Can GOP, Tea Party Coexist?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 8, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SENATOR-ELECT MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA: This election, the American people said enough is enough. That message was loud and clear. We Republicans would be mistaken if we misread these results as simply an embrace of the Republican Party. This election is a second chance, a second chance for Republicans to be what we said we were going to be.

SENATOR-ELECT RAND PAUL, R-KY: The Republicans doubled the debt when we were charge and the Democrats are tripling the debt. I said this over and over again -- it's not about political party but it is about fiscally trying to do something to balance our budget.


BRET BAIER: Two of the big Tea Party winners, Marco Rubio in Florida and Rand Paul in Kentucky. And what about the Tea Party and the establishment? Another two interviews this weekend -- Senator Jim DeMint said this about earmarks, quote, "One of the first things we'll do in the House and Senate is ban earmarks as Republicans. That will get our eyes back on fixing our tax code and Social Security and Medicare and getting America back to work."

Senator Mitch McConnell, now the minority leader, and he'll continue to be, said "I'd be willing to consider it," about earmarks, banning them, "but the problem is it doesn't save any money. It's an argument about discretion."

Earmarks are of course the pet projects that lawmakers bring home for their districts or states.

What about all of this? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, let's start with the earmark battle shaping up, and then about the larger -- I hate the word -- but narrative that some media outlets are taking about the Tea Party versus establishment.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, on earmarks, DeMint has the populace argument against them. I think McConnell actually has the argument that unfortunately he is going to lose. The fact is if you don't have earmarks you won't actually save money. Money will be appropriated but the decision as to where the money goes is done by bureaucrat in a Democratic administration.

Otherwise if you have an earmark it would be a member who would decide it would go to a hospital or a museum or this or that. So ultimately the amount of money spent is the same, but it's who decides. And if we have a Democratic administration, why would we not want to have earmarks?

That's the McConnell argument, but it will lose because everybody is against earmarks. It's a symbol of excess. The House Republicans are going to issue a ban, and DeMint may not win in the Senate, but on that issue the public is on DeMint's side.

BAIER: Mort, about the overall Tea Party and Republican --

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: It's not just the Tea Party. Look, there is a mini civil war going on, at least in the Senate, between the establishment and the Jim DeMint forces. And --

BAIER: On policy or personality?

KONDRACKE: On purification. Jim DeMint is a guy who runs candidates against in primaries against sitting senators. And he is, you know, he wants, he said, "I'd rather have 30 people like me than 51, a majority in the Senate."

He -- and the establishment guys are all looking at themselves and looking to see if they have targets on their back or front or something like that. And, in fact, it's not DeMint's declaration yet, but the, which is a Tea Party-ish website, has not only Olympia Snow, but Scott brown and John Kyle for heavens sakes of Arizona on the list, Roger Whicker of Mississippi, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Anybody who has ever been seen cooperating with a Democrat about anything has got a target on them. That is not the way you grow a party.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm not sure it's that bad. But I think Mort is right. There is clearly some tension between the DeMint camp on one hand and the McConnell camp on the other for the shorthand.

But look, the bigger question on policy, which is what you asked, is there is very little difference between where the Republican caucus in the Senate and where the Tea Parties are. In reality, when you talk about the big issues, debt, deficit, the size of the government, all of those big issues, they are together.

And those kinds of issues the Republicans in the Senate would be wise to talk about, if this whole new era begins with debate, an intra Republican Senate caucus debate about the wisdom of eliminating earmarks, it seems to me that's a huge mistake.

And I think Charles is right. I think technically on whether earmarks actually add to the overall total of spending. As a matter of fact, that's probably true.

But they are a gross distortion of what the framers meant, us to be spending our taxpayer money on. And I don't really frankly care whether it's an Obama administration bureaucrat or a fat cat Republican who makes promises to donors who's giving this money away. It's not their money to give away.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm technically right, and you said it's a fact. It doesn't actually cut spending. It's who decides what is going to happen if your district, a guy in Washington who doesn't know anything about it or somebody who is a member. You can argue over the wisdom of each, but it's not as if it's open and shut.

But on the larger issue of the Tea Party. It's not a party, it's a tendency, a tendency to lower government, less intrusion, lower regulation, lower taxes, less debt, et cetera. And that's a general principle that the Republicans share.

Now, the issue I think is between the purest and the people who are serious. DeMint, if he had his way, you know, with the holy core of the thirty, we would now have cap-and-trade as a matter of law in America as we have Obamacare. That's not exactly what you want if you are a conservative.

The real issue is are you going to get people who are a fusion, like Marco Rubio? He's a guy who's not an outsider. He ran as the speaker of the house in Florida. He knows how things work. But he is instinctively a man who believes in less government.

And the fusion of that I think exactly is where the party is headed. And the idea that the media are making it into a civil war is highly exaggerated. I think you will have Republicans who want to actually accomplish stuff, unlike DeMint, and actually adhere to principle.

BAIER: Mort, there has been an issue made about the battle on the GOP conference chair. It's not a huge job, but it's third ranking of the GOP leadership against Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Bachmann of course is the head of the Tea Party caucus.

This battle was set up as who is the more conservative. Hensarling is about as conservative as you can get.

KONDRACKE: There is no difference on policy that I can tell between Hensarling and Bachmann at all. Bachmann is just a loud mouth. And every once in a while, she gets caught in an outrageous comment, none of which I can remember at the moment. But, you know, Hensarling is conservative on everything.

There is one issue. Right before the election, there were a bunch of polls that asked the electorate, do you want people to cooperate with one another and get stuff done or would you rather have them, you know, stick to the principle and get nothing done? And it was like 80/15. What the public wants is to get the problem solved.

HAYES: As opposed to getting nothing done? Hard to imagine --

KONDRACKE: Wait a minute. And the problem is you have to have some coming together in the middle between Obama and the Republicans in Congress. And these people oppose negotiation. If you're seen in the same room with a Democrat, you're committing treason.

BAIER: Go ahead.

KRAUTHAMMER: Can I give out Mort's home address? I don't want the mail coming to me or to you.

BAIER: Last word, Steve.

HAYES: Look, there is a reason Republicans did as well as they did in this election. We know what it is -- 75 percent of the American public, 73 percent of the American public said they're angry or dissatisfied with what the federal government is doing. That includes the size and scope of the government.

The 2010 midterm elections were largely fought on that issue, whether it's spending, debt, deficit, healthcare, you name it -- the size and scope of government. The 2012 elections are going to be fought on the same ground, and if Republicans now resort to this kind of internal squabbling over who is more marginally more conservative than the other person rather than actually fighting the big issues that really matter, this is a prescription for their doom.

BAIER: And a lot of people like that Michele Bachmann speaks out on what she believes.

KONDRACKE: It's a free country.


BAIER: Next up, the memoir of former President George W. Bush. Are you ready to read it? Of course we'll be having tomorrow on the "12 on 2012" piece with Senator Jim DeMint. We talked about him on the panel.

Coming up next, the memoir, we'll ask the panel about George W. Bush. We'll be right back.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It was unbelievably frustrating. Of course it was frustrating. Everybody thought he had WMD, everybody meaning every intelligence service, everybody in the administration.

HANNITY: A lot of Democrats.

BUSH: Yes, a lot of members of Congress.

You might remember, I think for the sake of history it's important to put in the book that prior to my arrival Congress had overwhelmingly passed a resolution that for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. It was embraced by my predecessor.


BAIER: Former President George W. Bush speaking to Sean Hannity a special that will air tomorrow night 9:00 p.m.

On hurricane Katrina inside that book, obviously a controversy throughout his presidency and how he and the federal government handled it. President Bush referred back to the local state and local government officials when he wrote, quote, "I was stuck with a resistant governor, an antiquated law. I wanted to overrule them all but at the time I was worried that the consequence could be a constitutional crisis."

There are other interesting quotes throughout this book. We're back with the panel for a brief overview. Steve?

HAYES: I have not yet read the entire book, but what strikes me is this was a deeply personal memoir. This is George W. Bush talking about his decision-making more than the tell-all we have become accustomed to, Bill Clinton tome, 800 pages, every detail of every meeting. This is a broad-brush approach.

I think it's very interesting to hear him aggressively defend the administration's position on interrogation, on surveillance, and on putting in place the infrastructure that kept America safe for those years and continues I think to keep us safe.

He was asked about this, did that succeed? He said we haven't had an attack. I think if you look for a way to sum up the Bush administration's time on national security, that is a good way to do it.

BAIER: Mort?

KONDRACKE: Yes, I was interested in his defenses of both his auto bailout and TARP. He said for example the auto bailout, "I had to safeguard American workers and families from widespread collapse. I also had my successor in mind. I decided to treat him the way I would have like to be treated if I was in that position."

And he says the TARP money is going to get paid back. So it's good to recall when everybody is beating up on tarp and auto bailouts that he is the one who did it, and he still defends it in his book.

BAIER: On Scooter Libby, the decision to commute his sentence and not pardon him, he writes, quote, "The jury verdict should be respected. In one of our final meetings I informed Dick" -- Dick Cheney -- "I would not issue a pardon. He stared at me with an intense look. "I can't believe you're going to leave a soldier on a battlefield," he said."

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm with Cheney on this. I think that is something I wish the president had done otherwise, and I think he was wrong in denying pardon to Scooter.

I think on the other issues what is interesting here is he is explaining things I think were not understood at the time. Katrina, for example, he made a lot of mistakes going over it with an airplane when he should have landed in Baton Rouge instead and showed himself on the ground.

However, behind it there was a constitutional issue. You had a governor who was not acting, a mayor that had not even declared a mandatory evacuation. And the only way the president could have acted over them would have been to declare an insurrection.

That's a big deal, and I think that's why he didn't do it. You couldn't just -- everybody says why doesn't the president send in the military? You can't under our constitution, and he respected that.

I think if he had people would have overlooked it and said it's OK, it was an emergency. But he had a respect for that issue and thought it was not precedent he wanted to set. And he didn't. I think that's not understood. That's why you write a memoir like this, to explain that.

BAIER: We will see a lot of the former president throughout this week and coming weeks as he talks about the book.

What about his decision not to criticize President Obama?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think that really helps him. I think his rehabilitation has begun. A lot earlier than I had expected, I thought he'd have trajectory like Truman, who left reviled, the lowest approval of any president in history when he left office. And he wasn't rehabilitated until four decades later by the McCullough book.

I was sure it would happen with Bush, who also left in the middle of a difficult war. But it's happened a lot earlier and in part because of the graciousness he showed -- two years of no comment on his successor.

And also considering how much Obama attacked him gratuitously, including in the inaugural address with Bush a few yards away, and the reticence and dignity Bush took it and not responded I think will serve him well and is a reason people are disposed to like him much more right now.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for some of the troubles ahead for the vote counting in Alaska.

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