This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from December 2, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: We will have a thorough review in December of 2010. If it appears that the strategy is not working and we are not going to be able to transition in 2011, then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: As the president has said, we will execute the transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: It has got to be one or the other. It has got to be the appropriate conditions or it has got to be an arbitrary date. You can't have both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: The president's top advisers on Capitol Hill today in the hot seat about the Afghanistan policy that the president laid out at West Point last night. A lot of focus on July, 2011: That is the date the president says the troops will start to be withdrawn at that point moving forward, conditions-based.
So what about all of this? Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the president is very fortunate that there was not an applause meter in that auditorium in West Point, because the needle would not have been jumping. I think the cadets rendered a verdict on it.
This is a guy, as the president said, who is going to be their commander-in-chief. They are all going into the military, and they did not seem very excited about what he said or the fact that he was going to be their commander in chief.
BAIER: You took that from their reaction to that speech?
BARNES: Indeed. I watched it on FOX. Did you see the audience? The cadets were asleep. They looked like an unhappy group. But then Obama looked like he was not in his comfort zone, either, announcing what his policy was, which is a pretty good policy under the circumstances after this three-month delay. It wasn't bad, sending 30,000 troops.
But then he really did not take a lot away by saying, because he seemed — he did not seem any more excited about sending 30,000 troops than he did about getting them out, starting to get them out in July 2011.
And that really undermined the notion that he is resolved to really win that war in Afghanistan with this date, which is a phony date anyway. As Bob Gates said, as we just showed, it is a phony date. It was thrown out there as a sop to the left wing, but the whole world will see it, when the real dates that matter is December of 2010. That is when they will do their review and decide when the troops can begin to come out.
I have been to West Point. I was actually born there. My dad went there. It is not hard to stir up cadets. They want to like a president, they want to like their commander-in-chief. And yet, they seemed pretty blase last night.
BAIER: I'll just say that all cadets and military folks will say no matter who the commander-in-chief is, they honor him an answer his call.
BARNES: Of course they will, and they did not disrespect him, but they sure did not seem excited.
NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: So Fred, you're going to base your reaction to the policy, which you consider "pretty good," just on the cadets sitting there politely...
BARNES: I did not say that. I based their reaction to the president's speech, not to his policy.
EASTON: I think it is interesting to watch some conservatives — it is like chewing glass to be able to say this policy is pretty good.
Look, the president did not use the word "victory," he did not set — he did go down this road of setting a timetable for withdrawal, but of course, based on conditions on the ground, so there's lots of wiggle room.
But this is a politically dangerous move for this president. He has already stirred up his base. The left is going after him. The anti-war lawmakers in Congress are calling for a vote on funding early so they can make hay out of this. You look at this into next year in the 2010 election, you are going to see more casualties before you see fewer.
So it was a dangerous move for him. He could have gone with the politically expedient route of Joe Biden — let's try to use drones and so forth and just do a counterterrorist strategy. That would have been much easier. It would have pleased at the base. But he took a courageous move and I think he deserves some applause for it.
There has been some carping from both the right and left over the speech, when I think he deserves credit.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the carping is because he is not clear what he meant and what he intends. It was a very strange speech. It was supposed to be a clarion call, a call essentially into battle because these troops are going to be in the field rather imminently.
But it was so hedged and cramped and ambivalent and there was a huge reluctance you could hear in his tone.
On one hand, he sends in the troops, and on the other hand, he says we are leading in 18 months. And as we heard, you can say it's a sop to the left, but we heard his national security adviser today in testimony say the date is fixed one. The withdrawals will start. The only question is conditions will determine the pace of withdrawal.
So James Jones was saying it is a real date. So this is — we will fight them in air, we'll fight them on the beaches, we'll fight them on the field for 18 months and then we start to pack.
That's the reason why I think people are unsure about this. There are a lot of people on the right who think it was OK. They won the policy, and the left won the speech. All the caveats are in a speech, but the president is committed to the surge and his commanders have at least partial victory in what they want.
But the issue is this: Is his heart in it? He spoke about unwavering resolve, and yet he talks about exit. He talks about how the security of the world hangs on this, and yet he had a whole riff in the speech about how we have to look after our economy and how expensive war is and how we have to balance the needs of our country.
That is not a clarion call. It's an uncertain trumpet.
BAIER: Fred, how far will the left go? Yesterday we saw Senator Russ Feingold and Congressman Jim McGovern come out and saying they will do everything, everything is on the table to stop this surge. How far is the push from the left going to go?
BARNES: I do not think they will have the votes because a lot of Democrats will go with Obama, one, because they agree with him, and two because he is their president. They are Democrats and he's a Democrat. So they'll go with him. And almost all of the Republicans will.
So the effort on the part of the left would be to de-fund the military surge into Afghanistan, and despite the public opinion polls, which have not been very good for the intervention there, I don't think the left can pull that off or even come close.
BAIER: And Nina, Senator Barbara Boxer said there are fewer than 100 Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan. It's hardly a cancer, basically, is what she was saying reflecting the president's speech and pointing to intelligence reports about the presence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
EASTON: Yes. I think you are going to see the left taking potshots at the president. You are going to hear a lot of that. And while they may not have the votes to de-fund the war, they do have the platform to make a lot of trouble and drive down his approval ratings.
BAIER: We will go over the latest developments in the climate-gate scandal when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE ADVISER JOHN HOLDREN: The unusual changes match what theory and models tell us would be expected to results from the very changes in the atmosphere that we know have been caused by human activities.
REP. JOHN SHADEGG, R-ARIZ.: There is an elephant — a large elephant — sitting in the middle of this room. But that elephant is the credibility of the entire scientific community, which has told us that the science behind manmade global warming is resolved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Talking there about the e-mails, the climate research unit e-mails from East Anglia University in which Republicans say show a pattern of suppression, manipulation and secrecy about global warming and temperatures over the years.
The university, East Anglia University, has announced that Phil Jones, the head of the climate research unit, is temporarily stepping down. This, of course, just a week before president Obama heads to the climate conference in Copenhagen.
What about all this, the testimony, and where it's headed? We're back with the panel — Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Dr. Holdman speaks about the models. The models are based on two items: on assumptions and on data.
The assumptions are quite speculative about how the globe actually regulates its own temperature, so that is an element of uncertainty. But we used to assume that at least the data was hard and good, but you cannot assume that anymore. When you see how these scientists in East Anglia who had the data on the last 150 years of temperatures had manipulated it, obviously suppressing the views of others, especially in other journals, then you have to wonder — and, as we know, in the 1980s the original data was destroyed, what they have now is adjusted, adapted. Well, how was it adjusted? How was it adapted? We don't know.
So all of the models are sort of in doubt. And unless the science is reestablished as legitimate, I think this attempt in Copenhagen to change our economies and restrict the Western economies and really starve us, and also to shift billion of dollars overseas to create green industries in the Third World, all of that is insane if it is based on science which is now speculative.
Instead of spending all our money on Copenhagen and on economic actions, it ought to be spent on redoing and looking again at that research.
BAIER: In context here, also you have Senator John Kerry calling for $3 billion to be put into the budget next year to help developing nations with their climate change efforts ahead of Copenhagen. Nina, what about all this?
EASTON: That has always been a big political issue, of course. China being one of those developing countries, which is the largest carbon emitter now, as of this year.
So, as Charles said, we are going to transfer trillions of dollars from the developed world to the lesser developed world. It was the issue that hung up Kyoto and it is the issue that was going to hang up Copenhagen anyways.
This, however, I think — I hope it resets the button on the whole climate change issue and resets the research, the context of the research, because it does reveal, these e-mails do reveal a level of PC-ism that has driven the climate change scientists.
There are scientists out there, for example, John Christie at the University of Alabama who was a co-author of the United Nations report, who is not an alarmist and says that the Earth has been heating somewhat, but a lot of it has been overstated because a lot of the temperature gauges are in urban areas next to buildings, urban structures, and that in and of itself raises the temperature.
And what he says is that this is a cost-benefit issue. What are the costs and what are the benefits? And even if you pass cap-and-trade, according to him, it would reduce temperature by something like 1-1000th percent — I think I have that number wrong...
BARNES: By not much.
EASTON: By not much. By 7/100 of a degree. I wanted to get that right.
But this is somebody who says the Earth is warming a bit, but are these actions we're taking, which will cost — the cap-and-trade will cost our economy one GDP point and that means jobs. So is that a road you want to go down?
BAIER: Fred, the charts they showed today in the hearing show the trend of global temperatures over the past century and a half up, even though they have fallen significantly in recent years.
BARNES: That are up, what, 1.5 percent Fahrenheit. I do not think that is in dispute. The question is whether it is manmade or not. The White House adviser may say it manmade; how does he know? I don't think he knows.
And the truth is this is a great opportunity for President Obama. And Charles hinted at it. He actually proposed it. And President Obama can say, look, we are going to have a study now. I realize there is not a consensus among scientists. I realize there are these questions about the data and the honesty of these computer projections.
But we are going to get together with scientists and we're going to have a transparent study that will see what global warming we have had in the past and what we can project into the future. It will be a great opportunity for him to reposition himself on that issue, and of course, as I think you were suggesting, Nina, shelving for now the cap-and-trade bill.
BAIER: Chances that will happen?
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