'Special Report' Panel on Obama's Dialogue With House Republicans

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This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from January 29, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am not an ideologue. I'm not. It doesn't make sense if somebody could tell me you could do this cheaper and get increased results that I wouldn't say great. We have to choose whether we are going to be politicians first or partners for progress.

REP. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.: We welcome the dialogue with the president. And we especially welcome the acknowledgment that this business about the party of no ideas can hopefully be banished once and for all from the political debate.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama traveling down to Baltimore to meet with House Republicans and their issues conference there. Interesting back and forth. It was open to cameras at the request of the White House, actually.

Is this the start of a new outreach to Republicans by this White House on a host of issues? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Kirsten Powers, columnist of the New York Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Steve, your thoughts of this event and what came out of it.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think Washington is forever changed after this event. I expect people to be getting together all time.


BAIER: You sound like Bill Kristol.

HAYES: Look, it was a nice event. It was a smart event. I think this worked for the White House and this worked for the House Republicans. I loved the exchange. I hope they do this once a month.

BAIER: So, like a little British send the president down?

HAYES: Sure. I think that would be terrific. Look, at the same time there is a lot of hot air today and there was a lot of political posturing in the name of not politically posturing.

The president's claim that he is not an ideologue has to be, I think, one of the single most ridiculous things that he said in that time. The results of his first year, I think the overwhelming conclusion of his first year is that he is, in fact, an ideologue.

He talked about his health care plan and said he looked at it as a centrist health care plan. That tells us everything we need to know where is he coming from.

From his perspective perhaps it was centrist it wasn't centrist though in the minds of the American people and in the minds of the people who are voting on it because the centrists didn't support it. So he can think it's centrist, but it wasn't a centrist plan.

Overall, I think this is a good thing for the White House to do. It was a good thing for House Republicans. There should be more of this kind of exchange.

BAIER: Kirsten, House Republicans say this was a good day because the president acknowledged finally in their mind that they actually do have specific bills on health care and that they never saw the light of day under a House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, I mean, this is just — it was a P.R. event, essentially. I agree with Steven. I think that it was successful. I think that — I actually think it was a little more successful for the president because he sort of got this free air time to make this case that, you know, I don't think was an overall really persuasive case.

I disagree with the ideologue thing. I think that depends on where you are coming from. If you are on the left, I think most people on the left, including myself, don't feel that he is an ideologue at all. If he was, he would have pushed much harder for the public option, which they were always wheeling and dealing with in the beginning and willing to give it up for exchanges, and everybody knows that.

And so I think that he does think he is a unifier and I still think he believes that he can go in and convince people and that he can go in and have this conversation and maybe somebody is going to actually — something is going to actually come of this. And substantively I think it was a complete waste of time.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I thought it brought out the best of Obama. It helped him a lot. It made Republicans look good, but I think it was good for the country.

Look, for Obama, he engaged in a fairly high level debate on policy with his antagonists and he showed his best qualities as a fine analytic mind. He was able to phrase and to frame his opponents' arguments in a clear way. And I thought he held his own quite well.

I do think it should be something we ought to consider institutionalizing. As we heard earlier, it is not like prime minister's question time in parliament but, of course, we don't have a prime minister. We have a president who is half prime minister, half king.

So, instead, he gets, you know, the pomp and the circumstance of a State of the Union address, which is a one-way speech, which is sort of — it's supposed to be the equivalent of a throne speech in England except that it's partisan and hectoring and argumentative.

I think it would be nice if we were to abolish the state of the union addresses, have it was before Woodrow Wilson, have it written and submitted.

Instead have twice a year of the meeting of the president with the opposition, not primetime but in the afternoon, like today, on television, but low key, have it once with opposition members of the House and once with opposition senators. I think it will help the president, whoever he is, and it certainly helped Obama today.

BAIER: One of the interesting exchanges — and we should point out the president went there armed with some good economic news, 5.7 percent growth for the last three months of last year. And there are some analysis of what that all means going forward, whether it will hold.

But there was one exchange, Steve, with Paul Ryan of Wisconsin in which Paul Ryan the representative asked why increased spending by 84 percent, discretionary spending? And the president answered it's a little in the weeds, but I wanted you to listen to it.


OBAMA: I want to just push back a little bit on the underlying premises about us increasing spending by 84 percent. Now, most of the increases in this year's budget, this past year's budget, were not as a consequence of policies that we initiated but, instead, were built in as a consequence of the automatic stabilizers that kick in because of this enormous recession.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: I would simply say that auto particular stabilizer spending is mandatory spending. The discretionary spending, the bills that Congress has signed that you signed into law, that has increased 84 percent.

OBAMA: We will have a longer debate on the budget numbers there, all right?


BAIER: So, Steve, your take on that give-and-take there on the question and answer?

HAYES: One, the president was very smart not to get in the debate about budget specifics with Paul Ryan because very few people know it, the budget, better than Paul Ryan does.

Ryan's overall point was that the president when he is talking about this spending freeze, in effect what he has done is taken money from the stimulus, because we have money that's sitting there that's been allocated from stimulus in 2011, 2012, 2013 that raises the discretionary spending levels.

By freezing it at its previous levels, he has already accomplished what he would do if he didn't have this freeze at all. I think it's a budget gimmick.

BAIER: We should point out that Paul Ryan is on Fox News Sunday this weekend. A little tease there for Chris Wallace.

KRAUTHAMMER: To stay still knee-high in the weeds. If you include stimulus and you just include the appropriations for all the regular departments, which Obama now is saying is going to have a freeze that he, Obama instituted himself, in the case of 20 percent, which is much higher than you normally get.

So he is, no matter what number you use, ratcheting up and freezing the spending of these departments at an extraordinarily high level. And that's why I think the freeze in the end is meaningless because you hike extremely high and then you freeze and you look as if you are prudent but you are really not.

BAIER: Kirsten, very quickly, is the president, do you think, really going to take ideas here and bring them back and say, let's make this happen?

POWERS: I think if he was going to do that he probably would have done that in the beginning.

I do think he sincerely is interested in hearing what other people think. I think he is intellectually curious. I think he likes to bat these things back and forth. But the reality of what is happening on Capitol Hill, I think we saw it with the health care plan. Even if he wanted to do that, good luck.

BAIER: The Friday lightning round is next with your choice online, topic of the week.


BAIER: Every week on the FoxNews.com Special Report page, now the new and improved version, viewers vote on what topic we should discuss first in the Friday lightning round. We’re there. You can find the poll halfway down on the right-hand side.

As of 4:00 eastern, almost half of the nearly 4,000 votes went to Steve Hayes's wild card pick. There you see him. Steve, what is it?

HAYES: That's a good picture.

Well, I thought I would just embrace the insanity and talk about the 2012 presidential election. I understand that it's early. I understand that smart people are going to say this is absurd.

But I was genuinely interested in finding out who both Charles and Kirsten thought would be the strongest Republican presidential candidate to run against President Obama and somebody who might be an outside the box potential Republican candidate.

BAIER: You got to answer, first.


HAYES: My answer for both, this is sort of like the Paul Ryan panel, because I would say Paul Ryan. He has done a lot of things that seem to be preparing him for a national run. He is a House member from Wisconsin. People assume that he is going to run for the Senate against Herb Kohl or if it's an open seat.

He is extraordinarily knowledgeable. He is something of a policy wonk. He has been giving foreign policy speeches. He endorsed Marco Rubio in Florida. He has taken a trip to raise money in New Hampshire. He's doing sort of the kinds of things that you would do if you were planning to run for president.

He would be a little bit of an out of the box pick because he would be coming from the House.

BAIER: Kirsten?

POWERS: The strongest candidate in a general election would probably be Romney. I think he would have a very difficult time getting out of a primary just because...

BAIER: Mitt Romney.

POWERS: Yes, Mitt Romney, because of the evangelical issue and the Mormon issue. But I don't think that would be an issue at all in a general election. He has obviously run a campaign before, a good campaign. He understands the economy. He is a good candidate. You know, I think people like him, so I think he would be strong.

Now, I took the outside the box very seriously and I didn't want to mention someone that would have been mentioned, but I would say Jenny Sanford would be a very outside the box person. We all know she was the brains behind the operation down there. She ran his campaign. She basically ran his office. She obviously has very good character. She has a great story.

BAIER: First lady to the governor of South Carolina.

POWERS: She was a very successful business woman in her own right. She has family money. So that would be my outside the box suggestion.

BAIER: That sounds solid. All right, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: That's not outside the box, that's outside the galaxy.


KRAUTHAMMER: My outside the box is General Petraeus. And the reason he is outside the box is he is not going to run against his own commander and chief. So I think if he ever runs it will be in 2016.

The best candidate I think as of today would be Mitt Romney for the same reasons that you were saying. Whoever it is I think is going to run in 2012 against a failed, charismatic president, Obama. So what you want is somebody who has got a deficit of charisma — that's a back-handed compliment.

But you would a Romney who was solid, economically savvy, reliable, rooted, experienced. I think he would be very strong.

BAIER: No Scott Brown candidates here.

POWERS: He was my original one.

BAIER: This is not so lightning round because that was a complex question, obviously.

NASA and pulling the funding for the Constellation program, we'll keep it quick — Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: A perfect example of the difference between Kennedy liberalism, John Kennedy and Obama. Kennedy was expansive, optimistic, adventuresome, Obama is constrained, inward looking.

What it means is instead of having Americans walking on the moon or other outer worlds, we're going to have NASA turning its cameras in, gazing on our naval, and we will be adjusting our thermostats.

I think it's going to be really something we regret. We're going to have no way to get into space. We're going to rely on the Chinese, the Indians, and the Russians.

BAIER: Kirsten?

POWERS: This all depends on whether you think climate change is a serious issue or not because that's what he wants to spend the money on instead. So it's not that he doesn't want to spend the money, and since I think climate change is a serious issue, you know, I would support this between that and walking on the moon. So, I think it's a good decision.

HAYES: Well, at the risk of giving Charles a heart attack, for budgetary reasons I can actually see doing what he is doing. If you are a conservative or libertarian as I am, you need to cut somewhere, and this would be a place to cut.

However, the concern is defense. I mean, there is a huge space race taking place that will — that has to do with how well we can defend ourselves against serious threats. And to cut this if they are not going to make it up elsewhere is a big problem.

BAIER: OK, we will try to get three topics in next week, but that's it for the lightning round. Stay tuned for some analysis of the State of the Union analysis.

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