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Special Report

Friday Lightning Round: Greek Gov't Survives Confidence Vote

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Every week viewers vote for your choice online in this, our Friday Lightning Round poll. And th is week, drumroll, Fast and Furious won 45 percent of the votes.

We're back with our panel. OK, the latest on operation Fast and Furious, obviously the investigation continues in Congressman Issa's committee. Now the administration has put forward this memo from back in the Bush administration th at talks about "gunwalking," essentially letting guns walk across the bureau -- uh, across the border into Mexico. The agents did follow the weapons there. A little bit different, but Democrats are pointing to that saying it was happening under the Bush administration. Significance and where this investigation's going. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well I think that's the point they intended to make, that this was happening under the Bush administration. But I think it also makes another point. If this was such an important program, gunwalking generally, that they had to brief Attorney General Mike Mukasey, right when he came into office, how plausible is it that Eric Holder didn't know anything about these various programs, including Fast and Furious, which seems to have been a stepped-up effort for as long as he contends to have been in the dark. It just doesn't add up.

BAIER: A.B.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I mean, Steve makes a good point. It's obvious they were trying to reach beyond individual smugglers, to break up smuggling rings, and that would have happened in the Bush administration, and some of the e-mails document that. But even though they were saying to Mukasey this initial effort recently has not worked, we want to take another stab at it, if it was -- if it was a tried -- maybe not true, but if they had done this before, and they wanted to continue to do it again, it is hard to believe that the attorney general would not know about this kind of a program.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I agree. I mean, it relieves anyone of a notion that this gunwalking was invented by the Obama administration, but it surely doesn't help Eric Holder, who said in May that he'd only learned about it weeks before, and there's a lot of evidence that at least he'd been presented with memos much earlier, and now we know that it happened in 2007.

BAIER: So quickly, instead of providing political cover, you're saying this memo potentially provides more political problem?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. Cover on the issue of this is a huge invention of the Obama administration, but no cover at all on Holder being either disingenuous or incompetent.

BAIER: Mitt Romney today talking about his economic plan moving forward and touching on entitlement reform. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Medicare should not change for anyone in the program or is about to be in it. Younger Americans today when they turn 65 should have a choice between traditional Medicare and other private healthcare plans that provide at least the same level of benefits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: That has some sound like Paul Ryan's plan. Steve?

HAYES: Yeah, this is one of those things that unfolds in the daily sort of rata-tat-tat of regular politics, but I think it is a really significant moment. Here you have Mitt Romney, who's famous for his risk aversion, in effect embracing major parts, or at least the principles put forward in the House Republican budget. He's embraced premium support in terms of Medicare reform. He's embraced raising retirement age in terms of Social Security. This is Mitt Romney, I think, going a little bit out on a limb. He didn't provide as many details as I would like, but this is a very, very good start.

BAIER: I want to interrupt here, go to Greece. Right now the prime minister, Papandreou, has just received the votes needed. His government is intact. He now has 153 yes votes. You need 151. So the Greek parliament has issued its confidence vote in this government. That is a prime minister right now taking a big sigh of relief, and perhaps European leaders and U.S. leaders with the same sigh. Charles, how significant is this, because as we know all of this is interconnected with the economy?

KRAUTHAMMER: This is hugely important. The fact that we had a huge rally in the markets last week when we thought there was an agreement between EU and Greece, and then there was a collapse on Monday and Tuesday when the prime minister had said there would be a referendum, which would undermine it. He then pulled back on the referendum.

But if the prime minister had not succeeded in this vote that would mean the government would have collapsed. You would have had a large period, a huge period of uncertainty. Who would be in charge, would anybody in charge actually implement the EU deal? The markets would have been extremely unsteady. I think there would have been a plunge. This is a life raft.

BAIER: Quickly, A.B., Liz Claman mentioned before there's still a lot of hurdles yet to come in this European scenario, especially with Italy and Portugal, but this hurdle over Greece is a big deal.

STODDARD: Well, Charles is right. It's a hurdle over calm. It's hard to have confidence after this vote of confidence, however, that the Greeks are ready to embrace the terms of this bail-out and that he will not remain under intense political pressure, and then that there's not tremendous instability surrounding the entire thing. It's hard for to us believe that this bail-out is going to go well and it's going to be seamless. There will be another one next year. And I feel very gloomy about the whole thing.

BAIER: Quickly.

HAYES: I think short-term significance. Long-term it's just short of meaningless. I mean, everybody knows where this is going. I don't think a rescue, a long-term rescue is likely. And more fundamentally, this is not going to change the nature of the Greek system, which has the state at its center, has 27 percent of its citizens working for the government.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for the truth perhaps behind that animated speech we saw last week in New Hampshire.

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