All-Star Panel: Fallout continues from ObamaCare site troubles

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BAIER: The back and forth about what the president knew and when he knew it, this as a number of Democrats are saying they would like to delay this in one way or another, some of them saying they would like to delay the -- or extend the enrollment period, others saying that they would like to also essentially stop the penalty from kicking in, the mandate.

If you take a look at the Democrats, the list of them, Gene Shaheen, Mark Begich, Mark Pryor. We've got Joe Manchin, and Mary Landrieu, all of them together – and there you see them. A recent poll by Fox, do you support delaying implementation? 57 percent said delay implementing the health care law.

So what about all this? Let's bring in our panel, Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend," Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and syndicated columnist George Will. Is this the dam breaking? All of these, by the way, except Joe Manchin, up for re-election in red states.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is breaking, and basically they're echoing what the president said with his body language and his action when he said the employer mandate is going to be delayed. From then on, we're all operating on the same premise, which is that the Affordable Care Act cannot be implemented as written. So now we're just arguing about the details. There's no great principle involved here.

So far as I can tell, what the administration is trying to do is sell something online and it can't do it. Get Jeff Bezos. He's bought the Washington Post let him buy the Department of Health and Human Services. He knows how to do this. The difference is that people go to, A, voluntarily, and, B, because they know what they want to buy. People go to because they're under government coercion and they're confronted with something that poll after poll indicates they don't want to buy. So the Bezos model, I'm afraid, won't work.

BAIER: Before going into the website a little bit more, back to the Democrats, who are coming out after this delay, this is what Republican Senator Jeff Flake said about this. This is back in September, the strategy about pushing red state Dems.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R - AZ: This is going to be a tough sell in some of those red states that Democrats have to defend anyway. So I think it is quite possible, I think they'll put a lot of pressure on the leadership to go ahead and delay for a year.


BAIER: That's back in September. Now we had the government shutdown and the debt ceiling increase fight. But they were predicting this back then.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And this has always been the concern for Democrats in red states and in conservative districts, that ObamaCare would roll out and it wouldn't work. If it worked, they could defend votes that they took, they could defend the policy. But if it didn't work, it would put them in this incredibly difficult position. We can see the strategy they're taking now, which is to call for a delay in the penalty and to try to extend the enrollment period.

At this point, White House officials say that they are not ruling that out, but they are certainly not actively considering making that decision right now. They say their focus is on fixing the website. But I think if you do get more people in the president's own party that start to push him towards this, he's going to have a difficult time telling them no.

BAIER: Now to the website. Tucker, you run a website. This code is apparently 500 million lines, which is very, very in depth and a lot of experts say it's too much. Your thoughts on this rollout?

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: We've had successful health care exchanges, health insurance exchange, online since the late 1990's. You can do this. It's possible. I think the logic here though is impossible for the White House to get around, which is how can you penalize people for buying something they can't actually buy? They're going to have to cave.

We should stop and savor the irony here. One of the reasons the government was shut down was because the president refused to budge on this question of delay, which Republicans were demanding. Now that his party is demanding it, he will cave; he has to cave. And so you will have the president agreeing with something he called appalling just two weeks ago. That is mindless partisanship at its most mindless.

BAIER: Where does this go, George?

WILL: When they fix the website, they're real problems will begin.  They're going to look back on the last few weeks as the good old days because when people hack their way through the thicket of difficulties and get to the real choices that ObamaCare offers, particularly the 2.7 million young people they're counting on to sign up, and the young people say this is awfully expensive for something I don't want and recoil, that is the difficulties today are actually keeping people from seeing the bad choice they're going to have to make once they get onto the site.

BAIER: Listen to Representative Rick Nolan, Democrat from Minnesota, about basically who's to blame.


REP. RICK NOLAN, D - MN: There's a wonderful old expression, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, whatever you want to call it, has done in my judgment great damage and harm to the brand. And I think the president should man up and let us know who is responsible, who was in charge here, and fire them.


BAIER: Is there any sense, Julie, that that is in the works, that there's any firing that is coming down the pike?

PACE: There's actually not. And I think that's pretty surprising given the fact that the rollout by all accounts, even by administration officials' accounts, has failed. Most of us in our job, if we get an assignment and we fail at it, there are going to be repercussions. And at this point it's very unclear what those repercussions are.

I will say that this does fall into a pattern for this White House where they like to say that they don't march on the same timeline as the rest of Washington. So just because people in the city are calling for someone to be fired doesn't mean they're going to do that. I do think though that puts them at risk of looking like they have a deaf ear to some of these complaints, some of them that are very real.

BAIER: No one's been fired for Benghazi, for example. No one's been caught in Benghazi. Different animals, as far as political stories, but interesting when you look at repercussions.

CARLSON: We spent trillions on federal stimulus money without moving unemployment numbers in any appreciable way and no one on the economic team was fired. No one ever gets fired, ever, unless you tweet something unapproved.

BAIER: Next panel.

CARLSON: And so I will say -- I guess on the one hand, you could say it's an admirably loyalty apparently, the president has to people who work for him, I guess.  On the other hand, can you really keep Kathleen Sebelius? There was a fascinating piece in The New York Times this morning where one of her aides was quoted basically saying she wasn't that involved in ObamaCare. Can she get away with that? I guess.

WILL: The basic rule is when there's no penalty for failure, failures multiply. In the private sector, failure is you run out of money, you go bankrupt, you disappear. In the public sector you have the police power to raise taxes, you have a printing press so you never disappear. So this corrective mechanism is particularly important in the public sector.

BAIER: Fox poll, the number seven, it was asked, should someone be fired over problems with the government's health care website? In our most recent poll 49 percent said yes, 38 percent said no. The bottom line, Julie, is this going to get fixed? Do you have any sense that the White House feels like there's a timeline here?

PACE: They say they have a timeline. They say they won't tell us what that time line is, which is sort of in keeping with what I call their selective transparency around this process. But when you talk to software developers, when you talk to people who are experts in coding, they say that this does not look like it's going to be a quick fix, like this could be something that is going to be with the White House for quite some time.

And one date we should all keep in mind is December 15th, which is the day that you have to register in order to have insurance when the exchanges open on January 1st. So there's going to be a lot of volume coming in at that point. Can the administration fix the website by that day? I think that's going to be the real test.

BAIER: And the other question is, Tucker, how much money has been spent so far and how much money is being spent right now to try to fix what they launched?

CARLSON: We don't know. There's much we don't know. We know they've spent more than either Facebook or Twitter spent to design their sites. We don't know and by the way, today, they refused to tell congressional Democrats -- their own allies -- how many people have enrolled so far. We know in North Dakota, for example, the number is 20. In Wisconsin, which is not a tiny state, fewer than 50 people have enrolled. Those numbers we know but they won't release the full numbers.

WILL: There are three reasons for secrecy in government. One is to protect national security. The second is to protect confidential communications. The third is to protect the political class from embarrassment. And that's what we're doing here.

BAIER: Next up, as Tucker mentioned, the mole behind an embarrassing White House Twitter account runs out of characters.

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