All-Star Panel: Whose red line is it anyway?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 4, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty. Congress set a red line when it indicated that in a piece of legislation entitled the Syria Accountability Act that some of the horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for.

My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line, and America and Congress' credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.


BRET BAIER, HOST: President Obama this morning in Sweden on his trip overseas, talking about the red line. He talked about it more than a year and two weeks ago.


OBAMA: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.


BAIER: Let's start there. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, we heard what he said last year, "it would change my calculus." He took possession of it.  He drew the line. The idea that there is this abstract line drawn in 1925 by the protocol, the Geneva protocol that passed in that year, is preposterous.

He refers to the international community. It doesn't exist. It is a fiction. Liberals are always thinking about the international community.  What's the community of interest between Russia and the U.S. that agree on nothing, particularly not on this, or the United States and Iran, Britain, and others?

There is no community acting in concert. It is nations acting in their own interest. And Obama is trying with a sort of slip of language and with a clever formulation, to pretend that this isn't his creation, the line is his, and also the line drawn by the international community, but he adds onto that also by the Congress. So now he wants to imply it isn't him who has made this ultimatum, essentially. It is the Congress, and it has to live up to its obligations.

This is a way of a president who narcissistically always speaks about me and my. In fact, a week ago he spoke about "my military," an astonishing formulation, who when it suits him, decides it is not me or my, but this is a responsibility that belongs to Congress. I don't think it is going to work. Everybody understands it is about him, and I think he is the one who will be damaged if it doesn't pass in Congress.

BAIER: He did say back in August, 2012, a red line for us. The problem for the administration perhaps, Juan, is that the "us" on the world stage doesn't seem like it is showing up, as far as other members of the coalition.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I think he meant the United States. But of course, I find this conversation off in the weeds.  If it is about mocking Obama, OK, but I don't think that's the big issue here of the day. Clearly there have been international treaties against use of chemical, biological weapons, gases.

BAIER: Sure. But the point is, as we talked about that earlier, is where are those other countries?

WILLIAMS: That's the point. You know what, they're not showing up and I think they're not showing up for the reason Charles said. They're looking out for their self-interest, and even the Arab countries who definitely have interest and have definitely expressed the need for Assad to be ousted, are not showing up in terms of action and being coordinated in their support of U.S. action.

You just saw what Putin is doing. I can't understand it. Putin is calling people liars with no basis. I don't get it.

So, this is about Obama. I think he made a tremendous mistake today by going down this line because he opened the door to people saying, you did say a red line. So that's a mistake. But, look, I don't think it is about him at this point.

BAIER: The criticism is not just from Republicans. Democrats are now opening fire. We heard a lot from one Kerry. This is another Kerrey, Bob Kerrey, former senator from Nebraska on another network today.


BOB KERREY, D-FORMER NEBRASKA SENATOR: What they're doing, Andrea, is having to pass a -- this is not a war powers resolution. So the president, as he said last week, he had the authority to do this. He can make a case not to do it, he can make a case to do it. I don't think he can make a case to dither for another week.

He's indecisive. A lack of understanding of what the impact will be, when you make it look like you're going to attack and you don't.

I was vastly confused by this, and I think it sent a signal of weakness to the rest of the world.


BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDAR": That more than anything is why the president doesn't have support in the international community and why he's lacking support and I don't think will get support in Congress. Nobody knows what he wants to do.

We looked at it this the past two years. It's been ad hoc decision making at every turn. Even now you put his top advisers in front of Congress on the Senate and House side and ask them, in effect ,what are you going to do? General Dempsey can't explain what the authorization is for.  John Kerry is giving answers that are self-contradictory, and Chuck Hagel has had performances that resemble his confirmation hearings.

This is not a performance that inspires confidence at a time when I think the president needs to inspire confidence and have some plan, some idea of where this -- what happens first and where it ends. He has offered none of that.

BAIER: Meanwhile, the president is headed to Russia, and as Juan mentioned, President Putin is out and about talking about secretary Kerry and his statements on Capitol Hill.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: I have watched debates in Congress. The congressman asked Mr. Kerry, is there Al Qaeda? People say they have got stronger. He says no.  I say officially they aren't here. The main combat unit is a unit of Al Qaeda. They know about this. It was not pleasant for me to see this.  While we communicate with them and assume that they are decent people. He lies openly and he knows that he lies. This is sad.


BAIER: State Department responding, "This is certainly not the first time we have seen a visceral response from President Putin. Needless to say, the secretary of state testified truthfully and accurately to the Congress." Final word before the second panel.

KRAUTHAMMER: Putin, who himself lies every other day, sees no reason whatsoever to be diplomatic or circumspect in attack of the United States or its officials. He has conducted a huge, vicious anti-American campaign domestically, not seen since the Soviet days. So he's continuing this.  When Obama arrives in Moscow, I mean, in St. Petersburg, he is going to continue the humiliation attacks on the U.S. because there's never a consequence.

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