All-Star Panel: Looking ahead at next debates

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 4, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The man on stage last night, he does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney's decisions and what he's been saying for the last year. And that's because he knows full well that we don't want what he's been selling for the last year.

MITT ROMNEY, R – PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last night I thought was a great opportunity for the American people to see two very different visions for the country. And I think it was helpful to be able to describe those visions. I saw the president's vision as trickle down government, and I don't think that's what America believes in.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama and Governor Romney today on the campaign trail. Obviously the next debate down in Kentucky, the vice presidential debate. And that should be interesting with Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan. Vice President Biden was on the trail today as well talking tax policy. Listen carefully to how he describes the attacks on the Obama-Biden tax plan.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: On top of the trillion dollars of spending we've already cut, we're going to ask, yes, we're going to ask the wealthy to pay more. My heart breaks. Come on, man.


BIDEN: You know the phrase you always use, Obama and Biden want to raise taxes by $1 trillion. Guess what? Yes, we do in one regard, we want to let that $1 trillion tax cut expire so the middle class doesn't have to bear the burdens of all that money going to the super wealthy. That's not a tax rate drop. That's called fairness where I come from!


BAIER: Now the potential for a Republican commercial to end at yes, we do, Charles, is pretty, pretty high.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  How much are our guys paying him, because it isn't enough? This guy is terrific for us. And the gaffe here isn't only the trillion dollars, it's the part where he calls -- was that the super-rich, the super billionaires -- the super wealthy. He is talking about people who aren't $250,000 a year, people who own a dry cleaning enterprise and they are the super wealthy. I mean, he's the gift that Republicans love because he's always there, he will give you something once a week.

But on the serious side, because it's really -- and I think people will discount what he says because it's Biden. And they'll say well, he's just off on his own again. But from Obama, you saw those quips he was tossing out today. It's what the French call the wit of the staircase, meaning the stuff that you wish you had said, all the witty remarks and rebuttals that you never said at the dinner, but you remember on the way out.

So he had all of these chances last night, which again shows he doesn't have a good game when it comes to being quick and effective on his feet. He's trying to make up for it. But what's going to happen in the second debate, between him and Romney, it's going to be a town hall. And that's a different dynamic in how you interact with the audience. That's where, for example, Bush did badly -- Bush one -- and Clinton did really well. So that's going to be a challenge. Romney is really good one on one. It will be different in a town hall for him.

BAIER: By the way, we have the wit of the staircase sometimes here on the panel. When we leave the panel, man, why didn't I say that?


KRAUTHAMMER: I have the wit of the car every night.


BAIER: Speaking of the Biden-Ryan set-up as we got ready to head to Kentucky, Kirsten, you listen to that sound bite and you heard Charles just mention it, oh, it's just Biden. There are people who look at Joe Biden and say, listen, he really identifies with middle class folks. He can be gaffe prone, but he also can be good. His speech at the democratic convention was arguably very good. Just setting the table for that debate, we'll have plenty of days to talk about it, but just bouncing off that sound bite?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: He is good. That's not the point. The point is that if you were to string together a couple months worth of his comments such as the middle class has been buried under the Obama administration, I mean, these are things that I think other people if they said would paint a very frightening picture to people of the administration. But he is allowed to continue to do this. 

So the set-up is, we go in with the lowest of lowest of lowest of expectations of him, expecting him to say even crazy things, or things that are factually not true. And so it's just going to be very difficult for, I think -- it will be difficult for anyone to say decisively that he has done something that crossed some line that he shouldn't have crossed.

BAIER: Judge, I want to end on this one points, we didn't cover it, the controversy about Big Bird.


BAIER: And believe it or not, there are some quarters that are very upset about that this. Take a listen to Governor Romney and President Obama today.  


ROMNEY: I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things -- I like PBS, I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too, but I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.

OBAMA: Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird.


It's about time. We didn't know that big bird was driving the federal deficit.


But that's what we heard last night.


BAIER: And in all seriousness, Judge, PBS released a statement today, and they said, quote, "We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation...The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one-100th of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation's debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating."

In all seriousness, there are some people who say that that was not the best thing to mention, bringing up Big Bird.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Look, you're talking to somebody who does like PBS, but who believes that the constitution means what it says. Lyndon Johnson persuaded a Democratic Congress in 1965 that the federal government should own a television station, which became a television network. It's not authorized in the constitution. It's not intended for the federal government to do this.

When Mitt Romney put his finger on that, I'm thinking to myself, this is a symbol. This is a symbol of thousands of other things that the federal government is doing and borrowing money in order to do that Mitt Romney might stop if he becomes the president at the price of offending Big Bird.

KRAUTHAMMER: With Romney on the rebound, I think Big Bird ought to worry. Thanksgiving is coming up.


BAIER: That was a good bounce back after the non-answer in the first panel.


KRAUTHAMMER: I want to leave that one at the bottom of the staircase.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see who President Obama may be reaching out to now after that debate.

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