Economy Takes Hold of Midterm Elections; Race Politics in the Agriculture Department

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report With Bret Baier," August 24, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE BILL MCCOLLUM, R-FLA.: I am t he Ronald Reagan conservative in the race. I have a proven record I'm proud of, and they need to weigh my record, me conservative record against Rick Scott's scandals.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.: My opponent's a career politician. My opponent has voted for tax increases 42 times. He has never created a private sector job. All I've ever done is build businesses.

SENATE CANDIDATE REP. KENDRICK MEEK, D-FLA.: Over 50 plus mayors in this state have endorsed my candidacy. That meant something in the final analysis, because when you are fighting against $26 million, you have to have third party validaters, and we have quite a few of them here in Florida.

SENATE CANDIDATE JEFF GREENE, D-FLA.: I'm the only guy in this race that's created a jobs his whole life, who understands the complex issues facing our economy and will put Floridians back to work.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Sights and sounds from Florida, really where the national focus is tonight, a primary night for five states.

Lets' bring our panel about the politics here, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of National Review online, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Jonah, let's start in Florida with that gubernatorial GOP primary which it appears had closed. It might be the tightest tonight. What about that race?

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT-LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: First of all, the whole state is so chaotic politically that it should probably be put in receivership for a decade or so.

I think one of the interesting stories that we're going to hear out of this is, one of the claims is that the Tea Partiers have lost their oomph, that this is the, as Carl Cameron was saying, this is the insiders sort of coming back. I think there is some truth to that. But I also think one of the things we see in this is how the institutional GOP has learned its lessons from the Tea Parties and from the political mood out there. We'll see it when we talk about McCain as well.

I think McCollum when he came out with the tougher than Arizona's immigration law, when he started to position himself as sort of a Tea Party, more Tea Party-ish guy, he was able to cut off Rick Scott. I also think one of the other things we're seeing here is that crazy vanity billionaire campaigns aren't as popular as maybe they once were in age of Perot.

BAIER: Another big money candidate, Jeff Greene in the Democratic Senate primary, Juan, against Kendrick Meek, the congressman, what about that race and what it says more broadly?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It's an interesting race, because Jeff Greene came in as challenging Kendrick Meek as the insider. Kendrick Meek was seen as the incumbent, the establishment candidate for the Democrats. He has the endorsement of President Obama and President Clinton. His mother, of course, was a congresswoman from Florida.

But what has happened is that all of a sudden all the money that Jeff Greene has invested, and he has put a ton of his own money, multi- million dollars into the race, has come back to bite him a little bit. Controversies about his yacht, his trips to Cuba, and the like. And the consequence of that is he has become somewhat scandal tainted. It is still a fairly close race but it looks like it's Meeks to lose at this point.

BAIER: An interesting part of the race is how it shaped up in the general election versus the independent Governor Charlie Crist and the Republican Marco Rubio and how it will all shake out. We'll have results tonight.

Now Charles, we're talking more broadly about the races, if there is a generic theme in some of the primaries.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: One of them that I think everybody is always interested is the Palin effect. And one of the memes today is that it's sort of faded. Since the middle of June, the candidates she has backed have lost I think 10 out of 13. But I think that is not the way to judge her endorsement. There's really two types of endorsement, one to get a sage wise man that says to the electorate you can trust this person and you're OK, the way Nixon sought Eisenhower -- he desperately sought Eisenhower's endorsement in 1960. In that sense, the endorsement is the closure, it closes a deal.

The Palin effect is not that. Her effect is to energize some of the electorate to look at somebody they've never heard of. She is a starter kit. She helped Nikki Haley in South Carolina. You're unknown and you get the Palin effect. And then it's your game. You win it or lose it on your own. I think her effect in Alaska, I think her candidate Joe Miller is going to lose against Lisa Murkowski, but --

BAIER: The incumbent senator from Alaska.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. And we probably are not going to hear Miller after tomorrow, but we never would have heard about him today if he hadn't had her endorsement. So she has an interesting effect of being a sort of jump- starter. But after that, you're on your own.

BAIER: Jonah, you mentioned the McCain-Hayworth race in Arizona. John McCain, who was obviously a big proponent of campaign finance reform, has poured $21 million into this primary race. He too had the endorsement of Sarah Palin, his running mate, obviously, on the GOP ticket. What about the race tonight?

GOLDBERG: I think that is another example of, you know, without re-litigating the '08 election, McCain has proven he can read the political climate much better than the guy who won the presidential contest in 2008.

Remember, it was a year ago that Barack Obama told Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry that the difference between the 2010 elections and 1994 is you will have me and that's going to make all the difference in the world. And it looks like things might actually be worse than 1994 because of Obama and because of the Obama administration or the Democrats' misreading of the political climate.

Meanwhile, John McCain managed to eviscerate J.D. Hayworth and also sop in the sort of anti-Washington mood in this country and the state in a way that very few people might have predicted six months ago.

BAIER: Juan, we talk about the economy all the time, and that will be the key issue heading to the mid-terms. Today, House Minority Leader John Boehner gave a big speech ripping on the administration. Vice President Biden responded directly to Boehner.

What about this back and forth over stimulus and whether it's effective or not and how it will play in November?

WILLIAMS: I think that right now if you look at the polls, stimulus is not very popular. Some of the calculations we've seen indicate there is still stimulus money to be spent, which then begs the question given that we have high unemployment, ten percent, why is the money not being spent to generate some more jobs in the country?

So there's a lot of controversy about it. It's hard to see it as a positive selling point for Democrats.

The negative, and what Boehner was saying today is, you know what, we need more tax cuts and we got to invest more tax cuts that he says would benefit the small business in this country and people who do hiring.

What you're hearing from Vice President Biden is, wait a second -- the administration is still saying we give tax cuts to everybody who is under $250,000 is really tax benefits that go to the very rich. Most small business is not going to benefit from it.

While some say today Boehner is measuring the drapes to take over the Speaker of the House, what you are hearing from the vice president is he is in love with the policies of the Bush administration and suddenly we're back to blaming the economic situation on the previous administration.

BAIER: Quickly, Charles, Vice President Biden has also cited the Congressional Budget Office saying that the stimulus really did save 3.3 million Americans' jobs and the unemployment rate would have been 1.8 percent lower, and it's impossible for critics to refute that.

KRAUTHAMMER: If you put out a number like that, you can't refute that because it's angels on the head of a pin. It's a fictional number.

A real number is what we got on housing today, a collapse of the market. The lowest sales of preexisting homes in 15 years, which shows that all of the stimulus Obama had put in to it with that credit was simply a time shifter. It was a prop under a weak economy that as soon as you took it out collapsed.

Which means, as the rest of the stimulus, it had no enduring effect, and that's what everybody understands. If you put that effect against the Biden fictional number about the jobs saved or created, and it trumps it.

BAIER: You're also saying the CBO numbers is fictional?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the CBO will tell you a number, and then you look at the market and you see the prices on housing, none of them are moving. That's not a fictional number. That is a real number and its a real effect.

BAIER: What do you think? Are the most important economic numbers out right now? Log on to our home page at and vote in our online poll.

Up next, racial politics, big taxpayer money and the Agriculture Department.



TOM VILSACK, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: I think it's fair to say that we both feel it's appropriate and necessary for the Senate to take action as quickly as possible to make sure that the appropriations for those cases are made and that we get the cases settled as quickly as possible.

REP. STEVE KING, R-IOWA: So it comes to altogether about 92,000 people who claim they were discriminated against by the USDA, and when we only had 18,000 black farmers. The highest number we can produce to go back to the '70s is about 27,000 black farmers.


BAIER: This is all about claims of a North Carolina farmer, Timothy Pickford's class action lawsuit in 1997. That is what they are talking about. Black farmers he alleged were denied agriculture loans and the racial discrimination cases ignored by the Agriculture Department.

Here are the payments so far, according to authorities. Pickford I, which is the first settlement, a little more than $1 billion. Now the Obama administration reopened the case last year and if authorized by Congress, we're talking another $1.25 billion. The number of claims, the first settlement turned out about 16,000 claims were approved, about 7,000 of them were thrown out.

Pickford II, we are talking about 73,800 petitions, claims put in. The number of black farmers according to the census in 2007 had 32,000, a release by the National Black Farmers Association puts the number at 18,000 for the entire country in 2007.

What about all of this? We're back with the panel. Juan, it seems like a big story about this settlement.

WILLIAMS: I think it is an interesting story. It's an interesting in this way that if you said simply here are the number of black farmers in the country, 27,000 at max, during the '70s and '80s, and you look at the number of claims you, say this is far disparate. So how is it possible?

I think it's possible in several ways. And I might add that Steve King has done an interesting job, he said he located most of the payments have gone to people in the cities, not in the rural areas of the South where most of the farms are previously located and where there are claims of discrimination.

Obviously you could have eras, people who left the farming -- of course there was a great black migration in '30s and '40s and even subsequently people going to big cities in the north. So people who have been impacted may not directly be farmers any longer.

But this is an interesting moment in that he is way out of line with most of the colleagues in the Congress who don't agree with him. The Congress has passed this, the Senate is waiting on this and waiting on this. So it's not over contention that there is too much feeding at the trough by people who are not eligible but something about Native Americans and payments to them.

BAIER: In 2009, an arbiter, Jonah, awarded the Sherrods, Shirley Sherrod and her husband Charles, the largest settlement, $12 million for a cooperative farm that they were representing and had. What about all of this in the big picture?

GOLDBERG: The really big picture here is first of all, I think this stinks to high heaven. I think it has more to do with sort of the Clinton-era Justice Department and the Clinton appointed judge setting off essentially what amounts to a plaintiff's bar racket.

The idea that somehow 500 percent, 500 percent of all the black farmers, whoever existed in the 1980s, were all discriminated against, right, because that's the supposition here, is that not just a few black farmers, which I'm sure were discriminated against, but all of them and then multiply it times five, were discriminated against. It just doesn't pass the smell test. Moreover, we have people in America getting billions of dollars, white people getting billions of dollars who don't farm either. The entire Department of Agriculture is a scam and scandal.

BAIER: King says he's going to investigate if they get the gavel, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think he should, because the disparity of these numbers would be explicable if it had discrimination in the pre-civil rights era and you have heirs which would increase the number. But this is oddly discrimination that had to be between '81 and '96.

BAIER: According to the settlement.

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly. So it makes it odd that you have 90,000 claimants when you have this small number of farmers.

But I would add that you get this kind of abuse in a lot of class action suits you get it and asbestos, and you get it in Mesothelioma where you have the doctors who produce fake x-rays and lawyers who do that have gone to jail. So it isn't as if this is a racial issue. The class action systems opens itself to an enormous amounts of corruption.

BAIER: Something tells me we will talk about this again. We've got to run.

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