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Special Report

Obama administration's handling of Syria and Iran

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: National sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people. Despite all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them, the Syrian people still brave the streets. They still demand to be heard. They still seek their dignity.

The Syrian people have not given up, which is why we cannot give up. And so with allies and partners we'll keep increasing the pressure with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama at the Holocaust Museum today, saying that he signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against the Syria government and Iran for use of technology to target dissenters in either one of those countries.

There has been a lot of talk about Syria and what is not being done, Senator John McCain saying this administration has not gone far enough, writing in a statement, quote, "Ultimately ending violations of conscience requires the political will and moral courage of world leaders, especially the President of the United States. Unfortunately, that will and leadership are lacking in the case of Syria today."

We're back with the panel. Charles, let's start on Syria, the president is talking today and what is happening or not happening.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, remember, when the Libya thing happened, Obama enunciated to the world a grand doctrine of duty to protect. And under that, he belatedly brought America into a war because of the threats that Qaddafi made, the threats to the people of Benghazi. Well, that were -- that was only hypothetical. That were threats. That was something that might happen in the future.

In Syria, we have been watching for a year something that isn't hypothetical. It's not happening in the future. It's happening now, 11,000 dead in front of our eyes, the indiscriminate shelling of cities. He hasn't lifted a finger. He gives a lot of good speeches. He says we can't stand idly by. And what does he do? Stand idly by.

And what did he announce today at the Holocaust Museum? He would be establishing an Atrocities Prevention Board. Now, imagine that. The Russians are supplying weapons every day. The Iranians are supplying weaponry and financiers and trainers. In the United States of America, the greatest power in the world that apparently has a duty to protect, is establishing Atrocity Prevention Board in the White House and remember it has gotten representatives from all the agencies. Well, this really is going to make a difference. It's embarrassing. That the president --

BAIER: Do you think there is the political will to do something?

KRAUTHAMMER: If you are not going to do it, then don't speak about it and don't pretend that America has as a matter conscience it can't stand this by, say never again. And then you do it at the museum of the Holocaust and you announce the creation of a board? You do nothing if that is what you are going to do, but the idea that you can pretend and have this smooth rhetoric and pretend that we are somehow defending or putting pressure on the regime is ridiculous. We haven't lifted a finger. And if you aren't going to, then be quiet.

BAIER: Mara it was stark today, the president was introduced by the noble laureate Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel at the Holocaust Museum. Here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELI WIESEL, NOBEL LAUREATE: So in this place we may ask, have you learned anything from it? If so, how is it that Assad is still in power? You must know that evil has power. It is almost too late. Preventative measures are important. We must use those measures to prevent another catastrophe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Again, that was the intro to the president.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes. This is really hard. The White House, I've been in briefings when they have been asked the question. Look, you did it in Libya. What is the difference? He is now shelling cities where Qaddafi was just promising to or threatening to. And they say, look, there was international coalition that was willing to go in and provide air cover and do airstrikes in Libya and there is not one here. In other words, he doesn't have the international support. There is not a ground swell of public opinion in the United States. You don't hear Mitt Romney or Republicans, other than John McCain and maybe a few others -

(CROSSTALK)

KRAUTHAMMER: Was there a groundswell on Libya?

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: I think there was more support for it.

KRAUTHAMMER: There was not. It was all leadership. Either it exists in the White House or it doesn't. Americans don't clamor to go to war.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I agree. Look, if you want to have a coalition, organize a coalition. You have to lead in that direction. The president talked in his speech today about the legal effort, the humanitarian effort, the diplomatic effort. The truth is that there needs to be a lot of leadership and there needs to be a bit of a military effort. Nobody wants to put American troops on the ground or NATO troops. But you can create a no-fly zone, the same thing we did in Iraq after the first Gulf War, and save thousands and thousands of lives. Have an area where arms if they're sent to the Syrian rebels can go and you can get them in.

BAIER: All right, so down the line, does something like that happen?

BARNES: Not under this administration.

LIASSON: I think eventually something like that could happen.

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't know. I think Obama talks about it, but I'm not sure he wants to touch it in any way. And he is giving the Russians a veto over it because he requires Security Council support. The Russians have a veto, which means any time the Russians want to support a dictator it's done and he supports it.

BAIER: That is it for panel. But stay tuned to hear some e-mails on Capitol Hill.

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