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'Special Report' Panel Reviews President Obama's Overseas Trip

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The Weekly Standard's Steve HayesFNC

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from July 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The one thing I will be looking forward to is fewer summit meetings, because, as you said, I've only been in office six months now and there have been a lot of these.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: President Obama finishing up the G8 meetings in Italy today and apparently suffering from some summit overload.

So what about his trip, the whole trip? Let's bring in the panel: Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Let's start with the G8 summit, which ended up, Steve, being attended by some 40 countries. We got a lot of statements about global recession, climate change, Iran. What did they actually accomplish?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think they actually accomplished almost nothing.

It is interesting when you think back to a year ago during this time of the campaign, this was the same month that then candidate Barack Obama gave his speech in Berlin about the new multilateralism and, under his leadership, the United States would remake the world, having sort of discarded the unilateralism, the cowboy diplomacy of George W. Bush.

Now we see, six, seven months in, that perhaps it wasn't the unilateralism or the so-called uni — unileral — unilitral —unilateralism of George W. Bush, but it was actually American interests and the problems we have with some of our allies.

I think in some instances, particularly on Iran, we took a step back, because the G8 statement on Iran actually affirms that engagement will continue regardless of the regime's activities.

WALLACE: Do you give a bad review to the G8?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Yes, I give a bad review to the G8. I give a pretty bad review to the whole trip, in fact.

WALLACE: Well, just talk about the G8.

KONDRACKE: OK, the G8, they did not do anything on climate change, which they were going to do. They set an upper limit for temperatures, but no limit on CO2 emissions. And so all they did was to pledge more aid to Africa. And it's not really clear when you pledge aid to Africa that it really helps Africa the way foreign aid is distributed.

So the president, to his credit, said to Africa, you've got to stop this corruption in order for it to do any good. That was a robust statement.

But the rest of it was basically a lot of nothing and I don't blame him for being tired of going to these summits.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about that, Charles, because the president did, as you heard in the clip, raise the fact that an awful lot of summit meetings and in his short presidency he has been to a lot of them. Do these still make sense whether it is the G8 or the G20 or all these others or is it a waste of time?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It impinges on his golf, so I understand why he's upset with it.

Look, the G7 had a reason. Then we asked Russians to join in the '90s as a gesture, who don't belong. They are a not economic influences or powerhouses in any way. The G7 originally was about economics and there it made sense. It was kind of a way to coordinate economic policy.

Right now, it's useless in having the Russians in, particularly after the invasion of Georgia last year. Leaving them in made it into a farce. And the G20 is a larger farce.

But Obama compounded it because he is a man who spoke about how he is going to unite the world and has all these wooly internationalist notions.

He goes to the summit of the G8. He precedes it by trying to ram a cap-and-trade energy tax through the Congress which he knows is going to hurt the American economy in the name of climate change, in the name of demonstrating American leadership, and what does he get at that summit? No support from any of our allies.

The Russians explicitly say they're not going to do anything on climate change if it impinges on their economy. And the Chinese and Indians say that as well, which means that anything he does at home on cap-and-trade will hurt us and do nothing about the emission of greenhouse gases.

WALLACE: Mort, you were anxious to talk not only about Italy but also preceding that the couple of days the president spent in Moscow.

KONDRACKE: Right.

He said that he was going to reset U.S.-Russian relations and nothing has changed. At the very end of this G7 summit — G8 summit — Medvedev, the president, went right back to the threat to install nuclear-tipped missiles against Poland if we deploy an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland, which is not directed against the Russians at all. It is directed against the Iranians.

So the Russians are just as tough as they have ever been. They are just as authoritarian. They are just as anxious to dominate their old sphere of influence as they ever were.

And he got nowhere on Iran. There is no Russian-U.S. axis forming against the Iranians. He got nowhere on Georgia. They're still menacing — Russians are still menacing Georgia, et cetera, et cetera.

WALLACE: And we have about a minute left: Steve, the president now is in Ghana. He has been calling and was pushing in the summit for a big food assistance initiative, billions of dollars to Africa and the rest of the Third World.

But in fairness, he did also say that a lot of those countries there have to clean up their own act, as Mort mentioned, end the corruption. What are the chances he will get this green revolution he's calling for?

WILKES: Isn't that meddling? We've seen that we aren't supposed to be meddling, the United States is not supposed to be meddling.

Look, it is a good thing for him to say it. I'm glad he said it. I hope he follows through with policies. But, frankly, we have heard this before and we have seen that reform in Africa is often much, much harder to accomplish than simply continuing to give dollars to dictators that do nothing but spend it on themselves and don't use it to better the situations of their people.

WALLACE: Panel, we have to step aside for a moment. But when we come back, the Friday lightning round features scandal, a resignation, and a curious presidential glance. All that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS, D-ILL.: I will not be a candidate in the 2010 election. And I will not run for the United States Senate seat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was embattled Illinois Senator Roland Burris making it official today. And we're back with our panel for the Friday lightning round.

So, starting with Steve Hayes, as we say, Burris says he's not going to run, and he really was in trouble ever since he was appointed by Rod Blagojevich. What do you make of the Burris era in the Senate?

HAYES: It's very sad that it's coming to an end. I will miss him. I think, whether intentionally or not, he was far funnier than Al Franken ever will be. And he won a faceoff with Harry Reid, and won it in decisive fashion. We will miss that.

KONDRACKE: I think he is a sad character all the way around.

But the real news from Illinois this week was the decision of Lisa Madigan, who is the most popular figure in Illinois politics — the attorney general — not to run for the Senate, not to run for governor, but, because she has a one-year-old baby, to actually stay in her job as attorney general and tend to her job. That is a very good decision.

It opens the way for maybe primaries in both Republican and Democratic sides for the Senate.

WALLACE: The Roland Burris era?

KRAUTHAMMER: I'll miss him. Look, the reason he ran is not because he was going to lose, which of course he would have, but because if he is a lame duck, they won't pursue him on ethics issues and that at least will keep him out of trouble, and he will go out —

WALLACE: So one step ahead of the sheriff.

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly — quietly into the night.

WALLACE: Issue two, as John McLaughlin would say: We haven't had a chance all week to talk about the latest from Senator John Ensign of Nevada. It now turns out, Steve, that Ensign's parents agreed to pay the family of the former staffer he had an affair with $96,000.

I just want to know, would your parents bail you out if you said "I had an affair with one of my staffers"?

HAYES: Absolutely not, especially after the stock market crash.

But I don't think in a town where we see lots of statements with lots of, sort of, shall we say, courage or chutzpah, this one really ranks up there as one of the worst in history, that it was just family generosity.

WALLACE: Yes, family generosity. It made it sound like it was a humanitarian gesture.

KONDRACKE: Exactly. Hush money redefined, I would say.

KRAUTHAMMER: My mother has a limit of $50k.

WALLACE: So $96,000 is outside her ballpark.

KRAUTHAMMER: Outside her ballpark, so I'm more careful as a result.

Look, it's the old rule: It is not the crime, it is the cover up. And if you're going to cover up, you got to give a better excuse than assisting the family. It was hush money and it really looks bad.

WALLACE: And then there was the picture that came out of the G8 summit this week. Let's put it up on the screen. The Washington Post ran this photo this morning with the question, "What do President Obama and French President Sarcozy have in common? Answer: They're men."

But our crack staff says the video — let's run this right now — says the video shows that perhaps it's a different story. What do you make of the video, Steve?

HAYES: Well, I consulted a — we have an expert ogler on our staff at the Weekly Standard.

WALLACE: Look at Sarcozy coming in there.

HAYES: That is far more interesting.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, Sarcozy's French.

(LAUGHTER)

KONDRACKE: Exactly, yes, of course!

HAYES: Everybody was playing the type. Obama was generously helping the woman and Sarcozy was checking her out.

KONDRACKE: Totally innocent on Obama's part. Sarcozy, as Charles said, is French.

KRAUTHAMMER: Acquitted on all counts. Look, Obama is a man of supreme self-containment. He is not a man who stares at the rear ends of 16-year-olds.

WALLACE: And Sarcozy?

KRAUTHAMMER: I won't speak about the French. If you see Obama on camera, you know the camera is lying; character is destiny.

Another axiom in Washington, always trust your underlying assumptions and not your eyes.

WALLACE: And with four seconds left, let's move. We have about 15, 20 seconds for each of you to offer something on some issue that you want to talk about.

KRAUTHAMMER: Obama speaking in Moscow referred to our reaction and opposition to the Russian rape of Georgia as "Our disagreements on Georgia's borders." Well, Chamberlain and Hitler had a disagreement about Poland's in September of 1939.

KONDRACKE: Well, Arne Duncan, the education secretary is a real hero. He went to the National Education Association and delivered a speech touting merit pay and firing bad teachers — you know, quite a heroic effort.

HAYES: Time magazine ran a cover story about Sarah Palin calling her "renegade," not anything else negative, and ran a profile that was fairly positive on balance. So I wonder if we're seeing the tide turning on mainstream media treatment of her.

WALLACE: And you raised the question, do you think, in fact, we are seeing the tide turning in mainstream media?

HAYES: Absolutely not. No chance.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: And what about Sonia Sotomayor? We have got, what, 15 seconds left. Does she sail through?

HAYES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: Absolutely.

KRAUTHAMMER: The Republicans will raise an issue or two on principle, but her nomination — her ascension to the court is absolutely assured.

KONDRACKE: I'm looking forward to the speeches we will hear on Monday from senator —

WALLACE: And each one questioning for half an hour. As Carl Cameron said, it will bore everybody. But that's plug to keep watching.

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