'Special Report' Panel on Public's Opinion of Obama's Health Care Plan

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from August 11, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have a vigorous debate. That's why we have a democracy. But I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about the systematic dismantling of this country.


I am only 35 years old. I have never been interested in politics. You have awakened a sleeping giant. We are tired of this.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Two different town halls and two different, very different flavors to them.

And there you see the latest polling from Rasmussen about Obama health care reform — 53 percent oppose, 42 percent favor.

Whatever the Obama plan is, because there are a number of plans out there, let's bring in our panel and talk about this day and the town halls, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the "Weekly Standard", Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

The White House says, Steve, that this town hall, the people were selected randomly, 70 percent of them were given tickets randomly, 30 percent were distributed through local officials and other organizations. But boy, the feel in New Hampshire in the town hall for the president was different than what we are seeing around the country.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Pretty friendly, and New Hampshire is a notoriously anti-big government state.

Look, I think the president got off to a bad start when he said "I'm here to set the record straight" and then proceeded to say four or four or five things that are factually incorrect or at least in dispute.

He said several times that health care reform would be deficit neutral. It wouldn't be. The CBO has weighed in on that. That is also on the White House fact check Web site. It's just not the case.

BAIER: At least with the bill so far that have been written?

HAYES: Right. But I want the "Weekly Standard" to double my salary, but I can't put that on my loan application, right. It is not just on the reality right now.

At the same time, his press secretary on the flight up there was talking about conservatives not having any real health care plan and opposing all health care reform.

It's nonsense. Right as he was saying that, Tom Price was on another cable network making the case that he wanted this kind of reform, different kinds, but the same substantive kind of reform.

So the White House is, I think, having real trouble with the truth right now.

BAIER: Mort, there was one question from a Republican in the audience. He asked about if there is a public option, whether private insurance companies could hold their own against a government-funded public option. Here is what the president said in response.


OBAMA: I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. If you think about it, you know, UPS and Fedex are doing just fine. No, they are. The Post Office is always having problems.


BAIER: The Post Office is having problems. There you see the graphic, $7 billion loss in 2009, $7 billion projected loss in 2010. To cite a government agency that's losing $14 billion in two years as an example —

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": You would think that the president would take from that fact the idea that the government option is going to be a failure.

Medicare, the government-run health program for seniors, is going broke. It has not reformed anything. It has not done any of the things, even though the government has been running it since 1965, has not done health I.T., has not done, you know, disease management, any of that kind of stuff private insurance companies do.

The best kind of solution for this problem would be the Swiss system where you have individual mandate, entirely private competition among health insurance companies. It lowers costs. It gives lots of choice. People get subsidized. There is no preexisting conditions and all of that kind of stuff, but it is private competition which works. It works again and again and again, and it's working right now in Medicare Part D, which he also disparaged.

BAIER: Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And the Swiss are so healthy they all wear shorts, so we know that system works.

I thought the key event in this town hall was when Obama said he did not support a single-payer system, which means a government-run system. And the reason he gave is because the transition would be disruptive, not because he opposes it on principle.

In fact, we know that before he became a national candidate, he supported a Canadian-style system, which is a way of saying he still believes in it.

And we heard from high-ranking Democrats who have admitted in Congress that the public option is the royal road to a government-run system. So it leads to a lot of suspicion, and I think warranted suspicion, that the public option is the camel's nose as a way to get us started on the road inevitably to a government-run system.

BAIER: After the panel last night, we literally received hundreds and hundreds of e-mails about people upset that Mort, you compared them to Code Pink, causing a stir, Charles, you said that it's not good strategy. I mean, tons and tons of e-mails.

And then this afternoon, Rush Limbaugh responded to Mort, who said that Rush was stirring this up. Take a listen to this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I am not encouraging all of this, and the only incivility that has happened occurred after Obama dispatched the SEIU to places like Melville outside St. Louis and other places.

So these people get it in their template that I'm causing this and that the Republicans are going to blow it. It is this ivory tower, let's be polite. Let's not make them think that we are what they lie about us being all the time. Let's be civil and let's be quiet. That's how we got the stimulus bill.


BAIER: Mort?

KONDRACKE: I call that disparagement of civility what he was just doing.

Look, I quote Rush Limbaugh on previous occasions, "Adolf Hitler like Barack Obama also ruled by dictate. He was also called "the messiah."" Quote, unquote, "If Al Qaeda wants to demolish America as we know and love it, then they better hurry, because Obama is beating them to it."

BAIER: Mort the issue was whether Rush was telling them to go in there and scream and interrupt.

KONDRACKE: He regards these people who have been disrupting meetings, and we have seen lots of video of it —

BAIER: Couldn't you just say that some of these people are just upset, they are fearful?

KONDRACKE: Yes, some of them are upset. Yes, they're fearful. Why are they fearful? They're fearful because people like Rush Limbaugh are telling them that Barack Obama will rule by dictate like Adolf Hitler.


HAYES: They fearful the government will take over health care.

KRAUTHAMMER: As the other definitive doc, let me just say that I don't mind Rush attacking me, but when he links me to Mort, that's a low blow. I may not recover.


There is a distinction. He says let's be civil. Let's be quiet. There is a distinction between civil and quiet. I think people ought to be open, vocal, demonstrate, shout and scream outside the hall. Inside the hall you are civil.

And the reason is a tactical one. You are giving the Democrats and the liberals an excuse and distraction that they are using against those who correctly, I think, oppose the plan.


Tony in Sheboygan, Wisconsin — "Mort and Charles need to remove their collective heads from their posteriors and see what's actually happening in the real world." We're going to leave it there.

KRAUTHAMMER: That is an ugly image. I don't want to contemplate that.


BAIER: People are buzzing about a clip we showed you Monday with Hillary Clinton snapping at a questioner in the Congo. We'll get the buzz from the panel when we come back.



HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state. I am. So you ask me my opinion and I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: An abiding theme that she has on her trip to Africa is empowering women. As the question was posed to her, it was posed in a way that said I want to get the views of two men but not you, the secretary of state.


BAIER: Well, the State Department asked a question about the question that Secretary Clinton was responding to. They are now saying that the questioner got it wrong and that he asked for her reaction for President Clinton and meant to say President Obama. They say it wasn't the translator.

What about this and the secretary's reaction as her husband, the former president, is celebrating his birthday in Las Vegas this week? We're back with the panel — Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: She lost it. It was not a real good moment. In part, I'm sure it was because she thought she was being treated as an appendage of her husband.

But I think part of it is also the venue. Here you have Richard Holbrooke running Afghanistan and Pakistan, the heart of our troubles in Asia. You have George Mitchell in the Middle East. You have envoys here and there, and she is the secretary of state, and she's sitting in the Congo, in the Congo?

You've got Petraeus running Afghanistan. You've got Odierno running Iraq. She is totally marginalized sitting in Kenchasa. I'm sure it is a great city — In fact, it's not.


But the Congo, Africa are very low on the scale of important interests of the United States. She was supposed to be the president of the United States at this point. She was going to be queen of the world. Instead, Obama strides the world. He gives speeches in the great capitals in Cairo, and she is in Congo. You'd be upset, also.

And look, I would appeal to the jury on this and say I would acquit her on grounds of extreme provocation. She has been marginalized, and that's one reason why her numbers are good. Her poll numbers are good because she hasn't been doing anything.

BAIER: Yes, in fact, when you look at the poll numbers, Mort, she polls better than President Obama does. You see the approval at 59 percent, depending on the poll, and the president is around 53 percent.

KONDRACKE: Look, I would put some of it down to probably exhaustion. She has been chasing around Africa, seven countries, 11 days, dealing with highly emotional issues like the mass rape of women in Congo, horrible civil war, and stuff like that going on.

And here she gets asked a question out of left field about her husband, you know. And she did lose it. And I'm sure that resentment over the fact that lots of males are handling all the big issues of the world and she's off there in Africa does have something to do with it.

HAYES: What a bunch of squishes. We think we got mail after yesterday's segment. Rush Limbaugh will tee off on these guys both defending Hillary Clinton here.

I actually agree with them. There is a reason she is upset.

You can't also forget that this happened in the shadow of his trip to North Korea last week, which I think was a diplomatic disaster. But I think on the surface, at least in the short term, it looks to have been a successful trip. He came back. He got lots of congratulations, plaudits in the news media.

He is getting all the attention, and she is doing what she did at beginning of her Senate term, which is keeping her head down and working hard.

But I agree with Charles. She has been marginalized in this administration. She is not a major player.

BAIER: Do you think by her reaction that there is still some thought, some political thought that down the road that she may run again?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it's the fact that she knows she will never are run again, never succeed in achieving the ultimate objective, and is now, you know, secondary, and even less than secondary, which is a source of her irritation.

Part of it was being upset about the men part, the feminist part. I think it is about her status. Look, her husband was on the front pages all over the world. He is now in Vegas tonight, and she's in the Congo. You would be upset, too.

BAIER: Back to the Congo.

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