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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Obama administration benefitting from slimdown?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 4, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R – OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: I sat there and listened to the majority leader in the United States Senate describe to me that he's not going to talk until we surrender. Then this morning, I get the Wall Street Journal out. And it says we don't care how long this lasts because we're winning. This isn't some damn game. The American people don't want their government shut down and neither do I. All we're asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness -- reopen the government, and bring fairness to the American people under ObamaCare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Speaker Boehner referencing a quote in the Wall Street Journal today quoting a senior administration official anonymously, and here it is, quote, "We are winning. It doesn't really matter to us how long the shutdown lasts because what matters is the end result." Well, that may have prompted this walk to lunch by President Obama where he was asked specifically about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There's no winning when families don't have certainty about whether they're going to be paid or not. I've got staff in the White House. There's staffs all across the country in rural areas who are working for the agricultural department, who are working for veterans affairs who are on their jobs. Despite the fact that they're not getting paid. Nobody is winning. That's the point. We should get this over with as soon as possible. If Speaker Boehner will simply allow that vote to take place, we can end this shutdown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Well, there you see it. Let's bring in our panel tonight. We welcome to the team, syndicated columnist George Will, Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post, Kirsten Powers, columnist for The Daily Beast, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. George, welcome to Fox.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Thank you.

BAIER: Anybody who has been covering Washington or following Washington has read your columns for years, seen you on ABC's "This Week," your commentary there. We know you and your old friend, Dr. Krauthammer are huge baseball enthusiasts. For us this is a homerun, so welcome.

WILL: Thank you.

BAIER: What about this, this back and forth with Speaker Boehner today, referencing this quote in the Wall Street Journal and then the president's comments?

WILL: The president is rather enjoying this. If the emblematic statement of the first Obama term was "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste", this term defined after just nine months is "a crisis is a beautiful thing to create."

To understand his behavior in early October, you have to understand the disaster of September when he suffered two huge obstructions both involving core presidential powers. The power of appointment and the power to use military force, and he suffered at the hands of Democratic senators. He wanted Larry Summers to head the Fed, the most important appointment he'll make in the second term. Democratic senators stopped it. He wanted the power to threaten or wage a strike against Syria. Democratic senators disproportionately stopped that. So he needed to change the subject, and this has helped him do it.

BAIER: Chuck, the White House was clearly running away from this quote. And it wasn't an anonymous quote from a senior administration official. It happens in Washington. But it stirred up a hornet's nest and clearly the White House want today deal with that.

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: It was the first bad thing politically that has happened to them since this shutdown began.  George is exactly right. This meltdown of politics, whatever you want to call it up on the Hill, is a huge unforced error by the Republicans and a huge gift to Barack Obama. If we were not talking about the shutdown right now and the Republicans internal divisions that are perpetuating the shutdown, we would be talking about other things, such as the lower approval rating that the president has started to register in the polls, the rollout glitches of ObamaCare, and so forth. But because of Republicans have been unable to get their act together on a strategy and have precipitated the shutdown, he has a free shot at them all week long and probably longer.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What was interesting is this was the first mistake made by the administration, the statement that got out, and of course it's the first truth spoken by the administration about it since the shutdown began. This was a classic Kinsley gaffe. A gaffe in Washington is when you accidentally speak the truth.

They are winning. Obama was at his lowest point, humiliated abroad. He couldn't even get his appointments through among Democrats at home. His ratings were low. And this was his opportunity to recover, to appear as a man of the people out for an easeful lunch with Joe Biden. But there is -- and you saw how defensive the speaker was. He said all we're asking for is for us to chat to bring fairness to the American people under ObamaCare, meaning he's conceded that the whole effort to repeal it is dead. He accepts it. He's just looking for a tweak here and there. But there's a danger here for the president. He's approaching the peak of the sign curve. He benefits because of the shutdown. But every day that we approach the debt limit, which would be fatal for the president, the winning part of this diminishes and he is now headed over the curve, and as we approach the debt limit, he's going to go right down in the valley, and I think he will absolutely have to negotiate.

BAIER: At least initially, Kirsten, this is not looking good in the polls for Republicans. People are concerned about the government shutdown.  The latest Fox News poll, how serious is the government shutdown -- very, 58 percent, somewhat 23 percent, not very, 10 percent, not at all, seven percent. And then is the partial shutdown of the federal government definitely a bad thing, 67 percent, could be a good thing, 30 percent, depending where you stand where the blame falls.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Also in that poll, voters oppose defunding ObamaCare by 53-41. And that's been pretty consistent across the board. Whatever they feel about ObamaCare, very few Americans actually want to, A, defund it, and, B, the support drops even further when you start bringing in the idea of default or shutdown. Then people say absolutely not, do not want it defunded. So I don't think the Republicans are on very strong ground.

And I think the administration could have done a better job defending that quote, honestly, because when you what matters is the end result, what matters to them is that ObamaCare stays intact. There's nothing wrong with that. Yes, there's politics on Capitol Hill. Both sides are playing it.  You have Rand Paul on a hot mic with McConnell essentially saying the same thing. We're kind of winning, let's keep doing this. I'm not endorsing it. I'm not saying it's a great way to run a country. But I don't think it's as horrible as it's been sort of portrayed by pretty much everybody else.

BAIER: George?

WILL: The poll that says the 53 percent of the country says this is very serious. That's almost an aesthetic judgment because most of what the federal government does is transfer payments. And the transfer payments keep getting transferred, shuffling money back and forth. So I don't think 53 percent of the American people are seriously affected by this.

LANE: I think what they're actually reacting to is not the cessation of government operation but the spectacle in Washington, which is kind of grouped under the heading government shutdown. And what they see is this endless trench warfare that is embarrassing us in front of the rest of the world. That's what they say is a serious problem.

BAIER: To Charles' point, we are approaching the point where something has to change in this dynamic day-to-day. And it doesn't appear that there's any movement.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that's because the debt ceiling is still what -- 11, 12 days away. If we didn't have a debt ceiling overhanging it, there would be no movement at all. The president would stay exactly where he is, Harry Reid stay where they are, and they would wait for the k.

What they want is not just a clean CR, as if cleanliness is next to godliness in this and in and of itself it's a wonderful thing. What they want is to humiliate the Republicans and to cause them to walk back and concede everything. But the presence of the debt ceiling is what is the saving grace from the GOP point of view. Obama can't allow it. So the more we move away from the closing of the government -- it continues, but it will have less effect. It's very ominous for the president, the approach. And I suspect that if the shutdown continues into the end of next week, you're going to see movement from the Democrats because that will be a catastrophe for them politically, apart from what it's going to do to the country.

BAIER: George?

WILL: The president has made an enormous concession that no one has noted. That is he keeps insisting I want a clean continuing resolution, which means I want the sequester to continue. And the sequester for all of the many detractors of John Boehner is a huge achievement for those who want to shrink government spending.

BAIER: We'll continue this discussion in a moment and talk about the debt ceiling and how that's lining up. Stay with us.

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