This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from June 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have deep concerns about the election. And I think that the world has big concerns about the election. It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling — the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections.
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BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Presiden t Obama today talking about the situation in Iran after meeting with the South Korean leader. This as thousands of opposition protestors took to the streets for the fourth straight day, loyal to Mir Hossein Mousavi, and also as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei met with the presidential campaigns, saying that this investigation that they have launched will really only involve selected counties that may be in question as far as the voting goes.
So what about all this and the administration's response? Some observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard," Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I find the president's reaction bordering on the bizarre. It's not just little and late, but he had a statement today in which he welcomed the Iranian leader's gesture about redoing some of the vote, as you indicated.
And the president has said "I have seen in Iran's initial reaction from the supreme leader." He is using an honorific to apply to a man whose minions out there are breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, arresting students, shutting the press down, and basically trying to suppress a popular democratic revolution.
So he uses that honorific, and then says that this supreme leader — it indicates that he understand that the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election. Deep concerns? There is a revolution in the street.
And it is not about elections anymore. It started out about elections. It's about the legitimacy of a regime, this theocratic dictatorship in Iran, which is now at stake. That's the point.
What we have here is a regime whose legitimacy is challenged, and this revolution is going to end in one of two ways — suppressed, as was the Tiananmen revolution in China, or it will be a second Iranian revolution that will liberate Iran and change the region and the world.
And the president is taking a hands-off attitude. Instead of standing, as Reagan did, in the Polish uprising of 1980, and say we stand with the people in the street who believe in democracy. It is a simple statement. He ought to make it. And it is a disgrace that the United States is not stating it as simply and honestly as that. BAIER: Juan?
JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The United States, I think, stands as a beacon to the world in terms of freedom and democracy.
We were in Iraq in terms of advancing democratic principles, and we have continued to be a force for democracy in the region, even though some have now questioned whether or not we were trying to do too much under the Bush administration in terms of advancing democratic principles.
But I think that what Charles is saying is short-sighted for this reason — it would give us great pleasure to simply vent, to simply say, listen, we stand with the people in the streets and what we are seeing from this absolutist, hard line regime, this Islamic rule as represented by the ayatollah and his guardian council, is not in keeping with democratic principles and the will of the people, and we are outraged, and we can't stand it.
We can go on like that, but, to my mind, what we are seeking to achieve requires discipline, because what we're seeking is a long-term goal, which is that we want to stop, ultimately, Iran from gaining nuclear weapons or attacking and threatening Israel. That's the key to the stability in that region.
And so we have a goal that goes beyond this immediate uprising of some sort in Iran.
And we don't know how it will play out. We don't know if, in fact, because we just heard from Mousavi today that he said he wants the demonstrations to stop. He said don't fall into that trap.
So if that's the case, this could play out for months and years, and our immediate goal of stopping them from having nukes is far more important.
BAIER: The president said two things today, Fred. The president said in an interview that there is not much difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. And he also said that if he spoke up more, that it could possibly embolden the Ahmadinejad forces.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": That is a totally false choice, well expressed by Juan Williams, as well, totally false choice between on the one hand, if we talk tough and we support the democratic freedom forces in Iraq — rather in Iran, that are in the streets, that want to have fair and honest elections, if we support them that somehow we will alienate this regime.
But it never works that way. Actually, you strengthen your hand, as Ronald Reagan found out in dealing with the Soviets. All of a sudden, they were making concessions on nuclear arms deals and so on that they had never even considered before.
So that is a totally false choice. And I think Obama should know better, as should Juan. He should know better, too.
Obama talks about, well, we had this election campaign, and there was a debate, and so on. And now we're going to check to see if the vote was counted correctly. He acts like it is Florida in 2000 between Bush and Gore.
The question here is the survival of one of the most hideous regimes in the world. And that's what's important.
And it's not Obama venting or anyone else in his administration venting. It's supporting the people in the streets, the democratic forces who want the president's support.
KRAUTHAMMER: If your objective is to denuclearize Iran, or at least blunt its program, the idea that somehow it's preferable, to, as Obama had done, to say we will remain engaged, implying he would accept negotiation with a discredited Iranian regime on the one hand, which will not succeed, and we all know that.
There is no way he is going to sweet talk Iran out of its nukes.
Whereas the only chance, short of a military attack, of stopping this program is with a revolution in the street, which would change the orientation of Iran and change it away from an existential enemy of America, Israel, and the Arab states. That's what's at stake.
And to say I'm going to sacrifice any support America could give in order that I'm going to retain the option of negotiation with hard- liners who are never going to yield on nukes, makes no sense at all.
Our only hope on the nuclear issue is a change of regime, and that all of a sudden has become possible almost in a miraculous way. It is still improbable, but it's possible, and we ought to throw our support and to show the demonstrators that they are not alone.
WILLIAMS: Regime change is a distant hope, Charles.
BARNES: There was no hope until a couple of days ago.
Look, here is one of my objections, and that is President Obama says it's meddling if we support the democratic forces in Iran. Meddling. That's not meddling at all. That's supporting the people who see America as a model that they like to emulate.
BAIER: President Obama vows to get tough with North Korea over its increasingly belligerent nuclear threats. He is talking the talk, but will he walk the walk? The FOX all-stars weigh in next.
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OBAMA: North Korea has to make a decision, and understand that prestige and security and prosperity are not going to come through the path of threatening neighbors and engaging in violations of international law.
LEE MYUNG-BAK, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (via translator): As reiterated by President Obama, we agreed that under no circumstance are we going to allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons.
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BAIER: The South Korean leader standing alongside the president of the United States, talking about what's going to happen with North Korea. But what about what is happening and how North Korea will respond to all of this. We're back with the panel. Juan, is it tough enough?
WILLIAMS: Well, the language right now is tough, especially after the U.N. resolution was passed on Friday. But it lacks specificity. Exactly what happens when the U.S. or any other international force intercepts a ship that is carrying technology or nuclear material to the north? It's not clear.
Apparently we are not supposed to board that ship. Apparently we can steer them to port, but they may not choose to deal with us. So exactly what is it that the United States or anyone else is supposed to do?
I think that there has to be some clarity on this issue, and it has to be done in terms of the international community, and I'm especially thinking of Hu Jintao, the president of the China.
Exactly what is he willing to do, because he's going to have to deal with the ramifications, the consequences, because if there is instability in North Korea, the suspicion is there will be a flood of people over the border, there may be threats against China, maybe mass starvation.
So there has to be an international agreement, and it has to be done quickly.
KRAUTHAMMER: It is not going to happen. The Chinese have said that, and the Russians as well, that no force is to be used in inspecting these vessels. So it's a non-starter. Nothing is going to happen.
What I think is remarkable is that even though over the last 16 years in the Clinton and the Bush administrations we did not succeed in stopping, although we slightly slowed the nuclear program, look what's happened in the six months of the quote, unquote, "smart diplomacy" of the Obama administration?
Long-range missile tests, the explosion of a nuclear weapon probably a third the size of Hiroshima, the declaration that the plutonium the Bush administration had frozen will be weaponized entirely, the entire stock, and the declaration that the uranium program which the Bush administration talked about, which Democrats had said was an invention of the Bush administration, the uranium enrichment is going to start up. All of that and the seizure of two Americans. If that is not a repudiation, a humiliating repudiation of the Obama policy on North Korea, then nothing is.
BAIER: To be fair, of the Bush policy as well.
KRAUTHAMMER: The Bush administration had the plutonium rods frozen and had a slowdown in those departments. There is a big difference.
BARNES: You know, that question that President Obama says the North Koreans have to answer — they answered it years ago. They don't care about being this prosperous accepted nation that gets along well with the Europeans, and so on. They want to be a nuclear power. That's what they want. They want nukes. And they're willing to proliferate them.
Look, I think this is a perfectly good step with these ships, but is it going to in any way seriously affect further development of nuclear weapons in North Korea or the proliferation of nuclear materials that they can send to other countries?
Remember, one, they're not going to board these ships. But there is also land and sea. I mean, how do nuclear materials get from North Korea to Pakistan? I think they went through China. How do all those North Korean officials get to Iran when they're having tests on missile tests? I think they probably go by plane. I don't think they go by boat.
So this is nice, but it doesn't do much. And, as Charles was hinting, anything that the Russians and the Chinese agree to is not going to have much effect.
WILLIAMS: Well, we can hope that — let's say, in fact, I will give credit to this for Bill Kristol. He said why not say to the Chinese that the Japanese and Americans will act if you don't act?
BAIER: Charles point, I think you preempted him.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's a playing card we ought to play, and to play it now. It's a trump.
BAIER: Stay tuned for a unique perspective on Iran's current political situation.
BAIER: Finally tonight, we have seen the violent protests in the streets in Tehran following Friday's presidential elections.
So some, or at least one leader there apparently sees things a little differently.
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JON STEWART, HOST OF "THE DAILY SHOW": As government forces sought to disperse protesters using tear gas, baton-wielding motorcyclists, and bullets, Ahmadinejad issued this statement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The situation in the country is in a very good condition. Iran is the most stable country in the world."
STEWART: The translator is not even buying it.
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BAIER: That is it for "Special Report" this time, the only place where you get the whole story. Thanks for having us into your home tonight.
We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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