This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from July 25, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the House Judiciary Committee votes to hold two White House aides, one former, one current, in contempt of Congress. Tony Snow calls the whole thing pathetic.
Congress actually does something to protect people who provide tips about possible terrorists from being sued. And we'll show you one reason authorities want such tips.
Congress, meanwhile, tries to repair the nation's voting system again.
And Democrats want to ban permanent bases in Iraq. But does the U.S. have permanent bases anywhere? We will tell you all right here, right now.
Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. Congressional Democrats have upped the ante again in the high-stakes battle with the Bush administration over its dismissal of several federal prosecutors. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier reports on what happened and what both sides are saying about it.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House Judiciary Committee today took another step towards a constitutional showdown with the White House in the investigation over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: It is not a step that as chairman I take easily or lightly.
BAIER: Committee Chairman John Conyers argued that it was now essential to issue contempt citations to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers for refusing to comply with committee subpoenas. President Bush has refused to allow sworn testimony by White House officials or the release of White House communications about the firings, saying they are all protected by executive privilege.
White House Counsel Fred Fielding has, however, offered to allow presidential aides to be available for semi-formal private interviews, not under oath and without transcripts. Conyers insisted if the committee did not act, subpoenas might regularly be ignored.
CONYERS: We won't be able to get anybody in front of this committee or any others.
BAIER: Despite loud objections from committee Republicans —
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: I believe that this is an unnecessary provocation of a constitutional crisis.
BAIER: The panel voted 22-17, along party lines, to seek the contempt citations. To take effect, the committee's recommendation has to be approved by the full House. At the White House, reaction was colorful.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: In our view this is pathetic. We have hundreds of hearings that have produced bupkis. We have got insults, insinuation, investigations and inquisitions.
BAIER: It was historic.
SNOW: Where there is an attempt to do something that has never been done in American history, which is to assail the concept of executive privilege, which hails back to the administration of George Washington.
BAIER: And by the numbers. By the administration's count, the Democrat-led Congress has launched more than 300 executive branch investigations, made more than 400 requests for documents, interviews or testimony, held more than 600 oversight hearings, and the administering has provided 430,000 pages.
Snow, then put the new video screens in the revamped briefing room to use.
SNOW: If you took those 430,000 pages and stacked them on top of each other, they would reach a height twice that of the executive mansion itself.
BAIER: Democrats and some Republicans have complained that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top Justice Department officials have not offered a reasonable explanation for the removal of the federal prosecutors. Even top Democratic aides concede they have yet to find a smoking gun. But Judiciary Committee Democrats now want to challenge executive privilege.
REP. WILLIAM DELAHUNT (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It is that moment in time for this institution, this Congress to assert itself against an administration that has expanded executive power to a point where I would suggest it has become dangerous to our democracy.
BAIER: Contempt of Congress is a federal misdemeanor that carries a possible fine of up to 100,000 dollars and as much as one year in prison. But even if the full House votes to issue the contempt citations after its August recess, and they are referred to the U.S. attorney in D.C., Justice Department officials point to previous court rulings, in which the administration could instruct federal prosecutors not to enforce the contempt citations. Brit?
HUME: Bret, thank you. In efforts to combat domestic terrorism, transportation systems around the country have urged travelers who see something they think is suspicious to report it. But airline passengers who did just that last fall soon found themselves the target of a lawsuit brought by six Muslim men who were removed from their flight. Today the Congress moved to remedy that situation, as Congressional correspondent Major Garrett reports.
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Passengers aboard airliners, trains, buses and subways will soon have no fear of a harassing lawsuit if they report suspicious people or activities they fear could be linked to terrorism. Congressional negotiators, ignoring complaints from liberal House Democrats and the trial lawyer lobby, have agreed to grant blanket liability protection to any transportation passenger who is sued for reporting suspicious behavior to the proper authorities, even if the tip uncovers no terror plot.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We are talking about people who are acting in good faith and are making reasonable judgments and coming forward. That's what we need them to do.
GARRETT: The bill protects tipsters from lawsuits filed in federal, state and local courts, so long as their tips are based on good faith and reasonable suspicion. The bill won't protect tipsters who knowingly file false reports. Those who are sued anyway can recover court costs if their immunity is upheld.
And these protections are retroactive to October 1st of 2006. That means the lawsuits filed my the so called flying imams is now in jeopardy. The six Muslim clerics sued the passengers aboard a Minneapolis to Phoenix U.S. Airways flight in November after they reported to flight attendants what they thought were suspicious pre-flight activities, engaging in afternoon prayers, apparently switching seats, and asking for seat belt extenders.
The captain of plane asked the imams to leave. They refused and were arrested. They were later cleared and released. The imams sued the passengers, identified only as John Does, the airline and the Minneapolis Airports Commission, alleging discrimination and false arrest. Senator Collins said she demanded the passengers who reported the imams receive protection from the pending lawsuit.
COLLINS: That was the case where I think the passengers did the right thing. The pilot did the right thing. The airline did the right thing. And yet they are all being sued. And that is just not acceptable.
GARRETT: Last week, a House and Senate conference committee debated whether to insert the immunity language into a broader bill implementing the remaining 9/11 Commission security recommendations.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: If there is any signal we are sending to the American people it is that we are all in this together, that no matter what the FBI and local police and state police and law enforcement do, the fact is we need the eyes and ears of millions of Americans.
GARRETT: Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman, who chaired the powerful conference committee, teamed with Republicans to incorporate the tipster immunity protections, clashing privately with Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Thompson fought unsuccessfully to limit the scope of the immunity at civil rights protections and leave the pending flying imams case untouched by this new federal law.
GARRETT: And this new federal law is on the fast track. It is due to be debated on and passed in the House tomorrow and in the Senate on Friday. Democrats will call that a big domestic policy victory. It was one of their big campaign priorities. Republicans also say they shaped this bill to their liking as well, adding the imam immunity protection language and eliminating something Democrats had earlier pressed for, collective bargaining for TSA employees. Brit?
HUME: Major, thank you. Meantime, airline security officials around the country are now watching for passengers who try to get on board with what could be the components of explosive devices or material that resemble those things. Some curious items have been seized recently at several U.S. airports, including blocks of cheese. Correspondent Jeff Goldblatt explains.
JEFF GOLDBLATT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether at Chicago's O'Hare or New York's J.F.K., airport security screeners and air marshals nationwide have been told by the federal government to be on the lookout for new potential threats. That directive comes from this unclassified intelligence bulletin from the Transportation Security Administration, issued July 20.
It suggests terrorists may be in the planning stages for an attack in our skies, carrying out what it called dry runs, similar to dress rehearsals.
ELLEN HOWE, TSA ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR: The memo talk about some items that would be potentially common every day items that were brought on to aircraft. But because of the way that they were packaged and what they were combined with, they raised suspicion.
GOLDBLATT: The TSA issued the bulletin after incidents at airports in Houston and Baltimore last year, Milwaukee and San Diego this year. In each case security screeners confiscated various household items wrapped and bundled in unusual ways.
This picture from the TSA shows the items seized from a passenger's carry on bad in Milwaukee; wire coil wrapped around an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese.
Then in Baltimore, a couple's checked luggage contained a plastic bag holding a cell phone charger, taped to another bag filled with a block of processed cheese. The cheese of significance, according to security analysts, because it resembles the consistency of some explosives. The TSA bulletin says initial investigations have not linked any of the people carrying these suspicious items to any terrorist organizations, but that some of these people are still under investigation.
Some members of Congress have been briefed about these incidents by the TSA.
REP. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We are fighting an enemy that's evil but not stupid. What I mean but that is they have shown the ability to adjust tactics, to adapt. If they think that we are on to a certain technique, they will change techniques.
GOLDBLATT: The TSA advisory stresses dry runs hold unlimited value for terrorists, and cites past attacks where dress rehearsal played a major operational role. One example, 9/11, where hijackers rehearsed events aboard transcontinental flights just months prior to the attacks.
SCOTT WEBER, FMR HOMELAND SECURITY COUNSEL: You need to understand that people don't wake up in the morning and say I'm going to put an IED together and go blow up a plane.
GOLDBLATT: Officials with the TSA are not saying whether or not this advisory will lead to any future restrictions on household items to be brought on planes, similar to the current restrictions that are at airports regarding liquids. TSA is characterizing this advisory as routine, noting that it has issued about 90 of these unclassified intelligence bullets so far this year. TSA officials say that it intends this advisory not to panic the public, but rather to serve as reminders that America must remain vigilant. Brit?
HUME: OK, thank you, Jeff, very much. A federal judge in Virginia has ordered the Sudanese government to pay nearly eight million dollars to the families of 17 sailors who died in an attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Last March a federal judge found Sudan liable for that attack on the Navy destroyer while it was in a port in Yemen. The families had sought 100 million dollars. But today one of the sailor's widow says she is just happy that that part of the case is now over.
Later in the program, the fired university professor, who compared 9/11 victims to Adolf Eichmann says he won't go without a fight. But next, the body of a South Korean hostage being held by Taliban kidnappers is found in Afghanistan. Say tuned.
HUME: In Afghanistan today, there were unconfirmed reports that Taliban kidnappers had released eight of the 23 South Korean hostages it was holding, but those reports came as the body of one of the hostages was found riddled with bullets. All of this happens as Pakistan steps up fighting against the Taliban along the Afghanistan border. National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The South Korean hostages, all of them Christian volunteers, were kidnapped by Taliban fighters last Thursday as they drove along the main highway south of Kabul on their way to Kandahar. After an overnight search, the body of one male hostage was found and transported to this U.S. base in Ghazni Province. The 42-year-old pastor, Bei Hyung Cue (ph), was shot with 10 bullets to his head and chest.
The Taliban said he was sick and unable to walk. The Taliban's purported spokesman then threaten to kill all of the remaining hostages if 23 Taliban prisoners were not released by the Afghan government immediately. The hostages' families waited for news back in Korea. A small group of South Korean anti-war protesters have demanded their government pull all of its 200 troops out of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, from Afghanistan, a top U.S. commander said today there have been twice as many attacks by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan during the month of June as there were a year ago. He says he has also seen a sharp rise in foreign fighters entering Afghanistan this year.
MAJ GEN DAVID RODRIGUEZ, JOINT TASK FORCE 82 CMDR: It has increased probably 50 to 60 percent over what it was last year.
GRIFFIN: Most of them entering from Pakistan. Pakistan's military has engaged in heavy fighting since mid-July with tribal forces protecting the Taliban in Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. Seventy five fighters have been killed by the Pakistani army since Monday and today Taliban allied forces fired rockets into a Pakistani border town, killing eight civilians.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told a Senate committee today that Pakistan still needs to do more to fight terrorist groups. Al-Qaeda, he said, has found a safe haven there.
NICHOLAS BURNS, UNDER SECY POLITICAL AFFAIRS: There is no more important challenge for our country than the battle in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the border area, the battle that we have and they have with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
GRIFFIN: On Tuesday, a well known Taliban fighter, Abdullah Massud (ph), who was released from Guantanamo Bay in March 2004, blew himself up after being encircled by Pakistani forces while visiting a government leader's home near Waziristan. Massud, a one-legged Pakistani fighter, was captured by U.S. forces in northern Afghanistan in late 2001. He concealed his identity from his Gitmo captors, pretending to be an Afghan fighter.
He is one of seven former detainees who returned to fighting after being released from Guantanamo Bay.
GRIFFIN: Intelligence experts from the Pentagon told a House Armed Services Subcommittee today that if they have intelligence on al-Qaeda training bases in the Pakistani tribal areas, they will act on it. Brit?
HUME: Jennifer, thank you. Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha says he is going to introduce an amendment to the defense spending bill now up for consideration that will propose starting a troop pullout from Iraq in two months without setting a deadline for finishing the withdrawal. Murtha, who has been a noisy critic of the war, says he sees signs the White House is open to changing course in Iraq, and he predicts this measure will get some Republican support.
In the meantime, the House today voted 322 to 24 to limit the use of federal money to establish any permanent U.S. military base in Iraq. House Republican leader John Boehner called the bill a political stunt because he said no one has ever proposed putting such a base in Iraq and it is against U.S. policy to establish a permanent base on any foreign soil. U.S. bases over seas are established only with the consent of foreign governments, consent that can and sometimes has been withdrawn.
Coming up later, we will have a recommendation of a commission on the Care and Treatment of Wounded Soldiers. But first, lawmakers on Capitol Hill try again to find a way to make sure ballots for national elections are counted correctly. Stay tuned.
HUME: The agony of the 2000 presidential election, which President Bush won after recounts and court rulings, still lingers on Capitol Hill, especially among Democrats. Initial efforts to fix the balloting problems turned up yet more troubles. So the Democrats are hoping to find a better solutions. Correspondent Steve Brown reports.
STEVE BROWN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the chad spectacle of the 2000 Florida recount, Congress produced a fix. The Help America Vote Act, ushering in electronic voting nationwide, but other voting problems did not go away. So now a proposed fix for the fix.
The Ballot Integrity Bill, which was the subject of a Senate committee hearing today. First to testify, co-sponsor of the bill and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We will undertake the reforms needed to ensure the accuracy and fairness of elections.
BROWN: A major provision of the legislation is the so-called Voter Verified Paper Trail. It would require states only buy electronic voting machines that produced a paper record of each vote, like optical scan, which uses paper ballots scanned by machine, later stored in sealed boxes, ready for recount if necessary.
But the Senate panel was warned today optical scan is only verifiable as long as the boxes are secure.
MICHAEL SHAMOS, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIV: And with great regularity ballot boxes and their contents are found in places they shouldn't be found after the election. In 2004, ballot boxes were found floating in San Francisco Bay.
BROWN: The bill also mandates in federal elections that states must conduct a manual audit or hand count of two percent of the precincts before the election can be certified. States must also allow unrestricted third party voter registration, provide polling place equity, that is the same number of voting machine and poll workers at each polling place to prevent long lines, and require each state open polls for 15 days of early voting.
All these mandates beg the question, who pays?
WENDY NOREN, BOONE COUNTY, MD CLERK: We may want to take this opportunity to look at how are we going to share the responsibility of the cost of the democracy. Because I assure you my costs have doubled.
BROWN: The bill provides for 600 million dollars to help states meet these proposed federal requirements. But as pointed out by the ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, the legislation does not address at all voter registration fraud, which one of Bennett's campaign workers discovered is easy to exploit.
SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: He said I'm registered to vote in seven or eight different states. I said stop it because it is illegal. But there was no way anybody could have gone after that.
BROWN: At hearing's end, Chairman Diane Feinstein of California announced —
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This will remain a work in progress.
BROWN: Meaning some adjustments on the voting bill need to be made before the fix on the fix is fixed.
Steve Brown, Fox News.
HUME: A new "Washington Post/"ABC News poll finds that Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani leads his rivals by a wide margin. Giuliani, as you can see, draws 34 percent, compared to 16 percent for John McCain, 14 percent for Fred Thompson, eight percent for Mitt Romney. Forty five percent of Republicans now say Giuliani has the best chance of defeating a Democrat in the general election; 15 percent say Fred Thompson has the best chance. John McCain and Mitt Romney trail with 10 and nine percent respectively on that question.
Georgia Republican Paul Broun was sworn in today to succeed the late Congressman Charlie Norwood. Broun took his place after his opponent, former state Senator Jim Whitehead, declined an election recount. Broun won a special runoff election last week by just 394 votes out of nearly 47,000 cast. Norwood died in February after a battle with cancer and lung disease.
The controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill says he will not accept his firing without a fight. The State Board of Regents voted eight to one Tuesday to remove him, but the professor isn't going anywhere just yet. Correspondent Carol McKinley joins me with more. Hi Carol.
CAROL MCKINLEY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey Brit. Churchill claims the university's thought that he is a fraud is just an excuse to get rid of him. Now he says he is really being fired because of those controversial comments he made comparing 911 victims to Nazi henchman Adolf Eichmann. He says he has a first amendment right to say whatever he wants, thus, the lawsuit he filed in Denver District Court today, his attorney banking on the fact that a Denver jury may be more sympathetic to his argument.
It has been a long two and a half years getting to this point. The decision, based on three faculty committees, which found the professor's work was ripe with plagiarism and errors. When the university's board made its vote public Tuesday evening, the professor, wearing his trademark shades, raised his fist in victory and the drums began.
Churchill, who claims to be part American Indian, but whose parents were both white, was surrounded by supporters, many of them wearing t- shirts which said I am Ward Churchill. When the vote was announced, they cursed and booed the board of regents. In a news conference after the announcement, Churchill addressed the press he has learned to love and mostly hate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARD CHURCHILL, FIRED PROFESSOR: I am going nowhere. It is not about break. It's not about bend. It's not about compromise. It's not about negotiating your rights. If you negotiate your rights, you have no rights.
HANK BROWN, UNIV OF COLORADO PRESIDENT: Unfortunately, in the current age, we seem to be blessed with more lawyers than perhaps the lord ever intended. And it appears that will continue. At the same time, I don't think a great university can be intimidated by threats of legal action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKINLEY: Under the university's new agreement, Churchill will be paid for another year. That comes to 96,000 dollars, plus 96,000 from last year. Brit?
HUME: Thanks Carol. Need a break here for a our sponsors and a headlines update. But wait until you hear what Nancy Pelosi said that helped Alberto Gonzalez. That's next on the Grapevine.
HUME: A Presidential Commission is recommending a number of changes in the way care and support are give on it wounded war veterans and their families. The Commission On Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, as it is called, was formed after news reports in February about the difficulties soldiers had encountered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and at Veteran Affairs hospitals around the country.
Correspondent Molly Henneberg reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOLLY HENNEBERG, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Saying wounded soldiers deserve the very best care, today President Bush went jogging with two servicemen, one who lost a leg in Iraq, the other who lost both legs in Afghanistan.
This was just hours after the president received recommendations from the commission he appointed in March to look at recovery care for soldiers. The president says he wants his Defense and Veterans Affairs secretaries to review the report carefully.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I have instructed Secretary Gates and Secretary Nicholson to look at every one of these recommendations and to take them seriously, and to implement them.
HENNEBERG: The nine member commission was led by former Republican Senator Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, former Health and Human Services Secretary for President Clinton.
Among their recommendations, that Congress should revise disability payments to help cover initial living expenses for the wounded and their families, increased eligibility for post-traumatic-stress-disorder care, and extend the Family and Medical Leave Act for up to six months for a family member of wounded.
Also that the Defense Department and the Veteran Affairs Administration should set up a My-e benefits website with treatment information, and "strongly support Walter Reed Army Medical Center until the day it closes, set for 20011.
It was the shoddy conditions at one of Walter Reed's outpatient facilities that initially focused the spotlight on post combat care. Shalala says most of the commission's findings could be implemented quickly.
DONNA SHALALA, FORMER HHS SECRETARY: It is a patient and family- centered series of recommendations. More importantly for the American people, we believe they are doable in the immediate future.
HENNEBERG: As for funding, that request would have to come from the White House to Congress. And Congress seems to be having difficulty agreeing on much related to Iraq and military funding.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid set aside a Defense Funding Bill that included provisions for wounded soldiers because of animosity over the Iraq war.
Today the Wounded Warrior legislation was passed separately, with $50 million to treat traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Senator Dole said he hopes the commission and senators can work together to link some of their ideas. Otherwise, he says, "the ball is in the president's court about how to proceed."
BOB DOLE, FORMER KANSAS SENATOR: We told hem how important it was that we have some action. In fact, I think, when we came on the commission, there was a promise made by those who recruited us that this would not just be another commission that would finish its work, and then they would say don't call us, we will call you.
HENNEBERG: In Washington, Molly Henneberg, FOX News.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: The State Department says the U.S. has no plans for any higher level talks with Iran beyond the week's agreement reached in Baghdad to form a joint panel to deal with security problems in Iraq.
Iran's foreign minister today his country is open to higher level talks if the U.S. requests them. But spokesman Shawn McCormick says there is already a communication channel open through U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. Meanwhile, Iran's Intelligence Minister says a number of Iranians with alleged links with two detained Iranian-Americans have been arrested and charged with conspiring against the government.
American's Haleh Esfandiari, and Kian Tajbakhsh are accused of endangering Iranian national security. Iran's Intelligence Ministry claims they were trying to set up networks of Iranians to foment a revolution. Both have been held since back in May.
And Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered senior military and security officers to beef up intelligence operations and to strengthen military. Putin says U.S. plans to station troops in Eastern Europe and to build missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic pose security challenges for Russia.
He did not identify specific nations as espionage targets, but American and British officials say that Moscow has intensified its spying in both countries.
Next on Special Report, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says President Bush is the worst ever. Is he? Well, we will ask the FOX all- stars. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, (D) NEVADA: The American people already know that President Bush is the worst president we have ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Well, whether that is true or not, he is, at the moment, at least, one of the most unpopular we have ever had.
Let's take a look at some disapproval ratings, these compiled from polling done by Gallop and by The Washington Post, ABC News polling organizations. Richard Nixon reached a historic high of 66 percent disapproval back in August of 1974 before he quit. And a month ago George W. Bush stood in a similar poll at 65 percent disapproval.
And what a fall it has been, because we also looked at numbers showing the highest presidential job approval. And there again, George W. Bush tops the list going back in October 9, 2001, about a month or so after 9/11. His father in the post Gulf War, first Gulf War atmosphere, attained 90 percent. As you can see, the list goes on down.
Now, question, panel—what about—well, I have to introduce the panel first. Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor for Roll Call, FOX News contributors all.
What about this issue of the place in history? We see all this a little dimly, of course. This president has been ranked the highest and nearly the lowest. Where will he end up? Mort?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think it all depends on how Iraq turns up. If the worst happens there, and there is regional chaos, and so on, a collapse, I think he becomes a failure like Lyndon Johnson—without, I might say, the redeeming factor of civil rights advances to weigh into the balance.
If it succeeds in Iraq, somehow, and eventually—
HUME: It's all Iraq, in your view?
KONDRACKE: I think so. And, eventually, it turns out that a democratic wave sweeps the Middle East, then he will go down as a near great president like Harry Truman, who was the founder of containment in the Cold War.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think Harry Truman is clearly the model here, the hope that Bush has, somebody who was really excoriated when he was in office—and you see the terrible disapproval rating numbers, 65 percent—but was seen as, really, the architect of the post-World War II long era of stability.
I think the other thing about George W. Bush's disapproval rating is a very high percentage of those are strong disapproval, I think way up in the 40s. So he is not just disliked, he is strongly disliked, intensely disliked.
HUME: Those who dislike him dislike him a lot.
LIASSON: Yes. And I agree with Mort, I think this is about Iraq. This is the biggest project of administration, and how it turns out is going to affect his place in history.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Iraq is big, but it is not the only thing. And I agree that Harry Truman is a good model. If you look at his numbers, they were terrible because the war was going poorly. But, ultimately, it was clear, and I forget exactly—
HUME: And that war didn't end in victory, it ended in a stalemate.
BARNES: No. That war didn't end in victory at all. The North Koreans were pushed back, but it was a stalemate, Mara's right.
But Harry Truman laid down the path and the structure for, ultimately, winning the cold war, as Mort was saying. And Truman deserves credit for that. We didn't know it for a long time after that.
I think another good model is Abraham Lincoln. It you went back and looked at the political situation he faced in, say, July of 1864, you would think he was going to lose his reelection fight. George McClellan would have won. And what would have happened? We would have settled with the South on terms that slavery would have been preserved, and think about what American history would have been after that.
It turned out, however, that Sherman took Atlanta in September, and General Philip Sheridan did very well in the Shenandoah Valley, and so on, and those victories spurred Lincoln. He won, and was a great president.
So I think President Bush's number now, as bad as it is—and it is certainly bad—his disapproval really doesn't mean—
Here is what I think he is going to get credit for. The economy is great. He gets no credit for that, nobody cares about that when they look back in history.
But they will look back and see that what he did was change the courts in this country, particularly The Supreme Court. No false dawn about it becoming conservative. This is the real thing. He produced it.
And, basically, like Truman, laid down the plan and the strategy, and so on, for winning the cold war, he has laid it down for winning the war on terror—being well forward looking and on offense. I think he will get credit for that. Even more credit if Iraq turns out well.
HUME: Let's assume for the sake of discussion that Iraq turns out badly, and that Democrats in Congress succeed, ultimately, of pulling over enough Republican votes to, basically, cut the project off, and it goes down as a defeat.
Will Bush be blamed for that, or will the outcome, if it turns out to be as bad as people think, tend to support his warnings?
KONDRACKE: No, I think he will be judged the failure. I mean, he got us in under false pretenses—he didn't know that they were false at the time, but they were false, on weapons of mass destruction.
The enterprise went badly because of policies that he agreed with. And he has not sustained the confidence in America around the world or in the United States.
And as for his domestic accomplishments, I agree with Fred, that changing the courts to the right will be his significant accomplishment. And he has got a good economy, but he has not solved the immigration problem. He has not established an ownership society. He has not delivered on the promise of a Republican ascendancy, and so on.
So I think—
HUME: So it's all Iraq?
KONDRACKE: I think it is all Iraq.
LIASSON: He has had a tremendous affect on American life in terms of the court, but that doesn't mean that he is going to be judged by history as a success. He is going to be judged as having a major imprint that will last for generation
But I think it comes back to Iraq. If Democrats pull troops out of Iraq, force his hand, and then the place goes up in flames, they are going to share a lot of the blame. I don't think he is going to escape from it.
But if then—and they are also going to have to deal with the aftermath if they win the White House in 2008.
BARNES: I actually think Iraq is going to turn out better than anybody thinks.
BARNES: Well, because of the surge.
But there is a broader issue than that, and that is the war on terror. And Bush has done extraordinarily well there, and he really has laid down the strategy for winning that war that everyone will follow, and they will forget about immigration and Katrina and other things.
HUME: When we come back with our panel, where in the world is Usama bin- Laden? Has the trail gone cold? More with the all stars on that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How hard is the administration working right now to get Usama bin Laden? Is it a focus to get him? As a person how has made different comments over the years about how hard you are focused on him, how hard are you focused on him right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how you measure that. It is a constant focus, and it is certainly something where we continue to have assets looking for bin Laden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: But everybody talks about this. The question is, is bin Laden still alive? And if so, what evidence do we have of that?
What evidence do we have of that?
KONDRACKE: You said everybody talks about it. I thought you were going to say—
HUME: Say nobody does anything about it.
BARNES: Yes, like Mark Twain and the weather, you know, everybody talks about it and nobody does anything about it.
I don't think they are really doing a whole lot, actually, because it would be a titanic undertaking to send enough troops into that part of Pakistan to try to find this guy in the worse possible countryside. You would lose all kinds of people, and a needle in a hay stake. You may not get him, even though it would be important symbolically to get him.
HUME: Do we know he is still alive. Do we really know?
LIASSON: —he is still alive, even though he doesn't have any evidence.
LIASSON: The new director of—
HUME: I understand that, but in terms of us as citizens, watching the passing show and what comes out of there—
LIASSON: A one-year-old tape is the most recent public—
HUME: And what we hear from Zawahiri was some regularity, but not from Usama. One wonders if he—
BARNES: Yes. He was supposed to be on dialysis for his kidneys, and who knows he could be dead. But, certainly, al-Qaeda is not dead.
KONDRACKE: Lawrence Wright, who wrote The Moving Tower, thinks that he might have had Addison's Disease, which is the same disease that John F. Kennedy had. And that can be fatal. But he doesn't know, and nobody knows. The trail has gone cold, and we don't know why.
But we do know that al-Qaeda is resurgent. The National Intelligence Estimate that just came out says that. And there is no question but what al-Qaeda is active in this region of Waziristan and the travel territories in Pakistan. They are butchering people there who are pro-Pakistani government. They are creating a reign of terror in order to have allegiance and the haven.
And al-Zawahiri is a very effective guy.
LIASSON: But the other thing—what I think is interesting, the Interior Minister of Pakistan said that Usama bin-Laden is not present in Pakistan. That is there stance, and they are sticking to it.
But they certainly have no evidence that he is not there.
BARNES: Even if he is killed, al-Qaeda is going to be there, and we are going to have a terrorist threat from Islamic radicals from Morocco to the Philippines.
HUME: What is the effect if he is found? Will the Democrats in Congress, who have said that we have taken the eye off the ball, then say that the war on terror is won?
LIASSON: No. They will say we are glad they captured him, but—and they will be right in saying that Usama bin-Laden is not the problem. Al- Qaeda is the problem.
HUME: But now they are saying Usama bin-Laden is the problem.
BARNES: Well, they will change their tune, Brit. Have you ever heard of that in politics?
LIASSON: But they are certainly not saying that he is the only problem.
KONDRACKE: Whatever they can find to beat Bush over the head with they will find. And if Usama bin-Laden is killed, then it will be al- Zarqawi that we will need to get.
LIASSON: And it will be.
BARNES: —Usama bin-Laden was tortured, whether he was read his rights, whether he was offered a chance to appeal his case through the Habeas Corpus Petition, and so on.
KONDRACKE: That's an exaggeration, obviously.
HUME: How so? Is that really an exaggeration?
KONDRACKE: Yes. If we could kill him, we would kill him.
HUME: I understand that. What if we captured him and put him in Guantanamo? With would happen then?
LIASSON: We are not going to capture him.
KONDRACKE: I hope we don't capture him. I hope we kill him.
BARNES: If he is sent to Guantanamo, you know who his first call will be to? The ACLU.
HUME: Let me ask this question. We did have this interesting poll out from the Pew Research Center which shows, except for the Palestinian territories, a striking drop the acceptability to people in the Muslim world of the terror techniques, suicide bombing and so on. What does that tell us about the ultimate fate of al-Qaeda? Anything?
BARNES: It does tell us that who are the main victims of terror attacks? It is not Americans. It is not Brits. It's Muslims. Those are the ones who dying in huge numbers, particularly in Iraq.
LIASSON: And that kind of result, if it is true, should encourage some of these Arab leaders to speak out against terrorism, because we usually hear nothing but silence.
KONDRACKE: I wish, somehow, that we could capitalize on his unpopularity. But America is not gaining in popularity while they are losing.
HUME: OK, Mort, you have the last word, and that is it from the panel. Stay tuned, though, to find out why C-Span is one of our favorite networks. And that is next.
HUME: Finally tonight, our friends at C-Span think, as we do, that what happens in Washington is interesting. And they put the stuff on television over two or even three cable channels all day, everyday.
And they don't care much about makeup, and they don't seem to care at all about what your hair looks like.
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HUME: 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.
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