This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 10, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON: In my opinion, this is a good bill, and I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it.
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CHRIS WALLACE, HOST OF “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: That was Bill Clinton during his impromptu half-hour news conference in the White House briefing room today. Time to bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, of the Weekly Standard, Nia-Malika Henderson from the Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, we'll get to your role in the press conference in a moment.
But first talk about the substance of what Bill Clinton said, Steve. How convincing an argument did he make on behalf of this tax cut deal and how strong did his advice seem about how Barack Obama should handle his changed political circumstances?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think he made a terribly politically convincing advice to his target audience, which was the House Democrats. I don't think he persuaded many of them on what to do on its merits. He called it a good deal.
He certainly didn't persuade somebody like me that it's a good deal. It's not a bad deal. It's a good deal or a deal that Republicans should probably take, because it does the things that Republicans need it to do. But in terms of making it a positive argument that would sway Democrats who I think are the key here, I don't think he did it.
WALLACE: Well, let me follow up on that with you. On one hand, he also said this will stimulate the economy, and that's important. And he also basically said you're going to get a worse deal after Republicans take control of the House. Those seem to be two pretty good arguments.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: He's essentially doubling down on argument that Barack Obama has been making, which is this is as good as it gets. Of course he doesn't agree with some of the tax cuts for the upper class, but, you know, this is as good as it gets.
Barack Obama has been very much going to the outside game. All over the last couple of days we've been getting e-mails about the mayor of Kokomo supporting this and governor of Ohio. He went to his biggest gun today, Bill Clinton making a really forceful pitch for this.
But the problem is with the House democrat. You had the CBC today, you know, these are among the Congressional Black Caucus, mop the loyal constituents and represent those folks who said it's still a bum deal. We'll see what happens.
WALLACE: and how much stroke do you think Bill Clinton has with the liberal House Democrats?
HENDERSON: I think he probably has some sway. If you watch TV over the last couple of days, you know, MSNBC, the members of the kind of professional left, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann have very much been going after the president. So you do feel like this was a way to quiet those voices and also maybe hold sway with some of the really left-leaning House Democrats.
WALLACE: Charles, it may have escaped your attention, but in the course of defending the president's deal, Clinton quoted a Washington wise-man. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON: The really interesting thing was is that a lot of the hardcore conservatives think Republicans gave too much. Read Charles Krauthammer's column in The Post today, he's a brilliant man and he pointed out that they got divisive tax cuts, but most of them were targeted to middle class working people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)WALLACE: And he went on and on and on. How accurately did he represent what you said in your column?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Not extremely. However, the fact he praised me means my career is basically over, although perhaps I think NPR has an opening, the Juan Williams spot.
WALLACE: I was going to say don't say anything bad about riding on airplanes.
KRAUTHAMMER: Or I could return to psychiatry. The House Democrats could really use someone right now. They're really agitated. I would go in the caucus and a valium spray and get all of them at once.
Look, the House Democrats are not persuaded by the intellectual argument of the president on this issue. In fact, the fact that he hauls out my column support for his position explains what I oppose this deal. It is a cave by the Republicans and something we ought not to agree to.
But I thought what bringing in an outsider like Clinton, the triangulator does, or a letter from the AFL-CIO, which the Obama administration also produced, is a way not to change the minds of the House Democrats but to give them cover.
The hard left is attacking the president and the deal and wanting to vote it down. If you are a House liberal and you think in the end it would be a catastrophe to the president, and if you look at it I think it is a good deal if you are a liberal, it would be unwise to vote it down. This will give you cover.
WALLACE: Let's talk, and we can't ignore it, just the sheer spectacle of today. Let me just set the timeline for people who weren't watching. Barack Obama brings Bill Clinton in the press room. Clinton makes an opening statement, backing the tax deal, backing the START treaty.
Ten minutes. Obama says I got to leave. I've kept the first lady waiting. And Bill Clinton kept talking for another 20 minutes.
HAYES: Bill Clinton clearly loved being back in the spotlight. It was interesting to see him try to make this case on behalf of the president.
I think there’s another reason maybe Bill Clinton liked Charles' column so much this morning, and it's because Charles uncharacteristically used the language of the left to make his case. He's talking about -- I picked up the Washington Post this morning and read it -- blowing trillion-dollar hole in the budget, "budget-busting."
The reality of the plan is that three-quarters, more than three-quarters of it goes to allowing people to keep their own money. Less than a tenth of it goes to new spending.
WALLACE: OK, with all due respect of that argument. I want to talk about Bill Clinton. Nia, your thought about -- and the fact he stayed on the podium and owned the White House podium and Barack Obama just went on.
HENDERSON: Yes. I have to say in the Washington Post newsroom we got a call from someone who wanted to know who the president was. There was a deja vu going on. It was flashback to the '90s, and we guessed how long he'd be there, we guessed an hour. Bill Clinton likes to hold court and was clearly enjoying himself there.
It raises the issue how long will Obama be tied to Clinton. This raises the issue of how long he is going to need Clinton to make a pitch to the base.
WALLACE: We have less than a minute. Watching the two of them side- by-side, how do you compare Obama, his strengths, his weaknesses, and Clinton?
KRAUTHAMMER: My first impression is that the handler who arranged for that meeting and the joint appearance and Obama having to abscond in the middle, that handler is on his way to gulag somewhere way out there, way out there somewhere.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, no. I think in the arctic zones of Russia, probably. You don't put anybody on a podium with Bill Clinton. It's like actors say they never want to costar with a child or a dog. Clinton’s the master, and Obama was looking rather like leftover. He's the president of the United States, but there was no way he could seize the podium back. You have the old pro and the rookie, and the rookie looks like a rookie when he’s in the presence of the old pro.
WALLACE: Congratulations on the shout out. It was very nice.
KRAUTHAMMER: I'm done. I'm finished.
WALLACE: No, you're not, because you're here for another segment. Go to our homepage at FOXnews.com/specialreport and tell us what other agenda item you think is most likely to be passed in the lame duck session. Vote in the online poll.
And up next, the Friday lightning round.
WALLACE: Every week viewers vote for your choice online in our Friday lightning round poll. This week, America's third war, growing violence along the U.S.-Mexican border was the overwhelming winner. And we're back now with our panel.
So, Steve, how big and how serious a problem is this? And what is the U.S. going to end up having to do?
HAYES: It's a very serious problem and it's getting worse, not better. I think it's likely that the United States is going to have to send some reinforcements, whether they be National Guard or troops, down to the border to make sure that the violence does not spill over from Mexico in to U.S. border towns.
You are getting to a point if that happens, I mean, the implications of that coming and bleeding north I think would be great.
HENDERSON: I think the Bush administration had $1.4 billion plan to help Mexico with this. I think about $700 million of that has been approved by Congress. I agree with Steve. I think another issue is America's appetite for drugs. Secretary Clinton called insatiable and that’s certainly something that’s driving and fuelling a lot of the violence there. So you wonder if there needs to be a second look at that and a national conversation around that.
KRAUTHAMMER: In time, I think we are going to have our troops on the other side of the border.
WALLACE: In Mexico.
KRAUTHAMMER: And the reason we cannot have a ‘no man's land’. If its territory that is not under control of the government, it's like the northwest territories in Pakistan. In a world of terrorism you cannot allow territory outside government control. We will probably end up on patrol on the other side.
WALLACE: Let's get to the second issue. Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace prize today. And we had this extraordinary scene. His award, his honor was placed on an empty chair because neither he to nor his wife was allowed to come to Oslo to receive it.
This is the first time since Nazi Germany back in the 1930s that a government has refused to allow an honoree to go. What does it say about China?
HAYES: I think what it tells us about China is something we already know but we haven't paid enough attention to lately, and that is that China is autocracy that's committed to squashing human rights. It does it all the time. They were arresting scholars and would-be dissidents trying to get on planes. This is what China does but we don't spend time talking about it.
HENDERSON: Part of the reason we obviously don't spend a lot of time talking about it is China has a lot of our debt and we have this very complicated relationship with them. It puts on display something we already know about China, that they have the human rights abuses and they have are a dangerous regime.
KRAUTHAMMER: China is a demonstration case that you can have a reasonably open economy and a Leninist dictatorship at the same time and they have it. And because the economy is somewhat open, we don't remember how much dictatorship, how cruel, arbitrary, and dictatorial it is.
WALLACE: Finally with the time we have left. Let's talk about the debt problem in Europe. We had a report earlier about Portugal, of course, the extraordinary pictures last night of the riots and streets of London over racing the tuition rate, and the attack on Prince Charles and Camilla. I know, Steve, you for one are very much relieved they escaped unharmed in this.
But the serious question is could it happen here? If we get serious about us austerity in this country, could we see, for instance, -- I'll get in trouble if I say it, but the public employees rioting because of cut- backs?
HAYES: Absolutely. Right now where we are in this debate is in the purely theoretical. We're talking about all of the things that we need to do. And virtually everybody understands that we need to do them. When we see the demonstration in the street is when we do them. And when that happens, you will have not only public employee unions, but maybe seniors, other people.
WALLACE: Charles, you have the last 20 seconds.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, the Europeans have spent half a century creating society of dependency, and now on the brink of bankruptcy they are withdrawing entitlements. And as a result you get social unrest.
WALLACE: And could it happen here?
KRAUTHAMMER: We are looking at the future. If we increase our dependency and entitlement we'll end up there. We have a chance, a window in the future and a way to not go there.
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