This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from July 23, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRIT HUME, HOST: Cindy Sheehan is back in town. And this time she is going after Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

There are some surprising new poll numbers on Iraq. Iraqi tribal leaders, meanwhile, are turning on al Qaeda. We will take you inside Anbar Province.

The U.S. and Iran are about to start talking again. We'll tell you what that's all about.

Plus the strange case of the rape suspect set free for lack of a translator. And the dilemma of the terrorists hiding out in Pakistan. What is up with that? All of that right here, right now.

Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. The anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is here in the nation's capital and out for some political blood. Sheehan has made no progress against Republicans her quest to end the Iraq war or to impeach President Bush. So now she has turned on the Democratic majority, which has given her calls for impeachment scant attention and even less report. Congressional correspondent Major Garrett reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrat John Conyers, the point man at any House impeachment proceedings against President Bush waded through protesters en route to a meeting with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan emerged dejected to learn House Democrats won't impeach the president and quickly focused her anger on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

CINDY SHEEHAN, ANTI-WAR ACTIVIST: The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable so we have to hold the Democrats accountable. And I for one am going to step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi.

GARRETT: Pelosi doesn't fear Sheehan's bid for her seat in Congress, or apparently any Sheehan ignited rage against the Democratically controlled House's indifference to impeachment. Pelosi and Conyers have said repeatedly they don't have the votes to impeach the president and don't want the distraction wrought by trying to find them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agrees.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We, frankly, don't have the time and can't take the time during these next few months to impeach the president.

GARRETT: Sheehan, who today led a march from Arlington National Cemetery to Capital Hill, considers Democratic inaction unforgivable.

SHEEHAN: So we are going to Congress. We don't work for Congress; they work for us.

GARRETT: Sheehan symbolizes unrest bordering on anger among Democratic activists eager for frontal assault on the war and the Bush White House. Even at last week's anti-war rally meant to buck up Congressional Democrats, some in the crowd heckled party leaders, shouting for impeachment and an end to war funding.

REID: Please, be quiet.

GARRETT: The crowd was even tougher on Pelosi.

PELOSI: Last week this the House —

GARRETT: Meanwhile, Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold will again move to censure the president over the Iraq war.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: The censure resolution gives people a way to express their feelings that this president apparently could care less about what the American people said in November.

GARRETT: Feingold said Bush's mishandling of the war must receive a formal Congressional rebuke.

FEINGOLD: I have a lot of sympathy for those who are interested in impeachment, but the constitution does not say you must impeach. It gives the option of impeachment. And in this case, exercising the option is not necessary, given the fact that we can censure this president.

GARRETT: Feingold's idea currently divides Senate Democratic leaders.

REID: The American people already know that President Bush is the worse president we have ever had. And I'm not sure we need a censure motion to confirm that.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I think it is appropriate for us to take the censure resolution up. It is short of impeachment. But it is an important debate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GARRETT: A spokesman for Speaker Pelosi's offices said the House Democrats are not really interested in a censure petition either. So when it comes to impeachment, censure or Sheehan, The word from Democratic leaders in Congress appears to be thanks, but no thanks. Brit?

HUME: Thanks, Major. A new poll from the "New York Times" and CBS News finds support for the war in Iraq has actually risen a bit since President Bush asked Americans to wait for a progress report in September. Forty two percent of those surveyed now say taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do; that compared to 35 percent back in May. But, as you can see, 51 percent say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, compared to 61 percent who said that in May.

However, a 2/3rds majority still says the war is going badly.

There has been some better news coming out of Iraq and one example of that is the reduction of violence in Anbar Province, where Sunni tribal leaders have joined with U.S. forces with al Qaeda. Correspondent Malini Bawa reports significant information has come from one-time Iraqi insurgents who are now back in the fold.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALINI BAWA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When tribal sheiks recently decided to cooperate with U.S. troops against al-Qaeda, violence dropped dramatically in western Anbar Province. In the al Qaim region, insurgents fled cities and towns to hide in the desert, where they found themselves cut off from money and supplies.

Now some of those men are turning themselves in under a creative reconciliation program that essentially puts them in the custody of their tribal sheik.

LT COL JASON BOHM, TASK FORCE 1/4 MARINE CMDR: The key is getting the sheiks to agree to let the individual back because they are the ones that are going to sign a letter of sponsorship saying that they vouch for the individual. They are the ones that are going to help this individual find employment.

BAWA: Colonel Jason Bohm, commander of the 1/4 Marines task force, hatched the idea with a local mayor and tribal leaders, based on the belief that willingness to reconcile is a cornerstone stone of counter-insurgency strategy.

Here is how the program works: an exiled insurgent contacts his sheik. Marines and Iraqi police run a background check on the name. Anyone suspected of killing an American or Iraqi remains on a wanted list. But low to mid level operatives are eligible for reconciliation after they demonstrate sincerity with an act of good faith.

FARHAN FATIKAN FARHAN, AL QAIM MAYOR (through translator): By giving us good information about specific questions, like for example, a weapons cache or information about some terrorist members, they fulfill this requirement.

BAWA: The colonel says al-Qaeda often threatened locals into committing lesser crimes like housing terrorists or transporting materials. A panel of sheiks makes the final decision on whether to accept someone for reconciliation.

SHEK AHMED DHARI ABDUL NAHAR, AL SALAMNI TRIBE: Tribal leader have more authority than any president of any country. Individuals in the same tribe, they have to follow and obey the tribe leader.

BAWA: Several members of the Al Salamani tribe have reconciled. Among them, 59-year-old Eid Mukhlef. The marines say he has ties to al- Qaeda. He claims terrorists threatened him and denies any wrongdoing.

EID MUKHLEF GHALAB, RECONCILED INSURGENT: I didn't commit anything, I didn't kill anybody. I didn't explode any houses.

BAWA: Colonel Bohm says most of the several dozen who reconciled under the two month program are far more repentant. Many provided life saving tips on where to find explosives and weapons.

BOHM: In the second month, we had a 170 percent increase in finds of these items. So the result is there.

BAWA (on camera): The reconciliation period ends July 31st. After that, Marines will evaluate whether or not the insurgents who came back stayed out of trouble. But this one effort could provide a model of reconciliation for the Anbar region and possibly the rest of country.

In al Qaim, Iraq, Malini Bawa, Fox News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: Three parked cars explode today in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad. One targeted a passing police patrol. Another ripped through a busy marketplace. And a third struck another police patrol. At least 12 people were killed, nearly 20 others wounded. This is at least the third time this month that the same shopping area has been hit by bombs with multiple deaths and injuries.

In Baghdad, the American ambassador and the Iranian ambassador are expected to sit down together for a second round of talks. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier looks at what happened after their first session and what the U.S. hopes might come out of their next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S./Iranian talks about Iraq take two. White House officials confirm that Tuesday U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will meet with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad for the second time, a meeting that White House Spokesman Tony Snow said comes at the invitation of the Iraqi government to try to revisit Iranian commitments to help stabilize Iraq.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The purpose of these talks is to sit down and express concerns and see if there is some way to work forward to providing real security for the Iraqis. The Iranians have said they want to contribute and we will see what they have to say.

BAIER: In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country is taking part as a favor to Iraq.

MOHAMMAD ALI HOSSEINI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY: The demands of the Iraqi people and government and their problems is our main reason to accept this request.

BAIER: The new meeting comes after a May 28th meeting in Baghdad, the highest profile contact between the U.S. and Iran in almost three decades. State Department officials conceded today the first meeting did not seem to affect Iranian actions.

SCOTT MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If they truly do want a more stable, secure Iraq, they are going to have to change their behavior. Now after the first meeting we haven't seen really any appreciable change in their behavior, certainly not for the positive.

BAIER: In fact, U.S. officials tell Fox since that first meeting, evidence points to more Iranian funding, more training and more equipment for Shiite militias inside Iraq determined to destabilize the government. Senior U.S. commanders say in recent weeks they have also seen more Iranian made explosively formed projectiles or EFPs, the high-powered roadside bombs that can penetrate U.S. armor.

Thirty four Iranian missiles were found inside Iraq in a raid last week, all possible topics Tuesday. What won't be discussed thought is Iran's nuclear program and the two rounds of sanctions the United Nations has imposed on Iran over that program this year. U.S. officials say the talks will also not touch on the four Iranian American scholars and activists held by Iran for what Tehran calls the endangerment of Iran's national security.

Iranian officials claimed Sunday that two of the four, Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajkbakhsh, confessed to a plot of trying to foment regime change in the country with the support of the U.S. government.

U.S. officials claim Iran coerced confessions from two people who went to the country to visit aging relatives.

MCCORMACK: These people are being prevented from leaving Iran are being held unjustly without any cause. The accusations that some how they pose a threat to the Iranian government and the Iranian regime; that is just absolutely ridiculous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAIER: At the same time, Tehran is calling for the release of five Iranians detained in Iraq. Tehran calls them diplomats. Senior U.S. commanders say they are all members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, specifically the elite Quds force. Yesterday U.S. troops detained two more suspected weapons smugglers who are also believed to be tied to that elite Iranian unit. Brit?

HUME: Bret, thank you. Former British Prime Minister turned international diplomat Tony Blair has embarked on what skeptics are calling mission impossible in the Middle East. Blair today held talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem. Tomorrow he goes to the West Bank for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. A spokesman says Blair will be in what is called a listening mode during his first trip on behalf of the Quartet of the European Union, the United Nations, the U.S., and Russia.

Later in the program, an American ship dispenses medical treatment and offers a different view of the United States in Latin America. And after a break, a Maryland man accused of raping and molesting a seven-year-old could face trial after all. Wait until you hear why the judge dismissed the charges. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: An Africa immigrant living in Maryland accused of horrific crimes against a small girl appeared to get off Scott free without a trial last week. A judge dismissed the charges because no court-approved translator could be found. But as correspondent Molly Henneberg reports, this case is not over yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOLLY HENNEBERG, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Montgomery County prosecutors are not letting this one go without a fight. They are appealing Circuit Court Judge Katharine Savage's decision last week to dismiss nine charges against 23 year old Mahamu Kanneh, a Liberian immigrant arrested almost three years ago, released on bond after one night in jail, and accused of raping and repeatedly sexually assaulting a seven- year-old girl, reportedly a relative.

JOHN I. MCCARTHY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY STATES ATTY: We believe that that decision to dismiss these charges was improper.

HENNEBERG: The judge ruled last week that it had taken the court too long to find a translator for the Kanneh, who speaks Vai, an African tribal language spoken in his native Liberia, although the official language there is English. The defense and a court ordered psychologist said Kanneh, who lives in this Maryland apartment building, needed a translator. But prosecutors disagreed, saying Kanneh went to high school and community college in Montgomery County, Maryland.

In addition, Kanneh initially spoke to investigators in English, as he did last night by phone to Fox News producer Serafin Gomez.

SERAFIN GOMEZ, FOX NEWS PRODUCER: I said, what do you think about these allegations? What do you feel? And he said to me, in perfect — not perfect. It was heavily accented English. But he said to me these are false accusations.

HENNEBERG: Still, circuit court clerk Loretta Knight did find four Vai speakers to translate for Kanneh. Three had to withdraw for various reasons. But the state's attorney said today an interpreter was available for trial. But the judge ruled last week it was too late. Judge Savage said quote, "this is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in a long time."

And went on to say, quote, "in spite of Herculean efforts on the part of the state's attorney, time has become the enemy. It's the defendant who holds speedy trial rights."

Prosecutors say that is not their fault.

MCCARTHY: The bottom line is that any delays caused by the attempt to find an appropriate and qualified interpreter is not attributable to the prosecution and legally was the responsibility of the courts and should not serve as the basis for dismissing the charges against the defendant.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENNEBERG: Kanneh's public defender, Theresa Chernosky, her office issued a statement today saying defendants have to be able to understand legal proceedings and the charges against them. The statement went on to say that the court determined this could not be done without an interpreter and that, quote, an interpreter could not be provided. Brit?

HUME: Molly, are the authorities sure they still know where this guy is?

HENNEBERG: One would assume he is still in Montgomery County. That's where he lived and that's where these court proceedings were taking place. I presume they know where he is, probably still here.

HUME: OK Molly, thank you very much. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says his panel will consider issuing contempt citations against former White House counsel Harriet Miers and current White House chief of staff Josh Bolten for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents and testimony in the matter of the fired U.S. attorneys.

Committee chairman Democrat John Conyers of Michigan says his panel will take up the question of citations on Wednesday.

And remember former California Democratic Congressman Gary Condit? His relationship with Washington intern Chandra Levy came to light when she disappeared back in 2001? Her body was found a year later. Now an Arizona state judge has dismissed Condit's lawsuit for defamation against a newspaper that said he had lied to investigators about that relationship.

Judge Kristin Hoffman ruled that Condit was a public figure and did not proof the statement was false. She also said Condit had failed to show that the newspaper knew the statement was false or had shown reckless disregard for the truth. No one has ever been charged in Levy's death.

And later in our program, we'll look at where the Democratic presidential candidates stand heading into their first official debate. And coming up next, Pakistani troops are going after al Qaeda and paying a price for it. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Pakistan and it's President Pervez Musharraf have come under some sharp criticism from the U.S. recently after the latest National Intelligence Estimate said that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda appeared to have found refuge in the Pakistani mountains. Now it seems the Pakistanis are taking the initiative. Chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ANGLE, FOX NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Pakistani army now has 80,000 troops in the remote tribal areas of the country along the border with Afghanistan where U.S. intelligence says Islamic militants are sheltering al-Qaeda and other jihadist elements. Pakistani forces say they have killed more than 20 militants in just the last two days.

SHAUKAT AZIZ, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Clearly we cannot allow Pakistan to be a safe haven for any group which jeopardizes our security or the security of any other country.

The Pakistani government has also lost 100 troops in recent fighting in the frontier region, which U.S. officials say has indeed become the new safe haven for al-Qaeda, allowing it to rebuild, and analysts fear to plot and plan attacks on the U.S. just as it once did in Afghanistan.

WAYNE SIMMONS, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: They have no pressure. There was no pressure so they could formulate any type of very sophisticated attack using very sophisticated communications equipment and banking systems.

ANGLE: Administration officials say the U.S. reserves the right to take any action it sees fit to deny al-Qaeda a free hand to train and plot. And some analysts are suggesting the U.S. should take action on its own. But White House Spokesman Tony Snow discouraged such talks today, saying Pakistan is already taking action itself.

SNOW: The Pakistani are certainly valued allies. And again, they have been taking a lead and moving aggressively into the areas and trying to deal with the problems.

ANGLE: And he and others note that even though al-Qaeda has been able to fine some sanctuary in the remote tribal areas, Pakistani leaders have been a lynch pin in the overall effort against the terrorists.

SNOW: The bomb plot of 2006, the bomb airliners making their way overseas towards the United States, very well could have been more deadly than September 11th. It was a result of intelligence generated in Pakistan that that plot was thwarted.

ADM MIKE MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: President Musharraf is one of our most valued allies. Let me highlight this, probably the majority of the senior leadership have been captured or killed is the direct result of assistance and cooperation and participation by the Pakistanis.

ANGLE (on camera): That's why officials don't want to talk about doing anything unilateral inside Pakistan, which could undermine a government that has done more in the fight against al Qaeda than perhaps any other. At least for now, the U.S. prefers just to give the Pakistani government all the support it may need and plenty of encouragement to hold the line against al-Qaeda.

In Washington, Jim Angle, Fox News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: A roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan today killed four American soldiers on combat patrol. Other U.S. led coalition forces killed more than 50 suspected militants during a battle in the country's poppy growing southern region.

Meantime, in Seoul there was a candlelight vigil for 23 South Koreans being held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The extremists announced they have pushed back the timeline for releasing the hostages. The Afghan government has refused their demand to release 23 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the South Koreans.

The U.S. naval hospital ship Comfort is bringing not only medical treatment but a different perspective on the United States to thousands of people in Latin America. In the first month of a four-month deployment, medical staff aboard the ship have administered more than 55,000 patient treatments in Belize, Guatemala and Panama. Now the Comfort is stationed off the coast of Nicaragua. Correspondent Steve Harrigan reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE HARRIGAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most come for their children. Rosa Maria can't move her left arm. It turns out to be a dislocated elbow.

DR MARY GRACIAS, USNS COMFORT: Because they pulled apart like this. So it pops out a joint. What you did is you just pop it back into place. It was able to pop. Then she can move it.

HARRIGAN: The Navy doctors can't solve everything. Medicine for her mother has to be refrigerated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't have a refrigerator.

HARRIGAN: After a two-day wait, the family is satisfied. This is the only way, she says, for to us get real help. Our doctors just fill out papers.

And they saddle up for the long ride home.

(on camera): Serious cases are taken to the ship by helicopter. Children with deformed hands and feet go to the front of the line.

(voice-over): A nurse's favorite, nine-month-old Jose, came in with a clubbed foot. A local surgeon had tried and failed to repair. For three and a half hours, U.S. Navy surgeons go to work, delicate cuts on a tiny ankle, which will change two lives.

DR. ERIC SURELY, USNS COMFORT: The part I miss is really the best thing of having a practice, which is getting to know the kids as they get older, seeing who they have become and what they are interested in. So you don't see that part, but we know that we are helping them.

HARRIGAN: It is an excited line of mothers ready to board Sea hawk choppers home with children who will be able to walk, write and smile in the future. U.S. officials have been careful not to describe this as a public relations mission. It is about helping the poor, one officer said, not Venezuela or Cuba.

But the Cuban leader has not held back on his criticism. Fidel Castro said the ship, expected to serve more than 85,000 patients, quote, will not help a lot of people.

On board the USNS Comfort, Steve Harrigan, Fox News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: We take a break for our sponsors and the headlines. When we come back, after readers raised doubts, the "new Republic" magazine investigates the facts behind a series of articles it has published. That's next on the Grapevine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

Click here to read the Political Grapevine

HUME: As the Democrats head into that debate tonight in South Carolina, who is in the top tier, and who is trailing? Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron is standing by in Charleston with a look at where the candidates stand.

Hi, Carl.

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first tonight, Brit, they are going to be standing here at The Citadel, the military college in south Carolina, and with the war debate obviously playing out across the country, we find tonight in the latest polls that Hillary Clinton has been solidifying what can only be described as a commanding lead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

CAMERON: Among Democrats and Democratic leaning voters, Clinton has moved out to a 15-point lead. She has been the front runner consistently for the last six months.

Barack Obama is uncontested for second, but has not been able to catch up to Clinton, and John Edwards has been stalled, far back in the polls from the very beginning.

Clinton already appears to have a psychological advantage among Democrats when it comes to the perception of inevitability. Fifty-four percent think she has the best chance to win in November of 2008. That is more than double the numbers who think Barack Obama would win.

Support for both is solidifying. Among Clinton supporters, 68 percent now strongly back her, 56 percent of Obama supporters strongly back him.

The historic nature of Clinton's campaign to be the first female president, and Obama's to be the first black president, is, apparently, not lost on the American public. Eighty-six percent say they are comfortable with an African American president. Seventy-nine percent say they are comfortable with a woman president.

And the vast majority of voters clearly know they are talking specifically about Obama and/or Clinton. Among white voters, Clinton has a double digit lead over Obama, and among African Americans they are virtually tied, with Obama at 46 percent and Clinton at 40.

A big part of the candidacy hinges on his complete opposite to the Iraq war, in contrast to Clinton's past support for it. But the survey shows that among voters who support a complete and immediate withdrawal from Iraq, Clinton leads 51 to 29 percent.

That is bad news for Obama. However, by a 51 to 42 percent margin, Democrats favor a "new direction and new ideas, versus strong leadership and experience."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: And Hillary Clinton has been focusing on her experience and leadership, whereas Mr. Obama likes to contrast what he offers as the new ideas.

The debate tonight has a new idea, a bit of a twist, Brit. The candidates will be responding to questions submitted by voters by YouTube. So we will hear the candidates answering questions by video clip, and then the rest will be your pretty average, run of the mill debate, we expect.

HUME: OK, Carl, thank you.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain says he will repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax if he is elected. The tax originally was designed to ensure that people high incomes cannot exploit tax loopholes and pay nothing. But McCain says the AMT could affect as many as 30 million people by the year 2010, and expected he is expected to address the topic during a speech in Michigan tonight.

The House today passed a measure forbidding Congressional candidates from paying their spouses to work on their campaigns. In the past, members of both political parties have paid spouses for such work. The measure also requires candidates to file a separate disclosure detailing to the Federal Election Commission detailing all campaign payments made to immediate family members.

And a quick follow up on the British opera singer and cell phone salesman Paul Potts, who, you may recall, won the "Britain's Got Talent" contest last month. Potts has already made a record that has become the number one seller in the United Kingdom, a CD, of course.

He now reveals that he almost did not enter the contest. He had seen the information on the internet, and says he tossed a coin to decide whether to apply—heads yes, tails, no. It came up heads. He entered, and, as we all now know, he won.

Next on Special Report, right now, Hillary Clinton leads the Democratic candidates by a margin of some size. Can she win a general election? Is the inevitably the nominee? The FOX all-stars next.

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HUME: Some analytical observations now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributors all.

Let's look at a couple of polls who Mr. Carl Cameron was just reporting on these. These from Washington Post, ABC News just out. And the first one deals with who has the best chance to defeat the Republican nominee in the general election?

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming choice, as you can see there. For whom would you vote? Well, same thing. Hillary Clinton not nearly so overwhelming.

It appears from the difference between those two poll numbers that some Democrats, or people who would favor the Democrats, are more in favor of Barack Obama than they are convinced he could win, perhaps attributing some feelings of a certain kind to the rest of electorate.

In any case, is it fair to suggest, now, that Hillary Clinton's campaign and nomination has taken on a certain aura of inevitability? Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Are you asking me? No, I don't think so at all.

Brit, the most important fact is it's July. The first actual contest is in January, sometime in January. So this one—

HUME: This one started—

BARNES: Let me finish. These polls, remember who was the ahead about this time and gained a lot? It was Howard Dean.

HUME: He hadn't even emerged yet. So this was before he had even emerged.

BARNES: Things are about to pick up. Ed Musky was—you and I, campaign after campaign, you find somebody ahead in July, and Carl said that Hillary Clinton is solidifying a commanding lead.

I don't think you can solidify a commanding lead at this time.

HUME: Well, it certainly has been a consistent lead over many months.

BARNES: Let me ask you this about her. Does she excite audiences? No. Does Barack Obama? Yes.

Is she likeable? Does she campaign with ease? No. Not at all. She is basically stiff. What about Barack Obama? Does he campaign with ease, and more like, actually, Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill? Yes.

Is she substantive? Yes, she is. Is Barack Obama? Not really at this point. But two out of three is not bad for him. I don't think she is inevitable at all. I don't think she is likely—in fact, I think she over polls.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: She is not inevitable, that is for sure. She is the juggernaut candidate, and there is a history of juggernaut candidates. It's Al Gore in 2000. It was Walter Mondale in 1984—

HUME: He won the nomination.

KONDRACKE: Yes, they won the nomination. There is always the moment of challenge. In Walter Mondale's case was Gary Hart, who suddenly came out of nowhere. Now, Obama is not going to come out of nowhere, so there will be a challenge—

HUME: Let me just ask this question. Hasn't this whole comparison of July—July is way early, even than in past years, before, even, the challenges emerged.

But this is an accelerate schedule, is it not? We have seen the emergence of Obama as a challenger to Hillary Clinton far earlier than we probably would have had the season not been so accelerated.

So, isn't it fair to say that this challenge from Obama may have peaked? That he has been behind her consistently for months on end?

KONDRACKE: She has managed to stay well ahead all the way along, and these latest results seem to explode the one serious vulnerability of hers, and that is she can't win.

Most of the people, Republicans, Independents, and everybody else thinks that she has got the best chance of any of the Democrats to win.

HUME: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The answer is "yes." She is inevitable, it is a juggernaut, and he is not going to stop her. Obama was a Rocky, he came out of the sky, and then he plateaued. He has had a chance to inch up on here, he hasn't.

Now, of course, there could be a collapse on her. But she is very disciplined, extremely steely. If anything, she is so disciplined it makes her look android like, at times. But she is not a person given to flights of fancy, or a lot of mistakes.

She has a machine with her—a machine of money, a machine of supporters, a machine of operatives. It is hard to see how this gets upset. Perhaps a catastrophe in Iowa, and then, all of a sudden—

But I think you are right about the schedule. This is a different type of schedule. July is not the old July. We are, essentially, halfway through the process. In the old days July was not halfway through, July was very early on. It is not early on.

I think she absolutely has—if you had to put your money, it is safe, I think, with Hillary.

BARNES: I think she is vulnerable in the general election.

HUME: What about a general election. Let's move on—

BARNES: I think of all the candidates, Republican and Democratic out there, she has the best chance of becoming president. Nobody else seems to have done much, except for Obama. Obama is a very attractive guy.

I would summarize Charles position as this—It is inevitable, unless she collapses.

HUME: Do you think that she is likely to collapse?

BARNES: If she loses in Iowa or New Hampshire, I think she would.

HUME: But she would have to collapse to do that, wouldn't she?

BARNES: Well, she would have to lose, that's all.

KONDRACKE: There are very high expectations for her, and she is going to have to fulfill expectations. There is going to be a contest before this is over.

In the general, what the polls currently seem to show is that if the Republicans have the whip to nominate somebody who can appeal to Independents, Giuliani or McCain, then it is a close contest—

HUME: You don't think any of the others could appeal to Independents?

KONDRACKE: So far the indications are that it is double digits, that the Democratic, any of the Democratic candidates beat Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney.

KRAUTHAMMER: One rebuttal on Fred. A juggernaut is a candidate who can lose in Iowa, or lose in New Hampshire, and still win. That's why you had George Bush winning, why you had Mondale winning, and that is why if you have all the stuff behind you, you can afford a lot, and the others can't.

HUME: OK, do you think she gets the nomination in the end?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely.

HUME: Do you believe she gets the nomination in the end?

KONDRACKE: I do.

HUME: Do you believe she gets the nomination in the end?

BARNES: Yes, probably. But I just don't think it is inevitable.

KONDRACKE: Ok, good.

HUME: Next up with out panel, The New Republican has been scammed again, has it? Maybe, maybe not. More with the all-stars in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: The long storied, liberal political journal The New Republic is out in a current issue with what purports to be an article by an American soldier in Iraq writing under the pseudonym Scott Thomas. And he describes some disgusting behavior by American forcers.

He is talking about a woman who is badly burned and is the place where soldier were eating, and he says " after a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabs his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes. 'Man, I can't eat like this with that f-ing freak behind us'. 'Are you kidding?' says another, 'I think she is f-ing hot. I love chicks who have been intimate with IEDs.'" Of course, you know what that is.

And there is another quote here worth mentioning to give you a sense of the flavor of this article. "I know another private who really only enjoyed Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. His favorite target—dogs. A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun did not have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. It's front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all."

Pretty florid stuff, pretty dramatic, pretty disturbing. Our colleagues at our sister publication, The Weekly Standard, raised some questions about this. Fred Barnes is part of that magazine. Fred, what is the factual sequence here? What happened?

BARNES: What happened here is this piece that you cited—there had been a couple of earlier pieces by Scott Thomas that people had wondered about. But this last one, in particular, had raised questions about Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which not a wheeled vehicle, it has treads, and experts saying it couldn't have hit a dog, it couldn't have gone to the right—

HUME: Veered, you mean?

BARNES: Yes. It just was mechanically impossible.

This one about the woman, there, whose face had been melted off on one side by an IED. Now, would she still be there? No. They send the wounded back, particularly, the disfigured ones.

Then there was a third saying, in this particular story, about they dug up the skull of a child, and some soldier was playing with it, and stuck it under his helmet, which would have made his helmet stick way up. Unlikely.

Anyway, these things appear unlikely, so The Standard raised questions about it. All The New Republic would say is well, this guy is at forward- operating base Falcon in Iraq. That's all they said so far, except that they are investigating it.

HUME: They have said other soldiers have verified his account.

BARNES: They haven't mentioned any. They claim that, but the have not presented any evidence. They have just said that.

Now, we have at The Weekly Standard drummer up a lot of reports from people there, from officers and enlisted men, not one of whom has come to the defense of Scott Thomas, not one of them has verified a single one these events.

And now, Major Kirk Luedeke, who is the Information Officer of this unit says we want The New Republic to come forward with some evidence, and then we will investigate and take appropriate steps.

I mean, obviously, if this stuff is true, that The New Republic says, it is horrible, it is criminal offenses by American troops over there.

We are waiting on The New Republic, but let me add one thing. I don't know what the answer is here. I think this stuff is suspicious, but I think the burden of proof is now on The New Republic.

KONDRACKE: Just the way the articles are written. Steven Glass, who famously flummoxed The New Republic and printed wild, made up stores, and was fired at the center of a scandal at The New Republic—

HUME: They made a movie out of it.

KONDRACKE: Yes. But he could write. And so could Janet Cook, the famous makeup artist at The Washington Post, about a crack addicted eight- year-old.

Just the terminology, and the writing of this, reminds me of Penthouse Forums. It is pornography. It really is military pornography, is what it is. It smacks of being dreamed up.

Now, maybe it will be turn out to be true. But it just is so over- the-top that it is almost too bad to be true.

KRAUTHAMMER: I have looked at it, I have read the blogs that have attacked it. I would say that some of it looks invented, and the rest embellished.

But what is important here is the intent of this article and the people who publish it. It is not an attack on the troops. The left has learned after the Vietnam War that spitting on troops and portraying them as in "Apocalypse Now," as psychotics, is a mistake.

It is an attack—it is a way of saying "Look what the war has done to these people." The author says I work with disabled in the past, and now we are turning into a monster. George Bush, of course, is destroying Iraq, destroying that neighborhood. And now we are destroying the goodness of Americans soldiers. That is what this is all about.

HUME: Thank you, Charles. Thank you, panel.

We will await the outcome of that investigation and report on it here. That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for a glimpse of new political star of late-night TV. It's next, don't miss it. ]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Finally tonight, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have given the late night comics a lot of material. But their standing as top targets is now being challenged by the dean of the U.S. Senate, who, it seems, is indignant about Michael Vick and his fighting dogs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN ROBERT BYRD, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: The training of these poor creatures to turn themselves into fighting machines is simply barbaric. Barbaric. Barbaric.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, give us one more. Just one more. Please?

BYRD: Barbaric.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: 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.

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