This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 2, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We exercise our leadership best when we are listening, when we recognize that the world is a complicated place, when we show some element of humility, and recognize that we may not always have the best answer, but we can always encourage the best answer, and support the best answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: President Obama at a news conference today in London talking about his approach to foreign policy. The G20 summit finished up.
And ahead of that summit, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown talked about a subplot where the nations really openly blamed the U.S. for starting the financial crisis, saying, among other things, the old Washington consensus is over. Today we have reached a new consensus.
What about what is coming out of the G20 and what the reaction is? Let's bring in the panel — Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of the "The Washington Times," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Charles, the leaders of the 20 largest economies in the EU agreed to pump $1.1 trillion into developing countries. The IMF is going to pick that up.
But as far as other things coming out of this G20 summit, what's your take.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the communique wasn't bad. It had the stimulus provisions were useless. The regulatory stuff looked as if it would restrict us, but I think not. It's all words.
What is really important here is protectionism. And you would have expected words against protectionism, but, as you said, there was action. They pumped a quarter of a trillion into the IMF for trade credits and three quarters of a trillion into the developing countries, which will help them purchase stuff in this recession. So that's going to help.
But there's always an amusing event in any of these, and my favorite today was when Obama met with the president of South Korea, and afterwards, the South Koreans issued a statement that the presidents agreed that if the North Koreans launch a missile, which will happen probably on Saturday —
BAIER: There you see the a picture, by the way.
KRAUTHAMMER: — the two countries will come together with a, quote, "stern and united response," which means there will be a useless Security Council resolution with six adjectives instead of the usual two.
But that wasn't the hilarious part. The hilarious part is that the U.S. communique left out the word "stern." So it looks as if our position will be that we if the missile is launched we are going to have a flabby united resolution at the U.N.
JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": I think more happened here than Charles suggests. I think there's a major change in the United States' positioning on the international economic scene.
And it's — President Obama wants to be the anti-Bush. He wants to be not a bully, as a lot of Europeans considered Bush, but quite the opposite, to be a team player.
And, more importantly, he wants the United States not to be the dominant economic player in the world, but to — he believes that the U.S. should, and he used the word "should" in his news conference, should be just one of 20 major players, or maybe one of a smaller number, but not the dominant player.
Now, you could say that he is merely acknowledging what, in fact, is already true. But that acknowledgment coming from the United States, wanting to be humble, wanting to listen, wanting to make suggestions, this is a completely different view by the United States of itself on the world stage.
And if Charles doesn't like that there's some mealy mouth pronouncements, it has to be, because the United States, as the real leader, still, I think, the leader of the world, is not insisting on anything stronger.
BAIER: Juan, has the president moved past talking down the Bush administration in world forums?
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I didn't see anything that would suggest that today.
Clearly, though, the attitude, the reception from world leaders, I think, is pretty much that they are thrilled to not have George W. Bush there, that they believe they have someone who is more willing to be a partner in much the way that Jeff just described. But I don't think it as coming from president Obama. I didn't see any such statement.
The keys that I would see coming out of this, though, Bret, had to do, one, with protectionism, as my colleagues just said, and commitment that we would not allow protectionism to take hold around the world.
The seconding thing has to do with the regulation. I think the United States, and if you are talking about mea culpas there, which President Obama said taking responsibility for regulatory failures in the United States that contributed to this, which is the key argument coming from people like Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel of Germany.
They're making the point that the U.S. has to have stronger regulation, and if they see that as the primary fix to the world's economic problems, we need strong regulation. And Obama is buying into that message.
He had gone there with the hope to say we need more stimulative spending. He didn't get a positive response to that. There is more money going into IMF and the like to help out third world countries but not in terms of spending at home in the kind of first world nations that would generate that kind of activity.
To the contrary, the emphasis is on making sure that these markets, these third world markets, don't go into such decline that they help to lengthen the existing recession.
BAIER: You want to respond quickly?
KRAUTHAMMER: All I want to say is there is something rich about Barack Obama, who ordered up Roman columns as the background of his speech in Denver, speaking on behalf of humility.
BAIER: We'll talk about that judges' ruling opening up American courts to more terror suspects. That's coming up when we return.
BAIER: A federal judge today in the U.S. had a startling ruling that raised some eyebrows here in Washington, ruling that three terror suspects held at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan can challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.
Here is what Senator Lindsay Graham said about the ruling: "This decision allows federal judges to micromanage foreign battles and the detention of fighters are troops have captured in the battle.
I cannot think of a more dangerous concept than a federal judge thousands of miles away in the U.S. being able to micromanage military decisions about fighting enemy forces in foreign lands."
The ACLU weighed in about this decision, saying it's another rebuke to the government's claim that it is free to establish law-free zones, and said it is obviously a good decision. Only a complete restoration of the rule of law and all U.S.-run prisons can achieve a return to justice and American values.
We are back with our panel. This has largely been uncovered, Juan.
WILLIAMS: It is. It is an amazing story. This is in line, this ruling is by the judge for the U.S. district court in the District of Columbia. He repeated cites the Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo Bay.
And to me it's in line with that, but, of course, the difference here, Bret, is that you are at war in Afghanistan. And you would think that the exigencies of war would attach to how we handle prisoners, or maybe the Geneva Convention at best, not some judge in the United States.
The distinction being made by the lawyers for these four men have to do with this, that they have been held more than six years, no trials, so, no opportunity to confront their accusers. They say they were captured outside of Afghanistan. They are not Afghans, with one exception.
And you know, what they said, that they are not enemy combatants. Remember, they are not soldiers of any state and they are not enemy combatants. So that's their argument.
The one remaining guy who is an Afghan, the judge said simply "Send me memos on this," because he doesn't want to aggravate the Afghanistan government.
BAIER: The administration is going to appeal this. They're reviewing the decision, they say, in the Justice Department. The question is how vigorously, and what they do. This is a sticky situation, isn't it, Jeff?
BIRNBAUM: The Obama administration has gone with what the Bush administration wanted, which was to prevent these sorts of detainees from having access to U.S. courts, that secrets, in effect, might be spilled because of this. It ties the hands of military leaders.
I think it actually might undercut the entire U.S. effort at spy craft. It's not just in Afghanistan that this might affect detainees, but anywhere in the world where the United States even holds for a small amount of time people they would like to detain for reasons of terrorism prevention.
So the Obama administration, which is against Gitmo, will find itself, I think, fighting vigorously to overturn this judge's ruling to protect its ability to secretly protect U.S. citizens around the globe.
KRAUTHAMMER: That's the irony here. The Obama people, liberals in general, supported the Guantanamo ruling a year ago and cheered it. But this ruling today, which the Obama administration opposes, is an inevitable outcome of the Guantanamo ruling.
Guantanamo was radical because it overturned a 60-year precedent, which said that if you're a foreign prisoner in a foreign place, Germans under our control in occupied Germany in the late '40's, you do not have access to American courts.
So Guantanamo overturned that, the ruling on Guantanamo did, and this is an inevitable outcome. But it is entirely insane. You cannot conduct a war under these circumstances. That's why Obama is fighting it.
BAIER: Can you conduct an overseas contingency operation under these circumstances?
KRAUTHAMMER: Precisely, no matter what you call them.
Look, I would give these guys every couple of years a review of their status every couple of years in case you have a case of mistaken identity, but I would do it out of the goodness of our heart, not out of any right or constitutional obligation.
BAIER: Quickly, Juan, the administration privately is saying that this is a narrow ruling, at least right now. These three guys, they are held for six years, but doesn't it potentially open the floodgates?
WILLIAMS: It does, but, again, we need to set some kind of ground rules. These are enemy combatants. They don't belong to any state. That's the difference between World War II and Germany and this.
But we have to deal with it, because six years, I mean if I was in jail for six years, I would want somebody to say what's up? Is this the right guy?
BAIER: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see the latest trials and tribulations of the treasury secretary r.
BAIER: Finally tonight, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has been under fire for weeks. But it started to look like things were turning around when he was unleashed to appear on some Sunday talk shows.
There was one common answer in those appearances, though.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": This financial crisis is really complex, folks. Even I get confused. Now, on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tried to make one thing clear for us.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Let me just step back for one sec. Let me step back for one sec. Let's just step back for a sec.
COLBERT: That he doesn't want to be anywhere near this problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: That's in it for this "Special Report," straightforward news in uncertain times.
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