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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Scott McClellan's Congressional Testimony and Government Wiretapping

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from June 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it was a marketing c ampaign or a propaganda campaign, however you want to refer to it. But I do not think there was a group sitting around trying to conspire to say let's mislead the American people. Instead, it was how do we may be strongest possible case?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: And there is Scott McClellan, the former press secretary speaking before a Congressional committee today with some explosive testimony, and getting plenty of reaction from members of congress.

Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

So, gentlemen, Scott talks about the effort to sell the war as a marketing campaign or as propaganda. What do you make of this, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, if you want to be an apostate, you need to be extremely intelligent. You do not have to be a Whittaker or a Chambers or a Christopher Hitchens, but it doesn't help to be a dolt.

Scott McClellan, unfortunately, is a dolt. Only a dolt would pretend that sitting around and asking how do we make the strongest case is the equivalent of propaganda. FDR made the strongest case for entering into World War II, Truman made the strongest case for the Korean War.

And for that matter, Kennedy and Johnson made the strongest case for the Vietnam War. A president who is taking a country to war has to make the case if he is going to commit American lives. That is exactly what the administration had done.

The implication that it was a deliberate lie, which is what propagandist is, is itself a deliberate lie. Who made the strongest case on behalf of the war? The single most dramatic presentation was Colin Powell at the U.N. He spent four days before that at the CIA, looking into all of the evidence. He gave it in good faith. He believed what he said, as did all of us who looked at his evidence and heard it, and he was wrong.

Now, that is a mistake. It is not lie. It is not propaganda.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Scott McClellan says today it was not consciously misleading. They did not sit around and lie to the American people.

And yet, the subtitle of this book is "the Subculture of Deception," and he has again and again implied and certainly fed the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, those who wanted to hear it, though some of them went so far as to say that the president ought to be in impeached over it, or Dick Cheney ought to be impeached over it, that is was a conscious lie.

But here he says flatly it was not a conscious lie. So if it was not a conscious lie, it was a mistake that they believed themselves. And that is what all the evidence suggests, that everybody who had any information about this believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

ANGLE: In fact, you had many Democratic members in Congress who were not relying on it the administration but on years of intelligence going back to the Clinton administration making the same case, and in many cases went even further than the administration did. Chairman Rockefeller of the Intelligence Committee called Iraq "an imminent threat." Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I remember that.

If Democrats want to use Scott McClellan as their chief witness against the Bush administration, they can have him. He is not credible.

Look, I know a lot about the White House, as Mort does and Charles do, and how it has operated under President Bush, and one of the things that's true is Scott McClellan was not a part of serious meetings and did not try to be.

You talk about incurious. He was painfully and chronically incurious. I actually interviewed him for a book I did on President Bush, and I quickly discovered that I knew a great deal more than he did.

I would disagree with one thing you said. I do not think his testimony was "explosive," really. Most of it had been heard before. I frankly do not think that Scott McClellan knows the difference between making a good case, marketing, and propaganda. He thinks they're all the same thing, I suspect.

ANGLE: He did suggest that the vice president, Karl Rove, Andy Card, and others should be brought up to Capitol Hill and forced to testify under oath. So he did get out there a bit.

BARNES: Why is his opinion on that valuable at all? I do not think it is.

ANGLE: The point is it was well received on Capitol Hill.

KONDRACKE: The fundamental thing about Scott McClellan is that he was a loyal supporter of President Bush, but he got burned. He got burned by putting out false information about the Valerie Plame case.

And some of it was a false. Scooter Libby did have a meeting with Judy Miller of "The New York Times" right after the Joe Wilson column came out, and apparently told her that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. So the word was -- I mean, all the evidence suggests this.

BARNES: That charge was one that Patrick Fitzgerald throw out, as I recall.

KONDRACKE: There was nothing illegal about it.

BARNES: No, there was a lack of evidence.

ANGLE: They didn't know that she was under Carver, and therefore it was not a crime. And all they basically said was to confirm what journalists called them and asked them about.

Nevertheless, a lot of the statements he made today were taken as sort of the basis for impeachment, if you will. And I want you to hear what some of the critics, long-time critics of the Bush administration said today, because they were very impressed with McClellan's statements. Let's hear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ROBERT WEXLER, (D) FLORIDA: You are the first high official in this administration to come before this Congress and offer us a glimpse into the truth. I commend you for being here today.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, (D) TEXAS: Not only am I proud of you as an American, but I am certainly proud of you as a fellow Texan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Can knighthood be far behind?

BARNES: Sainthood.

KRAUTHAMMER: The thing that I thought was the most comical about that was calling him "a high official." He was, as Fred indicated, completely out of the loop.

Look, the reason Democrats have him it up there is that they expected Iraq would be a winning issue in 2008 as it was in 2006. It is not. The only issue on Iraq is to make an argument about the origins of the war because Americans are unhappy about its length and the cost.

But they do not want to have an argument about what is happening on the ground right now and what ought to be done in the future. Just today, the Iraqi government took the last stronghold of the Mahdi Army, Amara, without a shot, surrendered, turning in their weapons, and took control, essentially, of all of southern Iraq.

This is momentous stuff that Democrats do not want any of this discussed, because the policy they adopted in 2006 of withdrawal would be catastrophic, and they know it.

ANGLE: When we return, the president gets the immunity he wanted for telecommunications companies that helped the government listen in after 9/11. Did the Congress cave in? The all-star discuss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER, (D) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: This measure provides the intelligence community with a strong authority to surveil foreign terrorists who seek to harm this country.

REP. ROY BLUNT, (R) HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: This has nothing to do with domestic wiretapping. In fact, if there is anything this has to do with domestic, it strengthens beyond any previous time the protections for Americans, both in America and abroad, and anyone in America.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: Some in the press have said that under this legislation that this Bill would allow warrantless surveillance of Americans. That is not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Now, there are talking about the new FISA legislation. Speaker Pelosi is a little sensitive there because some of her Democratic colleagues suggested this new Bill tramples civil liberties.

What actually happened today, gentlemen, was a new Bill let's sets the rules for the next four years. It also gives the telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for their cooperation after 9/11.

Another day, another compromise. Charles, what is going on here?

KRAUTHAMMER: It was a cave, actually.

The compromise on the modalities of tapping bad guys abroad had been sort of roughly agreed to. What was holding it up was Democrats insisting that the lawsuits against the telephone companies go ahead, which would have been unconscionable.

They were given a legal order, a request, by the government after 9/11, at a time when we were blind. They acted patriotically and legally and correctly, and they are now immune, which will help us in the future, because we're going to have a crisis in the future, and we are going to have to call on them. We do not want them refusing on the grounds that they will get sued.

The Democrats caved on this, and that is why we have a compromise.

ANGLE: Let me ask this, how can people sue -- there was one suit where people were suing over this -- you can sue the government, of course, but suing the telecommunications companies -- and it was thrown out because they were ruled not have standing because none of them knew whether or not they had been surveilled.

That also means that you may have been listened to, but you just could not prove it. But how do we go forward with lawsuits in any case?

KONDRACKE: I do not know how you go forward, unless you have a judge who is willing to order discovery in order to find out whether you were tapped or not.

Look, the meaning of this whole thing, I think, a political meaning is that Barack Obama denounced the grant of immunity today.

So this should fix people's minds on what will happen if Barack Obama is President of United States and has 60 Democratic votes in Congress.

What the body of what the Democrats wanted to do in this case -- Steny Hoyer -- managed to work a compromise, is to deny the telecom companies immunity, which means that they would be scared to death to cooperate with the administration and tap foreign terrorists.

Furthermore, what else would happen is that terror suspects caught on the battlefield would be given full constitutional rights in the United States, which means that Marines fighting in Afghanistan would have to go searching the battlefield to go pickup straight, spent shells in order to gather forensic evidence while people are shooting at them.

This is what it means if the Democrats win a big victory in this election. There will be healthcare for children -- that is good. But the cost to the United States and national security will be grave.

BARNES: Health insurance, not healthcare.

ANGLE: Fred, does this legislation make clear, finally, that there will be no such thing, at least going forward, as domestic surveillance of American citizens? Will this satisfy all but the fiercest critics?

BARNES: It will satisfy all but the fiercest critics. That is a good way to put it.

What this does with the telecoms is it compels them, it requires them if the administration acts. And this is what they want. They want to be compelled. They do not want to have some say in it, and then they have a lawsuit against them because they had a choice, and they agreed.

Mort gave a big "unless," and it was the right one, because there should not be lawsuits at all, unless you get some crazy judge, of which there are a lot.

ANGLE: That is it for the panel.

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