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Special Report

Time to START Over on Arms Treaty?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report With Bret Baier," November 24, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: W hile it would have been clear that a treaty that tried to prevent national missile defense would have been dead on arrival in the Senate, the way the administration put it together politically, they achieved basically the same result.

And I think what many Republicans on the Hill are concern ed about is that State Department negotiations going on right now to codify restrictions on national missile defense simply prove the risks of ratifying new START and laying a foundation for explicit restrictions on that capability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Former Ambassador John Bolton was arms negotiator in the Bush administration. He's talking about the START treaty up for ratification in the U.S. Senate. The administration is trying to get it through the lame duck session of Congress.

Here is what Vice President Biden wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about START, quote, "President Obama united Europe behind our missile defense plans and received strong support for the new START treaty that is currently before the Senate. In doing so he proved that missile defense and arms control can proceed hand in hand."

Now Republicans disagree. Aides to Arizona Senator Jon Kyl say privately that they have the votes to block this treaty in the Senate. Kyl and other Republican senators suspect that the person who was holding Ambassador Bolton's job now, Ellen Tauscher, who is the undersecretary of state, may have agreed to missile defense limits that are not spelled out in the START treaty, and they are asking for proof that she hasn't done that, another sticking point to this vote.

It's down in the weeds but it's important. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: There is an important issue at stake here. One of the great achievements of the Bush administration was the cancellation of the ABM treaty which was a treaty signed in 1972 which restricted our ability to develop our defenses. And that's the most important weapon system of the coming century where lots of nations are going to have nukes and biological weapons and missiles and this is our only defense.

We cancelled that treaty which allowed us to exploit our huge advantage in this.

Now, the question is will START put a restriction on that? In the treaty there is nothing explicitly that restricts us on defense. However, in the preamble there is a statement of the interrelationship between offensive and defensive weapons. And the president of Russia upon the signing of the bill in April said that the Russian understanding is that all of, this the existence of the treaty and the validity of the treaty hinges on the unchanging, underlying relations, which means it's a code for if the U.S. does not make real advances in missile defense now.

We reject that interpretation, at least ostensibly and in public. So the question is has the State Department been negotiating understandings with the Russians that would assuage their questions about our advances in missile defense, i.e., are we conceding through the State Department in these other negotiations stuff which we say we are not conceding in our interpretation of that treaty?

That's why Kyl and other Republicans want to look at what's been negotiated by the State Department.

BAIER: Yes. And five other senators are asking in a letter sent couple weeks ago for all of the negotiations and documents sent back and forth because they want to know if there was this duel track START treaty and some missile defense going on.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: It seems to put a little bit more meat on the Republican argument for delaying this and then having the fuller Senate to look at it and more obviously Republicans to look at it come January.

I think before it was a little bit more in the weeds and now it's kind of less in the weeds now that we have the specter of North Korea and real kind of issues about the security of the nation.

So I, again, I believe Kyl when he says he has got these GOP senators who want to look at this again, who think that there is not enough time to look at this in the lame duck session. So I think this will be something that will be put off until January.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: There has been long running misunderstandings about exactly what the relationship is between offensive and defensive capabilities within START.

This was -- I went to a hearing in late July of the Senate Armed Services Committee. This is what Republican senators were focused on then. And they were asking -- this was a hearing that included people on the American side who actually rolled up their sleeves and did the negotiating with the Russians on the treaty.

And the Republican senators were saying to them in effect we want to see your negotiations. We want to see behind the scenes. We want to see everything you talked about. We want to see how you characterized, how you represented what you think this treaty is going to do so it allows to us understand if this is good policy or bad policy.

So they asked for the negotiating record. And the administration thus far, despite the fact that it's continuously called itself the most transparent administration in history has refused to give up this negotiating record.

And there is some precedent for doing this on big treaties in the past if you go back over the past 30 years. They have given up this negotiating record which gives people in the legislative body an opportunity to see exactly what was going on.

What happened this past weekend in Portugal was the administration announced that it had achieved sort of a broad strokes agreement on missile defense, and senators said what is in this agreement? You can describe it to us?

They had been asking even before this letter was sent out October 18th for some further description of what was going to happen, what was being discussed. They asked for briefings, and the administration didn't provide briefers. So I think the senators have a good beef right now and they are right to ask for these documents.

BAIER: For people sitting at home, they may remember the president scrapped a year ago the land based efforts in Poland and the Czech Republic, the missile defense efforts in favor of sea and land based interceptors basically less threatening to Moscow.

With all of the State Department-ese, the language that sometimes people glaze over about the treaty, why is this important for somebody sitting at home about missile defense?

KRAUTHAMMER: For the next century, the real problem for us is if anybody launches a missile at us, we are almost defenseless. We now have, you know, just the beginnings of an ability to shoot them down. We are the only ones. The Israelis have an ability in short-term but we are the only ones who have the capacity.

This is the threat of the century. There are going to be a lot of small countries that are going to be armed. Some of them are rogue states. Look what's happening in Pyongyang. These guys are working on a three-stage rocket, and you put a nuke on top of it and it lands in Honolulu or L.A. or San Francisco.

And we have almost nothing that would shoot it down. We have a few interceptors in Alaska. But we are way ahead of the world.

And the questions is, are we going to sign a treaty that restricts our capacity to develop the technology and deploy? As of now with the cancellation of the ABM treaty in 2001, I think it was, we can do anything we want. But why would we gratuitously hamper ourselves? That's what Republicans want to know. Are we hampering ourselves and conceding restrictions on ABM systems?

BAIER: Down the line -- does START get through the lame duck?

KRAUTHAMMER: No.

HENDERSON: No.

HAYES: No.

BAIER: There you go. What do you think the Senate should do about the START treaty? Logon to our homepage at FoxNews.com to vote on out online poll. Don't forget, the online show begins at 7:00 eastern.

Next up, opting out of the new health care plan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR RON WYDEN, D-OREGON: This is an ideal opportunity that both Democrats and Republicans can support. And if states seek to go forward with this approach, they can make their own choices.

SENATOR SCOTT BROWN, R-MASS.: We should be encouraging state innovation and not hampering it. And that's what the empowering states to innovate act does. The legislation provides flexibility and says that one size fits all is not appropriate and it does not always meet the needs of that individual state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon saying they want to have this bill pass the Senate. It essentially moves up by three years the opt-out clause for states from 2017 to 2014. The states could opt out of the most controversial feature of the health care law, which is the mandate, the individual mandate to purchase health care coverage. You have lawmakers in 30 states pushing for this on a state level.

Then you have the constitutional challenges by 20 states attorneys general. And then you have the Obama administration issuing waivers to 120 or so corporations like McDonalds so far to continue offering the mini-med plans which violate the new law.

So, now that we have all of that on the table about the health care law, we are back with the panel. Steve?

HAYES: Well, I think the plan that Senators Wyden and Brown have offered would be much better than the current system that we're likely to see if the law is applied as it was passed.

Having said that, it's not a good plan, and you don't need a federal health care law in order to encourage states to have competition or to come up with their own plans. You can do that without any federal law having been passed. The bigger philosophical problem I think with this is that conservatives and Republicans and most of the country don't want to be doing things to improve a fatally flawed law. They want to do things to kill the law, defund the law, to end it. To the extent that supporting this does that, has that effect, I think it's not a good idea.

BAIER: Is this another attack at the law, Nia, that Democrats, perhaps, are fearing that are going to start

adding up here?

HENDERSON: Yes. And I think, you know, if you were to look back in the spring after this passed and there was a real cry from the GOP to repeal health care the White House and Democrats very much waived them off. And this thing didn't look like it had legs.

But you fast forward to now and it very much seems to be gaining steam. If you look at a lot of the polls, a lot of folks want this thing repealed. And I think what is probably most troubling for Democrats is this is a Democrat who is essentially questioning one of the key pillars of this bill. And, of course, he is eyeing reelection. And I think when we fast forward a year from now, two years from now, this is going to be a big topic in 2012. All of these Republicans are going to jump into this race, and I think a lot of them are going to run on repealing health care.

BAIER: Because if you take out the mandate, you take out the funding, essentially for this law.

HENDERSON: Yes. Obviously a lot of states are concerned about the expansion of Medicaid and paying for that. A lot of the states are bankrupt. This would add 16 million folks to the role. They are very concerned about this.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: If the problem is -- and I agree with Scott Brown that the problem is that we have a bill that's -- implies one size fits all which doesn't apply a country of our size to one sixth of our economy, the answer is not an opt-out system which will make it even more arbitrary, chaotic, and disorganized.

I mean already introducing a bill like this with hundreds of mandates, hundreds of commissions, new regulations, waivers, opts in and opts out introducing inefficiency to a national system. You start introducing a second inefficiency and arbitrariness and which states are in and which states are out, and it becomes a complete mess. And adding on to that these waivers that you talked, about which means if you are a large corporation, like McDonald's and you are subject to some of these ridiculous regulations about how much overhead you can have in your insurance plan, and you threaten to actually withdraw and give no insurance, and you get a waiver which is also arbitrary, it's a system with no logic at all.

I think the only answer is to start all over. You scrap it you introduce new -- if you replace it with sort of broad range reforms like tort reform or disconnecting employment from health insurance, health -- auto insurance, life insurance, house insurance are not connected with your employment. If do you the major steps to increase efficiency in the system, that's the way to go. But opt in, opt out, a waiver here, a waiver there, makes it absolutely worse. It's not an improvement. It's a corruption of an already completely inefficient and arbitrary plan.

BAIER: Steve, the administration says they want to do outreach with business leaders about certainty moving forward. This opt-out, opt-in thing about mini-med plans for these waivers doesn't really provide a lot of certainty.

HAYES: No. This is ad hoc governance. This is making it up as you go along, which frankly some people said was going to happen no matter if the bill was passed. This makes Kathleen Sebelius the most powerful person in America with respect to health care and with respect to a sixth of the economy.

So you have got -- it's totally arbitrary as to who is going to make the decisions, who is going to be the beneficiary of these decisions in the system as it is now.

BAIER: That is it for the panel.

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