Inside the politics of Pope Francis' US trip

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 14, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. MARC VEASEY, D-TEXAS: We ask you to use your voice to help us advocate for the undocumented and people living in poverty in our communities.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY, D-ILL.: We hope you will address climate change and talk about how it especially hurts lower income communities and the most vulnerable among us.

CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think it's interesting that Democrats say, oh, he's so right about the environment, and he's so right about capitalism. But they don't really talk about his belief in the sanctity of life because that they don't agree with him.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a different opinion than him on economic models. We have the same goal of providing more prosperity and upward mobility. I just honestly believe free enterprise is the better way of doing it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Pope Francis, the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, arrived here in the U.S. today. He's here tonight. He'll meet at the White House for a formal welcoming ceremony tomorrow beginning this trip.

Let's bring in our panel: syndicated columnist George Will, A. B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend."

OK, George, as you heard from that open, it depends on your party. You can hear what you want to hear from Pope Francis even before the speech.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the Pope has a clear agenda, social, economy, political, and he's not reticent about it. But he was strangely reticent in Cuba. When someone hands him today when he lands and gets to his apartment here in Washington a copy of The Washington Post, he can read The Washington Post editorial that accuses him of the appeasement of power in Cuba where The Post says he did and said nothing that would discomfort the Castro regime.

He comes here speaking for the poor but some of us think against the arrangements, largely considered capitalists and fossil fuels, that have done more for the poor in the last two centuries than have been done for the poor in the 30 centuries before that. He will speak on Thursday in the House chamber. He will be speaking there one week after in that chamber where 177 Democrat members of Congress voted for infanticide, that is they voted against the bill from Trent Franks of Arizona that said if a child survives an abortion procedure it should be given the same medical treatment that would be accorded any other child of a similar gestational age. And 177 Democrats voted against that. If the Pope is looking for something to talk about in the House chamber, he might start there.

BAIER: One would think, A. B., that he is going to talk about life issues. But he is also going to talk about these other issues that he's expounded upon from the Vatican and around the world. And depending, again, on the political point of view, you hear what you hear.

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: Right. There is no escaping the fact that this trip is political. He's going to speak to address the joint session of the U.S. Congress. He is going to speak with the president privately in the Oval Office. He is accompanied by other officials from the Vatican, a secretary of state, a foreign minister for official visits. He obviously has uncomfortable differences with Democrats and with Republicans. President Obama who has appealed to him in the past on Cuba will now appeal to him heavily, we have to assume, on climate change in order to reach an international accord at the end of the year and hope that the Pope is going to help romance other countries into joining this agreement.

He's going to play this up, and actually President Obama does risk any kind of overt lobby effort. But surely that's going to happen behind closed doors. And I think the Pope has invited this.

BAIER: Yes, and also the Syrian crisis, the refugee crisis. I'm sure the Pope will weigh in on that as well.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: He already has. He's fashioned himself a political figure pretty explicitly. It will be so interesting to see if he makes unfashionable statements. If he comes and does what George suggests and scolds the Congress for really doing something unconscionable. I think his record in Cuba suggests where he refused even to meet with dissidents, people who had been thrown in prison for practicing Christianity, he didn't acknowledge them, this suggests maybe he won't.

In this case, though, he is meeting with an administration that is so hostile to the Catholic Church that even the vice president, Joe Biden, complained about it as a faithful mass-going Catholic and was promptly ignored. The White House has assembled this meeting, a dinner for him, where they packed it with political figures, transgender activists, a gay episcopal priest, this whole panoply of people designed to make a statement, a very specific political statement. Can the Pope resist making a statement, a firmer statement of traditional Christianity? I hope he can. I hope he does.

BAIER: Two things. One is the administration says there will be thousands and thousands at the welcoming ceremony. So they didn't address that criticism.

CARLSON: When you invite Gene Robinson, who, as an Episcopalian I could bore you for hours about the history of Gene Robinson. But you are making a very specific political statement when you do that. And they have definitely done that to the Pope.

BAIER: And two is there are many Catholics who are very excited about this visit to the U.S. They are not all in trepidation about this. And they look forward to hearing what the Pope is going to say.

STODDARD: Yes. I'm not a Catholic, but I want to actually say that this is a good story. He's coming to America for six days. This is an example of positive leadership that you don't have to be Catholic to embrace. People see him as a very open-minded and loving figure. And this is in the face of tidal waves of bad news a really good story. And so I think that's important to point out.

WILL: Well, it's also the oldest institution in the world. That itself gives it a certain cachet, to say no more. Anyone who can claim 1.1 million adherents.

BAIER: Billion, with a "b."

WILL: I'm sorry, billion, which is slightly less than the arriving leader of China, but they are voluntary.


STODDARD: Right. Un-coerced.

WILL: Exactly.

BAIER: On the issue of income inequality, and talking about capitalism, the Pope has spoken out about that numerous times. The former ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Rooney, on this Pope and that issue.


FRANCIS ROONEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO HOLY SEE: He's from a country that is autocratic, that has spent 60 years spinning itself into oblivion, which at the turn of the century was as big or bigger than the United States economy, and where the companies are all oligopolistic and many of whom are cronies with the state and cronies with each other, these huge families. And they don't provide for their people. And I don't think there is a safety net in Argentina to care for the poor.


BAIER: Fair? I mean, capitalism is really corporatism in Argentina?

WILL: At the turn of the 20th Argentina had the 14th highest per capita income in the world. Now it's 63rd in the world partly because they have been practicing redistribution that Pope Francis seems to be enamored of. He says the problem in the world is rampant consumerism. Not for the 1.3 billion people in this world who don't have electricity. He praises from 30,000 feet subsistence agriculture. I know no one involved in subsistence agriculture who would not flee it given the opportunity.

CARLSON: So it's not surprising that you go to the Bernie Sanders website and you click on Bernie's views and you go to the economic section and the first quote you see is from the Pope. I'm not saying the Pope endorses Bernie Sanders, hardly. But he is being used by the left to justify their economic policies. And I think that's a shame.

BAIER: But in this conversation is also life which the right will grab onto and say this is --

STODDARD: Right. And Pope Francis when arriving said on the plane, I'm not a liberal. He disagrees with both parties on serious issues. But everyone is going to make their appeal like you heard on the tape about immigration and everything else.

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