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Special Report

'All-Star' Panel on Moratorium on Drilling After Oil Spill; Effect of Jones Act


CAROL BROWNER, WHITE HOUSE ENERGY ADVISER: No one has been deceived or misrepresented. These experts gave their expert advice and then a determination was made looking at all of the information including what these experts provided that there should be a pause. And that's exactly what there is. There is a pause. We understand the importance of the Gulf of Mexico in terms of drilling, in terms of the jobs, in terms of the oil. And what we want to make sure is that we do it in the safest possible way, so we don't have lives lost, so that we don't have communities impacted.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: When the Obama administration announced the moratorium on oil drilling, offshore oil drilling, it stressed the research and backing of oil experts and engineers. However, now those engineers are speaking out saying that their expert analysis has been misrepresented to support this moratorium, writing a letter to the Interior secretary, "A blanket moratorium is not the answer. It will have the indirect effect of harming thousands of workers and further impact state and local economies suffering from the spill." Since then, the Interior secretary sent a letter admitting the administration independently concluded that the moratorium should be stopped.

In the meantime, the barrels of oil per day, six times the original 5,000 barrel estimate, in fact, it's equal to an Exxon Valdez spill in the gulf every eight to ten days. That's what we are looking at as this gulf oil spill continues.

Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, Senior writer for the The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve, welcome back to the panel. What about this? The moratorium and where we are politically on this going forward?

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think there are two separate issues. One issue is this question of deception. If you read the reports and you read the letter that these engineers sent saying in effect, don't pretend that this is what we were saying when in fact, really we were saying precisely the opposite, the deception issue is not a small issue. You have to say if this were the Bush administration, this would be huge news being discussed all the time. And President Obama, is he hiding behind science that, in fact, the scientists themselves don't believe? So, I think that is the first issue.

The second issue on the economics of this is I think particularly disturbing when you look at the impact, the potential impact of this. You know, you had Mary Landrieu on the hill the other day talking about it, just in Louisiana. And she extrapolated from the people on the rigs, on the 33 rigs, 100 to 200 people per rig, four to five people supporting those directly. She came up with a total of 330,000 people in Louisiana alone, potentially affected by the moratorium. Then you look at Texas. Then you look at Florida. You are talking about a huge chunk of the economy.

BAIER: Not to mention Alaska.

HAYES: Not to mention Alaska, not to mention Alabama. Not to leave anybody out. You're talking about a huge chunk of not only the regional economy, but the U.S. economy subject to the moratorium. And the question I think that these experts raise and I think raise effectively is, why are we doing this? Is there science to support what we're doing or not? And they say at this point there is not. And it could have dramatic economic impacts beyond that, because you are going to have people start shipping parts of rigs out of the area.

BAIER: Right. Juan, Senator Landrieu and others have made the point that once those rigs go to Africa or elsewhere, they are not coming back.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Right. And that there is a specific U.S. technology that has advanced work that would be essentially given to other countries to help them develop their deepwater well drilling industry. But just to speak specifically to what Steve was talking about, the scientists in question, I think his name is Robert Bea from Berkeley said listen, most of this report is, in fact, quite good and quite excellent. It's just that we never specifically signed off on a "moratorium." We did agreed that there might be a pause and I think the pause was intended to allow for safety precautions, in other words, we really don't know what caused this rig to explode. We don't understand the amount of the spill. It's almost unprecedented in nature.

And so, there was a suggestion maybe there should be a pause. Now, I think where Ken Salazar and maybe EPA also overstepped their bounds here was by then later inserting language after the scientists had seen the document calling for the moratorium. From what we understand that came from the White House. That was a political decision. And I think that's where this thing then goes over the line. But I will say this, I think that most people at the time that this happened, especially given as you just earlier reported but BP has not been a reliable partner telling us the extent of the spill would have said hold on a second. We are interested beyond the interest of the American economy, interested in protecting people who are fishermen, people who own resorts on the beach from the kind of damage that we've seen.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think inserting a paragraph that is in there for political reasons, that's the Salazar adding the two in which he calls for the moratorium in a scientific report that you claiming is peer-reviewed and hard science, when the scientists have not seen that, I think is a high level of deception in my many years ago when I was in medicine, I wrote an article or two in medical journals. Nobody would think of adding a sentence, even three words into an article that you wrote after you had seen it. And had your name attached to it. And we had the deputy secretary of the Interior apologizing for that deception, which I think is right.

So, I think that that is fairly egregious. Now, I can understand the administration declaring a moratorium immediately as a kind of a panic. Perhaps in some way, reasonable move. Let's immediately hold up everything and see what happens. But the declaration of a six-month moratorium is far different from asking for a pause that you could do for a quick safety check.

BAIER: OK. Let's talk briefly about the Jones Act, if I could. You want to finish?

KRAUTHAMMER: And it's economically devastating. The gulf has already lost fishing, and lost tourism and now it's going to lose a huge industry, the oil support industry. That does not make any sense.

BAIER: The problem for some, that some are charging is that some of the skimmer boats from overseas that are not U.S. owned and operated cannot work here in coastal waters because of the 1920s act called the Jones Act. Therefore, they're barred from working in coastal waters. What about this? And does this have an impact, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think, look, this is a fairly serious issue. If it's true that people who are offering help are being denied permission to enter that zone because of the Jones Act, I can only imagine is because the administration is afraid of what the unions will say if that happens. If the administration is denying all this, excuse me, and saying that we are not going to deny any ship entry, why don't they issue the general blanket waiver that was issued by the Bush administration, by Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, after Katrina, in which he waived the Jones Act? Why not issue a letter today and put the issue off the table?

BAIER: Thad Allen says, he hasn't gotten requests, Carol Browner says, she doesn't have requests from Thad Allen. It's like a circular motion here Juan.

WILLIAMS: Well, I was going to make the point but you made it.


WILLIAMS: There's been no request. And what we've seen according to the report that we saw today from Brian Wilson was that this is coming from some private operators. Actually, they're Americans, but the boats themselves are licensed to other countries. And I think, part of the Jones Act in addition to the union concerns is foreign boats operating near American coastlines and we don't know what is going on. But you know what? I mean, again, these are emergency situations. They should get them the waiver, they should do whatever they can.

BAIER: Quickly.

HAYES: Yes, I mean, it's absolutely preposterous they wouldn't grant this blanket waiver and do it preemptively right now.

BAIER: Go to our home page,, tell us what you think should be done about offshore drilling. Voting on our online poll right there on the right side of the screen. Up next, the Friday lightning round and your choice online, topic of the week.


BAIER: Every week on, the "Special Report" home page viewers vote on what topic we should discuss first during this, the Friday lightning round and today, the winner is -- drum roll, please -- Stephen Hayes' wild card pick. There is the wild card. It was a close race. First day back from vacation, and you win. What is it?

HAYES: I'm thrilled! Well, with the one-year anniversary of the uprising in Iran tomorrow, my question is, should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the green movement in Iran today? And the right answer, the correct answer and the surprising answer is that we should be optimistic. There is very little to be optimistic about with respect to Iran. But with the green movement, we should be optimistic for two reasons. One, the profusion of information is taking the kinds of, you know, restive movements that we're seeing in Iran and accelerating them.

BAIER: Twitter and Facebook. And the social networking.

HAYES: Everything. Yes. Even if you have questions about how much Twitter really ultimately matters, there is no question that the Internet, all of those things adding to the spread of information, how quickly it happens. But the more important issue is the deep split in the clerics, in the clerical leadership. And the public split in the clerical leadership. This is a theocracy, it is a mugging of the -- the regime, the leadership and the regime is discredited down below it. It is being further discredited every day and you have senior clerics calling to question what the rest of the leadership is doing, that's the real reason to be optimistic.

BAIER: And you got the whole lightning aspect of this.


BAIER: Juan?


WILLIAMS: I know in these councils that the sanctions that were put in place by the U.N. have been widely disparaged as meaningless and the like, but I think one aspect of them is they are going to put more pressure on the republican guarding people who are in charge, inside Iran. So, to that extent, I can see some reason for optimism but by and large, I just think they have crushed much of it. So, I'm glad to hear what Steve said, I just hope it's true.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. I'm afraid Steve is mistaken. I admire his romanticism but I'm older and wiser and my cynicism tells me that Twitter cannot stop a bullet. That's the lesson of what happened last year, there was a lot of romantic outpouring here thinking that, you know, Facebook is going to stop the revolutionary, the guards. It doesn't. Thuggery, a determined regime, oppressive that will shoot almost always wins and defenseless students in the street who are on their Twitters are no match for them.

BAIER: Next up, the Democratic Senate Nominee in South Carolina, Alvin Greene. This guy has been the center of a lot of questions both from Republicans and Democrats in South Carolina. What about this? He is going up against Jim DeMint. He spent no money on the campaign. Didn't have a campaign website, yet, he won. Juan?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, the charge is that he was showing some tawdry pictures to a young person. And, I mean, the only thing I can say in Mr. Greene's defense is Democrats voted for him, so I guess he is the candidate. There was no suggestion that there was any election corruption.

BAIER: Yes, he faces a felony charge for obscene photos to a college student.

KRAUTHAMMER: I love the story. The Democratic Party in South Carolina has refused to give him any help and he complains saying, they ought to be pro-South Carolina and not anti-Greene, which is a great slogan. There is a serious issue underlying this. He did have to put down the $10,000 to register and people are suspicious that it could have been a Republican operative. I hope it wasn't.

BAIER: Steve?

HAYES: But if it were a Republican operative, they would be helping him in his race against Jim DeMint. Nobody had any chance of winning against Jim DeMint. These kinds of conspiracies are most easily explained by the fact that it doesn't make any sense on its surface.

BAIER: OK, finally.

WILLIAMS: A Lee Atwater, that would be a Lee Atwater trick.

BAIER: Finally, we want to talk about Stephen Strasburg, the Washington National's pitcher. The phenom, 14 strike-outs this week in a game that we wish we were at. Charles was there! Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. I was there. I must say, it was the best game I've ever seen and I've seen a lot. I saw Sandy Koufax once, I was probably sucking on a lollipop all that game. But I remembered a little bit, the greatest performance in a debut ever and the most exciting game I think I've ever seen.

BAIER: Juan, we had updates up in New York for primary coverage.

WILLIAMS: You know, I'm just astounded by the response. I have an old friend, I mean, he is in his mid-80s, and he doesn't go to the games anymore because he has to go to bed and he watched on TV and he said it was the most astounding performance he had ever seen. This is a very critical sports fan.

BAIER: Steve?

HAYES: As somebody who is more excited about the opening of the NFL training camp in a month, I'm thrilled for Charles that he was there. And the fact that Strasburg is in Washington may do a long way to Charles' continuing effort to recruit me back to baseball. To return me to my baseball fandom.

KRAUTHAMMER: But after that sacrilege, I'm not sure I can.


BAIER: You're 0 for 2 tonight.

KRAUTHAMMER: Wow! You got two answers wrong, really wrong. Oh, boy.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. Welcome back, by the way. But stay tuned for the answer to another big question in sports. 

Special Report, hosted by Bret Baier, airs on Weekdays at 6PM ET on Fox News Channel.