This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK LEAHY, (D-VT) SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I have known Eric Holder for a year. If he is President-elect Obama's selection to be the next attorney general, it will bring the kind of leadership and temperament, experience and judgment we need to restore the rule of law and rebuild the reputation of the Department of Justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, that is Pat Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary committee, suggesting that as far as he is concerned there would be no confirmation problems for one Eric Holder were he to be named as Barack Obama's selection for Attorney General, and we are given to believe that indeed Barack Obama has settled on him as the man he does indeed want.
Holder is a former U.S. attorney from the District of Columbia and former deputy attorney general under Janet Reno in the Clinton justice Department.
Some thoughts on him and Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano and others, now, more from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributors all.
Mort, we now get a little bit of a sense of the shape of this cabinet. What do you say?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: The first thing is the way it's being rolled out, or not rolled out. It seems to be vetting by trial balloon. In other words, these names come floating out, and the administration seems to see how much flak they attract. And they seem to be flying, so they will be made definite.
Holder is going to face some questioning, some serious questioning, about his conduct as deputy attorney general at the very end of the Clinton administration over the Mark Rich pardon, a guy that escaped the United States on fraud charges, and he was pardoned. And his wife gave a lot of money to the Clinton library.
HUME: And he has said that if he had to do over, he would do it differently. He recommended more or less in favor of it. I think he said he was somewhere between neutral and in favor of it, and then Clinton went ahead and did it.
KONDRACKE: Right. So that will be a fly up(ph).
But all the rest of them — the Penny Pritzker little boomlet has died. So that is the one glitch in this whole thing. Other than that —
HUME: She had a bank. The bank was deep in subprime loans.
KONDRACKE: And she was a big fundraiser. And do you want it to look like raising money gets you a cabinet job.
But Janet Napolitano, Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, all the White House staff, it seems to me, are experienced, solid people. And a lot of them are Clintonians, but nonetheless they are experienced and they're qualified. So I think they will be fine.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Look, Hillary Clinton used to say during the campaign that you need to have experience to make change, and it looks like that is what he is doing.
I think that he can't have the cabinet, or a least the four biggies, look like a Clinton restoration, and I don't think he will. But I do think-
HUME: You got Hillary-
LIASSON: You have Hillary Clinton. We do not know who the Treasury Secretary is going to be. We don't know who the Defense Secretary is going to be, maybe a Republican, maybe a holdover from the Bush administration if Bob Gates stays on.
You have Eric Holder, who, although he is a holdover, he is also the first African-American at Justice. You have to have enough governors in there and enough new people.
But I think that this is causing a certain amount of squawking on the left. Blogs are filled with disappointment that he is turning to people who seem so conventional.
But I think he is showing that he wants a lot of big heavy hitters on his team, he wants to get things done. And there is no alternative universe, there is no other Democratic bench. Most of them served in the Clinton administration and that's where you have to go.
HUME: Or in the case of Daschle in Congress.
LIASSON: Or in the Congress.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What is remarkable is that Obama ran and won on the promise of bringing in a new universe. He campaigned on change. All the other Democrats were in favor of change, and all of them would have done the changes in policy.
But his promise was he was not only going to change policy, he was going to change the way Washington works. That is what made him the transcendent change candidate.
And now, if you look at his appointees, you have got a former first lady, senator, you have a former chief of staff of the Clinton administration running his transition team, you have got the former deputy attorney general, Holder, of whom the Republican National Committee wickedly said the only person who thinks Eric Holder represents hope is Marc Rich. And then you have all of the formers.
Now, I am all in favor of this. This is continuity, which I what I supported in the campaign when I went for John McCain. So I am not against any of this. But it is, obviously, a difference.
He promised a fundamental internal change in the structure of Washington, and none of it is evident. He will have a change of policy, but —
HUME: Go ahead.
KRAUTAHMMER: The one of cabinet minister, secretary he needs to appoint most urgently is in Treasury. It is not in all of this other stuff. The markets, the world wants to know who will be doing what Paulson is doing and have an idea of which way it is headed. It is remarkable that is coming so late. It should have been done in week one.
KONDRACKE: The way I understand it is that worse it gets the more likely it is that Larry Summers will be back, who used to be in the Clinton administration.
HUME: Can you imagine a meeting between Larry Summers and Barney Frank? You would be able to make lunch off the stuff that's on those guys' ties.
KONDRACKE: That's OK. Larry Summers is strong and respected around the world because he was in charge-
HUME: A very smart guy, no doubt.
A new status of forces agreement with Iraq is not going over too well with some in Baghdad. What about it? The panel on that, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: This is an agreement between two sovereign nations. It is a very serious agreement. It takes care of both of our interests.
We very much look forward to the second reading in the council of representatives as soon as possible, and then the third reading, and then ultimately passage, because we need this to continue to do our work in support of the Iraqis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: Well, I suppose that the people over at the Pentagon and Geoff Morrell are hoping that the next reading and the reading after that in which there will be a lot of papers flying around the room and people shoving each other around in the Iraqi.
But it was democracy in action, and I mean action, as they were considering a measure, which appears to be in some difficulty.
So, Charles, what about this measure? It keeps U.S. troops legal in Iraq for a couple more years, by which time even our own generals assume they may be safely be removed. But what about the deal?
KRAUTAHMMER: Well, first of all, on the process, as you pointed out, it was a bit rowdy, although I did not see anybody pull out a gun, or a cane, as once happened in our Congress 150 years ago.
This is an amazing spectacle in and of itself, Democratic factions, openly debating the future of Iraq as a unified country. Amazing. Who would have imagined this two years ago? That is number one. Even if it fails — I think it will likely pass.
If it passes, is an amazing agreement. Everyone has looked at the dates of withdrawal. Incidentally, on the date of withdrawal, it will be the weekend before the Iowa caucuses. So it is a long way away. It is not tomorrow. It is really a long-term agreement.
But what is interesting is another provision which nobody has talked about — a 10-year agreement in which America guarantees Iraq security. In exchange, America gets the right to station its troops in land, air, and sea in Iraq, and equipment.
Essentially, it is a tight alliance between Iraq and America, a democratic Iraq and America, in the heart of the Middle East in one of the three most important countries in the Arab world, ranking after Egypt and ahead of Saudi Arabia.
It would be an amazing development — the changing of Iraq from a perennial enemy, a threat, to America and its neighbors and peace in the region and becoming a tightly knit military and political ally with America if it passes.
HUME: If it passes. That's the question. Mara, what do you think?
LIASSON: We do not know. But I do think there is a lot more to go. We love to see spectacles like that. Usually it is in even more durable democracies like Taiwan where you see those sorts of scuffles.
But I think that this was negotiated over a very long period of time. Nobody is saying that they think it is going to go down to defeat. It is going to be very difficult to get it passed.
And it would not be an amazing thing. Almost at the end of Barack Obama's first term he would be able to declare Iraq not only a success but that we're getting out.
KONDRACKE: The terms are supposed to be immutable that we will be gone at the end of 2011 and that we would be out of the cities in the middle of 2009.
HUME: What about the basing rights that Charles brought up?
KONDRACKE: That is very significant. I think it is combat troops that all have to be out by 2011.
But, you know, everything in Iraq is mutable and negotiable. If it looks as though there is violence in the cities, and American troops are needed in the cities, the Iraqis are able to let them back. And we can talk about the terms and that sort of thing.
There is a constant bargaining arrangement going on in Iraq. Everything is of bizarre. So the fact that this says that they have to be out of the cities doesn't mean that they have to be out of the cities.
HUME: So do you think it will pass?
KONDRACKE: I think it will pass. Ultimately I don't think there is much choice. I they don't pass it then they will have to have a new U.N. resolution, if they can get it, that would leave us in under our terms, not their terms. So they have an interest in passing it.
KRAUTAHMMER: And, remember, a lot of these demonstrations and arguments and protestations — it is all on national television in Iraq. Provincial elections are the last day, I think, of January, so a lot of this is posturing.
And the assumption is you scream loudly in parliament, it passes, which is what you really want. But if you are on record as opposing it, it will help you win elections.
I think this is a remarkable development, and if it succeeds, even though we might expect changes in government over time, I think it will endure.
HUME: So the idea is that if you're a politician in Iraq, if you disagree but want to go along with something, you should something like this.
KRAUTAHMMER: In Arabic.
HUME: In Arabic.
That is it for the panel.
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