This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from February 24, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE JARRETT, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISOR: We are optimistic. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It's going to be hard. But if people come tomorrow prepared to really roll up their sleeves and work hard on behalf of the American people, the people who elected them here, we're confident that we can make progress.
JOHN BOEHNER, R-OH, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We are going down there tomorrow speaking on behalf of the American people who have made it perfectly clear that they want this bill scrapped and they want us to start over.
His bill can't pass. Why don't we sit down and work on things that can pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: OK, there are some of the sights and sounds before this bipartisan health care summit at the Blair House across from the White House. What about this and what will come out of it?
Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Kirsten Powers, columnist of the New York Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Kirsten, first to you. Are the expectations — I mean it seems like Republicans don't have a lot of expectations, but what about Democrats? Are there expectations for this summit?
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Sure. Clearly Obama decided to take another run at this. And I think you can disagree about whether that's a good idea or not, but now that he's doing it, I think people are hoping that something is going to come out of this.
I think the only way, and I think this is unlikely to happen, but I think what has to happen for anything to really move is to have some sort of game-changer, meaning Obama would come out and actually do something sort of radical, like saying let's put tort reform on the table or let's do something a little different versus showing up and trying to outmaneuver and debate them, sort of do the same thing as last time.
It's really time to do something different and call the Republicans on their bluff.
BAIER: OK, so Charles, the president comes to the table and says you are right on tort reform. I will take that one. Now you have to come my way and pass x, y, and z.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If I were sitting there, I would say what do you mean by tort reform? Do you mean serious or do you mean the kind of dabbling that's done in the bills that are already in the House and the Senate?
I think it would be absolutely remarkable if the president at this late date introduced that. I think it might change the game at least on that day. But he hasn't shown any seriousness about this.
And Howard Dean some months ago in a public rally spoke about why the Democrats haven't included it, and it's because he said openly we don't want to anger the trial lawyers. And what he didn't say is the trial lawyers own the Democratic Party.
Look, I think this is not about real compromise or finding a middle way. This is all about theater. It's a two-act production tomorrow, six hours long. And Obama production presents the children of light against the apostles of nihilism. That's exactly how he staked it out.
And I think his whole idea is to present an event in which he gets the upper hand or the Republicans produce a sound bite that is embarrassing and it encourages the troops in the house and the Senate, because he then has to go into reconciliation, which is a tricky maneuver, a parliamentary maneuver, and which is extremely problematic.
So I think tomorrow is all about theater and then after that is real legislation.
BAIER: Steve, the president today talking to business leaders said one of the benefits of health care reform as he sees it is bringing down the cost of Medicare and Medicaid. It could significantly reduce our deficit. Now, by his plan that the White House put out Monday, they are going continue to crease the people going into Medicaid by about 15 million and going to cut from Medicare about $500 billion, but use that money twice, essentially, according to the CBO.
If you're Republicans, do you focus on that? Do you go down into those weeds?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: We know how the president wants us — he's got a very specific agenda. He has four parts. He wants to walk through certain policy issues.
If I'm the Republicans at this point, every question he asks or every issue he raises, I take it back to spending. People don't believe him on spending because what he is saying is not believable. It doesn't make sense that you will be able to lower costs and cover more people. That is common sense.
You don't have to get into elaborate negotiations or discussions about why that doesn't make sense. You don't have to have a CBO score, and the president doesn't have one for this latest plan, to understand that you can't actually cover that many more people and lower the cost.
So at every point, if I'm Republicans, I say Mr. President, what about the spending? What about the spending? How much is this going to add to the deficit?
And you can actually do this, I think, in a way that says to the president, look, I am taking you on good faith. I believe, Mr. President, that you think that this will lower the cost. But let's look at the stimulus for a second. It was to have cost $787 billion, and in less than a year it's increased by $75 billion, not because anybody is manipulating things, but the assumptions were wrong. This is going to add to that the same way.
BAIER: Charles mentioned reconciliation, the parliamentary process where you could pass budgetary measures according to the rules through the Senate with 51 votes and not 60 that is usually needed. It was once called the nuclear option and Democrats, when Republicans were using it, had this to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What I worry about would be the — you essentially have still two chambers, the House and the Senate, but you have simply majoritarian, absolute power on either side. And that's just not what the founders intended.
SENATOR JOE BIDEN, D-DEL.: This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab. I say to my friends on the Republican side, you may own the field right now, but you won't own it forever. And I pray god when the Democrats take back control we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.
SENATOR HARRY REID, D- NEV.: This is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority so that cooler heads may prevail. The filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Kirsten, there is a lot more tape.
POWERS: I'm sure there is. Thank you for establishing beyond all doubt that politicians are hypocrites.
So I think it goes for both sides.
But when it comes to reconciliation, it's really not clear what's going to happen. The expert on it is Kent Conrad, chairman of the budget committee. He has said it has to go through the House first, anything that deals with money has to come out of the House first.
The House doesn't want to do that because, of course, they don't want to have to do another vote where they're walking the plank again on something that may not even become law. So they are saying no, the Senate has to go first.
And the White House is at least behind closed doors, and I don't know if they would come out publicly, yet, and pretty much decided that they are going to push reconciliation. The question is how are they actually going to do that in a situation where the House is not going to go — they do not want to go first. How can they make them go first? That's really the question.
HAYES: But when Conrad was told today that the House is insisting on going first, he said fine, then it's dead. That's not an insignificant comment from somebody like a Kent Conrad.
BAIER: If you could put percentages, Charles, on the reconciliation process, the nuclear option working, it's still a long shot, like a three banker, isn't it?
KRAUTHAMMER: It is a three-bank shot. And I think it gets stuck in the House because Pelosi lacks the votes, in the Senate because it allows the Republicans endless amendments.
But I want to add one thing. I would like to see the text of the prayer that Biden is now offering that Democrats not nakedly grab power. I would love to have that liturgy so we can all repeat it.
BAIER: We'll but that request in.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I am an ardent believer in the free market. I believe businesses like yours are the engines of economic growth in this country. You create jobs.
BOEHNER: If the president really does believe that he is pro-free market, I have not seen any evidence of their activity here on Capitol Hill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The president is speaking to business leaders today, did sound at times like a Republican. We're back with our panel. Steve, what about this?
HAYES: Well, come on. I mean, the president can say that as much as he wants. We have a year. We can look what he has done over the past year. He is plainly not an ardent believer in the free market. He is believer in big government. That's what he ran on in effect and that's what he won on, and so he has enacted policies that follow what he campaigned on.
But to try to pretend today that he an ardent believer in the free market doesn't pass the laugh test.
The interesting thing is the business roundtable has given him some good marks for the comments that he made today and say we are encouraged by his rhetoric. But it's important to remember that a lot of the businesses that make up the business roundtable also supported the stimulus.
The stimulus was anything but a free market, pro-growth jobs plan. It was, I think, we recognize that it was basically a wasteful spending measure that gave out lots of favors to his political backers and didn't do much to stimulate jobs.
BAIER: The Congressional Budget Office does say that 2 million, their estimate is 2 million jobs could come out of the stimulus.
HAYES: Up to.
BAIER: Up to. Valerie Jarrett is back into — senior advisor to the White House, back into defending the stimulus, saying hold on, it's not done creating or saving jobs, today, telling Major Garrett that.
POWERS: Well, sure. I mean, they are going to keep pushing that. But I do think the president, when I listened to the speech today, was — he was defensive. You know, he was trying to sort of sell something. I have to agree with you, that really isn't his philosophy, and I don't know why it would be his philosophy.
You know, he was complaining that people are saying he was raising taxes and I haven't raised a dime in taxes, which is very disingenuous if you look at any of the health care plans. Were it not nor Scott Brown taxes would be going up in health care bills. That's part of his plan. And as a Democrat, there is really nothing radical about that.
So it's strange that he is now trying to pretend that he is not going to raise taxes. We have a huge deficit. We have, you know, we are — no way could we get out of that just from cutting spending. Democrats criticize the Bush administration for not raising taxes, you know, to pay for a war.
Philosophically he actually believes in raising taxes. So he was sort of trying to sell himself as something that he is just not today at the business roundtable.
KRAUTHAMMER: And there is something else he is trying to do. The message from the elections the Democrats have lost is that people are worried about jobs. And in the state of the union address he pretended he would pivot away from health care onto jobs, but he is still stuck on healthcare.
The problem is this, and it's a problem all presidents have, Republican or Democratic, the government doesn't essentially create the jobs. It can save a few in a recession. It can have a make-work job that will last a year or two. But essentially it is the private sector. And there is not much the government can do.
But in a recession, you have to pretend. And that's what I think the new jobs bill in the Senate is all about. Look, Reagan had that problem in '81 and '82 and he actually was pretty honest about it. He said stay the course, he didn't have these huge stimuli, and ultimately the economy rebounded.
But if you are a Democrat, you have got to act differently. And he is now with the jobs bill out of the Senate. I think there is one now, it's rather small. There will be another one in a couple of months.
You have to give the appearance of being involved in jobs, because if you ask yourself ultimately what does the government do in a recession? Not much. It tries to get out of the way and to lower taxes. But you can stimulate private economic activity, which ultimately will create the jobs.
BAIER: We should point out the jobs bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate today with a lot of Republican support.
HAYES: But that is what Reagan did. I think that's the key difference is that is what Reagan did. He got out of the way. He said I'm getting out of the way. I'm not going to get in the way. And I'm going to cut taxes. I'm going to free up this capital. I'm going to allow companies to hire on their own, to do the kind of things that government can't do and shouldn't be doing.
And he said it in a forthright way that frankly led to the kind of economic growth that we saw and I think led to the kind of popularity that we saw.
BAIER: What about this Kirsten, that, you just mentioned it, that the White House was going to pivot to jobs, jobs, jobs, the economy. And we are — essentially all of the oxygen this week has been on health care. And tomorrow will be six hours of coverage on health care. What about that strategy?
POWERS: Yes, it's hard to know what they are thinking. I think that they must have come to some sort of conclusion that they have to get a win. This has to pass and in order for them to look strong, to lose on this is catastrophic in the elections.
I don't actually agree with that, but that seems to be what they are doing, because they are putting all of their effort into this.
I think they also know what you guys are talking about. They know there is not a lot that can be done on jobs, which is why they took on health care in the first place, because there wasn't a lot they could do.
To Reagan I would say, yes, the economy was bad with Reagan, but it was nothing like what Obama was facing. I really think they were in two completely different situations.
BAIER: Ten seconds, Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: Obama, I think, is threading water on jobs. He thinks he needs health care a because he believes in it, but secondly because he thinks if he comes away with nothing after a year on health care, he will be wounded in a way that he will never recover from.
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