Show Me the Money

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 14, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The people in the appropriations committee worked very, very hard. I think they have a very good piece of legislation, and I think we're going to move forward with the omnibus.

MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Where we are is eerily reminiscent of last year.  Many of you were here. We have another in this case almost 2,000 page bill that no one has seen. It's completely and totally inappropriate to wrap all this up into a 2,000-page bill and try to pass it the week before Christmas.


BRET BAIER, HOST OF “SPECIAL REPORT”: OK, nothing like a visual. If we pull out you can see the 1,924 pages of this omnibus spending bill. Here's the deal, this is $575 million per page, 1,924 pages, $1.1 trillion total. You see the per page cost.  In here also is $1 billion for healthcare law implementation.  Democrats putting that in as well, among of course all the threats from Republicans to dismantle the healthcare law.  Here's the incoming House speaker, "If President Obama is truly serious about ending earmarks, he should oppose Senate Democrats pork-laden spending bill and announce he will veto it if necessary."  So let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of National Review online. Jonah, I can barely see you, but let's start with you.  What about this, dropped before the government runs out of money Saturday?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes, it would be kind of hill hilarious if it wasn't so absurd. The Senate Republicans conference is just furious. One guy said this is the last trip to Vegas before gamblers' anonymous for the Democrats. They just want to get all their last minute spending in. And it sounds to me -- in many ways this could play to Republican advantage politically, but the Republicans are trying to stop it on principle.

BAIER: Mara, we should point out there are a lot of Republican earmarks in here as well, more than 6,000 earmarks, some $8 billion in earmarks after all this stuff about earmark reform.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: This is the last gasp of earmarks, probably. The big question is John Boehner had some pretty harsh words about it. Does that mean the Republicans in the House will vote against this? That's an important test.

The other thing is I think that Democrats in the Senate who are up for reelection in 2012, and there are a lot of them, 23 Democrats, you already heard from Claire McCaskill, she's facing a tough race in Missouri.  And I think that Democrats who are worried about 2012 will be in a position to vote no on this.

BAIER: Fred?

LIASSON: Not to stop it necessarily.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: If that happens, since 23 of them are up, when you add it to the Republicans, then it will lose, which I think the Republicans will defeat it by a filibuster, at least they should even though some have earmarks in there.

Look, the best advice so far is what John Boehner said for President Obama. Remember, one of the biggest embarrassments early in the first term, his only term, February of last year, was when he didn't veto the omnibus spending bill with all those earmarks in it after campaigning against earmarks.

LIASSON: Which he regrets.

BARNES: Indeed. President Obama admits practically no mistakes, but that was one. Well, he's got a second chance.

And he doesn't have to veto it. He just make one quick phone call to Harry Reid and say did you miss what happened November 2nd?  Something that was not good for us. But you have to get the earmarks out of there. I want them out of there. If the president says so, I think they'll be out of there.

There are a lot of earmarks for the actual lame ducks. It's a lame duck Congress, but they're real lame ducks, guys.

BAIER: Who won't be there if January.

BARNES: This is their last gasp to get the -- he had some from Indiana, and my favorite one was money for mosquito trapping research.

BAIER: There's a long list. We'll list some here.

First of all, you have the AFL-CIO training programs. That's $1 million by Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa. You mentioned Representative Baron Hill from Indiana, $2 million for citizenship education. There's a center to improve public understanding of Congress.

There's the Bart Stupak -- B.J. Stupak Olympic scholarship program. Apparently this is a scholarship program dedicated to the deceased son of Representative Bart Stupak, who's not coming back, freedom fuel allowance, Senator Bunning from Kentucky, $2.4 million, Republican, Old Taylor Road Roundabouts, $500,000, Senator Wicker. I'm not sure about Old Taylor Road. It may need roundabouts. But arthropod damage control, $1 million for Senator Reid. Senator McCain we're told is headed to the Senate floor to talk about this now.

Listen, we don't want to pass judgment, whether they're good programs or bad, it is, though, Jonah, about the process of behind closed doors and nobody sees the light of day, and then poof, here's this list.

GOLDBERG: I take a backseat to nobody in my concern about arthropod damage in Nevada.


But second of all, one of the few things Obama regretted was not vetoing the earmark stuff in the beginning. One of the other things is that he didn't champion transparency as much as he had promised. And passing this with days to go before the government shuts down is so violently in the face of the spirit of transparency that you would think Obama as part of his alleged triangulation would get on the other side of this monstrosity.

BAIER: Mara, if the omnibus goes down, they would have to do a continuing resolution that keeps funding for some period of time, likely into February or something like that. What are the chance this all comes together? Look at this calendar that Senator Reid is dealing with.

LIASSON: The things he wants to do after this -- first this has to get done. You have to finish the tax cuts, do this, START, "don't ask, don't tell," the DREAM Act, there are a tremendous amount of things he plans to do before Friday.

BAIER: And Senator DeMint of South Carolina wants to insist this entire thing be read on the Senate floor, which he can do.

BARNES: That sounds like a good idea. The calendar was created by Senator Reid. They could have had votes on a lot of these before.  Bret, you said you didn't want to pass judgment on this. I want to pass judgment.

BAIER: On the individual programs. Everybody has their pet projects and maybe in that community --

BARNES: I will say if they're earmarks, they're unnecessary, unnecessary. And we have a huge deficit, a huge national debt, the public says start cutting. You don't do it with 6,000 earmarks.

BAIER: Last word?

GOLDBERG: I think that's right. Ditto. If you go back and look at what -- did no one go to town halls and see the last election? This is a slap in the face and it will blow up on the Democrats.

BAIER: It would take 40 hours, we're told, to read this monstrosity.

OK, should Republicans accept the spending bill, earmarks and all, or allow the government to run out of cash? This weekend, go to our homepage at and tell us what you think in our poll.

Next up, the Afghanistan review and the death of Richard Holbrooke.



HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And I want to express my deepest condolences to the family of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. I have no doubt that Richard would be the first to urge us to go forward and continue his work and continue his mission of not only what he was doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan but across the broad reach of American foreign policy.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that when you see the review Thursday, I doubt there will be in all honesty a lot of surprise at what the review lays out.


BAIER: President Obama today worked for about two hours with his national security team in the Situation Room on the review of Afghanistan policy. They'll release an unclassified summary on Thursday and, as you heard, not expecting a lot different than what we heard.

And of course reaction to the death of special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke who died late Monday after rupturing his aorta.

Mara, let's start with the policy. They're underselling its change, I guess, and they have been for months.

LIASSON: And I think they're being absolutely accurate about it.  This is not a review to change the policy. It's to see how it's doing, which of course they do constantly. The president ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, he's having a surge, and I think what we have been told to expect the revue to say is progress is being made to degrade the Taliban but "challenges" remain ahead. There are safe havens still in Pakistan, the Karzai government which is corrupt and/or dysfunctional.

And the July 2011 withdrawal date where some number of troops based on conditions on the ground will be removed is still intact. But what has been happening over the past couple months is the president and military leaders have been preparing the country for the fact we'll be in Afghanistan for many years, four years probably at least, even if responsibility is gradually turned over to the Afghans.

BAIER: In the middle of this process to lose the special envoy, Jonah, and obviously Richard Holbrooke had a long, storied career in foreign policy for a number of different presidents, does that impact at all the inner workings?

GOLDBERG: I called around a lot to ask about this, and the general consensus is not much. Holbrooke has a very impressive record and he's done some very impressive things, and he represents a kind of Democrat I would like to see more of, a return to post-Vietnam syndrome liberal foreign policy.

But at the same time he was frozen out by the Karzai government.  They didn't like him very much. And he wasn't, at least according to some, as major a player as some people are saying out of respect for his career and his accomplishments. So I would be surprised if we see very much change at all in policy because of Holbrooke's passing.

BARNES: There's one change that I think is going to happen, and that is for the Pakistanis. He was accused by a lot of people, particularly India, of tilting in favor of Pakistan and the leaders there, and that -- and India didn't like it and others didn't much. And I think that will end to a great extent.

He did alienate Karzai and Karzai alienated him as well, I think.  But he was a great diplomat. He was always accused of being a big ego by people in Washington, the hometown of big egos. I don't know how that distinguished him, but as Max Boot said, he was one of the greatest diplomats who was never secretary of state. And some people think rather than Hillary Clinton he should have been.

But the important thing is that there is improvement in the war.  It's not bleak. It's not great, that's for sure, but there was a Washington Post story on Sunday about improvement in the Helmand province. And just now, Mara said he sent more troops there. Just now is the General Petraeus strategy going fully into effect, and that is to really make the Taliban either beg for negotiations or be extinguished.

LIASSON: And we are in the middle of winter and remember, it was Obama said speed this up. I don't want you to take all the time you think it will take, do it faster. It turns out they're there.

BAIER: Mara, the challenge for the administration, is it correct to say that to keep the liberal base from tearing this apart in Congress on Capitol Hill? I mean it's Republicans who will support this effort.

LIASSON: As they always have. Yes. I think that's true and I don't think it's a tremendous danger. If the war goes terribly south in a very elaborate way, maybe he'll have trouble. But I think he won't have trouble from his liberal base on this.

BAIER: When they're doing this review and the voice saying hold the line and it's working is General Petraeus, a similar voice who said it about Iraq in the surge, and it wasn't believed by Democrats back then, is that is it a different environment?

LIASSON: Different president and this is the war he said was worth fighting.

GOLDBERG: It is also Obama's war in the politic sense. It's all of America's war, but it's Obama's war in the political sense he doubled down on it. At least politically a lot of this will be moot for a while because in winter the fighting dies down regardless. We may not know whether the facts on the ground match up with the politics until the spring anyway.

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