This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from June 1, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We are acting as reluctant shareholders because that is the on ly way to help G.M. succeed. What we are not doing, what I have no interest in doing, is running G.M.
In short, our goal is to get G.M. back on its feet, take a hands-off approach, and get out quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOS T: You, the American taxpayer, now own 60 percent of General Motors as of today. And there could be more money going that way according to the president, all in an effort to get G.M. back on its feet.
What about this and all of the different elements to it? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard," A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of "The Hill," and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call" — Mort?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Well, Obama wants to stay out of running the car business. But he reminds me of one of the characters in those old jungle movies who gets caught in the quicksand. Can Obama swim out of the quicksand? And there's reason to doubt that he can.
I mean, first, G.M. in the midst of a recession, has got to be able to sell cars to people, and they're going to have to make cars that people want to buy.
And what the government is going to want to do is make the cars that the government wants them to make, you know, small cars that people may not want to buy.
If people won't buy those cars, then the government is going to have to do more bailouts.
Secondly, eventually, they're going to have to be private investors who are going to be willing to put their money into G.M. But are private investors going to go in when they're ridiculed by the administration as being speculators and given only 10 percent of the share in the company?
And there's a lot of politics that could be involved here. For example, the UAW wanted a ban on foreign imports of cars that G.M. would sell in the United States, and they got it. No cars are going to be imported from China, no Opels are going to be imported from Europe and so on, which are decisions that if you were running a company on a free-market basis, you probably would do. You would import the cheapest possible cars that you could and sell them here in order to get market shares.
BAIER: So, A.B., that raises the question about the micromanagement of G.M. While he says he doesn't want to run G.M., he does want to protect the UAW. At least the auto task force has been stepping in so far.
STODDARD: This is an interesting — this is a refrain we have heard before, that this is the best of some very bad choices.
And so, although the administration will argue to you that this began, this path — the Bush administration started down this path first with working capital loans, they, in taking this action today, they now own this bailout by bankruptcy phenomenon.
The muted response from the Republic Party has been surprising to me. But I think we saw something from the Republican National Committee today in the Chamber of Commerce. I think that will grow as we see the company try to protect the taxpayer investments. We don't know what that involves. Does that involve sending jobs overseas? Is scratching models and closing plants enough? And, as we watch the influence that the unions have, and how much influence the government allows them to have. They say they're going to not intrude on day-to-day operations, but they don't know what they're going to do six months to a year to three years from now to help the company stay viable.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": We have a good idea of what the unions going to be doing, I think, with respect to G.M., and that's going to be quite a bit. I mean, that's 17.5 percent.
There are also going to be, I think, putting political pressure on the White House to do anything and everything.
And if you want to see some indication of just how much the UAW thinks it won, I'm going to actually read a quote. In December, Ron Gettelfinger, the president of the UAW, one of the loudest voices arguing against bankruptcy for G.M. and Chrysler, said, this is a quote: "There is no question in my mind that people would not buy their vehicles, unquote, if these companies went to bankruptcy.
Well, today everything is different because the UAW got what it did asked for. As Mort said, it got all of this protection. There are restrictions on the imports of cars. It got basically everything it was asking for.
And so today, this same Mr. Gettelfinger was out cheerleading the bankruptcy, and saying this is no problem. G.M. makes wonderful products. Bankruptcy is not a problem at all.
BAIER: What about, Mort, Congress' role in all of this, and keeping 535 lawmakers out of the G.M. pie?
KONDRACKE: Yes. They are going to close, what, 40 plants, was it?
BAIER: Nine plants, plus they're going to hold three others. But it's 20,000 jobs in different places.
KONDRACKE: Right. In every congressional district where this is the case, somebody is going to complain. And it's only natural that if you're a congressman, you are going to try to defend the economic base of your community. You're going to try to lean on somebody.
Now, the administration is going to have to resist all that. And there probably will be coalitions formed to try to protect jobs just the way there are to try to protect dealerships.
The administration is going to have to resist all that and say we're not playing this game.
BAIER: A.B., White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked numerous times today, what happens if the president doesn't like what G.M. is doing, and doesn't like the cars that they're putting out? Then what? And the answer was, then he could change the management team.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE HILL": Right, but he could also do more. At what point as a 60 percent stakeholder, at what point do you step in and say, we're going to have to change things here?
He doesn't want to get into a quagmire throwing good money after bad. He wants to get out in 18 months, and, all-told, five years. But he doesn't know how long this is going to last.
And he knows that if put in 50, and there is a threat that we have to put in more, he has either going to have to cut bait, or he has is going to have to take over operations and have a big impact on what management is doing.
And that is going to be — what Mort is talking about, this pressure, not only from the unions, but combined, all these new bosses in congress, there is going to be all these cooks in the kitchen.
And let's look at the larger economic picture here. It's hard to sell cars in bankruptcy. It is also hard to sell cars when we have had a shift in our consumer culture where we're not going to get easy credit anymore, we're not going to be able to collect cars and upgrade our cars every two to three years. The buying patterns are going to change.
BAIER: Steve, the buzz word today was "viability," making G.M. viability.
HAYES: Yes, well, the buzz word back in December was "viability," too, and now here we are, right?
HAYES: One of the most interesting things is when the president says "I don't want to get involved in the day-to-day decision-making of G.M."
It is a wonderful wish. I'm glad he expressed it that way. But he is either, in my view, hopelessly naive, because that's exactly what he will be, or he knows he will get involved in these things, and then he is just being dishonest.
BAIER: Dick Cheney keeps up the pressure on the president. The panel discusses the latest attack by the former vice president, and some other interesting comments, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: When asked the question about gay marriage, you weren't in favor, at least as I understand your answer, in favor of a federal statute, but it should be state by state by state.
Did that mean you're in favor of gay marriage within states by state?
DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: If that's what the people of the state want to do, that's fine by me.
VAN SUSTEREN: How would you vote on it?
CHENEY: I made the announcement at the outset that I believe equal rights means equal rights for everybody, and that people ought to be able to enter into any kind of relationship they want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Former Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview with Greta Van Susteren. You can that whole interview tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern time. He was talking a lot about national security, but asked today about gay marriage. And that was his answer, at least part of it.
We're back with the panel. Mort, it caught your ears?
KONDRACKE: It did.
I'm glad that Dick Cheney has come out in favor of gay marriage, because that's what he basically did —
BAIER: His daughter married.
KONDRACKE: And I wonder whether Dick Cheney, given the hard line conservative he is on practically other issues, would be in favor of this were his daughter not gay. But empathy is empathy, and I'm glad he shares in it.
But there is a problem with this state by state thing, that every state ought to do it on its own and not to make it a federal issue, because, ultimately, I think, it will have to come before the federal courts.
I mean, there is a clause in the constitution, the full faith and credit clause, that requires every state to recognize the laws of other states. Now, the Defense of Marriage Act was passed to protect states that didn't want to recognize gay marriages, but that will be challenged for sure in the federal courts, and we're probably going to get a U.S. Supreme Court decision at some point on this.
This is why George Bush wanted a constitutional amendment to say that marriage was between a man and a woman only.
STODDARD: Even if Dick Cheney has said similar things on this subject before, the fact is that the Republican Party has no leader right now. And those who would be packing their bags to try to head to Iowa and win the caucuses are not going to be speaking about the issue of minds changing on gay marriage.
And so it's very newsworthy, because Dick Cheney is now speaking so often for the Republican Party and issues that are important to conservatives, although that, obviously, wouldn't be one of them.
I think as you see minds changing in the Republican Party on this issue, and you see them changing in the Democratic Party — I think President Clinton, you know, is saying that his views are evolving on this issue. President Obama will be under tremendous pressure as this picks up steam across the country, getting legalized here and there.
And I think that it's interesting because it presents — this is a moment for the Republican Party, as John McCain's campaign manager, Steve Schmidt tried to make the case for, where the party could say we want to leave it up to the states. We don't want to force churches to acknowledge marriages they don't want to acknowledge, but we're for freedom.
And this is something that could create a fault line. But Dick Cheney is on a different side than the rest of the conservative movement.
HAYES: I would be surprised, though, if he took a leadership position on this issue. I think he is speaking out on national security because those are the things that define his career.
And I think that if you look at the way that he has answered the question over the years. In 2000, there was a debate with Joe Lieberman, and he said roughly the same thing. In 2004, he had a question at a town hall in Davenport, Iowa, and said very similar things.
But I think, you know, he didn't actually directly answer the question that Greta put to him about how he would vote. But I think he probably would vote in favor of gay marriage in his state.
BAIER: Let's talk about his continual push to get these memos, the CIA memos about enhanced interrogation techniques that the Obama administration has not released, his push to get those released — Steve?
HAYES: I mean, I think he is going to continue to say this until they release the memos. I don't think he is going away on this issue at all.
And in part it is because the Obama administration has to be held to its own standard. They are calling themselves the most transparent administration in history, and they are not — clearly not being transparent on this.
And the worst part about it is that they are hiding behind a technicality related to the Freedom of Information Act, which is meant to set these documents free. And instead, they're using it as a shield and hiding behind it.
I expect Cheney will keep this pressure up.
KONDRACKE: Look, let's see the memos. They can redact them if there is any kind of sources or methods, protection that needs to be kept. But as Steve says, for transparency's sake, let us see whether Cheney has an argument or not.
BAIER: Are there days left before these memos come out, do you think?
STODDARD: You know, I don't know. Democrats are happy because the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, finally came out and said "I have seen the memos, and it's not true." And he basically countered Cheney on this issue.
I actually think that puts more pressure for the memos to come out. I don't know about the timeline, but I imagine, ultimately, that they will.
HAYES: Well, but Levin actually said, I would be happy to see them.
But think about the logic of that. So he knows that these memos would expose his arch-nemesis as a liar, and would do the president of his own party a lot of good, and the president wants to keep them hidden? That doesn't make any sense.
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