Obama's legacy faces an unsure future under Trump

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," November 14, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It would be important for him to have the room to staff up, to figure out what his priorities are, to be able to distinguish between what he was campaigning on and what is practical and what he can actually achieve. There are certain things that make for good sound bite but don't always translate into good policy. And that's something that he and his team, I think, will wrestle with. What's clear is that he was able to tap into, yes, the anxiety but also the enthusiasm of his voters in a way that was impressive. And I said so to him.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama, a news conference today in the White House briefing room before heading out overseas to, what he said, calm world leaders about his successor. This as multiple reports tonight from transition officials with president-elect Trump that he has asked for top secret clearance for his adult children and son-in-law. There you see his adult children there, Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also. We're trying to get to the bottom of that, the top secret clearance.

Donald Trump talking about the enormity of the presidency on "60 Minutes" last night.


LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS: On election night, I heard you went completely silent. Was it a sort of realization of the enormity of the thing for you?

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: I think so. It's enormous. I've done a lot of big things. I've never done anything like this. It is so big. It is so enormous.

STAHL: Kind of just took your breath away? Couldn't talk?

TRUMP: A little bit. A little bit. And I think I realized that this is a whole different life for me now.


BAIER: It will be.

Let's bring in our panel, Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for Real Clear Politics, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Charlie, we're obviously waiting for all the transition to take place. But what about this news, if true? How do you read it, and what do you think?

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: I don't really know what to make of that. Obviously we have always known that his family -- he was going to rely on his family a lot. Probably not quite that much. But it isn't a surprise that he is going to rely on them and have them -- they have been an integral part of the campaign so far and I think a lot of people probably expected them to be involved with the administration itself.

As for the rest of the transition developments, you know, I think that the choice of Reince Priebus as chief of staff is probably a wise move that suggests he is interested in learning how Washington works. He had a great advantage not really knowing or caring how Washington works, just denouncing it.

And then the choice of Steve Bannon, Bannon has been, even before he became a formal part of the campaign, has kind of been the heart and soul of the campaign itself. He was sort of channeling so many of these issues that drove Donald Trump to victory.

BAIER: And we will talk more about Bannon in the second panel and some of the reaction we have seen, Caitlin, but on this day, when you see the president coming out, defending his legacy but also saying that people who didn't vote for Donald Trump need to give him a chance. Your thoughts on what turned out to be a pretty long news conference this afternoon?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. President Obama is in this delicate situation where he has to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. He is about to go overseas and assure people that things are fine, things are peaceful in our country. But he is also facing the prospect of having his main legacy items unraveled by Republicans who now will control Congress and the White House. And that's something that the president did not expect. That's something that Democrats in Washington did not expect either. Many people were surprised by that.

So having to go out there and talk about Trump in a respectful way I think is challenging for a lot of Democrats who are also very agitated right now by that Bannon pick.

BAIER: Charles, your thoughts on the news conference?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the president is concentrated truly, and I give him credit for this, on a smooth transition. And in part, it was the near catatonic seriousness and soberness of his presentation. His party is losing its mind. You have Harry Reid giving out these unbelievable statements. He ought to be tied down, perhaps medicated. You have got the president setting a different example. He is essentially trying to say -- and also it's a signal to leaders overseas -- this is not as catastrophic as you think. We're going to make it a smooth transition. He is a reasonable guy. He didn't say that about Trump, but he said he is -- he was implying he is within the bounds.

The other thing is I do think he feels a debt to the Bushs. He didn't have a lot of use for them and he abused them even in his inaugural address. But now he realizes what a gift it was the way they treated him in the transition coming in. And I think he feels it's part of his job or something to aspire to replicate that. And that's what I think he is trying to do.

BAIER: Wall Street Journal writing about their time together saying, "During their private White House meeting Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country. Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama's term. After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military person, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do."

Charlie, this kind of behind the scenes leak to reporters, publically saying you are doing everything you can and shoring him up, but privately saying this guy needs to be walked through this a little bit more.

HURT: Yes. And I have to say, of course, Charles -- I agree with what Charles said about the tone of Obama's comments today. Although, he would not -- he refused to say he did think that Trump was fit to serve. But so much of it was a strange -- it was like he was spiking the ball. I've never seen a guy who just lost a game spike a ball. But it was this strange thing -- it was almost like he was saying, I didn't lose this, by the way. We didn't lose this because of me. We lost it because of Hillary Clinton. And then he started -- his glory days of when he beat Hillary Clinton back in Iowa in 2008 or whatever. It was just this very strange thing. I don't know what possessed him that made him think this was going to be helpful or to anyone other than himself.

BAIER: I think Charles would call it --

KRAUTHAMMER: That's exactly right, in denial.

BAIER: I would leave it for you.

KRAUTHAMMER: That was a setup. You teed it up for me.

It was quite remarkable. I'm not sure whether he believes it or not but I think he is trying to talk himself into it, because this is the demolition of eight years. This is a guy who saw himself as a Reagan, who would revolutionize the zeitgeist the way that Reagan inaugurated three decades of conservatism. He was going to inaugurate a new liberal era. And it is falling apart. It isn't only the policies but the discrediting of his ideology, the fact that it was so widely rejected, and also the fact that he decimated his party.

BAIER: This is what he says about the Democratic Party's shortcomings.


OBAMA: I believe that we have better ideas. But I also believe that good ideas don't matter if people don't hear them. And one of the issues the Democrats have to be clear on is that given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere. We have to show up everywhere.


BAIER: Caitlin, the message I take from that is, Hillary should have gone to Wisconsin and Michigan. But was not in that message is two-thirds of state legislatures are Republican, 34 governors are Republican. The house and Senate is now Republican under this president.

HUEY-BURNS: Right, something 900 legislative seats have been turned over to Republicans under Obama's tenure. Also you only have a handful of states that have a Democratic trifecta. You have lots of Republican ones. So this is something that is serious that the Democratic Party that they have to face. They haven't cultivated a Democratic bench. They haven't been focused on bringing people up.

Obama was certainly a transformative figure for the party, but he has shown in these elections that they turn out for him and not for Democrats. So he has kind of been separated from the party.

And to Charlie's point earlier, Obama spent several months campaigning for Clinton. He was supposed to bring her over the finish line. And so I think Democrats are looking at that, too, and asking why that didn't work.

BAIER: Let's not sugarcoat it here. He was on multiple radio shows and TV shows saying my legacy is on the line, especially in African-American communities that did not show up for Hillary Clinton, and the same numbers weren't even close.

KRAUTHAMMER: He said I will take it as a personal insult if you don't turn out and support me and have our side win. Well, he was personally insulted.

I think this is a textbook -- historians are going to see him as a textbook definition of a guy who won on hope and change, who won with a wave of good will, and who completely destroyed his presidency with liberal overreach beginning with Obamacare. And this is a rejection of ideology. Unless the Democrats understand that, if they go left to a Sanders or a Warren in the future, they are not going to survive as a party.

BAIER: Especially if Donald Trump goes to African-American communities and somehow -- or those hollowed out communities in the Midwest and turns it around. But we will see.

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