All-Star Panel: Obama returns five percent of his salary

Empty gesture or good symbolic move?


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 3, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: White house tours are still suspended, but now the White House is saying that the sequester, there is some flexibility. Then we got this release today from the White House. "White House official says President Obama has decided to return part of his salary each month for the rest of the year to share in the sacrifice that  government employees are making...the president makes $400,000 per year. A five percent pay cut amounts to a little less than $1,700 per month."

With that, we're back with the panel. Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: It is pretty insulting, I would say, to voters. Imagine the meeting out of which this arouse. Where his advisers  -- you know, people will really relate to this? This is a guy who lives in the single most luxurious circumstances of any person on the planet, literally out of billions, Barack Obama lives better than anybody. $1,700 a month, I mean it's insulting. If he wanted to make a sacrifice, how about pulling back on the [INAUDIBLE] personality stuff? Maybe fewer trips and photo ops, fewer parties. That might make a difference. It's hard to believe anybody would be swayed by this.

BAIER: Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, if he hadn't done it I guess people would be criticizing him for that. I don't think he does, frankly, live more luxurious than anybody else on the planet.  I think there are sultans in Berne and maybe a few princes in Saudi Arabia who live a little bit higher than Barack Obama.


LANE: Well, I don't know. I am just throwing it out. Be that as it may, obviously it's symbolic politics. I'm sure Tucker is right, they did cook it up in a meeting in the White House, maybe even ran a focus group. But it would have been better if he did it two months ago, let's put it that way, when the sequester began. But, heck, I don't fault him for making a gesture.

BAIER: You talk about small ball. We still have a lot of big issues that we talk about on this panel all of the time -- entitlements, we'll get the budget supposedly next Wednesday. There are a lot of big things and yet here we are.

KRAUTHAMMER: And it isn't a lot of money. I think it's about $10,000 for half a year or something. When you consider the first speech he gives after he leaves office will be for about a quarter of a million dollars, it gives you a scale.

But I think it is actually a smart move. It's complete symbolism. The amount of money is ridiculous. But he's been losing altitude on the sequester. He made a miscalculation on this. He thought he could really hit the Republicans, and he's getting hit on this every day on the border patrol, White House tours, etc. So I think this is probable a little bit to stem the dissent that he's had over this issue.  It is small, symbolism. But I'll give him – I won't give him credit, but I think it's a PR move that certainly can't hurt him. It will hurt him a little bit with extreme cynics like my friend Tucker. 

CARLSON: That's me.

KRAUTHAMMER: But me as a moderate cynic --


BAIER: Moderate cynic? That's what you're characterizing yourself as now?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm getting really mellow in my old age, I can swallow it.

BAIER: So -- but if he had about 50 of his other administration officials who did the same thing, you could restart the White House tours.

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly. Or, let's see, I calculated this once, if he cancels the golf trips with Tiger, that is $1 million a shot just for the airplane, which by the inflated levels of secret service expenses on the tours is at least a month and a half.

BAIER: Today, Defense Secretary Hagel said that the sequester cuts – cuts in the future growth of spending -- are already having significant effects on the military. Do you think this is going to be a lasting effect that we're going to feel over time? Tucker?

CARLSON: Well, they were, of course, designed to do that. That's why they were designed to be odious, not just to the left but to right, to Republicans who worry about our defense capabilities. And the truth is, probably shouldn't admit this, I don't know the answer and I don't know if anybody knows the answer. Clearly there are many things that you could cut from the defense budget that wouldn't hurt our readiness or make us less safe. Are those the things being cut? I don't think that is clear.

BAIER: The flexibility has come back though, Chuck.

LANE: A little bit. Yes.

BAIER: Yesterday, we heard from Jay Carney that there is flexibility.

LANE: Yeah, I am willing to take actually Secretary -- former Secretary now Panetta at his words when he said that these sequester cuts threatened serious harm to national security. Now obviously, he has an incentive to state them as -- not overstate them but make them sound as serious as they are.  But there are going to be real limitations to how much training they can engage in, how much maintenance of the weapons systems they can engage in, and so forth. And I think it's not trivial.

BAIER: And as we've said in the big picture, this is a teaspoon in the ocean of --

KRAUTHAMMER: Of debt. Look, it remains – the issue remains where it always has been with entitlements, and that begins with tax reform. I think in principle it could be a deal, but the obstacle is that Obama has not showed an iota of interest in entitlement reform, until he does nothing happens.

That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for an interesting ride home from the dentist.

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