Which stories defined 2013?

'Special Report' All-Stars make their picks


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 31, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JOHN ROBERTS, GUEST ANCHOR: We continue now with our look at the top stories of 2013 with our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of "National Review" online, FOX News media analyst and host of Fox's "Media Buzz" Howard Kurtz, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. So gentlemen, it's time for your picks for the top stories of 2013. And Howie, why don't you start us off?

HOWARD KURTZ, 'MEDIABUZZ' HOST: My pick is the NSA leaks. Ed Snowden is still a fugitive in Russia and he broke the law. I'm not condoning what he did. But he fundamentally changed the debate around the world, really, about national security technology and privacy. The diplomatic fallout has been huge and we found out such things as the U.S. listening in on Angela Merkel's phone calls. And I think he kind of forced a public awareness of the magnitude of how much our government can listen and read from e-mails to phone calls, called almost Orwellian, by one federal judge who ruled against it, and another federal judge has a conflicting ruling. And that magnitude is staggering. I think we're not going to look at this issue in the same way because we know so much more.

ROBERTS: So how do we look at him, Michael Haydon, former director of the NSA and CIA the other on Sunday morning television said my thoughts on him are elevated and came close to using the word traitor. Is he a traitor or a whistleblower or something in between?

KURTZ: He certainly is a whistleblower in his own mind. And yet by running away from justice, he didn't want to face the consequences of his action. I certainly as a journalist think that it was OK for the journalists to get this material and publish it. But I think the main thing about Snowden is he didn't hide behind the curtain of anonymity, which he could have. He did come out and make a video and put his name to it, but then ran off and is still in Moscow.

ROBERTS: Jonah, your pick?



GOLDBERG: It is very much related to Howie's, which I think he made an incredible case for, is America's loss of standing in the world. When you look at the fact that the Saudis are basically thumbing us in the eye, you look basically at how Vladimir Putin, as the kids say, drank Barack Obama's milk shake. If you look across a wide spectrum of things, it is Greek tragedy type of irony where you have a guy that came in who was preemptively given a Nobel Peace Prize for things they expected him to do rather than things he actually did. And now it turns out in part for matter outside of his control, like the Snowden leaks, America's standing with our allies is arguably worse than it has ever been. Our standing in the Middle East, the way he's wound down the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may be politically popular at home but it does not send the message around the world that we are to be feared or respected.

ROBERTS: And isn't this a president who came in with the, some people might say, grandiose of repairing America's image to the world?

GOLDBERG: That was his whole shtick. Because he backpacked in Pakistan and pronounced it Pakistan and because he goes to Egypt and gives this what I argue was still one of the best speeches of his presidency, that there was this whole idea that simply by virtue of being named Barack Obama and being African-American that this would have this fundamental transformation of our relationships...

KURTZ: And getting a Nobel Peace Prize.

GOLDBERG: Which was almost a practical joke. It was almost a cruel thing to do to Obama because it heightened expectations that he could never live up to even more. And that is the great irony here is that in a lot of ways George Bush was probably hated more around the world but he was also respected more around the world.

ROBERTS: Charles, your pick for 2013, other than ObamaCare?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It has to do with the remarkable changes in regard to social attitudes, generally speaking, libertarian. The swiftness with which the attitudes have changed on gay marriage is simply astonishing.

When you think 20 years ago Democrats were the ones who introduced don't ask, don't tell, and that is a progressive idea. A Democratic president signed the defensive marriage act which was essentially abolished this year to the cheers of Democrats. And the fact that only five years ago the president said that he opposed gay marriage because of religious reasons, which of course now he's rejected and he's changed on. That, I think, is an astonishing development. But it isn't only with gay issues. It is also the legalization of marijuana.

ROBERTS: And legal sales begin in Colorado tomorrow morning.

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly. A lot of people are hopping on planes and want to get there, especially a lot of the hippies '60s who dreamed of a day who could walk into the store. I'm not associated with these people of course.

ROBERTS: What time is your flight for Denver?


KRAUTHAMMER: You know what they say -- if you remember the '60s, you weren't there. Well, I was there. You walk into a store now in Colorado and you can smoke. But there is one exception, which I think is the story of the year culturally, which is the opposite has happened on abortion, and in part because of the Gosnell trial. The fact that people are becoming aware of how late-term abortions are so near to infanticide and also how the new technology and the ultrasounds are giving people awareness of how much an infant has developed in the womb. So with everything else heading left, on this issue, the movement has stopped and I think reversed, especially among young people. It is an extremely interesting and unusual set of developments.

ROBERTS: So does this become an intellectual issue for the midterms?

KRAUTHAMMER: No, I'm not sure it does. I just think it's an issue in the change of our attitudes. It does mean that you wouldn't have predicted 20 years ago that people who remain hardline on abortion, and the Supreme Court decision would be written out of our political arguments, but that is not the case. It is still a country split almost 50/50.

KURTZ: It is part of a generational shift, and I think the public is ahead of the politicians on same-sex marriage. And 18 states have legalized it, and Republicans don't talk about it very much anymore where it was a cultural wedge back in 2004, for example.

GOLDBERG: If you said 20 years ago that the country today would get more pro-gay, prolife, and pro-gun. Guns were considered a real wedge social issue that hurt the right. The country has moved decidedly libertarian on those, too.

KRAUTHAMMER: In Canada they are discussing legalization of prostitution. You and I remember Canada as sort of staid, white shoe, and rather conservative.

ROBERTS: Rob Ford changed all of that.


KURTZ: He sure did.

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