This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Americans are making hard choices in their budgets, and we have to tighten our belts in Washington as well.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'll let the organizers of whatever these are speak to their motivations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not happy with the stimulus. We're not happy with the earmarks. We're not happy with this runaway spending.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message is stop spending and don't bankrupt the country!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think any president of the United States' first prerequisite should be a business owner. If he doesn't know how to run a business, how can he run our country?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: A little flavor of the day as all of these tea parties, hundreds of them around the country, kick off. The president talks about his tax policy today.
What about all of this? Let's bring in our panel tonight, Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of "The Washington Times," Mara Liasson, national political correspondent National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Jeff, let's start with you about these tea parties. Some were better attended than others, but clearly it did make a statement that they were all, and there could be 750 of them when we add them as we look at pictures from around the country of all the people that came out today.
What about these tea parties and the message they send?
JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, I think it's very clear that the conservative movement is alive and well, and in every part of the country — as you say, thousands of Americans participating in hundreds of these tea parties.
In addition, the political right seems as adept, if not more adept, at using social networking, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, to use the Internet to have these net roots sort of organizations. These people turned out because of organizations that were plied online.
The question, I think, is, will this be turned from a group of angry people about the size of government and taxation into an electoral movement?
Is this the beginning, the sprouting of a rejuvenation of the Republican Party, which has really been battered about the face and arms for the last two election cycles, or is this is a movement that is outside of normal politics? Might this be the start of a third party movement, or is it something that is just enough to release anger on tax day?
That question has not been answered.
BAIER: To hear people talk at these different spots, they were insisting that it wasn't about Republican and Democrat, it was about the issue of less taxes and less spending — Mara?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, you know, I think if the Republican Party is smart and skillful, it will try to co-opt some of this energy.
All of these tools which the Obama campaign used to very great effect, the social networking tools and kind of creating what seemed like a movement but now is right under the umbrella of the Democratic National Committee, the Republicans would be lucky if they could channel some of this energy.
Which is not just an anti-tax energy, because at the White House today, they went — President Obama had an event, and there was a lot of effort made to get out the message that President Obama hasn't raised taxes on most of the people outside if they're earning less than $250,000 a year. Instead he has actually cut their taxes. But I think what a lot of those people at the tea parties were talking about wasn't just taxes. It was about spending. It was about earmarks. It was about all the things that Republicans don't like about the Obama agenda.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't think it's a movement. It's a protest. And it's a reaction to the fairly radical social agenda that Obama has unveiled ever since his inauguration.
But I would remind the people at the parties that, unlike the original tea party, this one is taxation with representation. Obama was elected by the American people — against my sage advice, I would add, but no one listens to me — and his program was pretty open. It was not him.
They elected a Democratic majority, large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and what they have as a result is a government that is ready to use the tax code to confiscate as much of your earnings as it can.
Now, the process is legitimate, I think, in terms of the substance. I agree with the protest against the stimulus and the pork, but I disagree on the bailouts. Paulson and Bernanke are not socialists, and they are the other ones who invented the TARP. And Summers and the Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, are not socialists either. That's required to keep the economy working, and I think it has had some success. But I think what they are anticipating is an explosion of spending, which is coming, as announced by the programs that Obama has spelled out. And it's good that the elites know that there is a constituency strong and energetic ready to oppose it, if not Republican, conservative at least.
BAIER: So does this send a message, Jeff, that it's going to be tough to get any more bailout money from Congress in this environment?
BIRNBAUM: I think there was no question about that beforehand, but yes. It's quite clear there is going to be no more bailout money for banks, and there's going to be no tax increases. I think President Obama had agreed to that already. But this kind of pressure, especially, my guess is, mostly on Republican members of Congress, indicates there will be no votes for raising taxes until the economy begins to turn upward again. And then it may have to come in a flood, because there's such a huge need for more revenue given the size of the spending so far.
LIASSON: And that's going to make it much harder for him to find money to pay for healthcare and other big things that he wants to do.
BAIER: There appears to be movement between the U.S. and Iran regarding talks about its nuclear program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT WOOD, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We took a fundamental decision, a strategic decision to reach out and directly engage Iran. And we're going to engage them on issues where we disagree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So where will it lead, and what's the latest with North Korea? The panel weighs in on all of that after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will continue to work with our allies to make it clear that Iran cannot continue to pursue nuclear weapons. We will stand behind the sanctions that have already been implemented, and we will look for new ways to extend collective action vis- a-vis Iran's nuclear program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The secretary of state talking about the latest with Iran, as there are talks about negotiations, possibly without forcing Iran to suspend its enrichment program as they sit at the table.
So what about this? We're back with the panel — Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Iran cannot continue to pursue nukes. Of course it can. Of course it is, and of course it will. It has gotten a huge concession from the Obama administration, which is we are now willing to engage in direct talks without the precondition of suspension of uranium, which means, and of course Iran likes this, because it means it can engage in endless negotiations while it continues to enrich, meaning as it gets daily closer to acquiring a nuke.
So it's completely in its interest, and the president of Iran said today to a rally that the west and the United States is reaching out to him out of weakness, and we certainly are.
It's in Iran's interest, of course, to engage in negotiations and to drag it out. And the reason is the only stick on the horizon is an Israeli attack, and Israel would not attack Iran while the U.S., its patron, is in negotiations with Iran.
So it's in its interests to stay in negotiations, enrich, achieve a nuke, and leave the Israelis helpless on the sidelines.
BAIER: What's the administration's take here?
LIASSON: Look, I think that president Obama promised in the campaign to talk to Iran without preconditions, and he certainly is doing that, although the condition of suspending uranium enrichment was something that the Bush administration actually briefly suspended, kind of almost as a experiment to see if it would get them anywhere, and it didn't.
But I agree with Charles. Iran could use this as a way to run out the clock, continuing to move forward towards a nuclear weapons while talking to the U.S.
I would hesitate to disagree with anything Charles says about Israel, but why would Israel, if they felt they were in mortal peril and existential peril, let the negotiations stand in the way of an attack on their nuclear site?
KRAUTHAMMER: Because the risks of a breach with the United States are enormous. Israel's security and existence depends on a relationship.
LIASSON: They have to have some kind of an agreement.
KRAUTHAMMER: They would have to have a green light, and the U.S. is not even going to give a yellow light when it is engaged in negotiations.
BIRNBAUM: I wonder about that. I think this is one of the examples of learning by Barack Obama. Even his opponents believe that he learns from experience.
And I think that he may go down this road of negotiation. And if he sees that he is being played as the fool, he has Israel as an ally who he can wink and nod and allow them to attack Iran.
I think that he proved himself to be a lot tougher than his critics were giving him credit for on the high seas, allowing — freeing Captain Phillips.
BAIER: You give that credit to President Obama?
BIRNBAUM: I think that he gave the kill order, that he was behind the scenes watching it carefully, and allowed it to happen. Now, the —
BAIER: What else was he going to do?
BIRNBAUM: Well, he might not have allowed to happen. He might not have paid attention. And he's, I think, given a lot of credit, and I bet his poll ratings will rise because the White House was smart enough to get credit for President Obama on this.
And being tough is something that all chief executives eventually get no matter where they start when they're president.
BAIER: Quickly, Charles, let's talk about North Korea. The statement came out of the U.N. Security Council, for what it was. The U.N. then moved forward, and North Korea kicked out U.N. monitors and U.S. personnel. Now what?
KRAUTHAMMER: North Korea is using this as an excuse to take away everything the Bush administration had gained, start all over again with the Obama administration, and sell each of those concessions, closing reactors and sealing it and having inspectors, a second time.
It's selling the rug over and over again, and it will succeed in selling it two, three, four, five times.
BAIER: And, Mara, quickly, they're just asking them to return to the table.
LIASSON: Yes, that's all they're asking them to do. So far President Obama, as popular as he is around the world, has yet to find the leverage to get these countries to do what he wants them to do.
BAIER: Please go online with "Special Report" right after this broadcast. As you know from previous weeks, it's a live, interactive show. We will have more from this panel and others on the hottest political stories of the day.
Most importantly, we react to your questions and comments. Link up to us at Foxnews.com/sronline.
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