This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from September 18, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y.: I think that the plan I have put for ward, the American Health Choices plan, really does provide the right balance between individual responsibility, employer responsibility, drug and insurance company responsibility, as well as government responsibility.


BRIT HUME, HOST: That was you know who, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton the day after announcing her healthcare plan to get all the uninsured Americans who don't have healthcare insurance insured.

Some thoughts on all this now from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Mort, can you capsulate, basically, what she has proposed? I gather at the heart of it lies the proposition that once the program is fully operational all Americans, or all those living in America who need healthcare insurance, all Americans would be required to have health insurance of one kind or another, of some kind, nobody could opt out because they are young and healthy.

And you put that together with a repeal of the Bush tax cut and you generate enough money to have health insurance for everybody. Is that the idea?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Right. But it is not government run health insurance. It does offer people a choice between signing up for a Medicare-like plan or —

HUME: So that would be government run.

KONDRACKE: That would be government run, but that would be a choice that would be available to you. And also a choice, you could join something like the Federal Employee Health Benefit system, which is a private system, or you could continue with private insurance. It would be your choice.

I think that having Medicare buy-in as an option sort of suggests that people might choose that plan, and people will say that this might eventually fade into government-run health insurance. But, certainly, at the outset it is not.

It is financed by — people get a tax credit to buy insurance if you are low income, which is vaguely similar to the plan that President Bush is offering, he is offering a tax deduction, but they have talked about giving a tax credit to people who couldn't afford it.

So this is not Hillary care of the 1994 variety where it really was government run. And it certainly is not European style socialized medicine as Mitt Romney is alleging — he, who sponsored a very similar plan in Massachusetts that he is now running away from.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is very much the Romney plan. The Romney plan relied on an individual mandate. The 1994 "Hillary-care," as it has come to be known, relied on an employer mandate, forcing employers to do something.

This forces individuals to do something, but gives them all sorts of ways to pay for it if they cannot afford it. It definitely builds on the Massachusetts plan, and it is interesting that Romney was one of the first out of the gate to attack it.

HUME: So it is sort of the Massachusetts plan going national, something Romney has declined to propose.

LIASSON: Individual mandates is definitely kind of the healthcare policy du jour. That is the way several states are going. California is probably heading towards something like that.

And I think the message that Hillary wants to get across is that she has changed, she has learned from 1993, she's going to try to build on the existing system instead of scrapping it and starting it anew.

This is supposed to be simpler to understand — I think it is, actually. And it is interesting — right now you have all the Democrats with a healthcare plan. You don't yet have Republicans with their entries. But you do have Mitt Romney attacking her for something very similar to what he proposed, he passed, actually.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is true Hillary has learned this is not the old "Hillary-care," which was an insanely bureaucratic, complicated system of, basically, regulating every aspect of healthcare. That's not going to happen.

And it is less centralized and more rational, but it is still coercive and centralized. The coercion is the individual mandate.

She has said that she's not going to force you into having healthcare, and there's not going to be a penalty. But she had suggested that if you apply for a job you may have to prove you have health insurance the way if you want to go to kindergarten you have to show you have a vaccination —

HUME: Or if you want to drive you have to prove that you have insurance.

KRAUTHAMMER: Coercive. Not exactly handcuffs, but it makes you —

HUME: Is this a reasonable plan?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, but it is rather centralized. It doesn't allow states — it is not as if you have 50 plans, which is what some Republicans are talking about.

Look, Republicans emphasize healthcare savings accounts. They want to empower individuals —

HUME: They have been popular, haven't they?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. And it is like having an IRA, except it is not retirement, it is healthcare, it is for incidental expenses in healthcare. And when you mandate, everybody has to be inside a plan, and you are capturing a lot of young and healthy people who rationally have decided if you are in your 20's and healthy you really don't have to have healthcare —

HUME: Health insurance.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm sorry — health insurance. But if you force them in a plan, what you are using their money paying in as a way to, in effect, subsidize less healthy people.

LIASSON: And that's exactly how insurance works. That is exactly what she wants.

KRAUTHAMMER: but it forces people who wouldn't ordinarily want to do it, and who have rationally opted out.

LIASSON: That's exactly right. And there's something else that she does — she is going to force insurance companies to take anybody. In other words, right now they can reject you if you have a preexisting condition. She is going to try to stop that.

KRAUTHAMMER: There is a lot of coercion here.



ROBERT GATES, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm not going to get into things that may involve intelligence matters, but all I will say is we are watching the North Koreans very carefully, we watch the Syrians very carefully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would we regard that kind of effort both in terms of the Syrians and the North Koreans?

GATES: I think it would be a real problem.


HUME: Well it sure would if Syria were being supplied with nuclear materials, or the elements to build a nuclear bomb by North Korea, that would obviously be a real problem.

So what about this, Charles? Was this raid that was supposedly carried out look to you as if this really was an effort to knock out the beginnings of a nuclear program, or perhaps more?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, I think it was. And the reason is that all of my sources in Israel who normally leak profusely won't say or don't know. And if in Israel you don't know, that means it is very closely held, which means it had to have been an extremely important operation, it was not a dry run, it was not a testing of the so called Turkish Corridor.

It was not an attack on a minor target, like an Iranian training facility, or Hezbollah weapons. It had to have been something of high importance, because nobody will talk about it. And that most likely is nuclear.

The reason is there was a North Korean ship which landed three days earlier in Syria with a load of cement. Do you really have to go to North Korea to get cement in the Middle East? And North Korea is one of the few countries in the world who immediately protested.

What is happening here is Iran is activating all of its surrogates. Syria is a major surrogate. Weapons on the Golan Heights, huge amounts of weaponry in the hands of Hezbollah, Hamas attacking Israel in the south, Shiites militias armed by Iranian agents attacking Americans.

All of this is Iran saying "Look, we have assets in the region, we can activate any of them. If you attack our nuclear facilities, we can cause an apocalypse here." This is really serious stuff.

KONDRACKE: The same American sources who usually talk about stuff like this have all clamed up. Nobody is talking.

So, and, interestingly, the Syrians haven't said anything about this. And that is either because Bashar Assad are embarrassed that his air defenses were penetrated so easily, or, more likely, that he was doing something that he doesn't want to admit to, and would involve scrutiny of what was going on.

The other implication of this is if the North Koreans — the North Koreans and we have supposedly just made a deal where they are going to shut down their nuclear facilities and behave themselves, and we are going to give them fuel aid and money as well.

Now, if they start taking their nuclear technology and selling it to enemies of our friends or our enemies, that deal is off, and will be off. And so this has got implications all over the world.

LIASSON: And if had he did that they certainly didn't wait even for a decent interval before they started exporting nuclear material, if, in fact, that is what they did.

But I also think it raises a question about what Israel would do if it felt that Iran was on the verge of getting nuclear weapons capability. They certainly didn't hesitate in the past to hit Iraq. It sounds like they might have just done that in Syria.

HUME: The argument is made that Iran and the terrorists that Iran sponsors and Iran's weapons do not pose any kind of existential threat to the United States.

It seems it me, Charles, that that is not true when it comes to Israel. That does pose an existential threat to little, tiny Israel, doesn't it?

KRAUTHAMMER: And the Iranians have talked about how easy it would be to utterly destroy and wipe out Israel in, essentially, a genocidal act — a few bombs and Israel is gone. It is a very small territory, and all of its population essentially are in the major cities.

Iran is aware of that, and it even speaks about being able to withstand a second strike or retaliatory strike by Israel, saying there are a billion Muslims, and if some of them are lost in this great act on behalf of Islam, i.e. destroying Zionism and the Israeli state, it would be worth it.

That is why the Israelis are concerned. The normal ideas of deterrence which helped us, of course, in the cold war against Russia, Stalin, and China, Mao, would not hold in a situation in which the other side is either openly apocalyptic, welcoming suicide or death, or thinks it can sustain a second strike because it is large, but could actually attack Israel because it is so small.

KONDRACKE: The question is whether the Mullahs, who ultimately run Iran are as crazy as Ahmadinejad, the president. They are the real bosses of the place.

And the Israelis in a second strike could do terrible damage to Iran. I think before the Israelis hit, I think it would be wise to at least think about the deterrence holding —

HUME: One thing this, it would be carried out by a surrogate. It would awfully hard for Iran to hide the fact that it was behind it. That wouldn't —

KONDRACKE: I think if Israel got hit by nuclear weapons, I think Iran would be the natural target, and Israel's nuclear arsenal would be directed at Iran.

HUME: We live in interesting times.

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