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Special Report

Friday Lightning Round: Jobs moving in right direction?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 3, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the president at the White House today and out and about was upbeat about this. The unemployment figures now at the lowest level since February, 2009, five straight months of falling unemployment. Unemployment down to 8.3 percent, as you see, from 8.5, creating a net 243,000 jobs.

Now, January, 2009, 12 million were unemployed, that's roughly 23 percent out of work for six months or more. Now in January of 2012, 12.8 million unemployed, 43 percent out of work for six months or more. Then you had the Congressional Budget Office projection for this year and next, and the unemployment rate and the projections looking forward according to the nonpartisan CBO, 8.9 and 9.2. A lot of graphs to consider there.

Every week viewers vote on the Friday Lightning Round poll. This week the winner, Fast and Furious follow. We're going to get to that in a minute, but first the economy. Kirsten, the White House, very happy with these numbers today.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Yeah. Well, it was unexpected, so I think there is added happiness to that. And the trend is in the right direction. Now there are these projections that you just read that it's going to get worse again. I think the hope among Democrats and people in the White House is that the projections are wrong. Look they didn't predict this month. They didn't predict last month. Maybe things are turning around more than they thought they were turning around. They're looking at other numbers, you know corporate earnings are beating Wall Street expectations. Retail sales are up, manufacturing jobs are up, the workweek is longer, all the things you sort of look at to say, this is actually happening. And I think the hope is that the trend will continue.

BAIER: It did outperform, no doubt about that. But the labor force is smaller. It's actually at its smallest point since 1983, Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is smaller. But one of the reasons that it looks as if there were a lot of people who dropped out of the force, some people had said a million, it's actually a misreading, it's a change in the population in the census. It changed on January, 2012. So that's a reflection of a new census report. In fact, a quarter of a million people who had despaired and were no longer looking started looking again, which would normally raise the unemployment rate. In fact, it fell, which is a very good sign. And if it continues at this rate, it would drop the rate by a point every year, which would really help Obama.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I think these are good numbers. Every week, or every month when we've talked about these numbers, there has been a huge asterisk. This is good, but this, but that. And aside from labor force participation, which is a significant long-term problem, the short-term I think reading of these numbers is that it's very good news for the White House, very good news for the country.

BAIER: OK, Fast and Furious as promised, second topic, Eric Holder, the attorney general, on the hot seat up on Capitol Hill. Steve, both sides suggest that it wasn't a great appearance for the attorney general.

HAYES: No, I think it wasn't very good appearance for the attorney general, most especially because there were further indications that he knew about Fast and Furious earlier than he had previously said. There is information, there is an e-mail exchange in which his deputy chief of staff says that he's going to tell Attorney General Holder about the death of Brian Terry and the fact that there may have been Fast and Furious involvement in that. The Justice Department says no, that that notification never actually happened. But the fact that it's yet another data point that suggests that Holder knew something before he did, that's a problem.

BAIER: Kirsten?

POWERS: I think the most frustrating thing about this is just trying to tease out what Holder knew and didn't know. And he always seems to have an explanation for well, yeah, I know the e-mail said that, but it never got to me. Or, well, yeah, we were talk being it, but nobody called it Fast and Furious. They've been asked to release more documents. They say, we've released 7,000 documents. We're not doing anymore. They really just need to give the documents over so people can just really see what's going on.

BAIER: Tonight's document dump was Solyndra related, we're still going through all of that. No Fast and Furious documents.

KRAUTHAMMER: But it is a holdout on documents. Some of them have to do with a letter that Justice wrote in February of last year, saying that the guns had all been -- had been attempted to be interdicted, and they were not. So it was a false letter. Holder was asked about documents. He's holding out on that, stonewalling. Big mistake.

BAIER: All right, Susan G. Komen reverses a decision, now will fund Planned Parenthood. What about that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Komen looked as if it wanted to get out of the culture wars. It didn't want to have involvement in an institution that has abortion issues. They wanted to be neutral on that. It got caught in a firestorm. And now it's back where it started, but it's got a black eye.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's not really clear where they are. James Rosen alluded to this in his report. A lot of pro-life people think that actually they just made this statement to kind of get people off their backs, but they haven't actually substantively changed anything, that they're actually not going to be -- it hasn't said they'll be funding Planned Parenthood.

BAIER: Such a great organization, Steve. They do great things. But they seem to, this week, manage to make a lot of people on all sides angry.

HAYES: I think they did. And the big take away is for pro-lifers who didn't know of the Komen foundation's involvement with Planned Parenthood, now they do. And that's going to be a long-term problem.

BAIER: OK final one here. Super bowl picks. Down the row, Steve, you're first?

HAYES: The Giants are hot, but I think the Patriots offense, particularly if Rob Gronkowski's healthy will be too much.

POWERS: -- Giants

BAIER: You don't have provide detail -- Giants. Kirsten?

(LAUGHTER)

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm not a theologian, but grace is something that you can transfer. Brady beat Tebow. Nobody, therefore, can beat Brady.

BAIER: OK, the Giants beat my Falcons. Therefore, I choose the Giants. OK. Panel, thank you. We'll see how we did on Monday.

That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see what expression may really have run its course,

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