All-Star Panel: Obama taps Bill Clinton to play role at DNC convention

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 30, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: President Clinton is going to reinforce the message that President Obama himself will lay out a day or two later, which is his belief if we're going to be strengthening our economy over the long-term we need to do it by strengthening the middle class, by investing in the middle class and growing the economy from the middle out.

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: President Clinton resided over a period of relative economic prosperity, and it may remind people of what this president, President Obama, is not, a leader on the economy.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The Obama campaign is tapping former president Bill Clinton with a big speaking role at the Democratic Convention and also talking a lot more about the Clinton economy. Also, we'll wrap up the Romney trip as it continues overseas. It's time to talk to the Fox All-Stars back in Washington, Bill Kristol editor of The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, A.B., what about this focus on Clinton and his role at the DNC?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I think Republicans are just feeling a little sour about it because they know that Bill Clinton is really Obama's best hope, the best focus for the convention, his absolute best surrogate. I don't think it's a big risk. I don't think Bill Clinton's going to pay him back with some off the reservation remark. I think it's the best thing for Hillary Clinton, the best thing for Bill Clinton and the best thing for President Obama. I think that Bill Clinton will be reminding -- he is sort of the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for wavering Democrats – and he will be reminding the Democrats and independents watching that his record paired historic deficit reduction with 22 million new jobs. And he will critique Romney's approach to the economy and Republican economic policies. And I think he is the best spokes spokesman that Obama could put forward at the convention, especially on a big sports night that threatens their viewership. I think it's just a win-win for all three of them.

BAIER: Charles, does this indicate a weakness with perhaps middle class white voters with the Obama campaign? And, remember, last time former President Clinton went out he started by saying you should keep going with all of the Bush tax cuts.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right. It's a sign of weakness. He wouldn't be calling on the old heavyweight to come out of retirement unless Obama thought if he was ahead by ten points or even five, or having a successful economy, he wouldn't ask them to come out.

I think this is mostly internal Democratic politics. If there were a large number of disaffected Hillary acolytes who went for Obama in the general election in 2008, there are a larger number today after the performance of the last four years and them thinking how it would have been had Hillary been the nominee and then the president. So I think it's a way to shore up those votes. I don't think it has appeal outside the Democratic Party. After all, Clinton is not at all like Obama. Clinton is the guy who abolished welfare. He's the guy who also declared big government is over. Obama lives by a creed that if you built it, it wasn't you, it was the government. It's completely different. And I think it's the difference between a center left Democrat and a man of the left, and I think it's going to be highlighted by that speech and it's not going to be mitigated.

BAIER: Bill, Governor Romney is over in Poland now after moving on from Israel. His speech said by many to be pretty strong on Iran. Take listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course. And it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel's right to defend itself and that it is right for America to stand with you.



BAIER: Bill, what about this trip?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, the London part was rocky, but the Jerusalem part was a home run, I think. Governor Romney is pro-Israel and said he was, recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, stands with Israel in facing Iran. And the government and people of Israel are pro-Romney. That does not just appeal to Jewish voters. That appeals to Americans who are pro-Israel, which most Americans are. I think Governor Romney very adeptly highlighted the distance between President Obama and the government and the state of Israel without criticizing President Obama, without mentioning by name. He nonetheless in the speech and the meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and in his visit to the Western Wall highlighted the fact that he is unequivocally pro-Israel. Has a real sympathy I think, with the people and state of Israel. Visiting the Western Wall, that was a striking picture on the front page of the newspaper today, especially because President Obama has not been in Israel as President of the United States.

BAIER: A.B., Jen Psaki with the Obama campaign said this to reporters, quote, "When you look at this trip, it seems clear it's a bunch of fundraisers and photo ops and, you know, fumbles. So, we're not sure that Mitt Romney is moving the ball forward or that he is passing the threshold he needs to meet for the American people whether he's prepared to be commander-in-chief." They're trying to jump on this trip. Are they doing a good job?

STODDARD: Well, I agree with Bill that the Israel portion of the trip has gone well. It was a strong message to evangelical voters back here at home, that Mitt Romney can be trusted with his support for Israel.

Actually, he didn't really say anything different policy-wise from the Obama administration. Many of the things he said President Obama has said recently in his AIPAC speech and in other remarks. It was Romney's tone, and his fluency, and his confidence that were the most effective after a really disastrous trip to London, which I think the Democrats deserve to make fun of. But in terms of his trip to Israel, and the fact that he is old friends with the prime minister, and he was able to finesse a few fundraisers and politicize it without stepping in it too much, I actually think it was probably an effective trip. And for people who were paying attention, mostly to just what he said, it looked very good.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Romney's performance in Israel is a masterstroke. It is true that the words were roughly what Obama has said, but it wasn't only the tone. It was the nuance. Middle East diplomacy is conducted entirely in code words and nuance. And Romney had the ones that the Middle Easterners understand. For example, when he spoke about Iran. Obama had also said Israel has a right to defend itself, but that was in the abstract. Romney then added, as we saw in the clip, that America will be with you, meaning, Obama says you can defend yourself but we know that behind the scenes he is giving a red light, speaking about impediments, leaking stuff that would indicate an Israeli strike wouldn't succeed. Romney is saying if you do it, I'll stand with you. You don't have to worry about America punishing you afterwards.

And also on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, Obama has said that, but Romney spoke about acquiring the knowledge, the capacity, building. Obama has conceded on uranium enrichment. Romney is saying no, we want to stop the program in its tracks. These are huge differences understood in the Middle East without ever attacking Obama. That was why it was a great success.

BAIER: All right, panel, thank you. Stay tuned for a preview of our West Coast swing.

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