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Hume: Kennedy's Speech the Intellectual Equivalent of Graffiti

Reported by Marie Therese - January 31, 2005

Host Chris Wallace presided over the weekly "FOX News Sunday" political roundtable featuring Juan Williams and Mara Liasson (both correspondents for NPR), Bill Kristol (Editor of The Weekly Standard) and Brit Hume, managing Editor of the FOX Washington Bureau. Here are some of their comments about the Iraqi elections and the future of the Democratic Party.

HUME: [The Iraq election is] proof that those in the administration and elsewhere including the much-maligned neocons were right in their view .. that Iraq, of all places, was actually a really good candidate for democracy ... the Iraqis have shown that they really did want to do this ...

LIASSON: We don't know yet about turnout, which will be important .. there was less violence than I thought there would be ... This is a remarkable event ... As Condoleezza Rice herself said, hard work doesn't make democracy. There's a whole long way to go.

KRISTOL: Good news, so far. Look, it's going to be weeks and months and years before, you know, everything's ever great or everything's ever good in Iraq, which is, I suppose, a more reasonable standard. But it is truly remarkable. I do wonder whether January 30, 2005 won't become a historic day. I mean, maybe the most important day in international politics, since the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9, 1989. I mean, this really could be the beginning of the transformation of the Middle East and a great vindication, I think, of President Bush's policy.

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't think it's a vindication of President Bush's policy. Obviously, President Bush got American forces involved because he thought there was directly weapons of mass destruction. We didn't go there on a nation-building venture, which is what we're involved in now. But to that extent this is a triumphant day, I think .. the courage shown by the Iraqi people in the face of intimidation has been spectacular ... You just want to go hug somebody and celebrate with them. But, in terms of US policy .. is this a first step, then, in terms of a change, in terms of rearranging our priorities ... [The President is] requesting $80 billion more for that war, even as we see now more than 1,400 Americans dead. That's a pretty high cost .. to say we want Iraqis to go vote.

HUME: You have to ask yourself .. what do the rulers of these other, non-democratic Middle East states say to their people now? And what is gonna be the reaction among those people who see these Iraqis turning out with such remarkable courage ... to vote in such numbers - even if the Sunni terrorists or the old Ba'athist terrorists have succeeded in suppressing the turnout in the Sunni areas ... this truly does add pressure on the Middle Eastern countries to democratize themselves.

Wallace asked how other Sunni governments would react to a Shi'ite democracy. "What's the ripple effect?"

KRISTOL: ... [F]or now at least it looks like a pluralistic, tolerant democracy ... there wasn't a civil war today in Iraq. There was something that was awfully impressive, that's something we can be proud to have played some small role in helping to create ...

HUME (incredulous): Small?!!

KRISTOL: Well...

HUME: Small? Hell!

KRISTOL: Granted - a large role!

WALLACE: ... [a] lot of Sunnis did not vote today ... There is still a lot of work to do ...

LIASSON: ... [T]he Sunnis .. are saying they are more than willing, even eager, to participate in the constitution writing process .. What kind of a constitution will be written? And, don't forget the rules are that three provinces can veto this thing..

HUME: Which means Sunnis have leverage already.

LIASSON: ... and Kurds do, too ... Democracy's more than an election and that's something the world has learned since the fall of the Berlin wall.

Later:

KRISTOL: ...[T]he notion that Sunnis don't like us has about as much moral standing as the fact the the Afrikaners didn't like democracy in South Africa ... Just as in South Africa, it will be tough, but it will happen .. Who insisted that this election go forward against a huge number of nay-sayers and critics and people [who said] we can't do this? President Bush!

The roundtable then discussed Sen. Edward Kennedy and the Democrats. Brit Hume referred to Kennedy's recent foreign policy speech as the "intellectual equivalent of graffiti" and went on to say: "Imagine saying that we're losing, that we're losing the battle for hearts and minds to these murderous former Ba'athists, who said only days ago, that democracy was an evil system. He has got to be out of his mind to say nonsense like that and the trouble is that it's transparent nonsense, further demonstrated by the events today. This - if he emerges as the face of the Democratic Party and he seems to be really, lately - I predict devastation for that party."

LIASSON: I don't think Ted Kennedy is speaking for the entire Democratic Party ... there is a "Pull Out Now" faction, which is getting stronger.

HUME (interrupts): Dominant would you say in the Democratic Party.

LIASSON: I don't know. I'm not ready to say it's dominant.

HUME (overtalks, belligerent): Shows up in the polls.

LIASSON: I think the majority of the Democrats believe the first part of the statement, that Bush misled the country ... but not necessarily that we are in a quagmire now and certainly not that the insurgents are winning the battle for hearts and minds there. I think that the occupation is roundly unpopular - widely unpopular - but I don't think the insurgency is popular.

HUME (overtalks her last 4 words, belligerently again): What is popular?

FOX aired a shot of Hume's face looking disgusted and dismissive of her.

Later:

KRISTOL: One wonders whether Sen. Kennedy doesn't want President Bush to fail more than he wants Iraq to be free. I mean, it really is astonishing and shocking to give this speech three days before the Iraqi people are going to vote, a speech that would encourage the terrorists - let's face it, it will. If we're promising to pull out, it's a failure. What to say to the voters? It's unbelievable to have this turnout in Iraq in the face of a leading American, in effect, saying "We're getting out as soon as possible. We're not going to be there to help protect you against these terrorists and murderers. Luckily, the Iraqis understand that George Bush is in charge, not Ted Kennedy ... I've spoken to half a dozen Democrats who don't agree with Ted Kennedy ... Will a senior Democratic Senator or member of Congress come out and say "This is not the position of the Democratic Party. This speech was wrong. We want iraq to win - we want Amer - the US and Iraqis now to prevail in Iraq." And that, I think, is an interesting question. It's a test for the Democratic Party. Are there leaders in the Democratic Party who will repudiate Ted Kennedy?

WALLACE: I will tell you, Juan. I talked to a top Democratic operative this week. Same thing. He was furious at Kennedy's speech and felt that it was exactly the wrong message for the Democratic Party to be sending before the election.

WILLIAMS: ... I didn't get that sense from people on the hill ... there's a large segment in fact now in the House - I think it's 25 or more - who are suggesting that the US pull out it's troops... You even get, in terms of US military command, talk about after the election we now shift gears ... everybody now saying we go forward in terms of doing a better job of training and preparing the Iraqis to defend themselves.

The quintet went on to discuss the new DNC chairman.

HUME (angry, like a guy used to getting his way): Who is leading? Howard Dean! Who seems on the verge of being named the Chairman of the Party? (snidely) That would be an interesting example of the moderation of the Democratic Party, now, wouldn't it? Who? Is Harry Reid gonna stand up and say something of the kind that Bill describes? Who? So far, there's been a deafening silence with the lone exception of Joe Lieberman .. who has expressed a strikingly different viewpoint.

COMMENT

Now, tell me again, why on earth ANY Democrat in his or her right mind would listen to advice from a dyspeptic reactionary right wing conservative like Brit Hume?

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