Friday Lightning Round: Will Assad Resign?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Every week, viewers vote for your choice online in our Friday Lightning Round poll. This week, President Obama's vacation won with 43 percent of the votes. We've talked about it before, we're back with the panel. What about it? This is the first full day and the images and in this environment, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: They are going to try to control the images but I don't think it will matter. I mean the problem is he is tone deaf on this issue, as Sarah Palin said yesterday.

The real problem is if you talk to people and ya know, you spend time outside of Washington, D.C., you talk to people, people are really struggling. And people, you know, at virtually all economic levels, people who have -- are middle class Americans, who might have jobs, are tightening their belts, in order to afford things that were afterthoughts a couple years ago. And here the president is playing golf on Martha's Vineyard.

Again, I don't begrudge the President of the United States an opportunity to take a vacation. He deserves one. But the images and the optics one this one are bad for him politically.

BAIER: Nina?

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Well, it's sort of the August habit of the media to attack any president, Republican or Democrat, for going on vacation. I mean it's just, they're not allowed to go on vacation. I just want to make one historical note. Prior to -- with World War II on the horizon, FDR went on a week's long cruise. He came back with Lend Lease. He dreamed up Lend Lease on that cruise, and that enabled the British to stand up to Nazi Germany, at least temporarily.

BAIER: And you're thinking something good could come out of Martha Vineyard.

EASTON: So here's what I'm hoping. I'm hoping for that plan to bring us to six percent unemployment.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well if Obama returns with the equivalent of Lend Lease, I'll become a Democrat. So there's -- let's see if he can do it. I think the odds are small.

BAIER: Ya know there are the conspiracy people -- theories out there that you're, ya know, you're hidden.

KRAUTHAMMER: The longest running sleeper cell in the history of America, 30 years as a secret agent.

I think his problem is at the end of the bus tour, he said I know what to do and I'm going to announce it after I come back. As Steve says, a lot of people are hurting. If he knew what to do and he has an answer and he has a plan and a program, why wouldn't he give it immediately and start helping people? I think that's also in the back of people's minds.

BAIER: Before the break, we asked you will Syrian President Bashar al Assad resign? 95 percent said no, five percent said yes in this unscientific poll. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: In that part of the world you don't resign. Because here you resign and you end up on, ya know, on your ranch. Even Nixon ended up having a good retirement. You don't end up with a good retirement in Syria. You end up dead.

He and the minority Alawites who run Syria ruthlessly are either going to win or they're going to die. So I don't see it happening. I think what's really important that happened this week is the Europeans are working on a boycott of Syrian oil. And that would have an extremely important effect. And I think it would be the best step that we could take in the west.

BAIER: Often people say sanctions ya know, don't work in the big picture, but it really depends on what the sanctions are, Nina?

EASTON: It depends on what the sanctions are. And they work only in the context of a broader panoply of things. Look, I think this whole thing is the beginning, it's the first chapter of a continued, long war in Syria. The good thing about this week from the Obama perspective is at least we don't have the image of Assad as a reformer, which, keep in mind, John Kerry was perpetuating this just a few months ago. Hillary Clinton was embracing the idea that this guy was a reformer. At least that's behind us, and at least we've isolated a regime, us and the Europeans, we've isolated a regime that is isolated in that arena. And that's progress.

BAIER: Steve?

HAYES: Well, again the State Department today broadcast that we will not be using military force against Bashar al Assad. Without calling for saber rattling or threatening the use of military force it is foolish in the extreme to take it off the table.

That said, what we are looking at here is really a policy failure from both administrations. The second part of the Bush administration when we had an opportunity to squeeze Assad, to make him do the things that we wanted him to do or at least to encourage him strongly to change his behavior, and we opted not to do them largely because we wanted him to participate in the peace process.

And then you look at the engagement, that the Obama administration tried, sending an ambassador, talking to Assad as a reformer. It has failed. And this is what happens when you have regime and a dictator that is the nature that Bashar al Assad is.

BAIER: Quickly, earlier in week we showed a string of sound bites from the administration saying Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's days are numbered. So panel, what is the number?

HAYES: His days are numbered. It may be a big number, but his days are numbered. Ya know this has been going back and forth over the past two months, more or less. And it sounds like the rebels have started to get it together. I think the fighting in Zawiya sounds to have been good for the rebels. We'll see where they can go.

BAIER: Nina?

EASTON: Yeah the rebel leaders are surprised at the lack of counteraction from Qaddafi forces. They're surprised at how easy some of these recent victories have been. So I think the on-the-ground story, feeds that proposition that his days are numbered.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I hate to be a pessimist, but of course all of our days are numbered. His will be, I think, a couple of months. The real issue is gonna be the rebels who are advancing are advancing from the west. Whom we don't know. They are not the Benghazi rebels whom we recognize. The real issue is what's gonna happen afterwards? I'm not sure any of us have a plan or even know who these people are.

BAIER: That is it for panel. But stay tuned to see how President Obama stacks up against some of the world's foreign leaders.

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