This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from March 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired just like always. Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it has ever been, because, starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Interesting to hear a president talking about car warranties. From the White House, the president saying today that the U.S. is not in the car business. Yet after some regulations that have been talked about, the GM and Chrysler deals have come forward, and the money will run out, the president saying 60 days for GM.
And the CEO Rick Wagoner has stepped aside. He has resigned at the urging of the White House.
Chrysler has 30 days to come up with a new plan. Otherwise, the money will stop.
What about this? Let's bring in our panel — Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard," Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — Fred?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Bret, I think it's clear now in hindsight that we should have let the auto companies go bankrupt in the first place. We have thrown, what, tens of billions down the rat hole, and now we're back in the same position where they don't have a viable business model.
And I do give President Obama credit, though, for saying "no" to them, because he could have said "yes" and given them more money and then just sort of kicked the can down the road. He didn't.
But, boy, he really — this is an awfully high price to pay, where, look, he says, look, he says they don't want to operate GM for instance, but he owns GM now, in effect. He kicked out the head of it. The White House will obviously have to approve whoever comes in to run the company.
He has his guy from the University of Maryland, some academic economist, who is going to be head of the whole auto recovery. And then he has tax subsidies that helps them sell GM cars, and we heard about the warranties, and all that stuff.
This is government intervention like we haven't seen very often. We have seen a little of it now.
And the other thing is, that I kind of chuckled when a further Chrysler bailout depends on making an alliance with Fiat. I once owned a Fiat, and I'll tell you, you learn painfully what Fiat means:
"Fix it again, Tony."
BAIER: Oh, man. Juan?
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, Brit Sanderson, who has taken over now for Rick Wagoner, said the deadline set by the Obama White House is helpful. Why is it helpful? Because it will accelerate this restructuring.
It seems to me that's the kind of attitude you want.
Jennifer Granholm, on the other hand, is saying poor Rick Wagoner. He was a sacrificial lamb. She's dead wrong. She's dead wrong.
BAIER: Jennifer Granholm is the governor of Michigan.
WILLIAMS: The governor of Michigan. She's dead wrong.
The whole thinking here from the Obama White House is to try to help the average guy and average woman, who is a worker both in the auto industry and in all the subsequent industries that feed off the big three, to make sure that at a time of deep recession in the United States you don't add to the weight of joblessness and need in this country.
That's why these steps were taken.
So, to my mind, this was an opportunity to actually save the auto companies. But there is no question in my mind — you say is it a matter of taking over, interrupting a private business? This business wouldn't exist. Fred's exactly right. Some people would have let them go out of business months ago. Obama is trying to give them a lifeline.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Fred's right. Obama owns GM, and I don't know about you, Bret, but I'm deeply reassured that the largest company in America is owned by a guy with the vast private sector experience of Barack Obama.
His speech today, as always, was eloquent, and it appeared clear, but it really is not. It's not exactly clear what he is aiming at.
As I understand it, I think, though, the plan here is to send GM into Chapter 11, either a real Chapter 11 or a disguised one in 60 days, and to send Chrysler over to Fiat or the wolves, whichever will take it.
With GM, the reason that I suspect it is going to end up in Chapter 11 is because he would not have offered the guarantee on warranties otherwise. The reason people are worried about a Chapter 11 is, that the argument is if that happens, people will have confidence in the company, and the sales will dissolve.
But you have got to ask yourself as a constitutional aside where in Articles II of the constitution is the president allowed to unilaterally guarantee auto warranties? I mean, tomorrow it will end up — we started with bank deposits, money markets, auto warranties, and tomorrow it's toasters.
But if you have Democrats in power, nobody asks about the constitutional questions.
BAIER: Here is what the Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell had to say, "How many times do taxpayers have to provide bailout money on the promise of reform? We are now told these two companies are getting their last check from the taxpayers and that if they don't finally come up with truly viable plan then they will be forced into bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, we have heard this before from both this and the previous administration."
WILLIAMS: So Mitch McConnell is taking a middle position. He is saying — I'm sorry, President Obama is taking a middle position. Mitch McConnell's is saying these people should be gone. They are living off the taxpayer right now.
BARNES: No, no, that's not what bankruptcy would do. A bankruptcy judge could take over, an impartial judge, rather than some political official in Washington who is making the decisions now, can come in. They have had great experience in this. They get rid of a lot of assets and they can deal with the bondholders.
They are the ones who can tell the UAW that it has to really compromise here. It has to give up a lot. Obama is not willing to do that.
BAIER: That's the other question, is that you have seen Rick Wagoner take it on the chin, but the UAW President —
WILLIAMS: They need to change, absolutely.
WILLIAMS: Why do you have more faith in a judge rather than the experts on the auto task force appointed by President Obama?
BARNES: Obama has no experience in this —
BAIER: Hold on!
KRAUTHAMMER: Force of habit.
BAIER: Last word, Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, Obama was so ginger on the unions. He said workers are not responsible. Yes, individual workers are not responsible, but the workers as a collective, as a union have helped destroyed this company.
He wouldn't say that, which makes you wonder if it will take a judge to force a real concession on the part of the UAW.
BAIER: From cars to bombs. We will talk about what Iran is up with its nuclear program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do have enough low enriched uranium that if they should then proceed to enrich it more highly, they could build a weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So what should the U.S. do about it now? The panel weighs in after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND COMMANDER: Iran is some years away. It's hard to say how many —a couple, give or take, whatever it may be. They have low enriched uranium that is of about the amount that would be required perhaps to make a weapon, but there are many, many more steps that are required.
Now, various components of these efforts appear to be ongoing. Are three a threat? Certainly. They have armed, equipped, funded surrogates, proxies, if you will, extremist proxies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command today, in an interview with me talking about Iran and the steps forward this administration is taking to try to reach out to Iran, even though it is still a threat of working on a bomb.
We're back with the panel. Charles, what are your thoughts about what the administration is doing now reaching out to Iran?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, there is a conference tomorrow in the Hague where our secretary of state will be there. They will talk about Afghanistan, and the Iranians will be there. It will be our first high-level contact.
And I think it will amount to absolutely nothing. It is more charade and kabuki. The Iranians have no common interest in Afghanistan with us.
There is an assumption that because Iran is Shia and Al Qaeda is Sunni, they want to help us in Iran. It is the exact opposite — I mean in Afghanistan. It is the exact opposite.
A year and a half ago, the coalition forces intercepted a shipment of armor piercing IEDs which were headed into Afghanistan. The State Department in June of 2007 had said there was undeniable evidence of the Iranians helping our enemies in Afghanistan.
So this idea of a common purpose is silly.
This is going to help relieve Iran's diplomatic isolation. It is not going to help us in Afghanistan, and I don't see any hope at all of this thawing, as we see it, helping us on the nuclear issue in Iran.
BAIER: Defense Secretary Gates said this weekend that he believes sanctions and not diplomacy is the way forward — Juan?
WILLIAMS: I think a step towards sanctions is gaining support of your allies, in other words, gaining support from many of those European countries and Russia that do business with Iran. And how do you do that?
And so that's why I think this is a fine step by Secretary Clinton. There are not going to be substantive talks there. I think Charles is down the road on what could be or should be.
But this is simply an opportunity to say the United States is welcoming the deputy foreign minister to the table. If you have something to say, please say it. We're not trying to exclude you.
And I think it's a picture that the United States should want in every newspaper around the country, because what it says is that the United States is willing to talk.
We're not just there with threats. We're not just there with anger. We're willing to talk. We're willing to take constructive steps to bring Iran into the international family.
But they have responsibilities, especially with regard to limiting the expansion of nuclear power.
BARNES: I'm with Charles. This is going to go nowhere, and Obama's video that he had on the air for the Iranian leaders — not for the Iranian people, when he talked about his and their shared hopes and common dreams.
We don't have any shared hopes or common dreams. I hope he doesn't with them. Look, these are the people who want to drive us out of the Middle East. These are the people who are arming our enemies. That's why they're not going to help in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda.
You know, Al Qaeda is Sunni, and Iranians are Shia, and they have no compunctions about aiding Al Qaeda, particularly after 2000 after they saw what Al Qaeda did in trying to blow up the USS Cole.
Much of this is in the 9/11 Commission Report about the relationship between the Iranians and Al Qaeda. They're very ecumenical when it comes to defeating the United States, and that's what they want.
Bill Clinton apologized for the U.S. and all of western civilization back in 1999 in hopes of opening fruitful talks. The Iranians just aren't interested.
BAIER: Last word, Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: If the talks are designed to establish our good will in order to, in the future, enlist allies in being tough on sanctions, or even an attack, yes. But I assure you that after talks have failed, what is Obama going to call them up with? Nothing.
WILLIAMS: Well, you know what, give it a chance. Give it a chance.
KRAUTHAMMER: I will give it a chance, but I have no hopes.
BAIER: OK. Well, we have hopes that we wanted to update everybody about the final four projections that this very panel made. And we wanted to put up the finale here.
There you see the scoreboard. Fred and myself both had two. President Obama with one out of the final four. Charles with one. Juan, goose egg.
Now, we should point out that President Obama made his picks long ago at the beginning. We chose them last week with the remaining teams.
What happened, Juan?
BARNES: He's the standard. I don't care about beating Juan. I just want to beat President Obama.
KRAUTHAMMER: I do would just say that once a year, I make a mistake.
WILLIAMS: That's why — you had one.
BAIER: But, Juan, you have zero.
WILLIAMS: I have zero. I didn't want to embarrass you guys.
BAIER: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for a look at just how much things have changed at White House news conferences.
BAIER: Finally tonight, you may have noticed at last week's news conference President Obama did not call on The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal.
Instead, he chose to call on some folks who don't usually get questions. And looking back at the tape, we may have missed one of those on our list.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And most importantly, renewed confidence that a better day will come.
With that, let me take some questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Billie Mayes(ph) here for OxyClean. I have a question. Have you ever tried to get stains out with an ordinary cleaner?
OBAMA: Look, I'm not going to lie to you. It is tough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try OxyClean. It's tough on stains, but easy on your clothes. How about mighty mend it. Mighty putty. If you are real hungry the big city slider station. I'm not done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Didn't like that last one.
That's it for this "Special Report," your source for the news tonight and every night.
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