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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mayor Giuliani believes in federal funding for abortion. He believes in sanctuary cities. He is for gun control.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fred was the single biggest obstacle to tort reform in the United States Senate. He stood with Democrats over and over again.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In case you missed it, a few days ago Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum.

Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I am sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: And that applause led to a standing ovation for John McCain.

Those three little pieces of sound give you a little sense of the debate. They did tee off on one another, several of the candidates, particularly the front runners. And they just about all teed off on Hillary Clinton.

Some thoughts on this debate now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Fred, you watched at a distance, as most Americans who saw it would. What did you think?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I thought no one was really bad of the top four, actually.

HUME: The top four being?

BARNES: Being, Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and Thompson.

And, once again, Giuliani was the best. He has been the best in almost every one of these. He is the liveliest, the quickest, the funniest. His jabs are better. He is very good at this. He was born to be in debates.

I would love to see him in any one-on-one debate. Maybe that will happen if he wins the nomination. But he was very good.

McCain was very good, but in a different way. McCain is not jumping out there and that lively, but in his own laid-back way, McCain was excellent.

Romney, I don't know what story was about his hair, but he was OK.

And Thompson is never going to be that guy who stands out in these debates, but he did all right.

HUME: Mara, he hit the "are you lazy" question out of the park, didn't he?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think Thompson had the most to prove last night, and I think he rose to the occasion.

He had delivered a five minute, much panned addressed the day before to a rally of Florida Republicans, where some of them were shocked and disappointed. At the same time, all his rivals have given these 27 minute passionate speeches full of red meat to the crowd, and he did have something to prove.

And I thought he was at his most vigorous last night. And he launched a very aggressive attack against Romney and Giuliani.

What I thought was interesting is that, usually, when there is a fight in this debates, it is between two principal people. This was all over the place — Giuliani is attacking Thompson, Thompson is attacking Romney and Giuliani, McCain is attacking Romney. And the fire was going in all directions.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's why it was a great debate, because it had all the fire.

Huckabee, when he finally got a word in edgewise about half-an-hour into it, said this is a demolition derby, which is why it was a joy to watch.

I loved the line of questioning from Chris Wallace and you and the rest of the team. It was something like "Candidate X, Candidate Y is saying that you beat your wife and hate your dog. Candidate Z says that you beat the dog and hate your wife — which of the two is it?" And the beauty is they all took the bait, attacked each other.

But what is so interesting is at the end of it, in a debate that was a knockout and drag out, everybody, I think, of the major candidates came out ahead. There was nobody that was hurt.

I think Thompson and Romney came out ahead the least. Thompson showed energy, which was an improvement over his first debate, he went from a zero-to-five on the energy level.

Romney was again his stolid, solid self, which is interesting because he is a technocrat and he is trying to play an ideologue because he thinks that is the opening in this field, and it is, but it does not really fit.

And that McCain line was the one that was hit out of the park. I thought he won the debate if you had to have a winner.

HUME: On that? All the other candidates, in addition to the crowd, were applauding.

KRAUTHAMMER: And he is basically saying I'm a little old and I am broke, but I am a grown up. I have been there. We are at war, I can handle it. And that wins a debate.

BARNES: I agree it was a very good line. Look, I thought the best thing Romney did was his attack on Hillary — she has never run anything, she has never been in business.

And it was also, though, an attack on several of the other candidates who have never been businessmen. Remember he talked about India and China and their growing economies and how important it was to have somebody who knew about that and had been in business. It is one of his strengths.

Now, you may disagree in thinking a businessman is not the proper person to be president, but that is not what voters think, a lot of them like it.

The other thing is, I talked to Frank Luntz who does for FOX these focus groups, and he said the more Hillary is an issue, the better she seems to be doing among the Democrats, the more people in his focus groups like Giuliani, because they think, rightly or wrongly, that he is the Hillary killer.

LIASSON: What I thought was interesting, not just about the debate, but about the whole past couple of days — don't forget the Value Voter's Summit, which occurred two days before the debate, where Huckabee really wowed the crowd in many ways.

I think this is a five man race, now, I really do. I think that's —

HUME: Because Huckabee —

LIASSON: — because Huckabee, who has raised very little money is showing surprising strength with social conservatives. He is third in the polls in Iowa —

HUME: Hold it a second — is it really reasonable to say of someone who is a Baptist minister that he is showing surprising support among evangelical Christians?

LIASSON: No, but he is also showing support in Iowa. He is third in some of these polls. And I just think that, especially for Mitt Romney, who has had this very commonsensical strategy to do well in the early states, get the momentum, he has a lot of obstacles in his path.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, in Iowa, Huckabee is the governor of the neighboring state. He has all of these advantages. I can't yet take him seriously as a national candidate.

LIASSON: I don't think he can win the nomination, but I think he can provide a lot of obstacles to Mitt Romney.

KRAUTHAMMER: He is amusing and he will be in the cabinet, but he is not going to be on the ticket.

HUME: All right. Next up on the panel, Vice President Cheney delivers a stern warning to and about Iran on its nuclear program. More with the all stars coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences.

The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message — we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Vice President Cheney over the weekend in a speech to a Washington Middle East think tank. This on the heels of President Bush's comments the other day in which he talked about the possibility of Iran getting nuclear weapons, and suggested it could lead to World War III.

This has set off all kinds of alarm bells. The question is — he talked about the international community, did Cheney. He talked about the United States joining with its allies to send this message. Is this saber rattling, as some might have it — Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: The United States is the only one applying this. The most that you hear from allies is what the French will say, for example, that an Iranian bomb would be intolerable. Now, that is pretty strong.

However, we live with a lot of intolerable stuff. There is a difference if you say we are not going to allow all that. That language has been used in the past, used in the last year or so as the president was weakened over Iraq.

But I think with the improvement over Iraq and a stronger sense that he has more freedom of action and the Congress holding him back a little bit less, he has ratcheted it up. And I think there are two clocks working here. The first is the Iranian one, in which it's developing a weapon, it has these centrifuges working overtime.

But that clock is indeterminate. Nobody is sure when it will happen, and you can always argue that we can wait another six months.

The more important clock is the Bush presidency. It is running out, and we know all know exactly how long it has. And the way the president is speaking and Cheney is speaking, you have the impression that he believes this is a problem he cannot leave to his successor. This looks like a serious threat.

HUME: So you think this really is threatening.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it is.

HUME: It is not just talk about what diplomacy must do that sets off the alarm bells on the left.

KRAUTHAMMER: It will have a collateral effect, hopefully, of spurring others into sanctions, which might prevent a bomb and an attack.

However, I think it is sending a message — he is prepared to attack if nothing happens.

LIASSON: I have taken all of these remarks, Cheney's and Bush's about World War III and drawing the line at them having the knowledge to make a weapon, not just having a weapon, as a spur to the European allies that we had better get serious about this, because, so far, every diplomatic effort that has been made is not working.

As a matter of fact, you could say that things are going backwards since Iran just removed the one guy, Larijani, who people felt was reasonable and you can deal with. He is gone. He is replaced with someone who is very close to the ayatollahs.

I have no idea if the administration would actually launch a military attack before they left office, but that would be, certainly, an extraordinary undertaking with a lot of consequences.

BARNES: Look, I think they are going to need to do a bit more saber rattling than this, than talking about World War III. And the way I understood the president, he thought it would have been started by the Iranians, not by us —

HUME: With an attack on Israel.

BARNES: Yes, but not by the U.S.

Cheney didn't say more than Bush had said. Rudy Giuliani in the debate last night in Orlando, Brit, talked about this subject, I thought, very cogently — that saber rattling can be very effective, scaring the Iranians and even scaring our allies into stronger sanctions, and the Iranians responding to those sanctions to avoid an attack by the United States.

And there are more things they can do. One — leak how we can do this. The president does not have to say "With 200 planes and this many aircraft carriers, this is viable, we could do it."

HUME: There is a military option, in other words.

BARNES: Certainly there is. And word of that could be leaked. We have one aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, there could be more sent to the region — things that would really make the Iranians perk up.

Right now it's clear they are not paying any attention to what —

HUME: So what you are saying is that the sabers may be rattling, but they are not rattling loud enough to suit you.

BARNES: No — not to have an effect on the Iranians.

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