Obama Administration Shakeup?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 6, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.



HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have absolutely no interest and no reaso n for doing anything other than just dismissing these stories and moving on, because we have is no time. We have so much to do, and I think both of us are very happy doing what we're doing.


SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS REPORTER: All right, from the White House we hear thi s from David Axelrod, quote, "There is absolutely nothing to it." He went on to say that "The president is blessed to have a spectacular vice president and an outstanding secretary of state. They're both doing great work and he wants to keep them on the job."

All right, let's bring in our panel to talk about it, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Erin Billings, deputy editor of Roll Call, and Julie Mason, White House correspondent for The Washington Examiner.  Welcome to all of you.

Julie, let me ask you, is there anything to this?

JULIE MASON, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: You can see where this was probably discussed behind the scenes. But this administration they talk about a lot of things. They kick around a lot of ideas. That doesn't mean it’s going to happen. I believe them. I don't think it's going to.

Among other things, when you look at Obama's leadership style, he's not one for the big grand gesture. This would be a dramatic shakeup.  This would be a huge move. And that's not the kind of president he is. He doesn't do bold things like that.

BREAM: Erin, would the vice president go along with this? What would it take to convince him to step aside?

ERIN BILLINGS, DEPUTY EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well you know the other thing I think is interesting is would Biden even be a good secretary of state? This is a guy who is prone to the gaffe. At a time when we're dealing with major issues on the international scale -- Iran, Afghanistan, Mideast peace, I'm not sure a swap is even in the cards.

Clinton maybe for vice president, but I highly doubt it.

BREAM: Well, he is very entertaining. And it's interesting that he thinks Hillary Clinton is qualified for this position. Here is what he had to say when he was campaigning. I believe this is September of 2008.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Make no mistake about this.  Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of United States of America.


Let's get that straight. And quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me.


BREAM: Fred, foreshadowing?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't really think so. Look, this is one of the arrangements, a swap like this would work -- it looks better on paper than it does in real life. It would be hard to carry this off.

But you can see why there may be some thought given to this, maybe not now but in the second two years if Obama is doing poorly of the first term, because Hillary could help. For one thing, if you remember the primaries in 2008, she ran very well in areas that are now tilting Republican -- in Pennsylvania, Ohio, places like that. There are Hillary voters that he could probably pick up that wouldn't have ordinarily.

You can keep  Hillary from being, actually challenging Obama in the primaries in 2012, which I think is unlikely anyway, and you bring in the Clinton camp and the Democratic Party, and they are kind of unhappy at the moment because they think Hillary has been mistreated somewhat by the White House as secretary of state.

But I agree on the Biden question. I think that would be hard to put him -- look, it's unfortunate for him. It's not entirely his fault. Vice presidents become the butt of jokes. And Biden is. Can you purely for political reasons can you stick him at secretary of state now? I don't think so. The motive here would be purely political. It wouldn't be to enhance America's foreign policy or diplomacy, and for that reason alone I think this is a non-starter.

BREAM: So many people think the vice presidential position is not that powerful in a lot respects. Is Hillary in is a more powerful position doing what she is doing now?

MASON: It's a little bit of apples and oranges. And I think we're giving Joe Biden a little bit of a short thrift. He was in the Senate for 30 years and has an extensive international portfolio as vice president. He is in charge of the Iraq policy and very influential on Afghanistan. Obama has given him a lot of responsibility. He's doing a lot in the White House.

I'm not really sure who would be more powerful between he or Hillary.  They have the president's ear, but not in the immediate inner circle. But they're very big players.

BREAM: All right, we have some interesting numbers. These are from a Fox News opinion dynamics poll. When you ask average folks out there -- excuse me, registered voters here, who do you favor more as vice president?

When you look across the board all likely registered voters, you have 55 percent of them say Hillary Clinton versus 25 percent for Joe Biden.  Interestingly to me, when you break it down to Democrats, 67 percent to 25 percent favor Hillary Clinton over Joe Biden. Erin, those numbers surprise you at all?

BILLINGS: Not really. I think Hillary Clinton has remade herself as secretary of state. She's no longer viewed as partisan that she once was, even though she ran a middle of the road campaign during the 2008 presidential.

She was neck in neck and she almost won the nomination. She was very close to being president. So it doesn't surprise me she has these numbers versus Biden. Everybody knows in the country who Hillary Clinton is. I do think she made herself and I think she is more of a pragmatist or viewed more of a pragmatist now. So no, I don't find numbers surprising at all.

BREAM: Fred, historically we hear the conversation --

BARNES: Of course we did.

BREAM: -- about replacing vice presidents in second term.

BARNES: Yes. It never happens. FDR did when he dumped -- not personally, you remember, when he dumped Henry Wallace in 1944. But that was FDR in the middle of a war. Nobody complained much about it.

But one of the things that I think President Obama has to have on his mind is the possibility of a challenge for the nomination, not from Hillary. It would have to come from the left. This is the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party such a thing would come from the right.

Having Hillary as his running mate announced early would really protect him from such a challenge from the left. It would help him ward off a challenge like that anyway. Nonetheless, it won't happen.

BREAM: All right, Fred is on the record -- it will not happen.

When we come back, the Supreme Court hears arguments. This is about the picketing at a funeral of a dead soldier. Does that qualify as free speech?

Right now, logon to the home page at FOXnews.com/specialreport for web exclusive from Molly Henneberg on what American intelligence leaders think about the terror threat now in Europe.



MARGIE PHELPS, WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH: Every death is in god's hands and he's just getting warmed up. We have a song for you.


Cry about your feelings for you sin no shame. You're going straight to hell on your crazy train.

ALBERT SNYDER, FATHER: All we wanted to do is bury Matt with dignity and respect. Our son Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder fought for the rights of all Americans.


BREAM: That was the case stretching the First Amendment today at the Supreme Court. The last gentleman you heard there, Albert Snyder, lost his son. And that group showed up to picket there.

We're back with our panel to talk about the case. Westboro Baptist Church, everybody is familiar with them by now, the signs that they have the songs they like to sing when they show up. But is that protected by the First Amendment, Fred?

BARNES: Well, not according -- it is protected by, according to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The obvious way for the Supreme Court to rule is to say it is as well, just uphold what the 4th Circuit said because it would take really a rewriting of First Amendment law to some extent to recognize these funeral rights.

And in a particular way that really was a new balancing of privacy rights versus speech rights. I'm not sure the court is ready to do that. I wish they were. I think this poor family whose funeral their son was disrupted and so on.

But the truth is there are state laws in 46 states and there is federal law, but it looked like the protesters complied. They did not violate those laws. They have to write tougher laws to see if the Supreme Court will agree with them, or the Supreme Court may come up with some remedy on its own, which I think is probably not likely.

BREAM: I thought it was interesting today that Chief Justice John Roberts talked to them about whether they were abusing the situations, saying Mr. Snyder, talking about the young man Matthew Snyder, who was killed.

He was selected not because of who he was but because it was a way to get maximum publicity for your client's particular message. So Erin, how far do we allow that to go?

BILLINGS: That’s the question. This is a really tough, complicated, and emotional case. I would not want to be a Supreme Court justice trying to -- and even if you read the transcript today, it appears the justices are very torn about this. This is not cut and dry. That's the types of cases the Supreme Court weighs.

What I think is interesting is we're having this debate about the free speech and line of free speech. Just a few weeks ago we were debating this Koran burning in Florida, and a lot of the same issues came up. Where is the line? That is for the Supreme Court to decide. Like I said, I'm glad I'm not wearing a robe.

BREAM: Yes, and you think to the flag burning cases in the late 80s and early 90s, allowing that, saying it is a form of protected speech. The First Amendment is often used in the speech that we find most offensive because that's exactly what it is meant to protect. We may have points that other people find offensive.

Julie, do you think there is any chance the family comes out on top or it’s a slam dunk for this church?

MASON: It's interesting, you see all these member of Congress lining up and aligning themselves with the family and supporting the family in court with amicus briefs.

And also today, interestingly, at the White House, President Obama is himself a constitutional scholar, he used to teach it, and Robert Gibbs said that the president believes that the interest, the peace of mind and well-being of the families should prevail. So that was an interesting position to take.  You see politicians also struggling with this case.

BREAM: Absolutely.

BARNES: But it would take I think a significant rewriting of first amendment law. You're a lawyer, Shannon. Do you agree with that?

BREAM: I thought it was interesting there was a discussion among some of the justices about whether you could sent a content neutral buffer, say 500 feet or 1,000 feet. You don't get to the message of what they're saying but you create the perimeter. Maybe that is the kind of remedy that they will consider.

BARNES: But they were 1,000 feet away. You'd have to make it a lot greater distance.

BREAM: And we are talking about signs that said, "God hates you," "Thank god for dead soldiers," I mean, anybody is going to have a struggle finding that line with the First Amendment in this particular case. It leaves us wondering whether they'll come down.

Erin, how do you think people will react? The average American out there if the Supreme Court decides for the church because it is so emotional, even if you do respect the First Amendment?

BILLINGS: Getting back to what I said about the Koran burning, look how many people spoke out about that and were truly offended? To many people this is abhorrent behavior and they don't get it. I think there will be reactions on all sides, really. But certainly this is an emotional case. I really don't think anyone comes down in the middle on this.

BREAM: It's interesting that the church is run by a man named Fred Phelps, and his daughter actually argued the case today. Several members of the family do hold law degrees. That is a bit unusual to see that at the Supreme Court. You saw there a bit of their media stakeout afterwards.

Do you think, Julie, there is any appealing to this particular church group at all?

MASON: You mean to stand down?

BREAM: In a way.

MASON: No, I don't think so. They seem very sure of their beliefs.  They travel all over the country. They were here earlier this week for a funeral of Brendan Looney, a Silver Spring native here in Washington. So they go all over the place with this message. They seem almost immune to reasoning.

BREAM: And Albert Snyder, the father here, I talked to him after the loss in the fourth circuit where he lost. And not only did he lost the case there, he was ordered to pay the legal costs of this church, which he said he wouldn't do unless the Supreme Court made him do,  because he thought they would use the money to do exactly what was done to his family.

Fred, you came in on a prediction for us on Hillary. Any prediction on this case?

BARNES: Yes. I'm afraid the church is going to win unless the court is ready to strike a new balance between privacy rights and speech rights. And they'd have to tilt it toward privacy right. I doubt if the court is willing to do that in this case.

BREAM: Anyone disagree?

BILLINGS: Tough to say, but I think my money is on Fred.

BREAM: Our money is always on Fred. All right, panel, thank you very much. We should have a decision in the next few months on that.

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