This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from July 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Just the other day, one Republican senator said — and I 'm quoting him now — "If we are able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
Think about that. This is not about me. This is not about politics. It is a health care system that is breaking America's families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The senator he is talking about there, Jim DeMint from South Carolina, who released a statement and said "We can give every American access to a health plan they can own, afford, and keep without a government takeover," responding to the president's comment there about his statement.
The president making a full out push for health care reform to pass on Capitol Hill as polls are slipping. The latest poll coming out from the "Washington Post" and ABC News shows that the president's approval on how he is handling health care has slipped — 49 percent approved, 44 percent disapprove.
Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune magazine, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Fred, the president goes out on Wednesday for a news conference where he will be talking all about health care. Tonight he has said that the August recess deadline will likely slip in an interview, which we knew.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes.
BAIER: What about this health care reform legislation and where it stands?
BARNES: Well, look, he is in a lot of trouble. And they talk about at the White House, the president, it's the big new push. The president will be leading it.
It's not as if he has been hiding his light under a bushel. He has been out there talking about health care all the time as these numbers have been sinking, his personal numbers sinking, everything to do with President Obama's agenda is sinking.
And so I don't think a personal push by him, a press conference, or anything else is going to help, because it turns out that President Obama, while a great and smooth and gifted speaker, is not particularly persuasive.
He goes out and talks on an issue, and the numbers don't change. They don't go up, and I don't think they will at a press conference this time either, mainly because there is just so much wrong with this bill, and there is no huge outcry on the public demanding this. There is no groundswell around America saying we have to get President Obama's reform bill passed, not at all.
So I think it will come down to one thing if he gets this passed. He will have to do it the crude and rough and raw political way of handing out goodies to people the way they got cap and trade through the House a couple of weeks ago. You know, you promise people this appropriation in their district or you promise them this advance seat on some committee.
And there are lots of things that Congressional leaders and particularly presidents can do and offer. And I think that's the only hope for health care reform.
NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: He's going to have to do something like that, because I think right now they are asking Democrats to take a lot of dangerous votes.
I think the idea was let's ram something through the House and ram something through the Senate. It's not perfect, but we'll iron it out in committee, rather than starting from a good starting point, which would be something that actually controlled health care costs.
They went in, let Congress design something that expands coverage, expands costs, and there's really no systemic way of controlling costs. There are just a few attempts in any of this legislation.
This is also an economic risk for him, I think, because you talk to people in — economists, people on Wall Street. They say he has got one bite at this. This is something that affects the entire economy.
And investors in America, and in American debt, are looking at this. Is he going to be able to contain these costs that are going to bring down the budget long term? Can he do this? And they have not shown any evidence yet that they can.
BAIER: And the Congressional Budget Office dealt a big blow when they came out with their assessment.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What happened with that assessment is that we went from the level of rhetoric to reality.
As long as it was on a rhetorical level, Obama had high numbers on this because he promised the impossible — expanded coverage, less cost. And he made it sound doable and wonderful. Of course, it is if it could be done.
The minute it entered into language and legislation, it became obvious that it can't happen.
What's interesting is how the legislation itself is dying of the cuts of a thousand deaths by Democrats. All of those numbers are coming out in Democratic bills and Democratic hearings. the rebellion among the Democratic blue dogs who do not want to destroy the budget.
And because of that, I'm a little bit worried about Michael Steele who's head of the RNC, taking on the president of the rhetorical level with a speech he made in which he said "Slow down, Mr. President."
BAIER: Yes, let's take a listen to that. We have a sound bite from Michael Steele today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEELE: He is conducting a dangerous experiment with our health care and with the quality of our lives. He is conducting a reckless experiment with our economy. And he is conducting an unnecessary experiment with our tax dollars, experiments that will transform the very way of life of our country and its citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: You don't think Republicans are playing this right?
KRAUTHAMMER: The cardinal rule in Washington is if the other guy is committing suicide, get out of the way. All of these revolts and difficulties are happening in the Democratic side of the aisle.
By entering into a one-on-one rhetorically, Steele against Obama, Obama always wins. He is the master rhetorician.
And the idea of slow down is not the best slogan, because Obama is going to be out there in Cleveland, and he's going to find Mrs. Smith in the audience who has a nine-year-old child who is not getting adequate health care, and he will say that the Republicans are saying slowdown to Mrs. Smith. This stuff writes itself.
If you want to make a slogan — "Stop Mr. President. Don't imagine that your boy geniuses in the White House, these social engineers, are going to reconstruct a sixth of the American economy and do it well."
BAIER: What about that Republican strategy here?
EASTON: And, of course, expanding coverage has always been the easy part of this. The more difficult choices are, how do you pay for it, and how do you inject some level of pro-shopper mentality into the system?
For example, reducing tax benefits on employer provided benefits. They don't want to touch that. I think the White House probably, because of union members. Others don't want to touch that, but that is a difficult — that would be a difficult decision for them to make, and it would actually be better than this millionaire surtax.
By the way, we now know that Nancy Pelosi is saying the surtax on people making $250,000, we don't want to do that. We want a millionaire surtax, because people get that.
So punishing people who make $1 million or families who make $1 million rather than trying to tie the funding to something that will actually bring down the costs in health care.
BARNES: You know we're going to hear — I think it's almost inevitable. I could be wrong, but we're going to hear a lot from President Obama attacking the critics.
His bill is hard to defend. He will attack Michael Steele, probably. He will attack the insurance companies. He'll attack Republicans. He'll attack any critics of the bill.
I mean, even Bill Kristol of the "Weekly Standard," of course, and FOX News was attacked today by Robert Gibbs at the White House for saying we ought to go ahead and kill this Obama plan.
When you get that negative, you are very desperate.
EASTON: But it is not the Obama plan. Why they let this get out of their control and didn't start from the White House, the same with the stimulus —
BARNES: It's the Obama plan.
EASTON: It's not.
BARNES: He might not have written it, but he's stuck with it.
BAIER: It is now. We'll hear more about health care during the president's news conference, of course, at 8:00 p.m. eastern on Wednesday. You can see it right here on FOX.
Up next, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets the cold shoulder over climate change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States and other countries that have been the biggest historic emitters of greenhouse gases should shoulder the biggest burden for cleaning up the environment and reducing our carbon footprint.
And certainly, President Obama has put our country on the path to doing that.
JAIRAM RAMESH, INDIAN ENVIRONMENTAL MINISTER: India's position is that we are simply not in a position to take on legally binding emission reduction targets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Secretary of State Clinton in India talking about climate change, and India essentially saying, "thanks, but no thanks" on carbon emissions caps that the U.S. is pushing for ahead of a U.N. summit on climate change later this year.
We're back with the panel — Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: This is real amateur hour. It's one thing to go around the world apologizing over and over for a country that is the most benign and the beneficent and generous in the history of the world. It is an affront to our dignity.
But more than that, in the context of India, it makes no sense at all. Our logic is that we say to the Indians, yes, for the last 100 years, we have polluted the atmosphere in order to attain a high level of standard of living and become rich.
And our demand is that you at the beginning of your development with hundreds of millions still in poverty, stop all this, give up the idea of using cheap fuels as we did, and stay poor. Now, that is a hell of an argument. It makes no sense at all.
And this administration that prides itself for its realism and not ideology, because of its ideology about the climate change, which is almost a religion, it is, as we saw disrupting our relations with our natural ally in the region.
India is the prize. It's democratic, English-speaking, rule of law, threatened by Islamic radicalism, a natural ally in the U.S., the strongest nation in the region with a real navy, army, a real military.
If we had a strong alliance with it and not disrupted because of these and absurd demands on them, which we know will not be met, we would be in a geopolitical position of great strength. So this makes no sense at all.
BAIER: Nina, India and China are always the linchpin when it comes to climate change and what their emissions will be. As you head into Copenhagen and December, what is this administration looking for out of those two countries?
EASTON: This is the problem. You have Chinese President Hu Jintao walk out of the G-8 summit conveniently right when there were talking about climate change. You had this rebuff from the Indians today.
And there is a deja vu in all this. People forget, 1997, the Senate, 95-0, not just mean old Republicans, but the entire Senate rejected the Kyoto treaty. Why? Because it did not include rising and developing countries. It just included industrialized nations.
This is the same problem that the administration is going to be running up against. If you look at the cap and trade bill that got through the House, squeezed through the House, even if all of the industrialized countries went down to zero emissions —
BAIER: No emissions at all.
EASTON: No emissions, we would not be able to meet the global targets set forth in that legislation.
You have got to have the involvement of these developing countries. And it is hard to get.
BARNES: It is hard to get for the reasons Charles said. Look, if they are choosing between getting millions of their own people out of poverty and agreeing to some emission standards, what are they going to choose? They are going to choose getting their people out of poverty.
And that's what you do. You use the cheap fuels that are available to you, which is coal and gas, and so on. Of course they are going to do that, because it makes sense. It's the right policy. It's the smart policy.
And how Secretary of State Clinton could go to India thinking that she might somehow change their minds, I do not know — maybe she did not think that, but it looks like their rejection looks to me as if it's a great embarrassment to her and the United States. I could have told them that they would be rejected by India.
And also, look — the Indians can look and see what is happening in so-called global warming, which isn't happening. The globe has not warmed in the last decade.
And expectations now — and I do not know how accurate they might be — is that it will not warm up for another 10 or 20 years, and maybe not start then.
And even if the Indians agree to these emissions standards, is going to somehow have a large impact? Of course not.
So, look, the Indians did the right thing and the inevitable thing, and she should have known better.
BAIER: Last word, Nina.
EASTON: I think it will have a domestic impact here in that I think the Senate, this is going to feed Senate resistance to cap and trade.
BAIER: So does cap and trade die in the Senate?
KRAUTHAMMER: It dies of Indian and Chinese causes.
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