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Juan Williams Defends Democrats, Is Ambushed During Viewer Mail Segment

Reported by Marie Therese - August 1, 2007 -

On Sunday July 29, 2007, host Chris Wallace and the FOX News "Power Panel" of Brit Hume, Mara Laisson, Fred Barnes and Juan Williams discussed the fact that Congress has been asked by the President to do a major rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Wallace noted that there is a "divide between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to fighting the war on terror." The Bush administration has complained that a loophole in the FISA law has prevented it from listening in on foreign phone calls occurring in two foreign nations, using a fiber optic cable that is routed through the United States. Under the current law a warrant would be required for this action. Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has requested that FISA be updated to cover this one eventuality. With video.

Earlier in the show Chris Wallace had interviewed Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) on this topic. Feingold seemed to agree that on this one particular point, Congress was pretty well in agreement that FISA needed updating.

However, he went on to say "But that's not what they're pushing for, Chris. What they're trying to do is change immunity laws. They're trying to take items that work through the normal courts and put them in the secret courts. They're basically trying to gut the FISA law as part of this process. So it's the old game they play. They did it on the Patriot Act. They did it on military commissions where they threw in all kinds of inappropriate things. They bring up something everybody agrees on, then they throw the kitchen sink in and try to jam it through at the last minute."

Later, Brit Hume naturally had little good to say about Feingold or the Democrats. "Make no mistake about it," Hume said. "This is what the Democrats and those who support them think. They think the War on Terror is some kind of political scam which the administration is using to try to undermine civil liberties and expand the power of the Executive Branch of the government. They do not treat it particularly seriously."

Juan Wlliams countered immediately, saying "This is unbelievable to me. ... Why doesn't the administration therefore suggest 'Let's just fix exactly this issue. Let's not put additional ..." It was difficult to hear what else he was saying because Hume and Mara Laisson talked over him.

An angry Hume responded, "Excuse me, Juan. That is what McConnell is proposing"

Williams disagreed. "No," he said. "McConnell and the administration have a great deal more to say, Brit, and they're interested in advancing the idea that you don't have to go before the FISA court in order to get the warrant, that you can do things and get retroactive approval. But here's the larger point about being scared. Who is it, Republicans or Democrats, who didn't properly arm this force to go out and fight this war, that didn't put enough boots on the ground in order to get the job done early? Who is it that confused the mission? ... Then you say, oh, no, it's somehow Democrats who are running scared. To the contrary. Democrats this week put in place this week money to protect the homeland and make it tougher for terrorists to crack our defenses here at home. I don't see how you can say it's anything but scare-mongering and puppeting propaganda to say 'Oh, no, it's the Democrats, those bad guys.'"

Fred Barnes jumped in to say that the Democrats are in charge now and they can write whatever legislation they want to. (He had started to say that they could do anything that they wanted to do, but realized that, with a 49-50 Senate, that is not true!).

Barnes then spluttered his way into some amazing statements, saying "They want to ban a lot of this wireless surveillance. Certainly, Senator Feingold does, because he's called it unconstitutional and using it impeachable, and so on. They want to shut down Guantanamo. They want to give all those terrorists the rights that the guy arrested for drunken driving in the United States would have, including habeas corpus."

Barnes continued, "You know thirty of them from Guantanamo have been released, gone back into the terrorism, been arrested or killed again and they [the Democrats] want to soften all the interrogation techniques, particularly the ones that have worked so well. I think that's a record that shows they're not tough on this."

When Mara Laisson noted that the Democrats would very quickly amend the law to allow eavesdropping on two foreign phones, Brit Hume rushed and basically misstated what Senator Feingold had said earlier.

Here's the exchange:

MARA LAISSON: "You've got a lot of noises coming out the Democrats saying on this matter we see no problem. As a matter of fact, the Chairman of the House ..."

BRIT HUME (interrupting her): "That's not what Russ Feingold said."

LAISSON: "He - he ..."

HUME: "He sounded like there's all kind of problems with it."

LAISSON: "He said all kinds of problems with the other stuff that they wanted in addition."

Hume whined and tried to cover for the fact that he had made a mistake, deliberate or otherwise, about exactly what Russ Feingold had originally said.

Fred Barnes blamed the loss of Republican credibility on "the fading of the memory of 9-11."

Juan Williams once again forcefully disagreed with Barnes and defended the Democrats, after which Hume admitted that national security might help the Republicans less than before and only if someone like Giuliani is nominated.

"This is the issue that has kept the Democrats out of the White House in election cycle after election cycle, even when they were doing well down ballot" Hume said. "This is - this broad issue of who will protect you best is always the one that's helped the Republicans and has accounted for a series of Republican Presidents."

At the end of the discussion, in a departure from the usual structure of the show, Chris Wallace used viewer email to ambush Juan Williams, who had made a passing comment the prior week, referring to Fred Thompson's "trophy wife."

It was clear that Williams had no idea this was going to happen and was uncomfortable with it. Wallace never once mentioned that four days prior to this ambush, Brit Hume had done a 5 minute segment on this same topic, including a report by Campaign Carl Cameron, detailing Jeri Thompson's negative effects on her husband's possible candidacy for President.

Williams is the lone voice for the Democrats on this Panel and he was the one targeted for telling the truth about Thompson while Hume and Cameron were given a pass.

The hypocrisy was stunning.