All-Star Panel: Reaction to Obama tackling 'fiscal cliff' on the road

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 27, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MITCH MCCONNELL, R – KY, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Let me suggest that if the president wants a solution to challenges at the moment, the people he needs to be talking to are the members of his own party so he can convince them of the need to act.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are all here, those of us in the administration and those who have been elected to Congress to serve the American people. So to suggest that we should, now that the election is over, stop talking to them about these vital issues I think is bad advice.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Jay Carney at the White House getting a number of questions about the president's planned trip this week out to Philadelphia to have a campaign style rally about his plan to back off the fiscal cliff.

We're back with the panel. Mara, are these negotiations happening? I mean, are they --

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think they are happening. I think that to make a big fuss about the president going on the road or not, I mean, the Democrats didn't like it when Ronald Reagan made his case to the public either. I think that these negotiations are happening. They're happening at the staff level.  Apparently he called, he's talked to John Boehner on the phone. These guys had a deal almost once before. I think the outlines of it are going to be revived and they have to figure out how to structure it, some kind of down payment by the end of the year and then some instructions to the tax write-in committees about how much money you're going to get out of revenues, entitlements, and spending. And then they can go forward. I really do think that the basic structure of this has not been blown up.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah. I mean, I don't have any problem with the president going and making his case in Philadelphia. That is fine. He is the president, he is entitled to do that. What I do have a problem with is the emphasis on taxes and revenues. That is all we've really had a discussion of at this point.

The way to solve our long-term debt issues as everybody in this entire town knows is by reforming entitlements. There has been so little discussion of reforming entitlements to this point, very little of it in public. Back when they had these negotiations the first time, the president wouldn't put anything out on paper. And now you're having calls from senior Democrats in both the House and the Senate saying basically entitlements are off the table. We are not doing entitlements.

So the president at some point, if he's serious about having some kind of a deal, needs to set aside his campaigning on tax issues and get serious about entitlement issues.

One prominent Democrat did talk about entitlement issues back in 2010 pretty extensively.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The major driver of our long-term liabilities, everybody here knows, is Medicare and Medicaid and our health care spending. Nothing comes close. Social Security we could probably fix the same way Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan sat down together and they could figure something out. That is manageable. Medicare and Medicaid, massive problem down the road. That is where -- that is going to be what our children have to worry about.


BAIER: That was President Obama in 2010 talking to the Republican retreat in Maryland.

HAYES: Yeah and it was not the first time that he had made that case. Remember, when President Obama was first elected in the first month he talked about the way that he was going to bring down the deficit. His campaign promise had been to cut the deficit in half. He said he was going to do it by focusing at the center of his proposal was going to be entitlement reforms. We have seen none of that. It's been more than four years.

BAIER: Interesting op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal by Bill Archer and Chris Cox, former Congressman, saying that the real outlay is $86 trillion of unfunded liabilities, obligations, when you include all of the federal government, what it owes. That is obviously -- dwarfs the $16 trillion in debt that we hold.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Which raises the question why are Republicans allowing the entire debate to be about taxes and about the war among Republicans over holding a line on the Norquist pledge or not when what Obama is proposing on raising the rates on the two percent is a triviality? It will reduce the deficit from $1.1 trillion to $1.02 trillion, eight cents on the dollar. It is nothing. It's lunch money. It's a rounding error. And yet that is all the debate that we are hearing.

Obama understands this. He is trying to -- he is not trying to fix our fiscal issues and problems. He's trying to destroy the Republicans by insisting that there is a split among the Republicans on this issue, which has held them together, the same way it destroyed President Bush senior when he went back on the pledge he made. This is a political attack on Republicans. There is no evidence right now that he has any interest in the real fiscal issue because he would have to talk about spending and entitlements and he isn't.

LIASSON: I think he will. He was willing to raise Medicare retirement age to 67 when he talked to John Boehner. He was willing to change formula on Social Security. Those things will come back and be part of a final deal. They'll have to be.

KRAUTHAMMER: If he is so willing why did he never say it in pubic?

BAIER: We will probably have some more panels on the fiscal cliff, I'm guessing. That is it for this panel, but stay tuned to see some original reporting on yesterday's big headline.

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