'Special Report' Panel on Health Care and 9/11 Terrorist Trials in NYC

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from November 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, D-LA.: I have decided there are enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward, but much more work needs to be done.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: I don't think anybody thinks that this bill will pass as written.

SEN. BEN NELSON, D-NEB.: If the public option is wrong, if the class act is still in it, if there are a whole host of other items that are the same as they are right now, I wouldn't vote to get it off the floor.


JIM ANGLE, HOST: OK, a little sign of what's to come in the health care debate. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Well, gang, the Senate finally votes to take up health care reform, and several Democratic lawmakers who voted to put it on the table and discuss it say there's no way they could possibly vote for it as it is now written. So I suppose we're at the point where let the horse trading begin. What do you think, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think that's exactly right. It's funny but to listen to the speeches and say, look, we really need to debate this, but I don't like it, I don't want to be associated with it.

I think these are people who are worried about their constituencies, obviously, and the opposition that seems to be growing in poll after poll across the country.

What I found most interesting was the number of liberals who came out in the past couple of days and said it's possible that they would not support this bill if the public option wasn't in the final bill.

I don't believe them for a second, but it is clear they are feeling pressure from the moderates who are in a position to get whatever they want with this horse trading so that the liberals are coming out, Bernie Sanders said it, Roland Burris said it, no public option, it doesn't get my vote.


HAYES: I don't believe them either.

ANGLE: And Mara, it's kind of a Rubric's cube. You move to satisfy three or four or five moderates and you get some people on the liberal end who say, wait a minute, you can't go that far.

LIASSON: Sort of. But I don't want to dismiss the liberals' concerns. They are the majority of the caucus. They have to have their concerns in this bill.

But this bill has been moving steadily, tiny step by tiny step, to the center since it was introduced in committee, and that's the direction it is going to keep on going if it is going to get 60 votes in the United States Senate.

I think the Democrats acted like a parliamentary majority when they got this to the floor. That actually is a sign of maturity. There was a time when Democrats wouldn't even do that.

But they hung together on the procedural vote, which is what a mature majority does, and now they're going to work out the details. And there are a lot of alternatives to the public option as written by Harry Reid.

ANGLE: Which is the opt-out.

LIASSON: The opt-out, states can opt-out. There's the trigger idea of Olympia Snowe, who you're going to need if you lose Joe Lieberman, because he says he won't vote for any form of public option. There's some kind of co-ops. There's all sorts of things, and negotiations are about to start on that.

And yes, there are unbelievable hurdles, and this a real minefield ahead of them, but, in the end, I think they will pass something.

ANGLE: If the horse trading is beginning, Charles, then hundreds of millions of dollars should be on the table.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Literally. We saw Senator Landrieu say, "I decided there were enough significant reforms." Well, one reform that she really appreciated was a $300 million payoff to her state in the bill that was shoved in there as a way to purchase her vote. So that is a reform she could admire.

The reason I think there continues to be erosion of public support for this is there is a realization that that is just one of hundreds of provisions, loopholes, payoffs, extra bureaucratic commissions, mandates stuffed into a monstrously large bill that most people don't even know about. But there is the sense that we have had ever since the middle of the year that this is an attempt not to streamline our healthcare system, which is what it needs. Ours is the best in the world, but it is inefficient. There are a lot of inefficiencies accumulated over decades.

What you want is simplicity, to strip away the inefficiencies. This will add on to them and it's going to make it utterly incoherent.

Two examples, tort reform that would save thank you half a trillion dollars to $2 trillion in a decade is not in here at all. In fact, in the House bill, it's discouraged. You lose federal money if you're a state and you impose tort reform.

Second is the idea of being able to purchase your health insurance across state lines. It's a ridiculous prohibition. You buy life insurance across state lines. You buy auto insurance. You buy oranges across state lines. If you didn't, they like be extremely expensive in Wisconsin in the winter.

And the answer isn't the establishment of a public option in oranges in Wisconsin. It's allowing the competition. But the liberals won't allow competition because they want a public option as an avenue into nationalized healthcare, and the excuse is it will introduce competition.

ANGLE: Now, we were talking about the public support. You mentioned the public support. Let's look at some brand new numbers from Rasmussen, which shows that the support among the public for health care reform and tracking polls going back to June is now at its lowest point, with 38 percent in favor of the plans now on the table and 56 percent opposed. So, lawmakers, as they go back to their districts, or back to their states, are not likely to get much encouragement from the poll, the polls that we see today and the polls that we have seen recently.

LIASSON: No. Look, this is a difficult period for health care, for the president, who dipped below 50 for the first time. He didn't have a he very successful trip, at least the optics of it weren't very successful.

But I think the Democrats are pretty convinced that failing to pass health care would be worse than any poll showing public dissatisfaction with the plans as currently written.

But I just want to say something about what Charles said. Look, intellectual incoherence abounds right now, and it's bipartisan, because you have Republicans who say this bill costs too much and we're against every single cost saving that's in it. In other words, they have to become the champions of giving Medicare recipients every single penny, every single service that they want and more.

And I think that as a former doctor, you know, there are things that have to be done to save costs, and Republicans are in the weird position of saying we don't want to do those but we still think it costs too much.

KRAUTHAMMER: But the Republicans aren't writing the bill.

LIASSON: I agree.

KRAUTHAMMER: If they were I'd be as critical.

What is going to become law is utter incoherence. All of these payoffs and loopholes, 117 new commissions, regulatory bodies and mandates, like the breast cancer commission, all added on to a system which is extremely good but unbelievably inefficient.

And the obvious inefficiencies staring us in the face, and Democrats won't touch it entirely for cynical political reasons.

HAYES: One other thing to watch too is to see how many other moderates begin to speak out against — even more strongly against certain provisions in the bill, wanting to be the moderate who is quoted by the White House and may get some kind of a Mary Landrieu-esque payoff.

I think you saw the emergence today in a New York Times piece by Susan Collins who had been opposed to this kind of reform, all of a sudden out of the blue she says, well, you know, I really want to vote for some health care reform.

I want to be clear. I'm not suggesting she is doing it only for that reason, but you start to see moderates speak out more, I think there is a Landrieu effect.

KRAUTHAMMER: The bidding is open, and it starts at $300 million.


ANGLE: All right.

Will the 9/11 trials become a propaganda forum? We'll talk about that next.



SCOTT FENSTERMAKER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: As far as providing them a propaganda platform, I don't know if I would call it that, but it doesn't bother me in the least. The United States government has been demonizing these men for eight years now, has held them in custody for over six years without given them the opportunity to go to a real court.

And I have no problem with it at all and am quite proud to do it.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: They will simply use it as a platform to argue their case. They don't have a defense to speak of. It will be a place for them to stand up and spread the terrible ideology that they adhere to.


ANGLE: So there you hear the lawyer for one of the 9/11 defendants, and former Vice President Cheney. Interesting, Charles. He says the U.S. has been demonizing these men as he makes clear that the 9/11 defendants plan to use their trial to rail against U.S. policies. Who would have thought such a thing could happen?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, actually, I did, as did tens of millions of other Americans whose eyes are open. Eric Holder on this is utterly clueless. And we could see it in the Senate hearings last week in which Senator Graham asked him, he said can you give us one case in American history of an enemy combatant captured abroad who was brought to a civil civilian trial in the United States?

Eric Holder answers, "I don't know. I'll have to look at that." He doesn't know as the attorney general of the United States? And Graham cuts him short, and says, "I'll save you the time. It's never happened in American history."

This is entirely unprecedented because it makes no sense. Even FDR a Democratic liberal president, who when we had the capture of German saboteurs, actually captured on American soil, not even abroad, had them in front of a military court, a secret one. They were executed and the Supreme Court subsequently said it was the right thing to do.

The propaganda here, as we saw in that lawyer speaking, is beginning. Holder tried to say that the reason he is doing it in New York, I think he was saying, because he was almost utterly incoherent, was that he could get a conviction in New York in a civilian court.

In fact, the five defendants last year had demanded to plead to guilty and be executed in Guantanamo in front of a military tribunal, and that would have been obviously a sure thing. It would not have provided the propaganda setting that he is going to have in New York.

And that's why all of a sudden the plea has been changed. It will be not guilty, and they're going to say, of course we did it, and here's why it was an act of justice. And they are going to say it's not just like a scratchy tape out of Osama that will be on some Arab station. It will be on every station, every network, every television in the entire world.

LIASSON: It won't be videotaped.

KRAUTHAMMER: The lawyers will be out there every day. There will be a repetition of this every day. There will be witnesses who are talking about this every day.

It will be the story. As Holder himself has said, it will be the trial of the century. And the last trial of our century was O.J. Simpson. It is going to be the same deal.

ANGLE: What do you think, Mara? Obviously, the lawyers, this guy is obviously going to come out and say what he has already saying, which is these men were demonized and that U.S. policies are wrong?

LIASSON: I think we have to abide the event. There has been a lot of predictions about what this will be like, show trial, propaganda. I really wonder about that.

I think in the end it will be less of a platform. There won't be cameras in there. And I think it's going to be — and the judge will have a lot of discretion about how that courtroom is run, what they're allowed to say, how long they're allowed to talk. I think in the end it might be less of a platform than people think.

ANGLE: Steve, you are shaking your head.

HAYES: I don't agree with that. I think any time you have Dick Cheney agreeing with the defense attorney of Khalid Sheik's nephew, they're likely to be right.

There was a fascinating story back in June of 2009 about the Obama administration's attempt for consideration of a move that would have made it possible for these five 9/11 defendants to plead guilty and to be put to death immediately.

People need to understand that that is what happened here. And Charles' last point I think is the right one to make. They were prepared and said in a December 2008 proceeding at Guantanamo to plead guilty. They said that they did it, they wanted to plead guilty, and they wanted to be put to death.

We have now said to them, thanks, but no thanks. Plead not guilty, say whatever you want. The world will watch. And I think it is a travesty.

ANGLE: We're going to have some 9/11 families who are talking today on air about a big protest in New York, on December 5th. Is there anything that could change the venue at this point, or is it just the families going up there to say we think this is wrong?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it's a good way to express the feelings of the families, and of course I think the vast majority of Americans, the polls are showing that there is huge opposition. Everyone understands why this move makes no sense in terms of justice and terrible sense in terms of politics and propaganda.

But I'm afraid the administration has cast its lot on this and there is no way it is going to turn back.

ANGLE: It would be hard to see them revisiting this decision after all the flak they took.

HAYES: There are a couple of measures in Congress to get them to revisit the decision. And I think they are probably not likely to succeed. Former Vice President Cheney today says he commends those who are pushing this and encouraging people to actually speak out in the manner that these folks are planning to.

ANGLE: OK, that's it for the panel.

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