President Obama Still Campaigning Against George Bush; Should America Stay the Course in Afghanistan?

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from August 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The last thing we can afford to do at this critical juncture in our history is to go back to the same policies that got us in this mess in the first place.

Finally we get this car up on level ground. Finally we get it back on the road. And these guys turn to us and say "Give us the keys back." Well no, you can't have the keys back, because you don't know how to drive!



BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama in Texas today -- there wasn't an earthquake there, just not a tripod I guess -- for a fundraiser for Democrats in Texas, home, of course, to the former president George W. Bush. Here a week ago is President Obama mentioning his predecessor when they had did have a tripod:


OBAMA: It's not like they're engaged in some heavy reflection. They have not come up with a single solitary new idea to address challenges of the American people.


They don't have a single idea that's different from George Bush's idea. Not one. Instead, they are betting on amnesia.


BAIER: Well, the president mentioned George Bush many times. This is the latest poll talking about the economic problems. Are they due to problems of President Obama? The latest Rasmussen poll has it 48 percent to 47 percent, a turn in recent polls in recent months.

What about this mentioned by the president of his predecessor and other top Democrats talking about it? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, is this a winning strategy for Democrats, for this administration to continue to talk about George W. Bush?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's a losing strategy, but I'm not sure they have any other. I mean, at least it sounds plausible for about a second and a half. The way the president is driving this driving analogy into the ground is quite remarkable. There is only so much that the analogy will take.

Look, he is saying that the Bush administration drove the economy to into a ditch. He has had keys for two years. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have had control of the Congress which has control of the purse for twice as long. It's pretty implausible that people are going to attribute all of this to the previous administration.

Secondly, it would work if his -- the choices he offers were a plausible one. He says you can either go ahead with us or go backwards. The problem is the policies he wants us to continue to trust in and go ahead with are the ones the American people are rejecting. He did a trillion dollar stimulus, health care reform is unpopular, financial reform, he wants to pick and choose winners and losers and create green economy out of nothing.

And all of this are really quite unpopular overall -- his agenda's unpopular -- and if you ask real question in the polls, are we on the right or wrong track, it's 61 percent wrong track.

So if he had an agenda that was attractive, he could say give it a bit of time and we'll be OK. But the agenda is rejected and the results are lousy.

Reagan ran for reelection when we had a rebound in the economy of six percent. Here our economy is stalled and slowing, there's no way he can make the case.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I don't think the economy is stalled. I think it's not recovering as quickly as we would like especially in terms of job production. But when you look at other recoveries and this recovery, it's about the same. In fact, this recovery might be a little bit advanced. But the problem is jobs, and they just aren't producing jobs.

It seems to me when you talk about this economy, though, and especially about the strategy involved of blaming President Bush, you just go look at the numbers and overwhelmingly until now when we saw the numbers that Bret Baier put out earlier, most of the American people were still blaming President Bush even though President Obama had been in office for all this time. Yet they were still blaming President Bush and pointing to the fact that the economy had been losing so many jobs under President Bush's last two years and actually over the last seven months has been gaining jobs. It's just that the jobs haven't come at the rate that anybody in America would like.

So, yes, I can understand why they were blaming President Bush. I think increasingly though, the American are going to say, well, the guy who's at the wheel right now has to bear some responsibility. That's President Obama. He can point at the Republicans rightly and say they just obstruct and say no; they don't have any ideas. But unfortunately I think for the voters who simply want jobs and want some security about their pensions, they are unhappy with the way the economy is going.

BAIER: Steve, it got to the point Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary last week, used charts in the White House briefing room, detailed charts about where the economy is now, where it was in 2007, 2008, going back to the time period to lay it all out.

They clearly believe that this is the way to frame this election.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, it's really going to get people to go out to the polls in droves by using those kind of charts comparing the economy now and 2007.

Look, the problem is when they came to office they promised after the passage of this nearly trillion dollar stimulus, they promised that it would jolt the economy. It didn't. And then when you go back to last summer, they said look, we only spent 20 percent of this. Joe Biden in one of his appearances defending the stimulus said we're only nine miles in a marathon. You can't judge us yet.

Well now, if you look at how much has been spent relative to what he said, we're 22 miles into the same marathon and we are arguably in worse shape than we were last summer or at least in terms of unemployment numbers, we haven't improved as much. The economy isn't growing as strongly as they said it would be.

So they have this huge difficulty because they got their program through and it hasn't changed the reality on the ground.

WILLIAMS: Can I ask a quick question? Steve, seriously, we're worse off than we were last summer?

HAYES: Look at the numbers.

WILLIAMS: The unemployment rate is about the same.

HAYES: The unemployment rate is about the same, but in the meantime we have spent some $800 billion. So, yes, we're worse off because we have much greater debt, we haven't seen the improvement they promised and here we sit.

WILLIAMS: I think the response can come from even Republican economists who say that in terms of GDP and in terms of the jobs lost -- saved, not lost, but saved -- we're in a better place. And I think the recovery, if you look at the trajectory, is coming. It's just not coming very quickly.


BAIER: We have argued around the block here around jobs saved and how you can measure that or not measure it.

Charles, what about the image of the campaign and how it's setting up? And is this effective?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I don't think, saying, if you're Reagan and you're up for reelection and you have growth of seven percent in the economy you can say compare me with the day I was elected. If you have a stalled economy growing at half the rate it did six months ago, that's not work.

I think Obama has to have an agenda that's going to be relatively new because the agenda he's proposed up until now that he's enacted is unpopular. And why would you want to continue on that? I don't think it's a very smart way to campaign. But he's rather stubborn ideologically and I don't think he's going to change.

BAIER: Something tells me we'll talk about this again right here.

Up next, the relief worker killings in Afghanistan. Log on to the home page at FoxNews.com/SpecialReport and tell us what you think the administration should do about them.

The Fox All-Stars share their thoughts when we come back.



HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: These men and women were in the region to deliver free medical care to impoverished Afghan villagers. They were doctors, dentists, translators and technicians. We are heartbroken by the loss of these heroic, generous people and we condemn in the strongest possible terms these vicious murders.

With these murders, the Taliban have shown us yet another example of the lengths to which they will go to advance their twisted ideology.


BAIER: Ten members of a Christian charity's medical aid team, including six Americans killed -- unarmed, unpaid -- working for International Assistance Mission. They just finished a two-week assignment treating eye problems of villagers in a very remote part of northeastern Afghanistan when they were killed.

Now, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for this killing, but the FBI has opened an investigation now and is looking into this as well. What about the administration's response to this brutal murder and where we are in Afghanistan.

We're back with the panel. Steve?

HAYES: I think it was a good response. I thought she said exactly the right things. Most importantly she said we're not going to leave, we're going to stay here and this reinforces the importance of our mission. The Taliban are brutal; we're there to end this kind of brutality. I think it's also important that the aid group said that they're not necessarily going to pull up stakes and leave too.

The really interesting thing, I think the important thing and it hasn't gotten much attention in the United States, is a directive that Mullah Omar gave back in June saying to the Taliban, saying to his forces, that they could begin targeting humanitarian aid workers, that they could target Afghan civilians.

It reverses a directive that he had given in 2009 in which he banned that, trying to counter the counterinsurgency tactics, trying to win over the population. But it appears that Mullah Omar is now prepared to have the Taliban unleash its fury on population, on the civilian population, which is in sort of a sick and twisted way an opportunity for the United States, if we can secure the population in the way the counterinsurgency aims to.

BAIER: Juan, some of these workers had been working there since the '70s -- really had devoted their lives to the Afghan people, from this Christian group. They say the faith motivates them, but that's not the mission on the ground; they're there to help villagers, not proselytize.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think these people were Christians. This is an act in my mind against Christians. I think that they weren't proselytizing, but I think their example was very real. I can't think of a more wonderful and emblematic act of giving and sacrifice.

As you said, they had been there a long time. These were not newcomers who were breaking the rules or didn't know the rules. And to me, it's just -- that someone would to do this in the name of their faith is just ridiculous, just absurd.

But I think to bring it home, I think that this is an interesting moment for us as Americans in terms of whether or not we want to stay and fight in Afghanistan. I think that's a big conversation here. We have seen the picture of the woman who had her nose chopped off on the cover of Time magazine -- her nose was chopped off because she was accused of adultery, I believe. And then secondly, now we see this kind of terrorism against people who are trying to give their best, helping people with the eye disease in the country; it's nothing to do with politics, war or anything like that.

But what it means here at home is the combination with the question of do we stay on the ground with diminishing support for that war in Afghanistan. I think it makes people think we have to do something about this kind of religious tyranny as it's impacted. The question is, are we in the business of nation building, should we be there, are we the right forces to take on the Taliban?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think Juan was at the core of this. The core of this incident was Christianity; it was the Christian nature of the mission. As the statement taking credit said they were carrying bibles, which enough for them to massacre you. These were, as Juan said, admirable, generous, humane people. They were killed because of their religion.

We tend to overlook the fact that this from the enemy's perspective is a war about religion. It's not about Iraq, it's not about imperialism, it's not about Palestine. It's about the most extreme, nihilistic religious fanaticism, which will destroy or kill anything that is alien.

Look, these are the people who six months before 9/11 went into the desert and destroyed two of the most magnificent Buddhist structures in the world -- blowing it up with dynamite. There's no Buddhist imperialism. It's purely an act of destroying the "other." Jews and Christians, Sufi Muslims in Pakistan -- there was an attack on July 1 -- anybody "other."

And that's who they are. And that's why there is no way to compromise, there's no way to fight them other than to defeat them. It's a religious war in their perspective and we have to remember that.