Evaluating President Trump's address to Congress

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 1, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big and bold and daring things for our country.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: It was great to see my friend the Democratic leader occasionally applying the president. I know the far left is pressuring them to burn the place down because it can't accept the results of last year's election.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: A speech isn't going to create one job or one infrastructure plan or one trade law. You want to sit down and talk? Let's see what your plans are, see if you can get your own act together before pointing the finger at Democrats.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: All right, some of the fallout, today but the really big fallout happened at the markets. The Dow, if you take a look at this chart, since the election, now crossing 21,000 today for the first time. And people on Wall Street saying the optimistic tone, the thought that tax reform, maybe even infrastructure could be coming down the pike here on Capitol Hill is fueling some optimism on the markets.

Let's bring in our panel: Tom Bevan, Real Clear Politics cofounder and publisher; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Tom, what do you think? The fallout of the speech and what you heard today on all sides after President Trump's address.

TOM BEVAN, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Easily his best news day I think since he took office. He sort of had these glowing reviews of his speech pretty much across the political spectrum. He managed not to step on his own good news day. I think he tweeted one time early this morning "thank you," and that was it, which is another seeming change for him. We've seen him do that a few times here since he took office. And coupled with the run-up in the Dow, new high there. This was easily his best news day so far.

BAIER: OK, let's listen to the treasury secretary. And then we just heard from Devin Nunes.


TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Our objective is to pass tax reform by the August recess. And I think that's a very aggressive timetable but realistic and something that president and I are very committed to doing.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: So by August, voted, done, agreed.

MNUCHIN: And signed.

BAIER: By August I'm saying. Yes?

REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF.: I am hopeful, yes. A lot of education has to occur which is part of the reason why I'm coming on your show and talking about tax reform.


BAIER: A little different optimism, hopeful versus it's happening sign.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. It's also interesting how for the last month we've had opponents of President Trump paint this administration as so chaotic, so unhinged, that he is unstable and dangerous. What you saw yesterday was a man give a speech that wasn't just presidential but in many ways it appealed to people more than even some of his predecessors.

There is an understanding too from this administration that so long as they keep focused on jobs, the economy, they understand the weakness of the Obama economy was a big motivating factor in people voting for President Trump, and that if they want any hope of having a successful agenda, they need to be laser focused on that. Hopefully it will happen on the timetable that they proposed.

BAIER: Ambitious.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Yes, but I think it can be done. Of course, they've got to get Obamacare out of the way because it determines how the ultimate tax reform ends up. But I think one of the reasons for the euphoria in the markets is not just the fact that they are going to get this or that reform passed, but I think it refers to what Mollie was talking about. For the last month you got the impression that this administration was teetering on the edge, about to explode, just waiting for the fuse to go. And then you see this guy who shows up. This is a new guy who showed up last night. Presidential, sober, responsible, and I know it's a low bar, but with complete impulse control. You sort of expect that in a president, but there have been reasons to doubt it.

And then people think, well, maybe the critics and the people who have been so worried that this cannot continue are beginning to look a little bit silly. Maybe he can turn the corner. I think it's that sense of stability and sobriety which is what helped the markets to say, well, this is it presidency we can count on and we don't expect to see carnage.

BAIER: Tom, there was a moment in the lunch with the anchors yesterday where President Trump said that he was considering comprehensive immigration reform and was going to maybe put it in the speech. Then he told somebody to write it down. And then he gave us in on the record quote that said "the time is right for immigration reform, if both sides can compromise." And he was pretty detailed in the questioning and answers. This speech didn't reflect that, obviously.

BEVAN: No. In some ways this is classic Trump. He will say one thing at a couple hours later -- he didn't actually say something different. You listen to the speech, he said -- he did give a nod to Democrats and Republicans working together to accomplish something that hasn't been done in decades. This is the problem that has bedeviled this town for decades. So in that sense he was sort of hinting at it, but certainly not in the same way that he had done just hours earlier.

BAIER: Yes. And to be fair they didn't say definitively that it was going to be in the speech in detail. And the other things is, Mollie, when people say there were no details, no specifics. These features are never that specific on very minute details of a lot of these programs.

HEMINGWAY: Also, though, I think there has been a consistency to what President Trump has talked about. He was talking about immigration and a way that was not that different than how he spoke during the campaign. And I'm a little surprised people are acting like it is so different. When he gave his speech after visiting Mexico, he talked about a merit-based immigration system. At that time it sounded very much like Canada's immigration policies. Last night it was the same. It's not totally detailed and everything comes down --

BAIER: What he said at the lunch was definitively different in that Dreamers don't have anything to worry about. Maybe there is a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Maybe there is a legalization for others. Those are things that the red alarm bells go off that that is news.

HEMINGWAY: Well, at the same time it seems that he has a rhetorical strategy of being extreme when he is speaking publicly with the willingness to negotiate. And so what he is saying, there will be some flexibility.

BAIER: That is diplomatic.


KRAUTHAMMER: Look, if you had a Martian drop out of the sky and ask him to draw up the perfect solution to illegal immigrants, he would come up with something roughly like what you heard from the president, where you can tell he is sympathetic to the Dreamers. He's not going to kick them out. And he is adding to that a path to citizenship, not citizenship for adults. And of course the border wall and all the border enforcement. That's been out there lying on the table for at least a decade.

And I think the reason I think it was left out of the speech, there's only so much that a new president can ask of the people of his own party to give up and compromise. They are going to be huge compromises on Obamacare and on tax reform. So he's asking them to go way out on a limb to give up a lot of stuff they've campaign on and have sworn as a matter of principle. You don't want to add on to that immigration reform which in any case is not going to be enacted this year anyway. But I think it's a good idea to leave it out there as aspirational.

BAIER: Meantime, the executive order pushed back a little bit and we are told that of the seven countries that were of concern, they are taking off one of the countries, Iraq. Do you think this has to do with the bounce after this speech or more about the logistics of the executive order?

BEVAN: No, I think this is another perhaps another sign that the Trump administration, the Trump White House is getting their sea legs and learning some lessons. And one of those was punting this and not, again, stepping on your message and reigniting this controversy and giving critics and folks in the media something to write about. They punted it down the road, and the message, the story today, again, was his speech, it was this love fest with the GOP lunch, and the Dow.

KRAUTHAMMER: But it completely undermined the rationale they gave for the original executive order which was we have to do this right away, no warning, because the bad hombres are just waiting to come in. Well, the bad hombres out there have had a lot of weeks now to come in. They're going to have more. It obviously was a post facto excuse that held no water. And I would not be surprised if they water this down to the point where it's quite meaningless.

BAIER: Last thing, Mollie. Can, in the sequence of things, can Capitol Hill absorb dealing with Obamacare, repeal and replace, tax reform, and infrastructure in 2017?

HEMINGWAY: It is quite a bit to handle. And there's not a lot of indication that the Hill is prepared for handling one of those things particularly well, much less all three. They need to work on it.

BAIER: I agree.

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