This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from October 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm going to h ave this televised on C-Span, the negotiations, so that if you see a member of Congress who is carrying the water of the drug companies instead of carrying your water, you will be able to hold them accountable.
Members of both parties will be involved in t he negotiations but we will do it on C-Span. We will do it in a transparent way so that you're enlisting the American people to get involved in the process.
JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Both on the House and Senate side, this bill is being written in the dark of night. The president ought to keep his promise to the American people and open this process up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So far, C-Span hasn't gotten that call. This negotiation about the health care reform legislation is happening behind closed doors for the second day in a row.
What about it and what about Republicans taking to the floor talking about the price, the cost? Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Mara, did they get anyplace with this transparency argument? Does it score points?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I actually think no. I think they will get farther with the price argument. I just think it was a campaign promise that has long gone by the wayside. I don't know who has ever negotiated in the public or on C-Span.
I do think the price argument is a strong one to make. People are concerned about it, and I think that's been at the heart of a lot of public worry about this.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I like the transparency argument.
Look, the fact that these bills are being written in a way that is not transparent, not bipartisan, is business as usual.
On the other hand, there was a promise by Obama on both of those counts, as there was by Nancy Pelosi particularly on being bipartisan, and they're not doing that. So you don't just throw these ideas out. These were promises that were made.
I agree with Mara, though, that the cost problem is a bigger one for these bills, and when you look at states like Tennessee and Maine and Massachusetts that have implemented programs similar to what Obama-care and its various forms looks like, there has been one huge problem, and that is the costs have wildly exceeded what they claimed they would be in the beginning, and that's certainly true in this as well.
At the end of the day, though, the problem for Democrats with Obama- care is not with Republicans. It's with the public. And the public has already rendered a very dubious verdict, negative verdict on this. They're going to have to convince the public that this is the right way to go.
BAIER: Here is just a little bit of the sound from today, starting with Senator John McCain who says this package is ten years of taxes and five and a half years of implementation. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: This gimmickry is incredible. It is incredible. It is a huge gap even between the stated amount that's going to be raised in this bill, which is approximately $900 billion, and the real expenditure in this bill, which is approximately $2 trillion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On too many issues here in Washington, in fact, almost every issue, we get the Republican shuffle. We can't get things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: That's the common response by the Senate majority leader, but those specifics by Judd Greg, speaking on the floor, Charles, seem to be pretty powerful today.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, on the process, these negotiations have to happen in secret because something this ugly has to go on in the dark.
And the breaking of a promise, I agree with Mara, it is not a strong political issue. After all, Obama had promised he wouldn't raise private funds in his election, and that didn't really matter. What matters is substance and not the process, and at the heart of substance is the cost.
What happened is that the Democrats last week got away with murder when the Finance Committee bill came out and got the stamp of approval from the CBO.
It was not phoniness on the part of the CBO; it did its mandate, but the tricks that the Democrats had included in the bill, which was as McCain had pointed out, half a decade of expenditures, a full decade of receiving the taxation made it look as if it came out OK, but, in fact, it is going to blow a huge hole in the budget.
And the opportunity for the Republicans and those who oppose it is to wait for the melded bill to come out of the Senate, the one that will combine the Finance Committee and the HELP committee, and to make sure at the beginning that the gimmicks are exposed so that the idea that it is revenue neutral is exposed as a fraud at the beginning.
Otherwise it is lost as a political point.
BAIER: Mara, before you add on, I want to make clear that everybody understands that this is concept conceptual language that the committee voted on, not actually in print legislative language.
So I guess the fear I hear most from e-mailers is that this bill will somehow be rolled up and voted on before anybody has a chance to break it down like the Republicans are trying to do on the floor today.
LIASSON: Well, there is going to be a bill submitted to the floor. It is not necessarily going to be the bill voted for in the Finance Committee, but that is what Harry Reid is doing, behind closed doors, trying to come up with actual legislative language that people will be able to read and vote on.
BAIER: Whether they read it for 72 hours or not, we'll see.
LIASSON: That's another question, but what the Finance Committee did is identify something that could potentially get liberal and Democratic votes on the floor of the Senate. He can't stray too far from that and hope to get 60 votes.
But Charles is raising something that I think people haven't focused on. It's one thing about the whole cost of the bill, which many people feel is too big.
If this thing passes, what the Democrats are going to face is a problem that the paying is front loaded and the goodies are back-loaded. In other words, in order to make it come out under $900 billion, you have to have the fees and tax increases up front, but the actual universal coverage part, the exchanges where you can go and buy health insurance doesn't occur until 2013.
And I think the problem they will have is the problem with something that everybody remembers, catastrophic health insurance. Dan Rostenkowski passed something where they put the tax on first but the benefit didn't come until later, and little old ladies jumped on Rosty's car and they had to repeal it.
And that's the problem when you ask somebody to pay for something that they are not going to get for a couple years down the road. They need to have something right away, a benefit that people can feel and taste and smell that is called health care reform.
BAIER: If they keep on beating the insurance companies, are they going to get all of the play that the insurance companies have come to the table with to begin with?
BARNES: No, their not going to get any of it now. Obama made the agreement with the insurance companies and that’s long ago been House members and Senate members have said they didn't care about it.
But look, the ultimate phoniness of the bill is, and the Congressional Budget Office had to go along, it pretends that over ten years it will cost, say, a trillion dollars when, in fact, only five years of it will already be implemented.
So that's why Judd Gregg is right. Over ten years, in fact, it will be $2 trillion. And they're not going to pay for that. That's for sure.
BAIER: Rush Limbaugh was thrown for a big loss in his attempt to own part of an NFL franchise, but did he deserve to be? The panel weighs in, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LIMBAUGH: Look, this kind of stuff, this reporting, now reported — lying, repeating the lies while also saying "Limbaugh denies," repeating the made-up quotes, the blind hatred, and believe me, the hatred that exists in this is found in the sportswriter community. It's found in the news business.
I love the national football league. I don't dislike anything about it. I'm a fan. But the hatred that I am able now to mirror for the country to see is all over the place, and I tell you with absolute sincerity, I am more sad for our country than I am for myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said that the group trying to buy the St. Louis Rams came after him. They sought him out.
Then when the controversy came up about what some critics called racist comments, the group dropped Limbaugh, and he talked about it today on his radio show.
The problem is some of these comments were attributed to Limbaugh, but as far as we can tell they go back to a 2006 book and they're not attributed as quotes.
We're back with the panel. The media, Fred, made a ton about this story; it was on every channel. What about this?
BARNES: It was a horrible libel.
What's missing here, of course, is you mentioned this book where these quotes were, but they didn't have a citation. In other words, Rush Limbaugh said this on this date or in a speech at this time or something. That's what you look for is a citation, and none have appeared, because he obviously didn't say these things.
You know, it tells you something about, I think, not only what liberals and people in the media think about Rush Limbaugh as a conservative, but about conservatives in general, that somehow underneath it all they're racist.
We hear now from a lot of supporters of Obama that those who disagree with Obama and criticize President Obama are racist. That is what it's based on. It's based on racism.
And so look, what has happened to Rush Limbaugh wouldn't have happened to anybody else. It wouldn't have happened to a liberal at all, the way he was immediately jumped on.
And these quotes attributed to him were believed by liberals that he would have said them, that he is pro slavery, that he wanted to give a medal of honor to the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. And they believe it.
It really does show what they think of Limbaugh and conservatives, too.
BAIER: John Huberman's 2006 book "101 people who are really screwing up America," the quote or attribution cites, the book cites, Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog group, as the source. Media Matters said to Fox today that they had never posted them and are not sure where they came from. What about all of this, Mara?
KONDRAKE: Look, if you repeat a quote, you should check and make sure it is accurate. It is just about as simple as that. I think there is no excuse for putting stuff on the air that you have no idea where it came from just because you read it in a book, especially book that has no source or citation for it.
And especially because it is Rush Limbaugh, there should even always be tape. You could have probably gone and looked for the audio.
That being said, him being dropped from the NFL group trying to buy that team, I consider is private business matter. If they thought he was too controversial and was going to hurt their chances, that's up to them.
And the controversy, the other thing — I'm not a sports fan. I don't follow football. But the one thing I did learn from doing my research today is that the quarterback, Donovan McNabb, that he disparaged turned out to be a pretty good quarterback.
BAIER: When Limbaugh was an ESPN commentator he called McNabb "mediocre and overrated."
LIASSON: And so the media was trying to pump him up because they wanted an African-American quarterback to succeed, and it turns out he actually succeeded.
BAIER: The media were desirous that a black quarterback do well, Limbaugh said. He later apologized for those remarks what.
Charles, what do you make of this?
KRAUTHAMMER: Which proves Limbaugh isn't a great analyst of talent, but that doesn't make him a racist.
Look, he has been libeled. These accusations, which are truly outrageous, without a basis, broadcast on CNN and Rick Sanchez has apparently not apologized or even withdrawn. He sidestepped and said, well, there are other accusations. That's disgraceful.
And the comment he made about McNabb I don't think makes him any more racist than the comment Larry Summers made about women in the sciences made him a sexist.
And is this all you can pin on Limbaugh who has been on the air three hours a day for 20 years? The total number of words there has to exceed the Bible and Shakespeare combined, and all you got on him is the Donovan McNabb? I think this clearly is a case where a club, the NFL has decided, it does not want an outspoken conservative, and you can't say that. It's obviously about ideologies, so you blame it on racism, which is a false accusation, and I think they ought to apologize to him.
He doesn't have a right to own an NFL team. It's not a legal case, and they can say no. It's a private club. But it's the wrong thing to do.
BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for an icy reception at the White House.
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