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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Obama's Impromptu News Conference

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from February 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The public has soured on the process that they saw over the last year. I think that actually contaminates how they view the substance of the bills.

Let's get the relevant parties together. Let's put the best ideas on the table. My hope is that we can find enough overlap that we can say this is the right way to move forward, even if I don't get every single thing that I want.

ERIC CANTOR, R-VA, HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: We're not interested in a dog and pony show to trumpet failed bills that, in fact, the Democrats can't even pass right now without any Republican support. We're not interested in that because the American people aren't either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: President Obama in the White House briefing room today for an impromptu news conference asked a number of questions about health care reform legislation and what's going to happen at this bipartisan meeting on February 25th.

One thing that's not going to happen, according to the president, they're not going to start from scratch. So where are we on all of this? Let's bring in our panel, Tucker Carlson, editor of thedailycaller.com., A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, what about this?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the president is at sea. He has just had his entire agenda of year one rejected, and I think he has talked himself into believing that it's because of process and not substance.

As we heard in that clip he thinks that on health care it was the way it was presented all the back room deals which certainly contributed to people's unhappiness about it, but it's the substance. The dogs don't like the dog food. He thinks it's the bowl or the advertising, or perhaps he didn't speak slowly enough and in dog-ese in explaining it, but it's the substance, which he won't accept.

So he doubles down on substance. He's staying with health care. He talked about trying again on cap and trade. He is going to have the meeting at the end of the month with Republicans on health care. But he thinks it's about openness and process, transparency, and bipartisanship, and that's why he is attempting all of this.

In fact, the way that the White House trumpeted the meeting today is, again, he is showing he reaches across the aisle.

I think he is missing the point. With unemployment at 10 percent and with an agenda — a whole year rejected agenda which Americans in general think was beside the point, Americans aren't troubled about process here. It's substance. I think he is — if I can use another analogy, barking up the wrong tree.

BAIER: Very dog-oriented there. A.B., what about the Republicans in this — sorry?

KRAUTHAMMER: A canine analysis.

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: Got you. The Republicans in this, they point out, listen, it was Democrats who were not able to get this through. We weren't biting — not to use Charles' analogy — but we weren't biting on what you were putting out there, but it's Democrats who couldn't get this through throughout the entire year.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I agree. And there is no meeting at Blair house before the cameras that is going to bring the Democratic Party together, which is why I have no idea why the Republicans are moaning and groaning about not coming to a dog and pony show. Let the camera show if this is a fraud, if this summit is a joke.

Let the camera show that the Democratic Party has numbers division on health care and couldn't pass their own bill with the most that they had, majorities in both chambers. Let the cameras show that they are going to resist tort reform or any other Republican ideas.

But the Republicans have to show up at this. They cannot block it and then say we are ready to lead. If they want these midterm elections in the fall to be a referendum on Obama and Democratic control, if they want to prove to overwhelming majority of the electorate who still believe that the Republicans are contemptuous at governing, they better show up and parade their principles with pride and get through this meeting. It doesn't mean they have to vote on anything.

BAIER: If you have a White House who is saying we want to hear what the Republicans are proposing, they can go to a variety of different web sites and see exactly what the Republicans are proposing.

STODDARD: This is true, but I think being on camera benefits the Republicans. I think it's a huge opportunity for them. They should stop the whining and show up.

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: They've already won. And so I think to some extent A.B. is right. There is no reason to call into question their presence. This bill is not going to become law in its present form, not because of partisanship, as the president suggested, but because of interparty bickering. It's the fault of the Democratic caucus.

So we already know that, and unless the bill is changed substantially, that's not going to change.

I do think it's very revealing that we are back to health care. Isn't this the jobs president? Weren't we hearing just last week it's all about the jobs? There has been a lot of talk within the caucus that maybe we should have been focusing on jobs last year.

And somehow today out of nowhere seems to be this tactical shift where he shows up unbeknownst really to anybody at this press conference and going on about health care again. What do they possibly think they are going to get out of this conversation? I can't imagine.

BAIER: Let me put that to you. What is the motivation, what is behind this? Is it an appeal to the left that says I'm not going to give up on health care reform? Don't worry, we are going to do this stuff even though it's just really for show?

CARLSON: When you get down to it the left and firedoglake.com and all the blogs they are mad. The perfectionist caucus is upset. They are always going to be upset. In the end they will always stick with Obama because the options are not satisfactory to them.

I don't think that's it. I think they honestly don't know what they are doing. I think they were completely shocked that they didn't get health care through, and I think they are flailing.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think that's true. I think they really are at sea on this. Obama is not like a Clinton who could pivot, change his agenda, change the substance, and become a centrist because he always was a centrist originally, even before he reached the presidency. He tried health care, Clinton, and he failed, so he became a centrist. It was easy. It was intrinsic with him.

Obama is a man of the left. That's who he is. This is an agenda he believes in. I grant him utter sincerity on this. He is not ready to abandon it. He thinks it's a matter of process, and he thinks he can recover politically if he shows how, in process, he is like the Obama he promised in 2008 and 2007, open, transcendent, and reaching across to the other side. I think he is wrong, but I think that's his analysis.

BAIER: So A.B., the only pitfall you see potentially for Republicans is if they don't show. But is there another pitfall if they go to this open camera thing and the bill is out on the table and they are seen saying we're not going to go with this?

STODDARD: I maintain ever since new year started that bipartisanship will help Republicans more than Democrats in these fall elections. Their voters are motivated. They are going to show up. They will just get more independent voters if they act bipartisan.

Democrats acting bipartisan at this point doesn't help them. They can't pass anything. I think that actually, frankly, the White House does have a plan. They would like to get a deal out of the House and Senate Democrats that they can bring to the summit. I don't think it's going to happen.

They also would like the Republicans to say no, we're not coming to the summit. But I think it's a huge missed opportunity. They are in the minority. They have nothing to be afraid of. They have to go.

BAIER: Last word here. One international problem that never seems to go away is Iran — what the president said about it and may do about it after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Despite their posturing that their nuclear power is only for civilian use that they, in fact, continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization. And that is not acceptable to the international community, not just to the United States.

They have made their choice so far, although the door is still open. And what we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: President Obama speaking today about Iran, as you see some video today starting some of the demonstrations. We expect that to pick up before Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the revolution.

The president saying they are sticking — the administration is sticking to a two track approach here to offer to negotiate still, but threatening to further pressure against the Iranian regime. Still questions about how sanctions would come together in the U.N. Security Council or elsewhere.

We are back with the panel. Tucker, we are expecting a busy week in Tehran as you can see already today in the streets there.

CARLSON: Yes. That was remarkable admission on the part of the president. I don't know what that was, getting up and saying this nuclear material may not be just for cancer medicine and energy, it might be for nuclear weapons.

I mean, I think there is a sense of bewilderment boy on the part of the president and his staff that Iran was not moved by the force of his personality. That was the fundamentally argument, if you'll remember, during the campaign. I will speak to Iran because can I help win them over, or at least bring them in our direction.

And that's been wholly unsuccessful, not surprisingly, but it has completely failed. And we're to the point now where I think we are watching the movie in slow motion. I think the administration has accepted on some level we are going to see nuclear Iran. I think the rest of the world is accepting that.

Sanctions — we're not going to get sanctions. If we get them it still won't stop them. It's profoundly a movement of disillusionment and I think for the people who thought Obama's personality itself could change the equation, and it can't.

BAIER: A.B.?

STODDARD: Interesting while all along the administration was engaging Iran there was a two tracks.

BAIER: Which he mentioned again today.

STODDARD: Right, and he actually said — he didn't kill off a track today. He said the door is still open, as he admitted that they are moving toward weaponization and this is unacceptable and the international community is united, you know, in opposition to this.

He gave Russia shout out for losing patience as well and finally having doubts. Russia's support for sanctions is not assured. We don't know that yet. That could change in a moment. China obviously not onboard with no idea what card we can play at this point if they have veto power over any sanctions.

The administration — I was just fascinated — I mean, obviously they had to make admission of course because of the news coming out of Iran and the U.N. this week, but to actually say that the door was still open — for what? I mean, any kind of uranium transfer is just obviously, now looking back it's just looks like it was always a game to buy more time.

BAIER: He said it a couple times, Charles, even went back and said there was still time if they want to come to the table. As A.B. said, you would think perhaps one of the tracks would have ended.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it's a reflexive habit, and I think he's still in a semi-coma on this. But his eyes are cracking. His eyes are beginning to open.

And when he spoke about a regime of sanctions, I think it was important. I think what that means is an array of them. I think he understands that out of the Security Council he will get almost nothing because China will water anything down to the point where the sanctions are meaningless.

However, I think strategy is you want to get something out of the Security Council, even if it's weak, as a way to legitimize unilateral sanctions by the Europeans and the Americans, perhaps EU-wide, perhaps only the French, the Germans, the British, and us, which would bite.

Now, the problem with the administration is I think Obama still speaks of isolating the regime with the sanctions. I mean, that is so absurd. This is a regime after 30 years it takes over an American embassy and kidnaps its personnel. It accepted isolation a long time ago. It's not an issue, isolation.

The point of sanction is to punish and to squeeze. And it's not as if the squeezing and punishing will change the policy of this regime. It won't. What it can do is to increase the crisis in the country in which you have got simmering and really volcanic anger against it.

You want to heighten the contradictions, as Lenin would say, and help along a revolution if possible. That's the reason you want sanctions, not that it's going to change the regime's behavior.

BAIER: Because Iran has prepared for this. They have reached out to Russia, China, Venezuela, and established these give and takes.

KRAUTHAMMER: These connections and protections and backdoors.

BAIER: Tucker, do you expect the administration to come out and say something ahead of Thursday, perhaps more than they have said in the past, about these demonstrations and support for them?

CARLSON: Well, based on previous — based on precedent, no.

But then, you know, I don't understand what the administration strategy is. For the president and a spokesman to come out today and this week and say we think we are bringing Russia along when I firmly believe that's not true and that's not going to happen.

It does sort of remind you of their talk preparatory to going to Copenhagen for winning the Olympics for Chicago where they were saying we have it wired, but they didn't. Could it be that they're saying this? Could it be that they're saying this.

Do they really expect Russia is going to come along and China is going to come along and support sanctions? I don't think they believe that? Could they believe that? I don't believe it.

BAIER: We'll follow it, last word on this topic.

You may have noticed that our friend and panelist Steve Hayes hasn't been around for the last couple of days. That because we want to congratulate Steve. He had a new baby this morning Jane Walker Hayes. Everybody is doing great. Congratulations to Steve, his wife Carrie, Grace and Connor who gust got a new baby sister, gorgeous pics there.

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