All-Star Panel: Clash over Egyptian president's power grab

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 26, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've raised concerns about it. And we wouldn't if we --

REPORTER: You haven't really been critical?


CARNEY: I think it is. I think that what is important here is that the transition to democracy will be achieved by the Egyptian people, not by the manner in which we raise concerns.

REPORTER: Then parse this, you are not condemning what he is doing.


CARNEY: I certainly don't have any new language to give to you today on how our view on it -- what our view on it is.

REPORTER: If one of us wrote or said criticize – said -- "The White House is criticizing President Morsi," would you say that was an incorrect take?

CARNEY: I would say thatwe are concerned about it and have raised those concerns.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Jay Carney at the White House today asked about Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi, and his effort last Thursday to say that any order he is gives are not subject to review by Egypt's court. That sparked all kinds of protests in Cairo and all over Egypt. So far one dead and wounding at least 400. The question is what the administration's response has been. We're back with the panel. Jonah, it was a release from the State Department and the White House and you heard the, kind of semantics there, "concern" or "criticizing."

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes. Almost, Jay Carney almost seems that he would be relieved to be attacked by wild dogs rather than finish that press conference.

The White House was in a tough place because of the logic of the Arab Spring, what was happening in the Middle East. But at the end of the day we are watching Egypt not even in slow motion but in fairly rapid order turn into a new Muslim dictatorship that will have more anti-American notes than the previous Egyptian dictatorship. And that is a real problem for the Obama administration and I don't know how you can parse it any other way.

And the simple fact is that they have not been critical of a country where a guy who is a member of a cultish, essentially theocratic, quasi-fascist organization has assumed the dictatorial powers over his country. And they refuse to be critical because they helped with a temporary ceasefire in a fight between Hamas and Israel.

BAIER: Juan, as you imagine, Republican push back on this and the administration response was fast. Senator McCain on "Fox News Sunday."


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: Renounce the statement and the move that he just made. Allow the judiciary to function. If the judiciary is flawed in some way, that is an illness that can be cured over time. But absolutely to assume this kind of power is unacceptable to the United States of America. And then we can outline what actions might be taken. But first condemn it. This is not acceptable. This is not what the Unite States of American taxpayers expect, and our dollars will be directly related to the progress towards democracy.


BAIER: Fair criticism?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Yeah, I think Senator McCain is actually helping here by pointing out that the United States has some leverage over Egypt. I disagree with Jonah on the idea that it's becoming a new dictatorship and a home to the Muslim Brotherhood. I think that in fact in the negotiations with Israel, Morsi showed that he is able to separate himself out and act in some sort of pragmatic fashion. We'll see how that goes forward. But I don't know that he is representing the Muslim Brotherhood here. 

GOLDBERG: I don't understand how pragmatically and opportunistically getting political capital from the United States of America by shepherding this cease-fire and then immediately, the next day cashing in that political capital by declaring yourself an unimpeachable dictator of the country proves that he's a moderate. It proves that he's wily.

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: He's not a moderate. I guess we know this. There is no question the White House is hypocritical on the matter of human rights and on democracy. I would say, so what, actually. We have traded -- or Egypt has traded an autocrat who was pro-Western for an autocrat who is an Islamist. As Jim Pinkerton said, we went from the guys in mustaches to the guys in beards, probably not a good trade.

But our goal is not to secure democracy for Egypt or any other country. Our goal is to secure the best deal we can. That's the point of American foreign policy. This would advance American interests. So whatever it takes. There is no advantage for us in alienating, even more so, the largest Arab country in the world. And I rarely defend the Obama administration on anything, but I would say –

BAIER: But I found one!

CARLSON: You have -- hesitating to attack Morsi for doing what we knew he was going to do, install himself as autocrat as president for life. We knew that was going to happen. How much evidence is there that the Egyptian people want democracy, by the way? Do we have a ton of evidence on that? I haven't seen it. 

WILLIAMS: Well, they're protesting –


CARLSON: Some people are protesting. Who imagined this wasn't inevitable. And even if it was -- it doesn't even matter. The point is, what is the best for us? And it seems to me getting along with Egypt is the best for us. So let's try and see if we can.

WILLIAMS: I don't approve of it, but I do think they're going to have to settle it. It's not an American problem. Morsi says he is doing this in service -- developing a new constitution. He didn't want the legislative branch dissolved by the courts. Today he met with those judges and he is on his heels. He is going to make a deal. Watch.

BAIER: In Charles' seat no less.



BAIER: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see a special tribute to the U.S. service men and women.

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