'Special Report' Panel on Auto Industry Bailout; Future of Guantanamo Bay

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from December 8, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. BARNEY FRANK, D-MASS.: Thanks to that breakthrough by the Speaker's wil lingness to speak constructive, we have been able to send them a bill that we believe, as we understand the conversations, meets what they think is necessary.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE SPEAKER: It may take more than $15 billion to get to March 31st. But come March 31st, it is our hope that there will be a viable automotive industry in our country.


BRIT HUME, HOST: What the deal that Barney Frank was talking about, a bill, as he said, as he described it, he is talking about sending it to "them." He means the White House. And he says that the bill would meet what they think is necessary.

Well, the White House wasn't very enthusiastic about it tonight, and one of the reasons is what you heard Nancy Pelosi say. This bill would use $15 billion of funds already approved for the purpose of making automobiles more green and would use it to keep the auto companies in business for a while longer. And she now comes along and says it is going to take more than that.

So this is what the controversy about is tonight. It's not clear whether this deal is going anywhere or not. Some thoughts on it now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — all FOX News contributors.

Fred, where do we stand?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think there will be something passed, and it won't be enough to get to March 31st. So something more will have to be passed. And then something more will have to be passed after that —

HUME: Yes, but the White House didn't sound very happy with this, that not even this could pass.

BARNES: The only thing that matters — if Nancy Pelosi really wants to make the auto companies in Detroit, the big three, viable, then you have to do certain things which I doubt she is ready to do. And that is they have to get rid of all their nearly $30 billion in bonds, sell them at 30 cents on the dollar.

They have to get rid of — I mean, they owe $21 billion just to the pension trust fund, the UAW. The UAW hasn't said it would forgive any of. That the UAW has said, oh, well, you can delay your payments. But this unsustainable debt just will still be sitting there on their books. That means that they're not viable.

And then they have to do something to make themselves competitive.

Barack Obama said he wanted — his standard was—he said this once at one of his press conference a few weeks ago—that they need to be globally competitive. Globally competitive. They are so far from globally competitive —

HUME: Excuse me, aren't they making money on their sales overseas?

BARNES: They do, yes. But there they don't have a UAW. So it is quite different there.

They also need to bring down the UAW wages and benefits, the whole package, so it can be something near the transplants in the south that, you know, the foreign auto companies that are there making a lot of money, and they are globally competitive. But unless you require them to do all these things you're not going to have viable, profitable firms that are worth investing in.

Let me just say one more thing —

HUME: Go ahead.

BARNES: A great question by Bob Corker last week at the hearings was how come the company that owned you, he asked Chrysler, how come the company that owns you, Cerberus, a private equity firm, how come they don't invest this $7 billion your company?

He didn't answer it, but you know what the answer is? They think Chrysler is not a good investment, it's a dog. Now they want the government to do it instead.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Part of becoming globally competitive is not just — the current wages for people starting at U.S. auto companies are the same as all those U.S. workers who work for the foreign companies in Tennessee and Kentucky. But it's the people who have seniority there, that is going to be the target. If the auto companies are going to get in line with all these other foreign companies they are going to have to cut their wages to those people —

HUME: Are you hearing anything from the Pelosis or the Franks or the auto industry or the union that suggests they are willing to really tackle that?

LIASSON: Well, they will have to.

Part of this deal is there is going to be a car czar. There is going to be some oversight to make sure they make changes. They are going to have to present a plan. The plan is due in different pieces, but the big final bit of it is due on March 31st.

I think the biggest thing that happened was that Nancy Pelosi moved. Originally, remember, she didn't want to take money out of the energy bill.

HUME: But they are claiming it will be paid back very quickly.

LIASSON: That's what she says, but the point is that the White House insisted that money out of the big pot of bailout money not be used for the auto companies, and it's not.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think everybody knows the end point here has to be a radical restructuring. The most radical would be if it goes into Chapter 11 and the judge does it, all the contracts are dissolved, and he has got complete control.

What I think is happening here is what they're trying to create is a glide path into that or the equivalent of that. You are never going to get a Democratic Congress imposing reduction in wages of UAW workers.

But you might get, and what I think is being negotiated here, is a temporary loan and the appointment of one-person by the executive, by the president, who would have the authority to declare that the companies are not serious about restructuring and recall the loan, which immediately puts all of them into bankruptcy, into chapter 11.

So if he has that power, then he has all of the leverage you would want over —

HUME: And this would be someone named by the Bush administration and whose job, whose term would carry over into the next administration?

KRAUTHAMMER: The tenure would go into the next administration. But the question is does he or she have that power, and if he does — or she does, then he has the power to impose, or at least to call in the stakeholders, that is, the unions, the management, the dealers, the bond holders, and the suppliers.

HUME: Do you think this will happen?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it's going to happen because nobody is going to let the companies die over Christmas.

LIASSON: This is going to happen. This bridge loan is going to happen.

BARNES: That will. But the car czar, whether or not they will give the car czar that much power or not, I don't know.

I have a nominee: Phil Gramm!

HUME: One senses the Obama administration might not accept him.

BARNES: They have to.

HUME: What about Obama's campaign promises about closing Guantanamo Bay? We have some news to discuss that in light of, and that's next.



QUESTION: Is it still possible to close Guantanamo Bay? Is it something that you would recommend to President-elect Obama?

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it is possible to close it. I think it does require a joint effort with the congress. I think some legislation, probably, is needed as a part of it.


HUME: Well, that is presumably because the legislation would be needed to set up some other place to hold the defendants and captives who are being held now at Guantanamo Bay, where it's worth noting five 9/11 defendants today decided that what they wanted to do was plead guilty, led by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and face the possible death penalty, suggesting perhaps to some that there are some dangerous people being held at Guantanamo Bay.

So, Charles, where does this issue now stand?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, regarding the plea by Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his brothers, I have always had a theory about the jihadist — if he says he wants to die, I would extend the hand of friendship and help him achieve his end.

I wish the judge had accepted his plea. It looks like it will perhaps be punted and put off and perhaps end up in the Obama administration, at which time the military courts will be abolished so it will be moot.

But if he wants to put a plea of guilty, I would let him do it. I'd sentence him to death. We don't hang people anymore. I would put him away for life and let him have eight minutes of exercise a day, and that's it.

Look, the nice thing about rotation of power in a democracy is now all of the critics who have been whining and complaining and worrying about human rights who have attacked Guantanamo now own the war and own the 250 miscreants inside of it, and they are obviously understanding, the Obama people, what a terrible issue it is.

There are a lot of people in here like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who will likely be impossible to convict because of the way evidence was obtained. And, yet, you obviously wouldn't ever have them walking the streets.

We're going to have to have a law which is going to allow indefinite detention, and it is going to be Democrats who will actually have to craft it. I think that's poetic justice.

LIASSON: This is one of the Barack Obama's campaign promises that I think is going to take — it's going to be the hardest to fulfill, and it will probably take him longer than almost any other one.

It is no easy matter to figure, number one, where to put these people. You can't send them back to their own countries because they will get tortured there, and that's what this whole issue is supposedly about.

He has to figure out how to try them. If he doesn't want a military tribunals, what does he want? Where do you hold them in the meantime if you are going to close Guantanamo?

This is a really messy, difficult set of problems. The closing of Guantanamo was supposed to be a great symbolic gesture to say something about American values. It's going to be pretty hard to do that.

BARNES: It was always a phony issue since they are treated better there than people are in prisons almost anywhere else in the world.

Just take these five guys, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other four who have pleaded guilty. They say they are confessing and they want to be executed.

But in the short run, look what they have done, whether they intended this or not. So what is the issue involving them right now?

It's not the 3,000 people they killed in the World Trade Center and all the other killings that they may have been a part of it. What is it is, oh, should we execute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed because he was waterboarded? He was tortured. And so that becomes the issue.

The other issue is whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed coerced the others into making these guilty pleas as well.

So all the worrying now is about these poor terrorists, you know. They were tortured, and some were coerced, and so on.

HUME: But he's coming forward now.

BARNES: I know. So the best thing to do now is accept the guilty pleas immediately and execute them tomorrow.

HUME: And what about Guantanamo? What do you do with it?

BARNES: We'll deal with that later. But you get rid of these five. They're the high-value targets. Get rid of them.

Remember everybody said you will make Saddam Hussein a martyr if he is executed. Didn't happen. Won't happen with these guys either.


BARNES: So execute them. They want to be executed.

HUME: So then —

BARNES: Guantanamo will be hard. You have to pass new laws. As Charles says, you have to pass a permanent detention law in the case of some of these guys.

HUME: And is Congress ready to do that, Mara?

LIASSON: I don't think they're ready to do that right now. They will have to figure out how to do it and where to put them in the meantime.

KRAUTHAMMER: We kept hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Germans imprisoned in America in the Second World War. We ought to do exactly the same and craft laws that will allow us to do that with these terrorists.

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