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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Climate Change and 9/11 Suspects in New York City

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from November 17, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Power in the 21st century is no longer a zero sum game. One country's success need not come at the expense of another. That is why the United States insists we do not seek to contain China's rights.

So many of the world's challenges cannot be solved unless the United States and China work together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, The president over in China as we speak. After a couple of days of meeting, he had a tough weekend when it came to policy. He met with world leaders at the APEC summit, yielding to political and economic realities and saying that a global climate change treaty will not be reached at Copenhagen coming up. And he is also talking about the economy on this trip.

What about the president's trip to Asia? Let's bring in our panel, Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of The Washington Times, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune magazine, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Jeff, your thoughts on the trip overall. I guess the climate change took us by surprise that all the leaders came together and said it's just not going to happen.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, the collapse of the climate change talks for Copenhagen starting December 7, that's been — those talks have been a dead letter for a while. The developing country countries...

BAIER: But they were still pulling for it. There were still leaders out there saying it could happen.

BIRNBAUM: There were some who said yes, we can, but, in fact, no, they couldn't.

And the reason was that the U.S. and other developed countries wanted to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions that the developing countries like China and India were never going to agree to unless the developed countries gave them billions and billions of dollars to pay for new technology and renewable energy. They were just worlds apart.

And so they were just acknowledging what a lot of climate experts knew, that Copenhagen was just one step in the very long road to an international agreement to reduce global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.

That also means that legislation on Capitol Hill, an agenda item for President Obama, is definitely off. We mentioned it earlier in the show, but without question, a lot of the movement on Capitol Hill, including even the passage of the climate legislation in the House, was mostly meant for show to show the international community that in Copenhagen something can really be done because the U.S. was serious.

All of that is off the table now. It's really off next year and even further down the road.

BAIER: Senator Kerry making that announcement that they will still try next year, but it is a long-shot chance even at that.

BIRNBAUM: That's right.

BAIER: Nina, about the economic talk on this trip, did you take anything away from the summit or his statements over the weekend?

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Just following up quickly on the Copenhagen thing. What surprises me about this — or what is not surprising about this is how little has changed since the Kyoto protocol was almost unanimously rejected by the Senate more than a decade ago.

You still have the problem of developing countries are don't want to give up economic growth, and the U.S. saying we will agree to binding commitments. And the developing countries, particularly China, saying look, promises maybe, but we're not going to commit to anything.

So we go over there and we say, look, we need to you work with us on this. We need to you work with us. We need to you to get better on human rights was the other thing we heard.

But what is interesting is that the power dynamic has changed between these two countries, the U.S. and China, largely because of economics. China is our banker. We are looking at $9 trillion in debt going out ten years. The main funder of that is China, and China is worried about our deficits.

So what you're hearing, we heard this last summer and we're hearing this again, China is worried about our deficits and they're worried about our investments here, and so they're lecturing us. We always go over to China and think we are going to lecture them, but they think they have the power hand up on us.

BAIER: Charles, as we talked about earlier with Brit, there was one image in Japan that caught everyone's attention, and that is when President Obama bowed to the Japanese emperor. There you see a still shot, and the bow as he is shaking hands there.

Of course, back in April, there was a lot of attention on his bow to the Saudi king, and there you see that.

Charles, your reaction to the bows?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, that was definitely a world class bow in Tokyo. His apologists will say it was protocol or politeness, but I have looked at pictures of other presidents, vice presidents, and others, and they haven't gone halfway to the emperor's toes on the bow.

I have seen pictures of MacArthur with Hirohito and he never bowed, and MacArthur wasn't even a president, although at times he thought he was.

But there was a second incident here that I found interesting, when the president declared himself the first Pacific president. That's because presumably he grew up and spent some of his childhood in Hawaii, and in Indonesia, and his mom took him on a visit to Japan, although all he remembers of that, as he says, was the ice cream. The first Pacific president? Well, Teddy Roosevelt, he built the Panama Canal in order to make the United States a Pacific power and he did. William Howard Taft, his successor, was the governor of the Philippines, and John Kennedy and George Bush, Sr. were in the Pacific in the Second World War and spent some time in the Pacific Ocean itself; Bush, after having been shot down from his airplane and Kennedy after having his ship cut in half by a Japanese patrol boat.

So these people actually spend time in the Pacific, but in Obama's mind, it doesn't in any way match the experience of the baby Jesus — excuse me, the baby Obama growing up on some Pacific island. The narcissism of the man is rather unbounded.

EASTON: I would add to the list of presidents, by the way, the California president who opened China in 1972, Richard Nixon, and our other California president — and who retired in San Clemente.

KRAUTHAMMER: Everything in Obama's life makes him world historical.

BAIER: Charles is fired up tonight.

The president is also being criticized for the decision to bring 9/11 suspects to criminal court in the U.S. That is coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You will hear opponents of this amendment say it will give all kinds of rights to terrorist masterminds like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I want to repeat, that is not true.

The irony of the underlying bill as it's written is that someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to get basically a full military trial with all the bells and whistles. He will have counsel. He will be able to present evidence. He will be able to rebut the government's case, because the feeling is that he is guilty of a war crime and to do otherwise might violate some of our agreements under the Geneva Convention.

I think that's good that we're going to provide him with some procedure and process. I think we will convict him, and I think he will be brought to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Well, that's Senator Obama back in September of 2006, supporting the legislation that set up the military commissions that legalized the military commissions. That was the standard that these 9/11 suspects were going to be tried in, these military trials.

However, the attorney general, just last week, announcing that they will now be brought to New York to face trial in U.S. civilian court.

We are back with the panel — Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think Obama made a good case there, a logical case. What is so hard to understand is Holder's argument, the logic of his argument.

Now, I want to look only at a single aspect of it. He was asked if he opposed the military commissions on principle, he could say his decision on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was wrong, but at least it is logical.

But he doesn't. On the day he sent KSM to a civilian trial in New York he announced he would send five of the miscreants who attacked the Cole, a warship to a military trial in Guantanamo or perhaps elsewhere.

Now, what is the logic here? He was asked about this, and to the extent that he was coherent, which is only to a small extent, he said, well, if you attack a civilian target, as in 9/11, then you go to a civilian court, a military target like the Cole, to a military.

First of all, the Pentagon was hit on 9/11, so it wasn't exclusively a civilian attack. But perhaps Holder forgot about that.

But secondly, even if it were exclusively an attack on civilians, which is worse act of war criminality, attacking defenseless civilians or attacking a military target, like a warship? We have attacked warships in our history, Japan and Germany and the Second World War and elsewhere. That is an accepted act of war.

Why does the person Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who attacked civilians, the more obvious and egregious war crime, get the extra protections, the extra constitutional niceties that you get in a civilian courtroom as opposed to someone who attacks a military target? The logic here is perverse.

And the incentive is if you are a terrorist overseas thinking I'm going to attack a well-protected military installation, I will hit a civilian. I will be in a cozy cell with a lawyer, Miranda rights and perhaps even a blog. Why wouldn't I attack innocent civilians? It makes no sense whatsoever.

BAIER: Nina, a lot of talk back and forth on this throughout the weekend on the Sunday talk shows.

EASTON: And to some extent, they seem like — the administration seems like this is a political decision, and that this for them is a get- tough message, that we're going to show that we can convict somebody fairly in our court of law and really get tough on these terrorists, which is surprising when you think about what is likely to happen.

With all these extra constitutional protections you talk about, it's likely to become a circus, as those who have worked around Khalid Sheikh Mohammed say. I mean, this guy is a grandstander, a show boater, a huge ego.

He will use this as an opportunity to, you know, to speak to jihadists around the world and continue his war against America in a courtroom.

BAIER: On the other issue, Jeff, you have the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, today coming out today saying bring the Gitmo detainees to Illinois. Some lawmakers backing him up, saying we will take the extra money that we get for this and the extra jobs it creates.

Obviously some Illinois lawmakers don't feel that way.

BIRNBAUM: Some don't feel that way, but I guess one who does is Dick Durbin, who is the number two senator in the Senate among Democrats.

And so security is a very important issue here. New Yorkers feel like they are being put under extra danger by having Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cohorts coming there. Sending them to rural Illinois along with other detainees seems like a very good idea, but it's not one that is being obviously pursued.

In fact, it's fair to say that this entire decision about New York and the courts and the detainees may be one of the biggest scandals of the Obama administration, right up there with health care and his still unmade decision about troop levels in Afghanistan.

How big of a circus it becomes in New York, whether there is a security breach in New York, and most importantly, the outcome that is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others convicted and sent away for maybe a long time or even sent to the death penalty, that will be a very consequential political outcome for the president.

And if it doesn't come out the way the president wants it to, it could be real political damage for him and his party.

BAIER: Quickly, Charles, no one this weekend talking about this weekend could answer the question if by technicality or hung jury one of these cases went the other way, would they be let loose. And everyone said no, but they wouldn't say how that wouldn't happen.

KRAUTHAMMER: They will be rearrested in the courtroom, a second charge will be filed, and it will be endless. And in the end, if they are acquitted on all charges endlessly, they will end up in indefinite detention. We will not let them out. Everyone knows that. That's what makes it such a farce.

BAIER: That's it for the panel.

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