Panel on the Politics of the Fiscal Cliff

By Special Report w/Bret Baier, Special Report w/Bret Baier - December 13, 2012


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 13, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R - OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: Here we are at the 11th hour and the president still isn't serious about dealing with this issue right here. It's this issue. Spending.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are you feeling about a deal? Optimistic?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Still a work in progress.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Boehner says he is waiting to hear more from you, sir.

OBAMA: Merry Christmas.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Merry Christmas.

The White House, the president invited Speaker Boehner over to the White House. They just wrapped up a meeting at the top of the show. And we're just getting a read-out. Apparently the treasury secretary was in that meeting as well. And this is the statement. "The president and the speaker had a frank meeting," love the word frank, describing the meetings, "in the Oval Office tonight. It lasted about 50 minutes. There will be no further read-out of the meeting but lines of communication remain open."

That is where we are. Back with the panel. Jonah, "lines of communication are open." What do we make of all this?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: I'm beginning to think that, you know, President Obama's position is sort of like Michael Corleone's position in "Godfather II."  "My offer is nothing." And I think that he is -- I think Charles who's been running with this for a while, I think that his real goal is to watch the Republican Party go up in flames and eat themselves alive, which so far seems to be working.

I think that what Boehner should probably do at this point is simply take the middle class tax cuts as permanent which would be a huge conservative victory. Eat it on the raising the top rates and then live to fight another day.

BAIER: A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is out if there is no compromise on the fiscal cliff, who will be more to blame. And there you see the numbers. President Obama/Democrats 19 percent. Republicans 24 percent. Equally to blame 56 percent. This goes, Chuck against the conventional wisdom that Republicans would overwhelmingly be held accountable.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I'm still trying to figure out how they're going to go up in flames while they're eating themselves alive.


That's your metaphor, Jonah, so I'll let you have that but --

BAIER: S'mores.


LANE: Exactly. A cannibalistic self-barbecue. So the equally to blame thing I have to admit I don't put stock in. If you put a poll question against people in either/or, you're forcing them to choose. I think within that 56 percent are a lot of people, according to previous polls, who think that Republicans would be more to blame. And the way I prove that is by the behavior of the president because he's looking at his own polls which I'm sure are very scientific and are showing him that he's got the upper hand politically, which is what the Republicans concede as well, and that is why he is driving this hard bargain.

The Republicans are as Jonah suggests desperately looking for a plan B. And it seems to be something like capitulate on the top rate. And then come back next, early next year when you have some leverage with the debt ceiling and try to get your spending cuts then.

BAIER: Speaking of polls, Fox News poll out today. Federal government is providing too many services, 49 percent. Too few services 20 percent. Right amount, 25 percent.

A lot of questions about spending. And people are concerned about spending. If you ask them about it, they know passing on things to their kids and their grandkids, that you can't handle $16.3 trillion in debt.

KRAUTHAMMER: But unfortunately, it seems to be an abstraction. When you offer people real cuts they generally will say no, I don't want them. I want cuts that will cut somebody else. Let me make two points on your reporting. The idea that the read-out -- that this was a frank discussion, well, frank is a word they use in diplomacy. And when it was used in the Cold War, when Kennedy would meet Khrushchev and they would announce that the meetings were frank, people would restock the bomb shelters.

So that is as cold a word as you can get. It means nothing happened and they might even have been angry. The other part of this is the progress on these negotiations. I mean I likened last night this to a tortoise 10k last night. So let me do a SportsCenter on the new developments.

The Republican tortoise has advanced a neck length. The Democratic one hasn't moved. In fact some observers think it's dead. It hasn't moved in a month. Obama is not going to move. He is not going to offer anything. Boehner is going to have to decide how he capitulates.

BAIER: OK. We will talk about this again, something tells me. That is it for the panel but stay tuned to see why some, some might be afraid to talk about entitlement reform.

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