'Special Report' Panel on Relief Efforts in Haiti After Devastating Earthquake

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from January 13, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a time when we're reminded of the common humanity that we all share. With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us, and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are our neighbors in Americas and here at home.

So we have to be there for them in their hour of need. We must be prepared for difficult hours and days ahead as we learn about the scope of the tragedy. We will keep the victims and their families in our prayers.

We will be resolute in our response and I pledge to the people of Haiti you will have a friend and partner in the United States today and going forward.


BAIER: President Obama pledging support from the U.S. He called the earthquake in Haiti "cruel and incomprehensible" as the U.S. mobilizes to respond to this natural disaster.

As you look through a couple of the pictures, some gripping images, really from cell phone cameras. The phone establishment hasn't had been there yet. Facebook became an eyewitness to all of this. One message that Major Garrett brought up people, someone saying "four people are still buried in my house. If you are in the area, please, please help." Gripping images.

Lets bring in our panel now, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Fred, your thoughts?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it certainly is cruel and incomprehensible, and I would say the only good news is that the United States exists and is nearby and can help.

And certainly an enormous amount is needed. And if it's not there already, it's on its way. Two aircraft carriers and a number of helicopters and planes are now getting in we know from Steve Harrigan who was there at the airport a few minutes ago.

And it's good that the U.S. can project power, military power, planes, ships, Marines, and so on, because it means they can also project aid. And this is what the U.S. did in 2004 with the tsunami in Asia which also killed an enormous amount of people, something like 300,000 people.

And the only way — and then others died indirectly because they couldn't get water or they starved, or something. But many more would have died if the U.S., with the help of other countries, but mainly the U.S. hadn't arrived with the aid from the ships and planes.

And I think President Obama is right — the U.S. will be totally committed to doing anything it can in Haiti to save any lives that it can and provide all the aid that's needed.

BAIER: Mort, a natural disaster like this is especially hard in a place like Haiti that is so impoverished, so poor without any of this.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Yes. I mean, it's just horrific.

I mean, probably tens of thousands of people have been killed here. It's the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The buildings are not well built. If it's not being battered by an earthquake, it's battered by hurricanes. It's constantly the victim of natural disasters. It's been victimized by its own government over generations and generations. It is as close to godforsaken place as you can imagine.

And Fred is right. This is an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate what it can do well, and that is rescue because we have power.

And in a way, in a kind of a gruesome, it can be kind of a fire drill for our own emergency preparedness operations, because, you know, you never know when there is going to be a Katrina or an earthquake in California, for heaven's sake. And this is an opportunity for us to exercise.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Mort's right. Haiti is the Job of the new world. It's not only that it's the poorest of all the countries in the Americas, but the most ill-governed and the most miserable, literally.

And the extent of the tragedy is almost unimaginable. We already heard that the presidential palace is gone, parliament is gone, the U.N. headquarters are gone, and these are presumably the best built structures on the island because all the resources are there. So you can imagine what has happened in the slums and shantytowns and the devastation there.

We have heard the estimates. If one of the middling estimate of 100,000 dead is true, that would translate on a per capita basis, it would have the societal effect in the U.S., the loss, the death of 3 million Americans in one day would have. That is 1,000 9/11s in one day.

And what that does, it compounds individual tragedy, but it means society, the fabric of society is ripped. Its institution, its infrastructure is so destroyed with the people that the long range of rebuilding becomes almost impossible, especially in a country that has so little infrastructure and is so dysfunctional normally like Haiti.

BAIER: I did a series of reports from Port-au-Prince in 1999 about millions of dollars that were unaccounted for; U.S. aid. This recovery effort, rescue effort is going to be tough to launch in a place like Haiti.

BARNES: And it's because it's had such corrupt politics, including with President Aristide, who was reinstalled by President Clinton and who was not only crooked, but crazy.

One of the things that we've seen though with the Haitians is when they come to the United States, a free country, they do extraordinarily well. They work hard and prosper. And that could happen in Haiti without this horrific corrupt government tradition.

BAIER: Are the House and Senate any closer to deal on health care reform legislation after today's meeting at the White House? Plus, how does the Massachusetts race factor in? We will ask the panel in three minutes.


BAIER: This is a Fox News alert, as you look live at the White House. We can tell you that the White House meeting, the meeting that started at 10:30 this morning with House and Senate leaders and the president just ended. It lasted about eight hours. Now the senators staying throughout the day, we're told, the president was in and out — serious problems. This after others said the bill is hanging by a thread. Where are we in all of this? We're back with the panel — Mort?

KONDRACKE: The plan, and it was the White House plan and sort of everybody else's plan, was that the House was going to swallow the Senate bill. So it gets over to the — it gets over to the House, the Senate bill does, and all of a sudden the House members are gagging on it.

They don't like a lot that is in it. They don't like the fact — they have given up on the public plan and they have given up on the idea of the Medicare buy-in and they have given up on idea of surtax on millionaires to pay for this whole thing.

But they want a national exchange, not a lot of state exchanges. They want other stuff that they're insisting on. They want the level at which the tax on Cadillac plans, so-called, kicks in to be higher, because the labor unions want that. That's expensive, so they have to figure out some other way to pay for it.

And what I've heard is that Nancy Pelosi said, look, if we're going to eat this thing, you have to not only throw us bones, you have to give us meat on the bones. And so far I don't know that she got it.

BAIER: Congressman Weiner, a Democrat from New York, said today the Senate is complaining, he said "squealing like a pig," but it wasn't exactly a picnic for the House to get the 218 votes either.

BARNES: That's exactly right, Bret. And Nancy Pelosi has a real problem, because remember, the initial vote in the house was 220-215. She's lost two votes. She's lost Robert Wexler who has left the house to take another job, and the Republicans say she lost vote of Congressman Cao from New Orleans, who is the one Republican who voted last time.

That gets her down to 218. That gives her not much room to maneuver.

And the Republicans are targeting a couple of groups. One is all the members who are in districts where they have a high numbers of seniors, particularly those in the Medicare Advantage program, which is going to be jettisoned everywhere but Florida, because that was a special deal that Bill Nelson, the senator worked out from Florida.

And then the others who come from California, Wisconsin, New York, West Virginia, that have the huge budget problems and say, hey, we can't take on the new Medicaid expenses, billions in the bill.

And so you have this situation. Then you have Massachusetts sitting out there. Can you imagine if the Republican Scott Brown, who is running almost entirely against Obama-care, wins, and then already the popularity of it continues to go down. It may be hard to wind up, for Nancy Pelosi to get 218 votes.

BAIER: I want to turn to Massachusetts. Martha Coakley had an event in Washington, D.C., we reported on last night, a fundraising event. She's quoted by the National Review as saying this — "If I don't win, 2010 will be hell for Democrats. Every Democrat will have a competitive race." That's her quote.

Now, she said that she didn't say that in a news press briefing today.

There was also an incident where a Weekly Standard reporter alleges he was pushed down allegedly by one of the aides. She says she didn't see the picture. Here's the picture. He falls down. There is another picture of her looking on right there. There is Martha Coakley. If she didn't see it, I don't know. Maybe she didn't look down.

Charles, what about all of this, the Massachusetts equation?

KRAUTHAMMER: She hasn't had a good day today. If she didn't say that about how hell it will be for the Democrats, all the Democrats are thinking it.

A lot hinges on this. Health care hinges on it, I think, entirely. It's not just that if the seat ends up in Republican hands the Democrats will lack the 60 in the Senate.

It's also that it will be a message to everybody wavering, including a lot of conservative and centrist Democrats in the House that this bill is poison because the Republican has made health care one of the, perhaps the major issue in this campaign, and he's explicitly run on the premise that he will vote against it.

So it's almost a referendum on this issue. And if a referendum on this issue fails in Massachusetts, meaning if the majority in the bluest of the blue states, the Ted Kennedy state, votes against it, that will be devastating.

I think you will see the negotiations on the White House on this utterly collapse because there will be so many Democrats in the House, and it will be impossible to achieve 218.

BAIER: Mort, quickly, a quick hypothetical. Let's say Scott Brown pulls off the major upset victory. Would there be an effort by Democratic leaders in Massachusetts and perhaps in conjunction with the Senate to hold his certification?

KONDRACKE: They will be sorely tempted to do that, to have — Coakley presumably will challenge results if it's very close, and it will be close. And then you might have this slow walking going on. It will be a national scandal if that happens, though.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. Much more on this in the online show.

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