Sign in to comment!

Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Substance and Style of Selling the Stimulus

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes are 61. The nays are 37. H.R.-1 as amended pas ses.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: To all of the chattering class that so much focuses on those little, tiny, yes, porky amendments — the American people really don't care.

TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER: It's essential that every American understand that the battle for economic recovery must be fought on two fronts. We have to jump-start job creation and private investment, and we must get credit flowing again to businesses and to families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, the Senate passed the stimulus package today. It now heads to conference. And there you saw the treasury secretary talking also about the stimulus and the rescue package, the $700 billion rescue package, on which he unveiled a new plan today.

Now some analytical observations from Jim Angle, FOX News chief Washington correspondent, Charlie Hurt, Washington bureau chief of The New York Post, and Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of The Washington Times.

Jim, you heard Chuck Schumer there from New York with an interesting comment about the stimulus debate.

JIM ANGLE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: "The porky amendments"? It reminds you of Ev Dirksen, who, in his gravelly voice, used to say "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

Look, what an odd thing to say in this process, because what you have is a situation in which President Obama has more interest than anyone else to make sure that you don't squander money on things that won't create jobs.

Here is a guy who came to the presidency hoping to do all sorts of things, including comprehensive healthcare reform, and I guarantee you if you squander money in this, we spend money in the TARP — we are going to spend $2 trillion over a couple of years.

There is going to be no money left in the well when he comes back for major policy initiatives if it is squandered on "porky amendments."

BAIER: Charlie, now it heads to Congress, and, really, the battle is between Democrats — Senate Democrats and House Democrats — and what's going to be in the final package, the final bill that ends up on the president's desk.

CHARLIE HURT, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK POST: Yes, and Chuck Schumer's comment today about the porkiness of the Senate bill also rolled back an entire week of efforts by the White House to eliminate any notion that there is pork that's in the bill.

And so that's obviously another problem that he faces.

In terms of the Democrats on Capitol Hill, both sides have to, you know, try to change the entire debate about this from the porkiness and these projects into something that gets people really, really driven to supporting it.

BAIER: Because, Jeff, the numbers are staggering, not to mention that the Treasury Secretary today unveiling this new plan for the second half of the rescue package. Tell us about that.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is a multifaceted plan that Tim Geithner, the new treasury secretary has laid out. There weren't a lot of surprises, but there also weren't very many details.

This was the biggest surprise of today, that Geithner, who was approved for treasury secretary despite his nonpayment of a large amount of taxes, that he was so vital to this, and it turned out that he really didn't develop the plans that most people have been waiting for and the Obama administration has been telegraphing for weeks now, especially the big and most important part of the plan, which was what to do with those un-sellable debt securities, those assets — excuse me — the toxic assets.

Basically, he presented a blank piece of paper. And the result was that the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 400 points. He misfired on the target that he was supposed to hit most directly. And the result, I think, is a real tailspin for the Obama administration right now.

BAIER: Jim, they're saying that there is a second housing section of this that will be rolled out when they have details.

ANGLE: Well, that's why he didn't have much today, because apparently President Obama himself wants to make this announcement in short order in the next couple of weeks.

One other point, too, on the stimulus, Bret. It was interesting today — this is the most politically treacherous part of this process for President Obama. He has to pick between a Democratic plan in the Senate and a Democratic plan in the House.

It's going to be hard to blame Republicans in this process, and one of the difficulties you saw, he does not want to be in a position of having one house or the other not follow him. You don't want a Democratic president saying Democrats in one house won't go in my direction.

They have been meeting behind closed doors, the president, beginning this morning, all of afternoon with Rahm Emanuel, Peter Orszag from the OMB, all day long trying to hammer out details so they can work this out before they go into that conference meeting tomorrow.

BAIER: Last word.

HURT: And, if you notice, every time the bill runs into trouble, like we saw last night, Obama is very quick to blame the problems of the bill on the Democrats in congress. He fails to mention that those Democrats in Congress are operating under his direction.

BIRNBAUM: A very quick prediction — the bill will not be done by the deadline Monday. It will be late.

BAIER: Yes. And, in fact, Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, says possibly late into next week.

We have talked about substance — next up, the style of stimulating the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I can't tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hoped, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: How the president is trying to get his way, when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point will be that much tougher to reverse. So we cannot afford to wait. We cannot wait and see and hope for the best. I believe in hope, but I also believe in action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: So what about the style, the tone, the phrases President Obama is using to try to sell this stimulus package?

We're back with the panel. Jeff, what is your take on how this has been sold?

BIRNBAUM: I think that he is a little bit too dire and too gloomy, and too stridently partisan. By my count he attacked the Bush administration and Republicans at least three times in his news conference last night. And I think it is a very bad mistake. He shouldn't be directing his attack to congress. He should be trying to uplift the American people to try to get them to spend more, to involve themselves in Congress more. I think he needs to be a great deal more like Ronald Reagan and less like Jimmy Carter in the way that he dealt with rhetoric.

We saw the rhetoric of hope during the campaign, and it would probably behoove him to talk more to the American public directly and try to get them to be more optimistic about the economy rather than trying to scare the Congress into acting quickly on his stimulus plan and other initiatives.

HURT: That is the thing that has been so surprising to me, having watched him on the campaign trail for the last two years, really, where he really ran a brilliant campaign, regardless of what you think about his politics. But it is weird, because that campaign was sort of all about a couple of words like "hope" and "change," with no specifics. This campaign he's running now is all about specifics. It's 900 pages of specifics.

And he seems completely paralyzed in capturing that ability to persuade voters that this thing is crucial to them, that their lot in life is going to be worse if he does not succeed.

Out in Elkhart yesterday, in Indiana, everybody I asked, they either didn't understand anything about the package and thought it was just going to be money in their pocket, or they were very skeptical that it would do anything to help them.

BAIER: Maybe less about how bad it would be and more about how it would help families?

HURT: Just if he did a better job of explaining the specifics of what's in the plan, like, last night, I think a missed opportunity. He should have taken eight minutes to say "This is what is in the plan, and this is why it will keep you and your neighbors from being foreclosed on."

ANGLE: I don't know that he is scaring Congress into action when they can point to a whole list of things that don't create jobs. What he's doing is scaring consumers and businesses but constantly talking about us sliding into another great depression.

The fact is his own economic adviser says if we did not spend a penny on stimulus, not a penny, the unemployment rate would go up to nine percent.

Now, it peaked at 10.8 percent in the early '80s, so we are in difficulties, it is — when you talk about the great depression, why would any business expand, why would any bank loan money, and why would consumers go out and spend?

And what he has been doing here is create a classic straw man. He says the choice is between doing nothing and doing this plan. No, it is not. The choice is between doing this plan or another plan or another plan.

And the Republicans in both houses have their own plans, all of which, they claim, they argue, creates more jobs at smaller expenditures.

BAIER: That's senior adviser Christina Romer, the senior economic adviser, the chair of his economic council.

Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.