This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from December 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There's extraordinary skepticism that any discussio ns like this can actually produce results. I'm well aware of that. I don't mind skepticism.
I'm open to every demonstrably good idea.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: The biggest problem we heard from our economists with regard to why employers aren't hiri ng is all the job-killing policies that are being offered by this administration and this Congress and creating an awful lot of uncertainty for American employers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, the White House held a jobs summit today, as did Republicans. The president is saying that he is open to anything, even tax cuts and that he is worried about rising deficits and debt as well, but wants to turn this recovery, which he calls weak, around.
So what about this? Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Jennifer Loven, chief White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Jennifer, let's start with you. Do you think they thought they got a lot out of this summit and what is the feeling at the White House?
JENNIFER LOVEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS: As you know, the president is goint to give a speech on Tuesday where he is going to lay out some of what he thinks will be good ideas for a new jobs bill.
And I think today was kind of a precursor to that, so they could say that they talked to a wide-range of people from business and economists and academics and try to gather some of these ideas.
But some of these ideas are already set, as you know. They wouldn't be going into a speech Tuesday without knowing a lot of what they plan to do.
And the president gave a little bit of a hint of that today, one piece that I know that the White House is talking about with the Hill, with Democrats on the Hill, is more money for weatherizing homes, making homes more energy efficient. That would create jobs, and presumably help the environment as well.
BAIER: Charles, noticeably absent today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They were not included in the dozens of CEOs and small business owners and union leaders. What about this jobs summit?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it is obviously a PR maneuver. Unemployment is high. People showed on Election Day in November that the administration and Congress are spending all their time on health care, which is not a high priority. High priority is the economy.
It is the conceit of liberals in power to imagine that the government not only should but can create jobs. Outside of world wars, it doesn't. Generally it gets in the way.
I mean, there are things that you can do by clearing the brush. Number one, kill health care with all of the job-killing mandates and penalties which are holding up employment. Secondly, kill cap-and-trade, which will destroy what's left of the industrial Midwest. Kill the stimulus package, and distribute the remaining billions either to individuals or to the treasury.
The other thing they can do is to approve the free trade agreements with Columbia and South Korea, which will create American jobs. A lot of economists have a consensus on that.
And lastly, and the most important here, is sort of a reprise of 2008: Lift the unbelievably absurd restrictions on drilling for gas and oil, which would create a gold rush of jobs in the country and help us in terms of national security and the economy.
You know, that's a way to save the economy in five points and I wasn't even in the jobs summit. Perhaps I should have crashed it.
BAIER: You might have been welcomed at the Republican jobs summit, because they went through a lot of those points today. Steve, what about this battling jobs summit and the politics involved?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think Republicans wanted to show that they had their own ideas and that their ideas were ideas that have been proven to have worked right, by and large.
I think things like removing the uncertainty for small business owners about the kinds of effects that we'll see with a cap-and-trade bill, with health care.
And this isn't hypothetical. I mean, I have had discussions with small business owners, medium-sized manufacturers, and they will tell you, they say, look, I would like to hire people. I can't do it right now because I don't know what it is going to cost me when and if we have new health care mandates.
So it is a significant issue as they think about how they're going to conduct their business in the next year and on down the road. So beyond hypotheticals.
The second point I would make is that the Congressional Budget Office put out a letter to Harry Reid on November 18 and it talked about the fact that the proposals that they're talking about, particularly the payments, the penalties that small businesses or businesses would have to pay, would indeed cost jobs, keep people from hiring.
So while Vice President Biden is saying that the president has been focused on nothing but jobs, jobs, jobs — in fact, what he has been doing is pushing health care, and health care, I think, is one of the major reasons that we haven't seen more hiring.
BAIER: Jennifer, there is a major defense still of the stimulus package. The vice president did it again today, and we have heard that many times.
The president has mentioned numerous times lately a concern about the deficit and the debt and that taxes and government spending can't do it all. How does the White House match up health care, cap-and-trade, all of these agenda items with that statement, those statements?
LOVEN: Well, I think, you know, you have heard some people at the White House talk about what they're going to do next year is have more of a focus on the deficit, as you mentioned, and yet at the same time there is now a big push both internally and externally to focus on job creation.
And you're right. They're going to have to match that up. I'm not sure they know exactly how they're going to match that up yet. It's not clear to me.
You have the president giving a little bit, you know, of both messages today, talking about the need to figure out new ways to get jobs into the pipeline. At the same time he said to some of the people in the room, government isn't the answer. The private sector is the one that creates the jobs.
BAIER: But you get the sense from the president that everything is on the table, and if Republicans came to him with some ideas about tax incentives, et cetera, that he's open to it?
LOVEN: That's what it sounds like. That's what he said. And we'll see what they come up with. I think the speech is intended to sort of lay out the exact road map. But I think you will get a really good hint of what he thinks will be the right way to go and whether, in fact, he will take in some Republican ideas.
KRAUTHAMMER: Another speech? Politically, it's the law of diminishing returns. I'm not sure he has got a lot of traction on any of the major speeches in Afghanistan and all of those 28 or 29 speeches on health care, so let's see how he does. But I don't hold out a lot of hope that it's going to sway the public concern about lack of action on jobs and high unemployment.
HAYES: His top priority clearly is health care and has been health care, but I don't think it is any mystery, if I can be the resident cynic, I don't think it's any mystery why he is talking more about jobs now and government spending. Those are the two issues that rate highest on poll after poll after poll by organization after organization what voters are concerned about. Of course he needs to talk about it.
BAIER: I think Charles also has residency here on that.
HAYES: As a cynic, I will take second to Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: I'm happy to take a partner at any time.
BAIER: Separation of powers, executive privilege for a social secretary, is that what the White House is claiming in this dustup over last week's state dinner party crashing? We'll talk about it when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK SULLIVAN, SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: An error in judgment. A mistake was made. In our line of work, we cannot afford even one mistake.
REP. PETE KING, R-N.Y.: If somebody from the social secretary's office was standing where they have stood in the past, the Salahis would not have gotten in.
SULLIVAN: It would have helped.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, D-MISS.: Ms. Rogers is not a central figure in this security matter in so much as her role on the executive staff does not encompass security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, that's the House hearing on this whole dustup over the state dinner crashers. There they are, the Salahis meeting the president.
"Ms. Rogers" is Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary, and the White House is saying that she will not testify before Congress because of separation of powers. Essentially if she were subpoenaed, they would presumably issue executive privilege and prevent her from testifying before Congress, for a White House social secretary.
We're back with the panel. I know the story is crazy, but on a House hearing day and the Secret Service director testifying, we wanted to get your thoughts.
Jennifer, let's start with you.
LOVEN: Well, let's first ask the question why Congress is taking the time to have a hearing about this. I think that's interesting when there are a lot of other things going on.
Another thing that is interesting, however, is this fight over executive privilege. We see it in every administration. And President Bush asserted numerous times and Republicans backed him up to the hilt. Now they're sort of prepared to argue with President Obama as he asserts it.
But President Obama is going to run into a bit of his old history if he gets too strident about it. One thing he said as a candidate when it was an issue with Bush, he said: "This blanket notion that you can't subpoena White House aides where there is evidence of genuine wrongdoing I think is completely misguided."
He said that he would be willing to let the precedent be set if it seemed like the right policy. So he left himself some wiggle room, but at the same time he seemed like this was something he would be OK with.
BAIER: And let's remember, this is all about a couple getting through security to this dinner. The House committee just wanted information. They weren't putting a subpoena on the table for Desiree Rogers. And yet the White House came back with this.
KRAUTHAMMER: I love this story. I'm glad to see that our cynicism here is contagious.
Of course, every time you are in power, you invoke executive power if you don't want to be embarrassed. And the opposition declares itself shocked and outraged at the hiding of information and obstruction of justice.
What is comical about this is it's being invoked for a social secretary in a circumstance where in the original Supreme Court rulings, it was intended for high officials with important state secrets. What was the state secret here, the nature of the flower arrangements at the head table? You know, it is as if somebody is invoking the Fifth Amendment in a dispute over a parking ticket.
But there was one real piece of news in this hearing and that was that the head of the Secret Service was asked if there has been an increased level of threats against President Obama because, you know, there was a rumor in the summer that had increased by a large percent, perhaps doubled or even worse, and he said — Mark Sullivan said — that the level of threat against President Obama is the same as against Bush and Clinton, which I think is heartening, and I think it refutes a lot of the rumors and the insinuations that we heard this summer when there was a lot of opposition to Obama policies.
BAIER: Right. The House Speaker came out and gave a statement about the tea parties at the same time saying she was worried about the violence that could stem from them.
BAIER: Steve, thoughts on this story as it develops?
HAYES: Let me get less serious after Charles made a serious one. I think this is the least interesting story since Obama has become president, surpassing even the countless stories about his dog, the dog search, and about the first lady's arms.
On the one hand, I'm torn —
BAIER: It's great to you have on this panel.
HAYES: Thank you. Good to be here.
HAYES: On the other hand, I'm torn, because if you have members of Congress doing that, focusing on this rather than coming up with a second stimulus, which would cost us more money, raise our taxes, not do any good, then I'm for it.
But on the other hand, there are some serious things. The Homeland Security Committee hasn't done a serious investigations into the shootings of Fort Hood as Representative Hoekstra made clear.
It's been more than a month. It's been a week and we have some socialites who showed up at the White House in a pretty dress and we're investigating that, but we haven't had a serious investigation of Fort Hood. And that is the point where it does get serious. That is ridiculous. What are they doing?
BAIER: Any thoughts, Jennifer?
LOVEN: I feel like this whole thing is sort of fake anger at the original incident. Now there is going to be a new round of potentially fake anger about the lack of testifying, or maybe she will, I don't know. But this gins up a whole other round...
BAIER: The couple, you mean?
BAIER: Oh, you mean Desiree Rogers.
LOVEN: Correct. And what it all ends up with is we have a vehicle just to keep whittling out these salacious details and focusing on a couple who is interesting for a lot of reasons that maybe we shouldn't pay attention to.
KRAUTHAMMER: And the irony is that all the fakery is in the name of a spot on reality television.
BAIER: This is probably the last panel on this topic, I think.
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