All-Star Panel: How do Americans view Obama's handling of ISIS?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: There are a lot of things going on all at the same time. The Secret Service director resigns today after a series of failures, the first Ebola case in the U.S., the ISIS threat, the terrorism threat, things happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, and across the country. There is a feeling about that.

Today, by the way, is former president Jimmy Carter's 90th birthday. And 35 years, two months, and a couple of weeks ago he gave this speech from the White House.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national world. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.


BAIER: Crisis of confidence speech evolved to be called the "malaise speech." What is happening in the U.S. now? Is there a feeling about security and concern that possibly affects the elections? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I don't think it's a malaise sense in the country at all. I think it is a sense in the country that we have a presidency that is falling apart. And it isn't as if it all happened at once. The president comes in with a great division, expanding government, the government's going to solve a lot of problems, and withdrawal at home, if you say nice things in Cairo, you say we want an outstretched hand, we're going to eliminate all the blunders that the previous administration had made, things will get better abroad.

Now it takes years until the consequences of that are seen. Abroad in the vacuum that we created by Obama's retreat, more aggressive, more wicked, in fact, some of the worst people on earth have filled in in Libya, Syria, Iraq. Putin's on the margin in Eastern Europe. Everybody senses America is not there. Our allies are very worried about the kind of support they're going to get. So that's a consequences of the policy.

And domestically, the great idea of expansion of government, the new entitlements and all this, it is a crisis of competence. IRS, the V.A., the Secret Service, all the institutions that in the past you would make a movie about, the Secret Service agent is the hero, the epidemiologist is the hero, all of these agencies that we have trusted under this administration are showing how bad the government is run. You combine them and you get a sense that things are out of control.

BAIER: Mara, today, with the Secret Service director resigning, that kind of capped what has been a pretty bad few weeks.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, it's been a bad three weeks, and the voters, as they have for quite some time, think the country is on the wrong track by two to one, that's true. However, the Secret Service problems predated President Obama and so far they haven't been turned into a political indictment of him, so far, although there was a Republican congressman who said at the hearing, as hard as it is for me to say that this president and family deserve to be protected. But I would say that there's true outrage that the presidency of the United States, the president and his family wasn't protected.

And I actually think that the sense that the world is on fire, that things are falling apart, Ukraine, ISIS, Ebola, that was what was consuming the presidency for a number of weeks. I would say that things have actually gotten a little more stable. First of all, we have one case in the United States. We don't know if it's going to be an epidemic here and we don't think so. ISIS is now being attacked as opposed to a growing threat where the president stands up and says we don't have a strategy yet. His approval rates have actually ticked up a little bit recently, and it's because he took action against ISIS.

BAIER: A couple of point in different polls. We have a couple of polls new out tonight, Fox poll number four, does the Obama administration have a clear strategy for defeating ISIS? Yes, 26 percent, no, 64 percent. Is the Obama administration on radical Muslim extremists, how do they stand?  Not tough enough, 74 percent. And then the job performance on a host of issues, there you see approval, disapproval, and on the foreign policy front, obviously taking a hit with Syria there.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, he's in a very bad spot. Mara is right, if you look at the Gallup daily tracking poll from where he was two weeks ago compared to where he is now, he's up a little bit, right, right.

But certainly when you look at this broad set of issues that we're talking about, a lot of it reflects poorly on the president. Some of it doesn't.  I don't think it's fair to say President Obama is responsible for the Ebola crisis. It adds to the sense that things are out of control, but it's not Barack Obama.

BAIER: The overall sense that potentially security moms who have played in elections past may feel this angst --

HAYES: Right, exactly.

BAIER: -- on what the world is doing.

HAYES: I think the political damage comes from what Charles identified.  Remember, when Barack Obama came into office, on his first day he issued an executive order in which he said his goal, his objective, was to restore faith in government because without restored faith in government, he couldn't implement the kinds of changes that he wanted to make. And he was also very clear before he was elected and again running for re-election in 2012, that he wanted to be a transformative president, that he wanted to do big things, that he wanted to change the attitude of Americans towards their government, make them believe in an activist government again.

Not only has he failed at that, we have seen a dramatic erosion in faith in government. And it's not just the things that Charles mentioned. It's IRS, it's Benghazi, it's V.A., it's the immigration debacle over the summer, many of these which have happened in the second term. And then of course you can't forget, ObamaCare, which I think is this rolling disaster, and we're still seeing and likely to see more dramatic effects from it.

BAIER: Quickly, Charles, no one expects the president to give a Jimmy Carter crisis of confidence speech about all of the things collectively together, but there is a sense that what has been said at times by this White House, by this president, have not turned out to be accurate in a number of cases. I mean just today, the president has complete confidence in the Secret Service director, and then six hours later he accepts her resignation because it's a string of incidents.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, obviously nothing happened in the interim, so this is clearly a blunder and an obvious stupid one, the kind that you would make if you were president of the student council. You endorse her in the morning and you fire her in the afternoon.

But this stuff about Ebola is obviously outside the president's control. It's the fact that you get a beheading of an American in the United States, and then you get the FBI and others saying, calling it workplace violence when every sentient adult knows this is an act of terror.

It's the idea that the administration will deny things that it doesn't want to see the same way Obama denied and neglected the ISIS threat because it contradicted his narrative of the tide of war is receding. And it isn't an excuse to say that a lot of this stuff predated his presidency. You can say that in year one and year two. This is year six, the end of year six.  At that point you are responsible, even if you inherited a problem or two, particularly if you are the party of government of fixing stuff, and obviously stuff has gotten worse.

BAIER: Next up, an issue that the White House likes to tout that they say is going their way, the economy. We'll talk about that with our panel after a quick break.

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