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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Obama's Interaction With Latin America at Summit

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think you would be hard pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela.

I thought it was one of Chavez' books. I was going to give him one of mine.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: People should realize it's very important what a president of the United States does. That book was at number 54,000. It is a viciously anti-American diatribe. Now it's at number two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, there is a lot of talk about the summit over the weekend and, specifically, the interaction between President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

What about all of this? On Monday, let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, this book, as you heard Newt Gingrich say, is pretty anti-American, and the exchange vaulted it on Amazon, at least, for the day.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm not sure how much damage the book will do. It is probably unreadable. But it does show how a president's actions, it shows how they have effects.

The Obama people, after he criticizes America in Europe, and after he stands utterly silent when America's excoriated at this meeting in Trinidad, say well, he is planting the seeds for a new relationship.

Well, I'm watching for the flowers to bloom and the garden to grow. To me, it looks like a Chauncey gardener doctrine, that everything will happen in the future. Let's see. I'm not that sure.

The most telling moment, however, was when Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, delivered a 53-minute excoriating attack on the United States. And Obama's response was "I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for the things that occurred when I was three months old."

Does the narcissism of this man know no bounds? This is not about him. It is about his country. This is something that occurred under John Kennedy — the Bay of Pigs is what he is referring to. And what he is saying is that it's OK that he attacked John Kennedy, as long as it wasn't me.

Doesn't it occur to him that he ought to defend his country even if stuff happened before him? It doesn't all start with him.

And with all of these attacks on the U.S., he said almost nothing except I don't want to engage in stale arguments. It's not a stale argument to say in one simple sentence that American policy in Cuba since Eisenhower and Kennedy has been to try to rid these people of a communist dictatorship that opposed itself by force 50 years ago.

That's all he had to say, but he couldn't, and he didn't.

BAIER: Mara, on the Daniel Ortega, speech, I was struck. The White House pool reports come out via e-mail, and Mark Knoller with CBS sent out an e-mail during the speech that I read over the weekend that said "It's hard to imagine Presidents Bush or Reagan sitting through this."

That was Mark Knoller from CBS, and I was struck by it.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: President Obama's kind of stock and trade ever since he was the president of the Harvard Law Review has been to be a good listener and to try to find common ground where there is some to be found.

And the whole kind of Obama doctrine at this point in foreign policy, I think, is a big experiment.

And the experiment is, as the president himself explained it very articulately in the press conference this weekend, is to see if being more deferential, being humble, sometimes confessing America's past mistakes, will get you goodwill, will tap down the anti-Americanism in these countries that will eventually get these countries to be more cooperative on the United States' goals.

Now, as far as the White House is concerned, the goals for Cuba are the same. They want Cuba to start releasing dissidents. They want them to stop skimming the remittances. They want the same goals of democracy.

The big question is, will this make a difference? We just simply don't know. at some point, and I don't think it will be too long, we'll be able to say yes or no.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's not too long. We're already seeing it about Iran. The president has reached out to the Iranians in ways that, well, Bill Clinton did briefly, but in a way that no president has in many, many years, really.

And what did we get for that? Well, the Iranians, just today, President Ahmadinejad, you know, goes on another wild rants in Geneva about the U.S. and Israel. What do we get? We get an American reporter, a young women from North Dakota, for heaven's sakes, who is tried, a reporter over there. She's an Iranian-American. She's tried and thrown in jail for eight years on some trumped up charge.

BAIER: Roxana Saberi.

BARNES: And they announce, of course, that they are speeding up their efforts to get nuclear weapons. It hasn't worked there. I mean, the jury is in there.

The jury is in on North Korea. The president says nice things there. And what do the North Koreans do? They pull out of the six-party talks, and on and on.

Look, he also outlined — which I thought was very interesting, which I was struck by, "The Obama Doctrine." Remember when Chuck Todd of NBC asked that question?

So what does "The Obama Doctrine" consist of? It consists of the idea that no one country can solve all the problems, and that there are no junior partner countries and senior partner countries.

But of course there are. Of course there are. That's why we have the Security Council and the whole General Assembly that the U.N. doesn't matter. We have the G-8. All the other countries get together.

That was just baby talk. It was patronizing. And, I don't know. Maybe those countries down there liked it.

And the second part is that the U.S. has to lead by example, but just by example. Democracy and freedom and everything need to be defended. JFK said we will bear any burden, pay any price to defend freedom. Obama won't even speak up on freedom.

BAIER: Mara, not to make much of the book exchange, but is this White House considering that as a nice offer, a generous gift, or as a thumb in the eye?

LIASSON: I think that they are trying to dismiss it. The president walked up to him. He gives him a book. The president said he thought it was a book that he had written, and he should have given him one of his own.

Look, I think Chavez was very masterful at using that meeting to help himself.

Now, those kinds of things, the president, I suppose, could have taken one look at the book, threw it on the floor, and walked off in a huff, which would have been completely and utterly out of character.

But one thing about what Fred is saying, I agree with you. So far you can't point to any results, and you can even point to some negative things.

However, at some point, the president — U.S. is going to have to do things all by itself. In other words, there are some things that need international cooperation. I think on Iran, for instance, if you can't get the rest of the world to participate in tougher sanctions, the U.S. is going to have some really tough decisions to make. But right now, he is trying to push on that string.

KRAUTHAMMER: One word on the handshake. You can shake hands, but when your country is attacked, you have to say something in defense. It is not all about you. It's about your country.

BAIER: From one thorn in the U.S. side to another. Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashes out at the U.S. and Israel, as you heard. The panel responds to all this next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (via translator): They sent migrants from Europe, the United States, and from other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president disagrees vehemently with what was said, from some of the video I saw. So did many others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Well, it was expected that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would say something at the U.N. conference on racism that would spark protests. And, in fact, he did, accusing — calling Israel "the most cruel and repressive racist regime." Dozens of diplomats walked out of that conference.

We're back with the panel. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: You would expect this at a conference like this to begin with an Orwellian event, where a man delivers an anti-Semitic rant at a conference that's ostensibly against racism.

But the deeper story is that for 30 years the third world countries have used their majority in the U.N. to hijack western ideas of liberalism such as human rights.

This conference is going to issue an edict in which it says that the persecution of anybody who criticizes Islam is a good thing and is a defense of the freedom of speech. The persecution is the way of defending freedom of speech.

And here's the worst part. We are subsidizing this through our membership in the U.N. We may have walked out, but we are the ones who are paying for the sandbox in which these tin pot dictators are shooting spit balls at us, and we're subsidizing the spit balls as well.

BAIER: The U.S. did decide with other countries to boycott this conference, Mara.

LIASSON: We didn't walk out. We weren't there to begin with, which was the correct decision. And today, Ahmadinejad's speech was condemned from the State Department to the White House as hateful rhetoric, which it was.

I do think this is the biggest problem on Obama's plate — Iran. And he has to figure out what he's going to talk with this country that not only talks this way about Israel, but is planning to develop weapons that could annihilate Israel.

And if he can't work the Obama magic on the rest of the world and get them to support tougher sanctions against Iran, or get Iran to suddenly agree to give up its nuclear program after he initiates direct negotiations with them, he's going to be facing some really tough decisions.

And we have yet to see him make one like the one he will face, I think.

BAIER: Fred?

BARNES: The "Obama magic" is very limited. It makes people all over the world like him, but it doesn't make them do anything, and do anything like really get tough with the Iranians in hopes that you can force them to back away from deploying nuclear weapons, which it looks like they're going to do.

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama said something he said a lot of times. We have to break free of stale debates and old ideologies. He was smart to stay away from that Durban II, too, because that's exactly what it was, these stale debates and old ideologies, mainly attacking Israel and the U.S., and Europe some.

What I don't understand is, when they made the announcement that the U.S. would not be a part of it, they said it was done "with regret." What in the world do they regret?

Steven Harper, the prime minister of Canada and a very impressive guy, his attitude was, they said weeks and weeks ago that they wouldn't go. He said "that's a no-brainer, not going to Durban II." He knew what it would be, and it's turned out to be exactly that.

BAIER: Yes, the administration did consider it at one time.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it hung in there for a while, but it did boycott. Eight other countries did, but that's out of about 190. It tells you the state of rampant anti-Semitism in the world, and it's a huge issue, and we saw it on the world stage right there in Geneva, of all places.

BAIER: But the denunciation was clear enough, Mara, today?

LIASSON: I think it was clear, yes. They didn't go, and they condemned it.

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