This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from February 17, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There has never been a program at this scale moved at this speed that has been enacted as effectively and as transparently as the Recovery Act. One year later if is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility.
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BAIER: That was the president today. There are critics of this administration who say a depression was avoided because of the Troubled Asset Relief Package, the TARP, one, that was passed under President Bush, and all the things that the Federal Reserve did, not the stimulus package. They also point to a bar graph sent out by the administration in January of 2009. It shows what the administration said would happen with the stimulus package and without the stimulus package, and you see that top line supposedly at nine percent for unemployment without the recovery plan, the stimulus package. Of course, we reached well over 10 percent unemployment and now unemployment stands at 9.6 percent. What about all of this, the stimulus package one year ago today. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If you look at the graph, you see the upper line is the line of what Obama says we avoided, which he says was the Great Depression.
BAIER: Let's put up the graph again.
KRAUTHAMMER: But if that's the case, then 2009, which was worse than the top line of the graph, as you said, 10 percent unemployment, what does that mean, that we were in a great depression squared last year?
Look, all of this is hyperbole, nonsense, ad hoc numbers. The only hard number in all of this is the amount spent on the stimulus. That's the only real number, which the CBO has told us is now up to $862 billion. It will be $1 trillion with all the interest.
And we know that that is going to have a real effect, meaning it's going to increase our debt payments, interest payments, and interest rates in the future. So that's a fact. Everything else is speculative.
This idea of jobs saved or created — the Bureau of Labor Statistics has hundreds of numbers and statistics. It does not have a statistic dealing with, say, jobs. And the reason is that it can't be measured. It doesn't exist. It's a fiction.
The administration repeats it saved a million jobs, a million and a half or two million. All we know for sure is that the huge expenditures that were given to states to bail out the ones that had overspent or were almost bankrupt did for a year or two of the stimulus keep a lot of bureaucrats and state governments employed.
So, perhaps you could say, well, in the midst of a real recession you wanted to bottom out the trough, but $1 trillion dollars is a high price for a very small and temporary effect.
BAIER: I said the unemployment rate as at 9.6 percent. It's at 9.7 percent. The long term outlook for the year was to hover around 9.5.
Mort, there was a New York Times-CBS poll that said people believed already created jobs by the stimulus, the percentage of people, six percent believed that the stimulus package has already created jobs. That's pretty low when you look at the margin of error. It could be three percent.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, the public obviously doesn't believe this thing.
Look, I cannot believe that if you throw $1 trillion dollars at a depression, something like $282 billion has been spent so far, that you haven't saved some jobs. But nobody knows how many jobs you have saved.
But there are a couple of good things about this. First, the education department used half a of $100 billion dollars so far not only to pay teachers to keep teaching kids in school who otherwise might have been laid off because the states couldn't afford to pay them, but also to stimulate some real education reform.
I mean state after state after state has adopted things like raising the cap on charter schools, which is a requirement in order to meet the race to the top ones. That's part of the stimulus package.
Secondly, a lot of money has been used for medical research to — medical research at the NIH budget had been flat for five years because the Bush administration refused to continue the doubling procedure that it had started, and so it needed a bump. So those are good things.
Now, the problem here is that if the Obama administration claims that 2 million jobs have been saved, let's accept that, that number, although we can't prove it. You spend $282 billion — if my math is correct, that's something like $140,000 per job saved, which seems like an awful lot of money.
BAIER: Steve, this is what Vice President Biden said today on a morning show about the stimulus package.
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VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN : It was designed to have two stages to it. We have only been half way through the act. The job creating portions are really loaded at the second half here and the major projects that are being built. But yes, they have gotten their money's worth.
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BAIER: And here is what Dr. Cristina Romer said in congressional testimony back in October, quote, "Most analysts predict that the fiscal stimulus will have its greatest impact on the growth in second and third quarters of 2009. By mid 2010 fiscal stimulus will likely be contributing little to further growth." Of course, Romer is the head of the Economic Counsel of Advisers to the president.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Contradictions are abundant here. You have not only that, but the White House itself can't agree on Sunday shows on its Web site on exactly how many saved or created jobs. It's a fictional number, as Charles points out, but they can't even get close. You are hearing a variance of a million jobs. It's, I think a troubling thing for the White House that they can't actually be more specific.
But the real question one year in is, did it work? I think the answer is not much in the short-term, and an emphatic no in the long-term.
You have to remember, the White House approached the stimulus with two goals. The short-term goal was to give the jolt to keep unemployment from going over eight percent. It didn't provide much of a jolt at all. It certainly didn't provide unemployment from going over eight percent. So I think you have to say it failed in that regard.
But the second point and I think arguably the more important point is when you heard President Obama talk about the stimulus and what it was going to do, he talked about remaking the American economy, fundamentally changing the way that the American economy works.
He hasn't done that. And not only has he not done that, it involved — that was going the first step of several steps. The second step was going to be health care. Then it was going to be cap and trade.
I think it's clear that the stimulus and the problems associated with the stimulus, the lack of effectiveness, the waste that's been everywhere and been much in evidence, been much remarked about, and the costs, primarily the cost, the size of the stimulus, went directly to the defeat of health care, raised questions about health care.
And you have seen then his domestic agenda crumble as a result.
BAIER: Charles, quickly, the administration and top Democrats on Capitol Hill are not calling it another stimulus, but the jobs bill is shaping up to be much like the first one, isn't it?
KRAUTHAMMER: It's exactly the same idea with a new name. They understand that stimulus is not good PR. People hate stimulus. As you said, six percent believe it worked, seven percent of Americans believe Elvis is alive, so it's, you know, neck and neck in those two beliefs.
They rename it a jobs bill. It's the same idea. And I think there is a lot of skepticism as to whether you can really have a government create a job that is going to be a real job as opposed to just hanging on to a bureaucratic job for a year or two.
BAIER: We will look at a new book about an old controversy, Bill Clinton vs. Ken Starr after the break.
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CLINTON: I expressed my remorse at the time. My remorse does not have anything to do with whether what was done was legal or constitutional. No serious objective observer doubts that there was rampant, flagrant abuse of power, and that a lot of people who should have been commenting on it were stunningly silent.
STARR: Prosecutors have power and they should be called to account for that power. But that having been said, and mindful of the criticisms, I think that the investigation was conducted with honor and with integrity.
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BAIER: All of this is coming up because a new book is out. It's Ken Gormley's book "The Death of American Virtue," and it boasts interviews with all of the major players back in the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and impeachment.
Here is a couple of quotes from the former president: "They ran a partisan hit job run by a bitter right winger Henry Hyde," of course the late congressman from Illinois. "Ken Starr was their errand boy and he danced to their tune just as hard as he could dance."
And this one, "I will have an asterisk after my name, but I hope I will have two asterisks — one, they impeached him, and the other, he stood up to them and beat them, and he beat them like a yard dog."
We're back with the panel. Mort, how about this?
KONDRACKE: Well, I haven't read the book. It's 800 pages long. It's going to take a while to read. But all the reviews say that it's scrupulously fair and evenhanded and exhaustive, obviously, if it is 800 pages long.
But from what we know, Clinton does come off as usual as graceless and unrepentant and a bit triumphalist because he beat the Republicans and his poll ratings went up during the entire impeachment scandal. So, you know, he thinks that he has been historically vindicated.
On the point of his saying that Henry Hyde was a bitter right winger and an extremist, what I have heard over and over and over again is that Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, really went into this thinking that he was going to end up advocating censure of Clinton and would have gone that route had it not been for the Clinton White House's revealing the fact that Hyde had had an extra-marital affair in his youth and Hyde figured he was being challenged by the White House in this way and couldn't back down and had to go where the evidence led, all the way. And Clinton did lie under oath and, therefore, you know, he had to go to impeachment.
BAIER: Charles, a couple of interesting developments, one that Gormley said Ken Starr worked for some time for Paula Jones' attorneys before he took over as independent prosecutor, which raised some questions.
And then, secondly, that Hillary Clinton may have been — there was a draft indictment to go after Hillary Clinton before the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky thing developed over Whitewater. That's interesting.
KRAUTHAMMER: Senator Moynihan was once asked if he had read a book, and he said yes, but not personally. So that's my relationship with the Gormley book.
I do believe it's scrupulous. I have heard others say it covers a lot of this ground. But I think in looking at the whole affair, it's really a period of piece. It's like reading Jane Austin. You have got to imagine what it was in that era.
The '90s was an incredibly stranger era. It was profound peace, prosperity. And only in that circumstance could you ever have had this high drama over what was essentially a trivial affair. I'm talking about his dalliances.
There was a core issue here, lying under oath. And it was a serious issue because, in fact, Clinton found that his license in Arkansas to practice law was suspended as a result of that. So that in and of itself is not a trivial issue.
But for an issue like this to have risen to the point of only our second impeachment in the history of our country could only have happened in this holiday from history which we had between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the war on jihadism on 9/11. That was a strange period and it looks odd even today.
BAIER: In a post-9/11 world, Steve, it is a different look back. However, you look at president as this prosecutor said, lying under oath, it was serious.
HAYES: Yes. I think it was serious. And I think, you know, by all accounts — again, I haven't read the book — but by all accounts this is a fair rendering of what Ken Starr did and how seriously he took his jobs. There were excesses there.
But where there were excesses it wasn't because he was a partisan. It's because he may have taken his job too seriously, if that's possible for a prosecutor.
But what struck me in watching the video of Bill Clinton.
HAYES: Yes, today. Here we are a decade later, he's on message. That's an unbelievable politician talking about the radical Republicans. They are out to get him. Beating up Ken Starr. I mean, this is exactly what we all lived through at this time when, as Charles points out, was peace and prosperity, but it was deceptive peace and prosperity.
BAIER: He just got those two stents, so I think he's feeling OK. He looked a little fiery today.
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