Impact of End to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is an historic day for the Pentagon and for the nation. As of 12:01 a.m. this morning, we have the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will be pressing for the closure of the facility between now and then. And after that election, we will try to close it, as well.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, it is only Tuesday and, so far, there are a lot of things that if you are on the left of President Obama's Democratic Party than you are pretty happy, one would think. You have the taxing of the rich, the proposal for the deficit reduction, the end of "don't ask, don't tell" and you also have the promise, again, from the attorney general, that they are going to try to close Guantanamo Bay.

Before the break, our question of the day asked you, what effect will the end of "don't ask, don't tell" have on the military? Three percent of you said positive, 85 percent said negative, 12 percent said none in this unscientific web poll.

We are back with the panel. A.B., it was a big week, this -- so far, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, about "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) tweeted this, "DADT was dishonorable and un-American and we celebrate today as it officially becomes a relic of the past." Of course, it was instituted under President Clinton.


BAIER: What about all of this?

STODDARD: The thing is, that I think "don't ask, don't tell" is really sort of a separate issue. It's been in the works for a while. I take the general's and the highest ranking members of the military who advocated for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" that it would not be an adverse impact on balance throughout the military.

It is a major civil rights issue. The gay community wanted the president to move on a lot faster than he did, but it is -- it remains a major signature accomplishment for the president. Will it in this economy swing any votes? I don't think so. The left remains disheartened. There is talk by fringe on the left even to this day of the need for a primary challenge to President Obama. They wanted cap and trade, they wanted a public option in health care, they wanted a larger stimulus, they wanted more union rights, and they wanted withdrawal from Afghanistan years ago.

And they really believe that he has extended tax cuts for the wealthy last December and just capitulated with Republicans, and they are not on balance really happy. So, I don't know - ya know, this silly talk of keeping Gitmo open is not believable and it's not going to do anything to sway the Democrats. I think this talk about taxing the rich is, you know, the strongest ya know, maneuver to try to reopen a dialogue about fixing the economy the way the Democrats want to hear it.

BAIER: Is this, Jonah, about feeding the base? And shoring up the base?

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think so, ultimately. I think, in some ways Obama reminds me of where George Bush was in 2005, 2006, where he's in this position where he lost a lot of the support of his own base but he's also alienated the middle. And so now any attempts to go to the middle, alienate the base further; any attempts to go to the base, alienate the middle further. He's in a really, just sort of tricky spot.

And that's largely because, I think, we've gone from the magical period in Obama's career to the transactional period. Ya know, there was a time when he was riding in on a unicorn and he was promising the world to everybody. And that no longer works with the base. He cannot get the base excited with that kind of stuff anymore. And so now he's got to just go through like a checklist, checking off promises to them, and I don't think it's gonna work. It's not gonna get the enthusiasm up.

BAIER: Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I mean, if this works the liberal base is really a cheap date, I've gotta say. I mean -- if they wanted to raise taxes on the rich, he had a Democratic Congress for two years. He could have raised taxes on the rich. If he wanted to close Gitmo, really make the case for closing Gitmo and override the opposition in Congress, he could have done it. I mean it's pathetic, if I were a liberal I'd be embarrassed at the notion that I can be bought off by Eric Holder standing up and saying, hey, we're still going to close Gitmo, and the President of the United States proposing a totally non-serious economic package which once again shows how determined he is to sock it to the rich.

So I hope liberals really toughen up here and ya know, do something serious about this president who is not coming through. He's the President of the United State, he's not supposed to just be saying things, he's suppose to be doing things.

BAIER: A.B., you mentioned "don't ask, don't tell" is separate. It had been a long time coming, it just fell in this week. On the other two issues, here are some things the president said and testimony on Capitol Hill from his administration on the other two issues.


OBAMA: The last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-GA: Have you seen evidence that we are safer or that recruits have fallen off as a result of the president's announcement of his intent to close Guantanamo?

MATTHEW OLSEN, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER DIRECTOR: I have not seen from, again, my perspective both on the task force and a much more limited perspective in my current role at the National Security Agency, anything, and in specific response to your question, to that effect that there is a change in recruiting based on the current government policy.


BAIER: Last one deals with Gitmo, the first one on taxes. It's a different tone.

STODDARD: There is no political will among Democrats let alone Republicans obviously, to close Gitmo, it's not happening. As for this complete pivot on the economy, Jonah's right, he tried to reach out and compromise with Republicans to win the middle, he didn't. He's going the other way, he is going left, and whether or not, he knows he won't get results, so if he doesn't win the middle with this, he's stuck with some unhappy Democrats and some sort of satisfied Democrats.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned to see the latest political pitches at another awards ceremony.

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