'Special Report' All-Star Panel on first year of Biden administration

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This is a rush transcript of "Special Report with Bret Baier" on December 31, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

EMANUEL: Illegal immigration, inflation, Afghanistan, and more, all part of the first year of this Biden administration.

With that, let's bring in our panel, Bill McGurn, columnist for "The Wall Street Journal," Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," Charles Lane, opinion writer for "The Washington Post." Welcome to all of you.




EMANUEL: Mollie, what stands out for you first year of the Biden administration?

HEMINGWAY: The year began with so much promise for President Biden. He had the full support of the media, which helped bring him across the finish line to achieving the victory he promised to unify the country. He pledged to defeat the coronavirus. He said that he would help the middle class out. And this year has had some success for Biden. He passed his infrastructure bill and a few other things. But it's really been marked by just massive amounts of failure, whether it's the border, Afghanistan, inflation. And it really points to not any of those specific problems but a failure of leadership and competence.

EMANUEL: Chuck, your thoughts on the first year of President Biden and his administration?

LANE: My impression is they came into office believing that they could make a plan and carry it out. And the plan had, I think, approximately four phases. One was the big $1.9 trillion bill, the American Rescue Plan. Then that was going to be followed by an infrastructure bill, and then Build Back Better. And in between, because of the vaccines, the coronavirus by middle of July, Independence Day, would be behind us.

And the plan didn't pan out, in part, because of some of the mistakes they made, but, in part, because the Delta variant came along and threw everything off course. And what has struck me is that they continue to stick to the plan even after some other administrations might have tried to call an audible, and they have not been able to finish the plan in the form of Build Back Better.

EMANUEL: There were also some growing pains for Vice President Kamala Harris when it came to answering some pretty straightforward questions. Let's play it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your response to reports of Americans --

KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hold on, hold on. Slow down, everybody.

We have been to the border. We have been to the border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't been to the border.

HARRIS: And I haven't been to Europe.


HARRIS: I don't understand the point that you are making.


EMANUEL: Bill, the vice president was charged with addressing the crisis at the border. Your thoughts on the first year of the Biden White House and her performance?

MCGURN: Well, in her performance, she is the border czar who tries to stay as far away from the border as she can. And in some sense, I don't blame her. The vice president is supposed to be the chief salesman for the president's agenda. And the problem is that Joe Biden has not a good agenda. When he came in, people were talking as though he would be the next FDR or LBJ, but he didn't have FDR or LBJ majorities. So now what's the most common metaphor used? It's Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter is synonym for haplessness, with inflation. And I think Afghanistan was particularly brutal because it's not a right or left thing. I think a lot of people just have the impression that the job is too big for Joe Biden. He is not up to it.

EMANUEL: Obviously, the year ended on Capitol Hill not able to get the Build Back Better act across the finish line. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says they are still going to try to get it done in 2022. Let's play it.


NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: First and foremost, we will -- we will continue to fight to pass the legislation. This will happen, it must happen. We cannot walk away from this commitment. The Build Back Better is about transforming our society.


EMANUEL: Mollie, do you sense they will get something done, it will just be drastically scaled back?

HEMINGWAY: There is always that risk that they will pass something, that they will be able to get Joe Manchin to sign on to something. But their best bet for their future political prospects is actually not to pass something, given that we already have such high inflation, which is caused by flooding the zone with trillions of dollars. Doing more of what has caused some of the problems is not going to help out the Biden administration. But it's also a good reminder that Nancy Pelosi has been doing no favors for Joe Biden. And the extreme way in which she is managing her caucus is not helping him at all.

EMANUEL: Chuck, your thoughts as we look ahead to the agenda in 2022?

LANE: I'm waiting to see how they manage to pivot the two issues that I think people feel they have neglected, inflation and crime, and get control over those as 2022 rolls on, because those, much more than the failure to pass Build Back Better, those are the ones that, first of all, are on the minds of voters, but also threaten the Democrats' prospects in the fall.

EMANUEL: Bill, let's get a quick comment from you before we move on.

MCGURN: Yes, I agree with Charles. I would add, though, inflation, I think, is the big one, because people don't get their news about inflation from the president or the Fed chairman. They get it when they go fill up their cars and it's an extra 20 bucks. I would add foreign affairs. We have Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin really menacing, and we have Iran out there. And I don't think if these men looked at Afghanistan, they are going to take lessons, gee, better not mess with Joe Biden. He is going to be really tough.

EMANUEL: Let's do winners and losers at the end of 2021. Mollie, lead us off.

HEMINGWAY: So my winner for the year is Ron DeSantis. He alone among most GOP leaders has seen that people don't want you to just fight Democratic policies but implement conservative policies, and he's done that brilliantly by keeping schools open, fighting vaccine mandates, fighting their hatred of Critical Race Theory and having Florida be a thriving economy.

My loser is, really, the American people, but the prime cause of the wretched year that we have had has to lie Joe Biden, so he is my loser for the year.

EMANUEL: OK. Chuck, you're up next.

LANE: Well, my winner is Glenn Youngkin, who was elected governor of Virginia as a Republican, started out the year as a real long shot, and pulled off a narrow victory in what had been a blue-ening state. My loser of the year is a collective one, the women of Afghanistan. Again, whether you are on the left or the right, the withdrawal of U.S. and other western forces from Afghanistan has left half that country, in the sense, at the mercy of the Taliban.

EMANUEL: Chuck, a quick follow-up. Do you think there will be a push for Youngkin in 2024, or do you think the Republicans will more try to take his playbook for 2022 and beyond?

LANE: Well, I think he did provide a formula of how Republicans can win. But there is this guy called Trump I've heard might be interested in running himself.

EMANUEL: OK, fair enough. Bill, your winners and losers for 2021?

MCGURN: Mike, my winner, it's very personal to me because this man is also my godson. His name is Jimmy Lai. He was a newspaper founder in Hong Kong. He has just marked a year in jail because he has been advocating for democracy. And what makes his story so incredible is that he was a multimillionaire who could have fled and kept his comfortable life, but he chose the jail cell of a Chinese dissident.

My loser is a double hitter here, the Cuomo brothers. Just two years ago Andrew Cuomo and Chris Cuomo were at the top of the game. Everyone was lauding them and so forth. And both have now lost their jobs. Both face accusations of sexual impropriety, and so forth. It's been a sharp fall.

EMANUEL: All right, let's go around the horn and get a look at your predictions for next year. Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: I'm going to take the really easy bet that Republicans are going to do extremely well in November of next year. They are poised to take the House and take it strongly. They might even take the Senate. And they are on good footing for retaking the presidency in a few years.

EMANUEL: All right, Chuck, your turn.

LANE: There's tremendous concern in a number of big cities over crime. There's a growing political ferment around that issue. And on June 7th, Chesa Boudin, the ultra-progressive D.A. for San Francisco, is going to face a recall election based on people who feel he is too soft, and I think he is going to lose.

EMANUEL: We're up against the clock. Bill, bring us home.

MCGURN: Very quickly, I think the Supreme Court is going to grant cert to the case of Asian-American citizens suing Harvard for discrimination and finally rule that this kind of racial preferences is unwelcome and unconstitutional.

EMANUEL: Panelists, thanks so much. Happy New Year.

When we come back, "Notable Quotables."


EMANUEL: Finally tonight, it's Friday. That means "Notable Quotables."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't even go my neighborhood drugstore. And then coming here, we just got shot down, saying that they are not going to take any more people.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no federal solution. This gets solved at the state level.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a mad dash to get a new flight. There were no flights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are not enough adults in there. You need to go remote. It is not safe in those buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's embers throwing and coming over your car, and I would imagine this is what a nuclear attack would look like.

KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are prepared to issue sanctions like you have not seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have more words from the Biden administration, but no actions, no demonstrated result.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ghislaine Maxwell facing 65 years in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, justice has been done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John was a legend in his time, but whenever he showed up on the field, it was obvious he presence was there.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Tonight, we remember former Nevada senator and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has not quite left us, and yet he has left us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't know anyone who didn't admire and love Betty White.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: When you are talking about a New Year's Eve party, we have 30, 40, 50 people celebrating. I would recommend strongly stay away from that this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's when the whole world comes together and we count down those 60 seconds to the New Year filled with joy, filled with hope.


EMANUEL: Quite a week to end 2021.

Monday on SPECIAL REPORT, the first day back to school for millions of children amid the Omicron surge. Please join Trace Gallagher Sunday for FOX NEWS SUNDAY. His guests will be Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Have a happy New Year. Thank you for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for this SPECIAL REPORT, fair, balanced, and unafraid. We'll leave you with a live look from London as they get ready to ring in the New Year at the top of the hour.

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