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'Special Report' Panel on President Obama Making Case for Peace Directly to Muslim World

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from June 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

P.J. CROWLEY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: We're not going to solve all the problems of the region with one speech, but this is going to be an ongoing part of significant engagement.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: The president himself experienced Islam on three continents, you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father. Obviously Muslim-Americans are a key part of Illinois and Chicago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Administration officials previewing the president's speech to the Muslim world tomorrow in Cairo. Meantime, the president greeted Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh without the controversial bow that marked their meeting a month and a half ago.

What about this speech, this trip moving forward? Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it is an important speech. And I think it's good for the president to use the fact that he does have a Muslim upbringing, relations, contacts and an affinity for Islam as a result. That's important. He should use that in trying to warm relations with the Muslim world.

What he has to avoid is what he has done up until now in speeches and in appearances on Arab television in which he touts his affinity in contrast to the ill treatment his own country has allegedly given the Arabs, the Muslims, as when he says that we have to show more respect for the Muslim world, which in itself is a scandalous accusation, considering that our country has committed itself militarily six times in the last 20 years on behalf of Muslim populations in Somalia, in the Balkans, in the Middle East and in Afghanistan.

So, I don't want to see him, as it were, in the past, sort of standing above the fray, mediating between America and the Islamic world on the other hand — like a philosopher king. He is an American and has to defend our past and our commitments.

Secondly, what's happening here is, by going to Egypt and by dealing as he did, as we saw, with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, he's ending the democracy agenda, the freedom agenda that the Bush administration had instituted. He's realigning the United States in the old alliance, starting all the way back with FDR with the Arab dictators and rulers.

Now, he will get a lot of applause tomorrow, but I think he will rue the day in which he realigned us with the people who are oppressing the Arab street, and who have historically encouraged a lot of anti-Americanism as a way to deflect the street's distaste for these dictatorships.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think this trip is all about trying to change the direction of what's going on in the Middle East. And to that extent, I think what he has been doing with King Abdullah, what he will do with Mubarak, is almost more important than the speech he will give tomorrow.

We know that, you know, he has made an effort to speak to the Muslim world before, to use the fact that he had a Muslim dad, has Muslim relatives, had time in Indonesia in a Muslim school. All of that is known to the Arab world and Muslim world.

The question is: What is he going to do that is going to suggest that he is willing to take concrete steps to change the dynamic in the Middle East?

It's clear that he has been putting pressure on Netanyahu to try to do something about the settlements. Is he willing to now say to the Arab leadership, you have to help me put pressure on Israel? You have to help me, give me something to work with that could put Israel in a position of having to come along and play in this game, in terms of trying to establish a separate state for the Palestinians, and also, to do something in terms of dealing with Hamas and dealing with the terrorists who are in the Palestinian territory and undermining Palestinian autonomy.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: If he says that, Juan, particularly about Hamas and getting the Arab states to do something about violence and Palestinian terrorism against the Israelis, he can make some headway. I don't there is a chance he will say that, because he will probably get booed if he did.

I just don't see how there is anything he can win. I think this is a no-win speech. I admit it is a courageous act on his part, in a way, but it is a no-win speech.

I was struck by that interview he had with Tom Friedman of The New York Times, which he gave before he left, and when he talked about telling the troops that he was going to tell the truth in his speech in the Middle East. Well, the truth is too painful, for the Arab countries in particular. Are you going to tell them, look, if the Israelis give up those settlements, this will be a huge breakthrough? Can he pretend that way?

Look, the Israelis pulled out of Sinai, they pulled out of Lebanon, they gave up Gaza. And what did they get out of that? Did they get love-bombed by the Arab world? Hardly. They just got more hatred.

And to pretend like there is a meaningful peace process that's going on or can be revived, it is just not being truthful. There isn't one.

WILLIAMS: Right. So he has to create one, Fred.

BARNES: He can't create...

WILLIAMS: Fred, you just can't just be pessimistic and negative and say don't even bother to go.

BARNES: Juan, the word is "realistic."

WILLIAMS: Right. And so let's be realistic that he wants to start a new moment.

There is an opportunity with this president, given his background, to really initiate a new dynamic in the region, and I wouldn't be negative about it.

BARNES: It's not possible.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, if you want to have a process, you have got to have two sides. The Israelis for 30 years have been open to compromise, negotiation and a division of the land. The Arabs have not. That's the fact.

They haven't since 1967 — their position has been unchanging. Every inch of land in '67 and a return of Arab refugees, which would destroy Israel.

BAIER: Let me ask you about this trip to Saudi. The price of oil is approaching $70 a barrel now. Back on the campaign trail, then-Senator Clinton gave President Bush a hard time for going to Saudi Arabia, hat in hand, she said.

Officials are saying that President Obama planned to try to talk the price of oil down to the Saudi king by emphasizing alternative energy.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's not going to happen, so why would you raise it as a way to expose yourself to failure and ridicule and humiliation. The price will go up and the Saudis will do precisely as they please.

WILLIAMS: He is an American president. And as an American car driver, I hope he says something about the importance of keeping oil prices low.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: You guys are so negative. My goodness.

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: To go back to what Charles was talking about and what the Palestinians were offered in 2000 when Bill Clinton was president, and heaven knows he tried hard to produce a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The Palestinians were offered a two-state solution, which now they say they haven't been. They were offered half of Jerusalem. They were offered most of the outlying settlements, at least, were going to be eliminated by the Israelis.

And what happened? It was turned down. The Palestinians said no.

WILLIAMS: Fred, let me make one last point: It is not in Israel's interest to have this kind of status quo. Iran is there. Israel wants U.S. help with Iran and they need Arab help in suppressing Iran.

KRAUTHAMMER: You cannot invent a negotiating partner.

BAIER: There's thunder outside — that's our queue.

We will talk about the differences in reaction between the murders of an abortion doctor and an army private. The panel returns after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As secretary of the Army, he will ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to meet the full spectrum of challenges and threats of our time.

BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: The absence of anything from the administration when an American serviceman, American servicemen are gunned down by Muslim fanatics — again, this tells you something about this administration. It really doesn't find that noteworthy. It's not important enough for the president to talk about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: As of tonight, right now, there hasn't been an official release from the White House from President Obama on the shooting death of Private William Long in Arkansas — that happened Monday. Another soldier there outside that recruiting office was also wounded in that shooting attack.

The White House is saying that it did put out a statement to Arkansas media outlets who asked for one. But there was a statement right away after the shooting death of George Tillman (sic), the abortion doctor who was murdered at his church — I'm sorry, Tiller, George Tiller, who was murdered at his church in Kansas.

And in that statement, he says "However profound," this is the president, "our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence." He said he was shocked and appalled by that shooting.

What about the differences of the releases and the coverage — Fred?

BARNES: I think it is a double standard here. It is pretty obvious and overwhelming, more so on the part of the media than the part of the White House. I'm not excusing the White House, but the media has been a worse offender here in applying the double standard.

Look, you have hate crimes — evil hate crimes — one the killing of an abortion doctor, the other the killing of an Army recruiter and the wounding of another one. And they were treated differently.

Now why would they be treated differently? Because it is obviously a case of liberal bias, where in the media, the media is much more concerned about and eager to blame the pro-lifers, the anti-abortion forces, than they want to attack militant Islamists who may have been behind the killing of the recruiter.

That, we know, there has been a series of these attacks on Army recruitment centers. We know this is a convert to militant Islam who has been arrested for killing, in the killing of the Army recruiter.

They found 556 weapons — not weapons, but bullets in his car. They found back at his house all these maps and everything of what were obviously other targets. He was obviously converted to militant Islam by somebody.

And yet the media is not interested in that at all. They are spending all their time blaming perfectly peaceful pro-lifers for the killing of George Tiller.

It's preposterous.

BAIER: By the way, we should point out that this rainstorm is intense in the windows behind us. So if you hear some crashing, it is just the thunder.

Juan, why not release the statement that I guess you provide — the White House provided to Arkansas media outlets? We don't get it.

WILLIAMS: From my perspective, I'm very sensitive to this, because I think there is lots of fawning over Obama in the media. And I don't think there is any question about their being bias in so much of the media.

But in this instance it seems there is a high consciousness of terrorism among all Americans. And we have a whole department of the government called Homeland Security that was created just recently in the aftermath of 9/11 to deal with terrorism.

FBI, CIA, our top intelligence and organizations, military organizations, are all involved in finding terrorism.

BAIER: I know, but we are talking about the president and his podium — his megaphone. He had many opportunities. He introduced his nominee as secretary of the Army. He could have said something there.

WILLIAMS: He could have said something. But, first of all, I'm not sure that as a matter of American positioning that we want to call attention to some nut who is, it seems to me, to be not even someone involved in high-level terrorist activities.

BAIER: But then why put out the release about the killer of George Tiller?

WILLIAMS: I would do that, and I'll tell you why, Bret. Because it seems to me that we as Americans do not take our arguments over policy to the extent of committing violence and acts of terrorism.

We, in fact, are a peaceful people who find nonviolent solutions to our points of difference. And the idea that someone would kill that doctor really was extraordinary and wrong, and it really called for the president to say that's not in keeping with American democratic values.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: The media coverage is really quite remarkably unbalanced here. After all, which is the bigger threat, the violence against abortion doctors, of which the victims you can count on one hand, or the victims of Islamic radical attacks, you know, London, Madrid, Buenos Aires, the United States, which is a worldwide phenomenon and threat.

And the reason the one got coverage and the other didn't is because the one fits in the media line of the demonization of the right, and the other story of the shooting in Arkansas doesn't.

If anything, it supports the idea that Islamic radicalism is a threat, and that perhaps it's not just a figment of Cheney's imagination.

BAIER: By the way, Juan, I was pointing out the timing of it, not that the White House wouldn't put out a release on the Tiller killing, just that they put out one for that and didn't for the Arkansas killing.

WILLIAMS: I think he definitely should have said something about the soldier.

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