All-Star Panel: Reaction to US, Cuba policy overhaul

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 17, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: Do you anticipate during the rest of the president's term that there will be any unilateral change or any change in U.S. sanctions or conditions against Cuba?

TONY BLINKEN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Anything that might be done on Cuba will have to be consistent with the law, and, second, anything that in the future might be done on Cuba would be done in full consultation.

RUBIO: The only thing that concerns me is that I have not heard you say at point blank that absent Democratic openings we are not going to see actions on the part of this administration to weaken the current embargo and sanctions against Cuba.

BLINKEN: Unless, at least in my judgment, unless Cuba is able to demonstrate that it is taking meaningful steps to move forward I don't see how you move forward in the relationship.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Now Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken who was just confirmed by the Senate this week, talking to Senator Marco Rubio, and actually Senator Rubio tried two more times to say is something going to happen in the rest of the president's term. And there was not an answer.

We're back with the panel. Laura, you know, this relationship between Congress and this administration seem strained over a number of different issues.

LAURA INGRAHAM, TALK RADIO HOST: Frayed to the breaking point one would think, right? So going back to ObamaCare, what ObamaCare was going to do, premiums were going to come down, networks were going to widen, and of course all of that was false. The president said he didn't have the authority to do executive amnesty on multiple occasions. You played those sound bites, Bret. It turns out he just went ahead and did it anyway.

So, I don't know why all these Republicans are surprised when the administration or representatives of the administration, prevaricate, exaggerate, lie. Why should they be surprised? I don't know why Senator Rubio would think just because you ask a question you're going to get an answer that is going to be truthful.

I think we should keep our eyes wide open, all of us journalists and commentators, and the senators when they're dealing with issues like fast- track trade authority with Obama's pledge to enforce new border restrictions in some new immigration reform bill, because they haven't been trustworthy on a whole bunch of other issues. So I think you're going to hear a lot of Republicans say it's nice rhetoric, but your actions speak louder than your words.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think this really is a bit of trickery because it was announced today, obviously to be a day after Blinken gets confirmed. Had this happened a day earlier he would not have been confirmed, or there would have been a huge argument over what appears to be, let's say, an untruth of some sort about the consultation with Congress.

But I think the major issue here is something that Obama -- you mentioned became in 08. Well, this is what he said in 08, "I will maintain the embargo," and he said for precisely the reason that we have cited here today. It provides us with leverage to provide the regime with a choice.  If you take significant steps towards a democracy, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations, which is the consensus that the country has had for 50 years.

There was not an ounce, there was not an inch, there was not a suggestion of an opening here. So it's a contradiction. It's about this administration, that everywhere it meets a tyrant, whether it's Putin in Russia and we abandon the missile defense system in Eastern Europe and get nothing in return, we do a START treaty which is advantageous to the Russians and does nothing on our part, or with Iran when Obama refuses to support the revolution in 2009 and appears to be relaxing sanctions, giving away the store on nuclear weapons. Is there no tyrant or anti-American center in the world that Obama will not appease for nothing in return? If he gets something in return, I would be willing to listen. I haven't seen anything.

BAIER: Obviously, Juan, quickly, people are happy that Mr. Gross is home. But you have even Bob Menendez, from New Jersey, a Democrat, saying three convicted criminals set an extremely dangerous precedent to trade off. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes across the world to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, that existed before. But there's a question about the value of the U.S. agent that has been returned. Menendez says the person wasn't that valuable. President Obama says he was a person who might have been the most valuable espionage agent the U.S. has ever had in Cuba. I don't know. But we'll see.

I think Gross's return on a humanitarian basis was significant, and I think, again, there's a generational opportunity here if you get Raul Castro, as he said today, willing to discuss some of these Democratic measures. Then in retrospect we'll say, OK, there's progress. But at the moment I'm just worried that we got a pig in a poke.

BAIER: As Laura said, we'll see.

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