'Special Report' Panel on John Murtha's Iraq Reversal

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 30, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, GUEST HOST: Now to the big political story of the day, Congressman Jack Murtha, the biggest anti-war critic saying he believes the surge in Iraq is actually working. Take a listen.


REP. JOHN MURTHA, D-PA.: The purpose of this series was to provide enough security for political progress to be made by the Iraqis. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

Because the Pentagon says it, do you believe it? You believe what the Pentagon says? Eh? And all the things that they have told us?

I think the surge is working, but that's only one element. There's no question in my mine if you put more forces in, it's going to work out, but the thing that has to happen, the Iraqis have to do this themselves.


BAIER: That was from a news conference yesterday. The two previous statements obviously were from Jack Murtha before talking about the surge. What about all this? Analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

We should point out that Jack Murtha late in the day today came out with what his office called a clarification saying that the fact remains that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily, and we have to order a redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq as son as practicable. Fred?


MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: He was off message. To give him his due, he did go to Iraq. He had said forever that the surge didn't work, couldn't work and if the Pentagon said it was working, you couldn't believe them, right? So he did go on a congressional delegation with others to Iraq last week, and found, lo and behold, that the surge is working, so he comes back and he says the surge is working.

Then all of a sudden he realizes that he is off message because that conflicts with the basic Democratic message that it can't work, so then he has revised his opinion and said, well, yeah, but the political part of this does not work.

Now, in fact, on the ground, there is political movement there. They are distributing oil revenues. They are rehiring ex-Ba'athists. There is a measure of autonomy between the regions, but the Democrats can not acknowledge that this thing might succeed.

BARNES: They're going to have to and they can't get around it. The facts on the ground are to strong. First, they had all the numbers. They are great again in November. Civilian deaths down 30 percent. Combat deaths of American troops down. You can say, well, the Pentagon is fudging the numbers, OK.

Then there are all these reporters who have gone just in the last few weeks, Rod Nordland (ph) of "Newsweek" for example, who have said wait a minute, this is a completely different Baghdad. Baghdad's completely different. We have refugees starting to return to Baghdad and other places in the thousands, and then John Murtha and these other Democrats go, and what are they going to believe? Are they going to believe their own eyes or are they going to believe Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid?

BEIER: We should point out "Politico" did a story and they quoted a House Democratic saying Pelosi, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to be furious about this. Pelosi's office put out a statement saying, quote, "She's not furious."

So Charles, how does this play in Democratic circles when you have Jack Murtha out there saying the surge is working?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's a conundrum, because when you go to Iraq as you did, and you have to say it's working because it's obvious, or otherwise you are a na<ve or a fool. So he says it and then he walks it back because — As Joe Lieberman explained, the Democrats are emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat. They aren't only emotionally invested but politically invested.

They succeeded last year running against a war, and they expected it would get worse or stay the same. It hasn't. It's reversed, so here they are having thought they would ride the anti-war sentiment to tremendous success in '08, the White House and a sweep of the Congress and the events on the ground have changed.

The news takes time to arrive here, but public opinion is changing, and this is no longer a tenable position of retreat and defeat. Ultimately it will defeat the Democrats. That's why it's a conundrum and they don't have an answer.

BAIER: And quickly, Mort, on the campaign trail.

KONDRACKE: No change. I have not seen the democrats say that, wait a minute, we have a chance to succeed here, let's let Bush play out his hand and we'll deal with it when we get into office.

BAIER: OK. That's the word from the panel, but when we come back, Venezuela on the brink. What does this weekend's referendum really going to mean there on the ground for Hugo Chavez? That's next.


JHON GOICEACHEA, STUDENT LEADER (through translator): This is the youth which says to the president of the republic, don't make a mistake, don't do what those who came before you have done, because this country needs a true transformation, a true revolution.

HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We can't allow these daddy's boys, rich kids born with a silver spoon in their mouth to disturb the streets of Caracas. That's why the revolutionary government is here, to protect the people.


BAIER: There you see Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez just over the past couple of days talking about the tens of thousands for and against this vote on constitutional changes in Venezuela that would essentially let Chavez seek re-election year after year after year. There are a lot of opponents on the streets of Venezuela.

We're back with our panel. Charles, it seems yesterday it was opposition on the streets of Caracas. Today there was a big turnout of people who were for Hugo Chavez. What's happening on the ground there?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it's an interesting question whether a country like Venezuela, which is educated and sophisticated and has a long history of democracy will become the first democracy to willingly vote itself a communist dictatorship 15 a years after Marxism has died a disgraced death in every place except Cuba and North Korea and the English departments of American universities.

And I think the answer is no. The sentiment on the street with a lot of Chavez's former supporters defecting and opposing him on this essential communization is that there isn't a majority. He controls the electoral apparatus so he actually controls the ballot boxes. He could steal this. Now, if it's a close election and he steals it, he will get away with it. But if it turns out from exit polling or other means that he essentially was defeated and he steals it, I think what's going to happen is uprising in the streets and the question will be will the police and the army shoot demonstrators as a way for him to impose his dictatorship, and no one has the answer to that.

BAIER: Mort, the State Department today said they're pretty concerned about this election, and how it would be monitored and run.

KONDRACKE: Yeah. I don't have any sense that it's going to be adequately enough monitored that if he tries to steal it that he will be called on it. There clearly is a lot of opposition to this, even within his own former supporters. A lot of them have been quoted as saying that he is trying to establish dictatorship and it's the wrong thing to do. And furthermore, even his economic policy hasn't worked because he has got all this oil wealth and yet you can't even buy toilet paper in Caracas, so, you know, logically he should be defeated on this.

This is an attempt to keep himself in power forever Castro style, and the Venezuelan people understand what it's all about but again, as Charles said, he controls the electoral machinery and he may steal it.

BAIER: What does it mean for the U.S., Fred?

BARNES: Well, it means we hope he loses this election for one thing, and look, he's in decline. Socialism is in decline. When they have to go to this clown in Venezuela as their main figure now, it's pretty pathetic. Look, he stole the last election. I have talked to American pollsters who were down there and the exit polls showed that he was lost but then it was certified by Jimmy Carter that he won, and so he stayed in power, but now, of course, the economy is declining, as Mort said, there are these price controls which mean there are food shortages and so on, and his coalition is crumbling.

And you see that in the polls that have been taken. He was way ahead of this. Now it looks like a tie, a tie could be broken by stealing the election, though. That's my fear.

KONDRACKE: And simultaneously you have got an election in Russia coming up. And it's the same model. It's brute force being used against the opposition, denial of press access and stuff like. Putin is going to get elected. I wouldn't be surprised if Chavez does either.

BAIER: What about these, quickly, these opposition groups, and it seems like there is a lot of them?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, if you just win an election and steal it through a normal democracy, that's one thing, but if you stealing an election that would essentially abolish democracy, it would be a bigger thing, and because there is a lot of opposition, people who supported him as a leader before are against him as a dictator, I think you might have a revolution in the streets if he steals it openly.

BAIER: We will be watching this weekend as that vote comes down in Caracas.

Content and Programming Copyright 2007 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 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.