This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 2, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK CRODDY, FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER: It's one thing if someone believes in what is going on over there and volunteers. I am sorry, but, basically, that is a potential death sentence, and you know it.
And then another thought—who will take care of our children? Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF.: I think we should fire those folks that don't want to go. You can't have people on the payroll who refuse to be deployed to the tough places.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, CO-HOST: There you see some of the back-and-forth over this issue at the State Department this week at a town hall meeting, where some officers said they did not want to be assigned to go to Iraq.
Now the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has weighed in with a cable to all diplomats, sending it out today, saying "Regardless of how the jobs may be filled, they must be filled. It is our duty to do our part towards succeeding in the vital mission in Iraq given to us by the President."
Now some analytical observations from Jeff Birnbaum, columnist of the Washington Post, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
Some of the back and—it was amazing to watch that town hall meeting, Jeff. The vitriol for some of these Foreign Service officers about possibly being assigned to Iraq—there has not been a decision yet, but it might be that.
JEFF BIRNBAUM: That's right, they may be forced to go. And they should be forced to go. I think that is part of their duty.
I think you can make too much of these protests. There were also plenty of Foreign Service officers who were more than willing to go, and have gone on many occasions.
But it is a straw in the wind that Foreign Service officers were willing to stand up in public and to protest in this way. It is an indication that in the main diplomatic agency of the country that there is a lot of discontent, as there is in the rest of the country, and as an indication of the problem that the Iraq policy has among people who are expert in foreign policy issues.
I do not think this means the State Department is in disarray, or any of the bigger issues that are being talked about, especially in left-wing blogs, but it does mean that there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and it is inside the government as well as outside.
BAIER: Mort, you heard Republican presidential candidate and Congressman Duncan Hunter there saying so what, fire them. If they do not want to go, fire them.
MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: They should be fired. They took an oath of office to serve where they were assigned. And if they refuse to serve, then anybody who refuses to serve ought to be subject to dismissal.
And that fellow Croddy said that this is a sentence of death, or something like that? The fact is that in the whole time since 2003, precisely three State Department employees have been killed in Iraq. Two of them were diplomatic security people. One was a political officer of the embassy there.
So this is not a sentence of death. Is it dangerous? Sure it is dangerous. But Foreign Service officers from the founding of the republic have been serving in dangerous places, some of them very heroically. And these people, who are complaining about this are, frankly, an embarrassment to the history of the Foreign Service.
BAIER: Charles, Jeff mentioned it there—the left is painting this as an uprising, a revolt by the State Department official who don't want to serve in a war that is never-ending. Is that going to stick.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: We had Foreign Service officers that resigned at the time of the invasion on principle, which is an honorable thing to do.
But this, I think, is less honorable, because, as Mort said, when you take an oath to serve, it is worldwide, and you do not pick and choose. And you have an option of resigning. If you are in the military, you do not have an option of resigning. That is desertion.
And it is not as if the Foreign Service officers don't know of dangers abroad. We had our ambassador in Dudan shot and killed in 1973 by Arab terrorists. Three years later the U.S. ambassador of Lebanon, Francis Malloy, was shot and killed.
We have had the explosions in our embassies in Tanzania and in Kenya. Just about every American embassy in the world has been pelted, attacked, surrounded, and in some way threatened around the world, and you know that going in, and you should not be surprised if you are at one or some other occasion in your life assigned in a dangerous area. I think this is an open and shut case.
BAIER: Is there a chance, Jeff, that they cannot fill these positions for volunteers, and they have to forcibly send someone over there, and they have this revolt that has been painted by the left?
BIRNBAUM: We do not know if that is going to be the case. They have sent out warnings, essentially, to 250 Foreign Service officers that 50 openings in Iraq will have to be filled.
My guess is that they will probably be filled voluntarily. And if the State Department says you must go, Foreign Service officers are very loyal people, for the most part. I am not sure we saw an indicative sample in this town hall meeting.
I think they will go. This will probably blow over, but it has created a flap that we will hear about through the weekend.
BAIER: And quickly, Mort, the politics of all this—you heard Nancy Pelosi weighing in on it—
KONDRAKE: The enemies of the war are going to use whatever evidence they can to criticize it.
The fact is that the war is going better than it ever has before. We know the casualty levels are down. We have an opportunity to succeed. And at some point, if this continues, the Democrats are going to be embarrassed by this.
BAIER: That is it for this topic with out panel.
When we come back, Barack Obama says he would talk directly with Iranian leadership. Is that bold statesmanship or foolishness? We will discuss that next.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's the potential, at least, for us finding ways of peacefully resolving some of our conflicts, and that effort has not been attempted. And if we don't make that attempt, then we are going to find ourselves continuing on a path that Bush and Cheney have set.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The idea of begging your enemies here to negotiate with you is a fundamentally flawed position. You have got to have a position of strength.
BAIER: Senator Barack Obama saying today that if elected president he would engage what he called in aggressive personal diplomacy with Iran, and you heard Rudy Giuliani weighing in on that tactic.
We're back with our panel. Charles, we have been here before. Barack Obama has said this before. What is new, and how is it playing on the campaign trail?
KRAUTHAMMER: Now it is an aggressive diplomacy, so it is not just the wimpy diplomacy, but it is the aggressive kind.
Of course, he takes all aggression, all threats, everything serious off the table in advance, so it is the old would be diplomacy he is talking about—chatting with the Iranians as a way to denuclearize them.
And he says that this hasn't been attempted, and he invokes Cheney and Bush. The Germans, the French and the British had three years of negotiations, not Cheney or Bush, none of our baggage. They had all of these ideas and attempted every means of having to deal and got no where.
He talks about sticks and carrots. In his story in the New York Times, there is nothing in there that has to do with sticks. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, there was a resolution calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guards terrorists and imposing economic sanctions only, a very soft step. He proudly has denounced it. And that is not even a stick. It's a twig, and he was against it. This man is all carrots and extremely unserious.
BAIER: Mort, this is about driving a wedge, or trying to, between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
KONDRAKE: It is all about Iowa. And Iowa famously dovy, and so Obama is doing whatever he has to do to appeal to the Iowa antiwar crowd.
But there is a third way between this war talk that you get from the Republicans, and the hat in hand diplomacy they you get from lots of the Democrats. There is a fellow named Mark Kirk, who is a Republican congressman from Illinois who is the cochairman of the Iran working group, who recommends that we cut off Iran's gasoline.
They import 40 percent of their gasoline. You do not have to blockade. You can do it with sanctions against the suppliers. Cut off World Bank loans, you create possibilities for China to get its energy elsewhere but besides Iran, but you also talk to them.
He says we talked to Milosevic in the course of undermining him. We talked to Gaddafi in the process of getting him to give up nuclear weapons. And you stop the war talk, but you apply heavy duty sanctions that really bite on the Iranians, and this is coercive diplomacy.
It is not the kind of, as Charles says, all carrot diplomacy that Obama is suggesting.
BAIER: And now Senator Obama has a resolution he wants to raise in the Senate to say that the president will have to come to congress, right?
BIRNBAUM: Right—before going to war with Iran, which the president is not suggesting, as best as I can tell, or anyone else is, for that matter.
I think, too, what is going on here is that to the liberal left of the Democratic Party, the people who come out in largest numbers to vote in primaries and caucuses, Iran is the new Iraq.
Things are going pretty well in Iraq, as Mort pointed out, earlier, and Iran and the possibility of going to war there, the bogeyman of the Bush administration taking us to war there is the most important symbol that somebody running to get a lot of Democratic primary voters can possibly invoke.
It is representative of the establishment of Washington. Obama is trying to make himself to be an outsider. That is why he is pushing hard, and it is working, because it has put Hillary Clinton on the defensive for a while and given him a chance in the early caucus and primary states.
It is actually working, even though he may not be serious in a purely foreign policy sense.
BAIER: Yes or no—does Hillary Clinton benefit from all of this?
BIRNBAUM: No, I think she does not benefit. She loses with the early primary voters.
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