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Special Report

Friday Lightning Round: Czar Amendment, Debt Talks

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 24, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Every week viewers vote for your online choice in our Friday Lightning Round poll. And this week, Czar Amendment won with 56 percent of the vote. We're back now with our panel. And so briefly to explain this, the Senate blocked a GOP effort that would strip the salaries of all White policy czars and would also block the president from appointing any more czars without going to the Senate for approval. So where does this fight stand Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well I think there are plenty of ways the White House could have gotten around with this had it passed and they just had these people as staff people. But I think the broader point is that this is a president who ran against executive power in some ways, and ran strongly against executive power. And here he is at least with at least all of these czars stretching the boundaries of what is properly understood as White House advice. And a way to get around confirmation by the Senate.

WALLACE: Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: I think in a way Republicans actually won here as well. Because this remains as the biggest applause line, one of the biggest punch lines for Republican presidential candidates as they make their attack against president Obama. So they can still use this as a line of argument. And it's very popular out there because -- ya know, I'm not sure that anyone can actually say who these czars are, but has absolutely become a buzz word for what they find wrong with this president.

WALLACE: Big government run amok.

ZELENY: Exactly.

KRAUTHAMMER: And it is. It's a perfect example of that, the Leviathan growing uncontrollably. We have 15 cabinet departments and this is redundant, it makes them marginal without making them any less expensive. I think we ought to have the same rule of imperial Russia, one czar per administration.

WALLACE: Alright, we're gonna start, you're our czar for this next Lightning Round topic. Some new developments in the talks about the nation's debt. Just quickly to recap, the talks collapsed -- the Biden talks collapse yesterday when Republicans walked out over the issue of Democrats insisting on taxes. The president says he's gonna meet Monday, separately with Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. What do you make of that?

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm not sure a lot will come of it. I think Obama and the Democratic leadership have made a bet, the only way to get out of the November election next year alive is to run against the Republicans as the granny killers who want to destroy entitlements, Medicare and Social Security. The only way reduce debt is do something on entitlements. The Democrats will refuse. And I think this is all headed for a train wreck August 2.

WALLACE: Really?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, really. I wouldn't say it otherwise Chris, really.

WALLACE: Okay, that's good, and you said it quickly, too. Which is part of the Lightning Round --

(CROSSTALK)

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, exactly. Concisely, and I did it with lightning.

ZELENY: I think that Speaker Boehner once again will be shown that he has one of the hardest jobs in Washington, ya know, perhaps even harder than the president in some respects. And I think, at the end of the day, he and the president, I'm not sure if they're going to go play 18 holes again but I think they are going to get together privately and try and hash out some kind of a deal here. They both have a lot of reason to make sure this compromise happens. So I'm a little bit more optimistic I think that those two - eventually, and perhaps on August 1, we'll get some kind of a deal, not before then.

WALLACE: Steve?

HAYES: I am in the middle appropriately of Jeff and Charles. Look, I think, I'm surprised that Democrats are focusing as much and admitting that they're focusing as much on taxes. It seems to me in this economy, a very difficult argument for them to make. I mean, first you had Democrats in the Senate call for additional stimulus, which I think is very much at odds with what most of the population, not just Republicans want at this point. And now you have Democrats saying no, no, we are not going to agree to this, because we want higher taxes. I think that's a tough sell. I think even if higher taxes sometimes poll well. Not in this economy.

WALLACE: And finally, the National Labor Relations Board continues to come down on the side of unions. They've now proposed new regulations that would make -- elections would be held faster once a union wants to organize a workplace. What do you make not only of this but of a number of recent pro-union actions or decisions by the NLRB?

HAYES: Well, I think these are certainly politically-driven decisions. I mean, I think the president, very much, and Democrats across the country very much, need unions to be active; to be funding campaigns; to be willing to get out. I think the president seems in the past couple of weeks, to have made the decision, or Axelrod, that this is going to be a base election in some respects. And this is one of the ways to tap into the enthusiasm of the base, is by showing that you're with the unions in a way that the way they weren't frankly, in Wisconsin.

ZELENY: I think a union strength and certainly the number of labor union members has been declining so this is one way that they can try and increase the strength a little bit. You're absolutely right, this is going to be a base election. And they need to give them something. At least from the White House's viewpoint, this is sort of an easy thing to give them.

WALLACE: Charles, I want you to answer that, but also I want to throw in Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, won a big victory when the Democratic controlled legislature went along with him on the idea of rolling back benefits for government workers and retirees. So where does it all stand?

KRAUTHAMMER: What it tells you is that the popular -- at the level out there --democratic level if you want small "d," there is a lot of support for reigning in unions, especially public sector ones, who are draining the state treasuries. That's why Christie has succeeded, and you have seen success on that also in Wisconsin and Ohio.

But at the federal level, what's happening is Obama is giving the unions what the unions are demanding, because he failed on card check. Card check was a way to get union organizing elections without a secret ballot. That was the number priority of the unions. The Congress would hear nothing of it so he is doing an end run. Let me just say that I meant that one as well, really.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: Oh boy, we're gonna have a good time in the green room after this. That's it for the panel but stay tuned to see what happens when a reporter meets up with a leaping lizard. It's not pretty.

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