'Special Report' Panel Questions Obama Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize
This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from October 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievements, it has also been used to give momentum to a set of causes.
And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: President Obama awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the same day as he met with his national security team in the Situation Room talking about troop levels in Afghanistan and whether to send additional troops into the war there. Of course, he has the war in Iraq as well.
But today, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the third president to receive that award.
What about this? Let's bring in our panel, Bill Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard," Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of "The Washington Times" — Bill?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I'm surprised and deeply humbled to be here today to be with you. I know this choice was not made for me personally. It is just a gesture of appreciation for pundits everywhere.
I loved Obama's faux humility, but I think he should have said no. The really humble thing to do would be to have turned it down and said I appreciate the gesture and I know it is a gesture that is made to Americans and we appreciate that, but I want to wait until I accomplish what I hope to accomplish.
But he couldn't resist taking it. There are so many amusing things about today. One of the wonderful things to think about would be the reaction of William Jefferson Clinton. Bill Clinton is now the only Democratic president in the last 40 years who hasn't gotten a Nobel Peace Prize.
Jimmy Carter, the Democratic president before him got it, his own vice president Al Gore got it, and now the next Democratic president, Barack Obama has gotten it. And so the news this morning, the Bill Clinton household, the explosion — not that he has a big temper or anything — but what it would have been to have been a fly on the wall at the Clinton residence this morning.
BAIER: Juan, the nominations had to be in February 1st, so a few days after the inauguration. So how about this?
JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It is unbelievable. If you think about it, he has been in office eight months. It just doesn't make sense.
Just on the face of it, you have to stop and think what were they trying to say? What were they trying to do? This was not Woodrow Wilson, an American president who won it while he was in office, being awarded that because he created the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations. You can understand something like that. You can understand Teddy Roosevelt. But in this case, this is really, I think, an anti-Bush statement coming from the Nobel Committee. And I think that what they are saying is that the United States, in terms of its foreign policy has been engaged in war, and has been resistant to the kind of collaborative effort, the kind of fraternal efforts that are the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize. The odd part is we are still fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guantanamo Bay is still open. It is just puzzling. Maybe they want it to be as a forerunner of what might be to come, Bret, but that's the best case I can make.
JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": One of my responsibilities is to wake up early in the morning and look at "The Washington Times" Web site.
And when I opened it up, there was Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and I thought for sure I was going to have to have a very serious conversation with the desk because they had made such a terrible mistake.
I guess this proves that you really can become anything you want in America. What a great country this is. This diminishes the value of one of the world's most important awards. It has been won by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. But what this is a material side of relief from western Europe that Barack Obama is not George Bush, that they are tired, in their view, of being lectured to, and they want someone to listen. So being able to listen is enough to win a prize worth $1.4 million, and also have a place in history. And I think that that diminishes both the president and the prize in a way that it should not. BAIER: The president through the White House has said he is going to donate that $1.4 million to charity. We don't know which charity yet. No offense to this all-star panel, but we did receive a lot of e-mails wanting to hear from Charles Krauthammer on this particular issue, and he is traveling today. But we reached out to him, and here is what he said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The award is a farce. What has he done? Woodrow Wilson had done the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. Teddy Roosevelt had ended the Russo-Japanese war.
Obama got it for his general splendidness and for the kind of fuzzy internationalism in which he offers engagement in bending a knee to the United Nations. They love that in Norway but the reason Americans are stunned is because that's not what a president here is elected to do for his own country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Just a taste of Charles Krauthammer on this issue. He had a lot more to say, but we wanted to keep the panel pithy here.
Gandhi never won, however, there is a long list of folks who were up and organizations who were up this year that raised some eyebrows of why the committee chose the president. To kind of look forward, I guess is what they are saying.
BIRNBAUM: The one that struck me is the woman who won for working against landmines, putting herself in danger for decades. Many of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have had their lives in true jeopardy in a way that President Obama clearly hasn't and may not.
And so the notion that he won this is more of a statement by the west that — in fact, we have had a series of these. Al Gore won, Jimmy Carter won, both during the Bush administration, and both were seen at the time as a repudiation of Bush. Now they have gone overboard. It is clearly over the top, in my view.
BAIER: Juan, does this hurt from a domestic policy perspective? I mean, does the White House want this now?
WILLIAMS: Oh, I think, you know, what's interesting is that just a moment ago you were saying — Bill was saying he should turn this award back. I don't think he should turn it back, and here is why. I think it helps his stature. His stature in the world, in domestic politics is now elevated.
This is a guy that is entrenched in all sorts of difficulties over healthcare, decisions on increasing troop forces in Afghanistan, and suddenly, if he had been a rock star before, especially in the international scene, he is even a greater rock star now.
He does have now some capital to spend in terms of trying to get other world leaders to be more cooperative. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
But I must just support what Jeff was saying. When I think about Chinese dissidents, when I think about people in Africa, especially African political leaders who put their lives at risk, I think why don't you acknowledge people who have been out there laboring in the vineyard?
BAIER: My question I guess is about domestic politics and the decisions that he has to make about sending more troops into Afghanistan. Does the bar now get set higher that he has received the Nobel Peace Prize? Will he send in 40,000 troops?
WILLIAMS: I don't think it makes a difference. And the critics on the Hill today — the more people piping up, saying how did this happen on the Hill today than they were saying we have to clear the way for our hero.
KRISTOL: We should send in the troops.
But you know who really deserved it, apart from the Irani dissidents and Chinese dissidents, the other people who actually deserve the prize the most, who have actually brought peace to a country that was ravaged by a savage war, are David Petraeus and Ray Odierno and Ryan Crocker, the people who pulled off one of the great accomplishments in recent history more or less successfully.
So I hope President Obama follows their model and actually does win the war in Afghanistan.
BAIER: Last word, quickly.
BIRNBAUM: I think that it will help Obama do what he wants to do and while these war meetings are to walk back from his campaign promise to make Afghanistan the new war against the Taliban, He will now have an additional reason not to agree with what his military leaders want and to send in fewer troops than they're asking for.
BAIER: The cause of the Nobel Peace Prize?
BIRNBAUM: Yes, yes, in part.
BAIER: I don't know.
Has the comedic tide turned on President Obama, and is the House Ethics Committee finally turning the screws on Congressman Charlie Rangel? The lightning round is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't see why the right is so riled up. How do you think the left feels? They're the ones that should be mad.
I'm sure they thought I would have addressed at least one of the following things by now — global warming, nope, immigration reform. Nope, gays in the military, nah-ah, limits on executive powers, nope, torture prosecutions, nope.
So looking at this list, I'm seeing two big accomplishments — jack and squat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So the question in the lightning round, is the comedic tide turning? What do you think — Jeff?
BIRNBAUM: Yes, finally. I think it happens to every president. It just took this president a lot longer to get to this point. And yes, he is increasingly funny.
And this weekend I want to watch "Saturday Night Live" to say about his winning of all things the Nobel Peace Prize, who could imagine such a thing?
WILLIAMS: The halo is gone. And if you talk to people on the left, the halo is gone for just the reasons outlined. Sometimes satire really is best when it's based in truth. That was a very, very insightful piece of satire.
BAIER: CNN did a fact check on that satire — Bill?
KRISTOL: They were so outraged that someone made fun of President Obama. I wish the Nobel Peace Prize committee watched "Saturday Night Live."
BAIER: Charlie Rangel under investigation by the ethics committee in the House. It is expanded that investigation, we're told. So what happens with Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — Bill?
KRISTOL: He is chairman of the tax committee in the House. We are about to have a huge tax bill come to the floor of the house called the health care bill which has a big tax increase. And Charlie Rangel has managed that in committee and will be there on the floor and the guy is a tax dodge, and it is ludicrous.
I think it will make it easy for Republicans to scream and yell about this guy is in charge of raising your taxes.
BAIER: How much does it hurt Democrats — Juan?
WILLIAMS: It is inside Democratic counsels on the Hill that's a problem. They realize they are giving a gift to Republicans. Republicans suddenly seem like they are people of high values and great standards when it comes to corruption, and they have Charlie Rangel as an example. The Democrats want to do something about it, but it's very difficult.
BIRNBAUM: Even in the House of Representatives, the chairman of the tax writing committee cannot be allowed to evade taxes. The problem of the Ethics Subcommittee investigation into him is a signal by the leaders that Charlie Rangel should step down as chairman.
BAIER: All right, Friday, bring your own topic — Jeff?
BIRNBAUM: There is another CBO, Congressional Budget Office estimate for a crackdown, a reining in of malpractice lawsuits, something that trial lawyers do not want, trial lawyers being a very important constituency of the Democratic Party.
When fully implemented this could save $50 billion a year of taxpayer dollars, but the Democrats are unlikely to do that because they are so close and gotten so much money from trial lawyers over the years.
WILLIAMS: President Obama will speak to the human rights campaign, the gay rights group in Washington, and the reception so far is surprisingly chilly because he has not acted on don't ask, don't tell. He has not acted on defense of marriage.
And many of them think, what happened? Where is the Obama that was going to be a change agent for human rights in this country? They don't see it.
KRISTOL: News flash — Sarah Palin will be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. No one has read her book yet, but there are a lot of people who are excited about it and inspired by the thought of it, and so they will retract the prize from that Romanian and give it to her.
BAIER: "Going Rogue."
KRISTOL: "Going Rogue," Nobel prize winner. Sarah Palin. It could be huge!
BAIER: Well, that is it for the Friday lightning round and this panel. Thanks to Charles for calling in on the previous one. Tune in for an exciting interview that you may have missed.
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