This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from October 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When, you know, I'm busy and Nancy is busy with our mop cleaning up somebody else's mess, we don't want somebody sitting back and saying you're not holding the mop the right way. (LAUGHTER) Why don't you grab a mop? Why don't you help clean up? You're not mopping fast enough! That's a socialist mop! Grab a mop. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) Grab a mop. Let' s get to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: President Obama at a Democratic fundraiser last night in San Francisco with house Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That was the Nancy he was referring to there. And he is also looking at some new polls out this week — Fox News opinion dynamics polls. Here is a couple of them. The overall approval rating now 49 percent, according to our poll, approve. This is obviously the first time the president has been below 50 percent. The next one are the areas that the president is handling. The economy, 48 percent, Iran, 44 percent, healthcare, 42 percent, Afghanistan, 41 percent. There you see the breakdown. And finally, if the vote were held today for President Obama, would you re-elect him as president? 43 percent now compared to 52 percent in April. Let's talk about this and the president's demeanor on the trail, if you will. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of "Fortune" magazine, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, do you sense a defensiveness in these remarks, because there have been several of them over the past couple of days, or is this the way to turn the tide and go after his critics on both the left and right?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is defensive with a touch of desperation. It is sort of almost ridiculous to be running against George Bush — that's what the mess that he refers to about is — you know, nine months in, it's his presidency, and he was elected almost a year ago now. So he pretends that he is the guy that is mopping up.
Look, he has got all kinds of troubles. He is dithering on Afghanistan, a war he said had to be won, essential war, et cetera. He is the guy who has lost his popularity at an alarming rate and support of independents over health care, his initiative on which he has given, what, 28 speeches, and still has the majority of Americans opposing it.
He is the one who caved in to the Russians on the missile defense. He sold out our friend the Poles and the Czechs supposedly as a way to get Russian support on Iran.
He sends the secretary of state, this week she gets humiliated in Moscow and the Russians indicate they won't help or budge on Iran at all. This is all his doing. It is not the Bush doing.
So what does he have on his account? A stimulus package which hasn't done anything to the economy except create an undeniable $1 trillion dollar debt that is going to be added on to our debt at a time when the dollar is under attack.
So, look, this is his doing and you can't complain until the end of time over what his predecessor has done. I think it's a little bit unseemly to walk around as president once you are in office this length and to pretend it is all the fault of your predecessor.
NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: President Bush could be prickly and ideological, we all know, at points, but he did have this moment early on in the administration where there was some bipartisanship and there was some sense of goodwill.
And I think what you're seeing with this president is that unlike George Bush, who had to deal with a legislature in Texas and actually make laws and make deals across the aisle, Barack Obama came — we forget he came to the national stage with this autobiography which presented this compelling personal story, and it's all about him and the narrative of his history. And he didn't come to the fore because he did great lawmaking or great governance or anything. So I think he brings, there is a tendency on the part of this president to personalize things. And I think that's what you are hearing here. These are sort of personal attacks, and sort of a sense that we should have — that by force of personality he should have gotten, you know, Russia to come to the table, Russia to support sanctions on Iran. He should have gotten Iran to drop its nuclear program. He should have gotten the Olympics to come to Chicago. There is sort of a sense that his force of personality has kind of hit the roadblock and isn't taking him as far as I think he thought it would take him.
BAIER: Steve, at the beginning of the show, we showed the event in College Station, Texas, where President Obama went to President H. W. Bush's library, and there you see the video of it, to give a speech about service. You wonder what the conversation may have been behind closed doors when he has been talking about the previous Bush administration, George W. Bush, so much.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, one would think that George H. W. Bush would be a little resentful of the criticism the current president has directed towards his son.
But at the same time, doesn't it seem that old presidents or former presidents love nothing more than to get together with current presidents and praise each other?
I think everything that Nina said and everything Charles said is exactly right, but I would actually point to two different numbers from the Fox poll that I think explain this in much simpler terms.
One, the number of people whose top issue right now is jobs was 40 percent, and the second number in that poll, the top issue was government spending.
So you have a president whose seen unemployment rise, while that's the number one issue for most persons, beyond the 8 percent that his administration pushed which is now pushing 10 percent, and you have seen government spending explode, unprecedented levels of government spending.
All the while, he has spent the most of his time talking in public, giving speeches, talking about health care, which comes in as the top issue for only 13 percent.
So they're just missing it. He's not talking about the things that people care most about. And when he is talking about health care, he is reminding people of the thing that they're really concerned about with respect to spending. So I think he has boxed himself in.
EASTON: And I would actually add to that that he is not talking about the things his own base wants him to talk about. Part of his problem and why he's on the defensive, the left is angry at him over — they put card check, the union organizing legislation on the back burner, gay rights agenda they have on the back burner, judicial nominations are moving quite slowly.
Afghanistan, the public is wavering on what he will do about Afghanistan and the left is antsy about that.
Meanwhile — and on the public option on the health care bill, it is not clear whether he will deliver on that. So I think what you are getting — you're getting it from both sides at this point.
BAIER: Charles, in New Orleans at a town hall meeting, I won't play the sound bite, but he said sometimes these reporters on the news say "Why haven't you solved world hunger yet? Why hasn't everything been done yet? It's been nine months."
KRAUTHAMMER: We haven't asked him to do world hunger. I think the Norwegians are interest on world hunger and perhaps the promise of it is why he got the Nobel. All we ask is for an economy that runs and that we don't get humiliated by giving away Eastern Europe and getting a slap in the face as a result.
Our expectations are a lot lower. He still thinks of himself in messianic terms. Our expectations are a lot lower, and if he met only a half of them he would be a lot higher in public opinion and a lot more successful in Congress than he is right now.
HAYES: The key group moving away from him is independent voters who overwhelmingly voted for him. It is one of the reasons he was elected. Now are opposed to him and specifically opposed to his policies.
BAIER: An apology to Rush, a curious raise for Social Security recipients, and the infamous bring your own comments to the Friday lightning round is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It is extremely interesting. Those quotes were totally, totally, totally made up, fabricated, and they were first found on Wikipedia. And it turns out now that the IP address for the person that posted those quotes is a New York City law firm.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We have been unable to independently confirm that quote. We should not have reported it, not have reported it without independent confirmation, and for that, I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, that's CNN's Rick Sanchez apologizing for falsely attributing specific racist comments to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Before the on-air apology, Sanchez tweeted and said "We didn't confirm quote, our bad."
That's the latest wrinkle in this story. It's the first element of the Friday lightning round. We're back with the panel — Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: That apology is an apology but it is still weasely. What he should have said there is not a shred of evidence that this was ever said. And in the absence of any such evidence, it is a libel and a lie. That's the honest way to say it, and not pretend, oh, I couldn't find a Woodward and Bernstein level secondary source.
EASTON: I don't think clearing up this quote would make the NFL reconsider. Rush Limbaugh said "I knew there would be a firestorm going into this." There was one. I think the NFL doesn't suit them, controversy moving forward, if he made more incendiary comments, regardless whether they were racially tinged or not, that that would — that the NFL would somehow have to defend them or take ownership of them.
He was more of a headache than they could handle and they said goodbye. BAIER: The NFL turns its head sometimes on different issues.
HAYES: Oh, of course. I think the NFL actually comes out of this looking as bad as anybody, our colleagues in the media included.
Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL called those comments divisive, had general comments indirectly criticizing Rush Limbaugh. What he didn't mention was that the day before, Stacey Ferguson, known as Fergie, the lead singer of the Black Eyed Peas was awarded, voted in as part owner of the Miami Dolphins. Well, she has lyrics that include calling the CIA terrorists. I find that divisive and offensive and I look forward to Roger Goodell actually retracting her ownership. BAIER: Second topic, the absence of inflation means the president is now calling for a check to be sent out to seniors, among others, $250, because there is no cost-of-living increase next year for the more than 50 million Social Security recipients. What about this $250 check, Nina?
EASTON: I think it's an idiotic $13 billion pander to senior citizens worried that they will lose their gym memberships and a lot of other perks under Medicare Advantage if the Baucus Bill goes through.
KRAUTHAMMER: The purpose of a cost of living increase is to cover against an increase in the cost of living. It didn't occur. But for a liberal who lives to give your money and mine away, this is an impossible situation. So congenitally, reflexively, he has to write a check even though there is no underlying purpose or rational.
HAYES: Well, it is a bribe. Call it what it is. It's a bribe — $250. We have learned through the cash through clunkers program that people are happy to take free money anytime they can get it, so I imagine seniors will be happy with the money.
Will it actually palliate them, will it keep them from opposing his health care reforms or otherwise bring them around to supporting him? I don't think it will.
BAIER: We should point out there are a lot of Republican lawmakers who don't have a problem with this check either.
HAYES: They should.
BAIER: Let's move on quickly. Final — bring your own comments — Steve.
HAYES: Starting on a down note, I think the story of the week in some ways is Iran and the fact that the Obama administration's plan on Iran is crumbling before our eyes.
You had the Russians and the Chinese basically come out and say we do not want sanctions. Well, sanctions are at the heart of the Obama strategy. It's not working. We haven't been talking about it as a country a lot this week. We will be in six or eight months.
EASTON: On an up note, so to speak, the boy in the balloon story, I think there is a lot of suggestion that this is a hoax, which, I suspected the minute I heard that this family had been on the "Wife Swap" reality show.
It makes me wonder how the boy was in that attic with people, troopers stomping around looking for him, calling his name, how he told one T.V. newsperson that we did this for a T.V. show and he threw up on another T.V. show. It suggests there is more to the story than meets the eye.
KRAUTHAMMER: Some Republicans are complaining that the Democrats had promised them a five-day work week in Congress, and now it's only three days. Three days is too long. It should be a one-day work week, no, a one-hour work week. That would minimize the damage that Congress can do.
And think of billions that we will save if it's only one hour a week.
There is a way to return to Jeffersonian democracy. One hour work week is the cause. Yes, we can. Join the cause.
BAIER: If you all vomit after I ask a question, I am going to be suspicious.
That is it for the Friday lightning round this week. Stay tuned to see an interview that will leave you speechless.
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