This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 30, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: BP is ultimately responsible under the law for paying the cost of response and clean-up operations. But we are fully prepared to reach our responsibilities to any and all affected communities.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, R- LA.: I do have concerns. I shared these concerns that BP's current resources are not adequate to reach the challe nges we face. I have urged them to seek even more help from the federal government and others.
SEN. BILL NELSON, D-FLA.: At this point nobody knows the answer of how to shut off that well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: That is the big issue here as this oil spill continues, 200,000 gallons of oil pumping into the Gulf in this rig with the explosion, and now the clean-up effort is underway. The federal government is engaged.
As you take a look at a satellite photo or two, you can get a grasp a little bit of how big it is. You see the squiggly area on the right there. There you see the circle. That is the whole area. You can see the Gulf Coast.
It is expanding and has reached the coastline of Louisiana. Now the question is, how bad is this going to get? And what are the political implications of it all?
Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Erin Billings, we welcome, deputy editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Erin, let's start with you. First, the president has said he's mobilized the administration, the department of defense. Is there a look- back already they have perhaps didn't act fast enough on this thing in Washington?
ERIC BILLINGS, ROLL CALL: I'm sure that's the case. Clearly, the president, if he's not overcompensating, some would suggest he is. He sent Secretary Salazar down there, Secretary Napolitano. He is shipping everybody down to make the case that he is focusing on this effort.
He read the newspapers this morning and saw there was a suggestion this could be his hurricane Katrina. He does not want to have to relive what George Bush had to relive over those, you know — and even to today, trying to make the case that he did enough. So I think he is going to throw everything at this and make this number one priority.
BAIER: Steve, this comes, obviously, after the administration stepped out and said in the long term they were for offshore drilling. There's a little confusion there. There was a back and forth when the announcement was made whether in fact they were moving quickly on that effort anyway. What does it do to that situation?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The politics for the president I think in this case are terrible because he made that announcement. We, I think, talked on this show about how it didn't obligate him to move forward and it wasn't as meaningful as it was played and it wasn't as meaningful his announcement as some on the environmental left took it to be.
The fact of the matter is he made the announcement and came out in favor of more domestic exploration and production, including offshore. And he did that and then a month later this happened. This is all going to be seen in that context.
I think in the absence of that announcement, you would have a strikingly different tone from the president today. You'd have him talking about the consequences of drill, baby, drill, that Republicans have made arguments for, for years.
But I definitely think it's a bit much to compare this to Katrina and it's very unclear if you go back and reread the chronology of what people knew at various times that there was anything more the administration could have done than it actually did.
BAIER: Charles, you talk to people down there in gulf coast region. They are very concerned about the long term implications of this thing.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, as we saw in the package on the Exxon Valdez, it will be catastrophic. It will stay on shore and decimate the wildlife and economy, and that'll be for years unless it's stopped. And if you can't stop the excess spilling going on now it's hard to imagine how they will stop the damage.
I agree with what has been said about the political issue here. I think it's rather ironic. Here you have Obama from day one has governed left on just about everything, and then he decides a month ago to throw a bone to the center and come out for a little bit of a concession on drilling.
His eye was to achieving some compromise with Republicans on cap-and-trade, energy bills, so he thought he would give a little bit on drilling, which we said at the time was really not a lot. I think it was mostly show and a lot very not much in substance.
However, having done that, the one shift to the right he's done has completely left him exposed. If he hadn't, you can be sure he'd railing against Republicans on this issue and saying they're the ones who want to drill. Look what happens. He's neutralized on that.
You notice that Republicans are hiding under their desks. They are not speaking out in favor of a lot of drilling right now. And I think this is going to be in a political sense the death knell of that entire thrust which was strong in '08. I think it will be gone now as a result of this.
In the way after the spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969 that shut down the whole west coast, it will have a similar political impact here.
BAIER: Erin, a Pentagon spokesman says Defense Secretary Robert Gates has just approved a request from Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal to have the federal government to pick up the tab for mobilizing the National Guard. And the Pentagon is expecting other states to file these requests as well. It continues to grow, this response.
BILLINGS: You bet. This is not a surprise. As I said earlier, Obama will throw everything he's got at this.
What I think is going to be interesting, though, is going forward, where is the blame going to go? Republicans are supportive of drilling. Obama has kind of boxed himself into a corner because a month ago he said he was for some drilling as well.
I think what will happen these two will come together and BP will ultimately be the company they're pointing fingers at. I don't think that either side really has the ammunition to point the finger at the other in this particular —
KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly. We're going to have hearings in six months like the Goldman Sachs hearings in which senators will be railing against big oil, because it's a big target, blaming them. And either — the Republicans and the Democrats will do it equally, as we saw in the Goldman hearings. You always want to have scapegoat, and it's going to be BP.
Look, there has been a remarkable safety record in the gulf and the North sea in terms of these drills, but the problem is you have to drill so deep, this one is a mile deep, because ironically we have had all the restrictions drilling on the continental shelf, no drilling in Alaska where it's much safer. Ironically the oil companies are pushed into risky endeavors and this is what happens.
HAYES: He has to be careful. You can't do that too quickly if you are the president because you're relying on BP to help stop this right now. I mean if you, yes, if you turn on them too quickly and try to make them the devil right now that could really backfire.
BAIER: Just had word — May 12 is the hearing on this oil rig explosion. It's already scheduled.
Go to our homepage at Foxnews.com/specialreport for a web- exclusive story from National Correspondent Catherine Herridge on why there are big espionage concerns about the Shanghai expo which opens this weekend in China.
Next up, the Friday lightning round and your choice online topic of the week.
BAIER: Every week on the Foxnews.com/specialreport page viewers vote on what topic we should discuss first in this, the Friday lightning round. Today, drum roll, please, the winner is Charles Krauthammer's wild card pick. Steve Hayes is not surprised by the victory.
Charles, what is the pick?
KRAUTHAMMER: Once again, I'm humbled. If I keep getting humbled I'll become humbled if it keeps goes on.
Here is the question. Immigration issue erupted, and if it remains hot in the year, which of the two parties will benefit? And the correct answer — or should I wait —
BAIER: No, go ahead.
KRAUTHAMMER: The correct answer is in the long run it will help the Democrats. Karl Rove understood that, and he understood it's a demographic issue, but that's a decade or two away.
In the short run it will help Republicans. The poll in Arizona is 70 percent in favor of the draconian bill and nationally it's 60 percent. So I think in 2010, 2012, it still helps Republicans generally speaking across the country, but with possible exceptions of particular places.
BILLINGS: Can I disagree?
BAIER: Of course. Even though he says it's the correct answer.
BILLINGS: I hate to disagree with the master, but I disagree. I think immigration does fuel Hispanic voters. That is a critical voting bloc for Democrats as we know.
And as you all know, Senator Harry Reid, majority leader, is up for the reelection of his life in Nevada. Hispanics will make or break that election for him. And he's got to be talking about it, and Democrats will be talking about it.
And I think it will play to the Democrats' favor if they are smart and if they keep it up for debate and keep it atop the priority list.
HAYES: You're both wrong. Charles is more right than Erin. I think it helps Republicans in the short-term in 2010 specifically because it's all about the demographics. These are localized election, especially the House elections.
You have overwhelming — if you look at the racial make-up of the gerrymandered district, you have overwhelming districts that would be opposed to illegal immigration.
In 2012, I think it's a different story. I think because it's a national election and you do need strong Hispanic turnout, particularly for President Obama with him on the ballot, it's likely to spread that support in a way we won't see in 2010.
BAIER: OK, Puerto Rico, an effort for statehood. They are already a U.S. territory and are U.S. citizens, but they don't vote in presidential elections. And there was a vote in the House of Representatives last night to encourage Puerto Rico to hold a referendum if they want to push for statehood.
If they vote yes in Puerto Rico, they have three choices — to be a state, independent nation, seek some other type of political association between sovereign nations. What is this? Steve?
HAYES: Well, I basically like the idea of including Puerto Rico. I figure that people who want to be United States citizens and want to have a vote as a general proposition should be able to if they do it legally.
The concern with Puerto Rico in particular is the levels of poverty bringing them in, how much more are you bring to the debt and to government rolls.
BAIER: This is a long shot, a triple-banker. Erin?
BILLINGS: This is not going anywhere. It's not even on the Senate radar right now. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, didn't want to have the vote because the caucus is divided. Even Puerto Ricans are divided. It's great to talk about it and I know the governor of Puerto Rico wants it, but it's not going anywhere.
KRAUTHAMMER: If it were to go anywhere it would make our immigration debate look like a picnic. The reason is it would change the nature of America. We'd become bilingual country. There is nothing wrong intrinsically — I grew up in Canada in Quebec, which is a bilingual country, and it caused the kinds of frictions you don't see here in Quebec and Belgium and elsewhere, which are really hard to eradicate, and it would add element of division in the country which we haven't had.
I'm not necessarily opposed but it would change what America is, and we would have to reexamine who we are.
BAIER: Very quickly, has the president changed his tone in talking about Congress?
KRAUTHAMMER: He used a name or two, like Mitch McConnell in his attacks, but generally speaking since he took office he tried to delegitimize his opponents. He says all they're interested is politics and he is interested in truth and the American way. I think he has spoken in a derisive way for a year and three months now.
BILLINGS: The difference is he is being personal. Now he's trying to malign Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, whomever, and it was more general before. He's really getting into campaign mode now. They're look for a villain. That is what we're seeing.
HAYES: It's one thing to fight back. One of the frustrations of the Bush administration was he took so many shots and they refused to fight back in any serious or sustained way against the charges way over the top about lying over Iraq, et cetera.
The difference I think is President Obama had made it personally and taken it beyond just the typical political fight.
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