This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from July 7, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Asked about the possibility of a second stimulus package by our own Senior White House Correspondent Major Garrett, the president said he's not going to take anything off the table when unemployment is close to 10 percent and a lot of Americans are hurting out there.
Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is also in agreement that Congress cannot basically take anything off the table, that it needs to be open to taking additional action.
Obviously, you can sense that Republicans are against this, and even the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has said he doesn't see a need right now for another stimulus package.
But what about this? At least the newest polls show that Americans oppose a stimulus package, a second stimulus package, by a percentage of 60 percent to 27 percent, not sure at 13 percent. That's from a Rasmussen poll.
Let's bring in the panel, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of "Fortune" magazine, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Juan, the possibility of a second stimulus package?
JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it would be disastrous for the administration, but you can understand why the president would want to say to people having trouble holding onto jobs, worried about getting another job or unemployed, that he is sensitive to their needs.
Now, the problem here is that if you look at it, you know, Vice President Biden saying that the administration wasn't aware of the problem and the depth of the economic trouble that it was going in. It looks as if they weren't properly prepared and didn't act properly the first time around that they put a stimulus package in place. But I think that they're right to say, listen, there is certain aspects of the stimulus that haven't taken effect yet, specifically tax cuts. They are right to say that much of the infrastructure building is yet to come as the fall approaches, and they counsel some patience.
But there is no patience if you are out of work and your prospects look dim. People want help.
The only thing the administration might do is not call it a stimulus, a second stimulus, but instead way we are going to extend unemployment benefits for another round, or we're offer a certain tax cut down the road.
They can do things like, that but even so, they take the risk of Republicans hammering them and saying this is not but a second stimulus package.
BAIER: Nina, what the president said when he was pitching the first stimulus package back in January, he said "If we don't act swiftly and boldly, we could see a much deeper economic downturn that could lead to double digit unemployment." We are approaching double digit unemployment.
NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Which is what we're going to see anyways.
But here's the problem, here's the danger that they're facing, and they know it -- if you go up in spending, and we're already looking at big packages of spending in cap and trade and health care and so on, you put out another big spending plan, the debt goes up, interest rates go up, which they are already starting to tick up, and that will choke off economic recovery by choking the housing market.
And that's already we're seeing danger signs in that area, and they know it.
The other thing politically is that while you have got these liberal economists saying well, we really need to do this, let's consider it -- one of those economists, by the way, also supported nationalizing the banks -- as your polls showed, the public doesn't support it. The public is even split between whether the first recovery plan worked or not.
BAIER: I think we have that poll, too. It's also Rasmussen, whether it helped or hurt the economic.
EASTON: Yes, 31 percent said it helped and 30 said it hurt.
Politically, this looks like a do-over. It is like, OK, look, we didn't do it right the first time. We're going to spend billions more of your taxpayer dollars to try to get it right the second time. That's not going to fly, and I think they know that.
Even though they don't want to take it off the table, as Juan said, I just don't think they're going to seriously push it.
BAIER: And the political will, it is hard to imagine it is there on Capitol Hill at all -- Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, as Nina says, it's a trillion dollar mulligan. You know, the first rule in Washington is if you're in a hole, stop digging. And this is digging more and more into the hole.
The administration argues that the reason unemployment is higher than they projected is that the stimulus hasn't yet kicked in. Well, if that is the case, why would you argue for a second stimulus that's going to add another $1 trillion to the debt when there is no evidence yet admittedly, that you would admit yourself there is no evidence that the first stimulus had worked. And secondly is what Nina talked about. If you're going to add on a second stimulus after arguing that the lag in the effect of the stimulus is large, and that's why we haven't seen any effect yet, that means that the effects of the second stimulus would be way down the road. It would be kicking in at a time when the administration itself is projecting that the economy will be rising and in recovery. So it will overheat and over-stimulate the economy, add to inflation rates, and add hugely to our debt at a time when we already have rumblings from the Russians, the Chinese, and even the Indians today of removing the dollar as the world reserve currency. BAIER: Juan, you mentioned Vice President Biden and his statements over the weekend that the administration may not have estimated the economy to be as bad as it was when they started the first pitch.
BAIER: Was that just Biden off script again?
WILLIAMS: You know, I think he was trying to put the emphasis on blaming the Bush administration, saying we didn't understand exactly the depth of the problems we were being handed. But the way he said it, the kind of locution he used, instead emphasized the lack of sophistication of the Obama economic team in understanding what they were trying to do.
So it is not that they necessarily say that the first round, by the way, of the stimulus package hasn't helped. To the contrary, when I talked to them, what they say it would be worse unless that stimulus package was in place to boost consumer confidence.
BAIER: But here is the killer is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came out and said that only 10 percent has been spent of that first stimulus package.
EASTON: But again, they always knew that it was going to be the first step would be the safety-net steps, the steps in tax, the stuff that's easy to get out.
BAIER: The shovel-ready projects, what happened to them?
EASTON: But shovel-ready project, yes, this infrastructure stuff, it does take up more time. And if you pass the second stimulus, as Charles said, it's going to take a couple of years down the road.
BAIER: They weren't that ready.
EASTON: They weren't that ready, that's right.
BAIER: Charles, last word.
KRAUTHAMMER: We have a huge absence of shovels. The administration is finally admitting it.
BAIER: Has the media covered the Michael Jackson story to the detriment of others, such as wars in Iraq an Afghanistan? The panel will take on this, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Jackson body from Forest Lawn to the Staples Center, need, obviously, to prepare for security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: As the coverage of Michael Jackson's death continued over recent days and as literally the world watches Jackson's memorial service today on all U.S. networks, military families are now looking for some perspective.
Since Jackson's death on June 25, at least 20 service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of those killed was Army Lieutenant Brian Bradshaw. He was killed by an IED, improvised explosive device, in Afghanistan. You probably haven't heard of him.
Lieutenant Bradshaw was 24. His family buried him yesterday in Kent, Washington.
His aunt wrote a letter to the "Washington Post" about her nephew's death and the Michael Jackson coverage, saying "What more than that did Michael Jackson do or represent that earned him memorial shrines while this soldier's death goes unheralded? It makes me want to scream."
What about it, the Michael Jackson coverage? We're back with our panel -- Nina?
EASTON: I think it's terrific that that aunt spoke up, because - - not just to this soldier's death, but soldiers' deaths all the time in both of these wars I don't think we, any of us, give enough recognition to.
But I think in terms of the Michael Jackson thing, if it wasn't Michael Jackson, it would have been something else as sort of the celebrity nature and the ratings-driven nature of our business.
As for Michael Jackson, I think the coverage was over the top. It was one part reverence. I mean, today you could not be touched watching those thousands of people watching the memorial service on these outdoor screens in New York and in Los Angeles, and so forth.
But it was, to me, one part voyeurism. Partly it was watching this man's life, boy-man's life, that was like watching a car wreck. You know, he went from a very talented pop icon to his, you know, freakish behavior, the charges of child molestation, to when he died, the nature of his death, the nature of his children, where, you know, how his children were begotten.
And so I think that added to the media sensation over it. There were so many sort of bizarre layers to this story.
BAIER: Juan, Representative Peter King from New York came out and said the media has gone overboard and that we're covering this pervert, essentially is what he said in a statement to the press, in New York. What about that?
WILLIAMS: I thought it was crass. I think the man should be accorded some respect. I think Peter King can complain about the media coverage, can complain about what we do in the press, but I don't think he needed to go after Michael Jackson. It wasn't breaking news about accusations of pedophilia or drug use or any of the rest.
If he wants to say Jackson shouldn't be held up as a role model to our children as the best of our country, OK. But to me, this was a political pitch by Representative King intended to appeal to people who are fed up with the Jackson coverage, and I just think it was unbecoming of him.
Now, let me just say in terms of the actual coverage, I think it has been grotesque.
And when I see politicians standing up there, I think of Sharpton and Jackson, people who really had very little to do with Michael Jackson in life, standing up there and giving these speeches, and it's saccharin and melancholy, I think to myself, this is horrible. They're taking advantage of the dead as much as I would make the argument against Congressman King.
So, to me, it's the degenerated carnival. Nina says properly, people are watch, so we will put it on the air. But at some point, you just have to wondering, why are we doing this?
And when you think about the sacrifices of soldiers -- look, soldiers get lost in every war. I understand that. Michael Jackson is a celebrity, but this is a sad situation.
BAIER: Yes, bringing it back to the military families, Charles, obviously this family is speaking out after watching their son, their nephew, die in Afghanistan on the same day Michael Jackson died. This network has covered the Jackson situation a lot, as every other network has.
What about this perspective that perhaps got lost in this past week and a half?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, soldiers die dignified, sacrificial lives, and they are not celebrities. I think the pathology here is the celebrity culture, which is why you have the media coverage.
We haven't seen anything like this outpouring of sentiment since Princess Diana, and at the time of her death, you had to ask yourself, what did she accomplish? What exactly had she done? Winston Churchill got a third of a million at his funeral. She got 10 times as much. He saved the western civilization. She wore clothes nicely. And Jackson was sort of the apotheosis of that here in America. But I think, Juan, there is an element here. She was never accused, Princess Diana, of the monstrous deeds that Michael Jackson was, some of us less monstrous of which she admitted to. That was whitewashed away on account of his celebrity.
And I think that is the feeling of unease people have, the adulation and the worship a man who had a tragic and deeply flawed life.
BAIER: And you had that position back then, we should point out.
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