This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from August 10, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL, D-N.Y.: All I'm saying i s if it is the judgment for people here, for whatever reason, that I resign, then, heck, have the Ethics Committee expedite this. Don't leave me swinging in the wind until November.
If this is an emergency and I think it is to help our local and state governments out, what about me? I don't want anyone to feel embarrassed or awkward. Hey, if I was you, I may want me to go away, too. I am not going away. I am here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: In a rambling, often emotional speech on the House floor today, Congressman Charlie Rangel defended himself, saying he is not going anywhere. He used a point of personal privilege allowing really up to an hour of speech on the House floor. He took up 37 minutes to make his case. Republicans were quick to pounce, putting out this statement: "It's official -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's most ethical Congress in history has turned into a three-ring circus." We have this, plus the Maxine Waters charges -- both appear headed to a trial in the Ethics Committee this fall.
Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Charles, what about this? I mean, it was fairly historic and it was definitely a spectacle.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It was. As you say, it was rambling and disjointed, but also poignant. He looked a little bit lost.
But I think there was actually one very clear point he tried to make, and I think it reflected what his lawyers said at the time when the charges were read a few weeks ago. We were trying to understand at the time, and I think he made it clear. He is willing to concede, and he did on the floor, that he made misjudgments, he'd made errors, he'd been sloppy, negligent. He pushed the rules a bit, overdid the perks. I think he confessed, admitted all of that, essentially apologized.
But what he refused to do was to admit any corruption, that he sold his office. You know it has to do with center he was setting up and the way he solicited funds. He said look, I grabbed stationery and it had the wrong stationery head, that's not a hanging offense.
And I think that is why, what is so hard to understand -- why wouldn't you accept reprimand, avoid a trial, stay in your seat and have it over with? He refuses to accept it because -- he'll admit to anything, but he won't admit to charges that imply that he sold his office. And that's where he makes his stand.
And I commend him on, you know, his integrity, or at least his belief he didn't -- that he didn't transgress in that case and he should defend himself.
BAIER: Juan, at one point he actually threw down the gauntlet, challenging his colleagues. Take a listen to this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANGEL: We judge the conduct of our own members. If I can't get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot in getting rid of me through expulsion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: That was something.
JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, because, you know what, Charlie Rangel doesn't think he did anything wrong.
As Charles said, he will concede that there was at times a lack of sensitivity to appearance -- as in the case of the rent-controlled apartment used for campaigning or he says an aid made some mistakes and he signed off in terms of disclosing money on paying taxes on the villa down in the Dominican Republic.
But the best line that came out of this is when he said Charlie Rangel didn't make a nickel. You've got to produce a witness that indicates I personally made a nickel. I guess what he is thinking in his mind is he's comparing himself to the previous members of Congress, you know, who took money from contractors or had houses repaired or getting bank accounts filled by people getting government contracts.
He just doesn't feel he belongs in that category and he thinks this is overkill and he certainly thinks that for all the Democrats that he helped raise money for, that they are a bunch of ingrates who don't appreciate what Charlie Rangel has done in the past. And the fact is, he is the cofounder of the Black Caucus and he has been there for 40 years.
But what is missing here, you know, anybody I think who has ever felt they were unfairly charged with something or beaten up, he is standing up and he's saying, you know what, it could be you.
BAIER: But Juan, come on, there are people sitting at home saying this is Washington. This is inside Washington. This is -- for a congressman saying the moral equivalent is I'm not as bad as the other guy, it's a tough speech to watch if you are voter heading to polls, isn't it?
WILLIAMS: I'm not even looking for it from the voters' perspective yet.
WILLIAMS: But outside Washington, I think people will say, you know what, this guy didn't disclose half a million dollars and he's supposed to be head of the House Ways and Means Committee, chairman of tax -- that's crazy.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Juan's defending him. Charles calls it a poignant speech. My own boss, Bill Kristol, defends Charles Rangel.
BAIER: You know how many e-mails we got about that?
HAYES: I think I'm the only person -- everybody in Washington seems to like Charlie Rangel. I don't care. I don't care if he is a nice guy. Poor Charlie. I mean, he gives 37-minute speech whining about his mistreatment? What about his mistreatment of the taxpayers? I mean, everything he did was corrupt.
He's acting like he is being singled out for things that everybody else does. It's a bipartisan ethics committee. It's a Democratic Congress. He has been given lots and lots of rope by Nancy Pelosi. They've bent over backwards to do anything about this.
It's amazing to me -- I've said it before and I'll say it again -- amazing to me that this process has taken as long as it has with the kind of evidence that we have -- uncovered by the right-wing news media outlets like The New York Times. It's amazing that we actually haven't. And the one point on which I'll agree with Charlie Rangel is this should be expedited. Let's go, have the vote. Kick him out. Kick him out.
WILLIAMS: You mean left-wing news organizations like The New York Times
BAIER: He was being facetious -- just a tad.
KRAUTHAMMER: That's what I call a stem-winder.
BAIER: All right, we're not going to have time for Maxine Waters and we will get back to that case as it develops into the trial in September.
Thoughts now on the life, legacy and this tragic death of Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska. Quickly down the row. Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Decorated World War II airman, a man who really made Alaska into a state; it was a frontier. And ironically a man who will be remembered for something he didn't do: He lost his seat because of a conviction that was overturned after his election, but the guilty charge happened a week before the election. So he lost his seat and thus, because he wasn't in the Senate, Obama-care passed. It never would have happened if that prosecutorial injustice hadn't happened. It's a footnote history but it's a very important one.
WILLIAMS: I just think he was somebody, when I came to Washington, Ted Stevens knows how this place works. He played the game in a way that anybody would say, in terms of delivering on money to Alaska, set to pace to everywhere else, bridges to everywhere and more money for this and more money for that. He's a wonderful man, I guess. I don't know. But he was a master of the Senate.
HAYES: Well, certainly he was a hero in his military service. He was the kind of senator that we're not going to see much anymore with the passing of Robert Byrd, the passing of Ted Stevens. You had senators in their jobs, basically to bring bacon, bring the money back to the states.
I think with the proliferation of information that we're seeing today, that makes it much more difficult to do that on a systemic basis as they've done.
BAIER: And perhaps the economic situation as well, people being aware of it.
The first Guantanamo Bay trial of the Obama presidency is underway. Tell us what you think the administration should do with terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. You can vote right there on our online poll on the homepage, foxnews.com/specialreport.
We're back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I hereby order and we then provide the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now. We will be -- is there a separate executive order, Greg, with respect to how we're going to dispose of detainees? Is that written --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're setting up a process.
OBAMA: We will be setting up a process whereby this is going to be taking place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Those are the first days of the Obama administration and there wasn't a process. Guantanamo Bay is still open after one year. In fact, the president promised to close that and he criticized the military commissions, the trials by his predecessor. Now, there is a trial moving forward.
Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is the first trial being tried for war crimes in the military commissions under President Obama. He was picked up on the battlefield by the U.S. military in Afghanistan at the age of 15 and has been in detention ever since.
We're back with the panel. Let's talk about this case first, Steve, and what's behind it. What about the case the government has against Khadr?
HAYES: Khadr is allegedly to have thrown a grenade that killed a U.S. military official. He is a known Al Qaeda operative, he was a 15-year-old, as you mentioned. He was a known Al Qaeda operative. His family moved to be close to Usama bin Laden, he trained in an Al Qaeda camp. You showed earlier a video of him putting together IEDs. He's a bad guy.
His defense lawyers claimed he was tortured, basically, but the only real evidence they produced isn't actually evidence at all, because it comes from him and it comes from the lawyers. And they are making all of the wild claims some of which have been actually dis-proven. They said he was tortured during his weigh-in. There is videotape of his weigh-in and he wasn't tortured during his weigh-in.
In one case interrogator went too far and made suggestion, told him a story about another detainee.
BAIER: We are looking at video of him in Guantanamo Bay.
HAYES: An interrogator told him a story about another detainee who had been sent overseas and suggested that the same thing, brutalized, and suggest the same thing could happen. And his lawyers are in effect using the fruit of the poisoned tree argument, you can't use any evidence or anything he told us because it may have come from torture.
BAIER: Juan, human rights groups are saying this is enormously disappointing -- the left is saying the whole thing is enormously disappointing, listening to candidate Obama on the campaign trail and seeing President Obama move forward with this.
What about that element of it?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think that President Obama made a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay. There's no debate about that. But he is now up against the real need to do something with people who are held there who are a danger to America and I think to the world, in many cases.
So the question is, how do you get these people out? In the sound bite that you played, he is asking his former White House counsel, do you have a way to determine how we deal with the folks? And he's told at the time yes, we have a process.
BAIER: There is a process.
WILLIAMS: There is no process. That is the situation now.
And one of the arguments being made here in the Khadr case is, he has been offered a deal -- 30 years in jail -- and we don't have to do this. His attorneys and others are saying the reason this is the first case is because this is a sure bet this will be a prosecution that succeeds and that could set down a model for what happens with the others.
The idea is to empty out that prison. That's the best hope that President Obama has at this point.
BAIER: Charles, you hear Robert Gibbs talking off the cuff apparently to The Hill newspaper about the "professional left" and how the president really can't get a break with them on the left. On this issue, he is definitely not getting a break from that side of his party.
KRAUTHAMMER: The irony is that the president was a member of the professional left until he became commander-in-chief. As professor, as a senator, as a candidate he railed against Guantanamo and as we saw, even a couple days into office, he says, well, we've got a process. We will work it out.
He is president now and he knows that Guantanamo is exactly what we needed. It fits all of our requirements. It's already established, it's humane. It works. We are now having the trials. I think there is not a chance that it's going to close. In the end it will remain open. Best place to be.
BAIER: Down the line, is it open a year from now?
HAYES: Yes. His own State Department last week issued a report in their terrorism report saying we can't export people to Yemen because it's too dangerous.
BAIER: That is it for the panel, not it for the topic, I'm sure.