'Special Report' Panel on Political Scandal in the Land of Lincoln

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from February 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. ROLAND BURRIS, D-ILL.: Yes, I had contacts with representatives and friends with the former governor about the Senate seat, none of it inappropriate.

I had to start thinking about who I had talked to when. And that's the reason why some of this was coming back to me.

ILLINOIS HOUSE MINORITY LEADER TOM CROSS: This is the most important day maybe in your life, about whether or not you can pass this to be seated in the United States Senate, and you can't recall three conversations with the governor's brother?

If you have that much of a memory problem, maybe you shouldn't be in the United States Senate on a capacity issue.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Illinois Republicans are now calling on Roland Burris to resign from the U.S. Senate. Why? Because in an affidavit filed Saturday, I should say made public Saturday, Burris acknowledges for the first time he did have contact with then Governor Rod Blagojevich's brother about campaign contributions to the then governor.

This is before he was named to the Senate seat.

Here is what the Senate Majority Leader spokesman said about it -- "Clearly, it would have been better if Senator Burris had provided this information when he first testified. Senator Reid is reviewing the affidavit and will await any action by Illinois legislative leaders after they review the matter."

Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer -- FOX News contributors all.

Charles, we thought this story had moved on.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I must say that on the day the governor was impeached and driven out of office, it was a sad day for American journalism. This, after all, was the best sideshow in the country, and we thought the show was over.

Well, it wasn't, because apparently he planted a little delayed explosive device in this senator.

His problem is that it's obvious that he may have told the truth, but surely not the whole truth. He withheld information.

But, secondly, he might actually have lied in saying that he hadn't had contacts with the representatives of the governor. He now says that the contacts were at a time when he hadn't -- he didn't think he was being considered. So he makes a distinction here.

I think the bottom line is that legal perjury he probably will escape, but he's guilty of political chicanery. And what that means is that he won't be indicted and he won't be driven out of office, because his slipperiness is matched only by his tenacity.

He will stay in office, but for reelection in 2010, I think it will be a terrible mistake, and I think he knows that he will be humiliated if he does. So, ironically, it might help Democrats, because he would be a weak candidate who might lose that seat.

BAIER: Juan, he insists that he did not give any campaign contributions. There is no evidence to prove that he did. However, there is some who believe he may be on these FBI tapes, and that's why he amended his testimony with this affidavit.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Bret, that's the point I was going to make, that, in fact, the reason that he offered the affidavit is because he then realizes he may be on the tape with Robert Blagojevich, the former Governor Rod's brother, talking about whether or not there should be campaign contributions made.

And in these contributions, he doesn't say "No." He says "This is not the right time. Let's just wait." Well, wait a minute. So, in other words, he was opening the door to possible subsequent contributions.

That's very tricky business. He didn't give the money, but, clearly, he was having not only conversations with the former governor's brother, he was having conversations with three other people that he never acknowledged.

So on all, he was having conversations with five of Blagojevich's closest associates about potentially giving money to the governor, and yet when he's in front of the impeachment panel in Illinois, he acknowledges only one conversation.

To me, this is a moment where you have to stop and say, look, Blagojevich played us all. The reason that Burris is there -- it could have been Oprah Winfrey, if you recall -- is because Blagojevich wants to influence that jury in the upcoming federal case that's going to be against him once he is fully charged, once there is an indictment put in place by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor.

He's trying to influence a black jury in Chicago. And that's all this dance is about, and Burris is nothing but Pinocchio at the end of Geppetto's little string here, and he has been forced on the U.S. Senate. He doesn't belong there.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He doesn't belong there. What would be his motive for not telling the impeachment committee on January 8 of all these other contacts that Juan mentioned?

The motive was obvious. At that time, remember, he had not been accepted by the Senate, much less sworn in as a senator. He thought if he mentioned those, that would jeopardize his becoming a senator, and it probably would have.

At least the U.S. Senate and people like Harry Reid, in particular, would want to know more about those conversations than we have heard so far. So it's clear he had a motive there in not mentioning all those conversations.

Democrats could have avoided all of this if they had just done the right thing in the first place, call a special election. But they were so worried that there was some chance they might lose it, even though Illinois has become such a strongly Democratic state, that they didn't do it.

So what do you do now? He's probably not going to be expelled from the Senate. I think the only thing you could do is shame him and force him out, and then have a special election. I agree with Charles that the chances of that happening are probably very close to nil.

WILLIAMS: Let me just say quickly, Pat Quinn, who is the governor now, has also called for further looking at this. I don't know that it is Democrats. I think this is Blagojevich. He is the corrupt politician.

BARNES: Blagojevich is Democrat.

BAIER: Last word, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: He is as easy to shame as the governor, which means impossible to shame.

BAIER: So get used to seeing Hugo Chavez in the news. He's probably going to be around for a while. We'll talk about that with the panel after the break.



HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT: I am ready. With today's victory we start the third historical cycle of the Bolivarian revolution, from 2009 to 2019.


BAIER: Venezuela President Hugo Chavez celebrating an electoral victory, 54 percent to 46 percent that he can run for president with no term limits. So they could have president for life down there in Venezuela.

We're back with the panel. Fred, what do you think about this?

BARNES: I don't think he is going to be president for life. Let me give you a couple numbers -- inflation 30 percent. And now they will have to devalue the currency because it doesn't reflect what is going on in the black market.

The state oil company, which used to be private, now the state took over under Chavez, owes $20 billion, is $20 billion in debt, and doesn't pay its bills. Its production is down from 3.2 million barrels a day to 2.4 million, and continuing to decline.

And on and on and on. Venezuela imports most of what it consumes, and that's based on high oil prices. Even his budget has the oil prices at of $60 a barrel. It's at $40 a barrel, and not likely to go up much in the near future with the worldwide recession.

Venezuelans are in terrible shape. Each the stuff Chavez claims he has done, reduce poverty, was reduced much, much more under the prior leaders.

Now, one more thing, he admires Castro. Why would you admire Castro for having Cuba for 50 years be an economic basket case? You admire Castro because he got full control and full power. And that's all Chavez wants.

WILLIAMS: One more point, Fred, he absolutely disdains the United States. Fidel Castro has managed to say he doesn't need the United States. He became really the property of--member of that former Soviet Union, and that's his great benefactor.

And now all of these folks are making the United States out to be the cause of their problems, saying "We are not going to be the backyard of the United States."

It's not just Hugo Chavez following in Fidel's footsteps, and I guess now in Raoul Castro's footsteps, because he'll follow his brother, but you look at Ecuador, where you have Rafael Carrerra, Boliva with Evo Morales, Argentina now, Christina Fernandez, Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega. Can you image Daniel Ortega still on this scene after all these years?

And even an American ally in Columbia, Alvero Uribe, he's still there, asking again he wants a third four-year term.

So these guys are unlike the previous generation, where they are all military leaders like Fidel Castro. These guys all come in as populists, and their target is the United States, and they blame all their problems on the U.S.

He won't be around in 2019, I predict it. Of course, it's a year to predict, because I won't either likely.

But, look, the reason he called this election was because he knows his economy is about to go over a cliff. As Fred indicated, when oil was around $150 a barrel, he built up a reserve, which he has now spent. With oil in the mid 30's, he is doomed.

Socialism doesn't work, and petro-socialism with oil having lost $100 a barrel in value is certainly not going to work. He is going to get hyperinflation, and he knows it. So he tried to strengthen himself now with this election.

He likely is not going to be around for the election of 2012 because if his economy explodes and he gets hyperinflation, he will be driven out of office either out of unrest or a coup. And that's his likely fate.

WILLIAMS: I hope what you are saying is true.


KRAUTHAMMER: Before the economic apocalypse.

BARNES: Other countries, Brazil and Chile being recent examples, can produce prosperity that reduces poverty and enhances literacy, and they can do it without destroying democratic institutions.

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