Obama trying to 'fracture' the GOP?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 16, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The Republicans, recognizing this was not a good strategy and seeing a horrible reaction from the American people, I'm pretty sure they're not going to run this play again.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, we've been locked in a fight over here trying to bring government down to size and trying to do our best to stop ObamaCare. We fought the good fight. We just didn't win.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: The House of Representatives has taken a bold stance listening to the American people, but unfortunately the United States Senate has refused to do likewise. The United States Senate has stayed with the traditional approach of the Washington establishment of maintaining the status quo and doing nothing to respond to the suffering that ObamaCare is causing.


BRET BAIER, HOST: And the United States Senate has yet to vote. They're still getting ready to vote, as you look live at the Senate floor, we're waiting for the debt ceiling deal, continuing resolution deal, and this bill to move forward. It could happen at any moment. We'll bring it to you here.

Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of National Review online, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Charles, thoughts on this day and what we expect to happen in these votes?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it will be over.  Thank God it's over, particularly for conservatives and Republicans.

I'm sort of surprised as you are to hear the president intends to speak or is likely to speak between the vote of the Senate and the vote of the House. He can only hurt the vote in the House. He can only, I would assume, what he does, his want is to rub it in. He likes to rub it in, as we saw in the clip you showed, saying to Republicans, I just bested you and you're not going to try this again. If he does that, that will reduce the number of Republicans who vote in support of this. It will still pass the House because the Democrats will support it.

But I think Obama's long game has always been, if he's going to pass his agenda in the second term where he doesn't control the House, he has to fracture the Republicans in the House. And by rubbing it in or by antagonizing conservatives, he's going to help in doing that. The bill will pass with Democratic votes. So he's looking to immigration, he's looking to carbon taxes and other stuff in the future. If he can split the Republicans in the House, essentially he regains control of the two Houses of Congress and he might be able to enact his agenda. I think that's what he's up to.


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I think it's going to be soon clear to President Obama there's not enough competitive seats available to Democrats to take the House back next year. They're going to be defending not only a fragile jobless recovery but ObamaCare for the third election in a row, and ObamaCare live online causing at this point problems. And that's the expectation and projection for months to come.

So it's not -- and the president will be in the sixth year of a term which historically is terrible for his own party in midterm elections. I don't foresee anyone realistic around President Obama trying to convince him he can take the House back. He has to deal with John Boehner Republican's conference for years to come. They have a lock on the House and will keep the majority.

KRAUTHAMMER: But my point is in absence of retaking the House, if you fracture the Republicans --

STODDARD: I don't know how he gets comprehensive immigration reform done this way, or actually anything. Actually John Boehner succeeded in uniting the House. He just knew all along this was a fight they couldn't win but hung with his rank and file conservatives who wanted to defund and delay ObamaCare until the last minute that he could. He told them he would never default. He was going to do this before tomorrow at midnight. He did it today.

But he showed them it was a fight they couldn't win, but he earned their begrudging respect by hanging in to the last minute. He unified his leadership table, unlike the fiscal cliff where you saw Republicans fall apart. Everyone at the leadership table was united and will vote for this bill tonight even if President Obama rubs it in.

BAIER: Jonah, the president is saying he wants to break the fever of Republicans, specifically the Tea Party. It doesn't seem like he's broken any fever. In fact, conservatives seem more united than ever maybe.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Not more united than ever, but more opposed to ObamaCare.

BAIER: I'm sorry, the Tea Party supporters, conservatives -- I know the Republican Party has its own split, we've talked about it many times. But they fired up some of the firebrands.

GOLDBERG: I think that's absolutely right. I think Charles is right to a certain extent that Obama is trying to divide, a strategy of divide and conquer. In effect we have a coalition going on on the right in Congress.  It's the Republicans who follow Boehner and Tea Party caucus that essentially doesn't. And they'll work together on some things.

But what usually happens in the wake of these kinds of things, is most Republicans -- and other instances Democrats, but in this case Republicans -- they are looking to put the fissure behind them and they will be more unified on the next issue that comes down the pipe so those who broke with the Tea Party guys said, "Hey, look, this was a unique thing. We really aren't the moderates or RINOs you claim we are. "

I also think it's never wise to underestimate the degree to which Obama does things for spite. There are good theoretical strategic reasons why he might be trying to defy the Congress. The thing about lancing the blister, whatever the phrase was, and stuff about going after Boehner, I think the guy can't help himself often, and he simply wants to twist and pinch and rub it in on other side and say, hey, I was right all along. Sometimes it's just an "I told you so" coming from him.

BAIER: But in the next big picture, the next fight is this conference committee. And is there any hope in the wake of a super committee that was never really super, that this is going to work?

GOLDBERG: I doubt it. It's an old cliche in Washington that the answer to every problem is another blue ribbon panel or committee or whatever that allows him to kick the can and turn the page. That's what it's designed to do.

STODDARD: Yes, it's unfortunate. One of the conditions for delaying enforcement of the debt ceiling in the spring from Republicans was that the Senate actually passed the budget for the first time in four years.  And they did that. But there has been objection from conservative members of Congress like Ted Cruz to actually having this budget committee. Now that it's going to come together and everyone forced the issue, doesn't mean the differences, which are so far apart, can actually be resolved before December 13th.

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