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Special Report

All-Star Panel: The Bill Clinton factor

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 5, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't think that we ought to get in the position where we say this is bad work. This is good work. A man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold. 

Starting on September 15, we entered the deepest crash since the Great Depression. If you look at history, those things take five or 10 years to get over, and if there is a housing collapse along with it, closer to 10 years. He is on schedule to beat that record. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Bill Clinton, former president making some news. Politico columnist Roger Simon wrote this today, "Clinton is not on Barack Obama's campaign staff, is not a trusted adviser, does not set Obama's strategy. But Bill Clinton is pretty good at sabotaging Obama's strategy. At a fundraiser with Obama in New York Monday night, Clinton said that Obama deserved a second term because 'the alternative would be, in my opinion, calamitous for our country and the world.' But that's the thing about Clinton. When you invite him, you never know if the good Bill or the bad Bill will show up."

What about this? We bring in our panel from Washington, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of National Review online, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. A.B., is former president Clinton an asset or is he hurting President Obama? 

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, this afternoon I was ready to tell you that he was a great surrogate. I think he has credibility with swing voters. And he is making the case that I thought was -- the two messages were combatable. The other night on CNN saying that you don't attack Mitt Romney's record at Bain capital, that it was, it was a sterling record. He did not bad work but good work. That it wasn't about the past. It was about the future. What he said at the fundraiser with Barack Obama is that you can't elect Mitt Romney because his economic policies will destroy the future. 

And I actually thought those were combatable and reasonable, cynical as they may be. but this news that was in Ed Henry's broadcast tonight about the fact that the former president has now given an interview in which he says that all of -- he really is contradicting president Obama's stated policy that he has extended the Bush tax cuts before at the end of 2010 but he will not do so again for the upper income brackets. And President Clinton said we're in such bad shape that they shouldn't be extended permanently but they should be extended temporarily. This is really going to have the already divided Democratic Party in hysterics. And it was definitely off-message. 

BAIER: Yeah, Charles, he told -- former president Clinton told CNBC that he thought the country was already in a recession. Current economic, he called the current economic conditions a recession and said all of the Bush era tax cuts should be extended. 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think he really is now a bull in a china shop. And there is a lot of crockery that's being destroyed. It's very clear, when he said the thing about that sterling business record that was extremely undermining because, of course, it contradicted the whole rollout strategy of the Obama campaign which was to portray Romney as a vulture capitalist. So it undoes that. But I think it had broader implications. I think what was overlooked is the fact that Romney met the threshold for the presidency, that's extremely important in a re-election campaign. A re-election campaign is a referendum on the president unless there are questions about the challenger. In 1980, a [INAUDIBLE] referendum on the Carter record would have had Carter losing by a lot. But Carter was actually ahead until very late in the race and the reason was, people had painted Reagan as an extremist, a loony, a guy that didn't know much who could start a nuclear war. And then you had Reagan in the debates, this sort of "awe shucks" congenial guy and the election was over. Once Reagan met the threshold for being presidential, it was all about a referendum on Carter and Carter lost. And here is Clinton, the biggest surrogate, the most popular of all Democrats saying that Romney meets the threshold for the presidency. Which means that the election should be, will be a referendum on Obama and the record, and it is not a good one. I think that was what most deeply undermined Obama. 

BAIER: And Jonah, at the fundraiser, the former president, you hear him there, said we could be in a 10-year downturn. That is not really an Obama campaign bumper sticker. 

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: It's not an upbeat message. I think one of the things that this points to that is so interesting is that the Obama administration doesn't have any reliable top tier surrogates at all. That's why they try to trot out David Axelrod, which was sort of a disaster. Just today before this latest thing, NPR was out thing Clinton as Obama's number one surrogate. Now Obama's number one surrogate undermines them again. Joe Biden is not entirely reliable speaker. Bill Clinton maybe more reliable than Biden, but that is like saying Godzilla is slightly more destructive than King Kong. It is not a reliable guy to count on. And this administration has nobody else that they can put forward to do the attack dog stuff without fearing that they're going to destroy his message in some way. 

BAIER: A.B., finally, he played a factor here in Wisconsin. The former president, campaigning for Mayor Barrett. Barrett welcomed that.  It was a big event. How much do you think the Obama campaign deploys him in the future? 

STODDARD: It will be interesting after today to see what the Obama campaign does about the message about tax cuts. I think that they really depend – Jonah makes a good point, they don't have good surrogates. Bill Clinton as I mentioned earlier does have credibility with the very few persuadable voters who are left. He presided over a time of prosperity that people remember fondly. They think he is knowledgeable, they think he's politically reasonable, and they think he is smart. So he remains too good an asset to reject. But he is a loose cannon, to put it mildly. 

BAIER: Ten seconds, Charles. Dangerous prospect? 

KRAUTHAMMER: Loose cannon? He is a double agent. 

(LAUGHTER)

KRAUTHAMMER: What is the message? Bill Clinton says elect Obama because at the end of a second term you might begin to be getting out of recession? I wouldn't run on that. 

BAIER: Final thoughts when we return. Thank you, panel. Back in Wisconsin in just a bit.

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