Published June 11, 2019
This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 11, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: I would rather run against I think Biden than anybody. I think he is the weakest mentally.
JOE BIDEN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a guy who does everything to separate and frighten people.
TRUMP: He looks different than he used to. He acts different than he used to. He is even slower than he used to be.
BIDEN: Four years of Donald Trump will be viewed as an aberration in American history. Eight years will fundamentally change who we are as a nation.
TRUMP: It looks like his friends from the left are going to overtake him pretty soon.
BIDEN: I believe that the president is literally an existential threat to America.
TRUMP: When he mentions my name that many times, I guess I should be complimented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: President Trump on the south lawn, Vice President Biden in Iowa. The president will be speaking in Iowa in just a short while. If you look at Iowa and the Democratic race there, the Real Clear Politics average of polls has it Joe Biden at 23.8, up about five points over Bernie Sanders. You see Mayor Pete there in third, Elizabeth Warren she polls better in a recent poll in Iowa, surging a little bit, as this early eight months out from voting in Iowa really is a long way away. But it seemed like it was one-on-one today in the back and forth.
Let's bring in our panel, Kimberley Strassel, member of the editorial board at the "The Wall Street Journal," Ben Domenech, publisher of "The Federalist," and here at the White House, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio. This is what the Biden people want, right? This is what they wanted?
LIASSON: Absolutely. This is what they want. They want people, Democrats to start imaging the matchup Biden versus Trump. That's what he wanted. He wanted to get into the president's head, and he did.
BAIER: This is not, however, what the Biden people wanted, and that is Chinese and a walk back on China May to today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They are not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They are not competition for us.
China poses real challenges to the United States and some ways a real threat to the United States. But Donald Trump is only exacerbating the threat and the danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Ben, it seemed like a clean-up on aisle four there.
BEN DOMENECH, "THE FEDERALIST": Yes, it was definitely a clean-up act. I think Biden is the candidate really in this race of normalcy and nuances. But he's up against a lot of people on the left of his flank who are more ambitious and more assertive when it comes to their approach to policy. He's going to have to deal with a lot of different issues here, but part of it is when he tries to have nuance on a foreign policy issue such as the China issue, I don't think it plays very well with an audience that has really moved on from that kind of stage of politics, something that does seem kind of pre-2008 in a lot of ways.
BAIER: Kimberley, the president says sleepy Joe, he calls him one percent Joe for getting one percent when he ran in the last Democratic primary. Your thoughts on that name, whether it is sticking, and whether it echoes back to Jeb Bush and running against him as the heir apparent back in 2015?
KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, COLUMNIST, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I know when you showed that China clip, it's a reminder, Bret, that Joe Biden has run for the presidency twice before, and we have never had a President Biden. And it's because he in his prior runs has proven himself to be a bit gaffe prone, not proven himself to be a winner with audiences. And he has a third shot now, and the question is, how does he redefine himself this time around?
Now, it helps that he spent eight years as a vice president. That gives him some standing. You can see that he is very much decided that he is running purely as an anti-Trump message. Is that going to be good enough for his progressive base out there that are going to want a lot more from their candidates than just opposition to Trump? They leave that, but they are going to want more on a policy front.
BAIER: Mara, it seems like a lot comes down to these debates as they are coming up. The debate in two weeks in Miami and then they'll be one the following month and the following month.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think the debates are really important. They are especially important for all the candidates other than Joe Biden because the ones that need some oxygen are going to get some on that debate stage. But because there is two panels for each debate, we don't know who is going to be standing next to Joe Biden. It might not be Bernie Sanders. It could be Andrew Yang. So that's a big question.
But every Democrat I talk to says what Joe Biden really needs to do is not so much create excitement in terms of policies. He needs to step up his game and start campaigning. He has missed a lot of the early forums. Now he is in Iowa. He said he is going to be coming back a lot, and that's what he has got to do.
BAIER: Although the side by side coverage today, every channel had Biden and President Trump.
LIASSON: And that's what he wanted. And whenever he goes somewhere and bashes Trump, even though it seems like a Trump-centric message for a party that says they also want to talk about the future, it gets him the coverage that he wants, and it deprives everyone else of oxygen.
BAIER: And looking at this "Des Moines Register" poll on issues, the Democrat candidates must support women's right to abortion, 79 percent. This is in Iowa. Climate change is the biggest threat, 75 percent. A ban on assault style weapons, 57 percent. You see the list there, Medicare for all. Breaking up big tech comes in the bottom of the barrel there. Green New Deal doesn't really perform that well.
DOMENECH: It's one of the things that I think is a problem for Joe Biden in this race is going to be a real challenge. The key aspect of him that I think appeals to Democratic voters is the belief that he is the strongest candidate to put up against Donald Trump. If there's any sort of aspect of him that looks like he has a glass jaw, that he is not looking like a winner, I think they could shift to a lot of people that have far more ready policy agendas and language on a lot of the different issues that you see in those polls.
A candidate like Elizabeth Warren has put a lot of effort into putting forward policy plans and a very clear agenda of how she wants to use the power of the executive to achieve those aims. If Joe Biden doesn't really look like a winner anymore, if he takes a couple hits on those debate stages, then the theory that he has as a candidate could really evaporate quickly.
BAIER: Final thing, Kimberley. The issue of impeachment obviously comes up again and again. Speaker Pelosi was asked about it today, said she wasn't talking about it today. But it is an issue that will come up on this campaign trail, and likely at that first debate.
STRASSEL: Well, and the Democratic presidential aspirants, they have a bit of a bye here, right, because they can come out, they can claim that Donald Trump has been accused of crimes. Maybe he deserves to be impeached. That's probably one place a lot of them are going to go. Much harder for Mrs. Pelosi whose members would have to take a vote on this. And this is why what we are having at the moment is a phony impeachment process where some of the members really want to go there. A lot of her members do not. They know that they will face retribution from voters. And so we are hearing a lot about it without any formal proceedings, which I really this is undercuts the importance of the impeachment process.
BAIER: All right, panel, stand by. Next up, should big tech be broken up?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have these giant tech companies that think they rule the earth. They think they can come to towns, cities, states, and bully everyone into doing what they want. It is time to break up America's tech giants.
SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that a president should be running around pointing at companies and saying breaking them up without any kind of process here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Breaking up big tech, it's going to be a big issue on the campaign trail no matter what you think about it. Republicans and Democrats really debating that on Capitol Hill today, here on the House Judiciary Committee, about newspapers. If you look at this stat about newspapers from 2004 to 2018, there you see the numbers going down there. There's an argument that social media, big tech, is affecting all of this. And there is a question about regulation and what this is all going to end up being. We are back with the panel. Ben, do you have a sense of where Congress is headed here?
DOMENECH: I think Congress is headed in a lot of the directions. But a lot of them are still trying to figure out what exactly to say. Elizabeth Warren has obviously been hammering away at this idea to break things up. But the truth is breaking up Facebook and Instagram doesn't really solve a lot of problems that actually matter to people.
One thing that is interesting is that this conversation has shifted from being esoteric debate to something that's a lot more of a kitchen table issue for a lot of Americans. I think that you see that most specifically in the actions of Missouri Senator Josh Hawley who has taken a number of steps when it comes to not just social media but other areas of Internet regulation that have gotten him a lot of criticism from more libertarian voices on the right. I do think that you are going to see some proposals come forward in the coming months that deal with regulation of tech or that attempt to push them on a number of different fronts, including privacy, including concern about child endangerment, and concerning evidence that we have that they represent a public health issue as it relates to depression, particularly among teenagers.
BAIER: That's a lot of different areas. Here is Senators Blumenthal and Thune.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: We need to be doing much more on the Senate side to hold accountable the tech industry, particularly on antitrust grounds. Right now they have been given a free pass.
SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D., SENATE MAJORITY WHIP: The FTC, the Department of Justice, they are also getting involved. And just taking a look at these companies and their dominance in the marketplace and making sure that they are not misusing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Kimberley, the FTC and the DOJ go after the issue of antitrust. Congress is now doing its own investigation on this front.
STRASSEL: Yes. Well, it's not necessarily a problem that DOJ and the FTC are going to take a look at this. I think one of the problems, though, and you heard it expressed in Senator Warren's comments the number of times she referenced big and giant -- being big and giant is not a problem, per se. That's a fundamental misreading of economic policy and antitrust policy. The question is whether or not being big in any way hurts consumers. And I think the evidence is much less so there that there is antitrust problem here.
But look, the bottom line is that the worst situation you ever want to be in as a company is when you have given both sides of the aisle a reason to be mad at you. And a lot of these big companies have done so. And so, yes, they are going to be in the targets not just for these regulators but for Congress. And I think it behooves them as a result to address some of these questions proactively before they get saddled with something instead.
BAIER: It seems, Mara, that Congress sometimes wants the black hat that everybody goes after.
LIASSON: But what's so interesting is there is a bipartisan consensus that something needs to be done, that these companies are too big, that they are invading our privacy, spreading disinformation, all sorts of things. But, as Kimberley said, it's not traditional antitrust problem in that they are hurting consumers in terms of prices. These products are mostly free. The consumers are the products. They collect data on people and they sell that. That's how it works. So there is a big consensus that something should be done but no consensus about what that should be.
BAIER: Ten seconds, panel. Are we going to see some big regulation out of Congress?
DOMENECH: I think that we are going to see a number of proposals that end up getting debated within the context of 2020. But I think that Kim's point is very good, which is that tech companies are now getting it from both sides. This is a pincer action, and in that scenario things can actually happen.
BAIER: And we'll see if Mark Zuckerberg gets his call returned from Speaker Pelosi. Panel, thank you.
When we come back, a test. What would you do in this situation? A good deed fully recognized.
BAIER: As you look at the West Wing there, and we are talking about who will sit in the Oval Office behind those doors after next year, just a reminder -- there are 237 days until the Iowa caucuses and 511 days until Election Day, 2020. We have a long way to go, folks.
Finally tonight, a random act of kindness, and a big one. When Florida woman Donna Adams was in line getting groceries, she noticed a veteran crying, unable to pay for his own groceries. So Donna, who says she has always had a soft spot in her heart for veterans, paid for that man's groceries. She didn't think she could afford the $546 bill, but she happened to have some extra money, so she did it. When her employer Legoland found out what she had done, Legoland reimbursed her, gave her an extra week of vacation and hotel accommodations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had the means to do it at that time, yes, which normally doesn't happen. I walked out of there. I had no regret, no second thoughts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Know, would you do that? That's pretty incredible. Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for the “Special Report.” Fair, balanced, and unafraid. "The Story", hosted by Martha MacCallum, starts right now. Martha.
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