This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from September 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have to get to the point where we can have a co nversation about big important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name-calling, without the assumptions of the worst in other people's motives.
SENATOR JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: The president is good at setting up straw men and knocking them down. Nob ody can have a disagreement with him based on a valid difference of opinion. That's always the motive of the other individual is always a bogus motive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: Today President Obama delivered his 30th speech on health care reform following his speech to a joint session of Congress last night. He talked about this man that he has, but to be blunt, it still lacks some details. It is not a bill. He says the price will be $900 billion, but there's no real precise breakdown of how much of that comes from higher taxes and how much comes from cost-cutting. So what about all of this the day after the big speech? Some analytical observations now from Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve, the president out again today.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He was, and I don't think his speech today was a game-changer. I don't think his speech last night was a game-changer.
In fact, I thought the only good part of his speech was the end of his speech where he grew passionate talking about Teddy Kennedy and the obligation that he feels to pass some sort of health care reform legislation.
But look, you know, I agree entirely with what Jon Kyl said. This was a series of straw men. He knocked them down. He ascribed motives to his opponents that I think were unfair, deeply unfair in some cases, and basically, I think, engaged in gimmickry of one kind or another both with numbers and with language.
I think one example of that is this proposal to study tort reform that he floated sort of near the substance, the body of his speech. It felt like an add on — I think it probably was an add on — where he said he would assign Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, to look at Republican proposals for tort reform in some limited areas and in some limited ways.
The problem with that is Kathleen Sebelius was for eight years a chief lobbyist and advocate for the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.
BAIER: Fighting tort reform.
HAYES: Fighting tort reform. This is ultimately the fox guarding the henhouse. There is no wonder that Republicans are skeptical or suspicious of him on these things.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I actually think that the tort reform proposal, embracing John McCain's high risk insurance pool, and doing a couple other things that the president referred to as Republican ideas, and they did often come from Republicans, I don't think that was meant to get Republicans onboard.
I think that was meant to show that he is a bipartisan guy who's reaching out, and it's to reassure moderates in his own party. I actually — I think the White House knows it is not going to get Republican support.
BAIER: And your overall thought about it being a game-changer or not?
LIASSON: I don't think it was a game-changer, but I think he did move the ball, and I'll tell you why. I think that he satisfied members of his own party. The president's job is to get the moderate and liberal wings of his party to a consensus on this bill.
And in the aftermath of the speech, you don't hear anyone saying they would rather vote no than have a bill that isn't completely to their liking.
Now, some people don't like everything in the bill. Some liberals didn't like that he seemed to abandon the public option. But, in the end, you don't hear a lot of people saying I want to stop this thing, the Democrats.
BAIER: Here is one snippet from last night's speech. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit now or in the future, period, and to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promise don't materialize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Now, by that measure, Charles, not a single bill currently in Congress would win the president's signature.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's a perfect example of what he did last night. He sounded smooth and polished and strong and convincing, and what he was selling was snake oil. That is a completely bogus claim.
When he talked about what would be in his bill and how he would not end up with a dime of deficit, he said it will cost almost $1 trillion dollars and the majority of it, more than half, will come from — what? From removing waste, fraud, and abuse from Medicare.
Now, that's an insult to the intelligence of the American people, that the phrase was a joke when it was used by Richard Nixon in 1971. And if there is all this waste and abuse in the system waiting to be squeezed out, why hasn't he started already? Where is it? Why do you have to have a bill?
If you tell us Medicare is destroying our budget and our economy, he ought to be on this from day one, and we're eight months in. Why doesn't he start today and give us a report in six months how the attack on waste and abuse is going? That was a fraud.
I mean, a lot of this stuff he sold, again, smoothly and extremely effectively, was amazing.
What he offered last night was the greatest free lunch in American history — no new taxes, no deficits, and he gave away everything. He is going to insure all these uninsured, have the lifetime guaranteed insurance, nobody is going to have to change it. Of course people will lose health insurance.
All of this elided over brilliantly. I think he helped himself. It was an amazing performance.
BAIER: Steve, today, the Speaker, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he will not, the president will not sign a bill that adds to the deficit, we will not send him a bill that adds to the deficit.
Does that mean that she is saying the House will have to start over on the bills on the table? Are they going to scrap the ones that are there that the CBO says add to the deficit?
LIASSON: They have to change them, because the CBO is the ultimate arbiter whether something adds to the deficit or not.
HAYES: If Nancy Pelosi's a leader of the start-over caucus, I am going to march proudly behind her. I think that's exactly what she should do.
Charles is right. This is gimmickry. They're saying whatever they need to say right now, because they are feeling very desperate. They feel like they need to have some accomplishment, which we talked about on this panel for months now. There needs to be something they can say. There needs to be something they can campaign on.
I think they are now actually in real jeopardy of not having that thing, and I think they're feeling it. And this is one of the reasons they're basically saying whatever they can say to please whatever constituency.
LIASSON: I think that the area in the speech that was the most devoid of specifics was the how you pay for it part. He said I'm not going to sign it unless it doesn't add to the deficit.
And he mentioned a couple things — one, tax the gold-plated plans, which he will level on the insurance companies, the issuers.
BAIER: Which was Max Baucus' —
LIASSON: Which was Max Baucus' idea, and also it was a version of the John McCain idea from the campaign. He says that he's going to get it oust Medicare, you know, unnecessary care, waste, fraud and abuse.
But he didn't say where the rest of it is going to come from. And the rest of it is going to come from higher taxes. The House already has an idea, raise taxes on the rich. It's going to come from raising taxes, we just don't know where yet.
BAIER: Last word.
KRAUTHAMMER: It is to say everything has worked out, it is all out this, except for one detail, how to account for all the costs. That's not a detail. That's been a problem for six months. It's unsolved. It wasn't really approached seriously yesterday.
And I'm just amazed that the president thought he would get away with it, and, in fact, in a lot of the reaction, he is getting away with it.
BAIER: And some lawmakers when he said there are deals to be worked out in the plan, laughed. New information suggests Iran is trying to destabilize U.S. inside Afghanistan the same way they did inside Iraq. The FOX all-stars give us their opinion on that and the nuclear issue after the break.
BAIER: This is a FOX News alert. We brought you the story of ACORN and the undercover video we brought you today. Now we are get word from the Associated Press that ACORN has fired the two employees that were involved in this video out of its Baltimore office. Maryland ACORN board member Margaret Williams says in the statement, "The employees did not meet ACORN's standards of professionalism." The statement also says the video was an attempt to smear ACORN.
However, as you remember seeing this video on the air today, we had the undercover video of a man going in with a young woman talking about getting loans to set up a brothel for prostitution, under-aged prostitution. ACORN now releasing a statement just moments ago saying that the two employees involved had been fired. We wanted to bring you that news.
Now to other news about Iraq and — Iran, rather, and Afghanistan. Word from U.S. officials that Iran is actively trying to undermine U.S. forces inside Afghanistan, and there has even been a pickup of some explosives in weapons tied directly back to Tehran. This, of course, added to the Iranian nuclear situation that's developing as we speak. We're back with our panel. Charles, we first reported this. It's troubling from a U.S. perspective.
KRAUTHAMMER: There was early evidence of this from in the late years of the Bush administration. It is now a lot stronger. It has always been happening in Iraq. We always knew about that.
The problem is the Iranians look at Obama and they have never seen less pushback. They are getting an administration that is on bended knee that offered an outstretched hand and makes an apology for a coup that happened 50 years ago. It says not a word in the middle of a revolution in which Democrats are getting shot in the street.
The U.S., Obama administration is expecting a response. So what does it get on nuclear weaponry? It expected — all of us had expected as the U.N. General Assembly approaches that Iran would at least offer a delaying action, offer a hint of moderation. It offered a report today, a response of ten pages today that is an insult. It says not a word about restraining itself on nukes, and it is showing contempt because it imagines the United States will do nothing.
And we had a statement from Robert Gibbs today which had the usual mush — concern, international community, gravity of this situation. There is no evidence that the Obama administration is serious about any pressure, and in the absence of it, Iran is going to act up in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and is going to accelerate its nuclear program.
LIASSON: Look, I think this shows that time is running out for the administration.
I mean, there is a September 15 deadline that — or mid-September deadline that if Iran didn't respond to these offer of negotiations, the president was going to try to get the Europeans to put some really tough sanctions on Iran.
I think the deadline is going to come and go pretty fast, and I don't know what type of real tough sanctions he's going to get oust international community.
And then the question is what is he going to do after that?
HAYES: Yes, that is the question, and I don't think there is a very good answer. I think the reality is that the first eight months of the Obama presidency has resulted in a more radical Iranian regime and a stronger Iranian regime, in part for the reasons that Charles said.
I guess what's most surprising about Jennifer Griffin's terrific scoop on these weapons found in Iran is that we haven't heard more of this. There have certainly been efforts by Iranians to influencing Afghanistan going back really to immediately after 9/11.
BAIER: But is it possible that the administration knows all about this but doesn't know how to play this card in these current negotiations ongoing with the nuclear situation? In other words, they know that Iran is acting up inside Afghanistan, but don't know whether they should call them on it aggressively?
HAYES: Yes, I think that's not only possible, but I think it's likely.
And to be fair to the Obama administration, the Bush administration handled it the same way — I should say mishandled it the same way, because they were so intent on starting these discussions.
The Obama administration has, I think, most obviously in their poor response to the uprising in Iran after the elections, shown itself totally incapable of actually confronting Iran when it was doing really, really bad things, and saying, in effect, we are willing to do anything and let you do anything so that we can engage you in diplomacy and engage you as an equal, which I think is a very important sort of sub clause.
BAIER: Charles, we have a couple of weeks here developing with this nuclear issue that there are a lot of questions that I don't know if we're going to see answers to before the U.N. Security Council.
KRAUTHAMMER: The clock is ticking until midnight here. The fact that we had an earlier report about the prime minister of Israel on a secret mission to Moscow ostensibly about having the Russians not send anti-aircraft missiles, which would defeat an Israeli attack.
Israel is on the verge. It's not going to wait. The United States is reporting that Iran already has the low grade uranium. It could sprint to the finish line in a breakout and achieve a bomb in months. The Israelis are not going to wait. And the administration looks as if it does not have a plan.
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