All-Star Panel: Just how far out of the loop is Obama?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


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


ED HENRY, FOX WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why wasn't the president told though? This is his signature achievement. Was he being insulated?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We did not expect or anticipate the scale of the problems that that has occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no follow-up to my knowledge with the president, but his staff was engaged with the national military command center and pretty constantly through the period.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But no direct communication from him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not on my part, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why won't you tell us what date you learned? Was it yesterday or the day before?

CARNEY: Ed, what I can tell you is when the president -- right, and when the president found out, he was -- everyone knows the president did not know about this tactic until he heard about it on -- through the media.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That was a string of recent defense of the president, and it's common now to hear that he didn't know. We're back with the panel.  Tucker, is he out of the loop?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, I think a lot of people look at this and assume that the White House is sticking to its central goal, which is protecting the principle -- the president had no idea. I think this is part of a pattern that reveals a president who is distant, who is not involved in the details, who is not a detail guy. Remember, his first interaction with Congress the very beginning of his first term, the stimulus, he stood back and let the Congress write the legislation without getting involved.

There was an amazing New York Times piece just several months ago where one of his aides described his demeanor in meetings about Syria, questions about to arm the Syrian rebels, the president sitting back in his chair chewing gum looking bored and disengaged. This is a piece of a longstanding, I would say, trend.

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I actually disagree a little bit on this. First of all, if you want to string these quotes together, you get one damning indictment of a president who looks like he is completely out of it. On the other hand there is a real impetus in every White House to protect the principle. I think that's part of this.

On some of this it's really damning that he didn't know, like the health care website -- that's his signature achievement. On the IRS scandal, the I.G. report, he shouldn't have known about that. In other words, there has to be some kind of independent operation for these investigated.

BAIER: Sure, when stuff is hitting the fan, at that point he should know before he reads it in the paper.

LIASSON: Yes. There is no doubt about that and especially on the health care website. This is his signature achievement. We don't want him to be like Jimmy Carter doing the schedule for the White House tennis courts. He doesn't have to be a micromanager. But I think it is important that he is on top of problems.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: A week ago yesterday in the Rose Garden the president said nobody is madder than me, so mad was he his grammar failed him. He had said quite the same thing about the IRS scandal. And he seems to think that his job as chief executive is not to be the executive but to be angry at his own administration when it doesn't perform well. Fast and Furious, the IRS, Benghazi, NSA, investigation of our Mr. Rosen, there is just a list of things that surprise him.

CARLSON: It's not surprising though because he is not a policy guy. There was a very revealing moment in the press recently. One of his aides was asked what does the president read? And the aide who was defending the president revealed a list of progressive newspaper columnists, opinion columnists. That's what he reads? Not a policy guy. I think the president is what he seems, a guy who is happiest when he is giving soaring speeches.

BAIER: But Mara, you are there every day. Does it get to a point where it's over the top on no, he didn't know this?

LIASSON: I think these things can have a cumulative effect, especially when a couple big ones come along that really, really matter. Health care really, really matters. This is about implementation. This is a big, complex project. The most -- the basic premise of the Obama presidency is that the government can do good things for people, can make middle class people's lives better. OK, well, he has to prove that. He said I don't want bigger government, I don't want smaller government. I want smarter government. That's what this is about. He has to be on top of this to the point that it works and it's implemented correctly. That's where I think it can really undermine him.

BAIER: If he didn't know that there were problems with that website or his White House chief of staff didn't tell him, that's a problem.

LIASSON: Yeah, that's a problem.

WILL: 100 years ago this year we went to 435 members of Congress. Since then the government has doubled, doubled again, quintupled, sprawled all over with the same number of people trying to offer oversight. If the president would get absolution, all he needs to do is come out and say the truth. The government is so big that absolutely no one can manage it anymore, let alone have oversight of it. The trouble is, if he said that his entire project is called into question.

LIASSON: The NSA, somebody said that officials at the NSA don't even understand their own programs well enough to explain them to the FISA court. That's -- if things are too complex that the people operating them don't understand them, it's time to do something about them.

BAIER: And he didn't know that the phones were being tapped of Angela Merkel, is that conceivable if he is getting the information from those phone taps?

CARLSON: As a general matter he must have known that foreign governments were under surveillance by our government. If he didn't know that, that would be, I guess, negligence. But I agree -- this was the guy who was supposed to be on top of it. He was a reaction to Bush, who was so dumb. But this guy is a genius. He's a policy guy. He is not a policy guy. He is a talker.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned to see how the president played the odds in foreign policy.

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