(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: I have never said this is going well, but we are throwing everything we've got. This is the largest oil spill response in the history of t he country.
I said time and time again, nothing good happens when oil is on the water, and we're making no illusions that this is anything other than a catastrophe and we're addressing it as such and we'll continue to do that.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: President Obama emoting in an interview on NBC. We just learned from the White House he is heading back down to the Gulf region on Monday and Tuesday for another trip there. This is as on day 50 of the spill, BP salvaged more oil than it spilled. That was a first, some good news.
What about the politics of all of this, as you look at the well, still spewing out oil. Let's bring in our expanded panel. Rich Lowry from the National Review, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, Bill Kristol, editor if The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio.
Rich, what about all of this and the president's statement that he's looking to kick somebody's you-know-what?
RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: I'm so disappointed. The one thing I liked about Obama all along is that he didn't feel my pain. He sort of had an old school, traditional affect where he wasn't overly emotional.
The fundamental problem he has here is he has to take responsibility given the dynamics of the modern presidency over a situation he doesn't have full control over. He can't stop that well from leaking the oil and as long as he does, people won't approve of the handling of the situation and he has to resort to basically theater, Thad Allen doing separate briefings and saying he will kick ass. It doesn't make much of a difference.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: President Obama is distant and he's cool, he's rarely defensive, except in his interview with you in March. We don't see him with his back up like this.
And it's almost like it's purposeful at this point. The tough talk is uncharacteristic. It just seems like a political PR mop-up at this point, and it doesn't really seem as if it will be an effective way of changing the public perception that he was in outrage as everybody else from the beginning.
Be on the ground and keep going to the Gulf and do what Governor Bobby Jindal has done, which is not go back to his desk for 49, 50 days, and be out in the field and talk to people affected by this. But all of the interviews where he's not acting like himself is just not going to help.
BAIER: Bill, is Spike Lee and James Carville and Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd rising to advisor status now?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I guess he is listening to them. If he is going down to the Gulf Monday and Tuesday, he has to have a bunch of meetings in the White House to find out whose ass to kick.
The best thing about his statement is not really that I'm -- excuse the vulgarity, "I want to kick some ass, I'm angry." If the president said that, you'd say, fine, he's angry. But I love his formulation that the reason I listen to these experts is that they have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.
He's so professorial that he thinks you have to call a meeting of experts to decide whose ass to kick. Don't most politicians, most executives just decide that at some point, I'm going to go get mad and they don't have the meetings experts in the Roosevelt Room to decide who to get mad at.
BAIER: Juan, this is a change of tone definitely. Previously he said he would to love spend time venting and yelling at people. That is not the job I was hired to do. He said when asked about the federal government's boot on the neck of BP, he said, "I would say we don't need language like that," but we do need this other language?
JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: You need it now. Let's look at the numbers and look at it strategically. You have according to a Washington Post/ABC poll today that 64 percent of Americans want criminal charges against BP, 80 percent of Americans are critical of BP.
And when it comes to the federal response, you get 69 percent saying the federal government, the Obama administration's response has been lacking. Only 62 percent said that about hurricane Katrina in the Bush administration. They are more negative about this than Katrina.
When you break out down, here is what surprised me, is the amount of the partisan divide -- 56 percent of Democrats, Democrats are negative on the oil spill, and 81 percent of the Republicans, obviously a large majority of Republican.
And when you go back to Katrina, it was 41 percent of Republicans negative on Katrina versus 79 percent of Democrats. So you see a very partisan response.
But you'll note here, still, you have a majority of Democrats who are negative about the way President Obama has been handling the oil spill, and that touches on what you said about Spike Lee and James Carville. And I think that's why, to come back to Rich's point, he has to emote and put on a little theater. He has to put on a show. He can't stop the leak, but he better show that he cares, otherwise Democrats think, you know, this guy is too analytical, he's too cool, he's too Bill Kristol. We don't want a Bill Kristol, we want an actor!
BAIER: Rich, what about the timeline? The administration is trying to say they were in charge from day one, and then you look at the actual timeline of how it went down. The president's first trip, May 2nd, 12 days after the rig explosion, and his first public comment came nine days into the crisis, and that was during a national teacher of the year event.
All this happened after his family vacation to North Carolina after he played golf for three days. The timeline doesn't seem to add up to the story they are trying to tell us.
LOWRY: Clearly they underestimated the magnitude of this thing and didn't get ahead of it with the PR game. Once you are behind that ball, as Bush learned in Katrina, there is no catching up. Bush spent the rest of his presidency visiting New Orleans.
And I think a lot of this is unfair. The coordination with the Louisiana officials probably could have been better. There have been some bureaucratic miscues. But this is an enormous, unprecedented event, and even if it went perfectly with the government response you'd be basically looking at what I believe we're seeing now.
BAIER: So A.B., how does it translate to Democrats in races? Does this really have a shadow on some of these tied-to-the-administration folks?
STODDARD: It absolutely does. Blanche Lincoln, senator of Arkansas, who's facing possibly the end of her career tonight in the primary there, she has been tagged as a corporate Democrat friendly with big oil.
But to be fair, both sides are spooked. Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington are wondering how this will spill into the elections this fall. Republicans who opposed regulation and are friendly with the industry and taking contributions are painted as such by Democrats.
Democrats are holding the bag, knowing that the Democratic Congress and Democratic administration let the Minerals Management Service tasked with policing and enforcing existing safety regulations on the industry didn't do so. They were minding the store and didn't do it.
KRISTOL: Can I say this? You're too modest to say this, Bret. The president of the United States in the quote to Matt Lauer, he was down there a month ago, May 2nd, "Before most of the talking heads were paying attention to the Gulf."
But the fact is, I did a little bit of research, here on "Special Report," the talking heads, probably Charles, maybe you and someone else, you discussed it twice the week before the president was down there. It was unjust of him to say that. I want to defend "Special Report" against the president's attack on those talking heads.
BAIER: We have opening in our brain room if you want to do research.
Juan, is there a big shadow for Democrats? How much political hay is to be made out of how this was handled?
WILLIAMS: I don't think there's a whole lot to be made. If you look again at the polls that have come out recently, Obama's numbers are up just a little bit. And in terms of handling big issues, again, the government's numbers seem to be pretty good.
But I think this creates a question about his competence experience and why he didn't put the crisis first as opposed to putting the legislative agenda first. I think people are, ss I said, Democrats and Republicans are a little uneasy about it.
BAIER: And are you buying the emotion now?
WILLIAMS: No. But I understand politics is theater. I understand.
BAIER: You can follow the oil spill coverage on our homepage at foxnews.com/specialreport.
Up next, the president tries to sell health care again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: What you will see through this new law are new benefits, new cost savings, and an increased focus on quality to ensure you get what you need. And we're moving quickly and carefully to implement this law so that you begin to see some of these savings immediately.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R- TENN.: I suspect the next thing the Democrats will try to do is to blame the health care law on George W. Bush. It's very disappointing to see the administration pay taxpayers' dollars to mislead seniors about Medicare cuts.
GEORGE PATAKI, REVEREAMERICA.ORG: We intend to ask every person running for federal office this fall, do you support repeal and replacement of Obamacare with real reforms or are you for this very bad law?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: President Obama is launching a new effort to shore up public perception of the health care law to try to turn around the polls. Meantime, former New York Governor George Pataki, as you heard there has a group that is taking a look at polls saying it could be a political issue.
Take a look at the latest Rasmussen poll on this. Will the health care law be good or bad for the country? And 50 percent bad, 38 percent good. Another question, do you favor or oppose repealing the health care law? And 58 percent favor repeal, 35 percent oppose repeal.
So what about defending the health care law? We're back with the panel. A.B., what do you think?
STODDARD: It's amazing the 58 percent of Americans who would like to see this law repealed is the same number it was in early April two weeks after the bill passed and was signed into law. It has not budged. No matter the oil spill, unemployment, no matter what goes on, this is a serious political problem for the Democrats. It's not budging.
It will probably only get worse as the campaign heats up in the summer and fall and Republicans hit harder on repeal and have the time to focus on this in person.
So they see a problem coming and trying to repackage it. Seniors are terrified. The $250 checks go out in the next couple weeks for prescriptions for those who fall in the donut hole. And it's so late if you look at the date here, the first week in June, and people, to change the mind of seniors who have been nervous about this for over a year, they're just, they are about to hit a wall.
BAIER: Speaking of that, Speaker Pelosi was at an event in Washington and she was essentially heckled by an audience member there, a senior worried about the new law would force her in a nursing home. just take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: You have made your point. You have made your point to me. If you want others in the room to understand your point --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're throwing stuff. We need to leave.
PELOSI: Excuse me. Excuse me. I'm not leaving. I'm not leaving. You have made your point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The security guard says, "Ma'am, they're throwing stuff, we need to leave." Bill, this is an example of what perhaps some lawmakers could face in town hall meetings at home?
KRISTOL: I think it was a left wing group heckling Pelosi not conservative Tea Party types. I hope every liberal columnist will denounce the impoliteness and worry that the left is going to embrace violence, and God knows what could happen.
I think A.B. makes the key point, the big bet they made, Pelosi said this explicitly, is once it's passed, people will get used to it and we'll sell the bill better and people will get the $250 checks that will go I think to eight percent of seniors in an attempt to bribe them and get support for the bill.
The administration is spending a huge number of taxpayer dollars to proselytize for the bill. It certainly hasn't worked so far. And there is more evidence coming out, business saying we will have to drop the health care. The start-ups saying we can't start up in the environment. So I think the facts are bad for Democrats to sell this in the next few months.
BAIER: The right move to do this on primary day and start the process of trying to shore up the poll numbers?
WILLIAMS: Without a doubt. They have to do it. The seniors remain the roadblock. Why are they opposed to it? Out of self-interest. They believe they will see their Medicare entitlements cut and believe they will see the increased taxes if the cost containment doesn't prove to hold and it drives up the size of the deficit. And then of course they have to pay the tax.
They don't see it benefiting themselves. They see it benefiting the poor, minorities, immigrants, and so they have a very self-interested point of view.
But I think when you hear people like former Governor Pataki talking about repeal, I wonder what he is talking about. I just don't see it's in the card by anybody's measure at all.
BAIER: Repeal and replace is what he says.
WILLIAMS: What have the Republicans ever proposed?
BAIER: Rich, answer that.
LOWRY: This is the delusion that will not die, the idea that the only thing wrong with the plan is the salesmanship hasn't been wrong or sufficient. It goes back much further than before the bill passed. If you look for the last year at the poll averages, this has been underwater and hasn't budged.
I actually think the Republicans should have just a straight repeal bill, get some Democrats on it, and make this thing a bipartisan initiative. This becoming a hot button issue again is good for the Republicans because they let it drop over the past couple of months, which was a mistake.
BAIER: That is it for the panel but stay tuned for a valiant effort in Michigan.