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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on the Attorney General Nominee's Position on Waterboarding

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 1, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, D-R.I.: Will we join that gloomy historical line le ading from the Inquisition through the prisons of a tyrant regimes, through gulags and dark cells, and through Saddam Hussein's torture chambers?

This is a good man, I believe. But this moment can help turn us back toward the light and away from that dark and descending stairway.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If Senate Judiciary Committee were to block Judge Mukasey on these grounds, they would set a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for attorney general.

That would guarantee that America would have no attorney general during this time of war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: So what is it that the White House and Democrats are complaining about? They are complaining about a technique known as water boarding, which has been used for a very long time. It is used by some American forces to train people who may be captured, train members of the armed forces who may be captured.

We even had our own correspondent Steve Harrigan subject himself to water boarding. He was placed on his back, upside-down, water poured over him and up his nose, his feet above his head.

It scared the daylights out of him, but he is still with us, and we have not asked him, but I don't think he feels that he has been subjected to the prisons of tyrant regimes and Saddam Hussein's torture chambers, or any dark and descending stairways.

Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, FOX News contributors all.

Nonetheless, Senators fervently believe that water boarding is unquestionably torture, and is unconstitutional, and so forth. So how in the world does the Mukasey nomination — he will not go that far — how is he ever going to survive this, or is he?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: It all depends on Chuck Schumer, I think. It is going to come down to him who recommended Mukasey, and knows that Mukasey is a good man, and has in the past — actually, I have heard him say that he was proud of having resisted the ACLU back in the days when he was in the House and he was pushing a crime bill.

So, he is not —

HUME: So he is a potential pro vote in the judiciary committee where the nomination is presently presiding.

KONDRAKE: Exactly. And he is the key vote. If he votes for Mukasey with the Republicans, then Mukasey will get to the floor, and, presumably, Mukasey will be confirmed.

But what Whitehouse said is typical of the hysteria that has taken over the Democratic Party out of all this kind of stuff. The idea that what we do is in any way comparable to the Inquisition or to Saddam Hussein's torture chambers?

I would suggest that Whitehouse spend a week or a month, even, down at Guantanamo and see what we actually do with Al Qaeda prisoners, and then reviewed the tapes of Danny Pearl's beheading, or go visit the torture chambers that our troops have uncovered in Anbar province of Al Quida in Iraq. Those are the people we're dealing with.

It is simply outrageous that he would compare what his own country is doing to that kind of history. And it is only because of, basically, Bush- hatred that these people believe this kind of stuff.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The debate is actually not about whether you think water boarding is torture, because there are several Republicans who think that water boarding is torture, but still are supporting him.

What this debate is about

HUME: Mara, I think it is fair to say, though, that if they didn't think that water boarding was torture, they wouldn't have an issue.

LIASSON: That's true, but people like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Warner are saying — and they have been on record, John McCain first and foremost, that water boarding is torture and that it is illegal. But what they are saying is that Mukasey's answers on this question — that is what this fight is about, whether Mukasey satisfied senators when he answered the question by saying he does not know if it is legal because he does not know the context in which it was used.

And there was a very good article in the New York Times today which explains his position, which is that before he is actually confirmed, he cannot make a judgment on that because there are all sorts of people who have engaged in this activity as interrogators who could be liable to criminal prosecution.

So he is trying to preserve his ability to make the decisions as attorney general.

HUME: I wonder, do the Democrats who believe this, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ted Kennedy, and the rest of them, believe that the members of the armed forces who have used this as a training technique on some of our own people, should they, therefore, be prosecuted?

LIASSON: That's a good question.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: I do not think they have even thought of that, Brit.

My understanding is, and I would use, again, The New York Times as a source, says that water boarding has been used — since 9/11, water boarding has been used three times, and not since 2003, and that there is one famous case involving water boarding, and that was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He is the guy who was the mastermind of 9/11.

When they captured him in, I think, Islamabad in 2003, there was a question about what to do. Here is a guy — you talk about a high value prisoner — here's a guy who would be likely to know everything about what Al Qaeda had done, where the people were, what was planned, which terrorists were where, would know everything.

And so the question is, what do you do to get that information out of him? It's crucial. Do you water board, or not? Obviously the answer then was "yes, of course you water board to find out." We think we know that.

HUME: We think we know that.

BARNES: But I would say, of course, as Rudy Giuliani has said, whether to water board or not depends on circumstances. And of course it does, and in a circumstance like that you want to water board if you have to.

And for now, what you want to do is at least keep that option alive if another case comes along like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

LIASSON: A lot of this is because the senators do not know what has been done. Senator Specter actually suggested that they have closed hearings on the use of this technique. And that is what Mukasey is trying to do, I think, in his answers, saying until I actually know the situations in which has been used I cannot answer that question.

KONDRAKE: I do not think that the administration is capable of persuading these people short of sharing with them what has been done, what is being done, why it is being preserved.

HUME: Do you think that is going to do it?

KONDRAKE: I do not know. But it seems to me that there must be a group of senators who are still responsible enough about this to understand that if we are in a situation like the preliminaries to this plot to blow up airplanes over the Atlantic, that under those circumstances, we might have to do it.

We are not going to do it as a routine basis. This is not the GULAG as Whitehouse said. But in certain, limited circumstances we may have to.

HUME: Next up with the panel, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton heads towards the first primary elections with a bull's-eye on her back. Can she survive until then? How is it going? We will find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the course of three minutes I heard Senator Clinton say two different things. And when you get a yes or no question you cannot answer "yes and no."

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton was for it, she was against it, and she was not sure if she was for it or against it in the space of one answer.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y. AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In so many ways this all women's college prepared me to compete in the all boys club of presidential politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And how her audience at Wellesley, where she went to college, loved that. And even as the reviews are continuing to come in saying she did not have a good night in the debate the other night, her own team is out using the debate as fund-raising material.

And there is a fund-raising e-mail that went out today that said, among other things, "On that stage in Philadelphia, we saw six and one, candidates who had pledged the politics of hope, practiced the politics of pile on instead. Her opponents tried a whole host of attacks on Hillary."

Well, is it possible, Mara, that you think that this event in Philadelphia where she is deemed by most, anyway, to have not had a good night can be turned in her favor with fund-raising appeals and suggestions that it is a boys club that she was up against?

LIASSON: First of all, if you are a completely die hard Hillary fan, you do not like to see her criticized by anyone, let alone these guys, so maybe they could raise money off it. But in the immortal words of Fred Barnes, debates usually don't change things. But I think this debate did change something. I don't think it reversed the dynamic, or changed it in some huge way, but this was the first time that I think the aura of inevitability was dented a bit.

I don't think her opponents have ever been able to shine a spotlight on her weaknesses yet, and they did. And they did it with a number of questions where she, as Rudy Giuliani said — she was talking about the illegal immigrants getting a driver's license — where she seemed to be on both sides of the issue all at once.

She had a hard time saying "yes" or "no." And I think it resurrected the old stereotypes of Hillary as being secretive when she talked about the national archives —

HUME: The question about the archives was what, now?

LIASSON: Whether or not she would encourage her husband to lift the ban that he has placed on releasing correspondence between the two of them that are in the archives.

HUME: Or all the materials that would reveal what advice she gave, which she is citing as her experience, isn't she? She is saying I am qualified by reason of my first ladyship, right?

LIASSON: Maybe she has good reasons for not wanting to do it, but to say that it is beyond her control was just not completely accurate, as many commentators have pointed out, because it is up to the president. The National Archives has already cleared up to President Clinton if he wants these things to be released.

KONDRAKE: She needs a straight answer fast about this illegal immigrant law.

(CROSSTALK)

KONDRAKE: She is still saying that she is not for it, she is not necessarily for it. She is —

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: She said she supports this type of thing.

KONDRAKE: It is a yes or not. You either support this or you don't.

HUME: Her staff is saying that yes, she does support it.

KONDRAKE: This idea of using this gang of theme and the gender card that she is playing may work in the Iowa caucuses. And her staff says this is all about Iowa, and something like 55 percent of the Iowa caucus goers are, apparently women. So if she can get the lion's share of them and split up the guy vote, then she obviously wins.

But I think it is very unattractive for a general election candidate who wants to be the Commander in Chief of the free world to be saying they are ganging up on me.

This is the NFL, this is not Wellesley vs. Smith in field hockey. It is the NFL right now, but if she becomes president, is not the NFL, it is the law of the jungle, where you have very nasty people out there, and you cannot say they are ganging up on me.

BARNES: Mort, what she is doing is invoking the double standard, that if you have a bunch of guys that are criticizing — women have to be treated absolutely equally. But if men are attacking them, then they are picking on a woman, and that is unfair.

It is a double standard, and feminists have been using it for years. And now Hillary is using it. But it is a technique that will not work when you're running for president.

Why was she attacked? Why was she criticized? Not because she is a woman — she is the front runner. This always happens. Do guys whine when they are attacked? Yes they do.

HUME: Can sheet remedy the problem? The problem was evasiveness on a range of issues. Is she capable of giving the kind of straight answers in the next round or in the next phase of this campaign that will change it?

LIASSON: Sure — she can give a straight answer.

BARNES: There are five issues — the White House records, the drivers' licenses, Social Security, the Tax Bill of Charlie Rangel, and Iran. Five of them — she is incapable of it.

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