This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 6, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You guys knows what this represents? It means the calm before the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What storm?
TRUMP: You'll find out. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you mean by calm before the storm?
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you. You'll find out. Thank you.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are never going to say in advance what the president is going to do. And as he said last night, in addition to those comments, you'll have to wait and see.
I think you can take the president protecting the American people always extremely serious.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Standing with his military brass, the president saying this is the calm before the storm. And then pressed numerous times what he really meant, he, we'll see. You heard him there. And the press secretary bombarded with questions, with reporters trying to find out what the storm is.
Let's bring in our panel and start there: Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times; Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post; Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, also author of the book "False Black Power." Jason, let's start with you. Thoughts on this and what it means in the big picture?
JASON RILEY, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE SENIOR FELLOW: We don't know. We know president Trump enjoys poking fun at the press. So maybe he was joking in some way.
RILEY: Though, I think the spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders made it seem that this was some reference to something military. And he has said in the past I like to keep my cards close. And is he talking about the decertification of the nuclear deal with Iran? Is he talking about some action in North Korea? There is so much going on in so many parts of the world, who knows?
BAIER: We've talked about it many times, Chuck, about how sometimes he does talk like this in speeches and it's almost like coming up next week on "The Apprentice," x, y, z. It does sound like that in a tease format, but you are talking about potential military action here. And it's interesting to hear.
CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, interesting is exactly right. The president loves to stir the pot. He loves -- he says it over and over again in different contexts, wait and see, we will deal with that in a few days, I will have something for you soon. He almost naturally likes to create suspense and drama around himself and whatever he's doing.
One might argue, however, it's a little irresponsible to do that in the context of the use of force by the United States of America, especially when there are these crises out there everybody's worried about like North Korea and at least potentially the Iran situation. Of the two, I guess people were more concerned he had something up his sleeve about North Korea, although even there the crisis seemed to have been abating recently.
So again, I don't put a whole lot of stock in it. I think it's just the kind of thing he wings all the time. But then it's true what came from the podium today from Sanders was seemingly confirmation that something was up. My bottom line, the president shouldn't talk this way because he shouldn't gratuitously generate this kind of uncertainty.
BAIER: Yet there are people who look at how he handles foreign policy and say because he's so unpredictable, because he has said what he has said, it has changed the dynamic in a number of different places.
CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: And I think that's the key to it is the unpredictability. Some people obviously think that it's irresponsible. It's certainly unorthodox. But it's very effective in terms of causing adversaries around the world to be very worried about this guy. They are not sure what to take seriously or what not to take seriously. There are people in this country who are not sure what to take seriously and what not to take seriously from the president.
And I think that when you are dealing with an intractable, insane situation like we are in North Korea that can be -- I think they can be a very effective tactic.
BAIER: Meantime, the other news today is the change in the contraceptive exemption when it comes to ObamaCare. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SANDERS: The president believes that the freedom to practice one's faith is a fundamental right in this country, and I think all of us do. And that's all that today was about. Our federal government should always protect that right. And as long as Donald Trump is president, he will.
TRUMP: We are ending the attacks on your religious liberty and we are proudly reaffirming that America's leadership role as a nation that protects religious freedom for everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BAIER: He forecast this move earlier back in May, Jason. But the HHS putting out this statement, "No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system. Today's actions affirm the Trump administration's commitment to upholding the freedoms afforded all Americans under our constitution." Thoughts on this change?
RILEY: The left, the Planned Parenthood left is trying to make this into an economic issue. I'm not sure that argument really holds water. Even without insurance, contraception is not that expensive. And a lot of people think it should be available over the counter, frankly, these days.
I think Trump is right to do this on religious freedom grounds. It was a campaign promise to many evangelical groups that supported him, other voters of faith that supported him, and I think it's the right thing to do because for Obama -- for the Obama administration, this wasn't just about getting contraception to women. It was also about forcing employers of faith, organizations of faith to bend to his will. He was not going to make an exemption for them. That's government bullying. And I think Trump is right to put an end to it.
BAIER: By the way, the reason he could do this is because it wasn't the ObamaCare law itself. It was an HHS regulation that can be rolled back.
LANE: Yes. He's fulfilling a campaign promise to the one group in the Republican base, religious conservatives, who had been the most unequivocally supportive of Donald Trump through thick and thin. So there is no surprise there. But I think it's going to be a dilemma down the road politically because this contraceptive mandate is broadly popular with the rest of the electorate. I was looking at some poll data on it today. Marist has a pull out today that says 67 percent of all Republicans actually approved of this contraceptive mandate before. It's a pet because not even of the Republicans, but a slice of the Republicans.
HURT: And this is the problem with ObamaCare is that now every little health issues segmented down to things that are important to specific groups of people are now a public matter of political debate. And for those of us who don't like ObamaCare, don't want ObamaCare, and feel like ObamaCare is going to fail ultimately, this is -- we don't want the government to do anything with this stuff. But you now have this situation where you have people who are convinced that contraception, for example, is a guaranteed right from the government.
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