Will Obama Take Credit for Good News From the Gulf of Mexico?

The following is a rush transcript of the July 14, 2010, edition of "Special Report With Bret Baier." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BOB SHORT, GULF RESIDENT: I think it's fantastic. It's probably the best news we've had in these areas since Katrina.

COLT YOUNGBLOOD, GULF RESIDENT: I think it's great. It's about time they got it capped and I hope it won't take them long to get it cleaned up.

CAROL, GOLLOTT, GULF RESIDENT: We're not done, that's for sure.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think it is a positive sign. They're still in a testing phase. I've more to say about it tomorrow.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, this is what it looked like a while ago when the oil was gushing, flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. That's from May. Here's what it looks like now. The new cap is on, and they say there is no oil escaping in the Gulf as of today.

A lot of leaders and folks there along the Gulf are saying their prayers have been answered, at least so far, but they are still testing this thing. Democratic Saturday from Louisiana Mary Landrieu has said "I am cautiously optimistic this is the beginning of the end of the terrible nightmare."

What about the news and all the political ramifications? Let's bring in the panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: This is great news, obviously. One of the most interesting things I saw today was a story about where the origin of the cap may have come from. It was an anonymous plumber who called Robert Deed, the University of California engineer involved with the administration's earlier efforts, and basically laid out that he wanted, to deliver a sketch. He passed the sketch on and it seems to be what they used was designed after this anonymous plumber and people don't know who he is.

BAIER: Not Joe, is it?


HAYES: It's not Joe, although the "Christian Science Monitor" reporter who broke the story used Joe the plumber in the lead. Not a joke.

The political implications are interesting. Just as President Obama, at least initially, was unfairly blamed for BP's oil spill, he will likely if this in fact holds -- I think there are reasons to be skeptical -- if it holds he will get credit for BP capping the well, also unfair.

What we should be doing is judging him on what happened in between, and the key moment or series of moments is the moratorium. We talk to people down there who say the moratorium will have done more damage to the Gulf and the Gulf economy than the spill itself.

If that is true and if they can back it up, it will cause lasting damage to the president.

BAIER: A.B., this was a relief to folks down there, but there is a still a long uphill battle to go for the cleanup and containment of this stuff.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: And that is why the president contained himself when he was asked today about this news. It's temporary. They'll gauging pressure on the days as a temporary fix. Obviously, it's tremendous relief and it's good news.

But I disagree: I don't think President Obama will be credited with stopping this. The damage is done to BP and the damage is done to President Obama about his slow response to the crisis, his lack of management skills, if you will. Having never been a mayor or a governor who handles a local crisis like this, his response was slow in the beginning.

Obviously, the debate will go on about the moratorium and the damage is done to the environment and the waters, but to the local economies, et cetera. And it will be digging out for years, the Gulf States. And so I don't think he will get a big pat on the back for this.

BAIER: You have Democrats like James Carville again who criticized the president at the beginning, "we're dying down here," now saying this moratorium is killing them down there as well. So it's still a political thorn.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The moratorium is an unforced error the administration somehow has to undo.

On the cap itself, I'm between where Steve and A.B. are on this. I don't think it will have a positive effect in the sense people won't say he went down and plugged the damn hole. But I think it does remove a drag on the presidency.

The fact that we could see every day the gushing was like America held hostage in the late '70s. It was a symbol of the administration's helplessness, it was sort of the ultimate contradiction of the Obama ideology, that the government can be, you know, can be competent, do stuff, help you, et cetera. It was a rebuke just right out there every day.

So when you remove that, I think in time -- perhaps not in time for this election this year -- but in time, if this is successful, and that's a huge if, it will fade from memory and I'm not sure it has lasting impact on Obama, particularly in 2012.

But there's one word of caution here: We are at a time of maximum danger. This could either be really good, successful, the cap, or the results could be catastrophic. If the pressures or high, that means it's working. If the pressures are not high, that means that the well head at the bottom hasn't held and the oil would be escaping through the sediment and the ground in a way that might be irreparable and unstoppable.

That's why everybody is scared right now about the pressure reading. So it's either going to be a huge success or it could be a real disaster.

BAIER: Steve, as A.B. said, the administration and the president seemed to learn from the initial effort when Thad Allen came out and said they thought that this had stop and they were successful with the first top hat. That's not the case now. They are waiting to see how this is going.

HAYES: Yes. And they're smart to do that for the reasons that Charles points to. We all know that if they want to take credit, if they want to go and claim the credit, they can do it in three days and it will have exactly the same kind of impact. It makes no difference.

Just to clarify what I was saying before: I don't think he is going to see some upsurge in the polls or the people. It you look at the Gallop poll -- I believe that Gallop did polling and they asked people how important this was -- last month in June of 2010, and 18 percent of people asked said it was one of the most important issues. This month, the same number is seven percent.

So I think you are right, he has seen a lot of damage done to him. If it's a broader narrative of government involvement, that he can't fix. But as he was unfairly blamed at the beginning he will get residual credit at the end.

BAIER: Logon to the home page at FoxNews.com/specialreport right now and you can vote in your choice online poll. That's for the topic we discuss first in the Friday lightning round, right there on the right side of the screen.

Up next, the financial regulatory overhaul bill will soon become law. Are the 2,300 pages of this bill a good thing? We break it down next.



OBAMA: All told, this reform puts in place the strongest consumer financial protections in history and it creates a new consumer watchdog to enforce those protections. Because of this reform, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: All told, this bill would impose 533 new regulations on individuals and small businesses, it creates a vast new unaccountable bureaucracy that, if past experience is any guide, will lead to countless, burdensome, unintended consequences for individuals and small businesses, a bill that constricts credit and stifles growth in the middle of the worst economic period in memory.


BAIER: Financial regulation overhaul bill passed the Senate 60-39 with the help of three Republican senators. They are Senators Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. One democrat voted against it, Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin.

We learned late today the Senate majority leader got a call from someone and he said he almost was in danger of losing that 60th vote. There is a bit of a mystery. The speculation was it was Senator Brown who made that call. But whatever happened, they worked it out. He got the 60th vote and it has passed and now will likely head to the president soon to be signed.

We're back with the panel. Charles, what does this all mean? It's more than 2,300 pages long and you heard the two descriptions, the president and the Senate minority leader.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the place to start when asking what it means is to see what Senator Dodd, the chairman, the author of this, said a month ago about the bill. This is about as important as it gets. It deals with every aspect of our lives.

And then he adds "No one will know until this actually is in place how it works." Well, that gives you a lot of confidence in something that is going to influence all of our lives.

The fact is there are hundreds of regulations that are going to be as a result of the bill that have not been written. They are going to be lobbied, they are going to be litigated. The big banks who have the big lobby operations and the big lawyering operations are going to have the upper hand here. Every comma, every adjective will carry hundreds of billions of dollars worth of importance over time.

This is a gift to the big banks over the smaller institutions that don't the same lobbying and lawyering facilities.

Also, when the president promises that we're never going to have a bailout, I'm not sure how he knows. I read a lot of economists who think it that actually increases our chances of it happening.

But it certainly is going to set up a structure in which the Fed and the Treasury can act unilaterally without Congress as opposed to in 2008 to bailout a large institution.

The large institutions, small number, are going to have a reputation. Everyone would know you can lend to them because ultimately the Fed and Treasury will stand behind them. If you're small, you don't have that. So again, the large institutions are going to have a serious advantage over the small guys.

BAIER: And A.B., as we see in the health care law, when you have a bill in this long there are things that are not related to financial regulation.

STODDARD: There are -- you know, with any 2,000-page bill they get stuffed with secret stuffing, unseemly items that no one would approve of if they could, if they read the bills. We know that the members don't. The leadership manages usually to get these things. And it is done by both parties, Republicans and Democrats alike.

But I really think when we learn about those things that have nothing to do with the financial services regulation in the bill, that probably won't be the primary objective to anyone opposed to the bill.

BAIER: Objection, you mean.

STODDARD: Excuse me, objection. They'll object to what Charles mentions as being in the legislation, punishing the small banks, facilitates bailouts and contracts credit further, ultimately damaging Main Street. And people will make an assessment whether this does more damage than repair or more repair than damage.

What I was struck by is the timing of this -- the sort of the evolution of the debate. Months ago, this was a popular, populist push strongly supported by the public in polls. Republicans seem to siding with Wall Street against consumers.

Now you have a focus on the fact that corporate leaders are complaining to Obama administration that they are not able to help with growth, not able to spur hiring. They're sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash because of the regulatory uncertainty brought on by the huge overhauls and the Obama agenda.

If this is the focus now, the complaints by the Republicans that onerous regulations brought on by a bill like this will hurt Main Street, those complaints will get a lot more traction in the months to come.

BAIER: Steve?

HAYES: Well, I think there's one word: uncertainty. That's the problem with this bill for the reasons that Charles points to.

For Chris Dodd to say essentially what Nancy Pelosi said about the health care bill, about something this complicated, and yet we have 2,300 page of regulation that spawn further regulations, at this time in this economy, this seeks to solves the problems of the economy.

And in fact, talk to anyone in business practically anywhere, and they will tell you this will exacerbate the problem precisely because it exacerbates this uncertainty in the markets.

BAIER: Charles, there is also a provision in there that looks to benefit unions and special groups to get positions on company boards across America.

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, well, that's -- it's a favor among the many. It happened in the bailout of the auto companies and it happened in the healthcare legislation. Unions always get a prize as a result of the fact that Democrats are in power.

At least I look in the bill and I can't see anything that the trial lawyers are getting. So at least that's something that we can celebrate. But it's a pay off, as happens whenever you are in power, you pay off the constituencies.

BAIER: We'll continue to dig into it.