This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 8, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER II, (D) MISSOURI: The United States is the nation still swimming in delusions. And that must change.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, (R) FLORIDA: They don't want to see the reality of Castro's Cuba, which is denial of human rights, denial of freedom, and denial of basic freedoms that we take for granted here in this great country.


BAIER: Well, two different takes of the trip of some members of the Congressional Black Caucus to Cuba to meet the Castro brothers.

In that trip, Representative Laura Richardson, Democrat from California, said of Fidel Castro, a meeting with him, "He looked directly into our eyes, quite aware of what was happening, and said to us "How can we help? How can we help President Obama?""

Let's bring in our panel — Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and Jim VandeHei, executive editor of Politico, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Charles, your thoughts?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This delegation, some of whom came back and talked about freedom of speech in Cuba, are in a long line going back 90 years of political pilgrims who have gone over to communist countries and returned with statements like "I have gone over into the future, and it works."

Lenin called them "useful idiots," and they remain useful idiots.

The policy issue, I think, is an interesting one. In the cold war, Cuba was a threat. It was an outpost of the Soviet Empire, and it was important.

With the Soviet Empire disappeared, it's an anachronism. It's a relic. It's not important.

So I think our policy ought to be driven not by national security, because it's not really at stake with Cuba anymore, but by humanitarianism. What policy would be the most likely to relieve these Cubans of the oppression that they have lived under for 50 years?

You can argue that it's retaining the embargo as the Castros age and die, because it's an opportune time to squeeze the regime, or you can argue openness, as happened with Helsinki.

I'm an agnostic on this. I think whatever works, I would do. It's not an issue of national security, really, anymore.


JIM VANDEHEI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "POLITICO": I think what's interesting is the question was raised "How can I help Obama?" that Castro saying. One way to help him would be to not have your brother put out a statement that this delegation came in and said that the American public is racist. The members deny that, but that's the big story today.

Another thing is to have these members not go over to Cuba and come back and praise Fidel Castro. What they already have set in motion is you have a president who has already said he is going to let Cuban-Americans send more money home, visit their family there more often.

He's definitely not said he's going to lift the trade embargo, but they have a much better environment. And I think it only hurts their cause when they have these statements and these storied and this focus coming out of the travel.

BAIER: Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Charles had it exactly right in using the word "Helsinki."

That's long ago, but what the Helsinki process was, that we forced open eastern Europe to visitors, to diplomats, to businesses, and all that, to spies, and we helped bring down the Soviet Empire from within by fostering organizations like Solidarity, the trade union in Poland, and so on.

That's what we ought to do now with Cuba. Cuba is not what it was during the Soviet era. As Charles said, it may have made sense to boycott them and try to bring them down when the Soviet Union existed. It doesn't make any sense now.

And credulous lefties there who were there are doing Obama no good, as Jim says. But there are lots of other people who are sensible who are also in favor of changing the Cuban policy, including Richard Lugar, Republican from Indiana.

And so Obama does not want to recognize Cuba right now. What he wants to do, I think very cleverly, is open up travel to Cuban-Americans. And Cuban-Americans have been the barrier to changing policy in Cuba; their hostility and the Florida vote.

So now he will let some of them travel and they will change the atmosphere and eventually we'll change the policy.

BAIER: But as far as changing the embargo, this administration you don't think is going to go down that road?

KONDRACKE: Well, they want to go in that direction eventually. Fidel will die soon, one expects—


KONDRACKE: Well, he's already out of office, and there has already been some movement and change. The Europeans are already in there. We may as well get in there, too.

VANDEHEI: They're not going to move in that direction, but clearly now the politics allow for it. By Obama being able to win Florida, lost the Cuban vote I think at about 35 percent. But it now is there. They at least have the potential.

And I think that's why I think all of us are talking about what happened with this trip, it only sets their efforts back.

KRAUTHAMMER: The one argument for retaining the embargo is to preserve Cuba as a tropical museum of communism, because when we tell our children what half the world lived under in our day, they won't believe us.

That was an attempt at anticommunist humor. It's feeble and, I'm sure, anachronistic, but it's all I've got.

BAIER: But the consensus on this panel is that this group did not help the Obama administration?


KRAUTHAMMER: Or themselves.

BAIER: President Obama could soon remove protections from medical professionals who do not want to perform abortions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I am faced with the choice between losing my job or being forced to perform an abortion, I will leave the practice of medicine.


BAIER: We'll talk about the reaction to the possible repeal of the conscience clause when we come back.



DR. DAVID STEVENS, CHRISTIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Rescinding these regulations is also dangerous for patients. They may soon find a sign hanging on the door of their doctor's office or their hospital stating "Out of business, wouldn't do abortions."

JUDY WAXMAN, NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER: There are numerous laws on the books that strike a balance between the conscience of the provider and the patient's needs.


BAIER: Well, apparently the administration of President Obama has not yet decided on whether to repeal the conscience clause.

And what is that? That is a heightened regulation for medical providers who choose not to perform certain procedures like abortion based on a moral objection.

We're back with our panel-Mort?

KONDRACKE: Well, look, that woman from the Women's National Law Center is exactly right. There are laws on the books dating back to the 1970's which protect healthcare providers who do not want to participate in abortions — nurses, doctors, and so on.

Somehow, these regulations were not enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Bush administration.

So at the very end, right before Obama came into office, the Bush administration signed this regulation, which goes far beyond those protections, and allows health workers to even deny information to people who might need a service like an abortion or contraceptive services or stuff like that, and protects them against refusals to provide that kind of service.

BAIER: And it calls on medical schools and employer's to certify compliance with this regulation.

KONDRACKE: Yes. It's very onerous —

BAIER: That's onerous?

KONDRACKE: Yes, of course — a lot of red tape and form filling out and all that kind of stuff.

George Bush was giving a gift to the far right in doing this, and he wanted to embarrass the Obama administration. So Obama is now rescinding it.

I think that there is a good argument to be made for revisiting the law and deciding what it should say and writing a new law on the subject and not just doing this batting back and forth with regulations.

VANDEHEI: One, this shouldn't be a shocker to anyone that he is going to rescind it.

I think they have made it clear that you are going from having a president who was an evangelical Christian conservative who was against abortion to having a president who is pro choice and who, I think, we're seeing now is conventionally pretty liberal on social issues.

BAIER: But what about those doctors points, who say "Listen, I have a choice to make here, and I'm going to leave the profession if you force me into this corner"?

VANDEHEI: Right. But, again, those protections have been there since 1970.

And there is no doubt that you have to find some kind of middle ground here where a doctor if you're against abortion you shouldn't have to provide an abortion, but if you want to get an abortion and it's legal, you certainly are going to have access to someone who can provide that medical procedure.

And I think finding the middle, I think Mort is probably right, that the regulation, the way it was written, I think the fact that it was not done until December when Bush was heading out of office was designed to put pressure on Obama and is probably overly onerous.

And I think what the Obama administration will say is they are trying to find a happy middle ground. The happy middle ground is probably going to be just pulling the thing away.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, let's do a thought experiment. Imagine that you had a pill that would reverse homosexuality. Imagine it existed, it were approved, and you had a pharmacist who said "I will not prescribe it because it implies it's a disease and I don't want to be a part of that."

What would you say to him? I would support him. I think people on the left would.

But if you have a pharmacist who says I won't do that with a morning after pill or a contraceptive, there is less sympathy on the left.

What I think you've got here is a matter not of principle but of policy. I don't understand why you cannot have a set of regulations in which where on the one hand you protect the provider who has a conscientious objection against the procedure and say he or she doesn't have to participate or give information, and have other regulations which were to ensure that if that were to happen, a patient would have access to a provider who feels differently and would provide regulation.

Our problem here is that the abortion issue is a poisonous issue, as we see in our Supreme Court nominations, and whatever it touches, it makes into a partisan issue that it is impossible to find a compromise.

There is a reasonable compromise here, and I hope it's found. I'm not sure the Obama administration is going to find it or support that reasonable compromise.

BAIER: So do they rescind this regulation?

KRAUTHAMMER: They will, and I'm not sure if anything will replace it. And I hope something will.

KONDRACKE: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had a statement which sort of triggered the Bush administration, which said "Physicians and other healthcare providers have a duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers if they do not feel that they can in conscience provide the reproductive services that they request."

I mean, that's the kind of policy that ought to be instituted.

BAIER: OK, that's it for our panel. Make sure to check on our online show right after this show. There it is. Log on.

And stay tuned to see the lengths some people go to praise public officials.


BAIER: Finally tonight, President Obama, of course, just returned from his overseas trip, and many media outlets reported that the Europeans fell in love with the first couple.

But apparently some folks in Great Britain love their own leader, and are going out of their way to make sure he knows it. This is a real phone call.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this the police?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to speak to the prime minister just to give him good wishes and say he's my type of chap.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, but we haven't got that telephone number.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do I get a hold of him, then?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to try and get in contact with the prime minister's office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, can you give me that number?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't got their number.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't got it either.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. This is an emergency number.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this is an emergency. This is absolutely an emergency line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry, but I can actually help you on the emergency line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't seem to be able to help me on anything, do you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, bye-bye.



BAIER: That's it for this "Special Report," straightforward news in uncertain times.

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