This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: As president you start realizing, ya know what, we can't play around with this stuff. This is the full faith and credit of the United States. And so that was just an example of a new senator making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for country. And I'm the first one to acknowledge it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama talking to ABC about his 2006 vote in the Senate not to raise debt limit, the debt ceiling. As that vote is approaching yet again, now he's pushing for it to be raised. That is where we start in our "your choice online." That was the first choice in the Friday lightning round, the debt ceiling. And we're back with the panel. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think if the last week-and-a-half tells us anything it's that Republicans have to press hard for concessions when they have an opportunity. And I think the debt limit is going to be their biggest and their best opportunity. There are a number of things they can push for, a number of things that Senate Republicans and House Republicans are discussing, from a balanced budget amendment to some kind of cap on spending. Whatever it is, it needs to be big and they need to push as hard as they possibly can.

BAIER: And Karen, now the White House and the president are acknowledging they have to give something, it's just a question of what they're going to give.

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, I think they have acknowledged that they can not get what they were calling a clean debt ceiling bill. And this -- the debt ceiling has always been the easiest bill in Washington I think to demagogue. But ultimately, this bill -- the debt ceiling will get raised.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think what Republicans have to demand is something structural. Not cuts here and there that you can reverse in the next Congress or even next year. It's got to be some kind of hard cap, some kind of -- you need a supermajority to override a cap, that kind of thing. It's been done in the past. In principal you can override it in some way, in an emergency. But I think if they achieve that, it will be a major accomplishment.

BAIER: Next topic, the French law that just went into effect last week to ban the burka, the veils worn by Muslim women in public places. Given the small number of women who wear burkas in France, fewer than 1,000, we're told, in the country of more than 60 million, the new law is mostly symbolic. But French President Sarkozy was pushing for it. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: The symbolism in France is extremely important. If in America, the great dividing, bloody issue of our history is race, in France, the great dividing, bloody issue has been religion and secularism starting with the French Revolution. And they had it settled by the early 20th century. They are not about to allow new immigrants overturn that. And that's why they are insisting on this and they will continue to. It's not a trivial issue, it isn't only about Islam, it's about the essence of the French state.

BAIER: And you have these leaders in Europe Keren, talking about multiculturalism, Sarkozy, Cameron, Merkel.

TUMULTY: But you also have the police in France saying look, ya know, we would rather actually be chasing criminals. I do think it's sort of perversely reassuring to know that this is not the only country where the politicians run around with solutions in search of a problem.

BAIER: Steve?

HAYES: Well, I don't think banning the veil is the answer. I think this is a long time coming, in France in particular, with Islam and the broader French culture, the tensions that have been evident there. But it's an overreach, but maybe an understandable overreach because you haven't had much give or much compromise on the side of the Islamic fundamentalist in France, pushing their agenda. I think this is an understandable overreach.

BAIER: OK, final topic, dark horse in the GOP potential field for 2012. Steve?

HAYES: Well, I think Chris Christie and Paul Ryan are sort of the obvious names, but they're obvious for a reason. They're people are out there making an argument that the United States is on the verge of economic ruin if we don't get serious about entitlement reform. Neither one of them at this point is willing to run for president, but if you take them at their own word, that we are on the verge of economic ruin if this doesn't happen, or some kind of collapse, a debt crisis, then why not them? And are they not willing to do it? Don't they even have an obligation to run for president? I would argue that they do.

BAIER: Karen?

TUMULTY: I think Chris Christie says he's not running and I think we should probably be taking him at his word. But I do think there is plenty of time left still, for somebody to get into this race. And even going in this fall there is plenty of time. And that is why people like Mitch Daniels are kind of taking their time and making up their minds.

BAIER: Indiana governor. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's rare for a party that doesn't have the White House to have a leader. As of this week, I think clear that the Republicans are the Ryan Republicans. Whether he will run for the presidency I'm not sure. I think he should, later in the year. And if he doesn't, Mitch Daniels, who believes what Ryan does has put a lot of it into action in Indiana, would be a good surrogate. And I think it would be one or the other.

BAIER: And don't forget, Sarah Palin hasn't announced yet. Michele Bachmann hasn't announced yet.

KRAUTHAMMER: And the Donald.

BAIER: And the Donald is still out there.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right, running on a hair campaign.

BAIER: Wow, that's how we're going to end this panel? OK. Stay tuned to a wakeup call we apparently missed this week.

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