This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 11, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We pledge to do all we can to help you heal the injured, to rebuild this city and to bring to justice those who did this evil.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: On this terrible day of mourning it's hard to imagine that life will come when life at Virginia Tech will return to normal, but some day that day will come.
MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: You have to embody the emotions, not just say the right words. And that's a challenge for this president who can be eloquent but often not emotional.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST OF “SPECIAL REPORT”: Memorial services after tragedies can be big events for presidents, big speeches. President Obama heads to Tucson on Wednesday to deliver just such a speech.
White House officials tell Fox he began working on the speech last night. They say it will focus on the victims and the heroes and those in Tucson affected by the tragedy.
And as for those suggesting that president should make a political statement, White House officials are saying the president believes this is a lot bigger than politics and points out it this will be a memorial service. There you see a picture of moment of silence earlier this week.
Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Juan Williams Fox News contributor, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve, what about this moment, the speech and what the president will do?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the previews that you had from the White House officials are likely to be what the president does. I don't expect him to use this in a way that I think we’ve seen many on the left, many in the media use it to try to make an argument that this is a result in either directly or indirectly of a climate of hate or something of that nature.
I wouldn't be surprised if he has a line in there or two about tolerance, about treating each other with respect something along those lines that maybe a nod of something in that direction of that kind of an argument. But what you were quoting is right. This is a memorial service. It's appropriate to focus on the victims and heroes and talk about healing.
BAIER: Boy, you listen Juan to the pundits all over the place and how big a moment this is for President Obama. To hear the White House describe it, it's a moment about memorializing these victims and less about President Obama. Do you agree with that?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I do. And from what I heard from the White House today he was working on the speech personally and felt it was bigger than anything to do with politics and it had to really try to capture the moment in terms of the American conscience, that this is something that we're all going to remember. It's unusual that you have a member of Congress attacked, assassination attempt of this kind and the idea that I'm hearing about is when you speak to American family.
Just the example that you played, you will notice for example after 9/11, George W. Bush said to the American people, those of you who are suffering , who are grieving are not alone. You'll remember that Bill Clinton said you know what, I understand your grief because these are your neighbors and your friends and your children who have died here. Or you think back to Ronald Reagan who spoke to the children of America after the Challenger disaster with Christine McCollum.
But I just want to say after picking up on something that Steve was talking about, I don't think the president can be Pollyannaish and not speak to the idea that we live in highly polarized times in terms of American politics and not imagine that there is an immigration debate --
BAIER: But you agree there is a delicate line now there, because even some of the left are backing away from what they said over the first 24, 48 hours.
WILLIAMS: Some of it was reprehensible you would link political debate, legitimate political debate and dissent, no matter how pointed, to this man pulling the trigger to do this. There is no such legitimate link.
But I'm saying that the president has to acknowledge the tenor of our times unless the people are just going to say, well, he just pretended that there is nothing going on.
BAIER: Charles, former President Clinton said this to the BBC today. "I think this is an occasion for us to reaffirm that our political differences shouldn't degenerate into a demonization of the sense that you know, if you don't agree with me, you're not a good American. I think that that’s what I'd like to see, I'd like to see the House of Representatives lead the way." He was asked about the shooting.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, by saying House of Representatives, I think he tips off the partisanship that is underlying this. This is a man with Oklahoma City stepped over the delicate line. At the memorial service in Oklahoma City, he spoke eloquently and in a way that was non-partisan.
But in Milwaukee the next day, he gave a speech in which he denounced the, quote, "people spreading hatred and division." He said they leave the impression that violence is acceptable. And then he clearly said he was speaking about some of the things that were regularly said over the airwaves, and that was meant Rush Limbaugh and by extension Newt Gingrich and the Republicans who had just trounced him in the elections half a year earlier.
So that was very much a partisan exploitation of that tragedy, and it happened to be the beginning of his comeback. Now Obama’s in a different circumstance. As Steve indicated, the attempt of people on the left to get ahead of the story and do what Clinton had done with Oklahoma City already is almost over because it's so cynical, hypocritical, and obviously without any evidence.
And we're at the end of that cycle, and Obama is too smart. I think he’s going to act as head of state, rather than head of a party or a head of government, and I think he understands both because he sincerely feels it and because it's his political interest that if he speaks as a president without any hint of this blame of one side or the other, it will help him a lot politically as well as speak well for the nation.
Content and Programming Copyright 2011 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.