Did President Obama prematurely politicize Oregon shooting?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 1, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


OBAMA: Somebody somewhere will comment and say Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.


BAIER: President Obama just a few moments ago on the White House briefing room talking about what he calls common sense gun legislation that should be pushed on Capitol Hill, talking after a mass shooting, another one in Roseburg, Oregon, at least 13 killed so far and some 20 injured.
But we don't know exactly about the shooter or very many details at all from authorities.

Let's bring in our panel and start there, Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard," Charles Lane, opinion writer for the "Washington Post," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't doubt that the president's statement was 100 percent sincere and 100 percent kneejerk. He has no idea what the gun was, how it was obtained, who the person is, and what the motive is. What does he do if it turns that it was a terrorist?
Obama himself said as special category if it's a terrorist, we don't know whether it is or not. And to make a pronouncement at this time when, I hate to say it, the bodies are still warm and the wounded are now in surgery, I think is at least premature.

BAIER: Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well I agree with Charles that the president plainly very passionate about this took some risks with regard to the narrative he laid down here at first.

But I do believe there is such thing, as my kids would say, as common sense gun legislation. The truth of the matter is murder by guns and otherwise, is down in this country. The FBI just reported it went down again last year to the lowest rate since 1957. But the one thing that continues and has spiked over the last few years are the so-called mass shootings, like we just saw, and those are often connected to large size magazines and certain kinds of weapons that can wield them and that that was -- there were proposals in Congress to deal with those that had bipartisan support, by the way, including by people like Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, who are not exactly radicals. And if this incident -- as Charles says, we don't know all the details. But if this incident led to the passage of something like that, I think that would be a saving grace.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": We don't know the details of it and I think that is the most important point that you made after the president finished. Like Charles, I don't doubt the fact that the president's passionate about that. We saw that tonight. We have seen that before from this president.

But to say this now before we know anything about this, I mean, we don't know anything about the circumstances of the shooting. We don't know anything about the -- how the shooter obtained the weapon in question. We don't know any of this, and, yet, the president is using this occasion to urge us to change our gun laws. There were 50 shootings in Chicago over the weekend for the second straight weekend in a row. Why didn't the president go out and make a statement then?

I'm sorry it's a very cynical thing to say, but he has had an avalanche of bad news over the past 36 hours and I think he is using the shooting to get out from under it.

BAIER: He has not said anything that I know of on camera about the situation in Russia or post his meeting with Putin or any of the other things, but he did choose, and he is clearly passionate about this, Charles, but he didn't address anything else.

KRAUTHAMMER: It would be nice if he showed actual passion about the complete collapse of six and a half years of policy in the Middle East and the abandonment and bombing of our own allies on the ground whom as you showed our secretary of defense had said we had some obligation to protect and we have not protected anyone.

BAIER: I want to turn to.

LANE: We have an obligation to protect Americans in Oregon, too, just saying.

KRAUTHAMMER: Why hasn't he spoken out on both?

HAYES: Or Chicago?

LANE: Fair enough. But to say that the president should speak out first about what's happening in the al Nusra Front and so forth as opposed to this.

HAYES: You don't think he makes these -- he is the one that --

LANE: I do not think he spoke out today to distract attention.

HAYES: He's the one who said we should politicize this. Well, he did. I think that's what he did here. I think he is distracting attention from his other problems.

KRAUTHAMMER: All I'm saying is if the entire Middle East is aflame and every one of our allies is terrified because of the U.S. abandonment under a policy he has exercised, he ought to say something and he has said nothing.

BAIER: All right, I do want to turn to that story and specifically that the Iranians are now on the ground in Syria working with Russia as these air strikes continue, mostly against Syrian rebels so far. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the U.N. today.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And 70 years after the murder of 6 million Jews, Iran's rulers promised to destroy my country, murder my people. And the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing, utter silence, deafening silence.


BAIER: He kept staring for 45 seconds, and then said "Perhaps you can understand why Israel is not joining new celebrating this Iran deal."
Powerful speech.

LANE: It's been a day for passion and political leaders not just in Washington. You know, I think what he is also responding to is shared by some of the other U.S. allies in the region, which is a sense of abandonment by the United States or a sense is of disconnect with this administration right now.

We were alluding to the situation in Syria. One thing I do probably agree with these guys about is that Vladimir Putin right now is establishing himself as the kingmaker that region. We will see how that plays out. But together with Iran, he is becoming the go-to power.

And I think even Benjamin Netanyahu made a little pilgrimage up to Moscow just to make sure he checked in with him, which tells you where things are going.

BAIER: This is a bit of a Friday lightning round on Thursday because of the structure of the show. I want to talk briefly about House Majority Leader McCarthy, his statements on the show tonight in reaction to that dustup over his comments of the Benghazi committee.

HAYES: I think the original statement was stupid, and I think in his attempt to clean it up, he made the matter worse. He didn't have anything to say to you. He couldn't defend what he had said. Trey Gowdy has gone out of his way to keep the Benghazi committee from being political. And I think he's done darn good job about it. And with that sound bite Kevin McCarthy stepped on it in a big way that I think will cause other Republicans to take a second look at him.

KRAUTHAMMER: Gowdy has spent two years as a prosecutor, skilled and very honest, being absolutely scrupulous in the way he has conducted this hearing, and McCarthy demolished that in 30 seconds. I'm not sure he has undone the damage.

BAIER: Well, different show tonight. Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for this SPECIAL REPORT, fair, balanced, and unafraid. ON THE RECORD with Greta starts right after this break.

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