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Special Report

Panel on Obama's Efforts to Sell Health Care Now That It's Law

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from March 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There is a common sense bill. It doesn't do everythin g that everybody wants, but it moves us in the direction of universal health care coverage in this country, and that's why everybody here fought so hard for.

(APPLAUSE)

They are already promising to repeal it. They are actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November. You have been hearing that. And my attitude is, go for it.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: The tax hikes, the Medicare cuts, the job killing mandates, the accounting gimmicks, the backroom deals, we are going to fight to repeal them at every single turn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: President Obama in Iowa today with his version of bring-it-on.

Here are the latest polls out after the health care bill passed the house. This is Quinnipiac. These are the presidential job approval ratings. And you see not much of a bump after that passage, approval 45 percent, disapproval 46 percent.

Also on the question about the health care reform whether you approve or disapprove, it's still negative with a disapproval of 49 percent.

Also Rasmussen had a poll out released today about repealing health care reform — 55 percent say go ahead, repeal the law that is now the law of the land.

So, let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard,Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Mara, what about the president starting this sales pitch in Iowa and what the White House is thinking about whether it's an uphill climb to really sell it?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It's definitely an uphill climb to sell it. On the other hand, the Quinnipiac poll which still shows the approval — disapproval nine points ahead of approval is better than it was the last time Quinnipiac polled. I think it was something like 55-39.

The point is they got a little bounce so far. The big question is can they turn this into either a reversal or at least even it out. Now, they have been saying for a very long time and it was part of the sales job to members of Congress is that once this thing passed, we have a victory, it's the law of the land, there are facts on the ground, that's going to change the political dynamic and people are going to look at this bill and find all sorts of things they like in it.

And that might happen, but we don't know that yet. We still don't know if we are at the high water mark of opposition to health care or just going to grow and grow. I think that's an open question right now.

BAIER: There is a possibility it could go the other way, that we find things — that the American people find things that they don't like.

LIASSON: Yes. It's just unclear right now. I mean, there is no doubt that the president got a little bump, and it just happened a couple days ago.

But I do think he has a big job, because — and it's going to be hard, because a lot of the things that people want don't go into effect right away, and a lot of things people don't want do go into effect right away.

And he is going to have to explain why you are going to have to wait for a couple years to get coverage for everybody. But, on the other hand, there are some things like having your kids on until they are 26, which actually means a whole lot to a lot of people.

BAIER: Fred, the appeal effort and what Republicans are saying doing right now in the face of this White House effort to sell it.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Just as a note, my son is 25. He has his own insurance. He is not crawling home for my insurance. And — now it made me forget your question.

BAIER: The repeal.

BARNES: The repeal is going to be a good issue. It's not the only issue Republicans are going to have. They are going to have the economy. They are going to have the corruption in Congress and a lot of issues. But that one looks good.

And it particularly looks good right now because of what happened — has happened in just the last couple of days. Remember what was promised by this bill. Health care costs, we bend the curve down. Health insurance, you would pay less. It would create jobs.

Well, we have heard from Medtronic, we've heard from Verizon, John Deere, we have heard from Caterpillar, and they are all roughly saying the same thing, that this is going to cost us plenty of money. Our health care costs are going to go up.

Medtronic, which is a medical device manufacturer, is slapped with this huge tax in the bill. And they say they may have to cut 1,000 people or more. So we know what's not going to happen already. We're getting a pretty good idea.

Look, I have talked to people with small businesses. I haven't talked to a single one who says, gee, I'm going to start hiring now, or I'm so happy this is going to cut my health insurance cost, because the opposite is true. And we have seen it with these companies. We are going to hear from many, many more.

So the idea I think is already dead at the end of the week palpably that this is going to reduce health care costs, the premiums on your health insurance and create jobs. All those are out the window.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think that by the end of the week the debate will be about where it is right now, and the pros and the cons, the people in favor and people against will be roughly the same.

And the reason is that the major effects, meaning the higher taxes, the mandates, and then the subsidies on the plus side, really don't kick in for a couple of years, surely not until at least 2011.

You have the minor effects, like the one of the slapping attacks on the medical device makers and the loss of jobs. Incidentally, the one place we're going to get a job increase, of course, is in the IRS, thousands of agents hired to go after and enforce the taxes that are killing the business of high tech companies like Medtronic who then have to end up laying off high tech with. Not exactly a trade-off you want, IRS agents instead of high tech workers.

But nonetheless, those are fairly minor effects in the larger scheme of things. The main argument against this Obama-care is it's going to destroy our economy. All the numbers in it are phony. It's going to create a huge amount of debt.

But all of that which is true really is going to have a visible effect in mid-decade. It's not going to have an effect today.

So I think — and on the other side, the Obama administration is going to be able to argue the Republicans have said that the sky is going to fall if this is enacted. Well, it's still intact.

BAIER: The president said as much today.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think the argument is going to be ideological and theoretical as it has been up to now between now and November, and I think the results will be roughly the same because we're not going to see a lot of change on the ground, at least between now and Election Day.

BAIER: Quickly, Mara, I want to talk about process. We got through the Senate amendments. The Republicans tried to change the bill. It didn't work through the reconciliation process. Tonight the House will vote on these two minor tweaks expected to be — that's it.

LIASSON: And then that's it. The bill is the law of the land regardless of anything what the Senate has done since Sunday night. Yes, then that's it.

BARNES: Look at the big taxes though, Bret. I would disagree with Charles. In 2011, like January 1, we're going to see changes that are going to cost a lot because we will have had the Medicare tax increase and have had the health insurance tax. Look, you tax health insurers, what's going to happen? The premiums are going to go up.

KRAUTHAMMER: Agree. But that's after election.

BARNES: That's after this fall's election.

LIASSON: And the Republicans, by the way, are not saying we are going to repeal every single thing. They are just saying the unpopular parts. They're not saying we are going to repeal health insurance reform.

BARNES: I think they are. You have to repeal the whole thing and start over.

BAIER: Quickly, before we turn to another topic. You had Eric Cantor, congressman from Virginia, saying that his campaign office in Richmond was shot on Monday with — took a bullet shot through his campaign office, saying that Democrats who are talking about these threats are not helping things as far as the atmosphere.

What about this back and forth and the atmosphere up on Capitol Hill?

LIASSON: Look, I think the people who should be commended today are the members of both parties who have come out and condemned any kind of violence or hate language addressed to both parties' members. And that's the only response that this merits.

BAIER: There was organizing for America fundraising email.

LIASSON: That really waived the bloody shirt.

BAIER: It came out and said other members have had death threats, Democratic offices have been vandalized. Please chip in $5 to defend health care reform and those in Congress. This is for Democratic fundraising.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's scurrilous for the Democrats to imply that the violence or the threats or either a one-sided issue, a partisan or a Republican issue. It happens in the country. It's happening on both sides. It always does. It certainly happened in the Bush years, and I never heard Democrats standing up and denouncing it over and over again as Democrats are demanding today of Republicans.

I think this ought to be cooled down and treated as a security issue and not a partisan issue.

BARNES: Remember the Democrats when Stupak was getting phone calls, death threats when it looked like he was going to kill the bill? They didn't seem to be upset about that.

BAIER: For more on health care reform, check out our homepage FOXnews.com/Special Report. Be sure to vote for your choice online topic of the week for Friday's lightning round. It's right there on the right side of the screen.

We'll be back to talk in three minutes about possible changes in the U.S. approach towards Iran.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: We don't know whether they want to engage with us. There is no basis yet for concluding they do. It will give us a stronger hand in getting leverage on them when it comes to tough crippling sanctions.

Their choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions but sanctions that will by bite.

GREG THIELMANN, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: I think we are seeing the same thing happen this time, the initial going in position in the United States being broader and in favor of deeper and more stringent sanctions than we may end up with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: There appears to be some kind of evolution in the administration's thought about sanctions against Iran from crippling to biting. Now there is a story about the U.S. backing away from some tough measures against Iran to try to get China and Russian onboard. The White House is downplaying that report.

But we're back with our panel. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: This is the great shrinking sanctions threat. As you said, starts with "crippling," that's a year ago in the summer. Then last week as we heard from the secretary of state, sanctions that "bite." And now today the State Department spokesman spoke of sanctions that have significant pressure. And tomorrow it will be sanctions that pinch. This is the great shrinking sanctions.

You know, the "Wall Street Journal" headline today said that the sanctions in the U.N. are getting softer. How do you get softer than mush? Thin soup, which is where we are now?

Look, to tell you how collapsed our policy is, the administration a couple of days ago was rejoicing over the fact that the Chinese had deigned to pick up the phone and to join a conference call on discussions of these weak sanctions, which implied that up to a week ago they weren't even talking about it.

So what we're going to get here is nothing of importance. The two that would have had influence, the shutting them out of the World Banking system is off the table now, and denying them access to international waters reports also off the table. What's left is essentially nothing of importance.

BAIER: Mara, the administration touts which China or Russia make any movement towards signing on to something. They got on a conference call, the Chinese did, and the administration put that out. But it doesn't appear that China and Russia are moving towards tough sanctions.

LIASSON: No. I think it's a danger to oversell these moves, because we have heard this at a number of junctures at this debate, and they never quite pan out.

Look, the Obama administration had experiment, which is to see if it could try to engage Iran and if Iran didn't want to engage, at least it would show our allies that we were trying and that would help us build up more of a case to put the sanctions.

OK, now we are at step two, which is to try to get the sanctions. That's not working.

I think what we're going to be left with is taking unilateral sanctions or making some kind of coalition of the willing who are ready to put sanctions on. But so far each of these steps hasn't gotten the administration the results that they wanted. And it certainly doesn't look like we're going to get tough sanctions any time soon.

BARNES: In other words, zero for two for the Obama administration.

I want to follow up on Charles. If they really sought these sanctions on Iranian cargo and to deny them insurance and to get them — deny them air rights and go into territorial waters, and so on, they could really come close to shutting down the Iranian economy, and those are sanctions that really would bite and cripple.

LIASSON: But could they do that unilaterally.

BARNES: Well, you could try to enlist as many people as you could.

How strongly the administration really fought for those sanctions, I don't know. I tend to doubt that they fought very strongly because obviously China and Russia don't want to do them. But if you could get those, then those are sanctions that might actually have some impact.

BAIER: Meanwhile, Charles, Iran continues to enrich uranium all throughout this time. And there is a clock somewhere ticking, correct?

KRAUTHAMMER: It is. And it's ticking in Jerusalem. This is a year and two months wasted on experiment. It was an experiment as if there is anybody sent in who didn't know how it would end up. Engagement with this regime was not going to yield anything, and it did not yield expert cooperation among our allies. It's been denied as utterly predictable.

The Israelis are worried about this, obviously. It's existential issue, and I suspect by the end of this year there will be reaction one way or the other.

BAIER: They'll get sanctions or not, Mara?

LIASSON: I don't think they will get sanctions from the U.N. of the sort that they wanted. I think they can do unilateral sanctions and some other countries would join us.

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