Friday Lightning Round: Obama support for part of pipeline

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Every week, viewers vote for your choice online our Friday Lightning Round poll, this week Keystone XL pipeline won with 44 percent of the vote.

So Erin, the president went to Oklahoma yesterday to say that he wants to build the southern leg from Oklahoma down to the Gulf of Mexico of the Keystone oil pipeline, but not the northern leg, which would actually connect the oil fields, the oil tar fields of Canada to the United States. One, what does this show about how vulnerable he feels on his decision to block Keystone? And two, do you think he's gonna persuade with this action the American voters?

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: There is more support for drilling in the south. He just feels as though they have been so far behind on this issue they have to clean up for it. I think it's by and large a damage control thing he is doing with that.

WALLACE: Do you think it works, Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: He will not carry Oklahoma. I'm pretty confident about that. But he might help himself out with the labor unions in his base, but it's marginal.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: As Obama said in his speech on algae, the American people aren't stupid. Here he goes all the way to Oklahoma to announce the approval of a pipeline the leg of which he approved does not require his approval. And second, it's a pipeline from nowhere. It is supposed to carry Canadian oil, but there's a gap of 1,800 miles, so it carries air. I think people understand it was all for show, it's a way in which he can now say I was against the Keystone before I was in favor of it.

WALLACE: Now, I want to tell you about our second topic, because when I came in this morning I was told in the lead for the viewers choice was Charles Krauthammer's choice. We all expected that was going to be it. But there was a late faltering by Charles and in fact Keystone pipeline passed him. I'll gonna get slammed so hard for teasing him about this. To remind folks what is this is about, here is what Eric Fehrnstrom said on Wednesday talking about the pivot from primary campaign to general election. Here it is.


ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Everything changes. It's almost like Etch A Sketch. You can shake it up and restart all over again.


WALLACE: So Charles, what is your reaction to losing your lead as the day went on, falling further and further behind Keystone? And what is the question to ask about the Etch A Sketch?

KRAUTHAMMER: That is what happens when you refuse to engage in negative campaigning. I take the high road and look at what my opponents are doing, smear campaigns left and right. So I accept it with the good grace of a Gingrich or a Santorum. Where were we?


WALLACE: What is your question about Etch A Sketch?

KRAUTHAMMER: How much damage has this caused Romney, small, middling, or large?

WALLACE: And the correct answer is?

KRAUTHAMMER: The correct answer is huge. If there is one knock on Romney which people on the left and right seem to think is true is that he is a man who can recreate himself, doesn't have a core. And here is Romney's director of communications who comes out and gives a perfect analogy, Etch A Sketch -- shake and remake. You wake up in the morning and you are a new candidate. It's the worst possible way to describe your candidate. Romney has a good shot at the presidency if he can overcome his staff.


MCPIKE: The larger problem is for the media, I think, because we focused on this for an entire week. What have we heard from Mitt Romney, from journalists about his reaction to what the president said in his news conference on Super Tuesday when he was complaining that Republicans are beating the drums of war with Iran? That is what we need to focus on. Instead we spent a week on an Etch A Sketch, and we need to change that.

WALLACE: Chuck -- and we will change that -- which is more damaging, Etch A Sketch or Rick Santorum saying yesterday, well maybe we'd be better off with Barack Obama than Mitt Romney?

LANE: Well, I think it was a close call, but I think Etch A Sketch because you can picture people for the rest of this campaign showing up at rallies and waving little red Etch A Sketches. In fact, I read in the paper today, their sales are booming at the moment.

WALLACE: Up 3,000 percent.

Finally, the growing furor over the shooting death of that unarmed black teenager in Florida, Trayvon Martin, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Today while saying he didn't want to comment on the merits of the case, President Obama weighed in. Watch.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness that it deserves and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.


WALLACE: Chuck, what is your take on this case?

LANE: Very rare for the president to address race in such personal terms. He did it because this has really struck a chord across the country, especially with young people in schools all across the country. And a lot of kids can picture themselves wearing that hoodie at the age of 17.


MCPIKE: And it was personal -- I agree with that, but also it was personal for him. He talks often about his daughters when he thinks about cases like this. And it was personal for him. So that's why he wanted to weigh in.

KRAUTHAMMER: There is one oddity in the story. George Zimmerman, the alleged shooter is a man with a white father and Peruvian mother. He is as Hispanic as Barack Obama is black. And yet you don't see it in the coverage. And I think part of that is political correctness. People don't want that to get in the way of the main conventional narrative of oppression, victimization of African-Americans, which is historically so, at the hands of whites. It didn't happen in that case. It's odd that the coverage has been so restrained or misleading about this.

WALLACE: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to learn about a new environmental problem you will now have to worry about.

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