This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", May 19, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: The New York Post may be a rambunctious, tabloid newspaper but it's unusual for it to use its front page to rebuke a national investigating commission for its performance. One of those who writes for that page is the columnist John Podhoretz, who joins me now from our New York studios.
JOHN PODHORETZ, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Thank you.
HUME: First of all, how is -- how is -- how are those hearings being received in New York City?
PODHORETZ: Well, the television stations in New York have gone wall to wall with the hearings, postponing all daytime programming to bring them to New Yorkers. So, I think the hearings are being watched with extraordinary intensity. And I think that for a lot of people in New York, what happened today and yesterday were the nails in the coffin of this commission.
HUME: Why do you say that?
PODHORETZ: Well, the decision by John Lehman, the panelist whom we saw derogating the command and control, and comparing it to the Boys Scouts -- Lehman, of course, one of the Republicans on the commission, was I think, a hinge moment in the commission's proceedings. Because what we had here was a commissioner making one of the outbursts that the commission has become notorious, I think, over the last couple of months.
And that outburst was challenged and attacked by one of the panelists, which did not happen in Washington. Thomas von Essen, who was commissioner at the fire department at the time, and Bernard Kerik, who was the police department commissioner, said that Lehman did not know what he was talking about. That he did not understand how the fire department and police department worked together. That these were not military agencies.
These were agencies with wildly different missions, wildly different purposes. And the notion that in a space of a two-hour chaos, in which something had happened that could never have been planned for, that they were unable to sort of work in wonderful and wondrous lockstep. It was not something to be anticipated and could not be something for which they should be blamed.
They're right, I believe. But even if they're not right, the fact that panelists challenge the commission said, you are out stepping, overstepping and going beyond the dictates of good tastes, decorum and appropriateness in what you are saying. I think is the thing that a lot of people have been waiting for, but that people in Washington, those testifying in Washington, have been simply too afraid to throw at the commissioners.
HUME: Now, how -- to what do you attribute the Washington behavior? We had some of this in Washington, where it seemed that some members of the audience who were family members, who had influence it seems on this commission were there. And they would applaud frequently, usually when there was criticism of the Bush administration tended to trigger the applause here in Washington. It seemed a wilder scene there in New York. Is that just the way the Big Apple is?
PODHORETZ: Well, yes and no. I mean one of the outbursts was provoked by a man named Chris Brodeur, who is to put it mildly, a political eccentric in New York City, somebody who has been a very minor party candidate for mayor. Who is somebody that every journalist in town has gotten very odd e-mails from at all times of the day and night, angry phone calls left on voice mails. Not somebody, to put it mildly, who should have been granted a seat in the New School University's room.
One of the other provokers was Sally Regenhart, who was the mother of a firefighter who died, and who has taken it upon ... to argue that the fault, the murder here, is the responsibilities of the Port Authority of New York city, the owners and for a long time, and the builders of the World Trade Center on the grounds. That the building was improperly designed so that it, you know, collapsed the way that it collapsed. These are odd, eccentric views. They do not represent anybody's mainstream.
HUME: In New York.
Now, tell me, the commission today seemed more subdued. Perhaps it's the force of the personality of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (search) at work there. Perhaps it's a sign of the commission having done what had did yesterday, which was very much -- I think it's fair to say, of a piece of the way it behaved in Washington. Many long statements, conclusions announced from the day and so on. What is your sense of why it was more subdued today? We only have about 20 seconds to go here.
PODHORETZ: I think it was our headline and the headline in the Daily News, the other tabloid in town. I think they were chastened, I think they were shocked. I think they were upset and they were frightened by this public explanation that the views -- the extremist views of some of the tens of thousands of family members of those who died, that the extremes do not represent the views either of New Yorkers or of the massive family members.
HUME: All right. John Podhoretz, Thanks very much.
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