This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from September 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is not about singling out individual nations . It is about standing up for the rights of all nations who do live up to their responsibilities. The world must stand together, and we must demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced.
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fundamentalism and the weapons of mass destruction. The most urgent challenge facing this body today is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: Israeli prime minister asking is the United Nations up to the task? President Obama chaired the U.N. Security Council, the first American president to do so today, also won unanimous support for a resolution urging a nuclear-free world starting with America. The problem is that resolution is non-binding.
So what was accomplished today and what about the speeches? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard," A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of "The Hill," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Charles, the president spoke today and today he was at the U.N. Security Council. What about it?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What did he accomplish? Nothing. This is really quite surreal. As we speak, the Iranians are spinning thousands of centrifuges and developing uranium. The American delegate at IAEA announces that Iran already has enough uranium to construct a bomb.
It's testing its missiles, flouting all U.N. resolutions, as are the North Koreans. And the response of America, the president of the United States, on camera, of course, presides over a perfectly useless meeting of the Security Council and passes a perfectly useless resolution airily declaring the end of nuclear weapons.
Look, my model U.N. in high school was more realistic than this Security Council. The resolution, as you pointed out, isn't even binding.
And the problem is that the assumption of Obama is that the reason that these rogue states are assuming nukes is because we have not led by example rather than the obvious, that they want the prestige and the power of having a nuke.
In fact, in the '80's and the '90's, when we radically reduced our arsenals, is precisely when Iran and Korea launched their ambitions and nuclear programs. I think he accomplished nothing, but he exposed us to ridicule about the fatuousness about this administration.
BAIER: A.B., you did have some former administration officials, Sam Nunn, former Defense Secretary George Schultz, praising this resolution. But what about the overall view of what happened?
A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: The resolution is a step forward in this sense that if you have restriction on nuclear exports, if they could work, that would help.
And it is true what Charles says — a lot has to be done before we realize whether or not they have teeth and they're going to help and they're going to work. No president can come into this U.N. General Assembly and wave a wand and halt or even slow proliferation of nuclear weapons. But I think President Obama, who keeps his enemies closer than he does his friends, has made a gamble on the missile shield, and I think that he — it's one which obviously has disappointed our eastern European allies and is one that he hopes will prod the Russians towards finally backing stronger sanctions towards Iran. His push — this must succeed, because his push for a settlement freeze with the Israelis did not serve to trap them. It only traps the Obama administration. So at this point, this gamble really needs to pay off. And as we look to Geneva and the talks with Iran, they are not going to play ball. So at this point, Russia has to deliver for him.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": If Russia delivers you still China to deal with.
I think, in some respects, this General Assembly was just like every other one, a lot of sort of silly diplomatic speak, people feeling very important about passing things that don't matter that nobody will pay attention to.
But in another respect it was different, I think, because for the first time you had the president of the United States, I would say in some respects, leading the anti-American critics. He was making criticisms of the United States that I think we haven't ever seen from the president of the United States. And he was doing it in a forum where he knew it would win him the approval of rogue state dictators and others, Europeans and others around the world. So in that sense, I think it was different.
And I think when we look back on this as we head into the 2012 elections, or when historians look back on this moment, this will be — there have been several low points of the Obama administration on foreign policy and national security policy. There has been the investigations of CIA interrogators, the Cairo speech, the archive speech, capitulating to Iran and North Korea, but I think this will be, in a way, clarifying, because what you had was the president of the United States doing a dance basically to gain the approval of people who are either allies in name only or in some cases enemies, and it's, I think, deeply disturbing.
BAIER: Charles, A.B. mentioned the missile shield and the scrapping of the ground-based missile shield. I talked with the president of Poland today who had some pretty interesting things to say about that. Your thoughts after listening to that interview from what the Polish president said about the development?
KRAUTHAMMER: The Poles are the people who live on the ground, and they understand that what Obama had done had nothing to do ultimately with Iran. It's about the position and the status and the independence of east European states that were once under Soviet rule.
With the missile shield, they had a sense that they had a guarantee of American security. They were out of the sphere of influence of Russia finally.
All of a suddenly, it is abrogated overnight unilaterally because of the pressure of Russia, and they understand that the Obama administration has now declared that east Europe has a special status hovering somewhere between Russia and the west, but it is not a guaranteed element of the west as the Poles had expected.
It is a devastating blow to east Europe, and they understand it very, very clearly.
BAIER: The line that struck me is I asked him if it emboldened Russia, and he said "Russia is always bold. This will make them bolder."
KRAUTHAMMER: The bear is on the prowl and they have been less open to its influence.
BAIER: The big battleground for health care reform has become a series of plans called Medicare Advantage, at least one of the battlegrounds. So who has the political advantage in all of this? The panel weighs in, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What I have said is we're not going to take a dollar out of the Medicare Trust Fund. We're going to make sure that benefits are just as strong, if not stronger. We're not going to subsidize insurance companies in ways that end up creating a situation that Medicare is actually weaker and has a less sound financial foundation.
SENATOR JON KYL, R-ARIZ., FINANCE COMMITTEE: The bottom of taking over $100 billion out of Medicare Advantage is that about a fifth of the seniors who have Medicare Advantage coverage are going to see that coverage gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: A lot of debate today over cuts to Medicare, including, you just heard there, a program called Medicare advantage which is a supplemental program administered by private insurers, acts like an HMO.
About 11 million seniors are in Medicare Advantage, and there is a question about whether it should be in the final package about these cuts.
But we do have some breaking news just developing from the Senate committee, and we're hearing that Senators Chuck Schumer and Jay Rockefeller, both Democrats, tomorrow are going to introduce an amendment to insert a public option, a government-run health insurance option into the Baucus Senate Finance Committee bill, saying that it is in every other bill and that they need to vote on this amendment for the public option.
Here we go again. We thought we were past this. We're back with the panel — A.B.?
STODDARD: Well, the vote for the public option do not appear to exist in the Senate Finance Committee among Democrats or Republicans to win, and I think — I don't know if they're going to introduce a pilot program or trigger a watered down public option, but Senator Snowe has made herself clear on this issue...
BAIER: Olympia Snowe from Maine.
STODDARD: Right, Olympia Snowe from Maine, who would like to vote for a health care bill and has said so repeatedly and explicitly wants to vote with Democrats on something that addresses her concerns.
This was never in the bill. It was never going to be in the bill. And they have known that for many months. I expect it to go down. I think it's up to the liberals in the Senate to realize that the fate of healthcare reform lies in their hands.
They have the 59th and 60th vote in Olympia Snowe from Maine and from now Senator Kirk from Massachusetts. It is the liberals who will blow this up if they don't hold to center. It will not get 60 votes on the floor.
BAIER: And are we looking at the beginning of that with this amendment from Schumer and Rockefeller?
STODDARD: And there have been other liberal amendments to try to blow up the deal that the White House made with the drug industry. There are a lot of liberal attack coming and a lot of resistance remains.
They have to realize they have this in hand. They have 60 votes, and it has been literally up to the liberal wing of the party now.
BAIER: Charles, on Medicare Advantage, basically it deals with cuts in Medicare and the specific supplemental program, there are a lot of Democrats that have a problem with these cuts, including Senator Bill Nelson from Florida, Ron Wyden from Oregon. It is going to be a tough sell to get this cut to happen.
KRAUTHAMMER: And the reason is that the president has said if you like what you have, you keep it. The problem is that, as you said, a quarter of seniors have this instead of the regular Medicare, and they like it.
A lot of them are poor, and the reason that they like it is it is a trade-off. There is a little bit of a restriction on who your doctor can be. However, you get benefits, and the poor that can't otherwise purchase it.
So the president has said on television on Sunday, they will make no difference if they take it away. Once again the CBO, impartial, rides in and shoots an arrow right through Obama's promise. It says that if you have Medicare advantage and it's abolished you will lose half of the benefits. So you are not going to keep what you have. That's the original sin of the Obama proposal. At the beginning, it said you're going to get a free lunch. We're going to expand the coverage at no cost. You cannot do it. Somebody has to pay, and here it is going to be seniors.
BAIER: The Congressional Budget Office, the CBO, has been a major factor throughout this entire thing. Steve, in today's testimony, the Senate chairman of that Finance Committee, Max Baucus, said we do have some new numbers from CBO but we're not going to talk about them publicly. I was shocked by that statement.
HAYES: It was pretty striking. And of course his staff was saying that he was joking. I think we will find out probably in the next 24 hours whether he actually was joking.
What is fascinating about this debate, and we have been talking about this debate for months — two things have remained the same. Democrats are fighting Democrats, and the main obstacles to comprehensive health care reform come from the president's own party. And two, the Congressional Budget Office has contradicted the president on his claims again and again and again, directed by, lead by Doug Elmendorf, somebody who was handpicked by the Democratic leaders in Congress.
So I think if you take a look at where we've gone — we're talking about different things. We're talking about the public option, we're talking about Medicare Advantage, the issue changes, but the political dynamics don't necessarily change. And one more thing that has to be said about the debate over are Medicare Advantage, seniors are the most skeptical group of healthcare reform overall and they're the ones who are paying the most attention to this debate. The fact that we're talking about Medicare Advantage, the fact that it will be the headline in newspapers tomorrow, is a huge problem for the White House.
BAIER: And A.B., it is a giant shell game as they try to figure out how to pay for it. And if you don't have that cut coming out, the Medicare advantage cut, you have to find $120 billion to make it deficit neutral so the president can sign it.
STODDARD: They have to find savings somewhere else. And I think the Democrats really have to look at the midterm elections of 2006 when two-thirds of the voters over 65 came.
They are coming back. Next year's election will be about an election of the angry, not of the happy. And they are going to pick a constituency to make mad, limit the deductions on the rich, cover less people, subsidize less coverage, and hit the poor. Hit someone. But hitting seniors will result in a sear serious loss for them next year.
BAIER: Last word, Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: In the end, the program will fail because you cannot expand coverage at no cost. Somebody has to pay. If it's seniors, it will be devastating because, as you say, they vote. That's why I think it's not going to happen.
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