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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on President-Elect Obama's Pick for CIA Director; Unusual First Day for Senate

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from January 6, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: I have the utmost respect for Leon Panetta. I t hink that he is one of the finest public servants that we have had. He brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy.

SEN. KIT BOND, R-MO., SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: I have yet to see where Mr. Panetta has the kind of experience you need to run an agency which is very complex and very important to our national security.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-GA., SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: How important is experience in the world of spying on our enemies? It's pretty dad-gum important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: "Pretty dad-gum important." Two Senate Republicans reacting to word that Leon Panetta will be the pick to head the CIA under the Obama administration.

You heard the president-elect today answering a question about Leon Panetta, but saying he has yet to officially announce his pick.

So what about the fallout from this selection? Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Charles, we saw today that Dianne Feinstein, the California senator, said that she got a call from both the president-elect and the vice president-elect, a personal talking to, apologizing that she was not informed. She is the incoming chairwoman of the intelligence committee in the Senate, that they were not talking about this selection.

What about this fallout?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That was a huge unforced error, but that's a matter of etiquette. And, to some extent, it's been repaired.

The real issue here, I think, is the substance of it. And what is really interesting is the irony of the Democrats, who complained for eight years about how much intelligence had been politicized under the Bush administration, and here is a Democrat who comes in and he appoints a man whose only recommendation in this office is political. It certainly isn't experience.

He's close with the president, and presumably he will guard the president's back, and he will be the president's man in the CIA.

The other irony, however, is that the reason that Panetta is here and not the man that Obama originally had wanted, John Brennan, who had been in the CIA, is that anybody who had been in the Bush CIA is tainted because of the policies of interrogation, secret prisons, and the eavesdropping which had occurred.

Those are precisely the elements which kept us safe and which have prevented a second attack, which nobody has expected. So anybody who has been involved in those elements of a program which saved American lives is now automatically out of contention for the top job.

It tells us that the Obama agenda will likely be to purge and perhaps even persecute anybody in the CIA who had been engaged in those elements which actually saved us over the last seven years.

BAIER: In fact, Mort, some websites were praising the Panetta pick for that reason.

But yet we hear from Jim Angle, according to sources, that the Obama transition team is urging the deputy CIA director, Steven Kappes — and we have some video of him on the left of the screen — and other top deputies to stay on to offer experience Panetta may lack. There is Steven Kappes on the left walking next to the president.

So do you think that will withstand the pressure from the left?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I think one of the most important statements that Barack Obama has got to make right soon is that there will be no punishments or purges or witch hunts of people in the intelligence community for what was done during the Bush administration.

As Charles said, the country was kept safe ever since 9/11. There has not been an attack. These people did what they did under orders and with patriotism. And Obama should make it clear that none of them is going to be held to account for what they did.

Secondly, what he has indicated, what Obama indicated by his statement today is that the left does have a veto over people who are going to be the head of the CIA.

Panetta is not anti-intelligence. That's the good news. He is very smart. He is very even-handed. He is very experienced in the ways of government. He was an intelligence consumer as White House Chief of Staff, but he is not experienced, and he doesn't have this quote, unquote, "taint."

So I think if you're not going to choose somebody who is a pro. like either Kappes or John Brennan, then he is about as good as you are going to get, because he is not a lefty.

BAIER: Fred, his experience as intelligence consumer was pre- 9/11. Does that make a difference?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think the experience thing matters much at all, really.

But he was also there as White House chief of staff when President Clinton issued a presidential order authorizing rendition — you know, where you send somebody you captured to a separate country, in this case Egypt, where he may be treated a little more harshly than if he were interrogated by American agents.

Now, Charles touched on what is the most important thing—after the Bush administration for Barack Obama, and that's getting somebody to head the CIA who is loyal to him.

Look what happened to President Bush when he was there. In 2003 and 2004, after holding on to George Tenet, a holdover from the Clinton administration as head of the CIA, what gushed out of that agency in those two years leading right up to Bush's reelection in 2004 were classified leaks by people who wanted to destroy President Bush and deny him reelection.

The CIA was divided, and it was out of control. And I think Obama, rightly, has picked Panetta, someone loyal to him, who will not let that happen, and that is terribly important.

Now, I have my qualms about Panetta, because he may not be anti-intelligence, but he always wanted to cut the budget of the CIA, and I think he needs to be questioned carefully. But the motive of Obama, I think, is the correct one in picking him.

BAIER: So, quickly, is this nomination in trouble in any way?

BARNES: I doubt it.

KONDRACKE: I don't think so.

KRAUTHAMMER: No, not at all. It absolutely will pass.

BAIER: OK.

It was an unusual first day for the Senate with new members, outgoing members, and one prospective member who couldn't get in. We'll talk about it with the panel after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROLAND BURRIS, U.S. SENATE APPOINTEE: My name is Roland Burris, the junior senator from the state of Illinois. I presented my credentials to the Secretary of the Senate, and was advised that my credentials were not in order and I would not be accepted and I would not be seated and I will not be permitted on the floor.

And, therefore, I am not seeking to have any type of confrontation. I will now consult with my attorneys, and we will determine what our next step will be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Roland Burris, the former Illinois attorney general, calls himself the junior senator from Illinois. The 111th Congress has been sworn in. He has not.

That's just of the interesting developments today. We're back with the panel. Mort, what about this kerfuffle, this circus?

KONDRACKE: In the year 1900, engineers figured out how to reverse the flow of the Chicago River from north to south. You would think that Dick Durbin and Harry Reid could figure out how to climb out of this hole that has been created in Illinois.

Clearly they're doing the wrong thing by denying him this seat. He's got every legal ground going with him on this — the Supreme Court decision on the Adam Clayton Powell case, the fact that the state secretary of state in Illinois doesn't have the discretion not to sign this proclamation that makes him a senator.

They've got no leg to stand on, and yet they persist in this crazy position, which is even losing support among other senators.

So they ought to just, you know, figure out as quickly as possible how to reverse course themselves.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Harry Reid, with his usual political acumen, has painted himself into a corner. Unlike the Iraq War, which he declared lost on the eve of our beginning of our success, it's not a calamity. It's a mere embarrassment.

And he hinted at a way out. On the floor of the Senate today, he talked about having the signature of the secretary of state.

Now, it's absurd to even ask about it, because the reason that he has to sign off in an election is because the secretary of state is a guy who runs elections. So he is a guy who signs off and says under my auspices it was a free and fair election. Everything is counted up and kosher.

But if it is an appointment, as it is, of course, in Illinois, he doesn't have a role. So his signature is entirely irrelevant.

And what's going to happen is the Supreme Court of Illinois will rule that way. And Reid has hinted that if the secretary of state signs off, or if it comes out of Illinois as a true appointment, he will then bend.

And I think that's his exit strategy. We will get a ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court. Reid will say "OK, his papers are in order." And Burris will end up as the junior senator from Illinois.

BAIER: Fred, how long does this last?

BARNES: If all that happens, and if Burris will go to court right away, if he hasn't already gone.

Roland Burris, a lot of moxy. Showing up — you knew he wasn't going to be seated. You have got to like that. I mean, he really showed he's a veteran Democrat. He had been the state attorney general. He is not at the Barack Obama level, but I thought it was a pretty impressive showing by him today.

It is not just Harry Reid. It is the Democrats in Illinois, as well. They were so eager to disassociate themselves from the governor Rod Blagojevich. Now they're trying to impeach him, and they wouldn't let the secretary of state sign this thing.

They don't want to be identified with Blagojevich. They don't want a special election because a Republican might win. They will have to back down and accept Burris.

BAIER: All right, Mort, Minnesota, another senator who is not being seated, was not seated today despite the state canvassing board saying that Al Franken has won that race.

It's still being contested. Today Norm Coleman said "It's very clear. I think the Senate understands. I believe Harry Reid, the majority leader understands that until this contest is resolved, no one will be certified the winner this race."

How long does this last?

KONDRACKE: Well, this could last a very long time because Norm Coleman is going to apparently not yield and challenge this in court for as long as it lasts. And they will probably have to do yet another recount, I guess, or at least partial recount, because there are some ballots that Norm Coleman says ought to have been counted that weren't counted, et cetera. So it's going to be a while.

What Harry Reid tried to do today was create a sense of equivalence between Burris and Franken by saying we're going to delay both of these things. But they're completely different. Coleman has a legal list to stand on. It is part of a law that he gets to challenge and carry out his case as long as he possibly can. In the Burris case, there is no legal leg to stand on.

BAIER: Quickly, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: Coleman has a case, but I'm afraid it's a weak one and it's a long shot. I think it is extremely improbable that he will be reelected a senator.

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