Grading Obama on Conflicts Abroad

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 29, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The question is, in terms of overall trend, is Afghan capacity increasing? Kabul for example, which contains a huge proportion of the Afghan population as a whole, has been largely policed by Afghan forces for quite some time. And they've done a reasonably good job. Kabul is much safer than it was, and Afghan forces in Kabul are much more capable than they were.

That doesn't mean that there are not going to be events like this potentially taking place. And that will probably go on for some time. Our work is not done.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: A lot of foreign policy discussion today in the president's press conference, Afghanistan, also Libya. Before the break, we asked you, how do you think the conflict in Libya's gonna end. Here are the results -- 51 percent of you think that Muammar al-Qaddafi will hold on to power. That's a majority. 12 percent believe he will relinquish power and 37 percent say Qaddafi will be killed. Charles, what do you think of the numbers?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think it's a reasonably accurate perception of what's happening here. It's obviously a stalemate. Qaddafi, you could argue, in the end has to go but in the end could be a long time.

I think what was really curious about the way the president answered the questions today. On Libya was, that he did it and as he said himself, promises made, promises kept. He is talking exclusively about process. He says I promise no boots on the ground, no boots on the ground. I promised America would lead at the beginning and then withdrawal and let others lead. I kept to that promise.

I would think that when you evaluating success of a war, it would be about, has it advanced American national interest in safety and security? It's not in terms of has it vindicated a president's prior words. It's a very odd standard. Obama has done it on Afghanistan as well. In the speech he gave, he said, ya know, I promised as a candidate I would turn our resources to Afghanistan. I have done that. And then, now I promised I'd start withdrawing in July of this year, I'm starting that. This is a remarkable way to evaluate a war. It's extremely self-preferential. Who cares if it fulfills a promise? Is it achieving its goal?

BREAM: Alright, the president also today, of course, is taking a lot of heat still, about this question about the War Powers Resolution, whether he should have had to formally come to Congress. He brought this up -- or he answered this question today, he said we have consulted with Congress. There have been ten hearings. We've sent over reams of information. He said "Do I think our actions in any way violate the war powers resolution? The answer is no. So I don't even have to get to the constitutional question." Charles, what do you think?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I found it was kind of ironic there, he was bragging on one hand that he as president had founded DOMA was unconstitutional, when this came up he said I'm not going to act like a Supreme Court justice. I don't do constitutional questions.

But putting that little irony to one side, I think he can get away with this. Obviously, there is a big problem here. It's not exactly kosher under the War Powers Act. But let's face it, Congress has never really enforced that under any president. And as long as Americans aren't dying in large numbers in Libya, he can get away with this. And he basically alluded to that when he said, well this War Powers thing, that was written for Vietnam when we had a half a million, not for troops on the ground, so forth.You can call it cynical, but I think he's gonna pull it off.

BREAM: Alright, let's turn to Afghanistan now. We have some new polling results out. These are Fox News polls on Afghanistan, when it comes to President Obama's plan to remove troops from Afghanistan, 74 percent said they approve of what he's discussed, 20 percent said they disapproved.

And also, we asked you to best describe your view on Afghanistan. You've made progress but it's incomplete, that is 64 percent, most goals have been accomplished, only 15 percent, and the mission has failed, 15 percent. So as we talk about the plans to move forward in Afghanistan, Steve, there has been some interesting conversation about the president, how he came to the decision, who he listened to, and who he may not have listened to.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Right, I think one of the most under-covered stories and I was actually shocked that it didn't get a question today at the press conference, was this testimony from Lieutenant General John Allen, who's the incoming commander of forces -- U.S. forces -- in Afghanistan, who was asked point blank by Lindsey Graham yesterday, whether the drawdown policy option that the president is implementing was, in fact, one of those presented to him by David Petraeus in this range of options, something that the White House argued. And General Allen said, without qualification it was not.

The White House has made an argument for a week that the reason that the president is doing what he is doing is because this was one of the options that David Petraeus gave him. It apparently was not one of the options that David Petraeus gave him.

Now the president is well within his rights as commander in chief to ignore the advice he gets from the military leaders, but it seems to me that the White House should at least be honest whether it was, in fact, one of the range of options that he was provided. And it sounds like, if General Allen in his sworn testimony is to be believed, that president rejected all of that advice and pretended that he didn't.

BREAM: And Charles, it sounds like on a lot of big topics this president has become very autonomous on making decisions.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he is. In the beginning he deferred everything, he gave the Congress the right to write Obamacare and to do the stimulus, to put all the pork it wanted into that.

But now he is in campaign mode. He is not governing anymore. That was a year-and-a-half of governing and now it's entirely about re-election. He knows that the Republicans have the House. He is not going to pass anything of significance anyway. The ideological agenda as of now is dead. So it's all about re-election.

Everything he said in the press conference, all the demagogic arguments about the rich and the poor is all about how he frames it. It's not about governing.

BREAM: Alright, Charles, do you think it's fair, very quickly, that whatever he says right now is gonna be viewed simply as political and all about 2012?

LANE: It is going to be, but I have to say, that if it's going to be viewed that way, at least he has the advantage on Afghanistan being successful. As your poll points out, 75 -- or almost 75 percent of the public thinks he's got it right.

KRAUTHAMMER: Cynicism often works.

BREAM: Alright. Panel, thanks very much. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned. Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is officially a convicted felon, but a member of his inner circle is speaking out and fighting back.

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