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Panel on Eric Massa's Resignation and His Accusations About Democrats and Health Care

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from March 8, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC MASSA, D-N.Y.: The entire nation has said let's rewrite the health care bill. Let's find what we can agree on.

No, no, no, no. We're going to ram this down the throats of the American people. And anyone who stands in the way of doing that is going to be smeared and they're going to be kicked out of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Well, there is Congressman Eric Massa, who resigned this afternoon. He is leaving Congress over charges he harassed one of his aides, which he seems to think was engineered by Democratic leaders angry at him over his no-vote on health care.

Now let's bring in the panel — Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Massa also said that ramming this bill through Congress will "rip the country to pieces," as he put it. He was one of the Democratic votes against health care. He seems to think the Democratic leaders, Charles, were out to get him because of that. What do you make of this whole thing?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I have got a rule of thumb in Washington — if you ever have a choice between a conspiracy theory and shear incompetence, it's always incompetence.

(LAUGHTER)

He obviously is rather excitable and upset, and I have no idea what's happened behind the scenes, but I suspect it's a lot more innocent than he charges.

But I think the Democrats really have a problem. We have seen the waverers, the ones who said yes and now wavering no. They have not produced a single no in the first round who will now go to yes. If do you the math, you start with Pelosi's 220 — one death, two retirements, a switch — the Republican who went for yes is now a no. You have got Stupak on abortion, two others on abortion, and perhaps 8 or 9 others.

So, Pelosi — and you need 216. So she has got to make up at least eight or 10. And for every yes that you lose, you are going to have to switch a no.

In the climate today it looks really difficult. And I don't think that the president stumping is going to help any. It's almost as if he thinks, you know, if I just give my 38th speech that will do it.

ANGLE: Well, it's hard to tell exactly what happened in Eric Massa's case, but one does suspect that he might have been treated differently had he been a yes vote on health care.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: This might be the case. I think that he should stop embarrassing himself with these self-serving accusations.

That said, the math is very challenging for Nancy Pelosi. And I think that she is going to be giving away a lot of prizes behind closed doors in the weeks to come in hopes of reaching 216 votes on March 18th next Thursday.

I don't think she is going to be kicking members out or accusing them of things, untoward behavior towards staffers if they are not going to fall in line. But I think this is an embarrassment for the leadership — an embarrassment for Congressman Massa. He needs to stop his ranting.

But I agree with Charles that the math continues to be a challenge. I happen to think that somehow she is going to pull it out. I think that the conventional wisdom behind closed doors is to have the votes in the Senate and that Speaker Pelosi will find a way to find some goodies and produce the votes that she needs.

ANGLE: Bill, the president is talking about the vote, as A.B. just mentioned next week. Members of Congress in the Democratic leadership are telling our Major Garrett that that's not really going to work for them, that they are not there yet, and they don't even have the language of the what is called the reconciliation side card, the fixes that the House would have to have so nobody can even look at it to see whether they would support it or not.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. That's why I don't think it's going to pass.

But I don't agree with you that they hustled Massa out or he would have been treated differently if he were a yes vote. He is resigning. He doesn't have to resign. If he is innocent, he should stay. He could at least stay for three weeks and cast his no vote on health care. I myself would like that no vote.

But he is a creep. He is resigning. And why is he resigning? If you resign you vitiate the ethics committee investigation, which means there is no report, and I believe that report would be full of extremely, not just embarrassing, but damning things about Massa.

So we shouldn't get into the business of being pro-Massa because we're anti-health care. I say no to Eric Massa, no to Obama-care. It's a consistent no across the board.

But the big story, which I — so far the president said, look, five days ago Wednesday that big speech, this is the last push. If they were succeeding, I think you should be seeing some members coming around. And you are not seeing that yet. There is no momentum in their direction.

ANGLE: Let take a look at what two people said on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, two Democrats on the health care reforms. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON ALTMIRE, D-PA. : I have told the president what my concerns are. If the finished product is something I can pass, I will vote for it. If it's not, then I'm not going to be able to support it.

REP. JOHN ADLER, D-N.J.: If the House and the Senate can't work out cost containment, I don't know how I can support a bill that doesn't help our business community and create more jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Doesn't sound like those reservations have weakened at all, especially on cost control.

STODDARD: I agree with you, and it is true they have not seen the language, and I spoke to a member tonight who said until there is language in that fix's package — which by the way, should be being worked out right now with the Senate parliamentarian in private. But they are working through it.

Until that comes and there is some CBO score they can't pull the trigger. These members can't come out and say they are going to probably in the end be with the speaker. They are going to come out that morning or that night. We're not going to see it nine days in advance. Those yes votes will spring out at the very last minute.

I'm not saying it will happen that they get to 216. I think they will. But people show their cards at the very last minute.

ANGLE: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: What there is here at the heart is there's an arcane procedural issue. I know it's going deep in the weeds, but you and I, Jim, by god we have gone deep in the weeds and there is no turning back right now.

(LAUGHTER)

So here we go. If this is going to pass, the House has to accept the bill that the Senate has passed as step one. Now, I have heard that some members of the House want to attach a provision that says that unless the Senate then fixes it with the side car, this fixing amendment bill, that the bill passed in the House will stay in the House and never be on the president's desk so it never becomes law.

But I also understand that the parliamentarian in the Senate is saying that unless it becomes law, you can't have the side car. So it's a catch-22.

ANGLE: Meaning you can't fix something that hasn't been passed.

KRAUTHAMMER: That hasn't been passed.

Now, if all of that is true, then what you have here is an issue of trust. Do the members of the House trust their own Democrats in the Senate?

And there is an aphorism out of the House which I think is attributed to Tipp O'Neal where he says of the House Democrats, the Senate — "The House Republicans are the opposition, the Senate is the enemy."

If it passes in the House, if it passes the Senate bill as is, what is the incentive, ultimately, for the changing of the bill in the Senate? It will stay as is. They worry they are going to be left hanging high and dry.

ANGLE: Final comments? What do you think, Bill?

KRISTOL: I think don't they have the votes now in the House, I don't think they'll get them. They cannot guarantee that this reconciliation bill goes through as presented even to these House members, a.

And, b, they don't like the bill anyway. It's not like the voters are saying, hey, I really don't like the Senate bill the House voted on, if you get these little changes then I'm going to love this thing. The little changes are little changes on Obama-care.

So it's a referendum on Obama-care. The president is making it referendum. He is stumping around the country. They will go to their voters next weekend and say has the president changed your mind? They will discover no, and I don't think they have the votes.

ANGLE: OK. A Democratic congresswoman wants lawmakers to slash their own pay by five percent. Go to our homepage and get the link on the full story and tell us what you think on our online poll. How much would you cut from Congress's pay?

The panel returns in three minutes with a discussion about a controversial politician from another country making a big splash over Islam.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILDERS: I believe we have enough Islam in Europe today. I believe Islam is a violent and dangerous religion and even a retarded culture. But I have nothing against Muslims.

So, indeed, I don't want — I want a full stop of immigration from Muslim countries to the Netherlands. I believe it should be implemented in the whole of Europe, by the way.

It's not about me. It's not about Geert Wilders. It's about the freedom of speech entirely and are we appeasing? Are we giving in? Are we giving up? Are we standing for our values and our rights that we fought for so much?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: There is Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is referring to Islam as being like fascism, the Koran as being like "Mein Kampf," obviously stirring up some very strong feelings in Europe and calling for an end to Muslim immigration to Europe. What do you think, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: And who did well in municipal elections in Holland last week.

There were two issues here as we just heard. The first issue is the substance and veracity of what he said. And the second is the issue of free speech.

What he says is extreme, radical, and wrong. He basically is arguing that Islam is the same as Islamism. Islamism is an ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation.

The untruth of that is obvious. If you look at the United States, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the U.S. are not Islamists. So, it's simply incorrect. Now, in Europe, there is probably a slightly larger minority but, nonetheless, the overwhelming majority are not.

But the other issue is free speech. He was speaking in London today. He had been unwelcome, not allowed in a year ago, but it was appealed, and he was.

And remember, Holland has a really rugged, bad history here. Five years ago, Theo Van Gogh, a filmmaker, had made a film about Islam which was about the oppression of the women under Islam in certain countries.

An Islamist in Holland caught him in the middle of the street in broad daylight, slit his throat and impaled a knife on his chest with a letter on the knife — imagine that scene — which threatened the life of a Dutch MP, who was of Somali origin, who had helped him on that script. She is now in the United States as kind of a seeker of asylum.

So this is place in which with physical intimidation it's almost impossible to speak openly about critiques of Islam.

I will give you one other example. The cartoons of Mohammed — Yale University Press has issued a book on it. There are no cartoons in the book, and you know why. It's not a matter of sensitivity. It's a matter of shear fear about what could happen if it was published that way.

ANGLE: What do you make of this A.B.?

STODDARD: Well, it's interesting that he did well in these elections and anti-immigration sentiment is on the rise there. It's been on the rise in our own country for the last five years for sure. And I agree with Charles that free speech is a separate issue.

But if the Dutch move to elect someone like this, someone who is critical of Muslim culture, who is religiously intolerant, who doesn't see the difference between Islam and radical Islamic jihad, terrorists and religious people, then they are going to pay a price.

KRISTOL: You have a regime of total political correctness and political cowardice in dealing with threats. The woman Charles was talking about, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was threatened by Islamists, by jihadists in Holland, and rather than defend her, she came to the U.S. because they wouldn't appropriate funds and her neighbors didn't want her living near them. They were scared there would be an incident.

But instead of going after the people who caused the incident, they turned on her and asked her to leave the apartment building she was living. And now she lives here.

So the regime or the atmosphere, the climate of political correctness and cowardice and appeasement in Europe is very bad. And if decent people don't stand up to it, demagogues will arise to exploit people's understandable feelings that this is not the Europe we want to live in.

And Geert Wilders I think is a demagogue, but it comes out of this terrible culture of appeasement.

ANGLE: Well, he used the word "fascism," and the way people react sounds like their reaction under fascism. They were afraid to stand up to demagogues and people —

KRISTOL: The good news so far is the truth is for all — there is a lot of provocation, and in fact citizens of the U.S. and citizens of most of these western democracies have reasonably tried to express their concerns. Maybe we don't need this much immigration, maybe we should be a little stricter on crime. They haven't gone to the demagogues.

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