Democratic Candidates Loyal to Obama?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


FRANK CAPRIO, GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE D-R.I.: I never asked for President Obam a's endorsement. You know he could take his endorsement and really shove it as far as I'm concerned. The reality here is Rhode Islanders are hurting. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

We have one of the worst floods in the history of the United States, a few month s back, and President Obama didn't do a flyover of Rhode Island like President Bush did when New Orleans had their problems. He ignored us, and now he's coming into Rhode Island treating us like an ATM machine.


BRET BAIER, HOST OF “SPECIAL REPORT”: Well, that was the Democratic candidate for governor, Frank Caprio in Rhode Island.

President Obama is in Rhode Island tonight, at an event, as you see here earlier in the day. He is in Providence, at a fundraising event, trying to reinvigorate some supporters in a reliably blue state from 2008.

Take a look at the Gallup poll numbers in the president’s job approval rating. These are just over the three-day average. Approve: 43 percent. The daily tracking poll yesterday had him down to 41 percent.

Now, you take a look at the "Politico" and G.W., a new poll out, approval among independents that stands at 38 percent.

We'll talk about some other poll numbers throughout this panel.

Let's bring in our panel tonight. Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, Fox News contributor; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Fred, first about candidates, I guess not welcoming President Obama's presence in their state.

FRED BARNES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I'll have to say, there have been unwelcoming candidates, but no one has been more unwelcoming than the Democratic candidate for governor from Rhode Island. You know, others have said they brag it.

You know, they stood up to the president, they stood up to Harry Reid, they’ve stood up to Nancy Pelosi. But, you know, that is the first one to tell the president to shove it. That's a new dimension.

But the fact is, as those poll numbers show, Bret, the president is unpopular.

And even more than that, his big three policies, the ones that Republicans talk about in ads against Democratic candidates are even more unpopular, and that's obviously the stimulus package, cap-and-trade, the climate bill, and the health care bill -- Obamacare as some of us call it.  And that's not what they call it at the White House.

But he is unpopular. Those are unpopular. Those policies are unpopular and the economy is not in very good shape. That's a bad package that the president’s identified with.

BAIER: Juan, remember, I guess, it was January, congressman -- retiring Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry said he met with the Blue Dog Democrats and the president at the White House. Back then, he said -- the president said the difference between 1994, the Democratic losses of that year and this coming year was him. "You've got me."


BAIER: Now, do you think there's been a miscalculation of the power of the president's personal appeal over the policies across the country?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's interesting. I saw a poll just the other day that indicated that, in fact, President Obama is a bigger player, a bigger factor in this midterm than President Bush was in the ‘06 and even President Clinton going back to '94. So, he is a key player.

The miscalculation was: is he a positive or a negative? And especially with independents -- I think that the number that you cited among independents, that 32 percent from -- 38 --

BAIER: Thirty-eight percent, G.W., Politico.

WILLIAMS: If you go back to first president's ratings after the election, of course, among independents, he had tremendous support, way over 50 percent. To see it dwindle to this point indicates that there's some disconnect. It is a major problem. And among those voters, in specific women voters. That's why I think you've seen the president over the last few days focus -- he had a women-only event. He has focused heavily trying to bump up the independent numbers.

BAIER: In West Virginia, Charles, his approval is down in the high 20s. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, who's running for Senate on the Democratic ticket, had this to say about health care this weekend.


GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Reaching as far as they did in the weeds of the bill that we didn't know about, no one else know about until it come out, knowing that, I would not have supported that or voted for that at that time.


BAIER: Now, this is a candidate who supported it at that time and he's reclarifying or clarifying what he would look at health care now.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Let me just start by saying regarding health care, that I am Juan's psychiatrist.

WILLIAMS: Oh, my gosh.

KRAUTHAMMER: And he's way behind on his bills.


KRAUTHAMMER: But the Manchin statement is pulling a John Kerry.  He's basically saying I was in favor of health care before I was against it. His explanation is not a good one.

And as we heard -- he says if I had known -- he was actually asked this directly on the weekend. If you had known what was in the bill at the time you endorsed it, would you have been against it? His answer was yes.  Well, that doesn't speak well of his own judgment and really doesn't well of the way the bill was passed with all this stuff inside of it that nobody even really knew about and then now, people are seeing what it's resulting in.

I think that this is the biggest indication of how ideological this election is. It's not about personalities. It is, of course, it has in the background is the economy, which, of course, hurts the Democrats. But it is about the policies and the ideology. And the biggest symbol of that, the biggest example of that is healthcare reform because it's the most intrusive, the most important, the most historic.

And the opposition is simply astonishing. Among independents, the numbers who are against it is about two to one against it -- which is really quite remarkable. And that's a way of saying that it isn't about, you know, how the president’s conducted himself.

If you look at the poll, they ask people what Obama, how you feel about him as a person, his numbers are high. It's about the policies.  Really -- this really is an election about ideas and about the size, the scope and reach of government, and essentially what the nature of the American social contract is. Obama is on the wrong side of this.

BAIER: Fred, many Americans have received letters from the insurance companies saying their premiums are going to go up. Some health care advisors to companies, one of them Deloitte Center for Health Solutions said this -- Associated Press quote, "What we're hearing in the meetings is, quote, ‘We don't want to be the first one to drop benefits but we would be the fast second." In other words, companies considering dropping all of this because of the health care bill.

BARNES: And then there were small companies with, say, 48, 49 workers who know that if they go to 50, that then they will have to -- they will come under the Obama health care plan. And they'll have to follow all the rules that are there. They don't want to do that and so, they're not hiring.

But I think what you were touching on is that the promises that were made by President Obama and Democrats in Congress have turned out to be wrong. One is that you could keep your own insurance policy. Don't worry that was safe. Well, if the company you're working for is dropping it, you're not going to be able to keep it.

And there are other reasons why you aren't able to keep it, too.  That it would actually cut in the deficit. Money would be saved. This would reduce the national debt by passing this bill. And the other one is that it would reduce the cost of your own personal health insurance.

Well, all of those turned out to be wrong. And that's what made -- has made, I think, a bill that was unpopular in the first place, even more unpopular.


WILLIAMS: Let me just offer a little bit different perspective here. Health care is not popular. If you look at the numbers, I think it's 44 percent right now are against, 42 percent support it. But it's critical, I just saw a poll here, the Kaiser poll indicates only 10 percent of voters say this is the most important issue.

And what's really funny to me is that Democrats, remember, 70 percent of Democrats support it -- there are only 37 percent of Democrats say they're going to vote on the issue. Only 34 percent of Republicans say they will vote on this issue.

And, in fact, if you look at the Democrats who say they'll vote on it, a third of them say, you know, we have some problems with the bill because they think that health care reform didn't go far enough. It wasn't implemented immediately, didn't benefit people immediately. Some of the things that they said were going to help the poor haven't been implemented.

So, it's not a cut and dry issue for Republicans. I think Republicans have to be clear about what they would do to improve the situation. They can't just be repealed.

BAIER: All right the final word. I do want to play this -- President Obama in Seattle explaining the messaging of health care and what happened.  Take a listen to this.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: We had to move so fast, we were in such emergency mode, that it was very difficult for us to spend a lot of time doing victory laps and advertising exactly what we were doing, because we had to move on to the next thing.


BAIER: That it was an emergency. No time to talk about it.

KRAUTHAMMER: He wasn't exactly moving on quickly on health care.  I took him 18 months. And his self regard is quite infinite here. He's pretending that the reason people are upset with this health care reform is because he didn't advertise it enough. He gave over 30 speeches on this and people responded less and less with each speech. It was what he was offering. It was not the way he was offering.

BAIER: Next up reaction to the WikiLeaks documents. What they tell us. You can also read stories about those documents, what's in them and the ramifications on our home page,



GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: This leak is potentially four times as large as the last one. There could be half a million classified documents now in the public domain. We very much worry that our enemies could use this to then bring further harm to our forces.

PJ CROWLEY, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We have been concerned about the role that Iran has been playing in Iraq, you know, for some time. We have had and have been vocal in our concerns about Iran trying to undercut Iraq's sovereignty.


BAIER: Reaction first from the Pentagon about this release. The founder of the WikiLeaks Web site Julian Assange letting go with 400,000 pages of classified leaked material about the U.S. military operations and capabilities. There you heard the State Department reacting to one segment of the release, which talks about Iran's involvement inside Iraq and the extent at which Iranian forces actually engaged U.S. troops inside the country of Iraq.

What about all of this?

We're back with the panel.

Juan, obviously, the Defense Department saying this is just a horrible situation as far as what is out there.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know what strikes me is that there's no big revelation. I think everybody sitting on this panel, everybody in America who's interested in the story, knew that, in fact, Iran was involved in Iraq. So, I don't think that's news.

What this is, is trouble-making for the ability of the Maliki government to form a coalition of government, to try -- you know, we're trying to move forward in Iraq at this moment. There is nothing in these documents that would suggest the U.S. military or the U.S. civilian leadership behaved wrongly, improperly. There's no great scandal here.

There's no reason to put out these documents. This is not the Pentagon papers. This, in fact, is just trouble-making for people who are now trying to make the best of what has been a difficult situation that's been on the uptick. So, it seems just mischievous and unnecessary.

BAIER: Fred, there is an allegation in the documents that the U.S. commanders turned a blind eye to the abuse of prisoners at the hands of Iraqis. The Army chief of staff really fired back against that today.

BARNES: Yes, he did. General Casey really said that's just not the case that they curbed strongly the abuses that the Iraqis were doing with prisoners they had.

I want to follow up on something that Juan said -- because what appalls me about this case is the casual manner now in which the media publishes these highly classified documents, which are clearly damaging to America's national security, and also potentially damaging to American officials and soldiers overseas. Yet, Juan, you mentioned the Pentagon papers. What happened with the Pentagon Papers? That became a legal case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Well, now, we see in the Bush administration, they complained bitterly and investigated when there were a release of documents about the wire -- the tapping of e-mails and phone calls and so on done by the NSA.  Then we had the Afghanistan leak by the WikiLeaks people. And there was -- there were big complaints about this.

And, now this -- and now, this final one, it just seems that it's becoming -- it's just par for the course. That whenever some -- no matter how highly classified or damaging some documents are, you know, the press is going to go ahead, and publish them and there won't be much complaint. I would have liked to have heard President Obama himself step forward and complain bitterly about this.

BAIER: Juan says, Charles, that there is not a lot there in these documents. But on the Iran front, the dichotomy between learning extents to which they are involved in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and them sitting at the table in a NATO briefing with General Petraeus at the invite of the Obama administration seems to present possibly a problem for the administration.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I think it does. And I think it does let people know in great detail how involved Iran was with the bad guys. Really, the worst of the insurgents in Iraq and, of course, we know their support for insurgency in Iran and it isn't a very good sign that we are now inviting the Iranians in to a briefing by Petraeus on our strategy in Afghanistan. That's the enemy. That's kind of really quite remarkable.

I think what the overall impression I got was how restrained the United States was. Given the provocation of the Iranians, and also it chose an utter savagery of the tribal elements in Iraq when they attack each other at the height of the civil war in ‘06 and '07, and how, in contrast, how remarkably restrained, humane and decent was America in that war, despite the accusations against the United States.

BAIER: That's it for the panel.

Juan, it's good to have you back talking issues.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

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