SPECIAL REPORT

Transcript: 'Special Report with Brit Hume,' May 22, 2007

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from May 22, 2007.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the president appears on the verge of victory in the fight to fund the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as Democrats search for a fac e-saving way to vote the money. Debate opens on the immigration compromise with no certainty the thing will survive. McCain zings Romney. We'll have Romney's response. Al Gore has a new book out. We'll compare some of his claims to some of the facts. And the Pentagon announced a sharp counter-attack against claims it is not using the best body armor in Iraq. Wait until you hear this. All of that right here, right now. Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. The White House took the high road. Congressional Republican leaders said it was a win. And Democrats claim they have made their point. But no matter how the thing is spun, it appears House and Senate negotiators have agreed on language for a bill funding the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that President Bush will accept. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier tells us what's in it and, just as importantly, what's not in it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican congressional leaders met with President Bush in the Oval Office as word came down from the Capitol Hill that their Democratic counterparts had officially abandoned language in a war spending bill that set dates for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and required specific readiness standards for the military. The Republican caucus touted that as a victory, while White House officials refused to gloat.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Rather than trying to sort of cast this in who wins and who loses on Capital Hill terms, the president's determination is to follow through on his obligations as a commander in chief to make sure that the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan get what they need.

BAIER: Democrats did not have the appetite for a second presidential veto that they knew they would not have the votes to overturn. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to say that Democrats had backed down.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Keep in mind, this is the seventh supplemental appropriation bill that the president has sent us. It will be the first supplemental bill that he has that he has not been given a blank check. It's a lot more than the president ever expected he would have to agree to.

BAIER: Read touted language in the bill, presented by Virginia Republican Senator John Warner, proposals for eighteen specific benchmarks for the Iraqi government to achieve, to include disarming militias, sharing oil revenues, and reconciling Sunnis and Shiites. Warner said the language holds the Iraqis to accountable to meat those benchmarks.

SEN. JOHN WARNER ®, VIRGINIA: And if they do not, then there is a mechanism to withhold. The president has been given the authority to withhold further funds, or non-military funds, as a means to show them that we recognize, as our leadership, from the president on down to the leaders of Congress have said repeatedly, we are not there forever.

BAIER: The Warner language also requires the president to report to Congress once in July to lay out the framework of the benchmarks, follow by a full progress report in September. One thing that was unclear late Tuesday was how much non-military spending would be put back in the war spending bill. One senior aide to the House Democratic leadership told Fox, quote, all of the domestic spending is still on the table. This after weeks of President Bush hammering Congress to provide a, quote, clean bill to fund troops.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They ought to provide 100 percent of the money for the people who wear the uniform and leave these special pork projects out of the bill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAIER: Despite those previous comments, the president is now willing to accept some, if not most of the non-military spending that was in the original bill he vetoed, according to a senior administration official intimately involved in the negotiations. Exactly how much is still being worked out. The bill will also contain a minimum wage hike. Now this official says it will not have anywhere near the tax offsets the White House had wanted to accompany such a hike, but the president will sign off on it to try to get a deal. Brit?

HUME: OK Bret, thank you. Less certain tonight is the future of a compromise bill on immigration reform. Voting on the bill will not take place until after Memorial Day recess, but the process of amendments has begun, and as Congressional correspondent Major Garrett reports the divisions among Democrats appear about as deep as the division with Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Senate Democratic and Republican leaders had no answer to the key questions surrounding the immigration debate, can the back room compromise survive? REID: We will see. I think there is progress being made.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I believe that we are going to spend two weeks on the immigration bill. There are going to be a lot of amendments.

GARRETT: These non answers speak to the volcanic debate on the right and the left about key parts of an immigration compromise hatched in secret bipartisan negotiations by an ad hoc group of senators. Weighing in at roughly 1,000 pages, the bill arrived today in full drafted form.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: No member of the United States Senate has yet read this. It just became available. So I assume everyone will have their evening reading going through a bill that size.

GARRETT: North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan sought to kill the bill's annual allotment of 400,000 guest workers, a move blessed by Reid and Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton and organized labor, all of whom argue guest workers would depress U.S. wages.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I have voted against the idea of a guest worker program that has a lot of problems associated with it, as I think this one does.

GARRETT: The guest worker issue divides Democrats deeply, pitting ardent liberals against one another. With the compromise's key architect Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy now under attack for punishing poor Americans.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Why would anyone bring this kind of a program to the floor of the United States Senate? Why do you need this pool, accept, as I said, as a way to keep our workers down, keep their down, keep their benefits down, keep them weak. And in my view, at the end of the day, destroy the middle class.

GARRETT: Kennedy, at a meeting with Latino leaders, lashed out at critics.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: As H.L. Mencken, who was a great writer and thinker said, for every complex problem there is a simple, easy answer and it is wrong.

GARRETT: And on the floor, Kennedy noted the irony of Boxer's support of temporary farm workers, crucial to California's agricultural economy.

KENNEDY: I listened carefully to my good friend from California being opposed to temporary workers, with the exception of temporary workers in agriculture.

BOXER: Senator Kennedy has a full right to his opinion and I have a full right to mine.

GARRETT: The guest worker program is likely to survive, but at about half its current size. A future amendment expected to cut from 400,000 workers to 200,000 workers a year. After lighting the fuse on the guest worker fight, the majority leader called the acrimony a hidden source of strength.

REID: One of the things I like about this bill is that there is so much disagreement. I say that because no one is happy, no one is taking advantage of anyone else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GARRETT: That implies, of course, that taking advantage of one another is a big part of normal Senate procedure. Well, since that is out, both sides will be fighting and in open. Brit, it is not clear at all which side will prevail.

HUME: OK, Major, thank you. As Congress debates that immigration reform bill, one of the arguments around the country is about whether preference should be given to family members of immigrants who are already here, or to people who have certain skills the American economy may need. Correspondent William la Jeunesse has a closer look.

MARIA SANCHEZ, LEGAL RESIDENT: If all my family are here and I am in Mexico, it is going to be a problem, because I want to be together with them.

WILLIAM LA JEUNESSE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the sister of a Green Card holder, Maria Sanchez entered America legally. She is one of 750,000 immigrant relatives granted legal residence every year. But the Senate compromise bill seeks to stop so-called chain migration by adopting a merit system that awards up to 100 points based on an immigrant's education, employment experience and English fluency, not just family ties.

ROSEMARY JENKS, NUMBERS USA: By changing the number of points awarded for different job categories, for different skill levels, the government can actually manipulate the type of immigrants coming in, based on the needs of the economy.

LA JEUNESSE: A master's degree is worth 20 points, with a bonus for math or science. A high school diploma just six points. Skilled workers like engineers or nurses get 20 and 16 points respectively. If you've already been working for an American employer, that is worth two points a year. Immigrants in the prime earning years of 25 to 39, three points. Fluent English gets you 15 points, less than half that if you can just get by. Authors of the compromise say the new system ensures immigration benefits the economy. But critics on the right say it is not enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This bill does not accomplish anything as far as the national interest goes. What it does accomplish is large-scale amnesty and increasing the number of poor people coming into the U.S. We're essentially importing poverty.

LA JEUNESSE: On the left, opponents call the point system discriminatory and anti-family.

DARCY JIMENEZ, U.S. CITIZEN: They are picking mostly on the Central American and the more Hispanic countries than they are from other countries.

LA JEUNESSE: Even if this compromise becomes a law, don't expect anything to change right away.

(on camera): Now available visas will first go to the five million immigrants waiting in line to be reunited with family. Officials say it will take about eight years to clean up the backlog of Green Card applications. Only then will foreign nationals be subject to the point system that favors skills, as well as family.

In Los Angeles, William la Jeunesse, Fox News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: And there was more back and forth over immigration reform today between Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney. McCain challenged other GOP candidates either to propose their own comprehensive legislation or to stop criticizing the current plan, which he co-sponsored. In the meantime, Romney acknowledged an earlier zinger from McCain, but stood by his opposition to the bill. McCain had managed to work in references to two controversies in Romney's campaign, one Romney's claim that he was a lifetime hunter, which he later amended to having hunted, quote, small varmints, as he put it at least twice. And two, allegations that Romney had hired a landscaping company that employed illegal Guatemalan immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: In the case of Governor Romney, maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes, because it has changed in less than a year from his position before, and maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I have respect for Senator McCain. I guess that just shows that even when he is wrong, he is amusing. I think I am best off to describe my own positions. And my positions, I think I have just described for you, secure the border, employment verification and no special pathway to citizenship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Later in our program, is Ethanol really everything it has cracked up to be? And next, we'll tell you what happened today to the effort to reprimand Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: The Campbell County, Virginia Sheriff's Office says tonight that deputies arrested Mark Ewell, a 19-year-old Liberty University student last night after they found several gasoline based bombs in his car. The student reportedly said he intended to use the bombs against any protesters who might disrupt today's funeral services in Lynchburg, Virginia for the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who founded that school. Authorities are looking for other people involved in the plot, said to include a high school student and a soldier at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In the meantime, more than 10,000 mourners attended those services peacefully at the Thomas Road Baptist Church, which Falwell founded in Lynchburg, Virginia. The church holds seating for 6,000. Others filled the overflow area. Falwell's assistants said Falwell himself had chosen the music and speakers before his death. Among those attending were leaders of the religious right, but none of the Republican presidential candidates. Falwell, as we reported, died suddenly last week at the age of 73. A mover in the U.S. House today to reprimand Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha went nowhere after Democrats blocked it. Correspondent Molly Henneberg has the background, the vote and the whole story. Molly?

MOLLY HENNEBERG, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi Brit. Today, House Democrats voted to table that resolution, that is to kill it. Republicans say Congressman Murtha, one of the most senior Democrats in the House, threatened GOP Congressman Mike Rogers last week, threatened to reject any of Rogers' special request for federal funding. So far, Murtha has not denied it. So watch what happened today when Democrats refused to debate the resolution and moved to table it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what purpose does the gentleman from Maryland rise

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I move to lay the resolution on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will come to order. The House will come to order. The question is on the motion to table. Those in favor please say aye. Those opposed please say no. In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. The motion is not adopted. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ask for a recorded vote. I ask for a recorded vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENNEBERG: That was Congressman Mike Rogers there asking for that recorded vote. In the end, the final vote was 219 to 189 to table it. Republicans cried foul. They said Democrats weren't living up to their own campaign promise to be, quote, the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS: This party that was going to be so bipartisan will not even let discussion take place over whether or not a threat occurred. This House is falling down around the majority's promises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENNEBERG: Congressman Murtha is the second ranking Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, so he has significant influence on how federal dollars are doled out. He and Congressman Rogers butted heads over a 23 million dollar earmark, or request, that Murtha wanted for the National Drug Intelligence Center in Murtha's district. Rogers did not support it, saying it was, quote, duplicative and wasteful. And apparently this exchange ensued last Thursday: Murtha saying to Rogers, quote, "I hope you don't have any earmarks in the defense appropriations bill because they are gone, and you will not get any earmarks now and forever." Rogers responded, quote, "This is not the way we do things here and is that supposed to make me afraid of you?" Murtha said, quote, "That's the way I do it." Murtha's office later responded that each earmark request is, quote, carefully considered. Brit?

HUME: OK Molly, thank you. Still ahead on SPECIAL REPORT, are U.S. troops getting the best body armor? The Pentagon says yes, and it says it has proof. But first we'll take a closer look at some of the claims in Al Gore's brand new book. Stick around. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Former Vice President Al Gore's new book is out and in it he takes President Bush to task for his conduct in the war in Iraq. Not only that, but Gore claims to unmask what he says are the false reasons the president gave for getting into the war in the first place. But do Gore's allegations hold up under scrutiny? Chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle provides some.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ANGLE, FOX NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is back, at least on the bookshelves, if not in the presidential race. In his new book "The Assault on Reason," Al Gore delivers a broad attack on the Bush administration on every conceivable issue, in a way that prompted this observation from the White House.

SNOW: I don't know if they're going to do a reprinting of the book to try to get the facts straight.

ANGLE: Gore is most critical about the decision to invade Iraq, which he calls not only tragic, but absurd.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the worst strategic mistake in the whole history of United States of America.

ANGLE: Though back in 2000, when Gore was running for the presidency, he argued that "as long as Saddam stays in power, there can be no comprehensive peace for the people of Israel or the Middle East. We have made clear it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone."

And he went on to say, there was no doubt Saddam was still trying to amass weapons of mass destruction. But in the most recent book he seems to argue the opposite in criticizing President Bush saying he offered "forged evidence that Hussein was seeking to develop atomic bombs." It is not clear which evidence Gore is referring to, because the Clinton administration certainly believed the same thing when it launched bombing raids on Iraq in 1998.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

ANGLE: Gore also accuses President Bush and other officials of what he calls a big flamboyant lie for suggesting there was some connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. "As we know now," he writes," there was absolutely no connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein." But in his own recent book, former CIA Director George Tenant talked about a decade of contacts. Saddam had no control over the terrorists, but did offer some training.

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: This fellow that we captured, Ibn Sheikh al Libbi, who was an al Qaeda senior operation trainer, told us that they may have acquired some chemical training from the Iraqis. We believe that.

ANGLE: Gore also asserts that if President Bush and Vice President Cheney actually believed in a linkage between Saddam and al Qaeda, "that would make them genuinely unfit to lead our nation," a standard that could hurt one of the current Democratic presidential candidates, who offered a similar judgment about Saddam.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.

ANGLE: There is no suggestion in the book that Al Gore is even toying with the idea of running for president, even though some eight websites are campaigning to draft him, and 70,000 Democrats have signed a petition to encourage him. But if he did decide to run, a book blasting the Bush administration would not hurt him a bit. In Washington, Jim Angle, Fox News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: Pentagon brass have been bristling over televised reports that U.S. troops in Iraq are not getting the best body armor available. National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports that now the generals are fighting back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dragon skin outperformed the army's body armor in stopping the most lethal threats. It sounded like a scandal, the Pentagon barring troops from using body armor that could save their lives. At least, that is what NBC News reported in a series of investigative reports that began last Thursday. The report by Lisa Myers created such an outcry in the Pentagon that the Army called an unusual briefing presenting a blizzard of data on ballistics testing. The generals pushed back.

BRIG. GEN. MARK BROWN, US ARMY: This is not just a matter of debate for us. This is personal.

GRIFFIN: The news report focused on a new kind of body armor called dragon skin that works like medieval chain mail. The Army said the report was so misleading, it was worried it would alarm soldiers' families, creating unnecessary stress. NBC's own report suggested that families were raising money to buy the privately made body armor for their loved ones in Iraq. It even quoted the retired Marine colonel who claims to have designed the interceptor armor currently used by the troops.

COL JIM MAGEE (RET), INTERCEPTOR DESIGNER: Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down. It is better than the interceptor.

GRIFFIN: Democratic senators jumped on the bandwagon. Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb called for a Congressional inquiry following the NBC report. But is Dragon Skin actually better than the body armor called Interceptor, made of ceramic composite plates that is currently used by the military? The Army's ballistic tests suggest no. Out of eight vests tested, four failed. Out of 48 bullets, 13 passed through the Dragon Skin, called SOV 3,000.

BROWN: This is a 7.62 by 63 APM two round. At the end of the day, this one disk of a pinnacle SOV 3,000 vest has to stop this round. It did not 13 times.

GRIFFIN: The Army says Dragon Skin also did not stand up to the change of temperature and heat test, a major factor in Iraq. And it was too heavy, 47 pounds, compared to the 28 pound Interceptor currently worn. Pinnacle, the maker of a Dragon Skin body armor, says the army is spreading disinformation about its test.

MURRAY NEAL, PRESIDENT, PINNACLE ARMOR: They're only giving you part of the information. They're not giving you all of the data. They're just giving you what they want.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: According to the current and former military commanders that we spoke to, the real problem with Dragon Skin is that it is too heavy and bulky at this point in time to be effective in combat. Brit?

HUME: Jennifer, thank you. We have to take a break here to give our sponsors a moment and then to update the other headlines. When we come back, we'll tell you about yet another way Democratic presidential candidate and poverty crusader John Edwards made money last year, and wait until you hear this. It's next on the Grapevine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Click here to read the "Political Grapevine."

HUME: One parent says the students deserve to be cheered, and suggests that the announcers simply pause between names, so that all would be heard.

The armed confrontation between Lebanese troops and armed militants in Palestinian refugee camp near the port city of Tripoli is not over tonight. Neither side is backing down and some civilians are finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Correspondent Greg Palkot reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG PALKOT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Day three at the standoff between the al Qaeda-linked militant group, Fattah al Islam and the Lebanese military. Terrorists are holed up in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon. Their positions were pounded again this morning until a very fragile cease-fire went into effect this afternoon. The U.N. thought it would hold up long enough to allow its convoy to get much-needed aid to civilians in the camp. The aid arrived, but so did the gunfire, four vehicles where disabled, the needy were caught in the crossfire.

RICHARD COOK, UNITED NATIONS OFFICIAL: The cease-fire broke down and we don't know why, we don't know who was responsible for this, but we will obviously carry out our own investigation.

PALKOT: Those kinds of scenes are upsetting refugees in some of the 11 other camps in Lebanon. Demonstrations like this in the southern city of Tyre, shows how volatile the situation in Lebanon is becoming. Also disconcerting, this scene in the northern Lebanon city of Tripoli. Police cornered a man believed linked to the al Qaeda group, turned out he was wearing and explosive belt and blew himself up. No one else was hurt. What to do about the conflict with Fattah al Islam and the fear of it escalating and spreading was the subject of a meeting today between Lebanese Prime Minister what Fouad Siniora and community leaders. The terrorist are saying they will fight to the finish. The Lebanese are saying they want to finish off the militants. As casualties on all sides build, the deadly game of chicken continues. The hope is, a shaky truce might calm tempers.

(on camera): One consolation for the embattled Lebanese leadership, many voices in this country, including everybody who we canvassed today, are opposed to Fattah al Islam group. The fear is, the longer this standoff drags on, the more appeal the militants hiding out in the darkness a few hundred yards behind me, will acquire. Just outside the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, Greg Palkot, FOX NEWS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: At least five people were killed and about 80 wounded in the Turkish capital of all of Ankara when a bomb exploded in a shopping district. The blasted outside one of the city's oldest shopping malls shattered windows and sent debris flying into the street. Turkish authorities are still trying to determine what type of bomb was used and who set it off. Back here in the U.S., it seemed for a long time that ethanol would be the answer to many of the nation's energy problems. Its sources could be homegrown, good for American farmers, good for the U.S. economy and it would help the environment, but not so fast. Maybe that last claim needs some qualifiers. Correspondent Claudia Cowan explains why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLAUDIA COWAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the nation, ethanol is being touted as a cleaner burning at renewable fuel that will reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, but even as President Bush calls for stepped-up production, a new Stanford University study suggests that in terms of clearing the air, ethanol not only isn't better, it's worse than its regular gasoline.

MARK JACOBSON, STANFORD ENGINEERING PROF: Ethanol improved air quality in some respects, but it makes worse air quality in other respects. It reduces the amount of certain chemicals that cause cancer, but it increases the amounts of other chemicals that cause cancer.

COWAN: Professor Mark Jacobson says that along with concerns about the pollution created making ethanol, once it's in your engine, it generates considerably more ozone than petroleum based gasoline and that's not good.

JACOBSON: Well, ozone, it cracks rubber and it degrades statues and buildings, so you can imagine what it does to our lungs.

COWAN: Focusing on the city of Los Angeles, he concluded that by the year 2020, when most cars and trucks are expected to be filling up on E-85 and ethanol gasoline mix, the added smog could literally be lethal for people with respiratory problems. But critics of the Stanford study say Jacobson's team assumed ethanol technology will remain unchanged, when in actuality, they say, so many resources are being directed at improving the process by 2020, it won't look anything like it does today, in terms of source materials or emissions.

ROLAND HWANG, NAT RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: The key is not to discard a very promising solution. The key is to figure out how to make it work. And we do not how to make it work. We do know how to make biofuels cleaner.

COWAN (on camera): California and a number of other states are pushing for tougher air quality standards and researchers are around the country are working hard on improving biofuels. But at a time when everyone is racing to go green, the challenge is replacing pollution causing petroleum with something better, not just something else. In San Francisco, Claudia Cowan, FOX NEWS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, that immigration reform bill, what one of the FOX all-stars said about it and what one of our viewers have had to say about that. Don't miss this, folks. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Some further thoughts on the issue of immigration reform now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and Juan Williams senior correspondent of National Public Radio. All are FOX NEWS contributors and one of them into in particular, Mr. Barnes, but considerable comment from our viewers with his remarks last night. Here's a few samples. Carter and Bonnie Swart from Crescent City, California write: "Today we witnessed Fred Barnes's outright capitulation of the Democrats and the Mexican lobby."

Terri of Los Angeles writes: "We are not anti-immigrant, but anti-illegal immigrant."

And as for the whole panel, Rich Geiger of Pittsford, NY says, "According to tonight's panel, the only people against this bill are folks that want a mass deportation. That is bogus."

All right. All right, so...

BARNES: That charge is bogus. I don't think that's what we said. Look Brit, I love the attention. On the other hand, there is the—look, I like the feedback and it shows this is a very serious and emotional issue, as it was for the opponents who opposed the Irish, the Italians, the eastern Europeans, the Asians, and now the Mexican immigrants. We've always has this, the large group of Americans who thought that we would come, they'd change American and the truth is, they don't. America is the greatest assimilation machine in the history of the world. Immigrants come here, we change them, they become Americans, it continues. We should be flattered they're coming...

HUME: Well, what about this...

BARNES: And all we need is legislation to secure the border so they come legally rather than illegally.

HUME: Well, what some people resented was the implication of that they picked up from you that the people who are opposed to this measure are opposed to even legal immigration.

BARNES: I think a lot of them are. There's that huge strain in the -

in the movement that's opposed to immigration reform, people who want to shut off all legal immigration...

HUME: You conclude that there are people who favor legal immigration who do not think that there's sufficient border enforcement and that these provisions are too easy for people who've already come here illegally.

BARNES: I do, but I think—I think the strand through most of the feeling is opposition to immigrants.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: And they're left-wing critics, too, who think this is too onerous, I mean who oppose the bill for reasons that it's too stiff. But look, I do think that in terms of the question of deportation, I think the question is still legitimate—if you do not like this solution for the 12 million people who are here illegally now, what would you prefer?

HUME: Well, one argument that you hear is if you have serious sanctions on employers for hiring illegals, that the jobs that draw them here will dry up and you won't have to deport them, they either won't come in the first place or if they're already here and can't find work, they'll go away—Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it's laughable. I mean, the American economy would suffer tremendously. I don't know who's going to cut all those lawns, I don't know who's going to do all this laundry, I don't know who's going to dig all those wells, and pick all that fruit, but if the American economy—you know, one of the arguments coming from the left is this is going to depress wages. There's a strong union front, you know, SCIU and others, saying no to this bill because of the guest worker program. And then you have employers who say the guest worker program it doesn't work either because the people have to go home after two years and that's not workable, it that going to invite more people to become illegal because they don't go home and they need to have some training. So, to my mind, it would just—it would hurt the American economy. And I think people aren't being a realistic in their assessment of that.

BARNES: I don't think they are, but Brit, look at it this way, we had a labor shortage in America, so what happens is, so many of these businessmen have to, if they're going to continue their businesses, have to hire illegal immigrants. So, is the solution to that, let's throw all these businessmen in jail? I don't think that's the right solution to it. And as Juan said, it would hurt the American economy. Let's secure the border, let's let plenty of immigrants in...

HUME: Look, it may not be a good idea, I'm not arguing that, I'm just saying that it is an alternative to deportation. Yeah, well it is and it's—but it's not a viable alternative. It's not a realistic alternative.

LIASSON: And it's a very, very long term...

HUME: And this thing is in the presidential campaign on the Republican side for sure now. you had—Mitt Romney has taken a strong position, he's against the bill. John McCain, of course, is one of its ardent advocates. Where does that issue stand, your judgment?

LIASSON: Well, there was wonderful dust up...

HUME: You saw this zinger that went back and forth.

LIASSON: Zinger about he should maybe...

HUME: I think we may have that.

LIASSON: Do you have it? It's a wonderful...

HUME: Well, we should, we showed it earlier. Well, we'll show it later when we get into the politics of all this.

LIASSON: But look, this is an issue in the Republican campaign particularly.

HUME: Will it emerge as an issue in your view, in one of the Democrats?

LIASSON: No.

HUME: Why not?

LIASSON: I think there will be Democrats who want to improve it, and this way and that way,

HUME: Are any of the...

LIASSON: ...but no, I think the consensus on the democratic side...

HUME: Among the presidential candidates.

LIASSON: Among the presidential candidates is this is a good first step and it might need to be improved. But no one is out there saying this is amnesty.

HUME: Now, the first measure to—that would have taken a big piece out of the bill was an effort today to remover the guest worker provision. That failed, but there's now going to be an effort to cut it in half. What about that? Cut the size of it from 4000,000 workers a year to 200,000. What about that? That pass?

WILLIAMS: Well, as a matter of compromise, I'm not sure because it doesn't make sense. I mean, they need the 400,000. They have reduced it in the negotiation from what they initially thought was closer to a million to this 400, so I don't know.

LIASSON: But, I think what's important here is business is a missing component of this coalition, right now. They want a bigger guest worker program and then maybe a different kind and you're not getting the support business community that you did last year.

BARNES: Look, what you need to do is have 400,000 workers, but if it's only 200,000, they'll have to settle for that, but not two years here and then go back. Look have it three years and then renew for three years, but sending these people back is not something that makes sense, business-wise.

HUME: Next up with the panel, the latest views on the '08 presidential races. We got a lot on that. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the case of governor Romney, you know, maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes because it's changed in less than a year from his position before, and maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I have respect for Senator McCain and I guess that just shows that even when he's wrong, he's amusing. And I think I'm best of to describe my own positions. And my positions, I think I've just described for you, secure the border, employment verification, and no special pathway to citizenship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, OK, Governor Romney we agree you responded in good humor to McCain's amusing zinger, but the question is what about those positions and are they the positions you've always had on immigration? What about it Mara.

LIASSON: Well, first of all, it's not the position he's always had, he's definitely changed. But also, there's an important word in that paragraph you just played, "special" pathway because he goes on to say there should be a pathway. He just doesn't like this particular one. Rudy Giuliani also, who is against this bill now has found some reason to be against it, which it doesn't do enough for security, but he's also for a pathway to citizenship. So, I think both these candidates, Romney and Giuliani, who have an essentially liberal position on immigration, are now seeing what's happening in the Republican primary. John McCain is hopelessly out on a limb on this, politically at least. I think he certainly has been the only consistent one of the bunch—and they're going to go in the opposite direction.

WILLIAMS: And Fred Thompson sitting on the outside has already said he is opposed to the bill, scrap it. Says that border security is paramount and until you can prove that the borders are secure, you shouldn't be talking about...

LIASSON: Well, that's what this bill does.

WILLIAMS: But of course that's exactly what the bill does. It says you can't do it until you put these protections, build fences, additional security, and additional border security agents in place. It's curious but obviously then it comes down to what you said, it's all about politics.

HUME: Well Fred?

BARNES: Well, they're running for president and political primaries and caucuses, so it is, and they want to let it—the voters know, particularly when they think these—all these conservative Republicans are opposed to immigration reform that they are sympathetic to them.

HUME: Well, it's worth noting probably, and we talked about this briefly last night, that in the latest poll from Iowa, this from the Des Moines Register, a very reputable paper out there, Governor Romney has pulled ahead, and I don't mean a little bit ahead, he's pulled pretty well ahead out in the state of Iowa. And he now assistants at what -- 30 in the polling out there, to McCain's 18 percent, Giuliani 17 percent and he's also doing well in New Hampshire, which of course, is a neighbor to his home state of Massachusetts. So...

BARNES: Brit, can I tell you why we should take that Iowa poll with a grain of salt? I did a minimal amount of research today. And I went back and looked at the Iowa poll and among the Democratic candidates in November of 2003, before the 2004 caucuses in January, John Kerry was at 15 percent where he'd been much of the year. Now, a month later—rather, two months later, he wound up at 38 percent winning easily there.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: Go ahead.

LIASSON: You know, we talked about this yesterday whether it was a blip or not. I think the notion that anyone is at 30 in Iowa right now is probably wrong. However, when you look at the Real Clear Politics average, which we have also...

HUME: Which is an average of what?

LIASSON: Oh, of everything, but not the Des Moines Register poll, it's not in there in this case, but it's an average of all the recent Iowa polls.

HUME: OK, we've got that somewhere.

LIASSON: Yeah, you've got them all that bunched together. Now, I would say, what is fair to say is Romney has probably climbed out of the single digits and they're all bunched together, Giuliani at 17...

HUME: There it is. Yeah, there it is.

LIASSON: McCain at 20 and Romney at 19.

HUME: Romney is now up to 20, that's way better than he's doing...

LIASSON: Yeah way better. I think it's clear that he's done better, but to say that he's way ahead of the pack is probably not true.

HUME: OK. OK. Let's take a very brief look at how the Democrats stack up in Iowa and a man who's undergone some considerable recent embarrassments, John Edwards about his hair and hedge fund money and speaking—collecting $55,000 for talking about poverty and so on. He's ahead now in Iowa, which is, you know, the first place. That's no small matter, it's a narrow margin, but nonetheless, he's ahead. What do we make of that?

WILLIAMS: It's the unions. That's the key to his support nationally. It's the key to his fortune and what he's done there, I think it's like more than a third of voters in Iowa will be coming from union families and he has made a tremendous amount of inroads in the union vote out there and spent a lot of time out there.

HUME: Well, there is much more to be said about that and we will have other programs and we will take up this whole question of where the Democratic field stands in one of the shows coming up. In the meantime, that's it for the panel, but stay tuned to find out about Rudy Giuliani's bedtime thoughts. We have them? They're next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Finally tonight, one thing about going on late-night TV shows when you're running for president, those show hosts ask you the darnedest things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, LATE SHOW: Before you fall asleep every night, do you think to yourself it's going to be me and Hillary, me and Hillary? Is that—do you think that's what it—is that what it'll come down to?

(APPLAUSE)

RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is not my last thought before I go to sleep at night.

(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.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EST.

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