All-Star Panel: Politics of teachers union strike in Chicago

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. 


RAHM EMANUEL, D - CHICAGO MAYOR: This is a striker choice, and it's the wrong choice for our children, and it's not necessary. Totally avoidable.

MICHELLE YOUNG, ACTION NOW PRESIDENT: We're going to continue to keep our children out of school until you come up with a better plan and give these teachers what they rightfully deserve.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has, I think, you just heard from me, has not expressed any opinion or made any assessment about this particular incident.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: 26,000 teachers and support staff in Chicago on strike, the nation's third largest school district closing its door, some 400,000 kids not in school now. The standoff continues. Here is what Paul Ryan said just a little while ago. "We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue, and on this day, we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, we stand with the children, we stand with the families and the parents of Chicago because education reform, that's a bipartisan issue. Where does President Obama stand? Does he stand with his former chief of staff Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with the children and the parents, or does he stand with the union?" We are back with the panel. A.B., what about this?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I thought it was obvious that Jay Carney was wearing the too-tight shoes look on his face today. I think Rush Limbaugh is wrong. This is not a Democratic set up so that the media can swoon and the president can rush in and rescue the deal and end the strike and help the unions. I think this is far more politically toxic for President Obama with persuadable voters than Bob Woodward's book. I think he absolutely agrees with Rahm Emanuel and is between a rock and a hard place and wants this to go away. And knows that coming out in favor of the teachers union would be a big mistake.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think this is an opening for President Obama. I think if he wanted to have a big moment where he truly wanted to appeal to these swing voters that everybody is so obsessed with in these swing states, come out and say I'm for good schools. I'm for good schools no matter how we get them. I think what my chief of staff is doing in Chicago is the right thing to do. Take on these labor unions. Are they going to not organize for President Obama because he challenges them on this in his home state, in his hometown? I think not taking a position for President Obama makes him look incredibly weak. I mean this is a guy – this is his hometown, his home state and his chief of staff – his interests, I mean where his kids would have gone to school if he stayed there and he's not going to take a position?

BAIER: On Wisconsin he eventually took a position.

HAYES: He took a position, he didn't weigh in --

BAIER: He didn't go --

HAYES: -- but he took a position, right, he said he was with the unions.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And that is why he is dancing around right now. Because they don't want to come out against the teachers union, which is one of the most important and powerful in the Democratic Party. You have can't go against them. It's ironic now of course, they are striking against Democratic mayors.

I mean, look at where the balance of equities is here. The teachers average $76,000 a year in their salary. That is the highest of any big city in the country. Second, the average person who pays their salary, the person who pays taxes in Chicago, the average salary is $47,000. So the teachers are making 50 percent more than those who supporting them on average. They have been offered a 16 percent hike in wages at a time of high unemployment, desperation. And they turn it down. Why? Because they don't want any tampering with their health benefits, and they don't want any system of teacher evaluation so you can get some idea of who is not a good teacher. You can actually weed them out before they destroy the life of the children in their class. This is so unreasonable that the audacity with which they make their case and pretend it's for the children is simply astonishing. And that Democrats like the president have a hard time standing up for this and grab a position of steady neutrality shows you how much hostage to these unions they are.

BAIER: The politics of this A.B., Rahm Emanuel did speak at the Democratic convention. He apparently left early but he is raising money for the president and the super PAC supporting the president I believe.

STODDARD: He actually at the end of the convention decided to leave the campaign in his formal role to become a super PAC super poo-bah, and now because of the strike actually has stepped aside from his super PAC fundraising role because he is too busy in Chicago. Look, it is obvious that this is – if the president wants to seem in step with the public opinion and the fiscal reality, this is going to be happening – this is happening all around the country and will continue to happen even more as federal spending cuts come online and state budgets and local budgets are squeezed even further. I think it is very wimpy not to wish it away. But the reality is he is in the stranglehold that Charles speaks of –


STODDARD: -- and he doesn't know what to say.

BAIER: Down the line how does this end?

HAYES: I think the teachers end up having to give.


STODDARD: I would probably bet that, too.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: No, I think the city will give -- they'll get a nice sweet deal, the teachers.

BAIER: OK, that is it for the panel but stay tuned to see how part of the president's speech at the DNC may have one comic rethinking the 2008 campaign.

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