SPECIAL REPORT

'All-Star' Panel Weighs in on Federal Government's Challenge to Arizona Law, U.S. Relations With Israel

BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: The Justice Department filed suit against the state of Arizona over the new immigration law. Here is a piece of the filing:

"In our constitutional system, the federal government has preeminent aut hority to regulate immigration matters. This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. The nation's immigration laws reflect a careful, considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations, and humanitarian interest."

Now, the court filing says Arizona law preempted the federal law, therefore violates the Constitution, as you heard there. But it makes no assertion that the law is discriminatory in any way, as the president said, administration officials have said, every time they talked about Arizona's law. Here is the reaction tonight just released from Arizona's governor Jan Brewer: "As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels. Now Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice. Today's filing is nothing more than a massive waste of taxpayer funds." What about all of this? Let's bring in the panel tonight, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I thought it was interesting that the filing, as you said, was exclusively on the grounds of the federal supremacy. You would have thought that the federal government, especially Obama and his administration have spoken out how they're offended by what they see as the potential for civil rights abuses in the law.

But that isn't the basis of the suit. I looked at it. I may have missed it, but I don't see an iota of that in there. So it's narrowly on the grounds this is the providence of the federal government. I'm glad the suit is brought. I want the judiciary to make a ruling on this. I think the state is going to win. And after that, I think it will open the way for other states and localities to do what the federal government is not doing. And the reason I think it will win is because A, it's very clear and I think that Arizona will make a case. The federal government has -- is in dereliction of its duties. It is not enforcing the border. And second, the federal argument in this that somehow Arizona arresting people who are here illegally is impeding or adding a burden on the federal government is fatuous. It's insisting -- if the Fed will argue we're undermanned, here we have Arizona, sort of volunteering its police, its officials to go out to find and to turn over to the federal government people who are here illegally. So if anything it's a form of assistance. I think it will lose and I think it will be a good day when this lawsuit loses.

BAIER: Mara, there is no civil rights charge against the Arizona law in the filing, one. And two, it's interesting the back and forth. On one side the suit says Arizona can't do this because it's the federal government's job. But then also Arizona is burdening the federal government because if they do it, they will send too many people our way, the federal government's way.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: First of all, I think if they are going to charge the civil rights have been violated, for instance, the American citizens pulled over as if they were illegals and racially profiled, I think that has to happen first.

BAIER: A test case.

LIASSON: Yes. And then there can be people who sue on those grounds. And maybe the federal government would join in on the suits.

But I think the argument that the United States is not enforcing the border, you have to define that. They have people there, and they have 1,200 more troops and they have surveillance and they have a wall being built. There certainly is a big effort going on to police the border.

It might not be possible to keep everybody out. And that is why you need some kind of solution to this problem once and for all, some kind of comprehensive solution to immigration.

BAIER: Charles, any response?

KRAUTHAMMER: Enforcement is not the alternative to amnesty.

(CROSSTALK)

KRAUTHAMMER: If you want to enforce the border, it can be done today in the absence of any new legislation. All you have to do is use what we have today.

BAIER: Bill, two Republican senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, quickly releasing statements saying that the federal government should not be suing Arizona and they should be stepping up the security along the border. What about this, how it's playing out politically?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it is a political game. I talked to two appellate lawyers this afternoon looking over the case law and they think it's a thin case. At best, it's arguable close call for the federal government and most likely they will lose.

They have preeminent authority, but that doesn't mean you have preemptive authority. It doesn't mean the state can do anything. There is a well know case in 1976 where Supreme Court precisely held in immigration context that the state could also legislate and complement the federal legislation, which is why, as you were saying, Bret, they then have to argue this impedes and burdens us.

But the Arizona law pretty much mirrors the federal law, and it's hard to see what it impedes and burdens.

So I think the federal government will have a tough time making the case. And so if you are in the solicitor general office, they don't bring close cases against laws that haven't been enforced yet, you can't prove it's a burden yet. As Mara said, they haven't done anything.

So why are they bringing the case? They are bringing it as part of the president's attempt to rally Hispanic voters for November.

BAIER: And they are seeking preliminary injunction to prevent the law from moving forward.

What about Governor Brewer and her pushback in all of this, saying they'll be aggressively defending the law? She has just tweeted moments ago that she is asking for money to keep Arizona safe in this lawsuit. What about that?

KRAUTHAMMER: It sort of makes her in a David and Goliath character, a state against the federal government. I think she has a case.

Look, they were really careful in drafting this. They knew it would be challenged. That's why I think it has a good chance of succeeding because it wasn't drawn up willy-nilly, and particularly because the federal case is not about civil rights issues where I think it might be more vulnerable.

I think it's a case that the state will likely win and will make her a bit of a -- not a national hero, but it will make her a name.

BAIER: We'll talk about the president's meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when we return after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States is committed to Israel security and we are committed to the special bond. And we are going to do what is required to back that up, not just with words but with actions.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israel relations, the relationship, aren't just premature. They are flat wrong. I very much appreciate the president's statements that he is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: This was a much different visit for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House today, saying the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. We're back with the panel. Bill, your thoughts on the meeting, what was accomplished and what perhaps wasn't.

KRISTOL: Anything important that was accomplished was accomplished in private and I don't think we know about it.

But certainly the president tried very hard to reassure our friends in Israel and the United States and there are many friends of Israel and the United States -- most of them not Jewish friends, although some of them, too -- that previous indications marked a shift in attitude toward Israel were mistaken or he was correcting them now.

And he went out of his way in a couple of different areas to sound like a strong friend of Israel. What is in his heart, who knows? What the administration might do six or 12 months from now, who knows? But the president doesn't want to spend the rest of 2010 pummeled by Republican candidates for Congress and by others as having to put the U.S.-Israel relationship in the worst shape it's been in 30 or 40 years.

LIASSON: We should say the effort to do that, pushing the reset button, has been underway for a long time. It has been many months that the administration has been trying to create the impression it left among the supporters of Israel. The raid on the flotilla disrupted that effort. Now they are getting back to it.

BAIER: Since the first visit.

LIASSON: Since then, they have been making an effort. There was interregnum because of attack on the blockade flotilla and now they're back to that. And we'll see what they agree on in public. Look, Israel has done things, some are symbolic, letting goods into Gaza. And now these talks are underway.

BAIER: Charles, the prime minister invited the president to Israel in the fall, and the president said I'm ready.

KRAUTHAMMER: That would be important and help Obama domestically.

I think the entire production we saw this morning was double domestic theater. Each had its domestic constituency. Obama, as Bill indicated, needed to show the large numbers of pro-Israeli Americans that he is not anti-Israel. That was the impression from the meeting in March, where he dealt disgracefully with the prime minister of Israel. So I think he undid a lot of that and gave a lot of reassurance on non-proliferation. He went through a litany of things of ways of defending Israel having a nuclear arsenal. Remember, this is a week after we had supported a resolution, or a couple weeks after we supported a resolution chastising Israel for not complying with the NPT. So this was a reassurance that Israel should and can maintain the nuclear deterrent. For Israel, important to show he has the support of the United States. It's the one ally in the world, without the United States Israel is adrift and in danger. So I think it helped Netanyahu as well. The substance all happened behind the scene. The Israeli's are very eager to have a resumption of direct negotiation with the Palestinians at the highest level, no preconditions, and on the final status on a settlement that will end the conflict. No proximity talks, no intermediate stuff, no halfway measures.

BAIER: The big enchilada.

KRAUTHAMMER: The Israelis want to go for what is possible right now, and it will be interesting to see how the Palestinians respond.

BAIER: I want to talk briefly about this other story getting attention all over the place. The NASA administrator in his statement in an interview to Al-Jazeera -- we want to play exactly what he said to Al- Jazeera. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I became the NASA administrator or before I became the NASA administrator, he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to re-inspire children to get to science and math and wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you in a diplomatic role to win the hearts and minds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all. It's not a diplomatic anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: He of course is President Obama giving direction to the NASA administrator. Bill, thoughts?

KRISTOL: To help them feel good. That is a fantastic phrase there, that is what the NASA administrator has been ordered by the president to do.

I do not believe that this Marine general had this idea -- I worked in the Cabinet secretary for Bill Bennett and when you wanted to say something with a greater authority, or a little panache, you say the president asked me to convey his best wishes to the school children. The president personally believes it's important that this happens, and usually the president doesn't know anything about it. But in this case, this is what the president told the NASA administrator, and that is a little mindboggling.

BAIER: Mara, foremost mission?

LIASSON: It seems a little surprising that foremost mission would be to work with the Muslim world on the self-esteem on their historic contributions, which are great in science and engineering a very long time ago.

BAIER: And the White House stood by the statement.

LIASSON: First of all, he said it. It was meant as a positive gesture to the Muslim world, and you don't want to take something like that back. But it just does seem a little bit puzzling this is the mission of NASA.

KRAUTHAMMER: It went beyond the Muslim outreach. It was about saying how indispensable, the international assistance going in space. The international space station was biggest waste of the history of space and he praised it as a kind of a U.N. where everybody hangs together and there is no war or disagreement.

I mean, this is sort of bizarre that this is a way to attack it as a waste of our technology. We already have a U.N. on the ground that's worthless. You want to replicate another in space at the cost of $100 billion? He thinks it's a good idea. You can't make this stuff up.

KRISTOL: One more sentence in the interview that didn't get a lot of coverage. NASA is not only space agency but it is also an Earth improvement agency. It's like baby talk now.