All-Star Panel: US staying on the 'sidelines' in Syria crisis?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: It, and C.W. -- chemical weapons -- in Syria. Leland Vittert in our Middle East newsroom talked today to the people on the ground who have no doubt that what they saw was Sarin gas or some sort of chemical that killed hundreds if not thousands of people. They're still finding bodies, according to the people on the ground.

Now, an interesting take, "Russia wrote off the attack," according to The New York Times, "as a "pre-planned provocation' orchestrated by the rebels and said they had launched the gas with a homemade rocket from an area they controlled. All of this looks like an attempt at all costs to create a pretext for demanding that the U.N. Security Council side with the opponents of the regime and undermine the chances of convening the Geneva conference," according to the statement from the spokesperson from the Russian foreign ministry. Nothing from the White House today.

Let's bring in our panel, Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend," Kirsten Powers, columnist for The Daily Beast, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: Technology has just changed everything from a reporting point of view. You remember the debate over whether Saddam used poison gas against the Kurds went on for years -- yes, he did, no, he didn't. Now within hours we have the video like the video you showed at the beginning of the show which is just overwhelming in its emotional power, and it increases the pressure on governments like ours, and especially ours, to intervene to stop evil people from doing this terrible things. And this is demonstrably, of course, a terrible thing.

It doesn't change the basic calculation though, which is, is toppling the Assad regime good for the United States or not. And what do you get when you do, if you do? Do you get some kind of Al Qaeda affiliate that's worse?

BAIER: You are not a proponent of intervention, but you -- what about when you see these whatever, hundreds or thousands --

CARLSON: They are horrifying, and they're among the scores of horrifying acts that happen.

BAIER: And, the red line.

CARLSON: Right, but the question, again, I'm merely saying, it may be good to topple the Assad regime or not. I'm merely saying the metric we ought to use to make that decision is, is it good for the United States. The final thing I would say is intervening in Iraq in 2003, morally justified in my view, I think, it removed the counterbalance to Iran, that had consequences. So I'm just – thinking it through is a good idea.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: I don't think it has to be whether or not we're overthrowing the Assad regime. And I do think we disagreed about this before. But I see the United States as a force for good in the world and someone that people turn to when there are human rights atrocities. We haven't always done the best job in responding, occasionally we have. And I think that it can merit a response on purely humanitarian reasons.

And like I said, we don't think actually have to overthrow the regime to retaliate.  You could use a drone attack on a military installation. There are different things that you can do to send the message that this will not be tolerated, especially considering that our president pretty much said that this will not be tolerated.

BAIER: We did not hear from the president on Egypt or Syria in recent days. And now this, and we just get the State Department spokesperson. Charles, what about that?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The president has decided that the United States will remain passive and on the sidelines in both cases, so there is no reason he should come out and announce passivity, it isn't exactly what a president does, although in fact he has once or twice done that and it doesn't look good.

Look, it's the president himself who imposed the red line of the use of chemical weapons. I'm not sure it was a wise red line. I think the red line ought to be, is it in our interest and the interest of the region and the people there to get rid of the regime and what happens afterwards. I thought it was an artificial red line. I think the president came up with it originally as a way to keep out of the battle but look as if he was being very high-minded. Well, then the bluff was called. It was used. And he acted in a way that made it very clear to everybody in the region that nothing he says in the region carries any weight. And that, I think, is the fact that's happening right now. That is the reason why you can have the regime do this, if, in fact it did, and why it's sure it can do it with impunity. It is the reason Hezbollah intervened on the ground and can do it with impunity. It is the reason that the Russians are supplying Assad and protecting him, again with impunity.

There is no response of any kind that has any effect coming from the United States.

BAIER: So what would you do?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I wouldn't have imposed a red line on chemical weapons. What I would have done, which is at the beginning of the conflict when the jihadists had not entered, for about a year when it was a popular uprising, obviously uniting all sectors of society with a democratic objective, that would have been the time to intervene and it would have been decisive. Right now I think passivity is probably our only option because of the composition of the opposition and the strength of the jihadists. It could change and the calculus could change, but it doesn't hinge on chemical weapons.

BAIER: So you would say the president is doing the right thing?

KRAUTHAMMER: Having done the wrong thing, he has left himself with no active options right now.

BAIER: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations tweeted this, as a U.N. Security Council meeting was coming to a close at about 5:00 yesterday afternoon. Samantha Power tweeted, "Reports devastating -- hundreds dead in streets, including kids killed by chemical weapons. U.N. must get there fast and if true, perps must face justice."

Now, it turns out that we found out that the Ambassador Power, newly appointed to that role, was not at that meeting. The deputy was at that meeting. So the natural question would be, where was the ambassador? The State Department said she was keeping track of everything and monitoring it. And here is the exchange she had with James Rosen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: She is monitoring events, participating in the national security council meeting in Egypt convened by the president and is providing instructions to her staff. And the U.S. deputy permanent representative participated in the U.N. Security Council consultations on Syria at the direction of Ambassador Power.

JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Is she on vacation?

PSAKI: I don't have any more details for you. I would send you to the U.N. for her schedule.

ROSEN: I just don't understand why you're unwilling to tell us where Ambassador Power was. There is no dishonor in having had a scheduled vacation if that is the case.

PSAKI: She had a previously scheduled trip. I don't think I need to go into more detail from here. And you're welcome to call the United Nations where she is the ambassador.

ROSEN: You were willing to read out a certain set of facts related to this. Why do you stop at this?

PSAKI: I have no more for you on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: We did reach out to her spokesperson who also would not tell us where she was and did not want to comment any further. Tucker?

CARLSON: Well, James is the best. He is great at asking questions, I have to say. I'm sure wherever she is Ambassador Power is just dying she is not here. She has a very much a freshman seminar view of the world. Aquiver with the moral outrage all the time. People are doing bad things, we have a moral obligation to intervene now, now, now. They're silly. Just say where she is. It looks like she is on vacation, who cares? Everyone is in August. They should admit it.

BAIER: Kirsten, quickly.

POWERS: She is probably on vacation. It is the end of August is usually when people go on vacation. There is nothing wrong with that. I am sure she is monitoring everything.

BAIER: So isn't this like the Carey on the boat thing, over the July 4th weekend?

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: I also want to stay for the record, with your characterization of her, I think that she is a great humanitarian.

BAIER: OK, Charles, last word.

KRAUTHAMMER: She also understands that nothing happens at the U.N. She could show up, not show up. She could hover above it in a drone. It would make no difference. With the Russians on the security council, who want to protect Assad, nothing is going to happen one way or the other. It is for show.

CARLSON: Good point.

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