'Special Report' Panel on the Middle East, Campaigns and Elections, and Senators Obama and Clinton

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 27, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Our purpose in Annapolis is not to conclude an agreement. Rather, it is to launch negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT: We have to support this negotiating process in concrete and direct steps on the ground that would prove that we are moving in the irreversible path toward negotiated, comprehensive, and full peace.

EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I believe that the time has come. We are ready. I invite you, my friend Mahmoud Abbas and your people to join us in this long and tormenting and complex path for which there is no substitute. Together we shall start, together we shall arrive.


BRET BAIER, GUEST HOST: Well it all sounded good today in Annapolis, Maryland at the Middle East peace conference there, but what exactly will happen from here for this administration and for the peace process over all?

Analytical observations now from Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Charles, we'll start with you. It did sound good, even though there was a lot of vague terminology in the speeches today. What about this process?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It was good. I'm not very enthusiastic. I think it was a good beginning. The fact is that the president was able to get the two leaders together.

But the most important thing was the audience. That was almost the entire Arab League that was there, which, incidentally gives lie to the Democratic charge that this president has left us isolated in the world, we have no influence in the Middle East.

On the contrary, the president convenes a meeting with Israel, of all nations, and the Saudis show up.

The importance here is that it is be the beginning of a process. The reason the prospects are weak is because Olmert and Abbas are both very weak internally, and they are not able to make the concessions in the end.

But the important element of this was the having of the Arab League there. If you get the Saudis, the Egyptians, and Jordanians supporting the Palestinians, then there might be a chance of concessions on the part of Palestinians.

Otherwise, if the other Arabs are hiding in the grass, no leader in of the Palestinians can offer concessions, and there will be no progress.

BAIER: Mara, this conference started with the president saying there was an agreement to restart the talks after they had been stalled for seven years. So that, in itself —

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: That's better than nothing. And he said the purpose wasn't to conclude the agreement, it's just to get the process started again, and it sounds like the process will start again.

And the question all along has been do these leaders, Olmert and Abbas, have the kind of clout in their own countries to actually make the concessions that are going to be needed to push this thing forward? We don't know yet.

But I agree with Charles, this is something. This process was ignored for a very long time, and now it's not.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Right. Look, the president said that there were three basic reasons why the time is right. One, that the two parties want to do this, and how can you not say yes to that process and to try to help it along.

Secondly, the extremists are on the rise in the whole region, and this is probably the last ditch effort to have a reasonable two-state solution to this problem before Hamas takes over the entire Palestinian authority. And it's a way of averting that, it's an attempt to avert it.

And the third is that the whole world wants it and the whole world expects it, and the whole world has been ragging on the United States for not getting this process started. So finally, we're getting it started. And so it's the right thing to do.

But, as Charles and Mara say, the difficulties ahead are enormous, not only because the leaders are weak, but also just because of the objective circumstances, one of which is that Hamas is ascendant all over the Palestinian territories, and the ideas that Israelis would give up territory to an authority that might be taken over by a bunch of people who are out to destroy the state of Israel just makes it horribly difficult to see how the progress takes place.

But you got to start.

BAIER: But, Charles, it's fair to say that the important thing here will be the meetings after this meeting, and to see how far they can get down the road, and what Abbas can deliver with it at home.

KRAUTHAMMER: It is going to start in a couple of weeks.

Having a process, I think, helps, but I think the ultimate problem is will the Arabs be willing as a collective—that means the Arab states as well — accept Israel as a Jewish state, which means that they give up the idea of destroying Israel demographically by having the millions of Palestinians living in Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere, flooding Israel, and abolishing its Jewishness.

If the Saudis accept it, and the Egyptians and others, and the Palestinians, then Israel will make all the concessions on land that everybody is waiting and expecting, and then you've got peace. If that deal is made, then peace is possible.

BAIER: That's it for this subject. When we come back with our panel, the Democratic candidates continue to scuffle with just five weeks left before the Iowa caucuses. That's next.



SEN HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: There are lots of ways in which what I did was the face of America when I was there, when I was representing, not just my husband, but the country.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no doubt that Bill Clinton had faith in her and consulted with her on issues in the same way that I would consult with Michele if there were issues.

On the other hand, I don't think Michele would claim that she is the best qualified person to be a United States Senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about the work that I have done.


BAIER: There you see Hillary Clinton talking about her travels as first lady to some 82 countries, and Barack Obama talking about the issue of experience as first lady, and how that translates.

We're back with our panel. Mara, this has gone back and forth, this experience battle. Who is winning?

LIASSON: It is really an interesting debate. First of all, Hillary Clinton has claimed all along that she is more experienced than Barack Obama. She certainly has more years in public office—not by a tremendous amount.

Tom Vilsack, who is one of her main surrogate in Iowa, said that she was the public face of diplomacy when she was the first lady. And that was what her quote was referring to. She said I was when I was in those countries. Well, of course. She was representing the United States.

But Obama is talking about something different. Hillary Clinton is basing her candidacy on the fact she has White House experience. She is saying that her experience as first lady is the equivalent of having the kind White House experience you need to be president. And he, of course, is questioning that.

She certainly did have some experience in the White House. She was in charge of healthcare. There is no doubt about that, and she does talk about that.

But I think this whole notion that being first lady qualifies you to be president is an issue worth debating, and that is what they're doing with hammer and tongue.

KONDRACKE: But everybody who covered the Clinton White House knows she was a factor in practically every decision.

LIASSON: Well then she needs to talk about it, because she doesn't want to discuss—

KONDRACKE: Yes, in detail.

But the fact is that the stories were that Hillary weighs in on that and Hillary weighs in on that, and that she was a presence, and she was in the West Wing, and she wasn't confine to the East Wing, and all of that kind of stuff.

And the idea that Obama would say that the advice that she gave to Bill is the same as he would get from Michele, well, neither he nor Michele was ever in the White House. But she was.

BAIER: Do you think it translates as foreign police experience?

KONDRACKE: It is not the same thing as a traditional first lady. She was not a traditional first lady.

LIASSON: That's right, and she needs to discuss that.

KONDRACKE: I'm all in favor of having the records out in the open, that's for sure.

BAIER: Let me ask you something, Charles —

KRAUTHAMMER: I want to weigh in on this, because I think Obama's attack on her on this experience of the first lady issue is a clever one, because he compares her with Madeleine Albright.

Madeleine Albright is a person who achieved her stature on her own, and everything—by implying that Hillary experience, so-called, is all derivative from her marriage, he is attacking her feminism.

Now, that is subtext. Obviously, he's not going to attack her directly and say —

LIASSON: How he is attacking her feminism?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because an authentic feminist is not a person who achieves her position by virtue of her marriage. If anything, feminism stands for achieving a position —

KONDRACKE: On the other hand, Madeleine Albright—the issue, he raised the Madeleine Albright issue — Madeleine Albright supports Hillary Clinton, and says she's ready on day one.

BAIER: Let me ask you about surrogates. The Clintons, obviously, are together. Former President Bill Clinton essentially living in Iowa for the rest of the month. And Barack Obama has Oprah Winfrey out there. What difference does that make?

LIASSON: No surrogate beats Bill Clinton in the Democratic primary, but Oprah Winfrey packs a lot of power, especially with women, and especially in Iowa, where we understand that, at least in central Iowa, it's one of the best audiences for her, among women, which is this hotly contested demographic there.

But Bill Clinton is the mother of all surrogates.

KONDRACKE: Now, the Clinton campaign came up with Barbra Streisand's endorsement today. If you had to choose between Oprah and Barbra Streisand, I think you would definitely choose Oprah Winfrey.

On the other hand, I would like to hear what maybe Henry Kissinger has to say, or maybe Colin Powell, or Governor Napolitano of Arizona. Those are heavyweights, and I like to see what they think.

KRAUTHAMMER: It makes you wonder if Hillary is one of those people who need people.

BAIER: Oh, yes.

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