'Special Report' Panel Assesses President Obama's First 100 Days in Office

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You may not always agree with me, but if you take a look at what I said I was going to do when I was running for office and you now look at what we are in the middle of doing, we're doing what we said we'd do.

SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: This will go down in history as the most expensive 100 days for the American people.

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: Someone asked me, what mark would I give the president in his first 100 days? I'd definitely give the president an A.

SEN. KIT BOND, R-MO.: Message to the administration: Get a new calendar. The election is over. With victory comes responsibility. It is now up to the Obama administration to keep our nation safe.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, there are some of the sights and sounds of President Obama's 100th day in office. It has been an interesting 100 days.

As you look at some of those images, here are some excerpts, a brief one, from tonight's opening remarks at the prime-time news conference.

He says: "All of this means you can expect an unrelenting, unyielding effort from this administration to strengthen our prosperity and our security in the second 100 days, third 100 days and the days after. We're off to a good start, but it is just a start."

Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, your thoughts on the 100 days?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, he told us a completely unreal mark, that it was a Hallmark holiday. And then he jets off to Missouri to celebrate, spewing carbon into the atmosphere as he goes.

But that's how Obama is: He always has it both ways.

I think it hasn't been the most important 100 days. I think it has been the most revealing 100 days in our lifetime. After all, this man when he was elected was one of the great mysteries of American politics. He was the most unknown, untested, untried, and really un-figured-out man ever to ascend to the office. And in the first 100 days, he has told us who he is.

Bbefore his inauguration there was a big debate. Is he a centrist who talks a good centrist game, or is he a leftist who talks a good centrist game? Now we know.

He is a man who has expressed in the joint address to Congress, in the budget, and again in the speech he gave to Georgetown a few weeks ago, a radical domestic agenda which involves, as he puts it every time, a holy trinity of health care reform, by which he means nationalizing health care, and he wants to federalize education with essentially a federal guarantee of college education and to seize control of the energy economy with a carbon tax.

And this is all in the service of leveling the differences between rich and poor and leveling the differences between classes.

That's as radical an agenda since FDR and I think even more so, since FDR entered office willing to experiment. Obama knows where he wants to go to establish more social democratic America and he has told us exactly what it is in the first 100 days.

BAIER: Juan, we should point out the Democratic Congress passed the press president's budget outline today without a single Republican vote

— Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think that what Charles calls "radical," I would call "necessary." Clearly the country is in very dramatic and desperate times with regard to the economy.

We're in the midst of war, and we have to take steps there to protect ourselves. So he sent additional troops in Afghanistan.

He has made a decision on Iraq that is consistent with what he promised to do during the campaign. Actually, he has extended that timetable a little longer, and instead, he is going to keep 50,000 troops there.

So I think on the national security front, I don't think this is very radical. In fact, I think in some ways it's a continuation of the Bush policies.

If you're looking at the domestic side, I come back to the fact that I think this is a dramatic, desperate time in terms of dealing with the economy. In fact, in the comments that he will make tonight, he talks about trying to pull America out of what he called "the wreckage of this recession."

And I don't think if you're unemployed, and if you look at the unemployment rate right now, if you look at the high level of poverty in the country, I don't think you'd say that's radical to say we're going to step in and spend a lot of money in terms of stimulus.

There are some economists who think we haven't spent enough as a percentage of GDP to really make this correction.

But I still think it's a lot of money because of deficits. And I think the Republicans have been wise to say watch for that spending, because you're putting the burden on future generations.

But that's not to say that you shouldn't do anything, and the Republicans have not come up with other ideas for how they would get us out of that position.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Juan, Juan, Juan, please. They get little attention, but Republicans have come up with alternative, an alternative budget, alternative health care plan. They have all that. Look, it's all about Obama now, so the Republican alternatives don't get attention.

One thing is for sure. Obama says he is doing what he said he would do, and that's just not right at all. I don't remember him saying that he would expand the role of government in the first 100 days.

And I think these 100 days not only revealing, but also important, because he has expanded the role of government so much, he has increased deficits and wants to continue these huge deficits at third world, Argentine and Bolivian levels, that we've never seen in America before. He certainly didn't talk about that.

Remember what he said, Juan. He said "I'm going to be a save and invest president, not a borrow and spend president." He's a borrow and spend president.

Now, look, what's happened is enormously important. This is the most important 100 days in a long, long time, because he's changed the whole direction of government in a short period of time, and plans to continue on the new path. That's for sure.

WILLIAMS: Don't you think it's out of necessity?

BARNES: No, I don't. Look, did he have to take over General Motors and Chrysler? Does he have to own 80 percent of AIG? Does he have to have the power to tell banks how much to have and to...


— and how much to spend? None of that stuff was required.

WILLIAMS: If you want to save GM, you gotta do something.

BARNES: No. You can let them go bankrupt, and that will save them.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm critical of Obama, but I'm not sure I'm ready to call him a Bolivian yet.


BAIER: The president was mighty happy to greet the newest Democratic senator today. But is Arlen Specter's assertion that Republicans are cascading to the right the right call? We'll ask the panel next.



SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, D-PA.: As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party.


BAIER: Well, that was one of the reasons Arlen Specter gave for becoming a Democrat. The other was that he, frankly, was going to lose as a Republican in Pennsylvania.

So what about that? Is the Republican Party drifting farther to the right? We're back with the panel — Fred?

BARNES: I don't think so. I mean, look at Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan, who swept Arlen Specter into office - remember, it was a Reagan landslide that — Reagan also won Pennsylvania. And of course Specter also talks about the Reagan tent and the big ten and how wonderful that was.

Reagan never used that phrase "big tent." Reagan did not like Arlen Specter.

Craig Shirley, who's a Reagan biographer, says in the diaries, Reagan's diaries, he mentioned Specter twice. Once he's mad at him because he voted against a couple of Reagan appointees, I think one was Judge Bork — Robert Bork who didn't get on the Supreme Court because of Republicans like Arlen Specter voted against him. And the other one Reagan said he never would have campaigned for Arlen Specter.

So this Reagan stuff is nonsense. Reagan was a lot more conservative than his successor, George H. W. Bush, than the nominee in '96, who was Bob Dole, than his son. Reagan was more conservative than George W. Bush, certainly more conservative than John McCain.

The truth is Republicans have done poorly in areas that tend to elect, in the past, moderates. It's not because Republicans have been running conservatives, say in New England, but their moderates have lost. And in areas that are more conservative, they've done better.

So just in the terms of elected officials that Republican have now, there are a lot more conservatives than there used to be, a higher percentage of them.

BAIER: Boy, you listen to the other media outlets today, and the GOP is left for dead.

And just some quick history: In '64 they were left for dead and then Nixon won in '68; '76 they were left for dead, '80 Reagan wins; '92 left for dead, '94 they win the House and the Senate.

So Juan, what about the GOP?

WILLIAMS: There is always a chance for rebirth, and I look forward to it, because you look back over just the kind of timeline that you just offered us, and you see that despite it looks like they're dead and should be buried and stick a fork in them, they come back to life. And that goes for any party.

But the key point to my mind is something that Specter said yesterday. I mentioned it on the show. He said there were 200,000 Republicans leaving the party in Pennsylvania to become Democrats. And I think you see that all over the country. The Republican Party is a shrinking party.

Now, if you asked about culture war issues. If you asked about abortion, gay marriage and the like, I don't think Republicans are any more conservative than they have ever been.

But if you ask about the war in Iraq, if you ask about stimulus spending, if you ask about investments in infrastructure, Republicans just say no, no, no.

And I think that that's not to their advantage.

BAIER: By the way, we got a ton of emails about your comment that the Republicans are southern white party.

WILLIAMS: That's what they're becoming.

BAIER: Michael Steele as their head.

WILLIAMS: He's the head of it, but if you look at where the party is strongest, where the party wins, the only region of the country the party has as its base is in the south.

KRAUTHAMMER: The reason Specter is switching is because he was going to lose as a Republican. The idea that he switched for ideological or philosophical reasons is a joke.

As Jonathan Chait of the liberal New Republic said, the man is an unprincipled hack. He was 40 years ago when he became a Republican in order to win election. Now he is becoming a Democrat in order to win election again, he hopes.

In fact, as Fred says, the apogee of the move to the right of the party was under Reagan 30 years ago. And ever since — and Specter was quite happy under Reagan — in the last 20 years, it has moved to the center.

And for Specter to pretend otherwise is his usual, unprincipled hackery.

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