'Special Report' Panel on U.S.-France Relations

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from November 7, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The idea of Iran have a nuclear weapon is dangerous, and, therefore, now it is the time for us to work together to diplomatically solve this problem.

NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT: It is unacceptable that Iran should have, at any point, a nuclear weapon. But Iran is entitled to the energ y of the future, which is nuclear energy.


BRIT HUME, HOST: There are a couple of guys on the same page about an issue and a country that not very long ago it would seem unlikely they would be on the same page. I refer to the president and his French visitor Nicolas Sarkozy.

Some thoughts on this relationship now from Bill Sammon, senior White House correspondent for the Washington Examiner, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Morton M. Kondrake, executive editor of Roll Call — FOX News contributors all.

Bill, you have been around the White House awhile. You have seen French leaders come and go. What struck you about all this?

BILL SAMMON, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I have seen a lot of things in my life. I never thought I would see George W. Bush speak French, which he did at the toast last night.

I was with David Gregory in 2004 at the joint press conference with Bush and Chirac in Paris. Gregory spoke French to Bush, and Bush had a cow. He couldn't believe that he did it. And to have him now speak French publicly, I thought, signals just how far we've come.

This guy is a conservative — along with Merkel of Germany, it signals an important shift in western Germany towards the closer relationship with Bush.

Western Europe, I mean.

We used to talk about Donald Rumsfeld and talk about old Europe, which was a derisive way of speaking about Western Europe allies, as opposed to Eastern Europe, who were stronger with us. Now we are actually seeing the Western Europe allies come our way. It's amazing.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: No more freedom fries, either. They're back to being French fries.

This is a big shift. And now it remains to be seen if they can get something done on Iran. For the French president to say it's unacceptable, that's a pretty strong line that he's drawn.

And the Europeans are the ones who have been the least willing to go along with sanctions since their companies do so much business with Iran. Now we'll see if they actually step up to the plate on this.

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: The atmospherics and the words were wonderful today. He delivered before congress, a paean to America that was worthy of —

HUME: That's Mort Kondrake's word for "praise."

KONDRAKE: He was poetic, actually. Too bad that it was in French. It was very eloquent.

Anyway, and I thought that the best paragraph in it had a message for both the United States and for Europe. He called the United States of America the greatest country on earth.

Now, for a European to say that — we all think that we are, and we are- -but for a European leader to acknowledge that is big.

And then he also said America did not get where it got by asking for handouts. It expects people to work. Now, that was a message to his own people. You want to be like America? You want to be as rich as America? Get to work. Get off this 30-hour work week and get to work.

SAMMON: He's also gotten away from this idea that Chirac had that France would be a counterweight to an imperialist United States, which is a silly idea. I mean, if there are counterweights to the U.S., they are Russia, or China, or global terrorism, or Iran.

But this business that France and the United States were fundamentally opposed — I mean, we're allies. Our people have always, basically, liked each other, but now the governments actually like each other.

HUME: I would like to bring something else up. They were also similar in what they said about Pakistan. The president had called Pervez Musharraf today to tell him that he wants him to hold the elections, restore democracy, and take off his military uniform.

This comes as some fairly senior people on Capitol Hill were saying today that we ought to cut off aid. I don't know what Sarkozy would have to say about that, but it's a good question whether something for the administration is likely to lose control of that issue. What do you think, Mort?

KONDRAKE: I don't think they're going to lose control of that issue. The president was able to stop this resolution against Turkey. I think that it strengthens Bush's hand, actually, in talking to Musharraf, to have the Congress yelling and screaming about cutting of aid.

I doubt that they would actually do it, because at the end of the day, we're not going to defeat ourselves in the war on terrorism. It's too risky for the congress to —

HUME: Is anybody really better in the wings if Musharraf were undermined? That's the question.

LIASSON: Not necessarily. The White House was hoping that there would be this power sharing deal between him and Bhutto. But he is the front line in the war on terrorism. It's a pretty shaky frontline, but he is all we have got over there.

SAMMON: Only the terrorists win if he fails, because then —

LIASSON: And they have already won because of the coup he committed against himself.

SAMMON: It could be a lot worse.

KONDRAKE: There is still a possibility that he could agree to the elections, to what Bush wants him to do. That would be the ideal solution- -he takes off the uniform, stays on as president. She gets elected Prime Minister, and they work together to fight terrorism.

She is a terrorist fighter. She is a modernist. She is a democrat. And that would allow a democratic growth in Pakistan, which would retain stability for the long future.

HUME: So you think this will fizzle out in congress?


HUME: Do you think so, Mara?

LIASSON: Yes, Bush retains a firm grip on foreign policy.

HUME: Next up with the all-stars, we will look at elections results from around the country, and some political endorsements. Stay tuned.



HALEY BARBOUR, MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: The obvious lesson of the vote today is that voters care about getting things done. Our campaign was about performance, not party. This is a victory for progress not partisanship.


HUME: Well, maybe so. In fact, in Kentucky, a Republican governor, who was dogged by scandal, Incumbent Governor Ernie Fletcher was defeated by his Democratic challenger.

And elsewhere the results seem to track with what people felt about how the candidates in question had performed in office. Incumbents who were popular did well, not surprisingly.

But the question is what do we take away? Looking at the trends in the ballot initiatives that passed and failed, and the candidates who won and lost, what do we see in this, Mara?

LIASSON: It is hard to predict from an off-year election what will happen, but I think there are some Democratic trends in some places. I think Virginia is a case in point. I think Virginia has been turning from a red state to a blue state.

HUME: And what happened in Virginia?

LIASSON: What happened is the Democrats are poised to take control of the State Senate for the first time in 12 years.

And this follows some pretty important wins they made in the last election. They defeated an incumbent Republican senator. They elected another Democratic governor, and I would say that in general Virginia is edging away from the Republican column, perhaps, in presidential elections. And that's very significant.

SAMMON: They will probably elect another Democratic senator as well, Mark Warner, next time around — John Warner, who is retiring.

I always think of Virginia at its heart as a conservative Republican place, but it's being increasingly dominated by a very liberal city, or at least the suburbs, which is Washington. The northern towns in Virginia that are suburbs of Washington are turning it blue.

HUME: But what about the ballot initiatives, Mort. Do you see any trend in those? There was the smoking base tax in Oregon to pay for children's healthcare that got killed.


HUME: And a ballot initiative for stem cell research, which was costly, that would have been a referendum, that went down. What do you see in that? Tight-fisted voters?

KONDRAKE: That, plus the gubernatorial elections — I think it is a question of competence and performance. I don't think people want to pay more taxes. I don't know exactly how highly taxed they are in, Oregon but I suspect rather highly, and they didn't want more taxes, even for children's health.

HUME: It is a pretty blue state, too.

KONDRAKE: It is. And New Jersey's a blue state as well, and they didn't want to go for the stem cell initiative. It may be some sort of a vote against John Corzine, the governor, who was behind it.

I thought the race in Louisiana, which was already decided, Bobby Jindal replaced Kathleen Blanco, who was deemed to be not competent during Katrina. You get Ernie Fletcher out as Governor of Kentucky because he has been ethically challenged his whole time in office.

And Haley Barbour was successful with Katrina.

HUME: With the state of Virginia, do we see any real trend in all of this?

KONDRAKE: I don't see any particular harbingers for '808.

HUME: Let's take a quick look at something that we heard from a well- known political figure today, Pat Robertson.


ROBERTSON: I know how the game is played, and this isn't some calculated decision to see who is most electable. But the question I think that we do want a frontrunner for the Republican Party who can win the general election.


HUME: And so saying he endorsed, of all people, Rudy Giuliani — pro- choice, pro-all kinds of things that Pat Roberson ain't pro.

So, question, how important and helpful — this is the most eye- catching, although Pat Robertson is not as potent a figure as he once was, but how much does this help Giuliani?

LIASSON: I think it's going to help him.

He said two different things that contradicted each other. But, however, the last part was the operative part. He said we want a frontrunner who can win the general election, and I think that is the decision that he has made.

He believes the national polls. There are two theories afoot, here, but he believes them. He doesn't have the clout he used to. But I think it is an imprimatur some type of conservatism seal of approval.

KONDRAKE: I think Pat Robertson is now in the backfield of the Giuliani campaign. He is the number one evangelical. If Giuliani gets elected president, he will be invited to the White House, et cetera. He is an establishment figure, even though most people don't think so.

HUME: Bill, you have the last word, here.

SAMMON: Rudy, Romney, and McCain have all picked up endorsements from important Christian evangelicals. I think it is a wash.

HUME: You think the vote is going to end up being so split across the three of them?

SAMMON: I think during the primaries, I think the question will it come together in the general? That's when it will hurt.

HUME: If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, can you imagine it not coming together?

SAMMON: If Rudy is the nominee on the Republican side, there is some splitting. They are already saying they will back a pro-life, third party candidate. So if it is another candidate, they will probably coalesce, but if it's Rudy, they won't.

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