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Special Report

Obama and BP Latest; Change of Strategy in Afghanistan

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our immediate task is to deal with a crisis that is affecting millions of people down on the Gulf, but we can't keep our eye off the importance of having an energy policy that meets the needs of the next generation.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: I don't think the American people are interested in having a national energy tax, particularly one at this juncture, recommended by BP.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Well, as the oil continues to flow into the Gulf, we just received a letter that was sent to BP by Admiral Thad Allen, the incident commander, the national incident commander.

Among other things where he says this, "As part of the ongoing communication, I request you and any appropriate officials from BP meet with senior administration officials on Wednesday June 16, 2010, to discuss these timely issues. President Obama will participate in a portion of this meeting."

So that answers one question that we've been trying to get an answer to, whether President Obama would meet with CEO Tony Hayward of BP, and it appears he will be a part of that meeting at least in part.

We have a lot of other questions and issues to cover. Let's bring in the panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Fred, we heard the president and the Senate minority leader talking about energy taxes and climate change bills, and meantime the flow rate is at 20,000 to 40,000 barrels a day still in the Gulf. What about the context here?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the context is one that doesn't help anyone, particularly President Obama. Look, he has to focus in like a laser on the Gulf and on the oil spill and on the leak that continues. That's the thing that people are interested in. They can worry about cap and trade and his legislation on energy and global warming later.

There is a reason, however, why he and other Democrats keep bringing that up. It's because they know after November they're not going to have these large majority in the House and Senate. Those will have vanished and they won't get anything like cap and trade through Congress.

What the president though needs to do is not show emotion and talk about kicking butt and all that stuff. He needs to show strong leadership and good crisis management. We haven't seen much of that.

Even the letter you talk about, Bret, is addressed to the chairman of the board. That is not the guy in charge of the company. It's Hayward, the CEO, who for some reason the president hasn't talked to. And the president said in one interview he didn't want to talk to him because he probably wouldn't hear the truth from him.

Look, he is the president of the United States. You bring in the guy in the oval office and you go one on one with him and you're the president and he is just a company CEO, you have the upper hand. You can handle a guy like that.

It is weird to me he wouldn't have invited him in and really landed on him, instead of the things that are now angering everybody in Britain, trashing BP, which is actually hurting American foreign policy but unified the British press. They're all critical of Obama.

BAIER: A number of British officials speaking out. The mayor of London saying it doesn't help. One British official said, "The Obama administration has the boot on the neck of the British pensioners," and another said, "Mr. Obama's attitude was explicable but despicable." We had good quotes today.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: First, I don't think this is going to be a major rift in U.S.-British relations. However, it does illustrate how big the problem is and how it has a lot of tentacles.

And one of them is the fact that BP is such a huge company that is so important to the British economy that, yes, a lot of pensioners depend on BP stock for their retirement benefits, and it's hurting.

But I don't think there's something that President Obama could magically do to make the stock rise even if he stopped criticizing BP. Still, they're facing tremendous liabilities and the markets are making judgments about that.

BAIER: All right, what about the message?

LIASSON: Yes, the message.

BAIER: For the Obama administration?

LIASSON: I think whether or not he meets with Tony Hayward, I imagine his critics saying it's just theater to call in the CEO and dress him down. I think the most important thing that the president and the administration can do is be in control of the containment and clean-up effort. There's not much they can do about capping the actual well.

And in the last few weeks the president gotten that message and is starting to go to the Gulf a lot and takes his first two-day trip next week and will go to several states.

In terms of the energy bill, I think that there is a story to be told here about why it's important to start the process of moving away from our dependence on fossil fuels. That's what an energy bill is supposed to do. Whether cap-and-trade is the right way to go, I don't know. I prefer the Krauthammer plan. But that I think is OK.

BAIER: Charles, before we talk about that, there is talk about we were in charge from day one, we are in charge and we tell BP what to do. There was this exchange on Capitol Hill yesterday that Major Garrett covered. Take a listen real quick to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has BP at any point refused to do what the government has asked?

KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Yes, we have had a directed relationship with them. And we have wanted them to do something it has ordered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have they ever refused?

SALAZAR: They have not refused anything that I have ordered them to do. Now whether -- but I'm not running the operation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: He said he was not running the operation. It was a painful exchange there.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He had a really long think. If he wasn't prepared for the question like that, is he prepared for anything? I thought from the beginning he has been the weakest of links here, and I think he should have been gone a long time ago. He's not presented to the administration's position with any deftness at all.

And as you say, he's contradicting; on a Monday, the administration says we're in charge. Then if things are a little out of control and visuals were bad, well, we are not really in charge. It's the oil company. So they really haven't gotten one story straight on that from the get-go.

Now on the British, on the question of our English cousins, it's nice to see them having, showing a little starch over this issue. I expect Hessians will be landing on the east coast again.

It is not so that the administration has not had an effect on the price, on the share price. On the day that it was announced that we were going to go after the oil company criminally, there was a collapse of the price. And that was an escalation that was entirely unnecessary, it would not help in the cleanup.

And there was not a shred of evidence that Eric Holder presented to demonstrate even some element of criminality in this. And yet he did it. Obviously the administration had decided it had to take a populist tack, as the way to bolster its position on this because it was late, it was perceived as being ineffective, et cetera, so it would beat up on the company.

And the Brits are right. This is a serious issue for our ally. It affects a seventh of their pensioners. And that is a big deal in Britain, and we ought to keep it in mind, particularly when we are involved in a war where the Brits are our best and most reliable ally.

BAIER: We didn't even talk about the moratorium and questions there, but there will be more panels on this, I promise. Please visit our homepage at foxnews.com/specialreport. Vote in the online poll for the first topic in Friday's lightning round. Up next, a change of plans in Afghanistan.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, ISAF COMMANDER: I think it's likely that our casualties and violence will continue to rise through the summer months and they could rise well into the fall. But I think it's important because I think it's the pressure we place on the insurgency that will be in the security part of this effort important.

It's my personal assessment that it will be more deliberate than we probably communicated or than we thought earlier and communicated so I think it will take a number of months for this to play out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, with a bit of reality on places on the ground where places like Marjah where the U.S. Marines cleared out, they are seeing a Taliban resurgence in the past few weeks there as they prepare for another offensive in Kandahar.

 This as British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Afghanistan. He said the British public wants to see real progress this year but he thinks they're giving him time.   We're back with the panel. Fred?

BARNES: I don't know how much time you have there. I think there will be a squeeze on President Obama and David Cameron as prime minister of England.

One, if you see the British press, even the conservative press like The Daily Mail is very much against the war in Afghanistan. Of course, the liberal press The Guardian and those liberal newspapers are against it as well, so it's hard on Cameron. But in July, 2011, when Obama starts wanting to bring the troops out, I think it will be very hard. McChrystal found out how difficult Afghanistan is, and how much more difficult it is, I think and he probably does too, than Iraq. Iraq was a real country. Afghanistan is a bunch of tribes. And bringing them together and setting up a government that can offer services in Kandahar or something is very, very difficult. So I think President Obama, and a poll showed majority of Americans think it's not worth the trouble, not worth the effort, he is squeezed in popular opinion and then he's got this artificial deadline he set. It will be difficult.

BAIER: But with the Brits it's a different leadership and that makes a big difference?

BARNES: I'm not sure it does make a difference. David Cameron as the new prime minister is freer to pull troops out than the Labour Government was after expressing a strong commitment.

BAIER: But he's not saying that yet.

BARNES: No.

BAIER: Mara?

LIASSON: I think the public, Democrats in Congress gave the president about a year to see if he could make this work, which means next spring. July, 2011, is the date the president for beginning a drawdown. He has a lot of wiggle room there. He can take out the equivalent of handful of troops.

BAIER: As long as the conditions on the ground --

LIASSON: Sure. And he can take some out without hurting the war effort there.

 I think one of the big fallacies is the idea you can have a government in a box, the famous statement, that you can bring in to give services to people. The government in the box doesn't exist.   But even before you can bring in the government in a box to places like Marjah, you have to provide security for people so they feel safe cooperating with you. The story in the Post of people getting beheaded or killed if they work with Americans or participate even if irrigation projects where they have a well in their field given to them by the Americans, that marks them for assassination by the Taliban.   Clearly it's clearly harder. I still think the president was given a certain amount of forbearance by the American people. It will take longer than he thought. But he's going to have to succeed. He cannot pull out it if it doesn't work.

BAIER: Charles, is this president getting more leeway somehow even though the war is not going as well as they planned?

KRAUTHAMMER: He is, of course. If we had this level of casualties in the Bush administration the press would be a lot more hostile. Democrats in Congress would be a lot more hostile.

 But I think he has hurt the cause in this way. As Mara said, a lot of the people in Afghanistan who help us are now under attack. They know if the enemy returns to the village, they will be slaughtered if they help the Americans. And I'm not sure that peasants in Afghanistan are as sophisticated as Mara in understanding that when a president announces a deadline to begin a withdrawal that it's only a feint to the American left. They read it as the Americans start leaving in July of next year. That is just about a year, and if I help the Taliban, they will be here in August of 2011. The Americans are going to start leaving, and I'm going to be beheaded if I help the Americans today. I think that is one of the reasons why it's harder to get the assistance of the locals. The reason the surge succeeded in Iraq is because we had a president of extreme stubbornness and it was understood in the region he didn't have a timeline and he was going to go with the surge until it succeed or failed.   And once Iraqis understood that, they started to give us intelligence, which created a virtuous cycle of increasing security, more intelligence, and ultimately success. And that is in jeopardy if you announce a timeline in advance as we have in Afghanistan.