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Special Report

'All-Star' Panel on Obama's Plan to Secure Arizona Border; Efforts to Contain BP Oil Spill

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: The president of the United States came to speak to Republicans at lunch. We talked about a lot of issues, including immigration reform and the like. Subsequent to that meeting, we were informed by e-mail that the president has made a major announcement with regard to the deployment of National Guard along the border.

REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, D-ARIZ.: We need to stay one step ahead. And by having the military with their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan with reconnaissance, the intelligence, surveillance, having that, that group, that manpower on our border, to help figure out how we stay two steps ahead of the drug traffickers is going to be absolutely imperative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON BREAM, GUEST HOST: All right, here is a little bit about what we know about what the administration is going to propose. This comes from a senior administration official. They say, "President Obama will request $500 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities…The president will also deploy up to an additional, requirements-based 1,200 National Guard troops to the border…"

This is very interesting because in his big meeting with the GOP senators today he talked about the fact, by at least John McCain's account, he wasn't into bringing guard troops down to the border. And the announcement came shortly after.

Let's bring in our panel to talk about it, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome, gentlemen.

Steve, let's start with you. Does that McCain situation seem strange to you?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, very strange. The first thing that needs to be said about this from a sort of big picture perspective is that in this year long debate about border security first versus comprehensive immigration we now at least have something of a winner, border security first.

The president has always said we need comprehensive immigration and he's now at least said, OK, I recognize those of you who have been making the argument that we endorse security first have a valid argument. What is weird about this is the mechanics of the meeting where you have the president being challenged on this question of sending National Guard troops down to the border by Jon Kyl, John McCain, Senator Cornyn and others, and the president in effect not really answering their arguments or answering their challenges. And then shortly after the meeting you have a press release that is e-mailed out from Representative Giffords who represents Arizona's 8th District, a Democrat from Arizona, saying the White House agreed to send 1,200 troops, $500 million. And this is going to be announced later in the day, in a sense getting ahead of the White House. What is so strange and getting Republicans on the Hill really angry at this point is the president never said it was a White House plan. He never took the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with Republicans, something that was meant and was intended to generate good will with Republicans and bipartisanship. He never once mentioned that the White House would be doing this.

BREAM: We know that during the meeting there was push-back from Senator Kyl and McCain, both from Arizona, about the fact that the Arizona law has been so heavily criticized by some within the administration from some who had not apparently read the law.

We're getting word team of Justice Department attorneys looked at the law and recommend the administration challenge it in federal court. Juan, what do you make of that?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Again, this is all part of the idea that immigration is a huge issue. It has sort of been subterranean for so long, nobody wanted to touch it, Republican or Democrat.

Now it's out in the open. I think there is tremendous political energy coming from Republicans on it, especially given what has happened in Arizona and public support for the Arizona law.

But, what has happened first, let me just comment on what Steve had to say, I think that the president didn't want to get in front of his own announcement, which was scheduled for next Tuesday after the Memorial Day break.

And the second thing to say is this argument that took place with the senators and President Obama was literally about boots on the ground. If you note from the list that you displayed, Shannon, what the money will do is provide additional administrative support, additional technology, in fact, technology of the kind we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan used to detect movement of terrorists, and in large part be directed at supporting existing efforts.

The administration and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, hold to the idea that the border is more secure now than it's ever been, but they want to make an effort here to be very concrete that they are supporting this, and I would imagine that the quid pro quo will be let's fix the broken system, part of which is undoing the Arizona law, and you spoke about the challenge that will come from the Justice Department, and asking Republicans to support that then in exchange for the fact that the president has toughened border security.

BREAM: And just a note, real quick. That is at the lowest levels right now as we understand it within the Justice Department. We still have a number channels to go through before we get to a lawsuit. But you mentioned the administrative side of this. What we hear from Senator Kyl in commenting on the 1,200 possible troops, his understanding is these may be desk jobs.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That is why I think the view that this announcement by the White House of half a billion and 1,200 National Guard is a serious effort, a serious way to show seriousness about this, is total nonsense. This is a PR stunt. It's Lucy and the football all over again.

Remember, it was George Bush a few years ago who all of a sudden there was this concern, border states were up in arms over immigration. So he sends, I think it was a couple thousand National Guard. Well, they come and they go. And the problem remains, the traffickers remains, the drug people remain, illegal immigrants remain.

What we're going to have here as you said from Kyl, they probably aren't even going to be on the border, they'll probably be just in desk jobs. This is nothing but a stunt on the part of the administration to try to show that it's interested in sealing the border in order that we will get a deal on comprehensive, which really is a deal for amnesty.

And it's ridiculous. McCain had an argument with Obama in the meeting. It was described as rather testy. Interestingly, McCain who was on the Obama side of the argument three years ago is now because of a challenge in his own state is on the correct side today, in which he said to the president, "close the damn border." I think he used the word "dang" instead because he's a military man.

And the president objected, of course. The only answer here, and it's a simple answer, and I say it again and again because there was no objection that makes sense — complete the fence. Don't send the guard down there. They are going to go and come back and it won't make a difference. A fence remains. A fence works.

It works around San Diego, and that's why you've got all of this increasing immigration in Arizona because it's funneling and channeling all those who can't enter on the San Diego side to Arizona.

This is an obvious issue. The Democrats are unbelievably stubborn on this. If you want to really, you want to use stimulus money, you don't send 1,000 guard. You send 20,000 unemployed and you build a fence quickly. And once that is done, let's have an argument and a debate about legalization and all the other steps.

BREAM: All right, very quickly, I want to get your reaction to the fact we heard from the meeting as well that the president was, you mentioned testy, Charles, and Pat Roberts from Kansas said he repeatedly wrote on his pad "thin skin, thin skin, thin skin." He said whenever somebody challenged the president, he said, "I'm getting a ton of pressure from the left. That's why I'm doing a lot of what I'm doing."

Steve, your reaction?

HAYES: I think that is the president actually just being honest, telling everybody what we all know. We have seen him be testy in public, testy with reporters back on the campaign when he snapped after he was asked a question at a waffle shop. He said "I just want to eat my waffle." We've seen him be testy in political situations and be testy at the get-together with Republicans in Baltimore.

I think the president is thin-skinned. I think he does this and it's one of the reasons that it's better these things happen behind closed doors from the perspective of the president.

WILLIAMS: I was amazed that he had the meeting with the Republicans, that he gave them the meeting. But then he gets in there and they were beating him up not being sufficiently bipartisan on financial reform, and it just strikes me that, wait a minute, Republicans have taken an political stance of obstructing everything this guy tries to do and then they're beating him up for not being sufficiently bipartisan. How hypocritical.

KRAUTHAMMER: Senator Roberts also added that he's so thin-skinned he should take a valium before meeting with Republicans. I'd be happy to write the prescription, so all they have to do is call my office. I'll do it.

BREAM: Bring them together, do it for the country.

KRAUTHAMMER: I would do it for — absolutely, as a loyal citizen, a retired doctor.

BREAM: We'll pass it along and make sure the White House gets the offer. Thank you, Charles. There is more on immigration on our homepage at foxnews.com/specialreport.

Up next, the politics of the Gulf oil spill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROL BROWNER, OBAMA ENERGY/CLIMATE ADVISER: All decisions about clean-up and shutting down the well are being run through the federal government. The federal government is in charge.

ADM. ROBERT PAPP, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: I had to get up to speed to be ready to take that baton. I think we're there, I'm just a little worried there might be oil on that baton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: That is from the new Coast Guard commandant who took over today, Admiral Robert Papp. Let's welcome back our panel to discuss the BP oil spill and the politics of it continues, Steve, Juan, and Charles.

Charles, the White House is now starting to take a lot of heat of whether this is their responsibility or not. Democrats and Republicans are now coming after them.

KRAUTHAMMER: And I think that's why we saw the sound bite where the White House insists it's in charge. This is sort of an odd claim because clearly it can't do anything on its own about the leak. That is something only the oil companies have the competence to actually handle.

The federal government can fight wars, conduct a census, and hand out corrupt earmarks, but it's not in the oil well blowing out and capping business. So it doesn't have the expertise. It's helpless here. But of course the administration doesn't want to admit that so it is pretending it's in control.

I can understand the federal government is naturally very strong and this particular federal government and president insists on its omnipotence, that it can solve unemployment, financial reform and health care with the touch of the wand and the right legislation. Here it's actually helpless. And I think the more it insists that it's in control, when clearly people understand that this is an issue that's a technical engineering one out of our competence, I'm not sure how smart that approach really is.

BREAM: Juan, you are keeping an idea on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal as this plays out.

WILLIAMS: I think initially the president went down there on his first visit to the area and literally wrapped his arm around Jindal and said we'll do everything you can. BP is going to pick up the cost for every drop of oil. Don't worry. Let us know what you need.

Jindal as a barometer now has shifted and literally face-to-face with officials saying they are not giving him what he needs in order to stop the oil from spilling onto Gulf shores and across animals and to prevent the ecological disaster that we see now when you look at those pictures of the oil washing up on the beach.

He's saying in fact that he had requested, for example, barrier islands be put in place to stop the flow of oil toward the shores. The EPA says we haven't studied the ecological consequence of building that would be. Jindal's response is we don't have time for the study. We need action now.

I understand both positions, but I think it's critical if Jindal now shifts and becomes a vocal opponent of the administration and pointing a finger of blame at them, I think that is really bad news for the administration.

HAYES: Juan is absolutely right. Here is why it matters so much. The White House needs to be in a position to say we did everything we could. When we start seeing with increasing frequency pictures of birds covered in oil, the kinds of images we're likely to see over the next several weeks, I think pretty much everybody agrees, the White House needs to say we did everything we could.

Jindal is going to be in a position I think, correctly — it's not just Jindal, by the way. It's the entire Alabama congressional delegation saying we wanted to do these things and the White House denied us. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sat on the permitting process because they didn't know if it would work.

When you wait in a situation like this that everyone regards as an emergency, why would you wait and not allow, grant the permits on some temporary basis to avoid the kind of things or try to avoid the kind of things that we're likely to see play over in the next couple of weeks?

BREAM: And we're starting to hear from the internal meeting and reporting talking about how frustrated the president is. Carol Browner admitted that, of course he's frustrated. Charles, is there a better way to handle the message?

KRAUTHAMMER: No. In the end it will depend — if the well is capped tomorrow, and there is going to be an attempt, the damage will be significant but it will be minor and over time it will go away.

If it isn't, and as we heard yesterday from the commandant of the Coast Guard, the ultimate stoppage will be in August when the relief wells are done, therefore, we will have another two months of this, that would be ecological catastrophe on a scale rarely seen, there is no way he can escape the damage.

So I think this stuff is happening now, it will affect his ratings today and for the next week or two. But ultimately, it depends on one thing. If you cap the well, he will be OK. If you don't until August, he will be as damaged as Bush on Katrina.

HAYES: And that is exactly why, by the way, he is sticking with BP, because it gives him the greatest likelihood of capping the well. He is getting a ton of heat on this from the left. The left is saying the federal government needs to just take this over. They never explain what happens then, you know. It's not like the president is going to dive —

BREAM: Plug it himself. Super powers.

WILLIAMS: But what strikes me is he is out of control of the issue, you know, as Steve and Charles described it of capping the well. That's something he has no control over. That's BP. And as Admiral Allen said before he departed, you know what, BP has the expertise. The federal government doesn't.

You know, I think the administration is in a bad situation here. Obama is going to go back down there and try to politic it and show good will, but in actuality he may be out of control.

BREAM: A lot riding on that attempt tomorrow. We'll all be watching. Thank you, panel.

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