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Special Report

Grading the White House on Egypt

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 5, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIAN WHITON, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: What I think Arab leaders are probably most concerned with is actually the schizophrenia of the Obama administration throughout the Egypt crisis.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Mubarak has been an ally of ours and in a number of things. I think that it would be -- I would not refer to him as a dictator.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What is clear and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful. It must be peaceful. And it must begin now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, there was an evolution definitely of the administration's response to the crisis in Egypt. You saw the vice president saying that Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, was a friend, an ally. Secretary Clinton dodged that question a few weeks later. And then eventually the president came just short of asking for President Mubarak to step down in Egypt.

Now these elections show that 37 percent of the seats there in Egypt are going to the Muslim Brotherhood, 24 percent to the ultraconservative Salafist Party that wants Sharia law. We're back with the panel. So the question is, Charles, this evolution, the administration's response to this Arab Spring in Egypt, and the fallout.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't think the problem is so much what Obama did in February. The former president was gone, he was done. The military was ready to get rid of him. And that was inevitable. It's true Obama tried to pander to the Arab street and learned like every American president you can appeal to the Arab street all you want, in the end it's not gonna help you or your country.

The problem is what Obama is doing now. Two weeks ago, I think a week and a half ago, he urged the generals to transfer power to the elected representative. That is disastrous. The military is the only guarantor of a Democratic system in the future, the same way that in Turkey the military for 50 years after the Ataturk revolution in the early '20s guaranteed a secular, open society. If the military is gone, as Obama had urged, and it's a good thing the military didn't listen to him, then what you are going to get is the rule of the Islamists, who, as you say, if you add up the vote, that's over 60 percent of the vote. They can essentially rewrite or write a constitution that could be extremely repressive.

BAIER: And are people in Israel concerned about that possibility, the real possibility that everything gets rewritten?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely, everything is rewritten if the Salafist and the Brotherhood are in power. You could get outbreak of war which could engulf the entire region.

The problem is that the transition has to be over time. We saw the French Revolution, the Russian, and the Iranian. It's liberals who go out in the street and start it, and then it's the ideologues organized like the Islamist or the communists in Russia who seize power. So you want the military as a stabilizing influence. And we have to hope that it allows the evolution of a process over time.

BAIER: So is there a vulnerability for the administration on this very issue?

DAVID DRUCKER, REPORTER, ROLL CALL: Sure. Next year in the midst of an election, President Obama could have to deal with a major foreign policy crisis in the Middle East, particularly if Egypt were to decide to pull out of the treaty with Israel. That is a real complication for him.

I do think it is also, though, a signal, it should be at least, to the Republican candidates and the eventual nominee that as far as we know, we're gonna fight this election over the economy and jobs. But if there is a major foreign policy crisis, this thing could turn a little bit. And that becomes much more of an issue.

And I think that this also shows you that at a time when America is retrenching and pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq, it makes it that much harder for to us exert our influence. And we can't assume that just going home will make everything OK for us.

BAIER: Is the Arab Spring a question that the Republican candidates are dealing with well, Liz?

LIZ MARLANTES, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: I think to the extent -- first of all, I agree this is still mostly about the economy and domestic issues. But to the extent that foreign issues come in to the campaign and to the extent that something like this starts to hang over it, it clearly is going to benefit Gingrich. Looking at the Des Moines Register poll, the question where he absolutely had the biggest lead over any question is which candidate is most knowledgeable about the world? Gingrich got 58 percent -- was the choice of 58 percent of GOP voters on that question compared to six percent for Romney. And Gingrich has actually answered questions about this in the debate. He talked about the Arab spring and said he was worried to which it might be anti-Christian spring. So he is seen as the most credible candidate I think among the top tier candidates on the issues. And that only helps him.

BAIER: Last thing, is this the potential here for an explosion throughout the region that we talked about for a long time when it was developing? Now are we seeing that develop?

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't think it will be imminent, I don't think it will be quick. I think the military will prevent Islamists from writing a radical constitution or canceling the treaty with Israel. But the issue is a democracy is a place where you have a second election. And the question is, will Egypt have a second election or not? I think the military is likely to ensure a second. I'm not sure the Islamists would.

BAIER: That is it for panel, but stay tuned to see why it's very important to always know the cause you're fighting for.

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