All-Star Panel: President defends ObamaCare to press

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 20, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Today's press conference, a lot of questions that question that statement, greatest president ever. 


JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:Has this been the worst year of your presidency? 

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you have any personal regrets? 

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: It's been a tough year. You may not want to call it the worst year of your presidency but it's clearly been a tough year. The polls have gone up and down but they are a low point right now. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  If you were measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot throughout the course of my career.  I mean, if I was interested in polling, I wouldn't have run for president. 


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Let's bring in our panel a little bit early tonight. Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. 

OK, what about this news conference, Charles? 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, he looked tired, he looked exhausted, he looked like a guy who'd a bad year. I don't think he had a lot to say. It looks like he really wanted to get out of town but he didn't want to leave without facing the press or there would have been stories about he's kind of escaping, he's unwilling or afraid to face the press. 

He didn't want a headline saying he slinks out of town. But there wasn't a lot of substance that came out of it, and he simply said, as we heard there, he's not a man that follows the polls. I think I would add that to a long list of keeping the truth at arm's length, as a president who is obsessed with polls and has ridden them to high office and he knows he's in deep trouble, and he knows that he's lashed to the mess of ObamaCare which is a reason that it isn't unlike other times in his career when he had freedom of action. 

He doesn't here, because he's hostage to the fate of his own piece of legislation. 

BAIER: Chuck? 

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST:  Charles, it's Christmas, I think we should, in the spirit of the season, try to look at the bright side of this press conference. 

KRAUTHAMMER:  But you do that all year long. 


LANE:  And actually for all that you say there, Charles, I thought there was an attempt by the president at the beginning of this press conference to focus people on what good news there is. And the good news for all the problems of ObamaCare is not all that trivial when it comes to the economy because the economy is -- the numbers from the third quarter show grew faster than previously reported. 

The stock market is up, the job -- the unemployment number is down and you can see the strategy already taking shape, which is going to be in the New Year, start to emphasize some of this better economic news. 

And the Fed's decision earlier this week to embark on a taper tends to validate that because it suggests that even the Fed believes the economy can stand on its own two feet. So I think the president actually did, under the pressure of these tough questions from the  press corps, kind of -- he undersold his own message. 

If I were probably Jay Carney sitting back there, I would have said, come on, Mr. President, be a little more upbeat but he didn't quite manage it. 

BAIER:  On ObamaCare, let's take a listen to him on the numbers, talking about numbers and the health care law. 


OBAMA:  Despite the fact that for probably the first month and a half was lost because of problems with the Web site, and about as bad as a bunch of publicity as you could imagine, and yet you still got two million people who signed up. 


BAIER:  Now officially what we have from HHS, through November is -- excuse me, is enrollments at 364, 682. The president today said one million plus, he used the term two billion there, selected new health insurance plans and then you have the cancellations of 5.96 million. I guess he's including Medicaid in there somehow to get to that two million number. 

I just want to -- last week Kathleen Sebelius said this.  "I don't know where the five million number comes from.  I know people have been told that their health plan doesn't necessarily match, the ACA compliant plans, they are not grandfather plan.  And a number of those individuals have already re-enlisted and enrolled in plans so losing coverage and being notified that the plan that they had doesn't exist anymore are two very different things. 

I guess what I'm pointing to here is, here's a president saying that two million people have been added, Steve, and these numbers are -- I don't know, they just don't seem to add up to me. 

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD:  No.  I mean, the president has long since thrown off the constraints of truth and accuracy when it comes to talking about ObamaCare and how many people are signed up. 

I think they'll end up being lucky to have two million total enrolled by the March 31st deadline. I think we're clearly not there now, as you suggest, 365,000 was the number that they were using before, people have raised questions about that, but I don't think that this president is -- he seems almost to be trying to will himself through this problem, through ObamaCare right now. 

And he's still talking about problems with the Web site and suggesting that the administration is -- beyond problems with the website.  The website was down today for a couple of hours immediately before this press conference. 


BAIER:  I mean, we even haven't addressed last night's shift. 

HAYES:  Right. 

BAIER:  The shift, the tectonic shift -- 

HAYES:  Yes. 

BAIER:  That happened last night. 

HAYES:  Basically, suspending the individual mandate for some people, there was a question today at the press conference about whether it will be ultimately suspended, you know, in fact, if not in deed, for everybody and the president said, no, absolutely we intend to enforce the mandate. 

But that's clearly thrown, I think, into at least deep confusion by what they did last night -- and then on the website, I mean, it was down for two hours today. HHS said this was scheduled maintenance. That's how they tried to describe this. 

HHS and the administration would have us believe that they had scheduled maintenance in the middle of a weekday before a presidential conference three days before the deadline when they're short on numbers. Honestly, look, you can't even dress it up any more. That is simply not true. That's not what happened there. 

KRAUTHAMMER:  And the numbers are round that the president is offering but there is no evidence that any of them are true. So round is this night, but truth is better. And when you hear the administration saying everything is OK, then you have to ask yourself, what about the bombshell last night, which is a sign of complete panic? 

What the administration did is to announce at night that people who lost their health insurance now are exempt from the fine they have to pay next year, or they can now purchase an outlawed kind of health insurance, the one that was supposed to be a lemon, the one that's supposed to be so bad that you weren't even allowed to have it any more, and these millions are allowed to have it now, it's called catastrophic, and the insurers are apoplectic because it means that they're going to lose all these young healthies who are the ones who are going to have to balance out the cost of the older and the sicker and they are in distress because they understand this completely undermines the financial foundation of the health exchanges. 

BAIER:  To wrap this up after this break then we have the NSA and Iran to talk about. 

More with the All-Stars.  And make sure to head to FoxNews.com/Specialreport to join the SR Bing Pulse. 

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