This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from March 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interests, including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections.
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT: The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering, while the court, according to the requirements of protocol, has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling.
And it does cause me to think whether or not it makes sense for us to be there. To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Chief Justice John Roberts reacting to the president's State of the Union address in a talk to University of Alabama law students.
Well, we remember the now famous headshake and the mouthing of "not true" by Justice Samuel Alito at the State of the Union. Now the chief justice is speaking out. There is the video of Sam Alito.
We can't find any evidence of the justice reacting to something said in the State of the Union so outwardly like Chief Justice Roberts has.
Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Rick Klein, senior political reporter for ABC News, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Fred, what do you think?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It obviously irritated Chief Justice Roberts very much or he wouldn't have spoken out. And he found it to be improper, inappropriate, out of place what President Obama said.
And it was certainly unprecedented. No president had ever with the Supreme Court justices, at least there were six of them there in front of him, openly criticizing them and attacking a decision, not analyzing the law, but just attacking the result of it.
And I think it was unforced error on President Obama's part. He didn't get much praise for that and he got a lot of criticism in the media and elsewhere because it was basically inappropriate. He got his facts wrong about the decision as well.
And then I think the White House has repeated this unforced error today by having press secretary Gibbs respond to the chief justice. The presidency and this president in particular does not gain anything from getting in a fight with the Supreme Court.
BAIER: Robert Gibbs issued a statement saying: "The president has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response."
Rick, it's interesting to see in this town a back and forth between the executive branch and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
RICK KLEIN, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, ABC NEWS: It's beyond rare. And I think the White House response is interesting. They are focusing on the substance of the ruling, not the propriety of going after the court.
I have a hard time viewing it even as an error on the part of the White House just because this is a former constitutional law professor. President Obama I think knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to take on this ruling. This ruling is not popular. Polling has shown it to be very, very unpopular actually. So I think the White House likes discussing the politics of that.
But picking a fight like that I think is risky because people have a lot of respect for the Supreme Court. It's hard to imagine, given Chief Justice Roberts' comments, that any of the members of the court are going to be showing up for the State of the Union in the foreseeable future.
If you say this has degenerated into a political pep rally, I can't imagine at least Chief Justice Roberts and probably his colleagues wanting to be part of that at least for the balance of President Obama's time in office.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Chief justice as usual, I would almost say as always, is right. President can attack the Supreme Court over its decisions, but that's not the place to do it. It was a breach of protocol and decorum, and it was an insult.
The reason that the justices show up — it's a dull evening, there is nothing in it if you are a justice. David Souter, the liberal who retired never attended a single one because it is a waste of — it's simply is a way to pay respect to the presidency and the Congress. And you sit there and you don't expect you are going to be attacked gratuitously, as the court was.
First of all, if you are going to attack the court in a setting like that, you should get it right. It was not a century old precedent. That is the 1907 Tillman law which outlawed the direct giving of money by a corporation to a candidate. That was never in dispute. It wasn't in this decision at all. It was left standing.
What the court overturned in the Citizen United case is the indirect expenditures of corporations and unions. So when Alito said "not true," he was right as well.
I hope that next year there are nine empty seats in the State of the Union address. That would be the appropriate rebuke. And if the Republicans are in power and control the House, they ought to make sure that the nine seats are empty.
BAIER: What about, Fred, the unprecedented nature of the chief justice speaking out like this even though it was q and a with students at the University of Alabama? We really haven't seen it.
BARNES: I was surprised at that, too. But, as I say, he was obviously angered like that.
Justice Scalia never shows up either. He thinks it's a waste of time. There were six there. I guess it wouldn't be — if one or two came, that would be a little strange. But if there are fewer there, who is going to get the blame? It's going to be the president.
And imagine — imagine for a minute if President Bush or President Reagan or some Republican had done the same thing, the Democrats would have gone crazy criticizing him. The press would have been all over him. There was some criticism of President Obama, but nothing like what a Republican would have gotten if he had done exactly the same thing.
BAIER: Think there will be any criticism of Chief Justice Roberts?
KLEIN: He wears a couple different hats. In addition to being a justice and the chief justice of the United States, he is the head of the federal judiciary. And I think in some ways he was standing up for the independence of the judicial branch.
So I think given the fact that President Obama started it, it's hard to criticize the chief justice for responding.
BAIER: Last word, Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: I like the delayed response, the leaving of a decent period between the attack and counterattack. It had the right judicial touch. It was slightly robed.
And I think what I would like to see is the empty nine seats for every State of the Union in the Obama presidency. That would send a message.
BAIER: You can get ready for our next panel segment on the Texas textbook wars by logging on to our homepage, FOXnews.com/SpecialReport, there you see it, and clicking the link for background information and breaking news updates. Then the all stars will discuss those topics in three minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN SAENZ, LIBERTY INSTITUTE: The narrow group of people that want to change and rewrite history see this as an opportunity to change the next generation of our students here in Texas and America.
BARRY LYNN, CHURCH-STATE SEPARATION ADVOCATE: The next generation of young people need to understand good science, good history, comprehensive sex education, all of the things that, unfortunately, are being fought about in places like the Texas school board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, the Texas State Board of Education is meeting tonight talking about what should go in the social studies textbook for 4.7 million Texas students. Now, they buy so many books that what they decide really ends up being in all of the textbooks across the nation. And it could be in your child's textbook.
Let's take a look at some recent polls. Some people asked who should have the final say on what textbooks are used in the classroom? 34 percent in this Rasmussen report say the teachers. Do most school history textbooks portray American history accurately? 43 percent — no. And what are school textbooks more concerned about? 55 percent — being politically correct.
We're back with the panel. Charles, what about this Texas textbook showdown?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I mean I know about the culture wars on textbooks. I was on my son's curriculum committee in his school in middle school and high school, and I had to fight for five years to get American history introduced by eighth grade and to get European introduced as a requirement any time.
I had to give long disquisitions on why European history, which gave us, for example, English, the common law, western science, was slightly more important than Inca history in which my son had been marinated for many years. In fact he could almost speak Inca by 7th grade.
And this goes on everywhere. It is political correctness. There is no way to solve it ultimately. But I think it's good if you get some pushback from the parents, particularly since the teachers, who generally are the ones who have sway over this, are left-leaning and you get a lot of liberal slant in the textbooks. So I sort of approve of what is happening.
I think in the end there is a larger issue. There is also an issue of the lifetime tenure of teachers and their unions, which I think is the real issue in education. It's not standards or textbooks. It's that you never can get the deadwood removed.
And, as a result, a lot of kids, particularly inner city and Hispanic, black kids, are sentenced to illiteracy because a lot of their teachers aren't competent and you can't fire them.
BAIER: It is an amazing process, Rick, that you think that the Texas State Board of Education with this much power, really with textbooks all over the place it?
KLEIN: Yes, it is incredible, and it comes in the context, too, of a big push nationwide for national standards in education, something that the Obama administration Education Department has been part of. It's something happening even this week.
I think people should have informed debate over what's in their kids' textbooks. That kind of makes sense.
I don't know that people really have a sense of what's in there. Honestly, did they read the textbooks when they were in school, much less reading their kids textbooks now? People don't really have a sense of that. But it is something that should be discussed, and I think it's a legitimate area of debate to make sure it reflects the way you want to be educating your kids.
BAIER: People get fired up on this issue.
KLEIN: Sure. And I think that's right.
BARNES: Absolutely they do. That's why I think Texas is the tip of the iceberg here.
Look what happened when President Bush got No Child Left Behind passed in, I guess, 2001, and Senator Teddy Kennedy compromised with him and they toured for a couple days. It was a big deal.
And then there was a huge mass of complaints coming from states and local school boards and so on because they don't like to be told by Washington what to do, particularly in areas of curriculum. And No Child Left Behind didn't even set standards or curriculum. All it said was your students in elementary school have to take a test, and the test will be on math and English.
Now the school boards were allowed and the curriculum boards were allowed to decide how do you that, how you teach them and what your standards are. But this is what the test is going to be on and you are going to be held accountable for that.
And look, I like No Child Left Behind. I thought it was a good law. But there was a huge pushback there. So there will be a pushback on these standards as well, and not just in Texas.
BAIER: Health care has sucked a lot of oxygen, most of the oxygen out of the coverage here in Washington. We have been talking about health care reform, the deficits. Is education something that this administration could tee up as reaching across the aisle and possibly have some headway?
They have already worked with Newt Gingrich and others to start that process.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think so. There really is — this really is a place where you can get non-ideological improvements. Obama announced very early on he wanted changes in energy, education, and health care. And he has had all his energy on energy and especially on health care, a lot less on education.
One thing I worry about, however, is if you impose national standards, that's going to be captured in Washington by probably the most left-leaning elements of the education establishment. I would rather have it decentralized with the federal system where each state decides on its own. I worry a lot about having all that determined in Washington.
BAIER: Texas and Alaska have already backed out on the standards.
KLEIN: But they are really the only two, which is interesting in itself. Most states want to be part of the race for the top problem.
Secretary Duncan has taken some heat from the left for the way that he's been leading the department, taking on some of the sacred cows on the left, including the teacher's union. And I think this is an area that flies a little bit under the radar screen.
But No Child Left Behind comes up for reauthorization. That's going to be an area where they're going to be looking for some bipartisan support, as you mentioned. Newt Gingrich and others have had a nice thing to say about where the president is headed.
BAIER: But one wonders, Fred, if there will be any bipartisan support after whatever happens with health care reform.
BARNES: I think there could be on this issue. Health care is not the end of the world politically in Washington. I don't think it will pass, but there are other issues to come.
BAIER: We had to get a health care prediction in there somewhere, I mean, two panels.
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