one senior diplomat tells Fox the U.S. is walking a fine line between urging Iraqi leaders to act and telling them what to do. Because this official says anything that triggers an Iraqi backlash could cause even more delays. Traveling with the vice-president in Baghdad, Bret Baier, Fox News.
HUME: The latest Democratic effort to put time limits on funding for the war in Iraq does not appear to be making any more headway the measure President Bush vetoed last week. The White House has rejected it and as Congressional correspondent Major Garrett reports, the top man at the Pentagon says it poses some significant practical problems.
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the newest Democratic proposal to fund the Iraq war for two months would disrupt numerous Pentagon operations.
GATES: The bill asks me to run the Department of Defense like a skiff and I'm trying to drive the biggest super-tanker in the world.
GARRETT: Specifically Gates said it would undermine training and reequipping of U.S. force.
GATES: It would have a huge impact on contracting, especially with respect to readiness and reset.
GARRETT: In an interview with Fox, the House Republican leader blasted funding the war on two-month increments.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: All this is going to do is drive up the cost of the war, and at a time when it is not that we need to deny our troops anything, but we don't need to be wasting tax payer money playing these political games in Washington.
GARRETT: But House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel told Fox incremental funding will apply new pressure on the slow-moving Iraqi government.
REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: We have to put force behind it so they realize there is consequence to their failure.
GARRETT: Before the president landed in Kansas to survey tornado damage, Spokesman Tony Snow said this about a two-month war-funding bill: " If it were to come to his desk, it would be vetoed."
EMANUEL: I think the White House has quite realized that the American people have vetoed the president's policy in Iraq of more money, more troops, more time and more of the same.
GARRETT: Recent polls shows disfavor with the Democratic Congressional majority, possibly as a result of the war-funding standoff. In a CNN poll this week, 44 percent blamed Congress for not sending funds to troops in Iraq. A Quinnipiac poll last week revealed 52 percent disapprove of Congress, while 39 percent approve. That is slightly higher than a mid-April Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll which pegged disapproval at 49 percent, approval at 35 percent.
BOEHNER: I think the public, while they are frustrated with the war, the pace of progress in Iraq, just as I am, they don't want to lose and they don't want to just give up.
GARRETT: Emanuel, minimized public discontent or the risks Democrats face on Iraq.
EMANUEL: Can we at some point politically make a mistake? That is possible. The main thing is, if we do right—you know, I come from Chicago. Good government is good politics. If we do right by our troops, we do right by our national security interests, the politics will follow.
GARRETT: Boehner told Fox September is the time to judge the surge.
BOEHNER: We will know in September how well this plan is going, whether it should continue.
GARRETT: Emanuel said the surge can't work if the Iraqi government doesn't do it its part.
EMANUEL: This entire policy leans on the troops. Where is the political strategy?
GARRETT: The House is scheduled to take up the two-month war-funding bill tomorrow. Passage appears likely. But even if it does pass, the Senate Democrats have said they are not interested in it. Brit?
HUME: Major, thank you. Later in our program, a story to make you want to get a flu shot next fall. But next, more information about those suspected terrorists in New Jersey. Who are they? How did they get here? Stay tuned.
HUME: More details are coming out about the six men who allegedly were planing to massacre U.S. Army soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey with assault rifles and grenades. National correspondent Catherine Herridge has the latest information about where they came from and how they got into the U.S.
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the 48 hours since the men were arrested and their homes searched in southern New Jersey, federal investigators have been focusing on the immigration status of the six men, all members of an alleged cell. Among them three brothers from the former Yugoslavia, ethnic Albanians who were identified by prosecutors as—
CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE, U.S. ATTORNEY: Eljvir Duka, who is illegally here in the United States, and was associated with a roofing business, along with his two brothers, Dritan Duka and Shain Duka, also both here illegally in the United States.
HERRIDGE: A federal law enforcement source tells Fox the Duka brothers crossed into the U.S. at Brownsville, Texas in 1984. There is no record they entered legally, so investigating are considering that they were smuggled into the country as small children between the ages of one and six. The remaining members of the conspiracy, which allegedly targeted four military installations, were here legally, but federal investigators are now checking whether they lied on their immigration applications.
CHRISTIE: Mohamad Shnewer, a United States citizen and a taxi cab driver in Philadelphia. Serdar Tatar, a legal resident of the United States, whose last known employment was as a clerk at a 7-Eleven convenience store. And Agron Abdullahu, a legal resident of the United States.
HERRIDGE: One of the alleged targets, Fort Dix, in New Jersey, is drawing considerable attention. Not only is it a major jumping off point for U.S. soldiers heading to Iraq and Afghanistan, but in the late 1990s it was a refuge for ethnic Albanian refugees forced from their homes during the Kosovo conflict, which pitted ethnic Albanians against Serbs for control of Kosovo, part of the former Yugoslavia.
Published reports suggests one suspect, Agron Abdullahu, was one of those refugees, who was described as sniper, possibly with the KLA, the Kosovo Liberation Army, which some describe as a terrorist group.
NEIL LIVINGSTONE, TERRORISM ANALYST: These guys were not recruited, it appear, by al Qaeda. But we do know that there are radical elements in all of those communities, and that they have provided false passports. They have provided intelligence, in some cases. They have provided money to jihadists.
HERRIDGE (on camera): A federal law enforcement source tells Fox it might have been possible to connect the dots earlier on the Duka brothers because they were pulled over for traffic violations more than a dozen times. but because they were living in so called sanctuary communities, where local police do not routinely request a suspects legal status, this information was never passed on to homeland security. In Washington, Catherine Herridge, Fox News.
HUME: Defense Secretary Gates says al Qaeda is growing stronger and is expanding its reach into North Africa. Gates told a Senate panel today that al Qaeda has reestablished itself on Pakistan's western border, where it is training new recruits and has established what he called linkages in North Africa. At a news conference later he said U.S. intelligence has seen, quote, more defined training capabilities in western Pakistan, along with Taliban safe havens. A federal judge in Texas has thrown out an indictment on charges of immigration fraud against a Cuban man who fiercely opposed Fidel Castro and had worked for the CIA. Luis Posado Carriles is accused of entering the U.S. illegally and lying about it. But the judge said the translation of Carriles statement was so bad, it was unreliable as evidence. Still ahead-on SPECIAL REPORT, the pope warns Catholic politicians against supporting legalized abortion. Coming up next though, Hillary Clinton says she wants to deauthorize the Iraq war to spark a debate. We'll try to explain that when we return.
HUME: The debate over closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay continued during a House Appropriations Committee Hearing today. The author of a bill to shut it down say the facility has become a symbol of the nation's tarnished moral image abroad. But what would happen to the detainees? Chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle reports.
JIM ANGLE, FOX NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president and other officials have talked about eventually closing the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, but several Democrats want to do it far sooner, before the worst of the detainees can be tried under military tribunals. Jane Harman is cosponsor of one bill that would close Gitmo, as its called, within one year.
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I am for hard-core haters staying in jail forever. We have the worst of the worst, some at Gitmo. So I don't want those folks ever to get out of jail. But they don't need to be in that jail.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: This has been completely tainted worldwide. Every place I go I get nothing but complaints about Guantanamo and the way it has been handled and the way the prisoners have been handled.
ANGLE: But a hearing in the House today, the commander of the detention center there offered an entirely different view.
REAR ADM. HARRY HARRIS JR., GUANTANAMO COMMANDER: We are holding the right men in the right place for the right reasons, and we are doing it in the right way in Guantanamo. ANGLE:Some 775 terror suspects have been detained since 2002, 390 have been transferred or released. Of those released because no case could made against them, 30 were later discovered back on the battlefield, fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan or Iraq. They were among 517 detainees whose cases were reviewed by a panel.
JOSEPH BANKERT, PRINCIPAL DPY ASST DEFENSE SCY: Ninety five percent are affiliated with, that is members of or associated with, al Qaeda and the Taliban. And 72 percent, 72 percent of these 517 had participated in actual hostilities against the United States or the coalition partners.
ANGLE:Two lawyers defending detainees argued that many of the men were simply bystanders or minor players who got swept up and that there is little evidence against them.
THOMAS WILNER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I really bet that if everyone in this room looked at the classified information against these people, for most of the detainees, you would throw up your hands and you would say, why is this guy being held?
ANGLE:But Admiral Harris said most claim to be innocent, even though they are not.
HARRIS: For example, DNA from two detainees who claim to be simple Afghan shop owners has been discovered on unexploded improvised explosive devices in Iraq.
ANGLE (on camera): Congressman Murtha conceded today it is not practical to quickly close Gitmo, as he hoped. So he now favors just bringing all the detainees back to the U.S. for trial. While known terrorists will be tried, legal experts say most are prisoners of war, not criminal suspects, and that while they have all of the rights of POWs to fair treatment, they do not have the right to a trial anymore than POWs in other wars. In Washington, Jim Angle, Fox News.
HUME: A new Defense Department report says a nationwide flu epidemic could overwhelm the nation's health care facilities. The Pentagon says the National Guard might have be called out to provide medical help and even enforce a quarantine. And it warns that up to 35 percent of Americans could be sickened in a flu epidemic and nearly three million could die. It did not predict such an epidemic, however. Pope Benedict warned Catholic politicians today that they risk excommunication from the church if they support abortion. It's the first time the pontiff has addressed the issue in depth. He spoke on the way to a visit in Brazil, where there is a movement to put the issue of legalizing abortion to a referendum. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize President Bush to go to war in Iraq, is now co-sponsoring a bill to take that authorization away. Her bill is also intended as a measure to spark debate about Iraq policy overall. As chief political correspondent Carl Cameron reports, whatever she is doing, it seems to be working with Democratic voters.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Annapolis, receiving the endorsement of Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has surged back to a significant lead in the polls over Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're very excited about the first girl president. CAMERON: Wearing bright colors, smiling constantly, as if to deal with what polls say is a likability problem, she has surged 10 points since the Democratic debate in three new polls, USA Today/Gallup, CNN and Rasmussen. The Real Clear Politics Average of national polls gives Clinton a double-digit lead across the country. And with a quasi national primary set for February 5th, national polls may matter as much as the early test states like New Hampshire, where Clinton also has the advantage. Obama has taken heat for a debate performance and a candidacy chock full of idealism, but not many ideas. Clinton pointedly emphasizes substance.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We have to have good policies that enable us to translate into reality the hopes and dreams that people have for themselves and their children. CAMERON: But on Iraq her rhetoric and proposals remain a bit of a moving target. When a reporter asked about her bill to deauthorize the Iraq war, she described it merely as a measure intended to spark debate over broader Iraq policy.
CLINTON: He's referring to legislation that Senator Byrd introduced, that I co-sponsored, that would require a debate about repealing the authorization that was passed nearly five years ago. And I think that is a worthy subject for debate.
CAMERON: Clinton called her deauthorization bill a debate measure Monday as well in Chicago. She was asked to clarify today.
CLINTON: It would deauthorize. But you have to have the debate to get to the vote.
CAMERON: Clinton acknowledged differences with fellow Democrats, saying even after potential deauthorization and withdrawal, she would likely keep some U.S. troops in Iraq to help the Iraqis with logistics, but mostly to fight al Qaeda, a struggle she actually said is having some success.
CLINTON: We may have some vital national security interests. The presence of al Qaeda in Iraq poses a threat to the region and beyond. We're making progress on it. We have got a new alliance with tribal sheikhs in the area to be able to actually have an indigenous Iraqi force against al Qaeda. We may want to continue to support them in that.
CAMERON: While the Clinton and Obama camps spar over who is best to lead the U.S. out of Iraq, the truth is both say some troops may have to stay for a variety of reasons. And Clinton today said each would require careful analysis on a case by case basis, the exact words Obama used earlier this week, and a big part of why the president resists arbitrary deadlines.
In Washington, Carl Cameron, Fox News.
HUME: We have to take a break here to let you hear from our sponsors and update the other headlines. When we come back, some leading members of the mainstream media put President Bush in the same category as Rodney Dangerfield. We'll explain that next on the Grapevine.
Washington was abuzz today with speculation about whether the Pentagon has already decided how long the surge of troops into Iraq will last even though lawmakers expected a reassessment of the strategy after this summer. It all started with a reported quote by the No. 2 commander of the U.S. military operations in Iraq. A quote General Raymond Odierno now disputes that. National Security correspondent Jennifer joins us with more—Jennifer.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well Brit, the Washington Post stands by its story, its reporter. Ann Tyson says that she has General Odierno on tape at least once saying that he is planning to position surge troops in Iraq until April of next year. Now, under the head lines "commanders in Iraq see surge into '08," the Washington Post quotes General Odierno on its front page today, saying:
"The surge needs to go through the beginning of next year for sure. What I am trying to do is to get until April so we can decided whether to keep it going or not." Odierno's comments raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill today, because the Pentagon has said it would give and honest assessment of the surge in September and only then decide whether to continue. There are already fears on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon and the administration are not being forthright about how long the surge will last. Odierno said he was misquoted. "This was a misquote. I said with the extensions that we have the ability to maintain the surge until April and I will make a recommendation in September to General Petraeus on how we are doing and if we need to continue to surge at least to the beginning of the year." The Pentagon downplayed the controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: His intent was to forecast that if needed to the decisions that had been made would allow to us keep the current surge up until about April of next year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: The Defense Secretary Robert Gates began laying the groundwork today, when he was on Capitol Hill saying that even if a withdrawal were to occur some Iraq—some, excuse me—U.S. forces would have to stay in Iraq for the near future to keep stability in the region— Brit.
HUME: Jennifer, thank you. It appears there's going to be another immigrant rights rally in Los Angeles. Activists today announced plans to march again June 24 to renew the demands for a path to citizenship. Organizers say they hope to have more than the estimated 25,000 people who participated in that rally on May 1.
Los Angeles police broke up that demonstration with batons and rubber bullets after being hit from objects thrown from the crowd. Under American law there really is no such thing as sanctuary in a church to avoid being arrested. Nevertheless, many authorities are reluctant to violate, unnecessarily, at least, the haven of a church. And it is that reluctance that churches across the country may be counting on as they step into the controversy over illegal immigrants. Correspondent Anita Vogel reports.
ANITA VOGEL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Churches across the nation are now opening their doors to illegal immigrants to keep them from being deported. It's called the "New Sanctuary Movement" at churches like La Placita in in downtown Los Angeles are providing housing for illegals on church property, effectively shielding them from immigration enforcement agents.
KIM BOBO, NEW SANCTUARY MOVEMENT: We want Congress to fix this broken system. We know they're concerned, but they need to fix it in a way that unifies families, gives a path to citizenship for people and that protects workers in the society.
VOGEL: Forty-four-year-old Jose, who's currently facing deportation, is the first to be housed at this church. This morning he spoke by telephone to Elvira Arillano, a woman who's been given sanctuary in a Chicago church for the last nine months.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know it's difficult. You have our support.
VOGEL: Jose will work as a handyman at the church, and live in this modest room, still under construction.
IRA MEHLMAN, FED FOR AMER IMMIG REFORM: What they are doing is openly harboring illegal immigrants and that is against the law. And if the government so chooses they can exercise to enforce the law against the leaders of the Sanctuary Movement.
BOBO: For ICE to cross the threshold of a congregation would be a terrible thing and a precedent that I think very few people of faith in this country would feel uncomfortable with. So, again, I don't think our nation's leaders will make a choose to do that.
VOGEL: Immigration agents have yet to make any arrests on church premises but they have the authority to do so. In fact, during a similar movement to protect Central Americans from deportation in the '80s, some who harbored refugees were themselves arrested. Father Richard Estrada says that's a risk he is willing to take. (on camera): Are you willing to risk going to jail for this?
FATHER RICHARD ESTRADA, LA PLACITA CHURCH: Well personally, I am. And I think we've been—all of us are. VOGEL: Roger Cardinal Mahony of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles who said Monday night in Philadelphia the government unfairly scapegoats illegals and that illegal aliens should be treated no differently than legal immigrants, have given his blessing to individual parishes which participate in the Sanctuary Movement. In Los Angeles, Anita Vogel, FOX NEWS.
HUME: World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has been granted an extension of time until the close of business Friday to respond to a bank committee's report that found that he had violated bank rules by helping his female companion, a bank employee, receive a raise and a promotion. In the meantime, Senate Democratic leaders today called on President Bush to resolve the problem quickly. The senators did not expressly call for Wolfowitz to resign, but they said that he played a role in aggravating what they called a leadership crisis at the bank. Senators wrote that U.S. interests would not be advanced by a bank board vote on his future. Next on SPECIAL REPORT, Vice President Cheney delivered a strong message in Iraq, today. We'll get thoughts on that and other things from the all-stars coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We believe it's very important to move on the issues before us in a timely fashion and that any undue delay would be difficult to explain and that we hope they would approach these issues with all deliberate dispatch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Well, folks you may not think that was a strongly-worded warning, but when it's coming from Dick Cheney that's about as strong as it gets and he was speaking of his sessions over there in Baghdad with Nouri al Maliki and all the other key leaders of the Iraqi political system over there, urging them to get moving on a range of reforms and other issues that people in this city are awaiting action on. Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call—
FOX NEWS contributors all. Well, we know a little bit about what he said the response was, which he said was generally favorable. And we—this comes as the Democrats try to devise a new way to limit the president's freedom to continue the war over there. Where does it all stand—Mort.
MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well the vice president is over there telling them to move and meanwhile, the prime minister's national security advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie was in Washington yesterday trying to get members of Congress to be patient. And I—you know, if they could meet in the middle, a happy medium somewhere, that would be fine, if there were some patience in Washington and some speed in Iraq this might all work out.
There is no patience in Washington. I mean, the more you hear from members of Congress, including Republicans, September is the line, there's going to be a reassessment in September. If it's not going well even Republicans are talking about, you know, forcing a pullout. So, the one thing that Cheney accomplished was that they're not going to take a vacation, the parliament; in they were going to take two months off for the summer. Now they will take, I guess, a week off. And they've got a lot to do. They've been promising that they would get an oil agreement, petrochemical agreement, petroleum agreement...
HUME: A distribution of the oil proceeds.
KONDRACKE: Right, exactly. That they would start moving on constitution reform, they would start moving toward regional elections and stuff like that. And everything is sort of moving but it's all glacial and it's got to start moving fast and show results.
HUME: Kind of like Congress.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: But there's a real—this is something that the commanders over there have said. There's two timelines, there's the facts on the ground timeline and the Iraqi political timeline, which is moving pretty slow and then there is the patience of Americans in terms of whether the support for this effort is going to continue and that seems to be draining away faster than the Iraqis are making progress. Just today, Secretary Gates was on the Hill saying that in September he's going to give an honest assessment of the affect of the surge to the president and to the Congress. September seems to be this looming deadline, here.
HUME: Boy, if I'm an al Qaeda plotter in Iraq I'm thinking, I'm going to save my biggest operations for September.
FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Indeed, or sometime in the rest of the year. You know look, this stuff that Cheney was urging them to do, this is for American consumption, consumption in Washington because those are the people who are most upset about the lack of an oil law, and sharing the oil revenues and want to allow some of the people who were thrown out—some of the Sunnis who lost the jobs in de-Baathification to give some of them jobs back and to have regional elections and to move. But the truth is contrary to what John Kerry said that they need a political solution to end the violence, they need to end the violence so they can have a political solution. That's the first thing they have to do. They have to beat back the Sunni insurgency. The Sunni insurgency is not based on the lack of sharing oil revenues; it's based on something quite different. It's based on the desire of the Sunnis to rule their country again as they did for all those years under Saddam Hussein. Now look, these political steps will help a little, but there's a bigger step that has to be taken and is being taken, and that is first to secure and pacify Baghdad, then Anbar Province and the rest of Iraq. There is—a military solution isn't the total solution, but it's the solution that has to come first, then you can get this political reconciliation.
KONDRACKE: That's—what you just heard is reality. Unfortunately, what counts in Washington is benchmarks, achieving benchmarks and the benchmarks are partly political. And even the administration says that the that they've got to reach these benchmarks and you know the operation over there, the surge, the whole surge operation is being judged not just on the basis of casualties, our casualties and their casualties and success against al Qaeda and stuff like that, but it's these political moves the Iraqis themselves promised that they would achieve.
HUME: When we come back with the panel, we'll talk about the dispute over the federal response to the tornado in Kansas last weekend. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our role as government officials is to work with the state and local folks to get whatever help is appropriate here, whatever help is in the law, to be here as quickly as possible. My mission is to, today, though, is to lift people's spirits as best as I possibly can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: That's President Bush today in the middle in the town of Greensburg, Kansas, or what little there is left of that town. Completely leveled by the tornado over the weekend. In all, the death toll in the state of Kansas is 12. There's been some controversy over the extent of the federal response or at least the availability of federal assets. The claim was early made by some politicians, Democrats in particular, that said that because of the Iraq war that the state of Kansas, the National Guard did not have the gear it needed to get in there and do what needed to be done. And in addition to that, there was this claim by Barack Obama at a fundraiser last night in Richmond, Virginia.
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SEN BARACK OBAMA (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This week there was a tragedy in Kansas, 10,000 people died, an entire town destroyed.
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HUME: Well he was right about the entire town being destroyed, but of course, a dozen people died in the whole state. He said he was—the 10,000 faux pas was over the fact that he was tired and he said, you know, "I may get weary from time to time and I'll make mistakes." I guess people can decide for themselves how reassuring they find that, but in any case here we go again, or do we, on this business of disaster relief and the adequately of Washington's response—Mort.
KONDRACKE: Well, Katrina it ain't. And, you know, there was the build-up and you started seeing the newspaper stories, "is Kansas another Katrina," especially because the Governor Sebelius was criticizing the National Guard response and her lack—alleged lack of supplies. However, she had an interview and now says we're OK, you know, it's just if we have another catastrophe in the state we might not have enough, but for now we've enough and further more that the FEMA response was quite swift—so, Katrina it's not.
LIASSON: Yeah, and a couple of days ago she give an interview to NPR where she was—I think she gave FEMA a grade of A- or B+, but something pretty good, and she said the response had been good. What's she's saying is if we have another incident, we're not going to be able to respond to that. But...
...the governor apparently have complained about this. The fact is the resources are stretched as they would be in a war and even Secretary Gates today said the concerns of the governors are legitimate concerns and we're willing to sit down and work with them. I mean, I don't think it's that shocking that National Guard equipment would be depleted when so much of it is being shipped overseas.
BARNES: Well, she said that magic—those magic words—those magic three words: wars in Iraq. And so, you know, immediately Harry Reid started to salivate and other Democrats around the country and in Washington saying it's all Bush's fault because of the war in Iraq and it doesn't appear to be the case. She seems to have changed her story. FEMA worked OK here, I mean, this is small...
LIASSON: I don't thing she ever was accusing FEMA of...
BARNES: But she was saying that because National Guard equipment was in Iraq, that the—that some members of the Kansas National Guard, there wasn't enough equipment. Well, it appears, you know, they had 350 Humvees and it seemed like they had plenty of equipment. Now look, if this had been Wichita that had been wiped off the face of the earth, they probably wouldn't have had enough equipment, but it was a small town. And it looks like they did fine.
HUME: If it had been Wichita, it probably wouldn't have wiped out the whole town.
BARNES: And Brit, if I said something incorrect, it's because I'm tired.
HUME: Well what about that? LIASSON: That—well, that, I don't know, he made a mistake and he corrected it...
BARNES: It wasn't played much. I looked in the Washington Post, the New York Times, I didn't see any...
LIASSON: He corrected it—he corrected it pretty...
HUME: Now wait a minute, is that a satisfactory response, though, that says I'm going to people get tired and mistakes? Is that? Do you want that—I mean, is that—are people going to look at that and say...
LIASSON: I think people misspeak all the time.
BARNES: I know, but he's running for president, he's almost toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton and believe me, you've heard me harp on this before, but if there were some Republican front-runner or near front-runner you'd hear about it for days and days.
KONDRACKE: Oh, I completely...
BARNES: ...major newspapers in the country. KONDRACKE: Oh, please!
BARNES: Well, maybe Roll Call had it.
HUME: Well, it happened in the evening, might happen after early deadlines.
KONDRACKE: Look, if he stuck to it, I mean, like Gerald Ford stuck to the idea that Poland was a free country or something like that, then there'd be a problem. You know, what is remarkable, is that there aren't more terrible mistakes made by these candidates. They are bopping across the country, you know, non-stop. You get jet lagged just going once in awhile, but these guys are going back and forth all of the time. They don't get enough sleep, they're raising money... HUME: Well, what do you think he meant to say when he said 10,000 people that died? Ten people that died?
KONDRACKE: No, I think he meant to say 1,000 people died...
LIASSON: No, no, no, he had...
KONDRACKE: I think he had big—he had something wrong in his head. He had clearly something wrong—how do I know what he meant to say?
BARNES: Are you really accepting the excuse that this happened because he was tired?
KONDRACKE: Yes. BARNES: You are?
LIASSON: You think he meant to say that? That he really believed 10,000...
KONDRACKE: Just for that I'll give Rudy Giuliani a pass on one, too. HUME: That's it for the panel, but stay stick around to find out why the Queen Elizabeth always carries a purse. That's next.
HUME: Finally tonight, she has all the aides and handlers a person could need, but Queen Elizabeth II always seems to have a handsome purse on her arm. It seems there are things in it she needs.
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BUSH: Laura and I are honored to welcome back to the White House, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and his Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
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HUME: Jack Daniels, Marlboros, and an American cell phone. And that's SPECIAL REPORT for this time, please tune us in next time And in the meantime, more news is on the way—fair, balanced, and unafraid.
Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EST.
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