Politics Behind President's Debt Speech

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 13, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Before the break, we asked you would you be willing to pay higher taxes in order to help decrease the debt? Only six percent said of you said yes in this poll, 94 percent said no.

Now back with panel about the politics of today. There was a lot of back and forth between the two main players.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: There is nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce deficit by spending $1 trillion on tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. To meet our fiscal challenge we will need to make reforms, we will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I'm president we won't.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our Commander in chief. What we heard today was a political broadside from our campaigner in chief. I guess it's no coincidence that last week when the president launched his billion dollar re-election campaign was the week we launched our effort to try and get this debt and deficit under control and get our economy growing.


BAIER: Now a number of folks noted one interesting moment in the speech, Vice President Biden was either meditating about the speech, the president's plan, or he may have been a little bit tired. We're not sure there, but we had to show it before we got back to the panel on the politics. John, what about who is winning and losing this political battle here?

JOHN FUND, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think the Ryan budget has changed terms of debate in Washington. That's why the president was smoked out. He had to come up with something other than the budget that was discredited two months ago.

BAIER: Yeah, let's point out he had the State of the Union, and then his budget roll out, both opportunities to do really what he did today.

FUND: Right, and now he appears before a bunch of college students and says, oh by the way, here's my plan. It looks a little forced. I think that we are in for a long stalemate, as I said. I don't think either side is going to budge. I think the president is going to go into the 2012 campaign as a class warrior. I think the Republicans are going to go in saying we're not going to budge on taxes whatsoever for any income bracket. And that's the terms of the debate that are going to play out.

The president, by the way, is sticking with Obamacare and he's going to say that's going to restrain healthcare costs. Increasingly, as Obamacare kicks in, I think that is becoming less and less likely.


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, there were actually three opportunities for the president to come to the table. In December, he ignored the recommendations of his own debt commission and then in January at the State of the Union he did it again. And then with his budget in February he [INAUDIBLE] again. So this is now the undoing of his February budget and it's a new plan.

That said, there is something that has to break the stalemate, and that's the increase on the debt ceiling and that has to come in the next two months. And so we can sit around and talk about Republicans opposing the sun setting of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That's two years from now. I mean that's -- in May of 2011, he can't push that through the vote in the Congress.

What we're talking about now is what are the concessions that the Democrats are going to give Republicans to join in on an increase on the debt ceiling and avert the unthinkable? A government shutdown was possible. This is not possible. And the Republican leadership knows it and the people who fund their campaigns are freaking out on them behind the scenes. So that is actually a deadline that's coming. And as of tonight, there is no beginnings of consensus of how they'll get them.

FUND: I think Harry Reid has a plan to get the debt limit through the Senate. If no senator objects you don't need 60 votes to pass the debt limit. You can do it with a simple majority. And that means --

BAIER: Yes, but you mean to tell me that the DeMints or the Coburns or somebody is not going to object?

FUND: Well, then the onus [INAUDIBLE] falls on the Republicans. And that's probably what Harry Reid wants.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I don't know how many times he gets a swing at the ball before people recognize that he's not serious about the debt. As A.B. pointed out, he had his commission, he ignored it, he had the State of the Union, which is astonishing. He didn't use the word debt until he was more than halfway through that speech. And then, of course, in the budget which does nothing except explode the debt.

The fact is, as A.B. mentioned, that his people called up the Gang of Six on Sunday and said hurry up with the plan, and the plan doesn't even exist, tells you how fictional is Obama's so-called plan.

BAIER: But are Democrats happy with this?

KRAUTHAMMER: He wants to incorporate a plan that actually doesn't even exist.

BAIER: Are Democrats happy with this today? Are they --

KRAUTHAMMER: I think this speech was a speech to his base, no one else. And what he was saying is, I'm really smart. Let me show you that I'm with you on this, opposing any real cuts but I'm smart enough that I'll pretend that I'm a cutter and I'm a deficit reducer and I will work across the aisle as I did in 2008. I can get away with it. I'm clever. I'll show you how I can do it. I'll do it in half of this speech and I'll run all the way until Election Day next year, demagoguing Ryan and pretending I'm a centrist.

BAIER: That --

FUND: I was here it for Bill Clinton; when Bill Clinton pulled that. Bill Clinton was much better than Barack Obama at that game.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned as one of our own gets an extreme makeover.

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