This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 13, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to thank my colleagues for making this unprece dented gathering a day of unprecedented progress in confronting one of the greatest threats to our global security. Our work today not only advances the security of the United States, it advances the security of all mankind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: President Obama wrapping up his 47-nation nuclear summit to address the issue of loose nuclear material, saying he got those nations to sign on to a plan over the next four years. There are many critics about what came out of the summit today, including Republican Jon Kyl from Arizona, who said this: "The summit's purported accomplishment is a non-binding communique that largely restates current policy and makes no meaningful progress in dealing with nuclear terrorism threats or the ticking clock represented by Iran's nuclear weapons program."
Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Obviously, this summit, the president said it is good thing all these countries signed on to the effort. The news out of the conference Steve was questions about what China may or may not have signed on to when it comes to sanctions against Iran.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: And the president was asked that directly and he couldn't say, he couldn't describe President Hu's views on this.
I think if you take a step back and look at this with a big picture lens, I think it's good that he elevated the issue. Nuclear terrorism is a significant issue, it is the greatest threat and he's right to identify it as such.
The real question about what's happening in Washington over the past few days is what have we actually accomplished to eliminate or reduce the threat?
If you look at the proliferators like North Korea and Iran potentially and those with the most access to nuclear terrorists, would-be nuclear terrorists, Iran and North Korea, you saw that North Korea proliferated, was caught red-handed proliferating in 2007. The Bush administration did virtually nothing, some additional sanctions but nothing significant.
You're not seeing the Obama situation treat the Iranian threat as the urgent threat it is in favor of having big picture, self-congratulatory discussion about Canada turning over some of it uranium to the United States. That doesn't solve the immediate problems.
BAIER: In his answers he left open a number of possibilities for Iran.
HAYES: Four different times by my count he said we want Iran to change its calculus and we want to give Iran an opportunity to rejoin the civilized community of nations. He kept opening the door at a time in which I think most people think the door is if not closed, closing quickly.
But I think that may reflect some of the discussions he had with his Russian and Chinese counterparts who are not with us on this.
BAIER: A.B., here is what a Chinese authority spokeswoman said today, telling reporters: "China always believes that dialogue and negotiation are the best way out of the issue [about Iran]. Pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally solve it. The actions of the security Council should help turn around the situation and properly solve the issue through dialogue and negotiation." That doesn't sound too strong.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: And substantively we did not move forward on bringing China to the table. What President Obama didn't want is a rejection from President Hu and he didn't get one. They're talking out of two sides of their mouth. They might come to the table and support sanctions and then water them down in the end like they have in the past. But they are looking for incremental progress.
They might call it unprecedented, but the Obama administration is looking to warm relations with China on the currency question, on Iran sanctions and they don't want the door shut in their face. We don't know what the next week will bring, we don't know what the next month will bring with China, but what they didn't want is for a scene to happen with President Hu and President Obama. And they seem to have a good symbolic meeting and we'll see whether or not they actually come to the table later on.
So far, they haven't even been able to get China to talk about this. That's why in their eyes, that's incremental progress.
BAIER: Baby steps, Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What was unprecedented this week was the unprecedented use of the word "unprecedented" by the president to describe a conference which was completely fatuous. What were the accomplishments?
Yesterday we talked about the Ukrainian uranium. Today, as Steve indicated, our big advantage is that Chile, Mexico, and Canada will now sequester highly enriched uranium. I don't know about you but I've been asleep nights worrying about Canadian uranium. I grew up in Canada. These people you don't know what their capable of doing, and some of them remember the war of 1812.
Look, this was all a conference about changing the subject. The subject when it comes to proliferating nukes is Iran. If it requires nukes, it's the end of the NPT, it's the end of all effort to prevent a weapon from falling in the hands of terrorism. It's the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world. It will change the world. It will change the Middle East. Everybody is going to arm as a result.
To not talk about it, as what happened in the conference, it came up in the press, afterwards, because it was left out, is to show how useless this whole thing was. I'm sure half of the leaders of these countries are going home, shaking their heads, and saying what was this all about? Is this a president who believes he's actually achieved anything here?
BAIER: I want you to react to a sound bite from President Obama at the end of the news conference when he was asked about the Middle East. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because, whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military super power, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: "Whether we like it or not." I thought most people liked it.
KRAUTHAMMER: He is giving the standard answer to what our interest is in the Middle East. The peace, you could give utopian answer, we want to see everybody happy. The real answer, the one he gave, is in our national interest, to be quiet in that area and other areas of the world because necessarily there is a break-out of problems in the Middle East or for example in the Taiwan straits or as happened in Korea in 1950, we're going to get sucked in. So yes, that's the standard answer.
He dodged the answer on the Middle East because he doesn't want to exacerbate what already are terrible relations with the Israelis.
BAIER: OK, but when he said "Whether we with like it or not, we, the U.S., remain a dominant military superpower."
KRAUTHAMMER: I think he meant whether we like it or not we'll be drawn in. I think because of our position, we're eventually, as in the earlier wars, we're going to get drawn in one way or the other. Although I think he exaggerated to say in relation in the Middle East it's a matter of blood and treasure. The United States has never been involved directly in a Middle East war involving Israel, never.
BAIER: Quickly, A.B., Pakistan.
STODDARD: I think we can all laugh about the communique that was written four days ago that does nothing. Pakistan was given a free pass. And Pakistan is the hotbed for Al Qaeda. They're increasing their nuclear capability and they have not signed the non-proliferation treaty. Giving Pakistan a free pass means the summit was for naught.
BAIER: Logon to the homepage at foxnews.com/specialreport and tell us what you think was the most important goal of the summit. Right now, very close between the assertion that the U.S. nuclear arsenal remains strong and achieving a consensus on strategy to fight nuclear terrorism.
Next up, could the economic chaos in Greece happen here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER FOR BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: Our financial system is much stronger, but even if we experience the situation a fraction of the problem of Greece's, it would be a really a painful experience for us.
NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: This could be the beginning of the end of the European single currency, especially if Greece opts out and a number of weaker European countries, for example, Spain, Portugal, Italy, eventually move out of the Euro. We could well see the end of the European single currency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The European Union has agreed to a bail-out of $41 billion to Greece. Greece is in a serious problem, financially, economic chaos, as Greece owes the world $300 billion. And protesters are taking to the street there.
We're back with our panel. Charles, what about this? What does it mean for the world?
KRAUTHAMMER: I think it is a threat to the European Union because they have a requirement if you want to join the Euro zone and be part of the currency, you can have a deficit no higher than three percent of your GDP, and as you said, Greece in at 13 percent, which means it's wildly out of control.
You know, either you are in or out. If you stay in you have to bring it down, which the Greeks are completely unable to. So, unless they get a bailout it's the beginning of the end. I think the other southern states in Europe already have high deficits.
But from an American perspective, that's the future. We now have GDP deficit this year of over 10 percent, which is wildly out of control, 10 percent of the gross domestic product. If we stay on course, the most optimistic estimates out of the CBO are that we will have is a national debt, a total accumulated debt in ten years of about 100 percent, 90 percent of our GDP, in which case, we become Greece.
We get complete instability, either hyperinflation, or interest rates out of control. That means we have to start now with deficit reduction, because once we're on our way it's almost impossible to go in reverse. That's why I have been talking about for weeks the VAT. I don't see any other way to raise taxes other than a national sales tax that could be gusher of revenue.
BAIER: Because who is going to bail out the U.S.?
KRAUTHAMMER: Nobody. We are the backstop. There is nobody behind us the way the EU is behind Greece.
BAIER: Do you think, A.B., that this is a cautionary tale that is at least having some impact here in Washington? Or do you think people are not paying attention?
STODDARD: We noticed after the health care reform bill was signed in law, everyone started to warn about the danger of the deficits, many of them coming from this administration.
So, it is late in the game. The president has appointed a commission to try to address this. We don't know if there is a political will in either party to do so.
But Greece is a warning to all western nations with aging population and mounting deficit here you don't a worker base to support the retiree, the aging population and the obligations of the state. If you look at Greece and look at us, you see so many countries where pensions and entitlement benefit are imperiled. I don't see that changing. I don't see it going away.
It's an honest conversation that we will have to have in this country and other countries, and so far there is not a nation on the planet that's willing to have this conversation.
HAYES: I think that is the parallel. There are significant differences between where we are and where Greece is. We have reserved currency and a central bank and less tax evasion and right now, anyways, a smaller public sector.
But there are serious parallels and they're very worrisome. One thing we see with unrest in the streets, it's not, as is commonly believed, the fact that people are concerned about just the debt. It's really a reaction to the moves that was being proposed or discussed in public about ratcheting back some of the benefits for public sector employees.
You can't raise the retirement age from 61 to 63 or there will be a protest. There are strikes going on all the time by public sector employees contributing to this unrest. Once you have entitlement here, the lesson I think here is once you have an entitlement, people are loathed to give it up no matter what the cost.
And could we see seniors in the street? Not inconceivable.
BAIER: The Blue Dog Democrat put out an effort to reduce the deficit. As Brit talked about, there are questions about specifics and boldness. What about that in the big picture, what politicians are willing to do it in an election year when this is a big issue?
KRAUTHAMMER: Nothing will happen now, but the irony is that we have, knowing that this is upon us, knowing that the CBO said it will explode in ten years, we have just added the largest entitlement since New Deal in health care reform.
And that is the reason we're now at European levels of entitlement and we're going to have to get European levels of taxation. And that's going to be a disaster. Americans won't like that.
BAIER: That is it for the panel but stay tuned for a comparison that might not sit well on Pennsylvania Avenue.
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