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Special Report

Necessary Evil?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report, “October 15, 2010, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JAMES CONWAY, MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: I think that the current system is functional and that it also provides for better unit cohesion and less difficulty when it comes to disciplinary issues, and especially so at a time when we're at war. So there may be times to make these kinds of changes. I would start with the fact that now is probably not the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS REPORTER: "Now is not the time," says General James Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps in an exclusive interview with our Jennifer Griffin today. Alright, let's talk about it with our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Great to see you all on this Friday night.

Steve, let me start out with that. The issue of timing -- this is now not the time to do it as the general said.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: As someone who's actually sympathetic to overturning the policy eventually and to support what the president wants to do, I'm actually quite sympathetic also with General Conway's comments. We are in the middle of a war. This is not a time to be sort of reaching in and tinkering when you’re talking about a potential effect on unit cohesion when you have units in the field at war fighting on a daily basis.

In the long term I think this is something that can be gotten over and I think it is time to let people gays and lesbians who want to serve in the U.S. Military, serve and serve openly. I think we're reaching that point. And certainly there are surveys that have been done by the Military Times and other folks that indicate even inside the military that view, it's still not a majority view, but the people who oppose the policy are minimal, or decreasing.

BREAM: And we know that there is a split within the military brass about this particular issue. Nia, what do you think? The president made bold promises about getting this thrown out. How much pressure is there on him to deliver and sway those who still aren't in agreement?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: There is pressure from the liberal community and there is certainly pressure from gay rights advocates, and they have been very disappointed so far in this president who seems to talk very boldly on one hand, but not do much to push this along in Congress.

His administration has, of course, come out and said they would like a stay for this recent decision, and the Pentagon has gone ahead and said they have to acknowledge this decision and probably will stop discharges.

But I think Steve Hayes is right. There is the -- the general society seems to that this is a good idea to have this is repealed. The polls are something like 80 percent that say this should be lifted. So I think at this point it's just a matter of time.

BREAM: Charles, General Conway said, as we saw in Jennifer's piece today, that he said 90 to 95 percent of marines he asks don't want it repealed. There is a decision coming December 1, and many urge and say wait and let it be done through Congress, in the legislative body versus the courts. What is your take on that?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the process is important. Conway, who wants to retain the policy, and the president, who opposes it, agree on the process. As you say, the federal judge ruled that the policy is unconstitutional has to be overturned and should no longer be enforced.

And the federal government under Obama in a principled way went and tries to get a stay of that ruling and to overturn it on the theory, and I think it's a correct one, that you don't make major changes in the mores of country through the judges and not through the legislatures.  The real example of that we learned through our chagrin was abortion where the courts acted unilaterally and preempting a process.  Even liberal Justice Ginsburg has said that by short-circuited the normal legislative process which would have and was amending the abortion laws in many states, by short circuiting it what the court did was prolong civil strife and to prevent a stable settlement of the issue.  You don't want something like that to happen again with issues like gay marriage or with "don't ask, don't tell." It should be done in Congress. Look, there is a generational shift here. In time it will be abolished and it ought to be done the right way so it becomes a stable settlement and not a source of friction, protest, and an argument that remains unsettled and can't be settled inside the legislative process.

BREAM: We will see where it continues to wind through, whether it is the courts or Congress or both of them.  But another topic that Jennifer touched on today with General Conway was the issue of withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Here is a bit of what he said to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: If in fact you accept it as conditions-based and if you acknowledge, and simply a glance at the map will show you regard to intensity of effort and whether the real fights are taking place, that it's Kandahar and Helmand province in the south. So if you accept that conditions will drive our draw down, it's not logical then that we would start drawing down there first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: We know other military leaders said the same. General Petraeus has talked about the fact that we’re not all going to disappear from Afghanistan in July 2011. But that has been the goal. Nia, what do you make of his comments?

HENDERSON: That has been the goal. One thing you have seen in the meantime is the Taliban stepping in there with propaganda and saying there will be a vacuum come 2011 and softening some of their stances on women's rights. So that I think really speaks to the problem with this deadline.

But as the president said and as the general said here it's not likely the U.S. in 2011 will shut out lights and just leave Afghanistan.

BREAM: So much of this is dependent on how the police force there, the security forces are trained, how the government comes together.  We know, Steve, there has been chaos in some of those factions there. Do you see it coming together?

HAYES: General Conway has said that the most important moment in this counterinsurgency will come if and when the Taliban and people we are fighting recognize they will never win the war. He's right, he's absolutely right about that.

The problem is they right now think they can win the war in August 2011. If you talk to people on the ground as I do somewhat regularly, and they will tell you that the policy is devastating. I think it's great that General Conway is speaking out. He said it gives the enemy sustenance.  But nothing will matter until President Obama says and says clearly the policy is inoperative.

BREAM: And Charles, I know you have written about this and talked about this. Is the president fully invested in winning in Afghanistan?

KRAUTHAMMER: When you hear him and when you read what’s in the Woodward book where it appears as if the main objective is some exit, any exit, he doesn't want to go against the Democratic Party, I think he’s not invested. And I think it's the signal that our enemies and our allies are getting in the region.  But you get the generals, Conway, Petraeus, and others saying it yes, it will depend on the conditions. You get the Secretary of Defense saying that. But in the end the people on the ground, meaning the peasant in Kandahar, has to decide which side he throws his lot. He's not going to judge it on the basis of some stuff emanating on a talk show in Washington or interview he reads, because he doesn't, he just hears what the president says.  I'm with Steve on this. Unless the president makes very clear that we are staying and that that deadline is not the beginning of inevitable irreversible withdrawal, I think it’s going to hurt us and hurt the morale and hurt the conduct of the war.

BREAM: You mention the Woodward book. Very interesting that the general talked with Jennifer about that today and was very unhappy some of ways he was portrayed and the information there. He said maybe 10 percent of it was accurate. So much more from Jennifer's interview.

You voted on the homepage at Foxnews.com/specialreport for your favorite topic in Friday lightning round. The winner is up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BREAM: Every week on the Foxnews.com/specialreport page, voters -- excuse me, voters, you are voters, but viewers, viewers vote on the topic to discuss first during the Friday lightning round. Charles' wildcard pick won by a landslide and Charles is going to tell us what that topic is.

KRAUTHAMMER: Once again, I'm humbled by the victory.

(LAUGHTER)

BREAM: Gracious in victory.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm not easily humbled.

Wild card question this week is worth looking into these election events here in the U.S. In Lebanon there was a visit by the president of Iran and the question I have, was this an important event in the region or just theater? I think this is an extremely important event. The correct answer is extremely important event for two reasons.

I think what it does; it shows the bankruptcy of two important Obama policies in the region, the idea that we have somehow isolated Iran is mocked here.  Here is a guy that we sit on the screen in a triumph touring a country that is allegedly is a pro-western country, Lebanon.

Secondly, our policy of appeasing Syria, hoping to detach it from its alliance with Iran, is a complete disaster. Syria controls Lebanon and it’s an ally of Iran. We saw it all there. The policy has really, really hit a dead end.

BREAM: That's quite a welcome there. What is the message for Israel or the U.S.?

HAYES: I think this is part of a problem which goes beyond what Charles said in that the Obama administration we saw a perfect example of how they treat Iran on the one hand and Israel on the other. They dismiss the Ahmadinejad visit as sort of provocation. He in effect said the Zionists will be gone, issued threat of a new holocaust.

The State Department said it's a provocation, didn't condemn it.  No harsh words. Just a provocation, acknowledged the obvious.

Then when it comes to Israel granting tenders for 240 new housing units, the administration expressed disappointment. Why the difference?

BREAM: Good point.

We're going to turn now back to our domestic election politics.  Last night Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, hoping to hold on to his seat and Sharron Angle squared off in Vegas. Here's a bit of their debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER D-NEV.: This is an extreme idea and is not good and will destroy Social Security.

SHARRON ANGLE, SENATE CANDIDATE R-NEV.: Man up, Harry Reid.  You need to understand that we have a problem with Social Security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: Nia, who came out on top?

HENDERSON: I have to say Angle. She needed to sound credible and Reid needed to sound confident and strong. He didn't sound like those things. He sounded very much like a creature of Washington. He referred to the CBO and actuaries and the Hyde amendment, very much Washington speak.

And Angle came across credible and personable. I think that line when she says to Harry Reid "Man up," that was a real winner for her. I don't think debates usually turn the tide in elections, but this one certainly could.

BREAM: It's so tight. A lot of pundits said it was up to her to present that she was at least a viable option to Harry Reid. A lot of Nevadans are not happy with him anymore. She had zingers about him living at the Ritz Carlton here in Washington. Charles, how did she do?

KRAUTHAMMER: She zinged him on that, but I think her main objective was to counter the weeks and weeks of Reid advertising portrayed her as an extremist. So all she had to do was be normal and regular and personable.

That is what happened to Reagan in 1980 because he was attacked as an extremist, a right wing nut, and when he shows up in his debates with Carter he was a completely reasonable man and completely undid that theme.  I think she did that in the debate and I think it will help her a lot in this election.

BREAM: Alright, someone else not worried about their seat but more their leadership position, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There are some Dems out there campaigning in the political fight of their life and they're breaking with her a bit. Here’s a couple of those ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Georgia is a long way from San Francisco.  Jim Marshall is a long way from Nancy Pelosi. Jim Marshall doesn't support Nancy Pelosi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’ve heard my constituents and they don't want a liberal running the House. They want a conservative. I'm going to vote for the person who will allow me to represent my constituents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: They laid it out there, not voting for Nancy Pelosi. She is running the show for now.

HAYES: They sound like Republicans. It's true across the country. Nancy Pelosi is popularity in districts like her own district but very few others. If you look at Midwest and the south, she is not popular.  This is one of the only ways they can save their seat.

BREAM: If somehow the House remains in Democrat control, how much trouble are the guys in with her?

HENDERSON: I think Pelosi looks at this and says every man for himself. Do what you have to do to win. She has a thick skin. She may represent liberals in San Francisco but she learned about politics in Baltimore. So I doubt there would be real retribution should she hold onto the seat.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm a skeptic this will work. I may be hyper rational or logical on this, but if you make an advertisement saying I don't want a liberal running the House, doesn't that suggest if you are a voter you should elect a Republican? Isn't that the way to do it?

So if you are a Democrat doing it, I'm not sure it works if your favor if the voter stops to think about the implications.

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