Friday Lightning Round: What is the image of US leadership abroad?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 29, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I think there is plenty anecdotal evidence that American leadership on President Obama's watch has strengthened significantly. I think that was evident anecdotally in the speech that the president delivered in Jerusalem, the reaction that he got from a crowd of Israeli citizens. I think it was really powerful.

JIM GLASSMAN, GEORGE W. BUSH INSTITUTE: Simply having people like you is not enough. And in fact, it's not really the point of foreign policy. The point is to achieve America's national interests.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: We are having that discussion because of you. Each Friday we ask you to vote in our Friday Lightning Round poll online. And tonight, the image of U.S. leadership abroad won with 50 percent of the vote. So let's talk about it with our panel. Steve, A.B., and Charles are back for more. Charles, I'll start with you. How is the U.S. perceived abroad, and should we care?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: No, we shouldn't. The reason is that Randy Newman had a song in which he said, "They all hate us anyhow, so let's drop the big one now."  That is a little bit exaggerated, but ever since we became a great power at the turn of the 20th century, of course everybody hates us because we are the big guy on the block. But the issue is will they respect us, and can we protect our interests?

So liberals were all agog what our numbers were when Bush was in office, and then Obama was the one who was going to make everybody love the United States. His numbers have plummeted because when you have to defend American interests, there are people abroad who won't like it, and we don't care.

BREAM: A.B., what do you make of that? The balance between being liked versus being respected, or trying to get both?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: President Obama has high favorability ratings but he doesn't always have high approval ratings. There are different questions. His -- the expectation internationally for President Obama to sort of remake America was so high that it's natural that his numbers have gone down. They have plummeted, Charles is right. They are still not at the levels, that George W. Bush was when he – that the perception of the country was when he left office.

But it's clear that in the years of President Obama's first term with what is going on with the Israelis, the peace process that he really had to kind of walk away from for a while, his retreat from his pulling out of Iraq, the winding down of the Afghanistan operation, the only thing that garnered high approval, interestingly enough, was the military operation in Libya, which most of the world sees as a success. But these other things, no.

BREAM: Steve, he did get some, I guess you could say some good press, some good notice for his last trip abroad and what happened with Israel and brokering some kind of understanding between Turkey and Israel. Do you give him any credit?

STODDARD: That was actually before -- after the poll was taken.

BREAM: After the poll --

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You're in a tough spot if you're the White House spokesman and relying on the reaction from one speech in one particular city at one particular time --

BREAM: A very narrow thread.

HAYES: -- and you're citing anecdotal evidence. Look, Charles and A.B. are right; the president's numbers are down. I tend to agree with A.B. – actually, I agree with both of them. I do think that the chief problem for President Obama is that he set his own expectations high. It wasn't just a matter of expectations being high because they were going to be high. This is what he said he was going to do. He was going to come in. He was going to give some speeches. They were going to be uplifting, and by his mere presence the rest of the world would then start to love America again. That didn't happen. It was never going to happen. It was a fairytale that he sold.  And I'm not at all surprised that having to conduct U.S. foreign policy and occasionally, not often enough in my view, but occasionally be tough, means that he's not going to be as popular as he thought he might be. 

BREAM: And somewhere internationally – and I want to make sure you all get a chance to get through this lightning round -- the issue he is dealing with now with North Korea, with the threats, what do you think of that?

HAYES: Well, I think it's a serious threat and I think the administration is right to actually suggest to the North Koreans that we mean business, we will defend our allies, we will honor our treaties. And if they decide to be irresponsible, that it is a serious issue.

BREAM: A.B., there is a lot of joking that goes around with North Korea, but we do need to take them seriously?

STODDARD: All this provocation in the past has become so sort of habitual that people tend to write it off. I think this time is different. This is new leader, these are new extremes. And I think in terms, particularly with our relations with the Russians and the Chinese and with what the Iranians perceive as we go through this, it must be taken very seriously.

BREAM: And Charles, how concerned should we be about the links between Iran and North Korea?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think this is kind of harbinger. This is an insane regime that has primitive nukes and primitive missiles. So we are not that worried about it. But this is -- we're looking into the future. Iran is not crazy. It's fanatical, but it's not insane, and it could be genocidal. It is acquiring sophisticated missiles and presumably nuclear weapons. That is the future.

The other thing is, you know, leaders have acted irrationally. The Nazi invasion of Russia was completely irrational, and yet it happened. So assuming the other guy is always going to act rationally is a huge mistake.

BREAM: All right, we got to keep it speedy so we can get through all of your winners and losers for the week.  A.B., we'll start with you.

STODDARD: Well, I won't be alone in saying I think that the winner of this week is clearly the proponents and supporters of gay marriage. My loser is ObamaCare. A vote a week ago in the Senate where 30 Democrats joined with Republicans to repeal the medical device tax, which is not happening because it was on a budget resolution, was a sign that they are willing to delve into the funding of ObamaCare and begin to pick it apart. And now we have objective, nonpartisan experts saying that indeed premiums will rise, that the subsidies are inadequate to actually acquire health care, that is a mandate in the law, and also that the programs are really – the exchanges are having a tough time getting rolling.

BREAM: Steve, 30 seconds, go.

HAYES: My loser is Representative Don Young, who used the term "wetbacks," an ethnic slur in a radio interview. Bad, at the very least we should be able to conduct our discourse without reverting to slurs. My winner is Florida Gulf Coast University. This is a fun story. It is something to distract from all the political problems here in Washington. And I hope they win tonight. I hope they beat the Gators.

BREAM: I do, too. As a Florida State Seminole. Alright, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: The winner is the B-2. It isn't only elegant, but it scares the bejeebees out of anybody. And it's a nice idea to have it go out halfway around the world, fly around Pyongyang and come back home. Loser is American pride. We had our astronauts who went up to the space station yesterday and they had to hitch a ride with Russia at the cost of about $60 million a seat because we do not have a way, first time since Alan Shepard had no way to get into space on our own.

BREAM: All right, panel, thank you very much. That's it for the panel. Stay tuned, new photographic evidence of a threat from North Korea.

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