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Political roundtable: Bush, Iraq, 2006 and more

Democrat Roy Neel and Republican Pat Buchanan discuss the issues
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On Friday, MSNBC-TV welcomed two political analysts to step into the ring and discuss the biggest issues in Washington, including Bush's approval ratings, Iraq, Plamegate and more.

Debating the topics were Democratic Strategist Roy Neel and MSNBC analyst and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

To read an excerpt of their conversation with MSNBC's Amy Robach, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

ROBACH: Following 9/11, President Bush had soaring approval rates.  That has dramatically changed as we look at the latest NBC/ Wall Street Journal polls.

A comfortable majority, 55  percent of Americans, now say they disapprove of the President's handling of the War on Terrorism that was clearly previously a strong point of this presidency.  Pat, I'll begin with you, can President Bush become the 9/11 president he was before? 

PAT BUCHANAN:  I would have to say no to that Amy.  The problem with the 55 percent the President has tied the War on Terror to Iraq.  The Iraq War is not going well right now.  The President's got a lot of problems in that area and unless and until he can get this resolved and have some type of achievable victory, I don't think we can go back to 9/11.

ROBACH: Roy, is it possible?

ROY NEEL:  I think Pat's exactly right.  The President has lost the American people in the Iraq War in part because of the confusion about the continuing concerns of the reasons for getting into the War.  There's nothing he can do to turn this around. 

ROBACH:  Next topic -- we'll talk about the Iraq War more in depth.  Looking ahead, a year from now, Roy where do you think this country will stand on the war?

NEEL:  Well, it's hard to say but if it continues to go as it does now, more fatalities and so on, I think it's only going to continue to erode the president's credibility and ultimately it's going to be the President's legacy and it's a negative one.

ROBACH:  Pat, what do you think? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I'm not sure of that.  I think the President of the United States, after the December elections, can set a strategy; an exit strategy and lay it out for the American people, ask them to hold on and its going to involve a certain amount of risk but I think the American people will follow him.  The Democratic Part has no option of its own so I think they will too.

ROBACH:  We have to move on to another sore spot in the administration right now:  the CIA probe leak.  Karl Rove made his first public event since Lewis Libby's indictment last night and we should mention he got a standing ovation when he gave his speech to a conservative legal society and the new AP/IPSOS poll shows that 57 percent, however, of Americans are now doubting the President's honesty in the wake of the leak scandal.  Pat, would asking Karl Rove to step aside help?

BUCHANAN:  No, that would be a mistake rite now.  If Karl Rove is not indicted, you do not throw him off the sleigh, the city is waiting for more blood to keep this scandal going.  If I was the President I would hold on to Karl Rove unless he's indicted.

ROBACH:  What do you think?

NEEL:  Karl Rove needs to leave to basically protect the president and the Vice President.  He's now a drag on this White House.  He's obviously a smart guy but this issue is not going away.  Rove's in this whether he's indicted or not and it's going to continue.

BUCHANAN:  Karl Rove wouldn't help the President's standing in terms of his honor and his integrity.  If Karl Rove left and I'll say this, Karl Rove better wait t see if he's indicted.  If he's not indicted, they ought to maintain a decent interval and Karl Rove should stand down of his own volition.  That's the way to handle it.   He's been a tremendously loyal supporter of the President, obviously he's not told the truth to the Press Secretary here.  He's made some mistakes and I think maybe he ought to go but they ought to do it on their own time and the President of the United States should not throw him to the wolf pack. 

ROBACH:  Alright, let's talk about what all politicians are talking about right now- the 2006-midterm elections.  President Bush is in Pennsylvania today.  It is notable that he number three man Rick Santorum is keeping his distance.  They claim that it's a prescheduled event.  He won't be in the same place as President Bush and certainly it raises a lot of questions as we've heard other politicians, J.D. Hayworth say he doesn't want President Bush to campaign for him.

Roy, will another "Anybody but Bush" campaign sink the Democrats like it did back in 2004.  Do you think we're going to see that?

NEEL:  Well, its hard to nationalize the midterm election but it's really quite remarkable when you have the rightists of Right Wing Senators and Rick Santorum putting some distance between himself and the President.  It is a real indication of this presence, this baggage.  I think members of the House and Senate are concerned. 

ROBACH:  Pat, obviously this is not an election year for the President, but do you think that this 2006 midterm election will literally be a referendum on the Bush White House?

BUCHANAN:  I'm not so sure of that.  I think the Democratic Party's got its own problems.  They're still following the President on the War, the President will not be going to a lot of blue states in those years but early on he'll be raising a lot of money for them.  But, look at Virginia and New Jersey.  Republicans got beat but it was by the same majority they got beat four years ago. 

with and can be seen weekdays from 9 a.m.-Noon.