'Special Report' Panel on Relocating Gitmo Inmates
This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from June 11, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN KELLY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We understand that there are some concerns about some of the details of the resettlement, and we're confident that we can work — work these things through with the government of the U.K.
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CHRIS WALLACE, FOX HOST: That was the State Department doing some damage control after it apparently forgot to tell the British it had struck a deal to relocate some Chinese Muslim detainees in Bermuda. It's all part of the Obama administration's effort to unload Gitmo inmates, wherever it can.
Let's bring in our panel: Mort Kondracke of Roll Call; Nina Easton of Fortune magazine; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
So let's — and you need a program to keep track of this. Four Uighers to Bermuda, the remaining 13 to Palau. Is this, Charles, a sensible way for dealing with them and, possibly, a model for dispersing — dispensing with all the Guantanamo, or at least most of the Guantanamo detainees?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it certainly has an element of comedy about it. You can see the new al Qaeda slogan, "Join al Qaeda, see the world."
It's win-win. If al Qaeda defeats the United States, you rule the world out of Mecca. If you lose, you end up on a tropical island, Bermuda shorts, holding a daiquiri in your hand.
Look, the Uighers are the easiest of the issues. It's hard to get excited about the Uighers, because they're like the Basques or the IRA. They are terrorists, but they're not particularly anti-American. They're ambitious...
WALLACE: At least they weren't before they went to Guantanamo.
KRAUTHAMMER: I'm not sure how — you know, how much that will change them. Their interest is in the western elements of China, which are Muslim, and liberating it.
Their ambitions are geographically circumscribed, so getting them out of Guantanamo is reasonably easy. And yet we had to shop around to 100 countries who said no, and they end up on these island dependencies in the middle of nowhere.
The real issue is going to be the Yemenis, who the Saudis have hinted they may take, but the Saudis have a record of releasing people who end up at war with us again.
And the insoluble issue is the ones who are not tryable and not releasable, who are going to be stuck in Guantanamo with nobody in the U.S. taking them.
WALLACE: I want to return to the Uighers for a minute, Nina, because not only are — what is it — four going to Bermuda, but there is now the plans for 13 to go to the heavenly island in the South Pacific of Palau after the administration — perhaps it's a coincidence. The Obama administration made a decision to give that island $200 million in foreign aid.
The Wall Street Journal did a calculation today. It works out to $10,000 for every citizen of the island. And they also worked out that at that rate they, for $615 billion, could pay to move Guantanamo to France.
NINA EASTON, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: They didn't ask my neighborhood. Maybe we would like to collect a little ten grand here and there.
WALLACE: An economic stimulus bill.
EASTON: It's like an economic stimulus plan. And, you know, the funny thing in all of this, if we're looking for humor is that at least — particularly with the ones that are transferred to Bermuda, the Obama administration says they're perfectly safe.
But they're not allowed to travel here, and we've got all these ways set up to — all these security measures set up so that they can't travel here.
But I agree with — I agree with Charles, that the big problem are these Yemenis. There's 100 of them. If the Obama administration, what he's trying to do is create a sense of speed on moving these cases forward.
And I think if he can — I think for Obama that Saudi rehab is the answer. You can't send them back to Yemen, because that country is unstable. There's ties to the Islamic fundamentalists. There — you can't rely on them.
But if they went through the Saudi rehab program, which some of the Saudis have done, I think that's a better bet for the Obama administration.
WALLACE: Yes, let's talk about that more, because they're talking about — talking about sending out 100 Yemenis to Saudi Arabia. Now, we talked about the Saudi rehab program. Some of the people have graduated from Saudi rehab and gone back to the battlefield.
MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Absolutely. I mean, nobody knows for sure. And apparently, it is impossible to tell which of these guys is rehabilitatable and which isn't, because some of them get released when we thought that they were harmless, or weren't terrorists, and end up being terrorists after all.
Look, let's not forget that George Bush said that he wanted to close Guantanamo, too. And Obama comes in, and then he makes this announcement without a plan, and now he's stuck with trying to get rid of them and sending diplomats all over the world, begging various countries to take handfuls of them at a time.
There are going to be something like 200 that are yet to be accounted for. Some of the hardest cases are going to probably end up in the United States. Nobody wants them, but we could — we could easily house them in super max prisons, you know. They're not going to bust out, and nobody is going to bust in. But it's just this "not in my backyard" syndrome.
WALLACE: Let me just say that all the e-mails should be sent to Mr. Kondracke and not to me.
Anyway, something that is going to cost even more than relocating detainees is healthcare reform. The president took his case directly to the public today. The panel will tell us how he did, next.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I know that there are some who will say it's too expensive. I know some people say it's too complicated, but I can assure you that the cost of doing nothing is going to be a lot higher in the years to come.
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WALLACE: President Obama selling health reform hard today. And we're back now with the panel.
So, Mort, the president held a town-hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I'd say he's really starting to ramp up his offensive for this plan.
How commanding is his position right now on Capitol Hill to get the main elements he wants, a public plan to compete with private health insurance and the mandates for individuals and — and for companies to participate?
KONDRACKE: Well, I think on the mandates, there's a lot of agreement. And there's a lot of agreement on a lot of things connected with healthcare reform, including the fact that we're not going to be able to afford it. It's going to go up to a third of GDP from 16 percent over a couple of decades. So everybody agrees that something has got to be done. The question is what.
And what is the nature of this public plan? The liberals want a public plan that looks like Medicare, which means Canada. It's the whole - - it would drive private insurance out of business, and we'd all be — you know, we'd have a single-payer plan.
WALLACE: That's not what the president is pushing (ph).
KONDRACKE: Well, the president, we don't know what kind of public plan the president wants. He has not...
WALLACE: He has talked about competing with...
KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, they would compete, except that they would be able to undercut private insurance to the point where everybody would bail out of private insurance and go — go to this public plan if it's cheaper.
Then you'd have the government running healthcare in the United States, and Medicare proves that it will go broke. Medicare is going broke, except for part D, which is competitive private insurance.
WALLACE: Nina, the American Medical Association, which is the biggest association of healthcare providers in the country, came out today. They're very much in favor of health-care reform but came out very strongly against the public insurance plan for exactly the reasons Mort mentioned.
Senate Republicans are almost unanimously against it, and even some Senate moderate Democrats like Ben Nelson say it's a deal breaker. So what happens on public health?
EASTON: Yes. Ben Nelson has been pretty clear that this is a deal breaker, which is pretty key.
But the — on the doctors, it's very interesting, because the Center for American Progress, which is the think tank that's very alive at the White House, brought out its own doctors today to say that doctors actually really do — there's doctors all over the country that support a public plan.
So you're seeing as much of a divide among Democrats, moderate divide among Democrats as you are among doctors. So it's not — and I do think that, in the Senate, you've got the — Ben Nelson has made it clear that he's going to use his power to try to prevent a public plan.
Keep in mind and watch. There's a Senate Kent Conrad plan going around to create co-ops, which are not government-sponsored. It's not directly government intervention.
WALLACE: Real quick, because I don't understand, how would that work? EASTON: Well, you would — you would collect together your subscribers in a co-op, as opposed to being government run. The government wouldn't be a directive in this. And the feeling is that this would be — it would provide a way for the uninsured to become insured, but it wouldn't necessarily have government control.
WALLACE: Now, Charles, the president says — he said this before. He'd rather have a big majority for 80 percent of the plan that he likes than he would to have a narrow, party-line vote for 100 percent of the plan.
Do you believe that?
KRAUTHAMMER: I do, and if he wants that, that's what he intends to do, he'll have to abandon the idea of a government plan.
The doctors coming out against it — and the AMA represents a huge majority of doctors — are afraid that, if the government's plan is like Medicare, having access to endless treasury funds, it's going to end up as a system like Canada or the national health service in Britain. And that doctors hate, because Medicare is — every year is reducing the rates doctors are getting.
If it's not supported by the treasury, the government plan, then it's negotiable. It would be a stand-alone non-profit, although you'd have to ask why do you need it? The government is running the autos and the banks. Why does it have to run a health insurance company, as well?
WALLACE: It's a long way from here to there.
KRAUTHAMMER: And Obama is going to have to compromise if he wants to end up there.
WALLACE: Thank you all, panel.
We got your e-mails, and we want to correct a mistake we made a little while ago. Senator Mark Udall, as a lot of you know, is from Colorado, not Utah, as we originally said.
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