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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on President's Reluctance to Admit Errors

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from January 28, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think all of you understand the devastation remai ns. One in 10 Americans still can't find work. That's why creating jobs has to be our number one priority in 2010.

(APPLAUSE)

So long as we have the privilege of serving you, we will not stop fighting for your future.

JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president doesn't appear to have listened to what the people in Massachusetts have said, what the people in New Jersey and Virginia had to say in the elections last year, and decided to just double down on his job killing agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the president traveled to Florida today, referencing the State of the Union address. In that address, of course, he spent most of the time on the economy, about two thirds of the speech.

As far as foreign policy, take a look at the breakdown. The whole speech was 7,080 words, about 12 percent on foreign affairs. And just to put some context on that, the last state of the union addresses for George W. Bush, 38 percent, Bill Clinton 15 percent. George W. Bush 29 percent.

One thing President Obama did not talk about, the trials for, or possible trials for suspected terrorists in New York.

Let's bring in our panel: Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Bill, your thoughts.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You didn't mention the most important line of the speech when he attacked TV pundits, which I was outraged on your behalf.

(LAUGHTER)

I was watching at home, and I though he is attacking Charles Krauthammer and Juan Williams when he says the more the TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues to sound bites, our citizens turn away.

But in a way, you know, he’s the first president I believe used the state of the union to attack TV pundits. But I think it's typical of the speech, frankly, where he took very little responsibility for having made no real errors, took no real responsibility. He didn't communicate well enough on health care. I guess there weren't enough speeches.

And instead he attacked the Supreme Court, he attacked the TV pundits. He said we have to have gays in the military. It was really a strikingly - - he seems oblivious to the fact that he has been pursuing diligently policies that an awful lot of Americans don't approve of.

BAIER: And what about not talking about this effort to try 9/11 suspects in New York?

KRISTOL: I think he knows it's not going to happen, honestly. He foolishly two months ago — and again, another reckless thing. They hadn't thought it through, or it was driven by ideology. Oh great let's hold a civilian trial of KSM in New York, not thinking of the legal implications or the security implications.

And then the immediate making of the Christmas day bomber a criminal suspect, treating him as criminal suspect instead of as an enemy combatant, another thing that wasn't thought through, no facing up to that.

He would be much better — I'm not a great friend of his, but if I can give one piece of advice, if he is watching a TV pundit here for a minute, you should admit your mistakes and put them behind you. The voters will forgive you. They have done that for president after president.

Say, you know what? I have made some mistakes in my first year. We are not going to have civilian trial for KSM in New York. I'm going to let healthcare sit on the back burner and move onto other issues. It would be a few days of the media saying oh look he made mistakes, and you know what, there would be a new debate.

As it is, all these things are hanging out over him. Is he going to close Gitmo? What about the KSM trial in New York? What about healthcare? All of these things that Americans are against him on are still sitting out there as issues.

BAIER: Juan, we talked about the trials and how some Democrats are pulling back from these plans. Dianne Feinstein is the latest. She has reacted to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and said this, "He has a good point," that the trial shouldn't be in New York City "and the administration should listen to that point. KSM does not have to be tried in New York City. If there is any evidence that this will either make New York City a target or present any unusual expenses, then the mayor, and I have been a mayor, should be listened to." She was the mayor of San Francisco.

Juan, do you sense the tide turning on this issue?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think the tide has drenched us all. Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, has also now joined this chorus, and the police chief Ray Kelly has said, listen, we can provide the security, but look at the cost. And the cost now apparently is over $200 million. And that's prohibitive.

So New York City is not saying they can't do it, but they are saying you know what, it doesn't make sense to do it. And at what cost, because they want the federal government to pay for it.

Initially, I think there was some thought that as a symbol, as a symbolic gesture to have the trial there and show that American law can, in fact, prosecute these terrorists, in my opinion, would be a terrific challenge and a terrific moment for all Americans.

But what has turned out is that the execution of this has just become overwhelming. And I think that's why you see Democrats like Gillibrand, like Feinstein saying you know what, not good. It doesn't work as a practical matter.

BAIER: Should the president take Bill's advice and get out ahead before Congress pulls the money from these trials and say, you know what, we are not going to trial in New York.

WILLIAMS: At the moment, when I asked about this today the response I got from people was you know what, we are down the road on this. Remember that the charges have been withdrawn in terms of the military charges. They have yet to file the civilian charges, but that's the direction they are going in.

BAIER: Let's point that out — no 9/11 suspects are facing charges because the military charges have been dropped.

WILLIAMS: So the question now is exactly how soon can you get these people in court, and are you satisfied if, in fact, it becomes an internal delay and you get to the point where you are 10 years after 9/11 and nobody has been tried?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won't on this.

But he knows what's going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, get him off the hook. And the issue end up behind him even though he doesn't do it himself.

But what is remarkable is he gives the State of the Union address a month after an attack that could have been utterly catastrophic, and after a year, and we have had three attacks, the Arkansas murder, the Fort Hood massacre, and then, of course, the attack on the airliner, and he has almost practically nothing in his State of the Union on terrorism.

In fact, because his two decisions, the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane, are indefensible.

But what he did do is he pretended that the only argument against him on these issues is that he is unpatriotic. He says all of us love our country. Well, that's not at issue. We all love our country, but there are ways in which you can defend it intelligently and there are ways of acting which are idiotic, as his administration did in the case of allowing the bomber Christmas day attack Miranda rights, and as a result, we are receiving almost no information from someone who knows about active Al Qaeda cells in Yemen.

So patriotism is the last refuge of this scoundrel, but this scoundrel is seeking refuge in implying that his opponents are questioning his patriotism, and they are not. They are questioning his judgment.

BAIER: Down the line, does Congress pull funding on this?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely.

WILLIAMS: Looks like it.

KRISTOL: Yes. No KSM trial in New York, no closing of Gitmo.

BAIER: No closing of Gitmo, that will be a follow-up.

We'll talk about the president's criticism of a Supreme Court ruling and one justice's response in three minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interest, including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our election.

(APPLAUSE)

DAVID BOSSIE, CITIZENS UNITED PRESIDENT: I find it's a little incredulous that he and his legal team didn't know that they were making a misstatement on purpose. Some will call it a lie. Some will call it political posturing. I just think it's a fundamental error. It's bad lawyering, it's bad judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Justice Samuel Alito appeared to be shaking his head, saying "not true" after the president was commenting on this case. This opinion by the Supreme Court last week, Citizens United versus the FEC, left U.S. law regarding foreign donations to U.S. campaigns intact, but the White House thinks there could be loopholes here for American companies, foreign entities to still contribute through their American subsidiaries.

Here is what the White House said about this today, Bill Burton saying "One of the great things about our democracy is that powerful members of the government at high levels can disagree in public and in private. This is one of those cases."

We are back with the panel. Juan Williams, by the way, pointed this out in the coverage last night, but we will start with Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: Let me just say, reserving the right to revise and extend my remarks, my previous reference to the wood "scoundrel" was meant aphoristically and not as a description of anyone's character.

Having too much respect for the office, I will launch into this event in which the president attacked the Supreme Court at the State of the Union, which I believe is unprecedented, I thought was a breach of etiquette.

The court actually is at that event not for pleasure and not even as a duty — it's not required — but as a sign of respect for the other branches, for the presidency and the Congress. And to subject it to a direct attack in a setting in which it can't respond, I thought, was a breach of etiquette which shouldn't have happened.

On the substance, when the president said that it was breaking a 100 year precedent, he was wrong. As even Linda Greenhouse, the liberal Supreme Court reporter of New York Times pointed out, the ruling 100 years ago was the prohibition of a direct sending of money from corporations into the treasuries of candidates. That remains illegal. It was not touched in this decision. So there was no overturning of that precedent.

What it dealt with is a question of corporations funding speech attacking a candidate. And the court in its decision had said that it was not dealing with that issue, which means if it wasn't, the existing statute, which prohibits it, stands. So I think he was wrong on the substance as well as the precedent here.

BAIER: Juan, you pointed out atmospherics last night. The White House has pointed to Justice John Paul Stevens dissent, raising this issue about possible foreign influence in U.S. campaigns. Go ahead.

WILLIAMS: What Stevens wrote was that there is the possibility that you would have multi-nationals by the standards set by the majority that would then, through their U.S. subsidiaries, be able to influence contributions to campaigns, not specifically to candidates, but to campaigns. And that does remain a possibility.

And I tell you the truth, what struck me was the atmospherics, Bret. If you think back on two points, one is FDR who attacked the court in his time and then goes on to try to court pack, but he just basically does not respect the court, I don't think we have seen that kind of anger directed at the court since then.

Secondly, remember that after the Brown decision in '54, and this is something I care passionately about, there were many people in this country who thought this decision forcing integration of our public schools is abysmal. We don't have to abide by the high court's decision.

President Eisenhower said no, we are going to support the Supreme Court. They are the high court of this land. They don't have their own army. The U.S. government, and they are part of our government is going to support this ruling no matter how unpopular it may be in some quarters.

And to have the Supreme Court, no matter whether you agree or disagree them, subjected to an ovation that is intended to intimidate and ridicule them to me is dangerous to democracy.

BAIER: Bill?

KRISTOL: I don't know. I have mixed feelings. The Supreme Court deserves a lot of criticism sometimes, quite often, I think, in the last 30 or 40 years. And presidents always have an opinion that a court decision was wrongly decided.

I don't know why he felt compelled to say this in the State of the Union. It's not as if he then vaguely calls "I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems." Well, that's precise legislation. So he didn't have to address it.

But it's part of the pattern. Instead of talking about the actual policies he has proposed, the actual policies he has executed or failed to execute, as in the case of closing Guantanamo or getting any information from the Christmas bomber, he's attacking the Supreme Court, he’s attacking TV pundits.

And with much greater injustice — TV pundits has done less damage to this country than the Supreme Court in my view. I was at home watching, and you guys there doing excellent job. And I thought he is attacking Charles and Juan.

BAIER: I have to run, and we just note that Charles comments have been revised and extended.

KRAUTHAMMER: And probably expunged.

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for one determined effort to go after the youth vote.

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