Friday Lightning Round: Record high national debt

Panel sums up this week's hot topics


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 5, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Each week we ask you to vote online in our Friday Lightning Round poll for your favorite panel topic. Here today you choose the national debt as it reached a new high this week. We're back with the panel. As you take a look at this chart, the national debt since 2009, it is now over $18 trillion. And can you see how much it has grown since the president took office, a president who campaigned in 2008, obviously, Yochi, saying that the debt was a major problem and that President Bush was using the credit card and the bank of China. What about the debt and how big a deal it is and how it factors in now?

YOCHI DREAZEN, MANAGING EDITOR, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: I think what we need to point to is that the budget deficit that has gone down, he would say that we are spending less than we were, that that debt is shrinking, that he is being a careful steward of the taxpayer dollar. I think this figure is staggering, the chart up is staggering. But what really I think is going to decide how people look at him is jobs, it's wages. It's not going to be something as abstract to my mind as debt and deficit.

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: I absolutely agree. The fact that there was a good economics report today, 300,000 jobs, is part of the good news. But the real bad news in the chart, I think, that is the most damaging is the one that looks at, first of all, the GDP growth for the last 15 years which has been pretty flat, like under two percent, and the fact that median income in this country is just stagnant since 2000. So people have not seen a raise in 15 years. They are not feeling it.

BAIER: You heard Saxby Chambliss talk about the debt and his frustration that it's always wait until the next election.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I disagree actually with both of you. I mean, I think that jobs and wages are the proximate short-term problem. But when you are talking about the long-term problem of the United States, we have made no progress towards resolving our deficit. We know what the cause of the debt crisis is. It's entitlements. And rather than address any of the entitlement issues that we he have we have actually added a new entitlement over the last six years. It's not sustainable. It will cause I think major problems to the U.S. economy, to the global economy, unless it's solved.

BAIER: OK, a couple of things. Chris Christie, bridge-gate, it depends on where you stood. Some people looked at it, oh, look, he's getting off the hook. Others said this if far from over, and they point to this committee report. The committee is not in a position currently to conclude that what Governor Christie himself knew about the lane closures or when and how his knowledge of these events developed. Changer? Interim?  What is this?

HAYES: I think it helps him. I suspect it won't get the kind of blanket coverage that the initial allegations got for him. But, look, this helps. It's another in a series of reports that at least partially exonerates him or suggests that he didn't know or, if he did know, he wasn't pulling the strings.


WALTER: Chris Christie's bigger problem is the fact that he still has not seen by conservatives as the candidate of choice. And his numbers, it's been before the bridge shutdown, been certainly the Sandy coverage that he got, standing with the president, that didn't help. The sense that among a lot of conservatives that he is not a real fiscal conservative.  There is a tremendous amount of frustration there. His negatives are higher than almost any other candidate the Republican side -- among Republicans. I'm not talking about in the big picture.

BAIER: Sit down and shut up may do that. Who knows? Yochi, let's go to winners and losers. First winner, then loser.

DREAZEN: Winner, Ash Carter. His lifelong dream of becoming secretary of defense is finally coming true. Loser, Ash Carter, his lifelong dream of becoming secretary of defense is finally comes true. He gets to have the joy of running the Pentagon when budgets for defense are plummeting, when the Joint Chiefs of Staff are angry, when we have a faltering war against the Islamic State, when we have Russia on the march in eastern Europe, when we have China and its ships and its Navy moving in the Southeast China sea.

BAIER: But he has a card to play.

DREAZEN: He does. And that card is no president has ever had more than four secretaries of defense. He is number four. So he can say, hey, Mr. President, fire me.


BAIER: You don't want to be five.

DREAZEN: Make history.

BAIER: All right, Amy, winner and loser?

WALTER: My winner is John Boehner. I think that he had a pretty good week. The fact that this lame duck Congress, a lot of people had said he is not going to be able to keep his fractious conference together. It's going to explode and we're going to have a government shutdown. It doesn't look like any of that is coming true. They're going to be able to recess on time next week.

And for the loser, you have to look at southern Democrats this weekend. Saturday is the runoff in Louisiana where Senator Mary Landrieu is expected to lose. And there is now only -- there are only three Democrats in the south, two of them are in the Senate, two of them are in Virginia, one in Florida.

BAIER: Super quick.

HAYES: My winner is Chris Christie for reasons we discussed before.  My loser is Rolling Stone magazine because of the thing, the issues laid out in Doug McKelway's piece, and the fact when they semi-retracted their story they seemed to blame their source, saying we shouldn't have put so much trust in the source -- that's not a good way to retract it.

BAIER: Bad idea, bad idea. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for a motivational speech that's right on target.

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