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Special Report

Mounting Debt, Leaking Oil Threaten Obama Agenda; Helen Thomas Under Fire

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are going to cut through any bureaucratic red tape, any problems that we've got, and we will fix the problems that have been identified, and we'll keep on coming back until we have dealt with an unprecedented crisis.

This report is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day.  I want to emphasize that most of the jobs this month that we're seeing in the statistics represent workers who have been hired to complete the 2010 census.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Two stops today: President Obama today earlier in Maryland talking about the unemployment rate dropping to 9.7, but the markets tanked on that news because almost all of the jobs were created were for the census, as he talked about.

He's down in the Gulf region right now and he has cancelled a planned trip to Australia and to Indonesia because of the Gulf oil spill. He is dealing with a lot. How is he doing?

Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Not to mention, Fred, that the national debt is increasing, over $13 trillion. $5 billion a day this administration is adding.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Bret, that is real money. That's for sure. Look, President Obama is great when he is talking about hope and change and the future and his promises and what the policies will lead to in the glorious days ahead. But when it comes to dealing with the problems in front of him now, particularly the ones he hadn't expected the oil crisis, the fiscal and debt crisis with the deficit building up at a fast pace, and then high unemployment, the president has trouble dealing with those things and he would rather talk about the agenda.

The oil crisis, what is the message there according to the president?  We have to pass cap-and-trade. I don't think that is really the message.

And the unemployment numbers today were horrible. Only 10 percent were private jobs in the job growth, and a good number of those were probably from the clean up down in the Gulf of Mexico and so are not permanent jobs. Everyone knew that was a setback and it will get worse next month when many of these census workers are let go.

What is needed by a president is effective crisis management, and dealing with today's problems even if you haven't planned on it, debt crisis and oil spill and high unemployment. You have to deal with it effectively and concentrate on it. President Obama doesn't do that well.

BAIER: Juan, Robert Gibbs was asked yesterday about analysts who are out there saying his legislative agenda has been hijacked by the Gulf oil spill. And he responded that they have been counted out many times before.  But this is a low point for this administration, correct?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it's a low point in this regard, Bret. When you look at the political prowess of the president, and remember he has been a popular president, especially when he came in and among Democrats remains fairly popular, I think right now Democrats are starting to question his competence and his ability.

His ability as a political player in terms of the job offers to Sestak and the like, and the fact that you know what, it didn't work. Even if you thought, well, I don't know if it's illegal or legal, it didn't work. Sestak won the race, Romanoff, the guy from Colorado, went his own way. People aren't responding.

And the question is then does he have the muscle when it comes to that legislative agenda on the Hill?

In general, though, you have seen pieces in Politico and the Washington Post talking about what happened to the great competence of the team that so ably ran the 2008 team and surprised America and took an African-American candidate to the presidency, an astounding achievement?

And it seems to be that people feel you know what, when it comes to crisis management, and this is what Fred was saying they don't take it that seriously. They didn't the Gulf oil crisis as their own initially. They see the legislative agenda as their own, but they think, you know, well, we didn't anticipate this happening.

It's like, you know, we knew we came into an economic crisis. That was hand-delivered to us. We didn't make it. We didn't make the wars hand-delivered to us. We will deal with it.

But they don't inspire confidence, or is it the focal point of their energy in terms with dealing with crisis. And I think that is putting this general sense that it may end up that David Broder wrote this week in the Post it becomes a Jimmy Carter-style Iranian hostage crisis for President Obama.

BAIER: Charles, those small things, no matter the perspective, but the things left to fester become big problems.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: They do, and they all add up. And I think what has happened to the president is that the persona he constructed in '07, '08, he was a rock star, shooting star, a guy, you know, hope and change. As we just heard, a man who rocketed, ended up in the presidency no one would have expected.

That is the persona I think which has been completely undermined in the last couple of months. Look, he was going to be Mr. Clean. He's going to throw the money changers out of the temple. He was going to have a new kind of politics, none of the special interest.

Over a year we saw the backroom deals on healthcare, the Louisiana purchase, all of that. And if you say that was Congress, well, now we get the stories of the White House with Sestak, Romanoff, all of this sort of semi-sleazy stuff.

Then his other attribute as the candidate was that he was the super, Mr. Fix-it, a man of the mystical powers. He wasn't only going to fix our economy and make everyone happy and put a chicken in every basket, which every candidate promises, he was going to heal the planet and make the oceans recede. And now he can't close a spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Look, I never believed any of this rubbish but a lot of people over the age of 15 did. And now the guy who is going to walk on water is powerless today. He can't walk on water, the Gulf of Mexico ducks can't walk on water. He looks powerless.

The last element was he was a transcender, a uniter, no blue or red states, we're all the United States of America. He's been hyper-partisan unlike any other administrations in the recent years, and all of the elements of his persona has been undermined. He's now ordinary and helpless at the same time.

BAIER: Last thing, Fred. 2008, in February, President Obama in New Orleans said about President Bush's handling of Katrina, we can talk about a trust that was broken, the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, will respond in a catastrophe.

BARNES: I bet he wishes he hasn't said that now. Look at how much more fortunate he is than President Bush. President Bush had to deal with a completely feckless mayor of New Orleans and dud for governor of Louisiana.

And who does Obama get to deal with? Bobby Jindal, a forceful, strong, smart young governor of Louisiana. Yet it took Obama two weeks, two weeks to approve the sand berms that Jindal wanted to build to block the oil from reaching the marshes. That is not decisive leadership.

WILLIAMS: Let me say quickly that I think his enemies and all the critics are feasting on him right now, but I think you will see that he has the capacity to bounce back from this once he gets the messaging straight and communicates well to the American people about things that I think he may care about, but he is just too cool and analytical at the moment for the situation.

BAIER: Heal their pain.

KRAUTHAMMER: He'll never walk on water again.

WILLIAMS: You're mocking him. You just enjoy mocking the guy.

BAIER: Go to the homepage at Foxnews.com/specialreport. Let us know what you think the president's biggest problem is. There is our only poll on the right there.

And next up, the Friday lightning round, your choice online topic of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Every week on the Foxnews.com/specialreport homepage, you, the viewers, vote on the topic we should discuss this, during this, the Friday lightning round.

Today, it was neck in neck, but in the end, the big winner was -- drum roll, please -- Fred Barnes' wild card pick. You look good there, Fred.  What is the pick?

BARNES: Am I a jack there? I should have been the king.

(LAUGHTER)

My pick is the Rod Blagojevich trial which began yesterday in Chicago.  They're doing jury selection now. But this poses a huge threat to President Obama, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, senior counsel at the White House, all because it deals with replacing Obama in the Senate.

Rod Blagojevich wanted to sell that senate seat for campaign contributions or be named secretary of health and human services and all the -- you know, there were calls from Rahm Emanuel dealings with Valerie Jarrett. The president was, I think, more aloof from it.

What you will get in the trial is you will get FBI tapes. Now, even if you are Emanuel and the others that will be on, even if you ordering a pizza, if it's on an FBI tape, it sounds criminal. So this could hurt.

BAIER: Potential problem, Juan?

WILLIAMS: It is. Rod Blagojevich has no credibility. He's obviously a desperate character flailing around and trying to draw anyone else he can under with him.

But it's damaging because Fred again is right on this notion it's Chicago-style politics. So when you get people talking deals and you get people like Jesse Jackson Jr. suddenly mucked up in this, Valerie Jarrett -- I don't think there will be any legal troubles, but it looks as if they were offering deals. People will say this is Chicago politics.

BAIER: Painting the picture.

Charles, next topic, resume boosting -- we have seen it numerous times now. Mark Kirk, Republican in Illinois, Dick Blumenthal in Connecticut, Jan Brewer now, the governor of Arizona, and now Alexi Giannoulias, the democratic candidate of Illinois. What about the resume-boosting in this campaign?

KRAUTHAMMER: This stuff always amazes me because I'm always amazed by the fact that people think they will get away with it.

And my favorite now is Jan Brewer who said her father died fighting Nazis in World War II. Unfortunately he died in the '50s and he was a munitions worker in Nevada in World War II. There you go from exaggeration to hallucination.

And you wonder how -- it's sort of like family lore stories that you tell each other that becomes engrained, unchallenged, but you don't say it in public.

BAIER: Governor Brewer blames the media in part for that whole thing.

OK, last topic, the Detroit Tigers' pitcher Armando Galarraga almost had the perfect game. The last out, there it is, the run to first. And the ump says it was safe. But then he said, you know what, that was a horrible call. Now there are calls for an overturn so he can have the perfect game.

Quickly down the row. Fred, what happens? What do they do?

BARNES: I don't think they do anything. Congress probably won't -- look, you can't go back and change an umpire's call later. You shouldn't.  That would be a terrible precedent. Besides, Galarraga will be the guy remembered as a guy cheated from a perfect game.

BAIER: What about if the ump comes out afterwards and says "I screwed up?"

WILLIAMS: I believe in justice and I think they should give the guy the perfect game. I think Bud Selig is feckless. He's like "I rely on precedent and what would they say about the bad call." This was the last out of the game. There is nothing after this. This is it. Come on, Bud.

BAIER: And of course you have politicians all trying to say it should be the perfect game. You've got every Michigan politician trying to pass legislation saying it was a perfect game.

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely. I think Juan reflects the perfect liberal view that there has to be justice in the world even if history has to be changed. But it can't be. History is history. It's a done deal. You don't undo it.

As John Kennedy once said, "Life is not fair." Einstein said, "Subtle is God, but malicious He is not." Fred is right. He will not be on the list of 20 who threw a perfect game, but he will be on his own list, the only guy ever who was robbed of the perfect game. He will become a verb -- "I was Galarragaed."

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: Down the row, is it overturned?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely not.

WILLIAMS: I'll say to you, but Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa on the baseball records. You like that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Strike them out.

WILLIAMS: You conservatives...

BAIER: One word, yes or no?

BARNES: No.

(LAUGHTER)