This is a rush transcript from "Special Report With Bret Baier," September 7, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS: We know Congress won't be here for a lot of time. We certainly hope that there are measures, including some of the ones that the president will outline, that Congress will consider.
If they don't do that prior to the election, the president and the economic team still believe that these represent some very important ideas in continuing along our path toward economic recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: White House press secretary laying out what the president will essentially lay out tomorrow in Cleveland, about $200 billion worth of tax breaks and infrastructure spending. The White House is not calling it a stimulus package.
Here is what the House Minority Leader John Boehner is calling it, quote, "The White House is missing the big picture. None of its plans address the two big problems that are hurting our economy -- excessive government spending and the uncertainty that their policies, especially the massive tax hike they have planned for January 1, is creating for small businesses."
What about all of this and the politics surrounding it? 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, what about the package of proposals and the reaction to it?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, they are really too little, too late, even if they were enacted tomorrow to affect the outcome of the election on November 2. That is for sure. The public and the electorate view of the economy is cooked in the cake and I think has been for a month or more.
But there is one extremely good idea in this, and that is the accelerated depreciation for business investment, which I think they said might cost $100 billion or more, maybe even up to $200 billion. Now it -- obviously it would have to be enacted first, but it may be too little, too late for the campaign, but it's not too little to really help the economy.
Remember in 1981, and some of us can, they were part -- accelerated depreciation was part, along with the reduction in the individual tax rates, of the Reagan stimulus package, which famously worked. And this is something that accelerated depreciation, which should have been in the stimulus from the beginning.
Spending $50 billion more on infrastructure, which I don't think will pass anyway, you know, that's just more of what has already failed. But the problem -- but the problem here is the one that John Boehner mentioned.
On the one hand if you get this accelerated depreciation passed, that would have an effect on economic growth, a good effect. But then if you let the tax increases for the people making over $200,000 if you're single or $250,000 for a couple, the tax increases that go into effect on capital gains, that will have the opposite effect.
BAIER: Erasing the Bush era tax cuts for the top tier.
BARNES: Of course. So one would be good, but the other would take a lot of the impact away.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The fact is this particular package of tax cut, plus the idea of an infrastructure bank, which is not just to have a big public works project but to leverage the private sector investment to top off the invest in infrastructure, I think are thoroughly unobjectionable. And you can imagine a President Mitt Romney putting forth a package not unlike this.
The problem is that, number one, I think it has very little chance of passing because I don't think Republicans are in the move to give this president anything --
BAIER: Or moderate Democrats, for that matter.
LIASSON: Well, yes, it depends on how it's framed. And even if they were passed, as Fred said, it's unlikely they would change the economy before November.
But it does give the Democrats something to talk about. Their original economic message is now inoperable because the economy didn't improve. That -- plan "a" was that there would be a recovery summer and things would be better by now, and they could say it's not great, but it's going in the right direction. The recovery stalled and they need something else to talk about.
But Boehner doesn't want to talk about this. He wants to talk about the bigger debate, which they're going to have over the Bush tax cuts.
BAIER: But on the first stimulus, all of the money has been not spent yet, and those were supposed to be shovel-ready projects back then. So for the political appetite, is there any on Capitol Hill for second stimulus, which is what this is?
LIASSON: Well, if you consider tax breaks a stimulus --
BAIER: No, no. But the infrastructure spending?
LIASSON: The infrastructure is more long-term. I don't think you can find any economist -- conservative or not -- who doesn't think that this country doesn't needs more investment in infrastructure.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, there must have been a shovel shortage.
Look, there is one oddity in the president, and we saw it in the clip that you played earlier, in which he stands up and he says we're going to do a stimulus -- a mini-stimulus -- with all these wonderful effects, the rail and airports and road projects, and then he says we will do the targeted tax cuts that will improve our economy, stimulate growth, improve employment.
And then he says because it's a political season, the Republicans oppose it for pure partisan advantage. There is a raging contradiction in the middle of that. These ideas are so self-evidently good and they're going to help everybody and the economy, what possible advantage would anybody have, Republican or otherwise, in opposing it?
Now, it's a ridiculous argument, but he makes it because he does not want to engage the opposition on the substance of his proposals. What we have is a deep philosophical difference. Democrats -- Republicans like broad-based, across the board cuts in taxes, so you give the money to the entrepreneur who can dispense with it as he thinks the business needs. Democrats love the targeted tax cut because it gives power in Washington of deciding where capital ends up.
So for example, there's nothing inherently wrong with a rebate if you invest in office equipment and stuff like that. However, what if your business needs not that but more money spent on marketing?
The better idea is to keep the Bush cuts, all the money to remain in pocket of entrepreneur and have him decide, much more efficiently, on where the money ought to be spent instead of experts in Washington deciding how to direct it.
BAIER: Quickly, I want to play a sound bite from the president's speech yesterday in Wisconsin:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Over the last two years that's meant taking on some powerful interests, some powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time. And they're not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: He went on to say it's not part of his prepared remarks. He is clearly in campaign mode.
BARNES: That's pretty good. You know when I read it, I hadn't seen the clip of that, when I read it I thought it would be exercise in presidential self-pity. But he appeared to be joking when he said that, treated like a dog. I'm glad to have seen it that way.
LIASSON: Yes, he was having a good time. It looks like he's having a good time. He's out on the campaign trail and he's doing what presidents can do, other than raise money for candidates, which is try to make the big argument and get their supporters fired up. But the Democrats have a big, big uphill climb.
BAIER: Go ahead.
KRAUTHAMMER: I have a dog and I treat him like a prince. I'm a lot tougher on Obama, I can assure you.
BAIER: OK, quickly, one other element. Mayor Daley of Chicago announcing he is not going to seek reelection for a seventh term. This came as a shock to some at the White House according to folks there, including the White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who had previously said publicly that he would love that job, the mayor in Chicago.
Mara, do you think he leaves?
LIASSON: Well, I think he will leave at some point anyway and he's always said he wanted that job if and only if Mayor Daley decided not to run, which he's done.
Already left-wing groups are basically mounting a campaign against Rahm Emanuel. They are circulating a petition which they claim it has 1,700 signatures that says we won't vote for him for any office because, of course, they think he has been terrible.
BARNES: I heard that Valerie Jarrett may become White House chief of staff. Send her to Chicago to run for mayor. Keep Rahm Emanuel.
KRAUTHAMMER: He'll quit and he'll run.
BAIER: OK, there you have it. Log on to the homepage at foxnews.com/specialreport to watch White House correspondent Mike Emanuel's full interview with NATO's secretary general today.
Next, a very small Florida church is planning a Koran burning; it's getting a very big reaction. The panel talks about that and what it means after the break.
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PASTOR TERRY JONES, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER: We are revealing that actually Islam is much more dangerous, much more violent than people would like to believe.
P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This, in our view, has the potential to inflame public opinion around the world in a way that will jeopardize American lives and American interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Terry Jones, a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with 50 congregants is planning to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11. This is what General David Petraeus, the top commander on the ground in Afghanistan said about that, "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan and it's precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems not just here but everywhere in the world when we are engaged with the Islamic community."
The administration weighed in and it became an issue. But what about this and this small congregation in Florida doing? We're back with the panel. Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, there is not going to be a lot of argument about this. It's obviously execrable, revolting act, what they're going to be doing, although it's curious we don't hear a chorus of people saying what a glory it is to the American system that all of us will defend his right to do it, even though we might question the wisdom of doing it.
And I do think that General Petraeus, I understand why he mentioned it, because there was a riot in Afghanistan. His troops are exposed so he wanted to express himself.
BAIER: And there's some video of that. It's a little bit graphic, so just be warned here, of some of the protests.
KRAUTHAMMER: So I understand why he said it, but unfortunately what it does, and there's now way to escape this, it takes what is a fringe kook who means nothing and leads a congregation and anyone in this country can make himself a reverend, rent a church, gather around him a few dozen people -- Jim Jones had hundreds, for example -- and call himself a spiritual leader. So it's not as if it's widespread or represents anything.
And with Petraeus being important figure in American life expressing himself, and the State Department expressing itself, it makes it a much larger issue than otherwise would be.
So I regret that, though I'm not sure if Petraeus had a choice. He had to express himself since the troops, there were stones thrown as a passing patrol and it could get worse.
BAIER: Mara, just putting this in context: The latest hate crime stat for religious crimes, based on religious bias come from 2008. And here it is -- 65.7 percent of them were anti-Jewish, 13.2 percent anti- other religion, 7.7 percent anti-Islamic and 4.7 percent anti-Catholic. That gives perspective with the latest --
LIASSON: That is true, but we're not war in countries that are predominantly Jewish or Catholic. I mean, there is a difference, and I don't think the Petraeus or the State Department would have spoken out if they didn't think it was important to do so and that the attention, too much attention, but the attention this was getting would be harmful to the American interests overseas.
What I think is remarkable is right after 9/11, there were a lot of people who thought there would be tremendous anti-Islam, anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, and there wasn't. There wasn't for a very long time. I think that is to many people's credit, including George W. Bush, who spoke out often about how Islam is a religion of peace, and radical terrorists are not representatives of the religion.
But now you are seeing this, and I think the only thing good about it is I haven't seen anybody come out and support what the church is doing.
BARNES: I'm certainly not going to.
The numbers, though, Bret, were important because they show one thing for sure: There is no wave of Islamo-phobia sweeping America.
BAIER: Well, they were for a couple years ago, but --
BARNES: I don't know if they have changed since then. Believe me, it's not sweeping America.
But this is similar in one way to the "Ground Zero mosque," the mosque that is planned be built on the fringe of ground zero, and that is what Sarah Palin called an unnecessary provocation. And this is a provocation and that's what General Petraeus is worried about.
This is what Terry Jones said -- you know, he put together 10 reasons to burn Koran and put together five more, up to 15 now. But he also said this, that his church and so on is not responsible for the violent actions anyone may take in retaliation to our protests. Well, if Americans are killed in Afghanistan or somewhere else then they are responsible, and that's why he should not do this.
And besides, that, this is not an act a Christian pastor ought to be doing. Christians are assigned the job of the Great Commission, which is to go out and convert the world. Burning the Koran is not a good evangelical tool, believe me.
KRAUTHAMMER: Let me just say on those numbers you showed, eight times anti-Semitic incidents as anti-Muslim. You know, it's fashionable to say anti-Islam is now the new anti-Semitism. Well, apparently the old anti-Semitism hasn't really gone away.