'Special Report' Panel on Ted Kennedy and the House's Rare Decision to Override a Presidential Veto

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from May 21, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I also want to pay homage today to not only the members of Congress who are behind me, but also to Senator Ted Kennedy, who has worked for over a decade to get this piece of legislation to the president's desk.

All of us are so pleased that Senator Kennedy has gone home, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.


BRIT HUME, HOST: So the president signed that Bill, which is a Bill dealing with — what was it? It was a Bill dealing with genetic information.

And Senator Kennedy, meanwhile, as you heard the president say, has left the hospital today, somewhat to the surprise of some people, but I guess the doctors feel until they decide on what the treatment will be, he apparently feels fine. He looks pretty good for a man 75. That's the way he usually looks when he is getting around the Senate when we have all seen him.

Tonight he is at the family compound down in Hyannisport on Cape Cod, a place that he, obviously, and all the rest of the family like very much. There you see the family dog is there to greet him. We wish him well.

Some thoughts on Senator Kennedy now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

David Broder, considered by many to be the Dean of Washington political correspondents, said of Senator Kennedy today that he was the most effective, and Senator McCain has said as much, the most effective single member of the United States Senate, and has been that for a very long time.

Too strong, not strong enough, what? Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think that's accurate. He has passed immigration legislation and refugee legislation, and legal reforms, and all kinds of stuff.

Most of it has been very liberal stuff that he has been trying to do, but when it requires reaching across party lines to Orrin Hatch from Utah, the Republican, or John McCain, he has been there to do it, to get half loaves when necessary.

I had an interview with him a couple of weeks ago in which he was describing what happened with Medicare in 1964. It failed. The 1964 election comes along, you have a landslide; in 1965 it gets passed.

And he was hoping that you get Barack Obama elected president, expand the number of Democratic seats in the Senate close to 60, and get a whole raft of stuff that he has been working on his whole life — universal healthcare coverage, card checks for labor unions, and stuff like that through the congress.

One hopes that he's around to see it if that's the way — if Obama wins the presidency.

HUME: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I would say he was a great man and great leader. He still is. He really — the thing that I admired the most was his stand on immigration. He would be willing to vote against liberal amendments in order to get a compromise immigration Bill through, which most of the Democratic senators wouldn't do.

HUME: Including Barack Obama.

BARNES: Including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

He really represented all that was good about liberalism. He also represented a lot that was bad about liberalism. And he represented that very aggressively as well, particularly when you think of some of the most distinguished and highly qualified judicial nominees that he would just reject out of hand because they were conservative.

And, certainly, he had no interest in reforming entitlement programs or spending programs where the spending was out of control. I thought his social and welfare ideas and policies were counterproductive. But those are the complaints of a conservative.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He wasn't just the lion of the Senate, he was the lion of American liberalism. He really was the liberal Ronald Reagan.

HUME: And is.

KRAUTHAMMER: His political career and his legacy, yes.

I'm sorry, but his diagnosis is so negative and unfortunate and difficult — I'm sure that the family has already heard how difficult a glioma is, that all of us are tending to speak of him in the past. I'm sure he will be back in the Senate. He seems rather healthy now, and this is a question of when and how it will affect him in the future. We will probably see a lot of him in the Senate.

However, we are looking at a legacy of a man who has been in the Senate longer than anyone except Robert Byrd. He is a man who shaped America through legislation. Reagan affected America by changes the ethos and making it an essentially conservative country, and explaining ideas and propagating them and having to accepted.

Kennedy never succeeded in that. His rhetoric was soaring, but it appealed only to American liberals. But he changed the way the country acts and works from immigration to labor laws to civil rights to a host of other things.

HUME: And he is unusual in that regard. You mentioned Reagan. Reagan is noted for his speechmaking, his rhetorical skills. Reagan wasn't a great extemporaneous speaker, but he could get through it.

Senator Kennedy at time was almost incoherent. When referring to Barack Obama he got stumbling and referred to him as "Osama Obama."

But he was capable up until the 1980's in particular, with preparation of a written speech, mostly by the fabled Bob Shrum the speechwriter, to deliver these soaring speeches, which would send Democratic audiences into spells.

KRAUTHAMMER: It proves that in the American Congress, coherence is not only not a prized quality, it is not a terribly necessary one. He got stuff done, coherent, eloquent or not, and that is his incredible achievement.

KONDRACKE: In every hearing that he would be in almost where he wanted to confront somebody, there would be this — Teddy Kennedy with a prepared statement, but he would emote. And it was memorable. He was always on T.V.

HUME: And sometimes it could be very harsh, and it didn't matter to him if it was extremely unfair. It was often effective.

BARNES: He always riveted your attention.

HUME: He was and is a compelling figure, which is one reason why we're talking about him tonight, and why all of us, whether we disagree with him on issues or not, wish him well and would like to see him come back.

When we come back, the House does something it rarely does — a veto override, this one on the Farm Bill. Why are the Republicans all for this? We'll find out when we come back.



JIM NUSSLE, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET DIRECTOR: Congress sent us a bloated Bill with too much spending, not enough reform, budget gimmicks and even more earmarks. And so today the president has vetoed the Farm Bill as he has promised.

REP. MARILYN MUSGRAVE, (R) COLORADO: This Farm Bill is this much of the federal budget, and it is an important thing for food security, food safety for rural America. So I will proudly lead the fight to override the veto.


HUME: You notice the letter next to her designation as being from Colorado — that was an "R," folks, and Marilyn Musgrave was one of 100 Republicans out of 194 who voted on that, which means that the Republican majority voted to override the president on a spending Bill at a time when the Republican Party is in bad odor with some of the public, particularly over its own base, over the issue of, yes, spending.

So what about politics of this?

We ought to say before we go into this that apparently the Bill that the president vetoed wasn't the Bill Congress passed because of some kind of a clerical error. They may have to go through this exercise again because the wrong Bill got sent, the wrong Bill got vetoed, the wrong Bill got veto overridden.

But we are confident that we now know where the votes are. It was easily overridden, with Republicans joining Democrats to do so. Your thoughts, Fred.

BARNES: I think Republicans are successfully re-branding themselves. They are re-branding themselves as what — someone referred to them as "Me too" Republicans. The Democrats do something, and the Republican's say "Me too." But they're for a little less spending, here they're for the same amount.

I think for Republicans who are for curbing spending, ending waste in principal, I think this is an utter disgrace that a majority in the House, a majority of Republicans, and in the Senate voted for it. And thank heaven for somebody to stand up loudly like John McCain and vote against it.

Of course Mr. "Bring us together," and Mr. "New Politics," Barack Obama, he voted for it.

KONDRACKE: I think this is a terrific opportunity for John McCain to brand himself as not only apart from his party, but as a Teddy Roosevelt-style reformer.

And he is doing this on a number of fronts. He is against corporate breaks of all kinds, subsidies of all kinds, ethanol subsidies and the rest of it.

You were talking about how the Republicans voted, but the Democrats voted 216-14 in favor of this. Now, the Democrats, including Obama and Clinton, are complaining that rich oil companies are getting subsidies, but here they're voting in favor of subsidies for rich farmers.

KRAUTHAMMER: The override here is a demonstration of why the Republicans in the House and Senate are going to be crushed in November, and why it will be deserved, and why McCain's, who is the most un- Republican Republican, the most independent, and the one who acts as a maverick, has a chance.

And that is because he is a guy who in his entire career has always seen himself as a man of action of a national interest against special interests. Sometimes his view of the national interests is not one I would agree with — on immigration and other stuff — but I admire him in having a national perspective.

As was indicated earlier, Obama is the guy who is pretending he is the national candidate, he is the guy who brings us together, who transcends race and party and ideology on all this, and he is the guy who supported this travesty of a Bill.

HUME: You can certainly say he has bipartisan support on that.

BARNES: This is the oldest of the old politics.

KRAUTHAMMER: Log rolling on the highest level. The urban guys who want the subsidies and the food programs, and the rural guys who want the high government price supports. Everybody rolls along, everybody is happy. The only person who ends up robbed is the American taxpayer — and the rural economy, which ends up being distorted and introducing all kinds of inefficiencies.

BARNES: And food costs more as a result — sugar, everything costs more.

KONDRACKE: Obama claims to be the fighter against special interests in Washington. The Farm Vote is one of the biggest special interests there is, and he is going along with it. It may not be specifically lobbyists that he is going along with, but is certainly is special interests.

KRAUTHAMMER: McCain ought to win on the war and the Farm Bill, and that will win him the election.

HUME: But how will it play in farm states?

BARNES: He has got to take a chance. This is who McCain is. He has to play that up and not try to placate special interests. He has to be against them even in cases where they may have some voter support.

Content and Programming Copyright 2008 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.