This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume panel discussion, June 15, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
BRIT HUME, HOST: Insights now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, joined by Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and Jeff Birnbaum, Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine. All these chaps are Fox News contributors, I'm proud to say.
And all are going to have something absolutely scintillating to say about the fallout from the president's decision on Vieques. Is it the case that he has succeeded in pleasing no one? Or is that unfair?
JEFF BIRNBAUM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: That's probably unfair. I think he's pleased a large number of voters in Florida, for example, And in some other places like New York, where there are a lot of Hispanic voters, and specifically Hispanic voters of Puerto Rican descent, who were upset about the shelling of Vieques, even though it was just exercises. And he may have helped the reelection prospect -- President Bush may have helped the reelection prospects of Jeb Bush, his brother, reelection prospects as governor of Florida.
HUME: I didn't hear in Jeff's analysis the words national security.
BIRNBAUM: No, I didn't mention those words.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, Puerto Rican activists who are against the use of Vieques are complaining, along with Democrats who support them, like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Dick Gephardt, that the bombing should stop today. Forget about national security. Forget about where we're going to find another place that provides with us an ideal circumstance for preparing for amphibious landings, et cetera.
So he hasn't satisfied them. He certainly hasn't satisfied defense-minded Republicans, who are furious that he has sort of done this unilaterally and without any preparation.
HUME: Now, you are hearing it said, Mort, that the president really was doing what he had to do, because there was a referendum, you see. And the islanders in Vieques were going to vote against the continued bombing there. They were going to prevail. It's not even clear to me that the referendum would have been binding on the U.S. government. Would it have
KONDRACKE: I don't think it would have been. I mean, my understanding is that the referendum is not binding, that Bill Clinton said that he would abide by it or that the United States should abide by it. But I don't think it's legally binding on the United States.
HUME: But if there were a referendum, and it's not clear that...
KONDRACKE: Well, the moral pressure would have been on the United States. But, look, the citizens of Vieques have got to consider whether they want this income that they're receiving from the presence of the United States Navy to go away and whether they want to basically live in poverty.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That's a good
point because they may rue the day within they asked to have this shooting range sent somewhere else because there's a naval base there -- I think it's called Roosevelt Roads...
HUME: Roosevelt Roads, yeah.
BARNES: ... 5,000 Puerto Ricans work there. There's an Army post. In any case, the Navy base is one that is only there to serve the Navy as it uses that...
HUME: Training facility.
BARNES: ... that shooting range. And secondly, there's an Army post, Fort Buchanan, that's there. Well, now, do we need those there? You certainly don't need the naval base. And that's a lot of employees. The Puerto Ricans may decide that, gee, maybe Vieques is a good place to have the Navy use as a shooting range.
BIRNBAUM: The Navy's secretary says he is going to empanel a group to find an alternative to Vieques. But there's already...
HUME: It's been tried before, though, hasn't it?
BIRNBAUM: It's been tried. But at least one congressman, who represents the panhandle of Florida, says that he would be happy to have part of Eglin Air Force base in the panhandle be the new Vieques where these exercises can go on, where there can be a shooting range put there, because of the very reason that Fred mentioned. It is an economic boon.
HUME: There's a problem about doing it in an area where there are civilian air flights going on.
BIRNBAUM: You couldn't do it to the same extent. But you can...
HUME: They were joint exercises on that island with NATO, for example. And that was a place of choice for that in this whole hemisphere.
BARNES: This the largest -- I think the largest base on Vieques owned by the Navy anywhere in the world. And it is at such a unique place because there are no commercial air routes or anything around there. So planes can fly -- naval warplanes can fly and shoot rockets and so on from exactly where they would in combat at certain altitudes. They can't do that other places. Vieques is really necessary.
KONDRACKE: The president's rationale for this, that the people are friends of ours, the Puerto Ricans...
HUME: Friendly neighbors, he says.
KONDRACKE: ... and they don't want us to be doing this also applies to Okinawa. Now, he has practically invited...
HUME: They don't vote in American elections.
KONDRACKE: Well, but they're allies of ours. If they don't want us...
BARNES: Wait a minute, though. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out when Mort and I interviewed him on The Beltway Boys, a show you'll want to watch...
HUME: Which airs on Saturday night now at 6:00 p.m. Saturday in Eastern time and again on Sunday at what time?
BARNES: 11:30 a.m.
HUME: 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Don't miss it, folks. The Beltway Boys, it's worth watching.
BARNES: The difference is the Japanese, the Koreans, and other countries in Asia, democracy nations, want us there. They want American troops there.
KONDRACKE: The people from Okinawa don't.
BARNES: Well, the Okinawans may not. But it's owned by Japan. And the Japanese government does want us there. We are a great help. And they like us there, particularly because of China.
BIRNBAUM: This is another example of the Bush White House not doing its homework in telling members of Congress what they're about to do. Really, we've seen plenty of examples of this. This a flagrant one, though, where they didn't bother telling their own conservative allies what they were about to do.
HUME: Secretary of the Navy England said that all sorts of briefings were planned, and the story leaked.
BARNES: It always leaks, come on.
BIRNBAUM: That they were seriously considering this change and in fact had made the choice should not have been left to scheduled briefings sometime after the decision is made. Members of Congress like to be and really should be part of the decision itself.
BARNES: A story that is getting that much press attention...
BARNES: ... when there's a major decision made on it, that's bound to leak.
HUME: All right, more with the panel after a break. Stay tuned.
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