'Special Report' Panel on President-Elect Obama Entering 'The Bubble'; Proposals for Tax Increases

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from January 2, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it straight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, come on. Just get back on the bus. Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is it like people following you around?

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: How is it like? This is a good question. You don't have a lot of privacy, and that's one of the thing s you have to sacrifice in order to run for president.

OBAMA: How many shots do you need? Just one? Two?


JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: There are some samples of President-elect Obama chiding the press corps for watching his every move, and in the last instance, every golf swing. But it's about to get worse as Mr. Obama moves to Washington this weekend in preparation for his inauguration.

Now some analytical observations from Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of The Washington Times, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Well, gentlemen, President-elect Obama chafing, like most presidents I think we would have to say, having covering the last four — all of them complained at one point or another of not being able to do things without having this enormous entourage — not just the press, but also the secret service.

I know that Bush 41 complained at one point and said "You mean I can't just walk down the street and buy a Christmas gift or a birthday gift for Barbara?" And the answer was "No, you can't."

Every president chafes at this a bit. Bill, it's unfortunately a sign of the times that a president, especially the first African- American president, has to have a large entourage, both security and reporters.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think security is reasonable.

I actually do think they should be liberated a little more from the press. Why does there have to be a press pool with him when he goes down to play golf or takes his daughter to a birthday party?

There is this thing that has been developed, I guess, unfortunately, since the assassination attempt, that there can't be a moment that the president is out of the White House or out of his residence that there isn't press with him on a sort of ghoulish watch that something might happen.

But I don't really see the case for that. I think a little more privacy wouldn't be a bad idea.

ANGLE: What do you think, Jeff?


KRISTOL: The secret service is one thing, but the media is different.

BIRNBAUM: And the press also disagrees and will not be dissuaded.

I covered the same presidents. You actually worked in the White House. So there's a body watch always for the president. What happens if something goes wrong? The press has a responsibility to be there, or says that it has a responsibility. And I actually buy it.

The issue is what about the rest of the family, I think. The president, I'm afraid, he won the election. He has no right to privacy anymore. It's gone. But I think he has to now realize that anytime he shows up with his children, that they are also in the camera's lens. He has to separate himself, I'm afraid, from his kids and let them have some privacy.

The press will give them privacy, and his wife as well, if he is not with them. That's just the way it is. That's why former presidents, like the current president, for example, he has a ranch. Ronald Reagan had a ranch. They could go to a place and completely have enough room and stay out of the press' eye.

ANGLE: Without someone looking over their shoulder.

BIRNBAUM: That's right.

ANGLE: But I think the press has done a good job of treating children fairly well. Chelsea Clinton had a fair amount of leeway. The Bush daughters have not been intruded upon that much. So that is something where the press does seem to draw a line.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But if the big guy is around, the press and gawkers are going to be around. And of course, security. You cannot take your kids to the mall like any other dad. That's just a fact of life.

To pretend otherwise and to chafe and complain is absurd. It is like entering the Miss America contest and then complaining after you win that a lot of older guys with cameras are urging you to frolic in the surf in a bikini. That's what comes with winning.

He ran — I know he ran in order to heal the planet and make the oceans recede, and not to become the number one celebrity on earth, but he is. That's who he is. He's a rock star.

And there are a lot of good men and women with a lot of reason to run for the presidency and to govern who declined, knowing that it would change their lives and the lives of their children. He knew in advance.

His kids are in a cocoon, in a bubble unlike any other kids on the planet. And that's a huge cost, and you have to make that decision as you run, and accept it once it's already happened.

ANGLE: Well, and it is difficult for presidents. Bill Clinton used to go play golf, and on occasion would drop a mulligan—for those of you who don't know, it's a free second or, perhaps, third ball off the tee. It was something he was not excited to have people put on television.

BIRNBAUM: That's true.

And there are those candid moments. You remember after there was a favorable ruling in, I think, the Monica Lewinsky case when he started smoking — or put a cigar in his mouth, and beating a drum. I'm sure he didn't want that candid moment exposed, but presidents get candid moments exposed. That's what they're stuck with.

I hope that the children are allowed more leeway this time. I bet they will.


How would you feel about paying 10 cents more per gallon in gasoline taxes? We will look at proposals for tax increases, and there is one that some conservatives actually like. The panel tackles that after the break.


OBAMA: Our economy boomed in the 20th century when President Eisenhower remade the American landscape by building the Interstate Highway System. Now we need to remake our transportation system for the 21st century.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The price of gasoline has gone down substantially since July, which is akin to a stimulus package. I mean, if you amortize the savings for the average family over a 12-month period with the price of gasoline the way it is today, it's about $2,000 per family.


ANGLE: People save money, but many are now saying higher gasoline prices had an advantage. They encouraged people to use less energy, which meant less pollution and encouraged more energy-efficient cars.

The question before us now is can we have our cake and eat it too? Can we have higher gasoline prices and do it without hurting consumers?

And Charles Krauthammer is in favor of something called the net zero gas tax, which you argue, can, in fact, do that. What is it?

KRAUTHAMMER: "Yes, we can!"

And I'm glad you asked. I just happen to have written a very long article in "The Weekly Standard" on this, which I will condense to 60 seconds, which is you put on a very heavy tax on gas, let's say a dollar a gallon, and you refund it to the consumer, to the worker, by a reduction in the payroll tax, the Social Security tax, at the same time.

So the average American purchases about 14 gallons a week. He would be out $14. You have a reduction in exactly that amount in the payroll tax, so that he ends up even. The government doesn't increase its revenues, and the average driver is left whole.

The reason it's a good idea is because it has all the advantages of high prices — it encourages a change in habits, less driving, pollution, and a switch to fuel efficiency — and at the same time it doesn't impoverish the consumer and drain the economy.

And if America consumes less, it lowers the world price, and takes money out of the pockets of tyrants like Putin and Chavez and the Iranian mullahs, who have acted provocatively when they had a lot of oil funds in their treasuries.

ANGLE: About the surest explanation you are likely to hear on that proposal?

What do you think of it, Bill? There are advantages and disadvantages. What do you see?

KRISTOL: I think it is a very good idea. If I knew it could be summarized this quickly, we could have saved a few pages. It is worth reading the whole article in The Weekly Standard.

I've been surprised how much interest there is in this. It turns out lots of people have been for this on the left and right. Al Gore, I was slightly horrified to discover, proposed a version of this, a swap of all payroll taxes for what he calls a "pollution tax."

I think it does makes sense. To tax things we want to discourage people from doing and not tax less things you want to encourage people. We have a payroll tax that taxes work, it taxes employers and employees, and we don't have much of a gas tax. So we don't tax the consumption of driving cars, which as Charles, said, has all kinds of negative externalities, especially, I think, getting more revenues to regimes like Russia, Venezuela, and Iran.

ANGLE: About a minute left. Jeff, one of the problems is that we through CAFE standards and so forth try to force the auto companies to make cars that are more energy efficient, except that when the price of gasoline goes down, people don't want to buy them. They want SUVs.

BIRNBAUM: Yes. And I'm not sure it's the best use of the tax code, with all respect, Charles, to try to encourage different kinds of behavior.

I think the best use of the tax code is to get taxes as low as possible and tax rates as low as possible so people will allow the market to make selections, which I think they will naturally do. On the issue of energy, I think there will be overall an incentive for more conservation because the price of energy is necessarily high.

In addition, I think that you don't want to have a net zero tax at a time that you actually need deficit spending like you do right now to give the economy a stimulus, and a lot of the money that would go from the energy tax would go to the kinds of highway and bridge construction that the economic stimulus package will actually do without paying for it in the next month or so.

ANGLE: Consider that the opening of this debate, folks.

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