This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from May 24, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: This is a BP mess, a horrible mess. It is a massive environmental mess. The accountability here as the investigations unfold will hold them accountable both civilly and in whatever way is necessary.
DOUG SUTTLES, BP CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: We have been at this for more than a month. We have been applying the very best engineering and science we actually know. And clearly, some of the things we've done haven't worked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHANNON BREAM, GUEST HOST: Let's bring in the panel to talk about it, Tucker Carlson, editor of thedailycaller.com, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome, everybody.
All right, Charles, you want to start us off tonight and talk about the back and forth about who is responsible and who is going to be in charge?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I should start by admitting I have a bit of a head cold, but as far as I can tell it hasn't affected my brain. I'll let you be the judge of that.
You have the reality and then the politics. The reality is we have never had a leak at this depth. It's a mile down, it's never happened before. And everything that is being done is experimental.
There are a lot of attacks on BP, obviously, for the blowout and also for the administration, the waving of the permitting and all of that that preceded it.
But once it already happened, I can't imagine why BP would not be doing — it is doing everything it can. It's in its interest. It will lose billions as a result of this, losing its reputation and could lose its very existence. Of course it's trying to stop it. But this is new technology.
And when Salazar said earlier, I think over the weekend, if BP won't stop this, we're going to push them out of way, well, the admiral — it has affected my brain, apparently — Admiral Allen, who's head of the coast guard, said if you push them out of way, who is left? There is nobody who has the expertise and assets to do this.
And I think that's right. We're joined at the hip.
The politics of it, however, Obama will get the blame as it continues. We imagine the president as superman and he should stop all bad things that are happening. And the president hasn't helped that. Remember when he was nominated he said his success to the presidency would mark the day in which the earth began to heal and the oceans recede.
When you anoint yourself King Neptune, you can't be surprised when the people expect you to command the tides. Obviously, he can't.
BREAM: And Mara, we are just getting word across the wires U.S. Commerce Secretary Block is declaring fishing disaster areas for Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi. Is it pressure for the administration to step up?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I think the administration wants to look like it is doing everything it can, even though, as Charles just explained, there is a limit to what they can do, because as Commandant Allen explains over and over again, the federal government doesn't have the machines or expertise.
For better or for worse they are stuck with BP as a partner at least in terms of capping the spill. There is a lot the federal government can do to organize the cleanup and prevent the oil coming to the water.
But it's interesting, since 1990, when a law was passed in response to a big 13i spill, the Exxon Valdez, that was a spill coming out of a ship. And apparently the federal government has a lot of plans and resources to deal with oil coming from a ship. They haven't had anything like this.
We're always fighting the last war. And they don't have the expertise or equipment to cap this off.
I think part of the confusion has been that you have Secretary Salazar out there over the weekend suggesting that the federal government could step in. But in fact it can't. And I think that was part of the problem that the White House tried to correct today by having Allen in the White House briefing room.
BREAM: Tucker, we continue to hear the ratcheting up of BP, the foot on the throat, and tough talk continues to ratchet up.
TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: Execution is coming soon. You're right. You're hearing at a time when the White House could be spending its time trying to organize the cleanup, a lot of time and effort blaming BP.
By the way, they are responsible. They are responsible fundamentally for the spill. But the White House is concerned because there have been attacks from the left on its passive behavior. Chris Matthews saying on television he is concerned they're not taking control of the situation.
In part, those criticisms I think are rooted in something. David Axelrod saying today we assembled a team to assess how big the leak is. That is 34 days after. They waited, and so they face real political peril in this.
BREAM: I want to ask all three of you quickly, you mentioned Admiral Thad Allen. He has a special appointment now and will step down as commandant of the Coast Guard to be an incident commander and continue on there.
We heard a lot from him in the White House briefing today. He is very plain-spoken and seems like he will tell you as it is. What do you make of him?
KRAUTHAMMER: I watched the whole show and I was really impressed. He knew what he was talking about. He used a lot of jargon, which I found extremely impressive, stuff I never heard of.
He obviously understands the engineering and the physics of this and he explained the alternatives and he was speaking as a guy who wanted to stop it rather than make political points. I thought the way he sort of subtly put down Salazar implying the federal government could go it alone was absolutely appropriate.
LIASSON: One of the recurring themes with the administration is they don't have a lot of great surrogates. They have the president, who often is just left to do everything by himself, but in this case they have a great surrogate, and they should use him as much as possible.
He was completely non-defensive. He said it like it is. He didn't seem to be shy about differing from another administration official. I thought he showed a lot of command and authority. I think he is a good surrogate.
CARLSON: I agree, because he made the point. This may be a political problem for the White House, but fundamentally an engineering challenge. And as he pointed out, BP is best situated to meet the challenge. That's just true. There's no argument with that.
BREAM: All right, we'll keep it there on this issue and we'll be back with much more. We want to know who you think should run the containment effort. Vote in the online poll, our homepage at Foxnews.com/SpecialReport.
Next up, trying to get answers about whether the White House tried to bribe a Senate candidate. The panel takes it on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Yes or no, straightforward question. Were you offered a job? And what was the job?
REP. JOE SESTAK, D-PA. U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I was offered a job. And I answered that.
INTERVIEWER: You said no, you wouldn't take the job. Was it secretary of the Navy? Was it the secretary of the Navy?
SESTAK: Anything that goes beyond that is for others to talk about.
REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: You can't have a seated U.S. congressman and former three-star admiral saying he was offered a job in the administration and then say there was nothing problematic. By definition, Congressman Sestak has alleged three felonies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BREAM: Welcome back our panel to talk about this, Tucker Carlson, Mara Liasson, and also Charles Krauthammer with us. Tucker, I want to start with you. Using the word "felony" and "bribe," what do you make of it?
CARLSON: I'm not a lawyer. I know a bribe when I see one. This clearly qualifies as one. Going to a candidate and saying, look, don't run — throw the fight and we'll pay you. That is what Sestak is alleging the White House said to him.
I'm really surprised this sophisticated group of people in the White House, the communication staff especially, I'm very surprised by Robert Gibbs’ performance on CBS this weekend in which he basically said I'm not going to talk about it. I'm not going to get into it is what he said verbatim.
And the truth is, yes he is, because once you admit if you know the answer to the question you have to provide it.
By the way, this, I think, if you are a Republican thinking does it matter if the Republicans control Congress? Subpoena power. Yes, it does matter. Republicans at this point, we can't compel the White House to answer the question. But that could change come November, and I promise you this is one of the first things they'll attempt to answer.
BREAM: And it may not take that long. It sounds like they're goading the ethics committee to get going or they'll launch something without the committee.
LIASSON: From what I understand, if there were conversations, there was no quid pro quo, the kind of legally defined you can have this job if you drop out. But there were discussions about the job and Sestak clearly thought he was being offered one.
But I think the White House has to provide more details because I don't think it is going to go away. I don't think it's a huge deal. White Houses offer people jobs all the time in order to clear the field for their preferred candidates.
But I also think that Sestak really did himself and the White House a huge disservice. Why go out there and say this? He will be asked about this ad nauseam, and this is not what he wants to talk about.
BREAM: What do you make of the response so far, and we mentioned Robert Gibbs talking about this weekend we've had lawyers look at it, and based on the conversations we think everything is fine. So he admits there were conversations. Nobody disputes that at this point, but not as solid, more solid denial from them.
KRAUTHAMMER: I found that an amazing statement, "Our lawyers looked at it and they found nothing inappropriate." I have a suggestion — how about allowing the rest of to us look at the same evidence and make our own judgment?
Not that I want to impugn the absolute integrity of the White House lawyers who exonerate people who hired them, paid them, and invite them to White House state dinners. I'm sure they're absolutely objective on this. But they admitted they looked at the evidence so let's open it up and look at it.
I think it really becomes an issue when you get Democrats demanding an answer. When you had Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, who said, you know, it's about time. Let's get something here on the table. Stop avoiding it.
When you get a lot of — or even a few Democrats — if it's a Republican issue alone, it looks like a partisan attack. He can probably escape, especially since the Democrats control the Congress and they have subpoena power. But if you get a few Democrats demanding this, I think it will become inescapable.
But I must say, I know if you do it unsubtly, it's illegal. But it's done all the time, clearing the field, with subtle offers. If you leave a horse's head in a bed with a note attached, "Get out," I think you're not supposed to do that. If you say would you rather run for mayor-ship of a northern city or have a nice warm embassy in the Caribbean, and offered it that way, I think it's accepted.
BREAM: And for now we don't know what the offer was and exactly how it went down. And Tucker, what do you make of those who say this is Republicans trying to help Pat Toomey because he is running behind Sestak at this point?
CARLSON: I actually think that this may help Sestak to be honest. Sestak on the issues is more liberal than I would say the majority of the Pennsylvania general election voters, particularly on guns and abortion, unlike the other senator from the state.
So putting distance between himself and the Obama White House is not necessarily a bad thing in the general election. By the way, if you look at Pennsylvania 12th, the Democrats did not run as an Obama clone but ran against Obama in many ways. So actually I think this helps. I don't think that's why he said it, but I don't think it hurts him.
LIASSON: I think he needs to put distance between himself and the Obama administration on issues, not on this, not on something that casts aspersions on the ethical nature of the Obama White House. Critz was pro-gun, pro-life, anti-healthcare reform. That's why he prevailed. Sestak can't say any of those things.
BREAM: Charles, what do you think was Representative's Sestak's motivation here? I mean, he has gotten himself the nomination and he's in the big Senate race in the fall. But why take on the White House like this?
KRAUTHAMMER: I think he made a rookie mistake. I don't think there was intent here. I think he was asked about this, or did he volunteer it? I think it was in response to a question, and he gave an honest answer, which is not always — sometimes you want to evade. I think it was, you know, classic what is called a gaffe in Washington, when you accidentally speak the truth.
BREAM: That is an accident in Washington often.
KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely. And I think that's why he's been bitten on this.
I must say, I'm a bit of a cynic on all of this. When you run in a primary for the presidency and you are behind and the party wants you out of the race so you can have unity, and the offer is if you get out of the race, we pay off your debts, how is that different? Why isn't that a bribe?
That's also tampering with an election, at least technically speaking.
I'm not that offended. I'm happy to see it all happening. But unless there was an outright "I'll do this if you do that," it's the stuff that goes on all the time.
CARLSON: But in this case it's public money, though.
KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, I suppose if it's public money, although, a job in the administration, I mean it can't be the first time an ambassadorship hasn't ever been offered, or a deputy secretary or anything. It's done all the time.
We see it openly in campaigns when people pay off a debt. But it's not as if it's something new. It's just so overt.
LIASSON: They need a better explanation. If they say their lawyers say nothing illegal or inappropriate happen, fine. Say what did happen. There were general discussions about how talented he was and how he could have a great future ahead of him? They have to come up with something better and something that actually answers the question.
BREAM: Well, we'll wait to see if we get through the bottom of this ever, through congressional investigation or otherwise.
Panel, thank you very much. That's it for the panel.
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