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'Special Report' Panel on Campaigns and Elections, Iowa and New Hampshire

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from December 12, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLYN WASHBURN, DES MOINES REGISTER: I want to take on a new issue. I would like to see a show of hands. How many of you believe global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?

FRED THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not doing hand shows today.

WASHBURN: No hand shows?

THOMPSON: No hand shows.

WASHBURN: And so does that mean — is that "yes" or "no" for you? Do you believe that global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?

THOMPSON: Do you want to give me a minute to answer that?

WASHBURN: No.

THOMPSON: Well, then I'm not going to answer it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: And that was the moment in the debate that a focus group conducted by Frank Luntz for us of Iowa Republican voters was thought to be sort of the high moment of the debate. Fred Thompson's approval on the lines that are constantly in motion, measuring the response, went off the charts, practically.

Some thoughts on this debate today 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.

Well, Charles, you were watching the debate, though not with us this afternoon, so we haven't heard your take on it. I'm dying to.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I was lucky not to be on the panel.

That was not just the worst debate of 2007, that was the worst debate in western history, and that includes the ancient Greeks. There was no record in any major European record of a debate this transcendently and crushingly dull. It was an astonishment.

The best line of the day was Fred in commenting after the debate where he said the moderator was Nurse Ratched. This moderator had the candidates shackled, handcuffed, and gagged with these absurd 15-second responses, 30 second responses. It was like a quiz show.

And, as you said earlier in the show, she had taken the major issues of any interest — Iraq and immigration — off the table at the beginning and never asked about the NIE or Iran or proliferation or interrogation — anything on our minds today.

The only redeeming feature was Alan Keyes. Where was the guy?

HUME: The "Des Moines Register" had said within the last couple of hours it's going to post on its Web site the criteria that it used in permitting Alan Keyes to come in to this debate but not allowing Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel in the debate among Democrats on Thursday.

KRAUTHAMMER: But he should be admitted entirely on his entertainment value. This is a man who has a capacity to work himself into a froth of righteous indignation that is indescribable, in under 20 seconds, from a standing start, to the point where I kept thinking, as a doctor, is there an EMT crew nearby. This man is going to explode on screen.

We're not going to see him again, which is unfortunate, but the other candidates, given how bad a debate it was and how it was handled, nobody excelled, nobody lost, except for Thompson for that moment, and he also was sharp on several answers.

HUME: It is interesting though that the focus group of the Iowan Republican voters, many of whom liked Mitt Romney coming in liked him better coming out and thought he had won. What do you think of that Mort? Does that comport with your take on it?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: My original take was the conventional wisdom — Huckabee goes into this thing in the lead — .

HUME: Nothing happened.

KONDRACKE: — does not stumble, nothing happened, nobody beat him up. He didn't make any mistakes, and therefore his lead continues, the momentum continues.

I was astounded by this focus group that all thought that Romney was presidential. And Romney did fine. He didn't make any mistakes, and he gave his usual spiel about his record. And, as a matter of fact, his pander level was down by comparison to other debates, and so I thought he did credibly well. But I didn't see that this was a game changer.

The one thing that nobody has said anything about up to now is that McCain, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee all take global warming seriously and think that man has something to do with it and that we may have had something to do about it. For the Republican Party, that's news.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Romney made a good point, though. He said it is global warming, it's not American warming. And what that means is when you come up with some half-baked plan like the Kyoto plan — that you probably like, Mort — that means that China, India, and other third world countries, which are now surpassing the United States in terms of greenhouse gases being sent out in the air, they're not culprits.

And so unless you can do that, get them somehow involved — and you can't, it's not going to happen — then forget about it.

HUME: You say "you can't." You mean "one can't."

BARNES: I'm going to talk about the debate. You just happened to be ridiculous. Mort, do you think they really meant it, or were they just saying something that sounded nice?

KONDRACKE: They are appealing to a Republican audience, and from them to take global warming seriously is contrary to your position.

BARNES: No — Mort, have you heard the expression lip service? That's exactly what it was.

But, look —

HUME: Quickly.

BARNES: — when Fred Thompson refusing to raise his hand is the big event at the debate, that tells you a lot about that debate.

HUME: What about that Romney won? Our view would tend to be that if Huckabee didn't make mistakes and get hit very hard, he comes out ahead still. Would you agree with that?

BARNES: That is the Washington media view. The viewers from Iowa —

HUME: What's your view?

BARNES: Me view is, look, when you see a focus group, you think maybe not. But they were almost unanimous in saying that Romney did really well.

And you know what they particularly liked — I talked to Frank Luntz afterwards, and he said they liked the fact Romney talked specifically about his record and Huckabee didn't. And one guy said Huckabee had these clich,s and witticisms. Huckabee is going to have to provide a lot more than that.

HUME: Next up with our panel, the Spending Bill showdown in the House. Stick around for this. This is getting remarkable.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM PUTNAM, R-FLA.: It is abundantly clear that no one in the Democratic National Leadership has a plan for funding the nation's priorities in a timely manner for the end of this year.

REP. STEPHANIE HERSETH, D-S.D.: This isn't us as Democrats painting ourselves into a corner. This is our Republican colleagues, particularly in the Senate, painting the American people a corner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That's a pretty good response from that young woman, a Democrat in the House. But the problem is, of course, that the Republican Party doesn't control the House or Senate.

It is true that under Senate rules you need Republican help, or help from whatever party is in the minority to get a lot of things done, and nothing much is getting done.

And least of all getting done is the spending bills to keep the government in business and to keep the Pentagon funded and to keep the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with what they need in the coming months.

Back with our panel to discuss all this, now. You could see it in the face of young Adam Putnam, there, the Republican congressman from Florida, that he could barely keep from chuckling as he stated what he said is the plight of the Democratic leadership as they try to get these bills passed.

What is going on here, Mort?

KONDRACKE: Look, there could have been a deal. The deal that could have happened was that the Democrats would go down from the number of $22 billion —

HUME: In what? We're talking about a great bill that would cover all the departments and the war.

KONDRACKE: Right. An omnibus spending bill that would have been — out of a $3 trillion total budget, would have been $11 billion over what the president requested, which is half of what the Democrats originally wanted over the — they originally wanted 22, and they were willing to come down to 11.

The president said he would veto that number, and the Republicans in the Senate wouldn't go along with it either. So it is ridiculous that the Republicans are establishing their bona fidas as fiscally responsible with $11 billion, but that's what they're doing.

HUME: Why don't the Democrats just go along with it and stay at that level?

KONDRACKE: Gradually, they're trying to figure out how to get down to the president's number. They are going to eliminate a bunch of earmarks, they are going to declare a bunch of stuff emergency funding.

They have to decide how they're going to fund Iraq, and this is their problem now. Their big problem is that they don't want to acknowledge to the far-left that they are going to capitulate, so they are going to declare it Afghanistan funding, or military funding, and give him what he wants.

The president's going to win this, but it's pretty ugly.

BARNES: No, it's not ugly at all. In fact, it's very interesting. It's actually lovely. It is one of the prettiest things I have seen in a long, long time, Mort.

And what happens, is, the Democrats know perfectly well where the Republicans stand. They know the Republicans in the Senate can block them on these things.

But the Democrats keep having to play — you were exactly right. They have to play their angry left and say well, we tried, and it is just these bad Republicans, when they know that on the AMT fix, on the energy bill, on the farm bills, on the 9/11 Commission report and the ethics bill and all of them, they know perfectly well the only thing that can get passed.

And yet they submit a bill that they know is not going to get passed, and it gets filibustered. They don't get closure, and then they finally settle for what they knew in the first place was all they could get.

And what they are going to wind up with — Mort is right about what they are going to wind up with. They will wind up with a spending bill that is a few billion dollars over in the Iraq spending.

HUME: Charles, you get the last word.

KRAUTHAMMER: Mort is right. This $11 billion is a trivial amount. It is like a ham and cheese sandwich given the size of the budget. But it is like what they say about the super rich, it is not about the money. The money is just a way of keeping score.

What this is about is a president reminding the Democrats of who is in control. A year ago he was declared dead after this election. He took control of Iraq policy, and now he's in control of the budget, and he is going to stick it Democrats.

HUME: And that is it for the panel.

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