Roundtable on Bush and the Economy

Roundtable on Bush and the Economy

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - December 17, 2008


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I will be known as somebody who saw a problem and put the chips on the table to prevent the economy from collapsing.

I'm a free market guy, but I'm not going to let this economy crater, in order to preserve the free market system.

BAIER: Would letting one of the big three automakers go to bankruptcy be a big mark on your legacy.

BUSH: I'm looking at all options. Disorganizing failure, a disorderly bankruptcy could cause great harm to the economy. And that concerns me.

And the other point is I am not interested in really putting good money after bad.


BAIER: That's President Bush today talking about the auto bailout. I tried to press him about when that may come from the administration. I said "This week?" And he said "relatively soon."

This comes as Chrysler has announced that it is shutting down all plants for one month. But we're getting word that Chrysler UAW employees will receive 95 percent of hourly wages and benefits during the plant shutdown.

Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," FOX News contributors all.

Fred, you heard the president. What'd you think?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": On the auto bail out, it sounded like he agrees with Senator Bob Corker and Senate Republican who would try to do what a bankruptcy judge might do, but you wouldn't have a bankruptcy. And you would not have a disorganized failure or a disorganized bankruptcy.

There would be things that would be required of the auto companies and the United Autoworkers that is a part of accepting the package of money that the White House as pretty much said they are going to get some time--they would not give you an answer, but sometime between now and the first of the year.

And then he said he did not want to throw good money after bad. I think that means they have to have a plan that will make these companies profitable at some point.

BAIER: Do you expect it this week, Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I would expect it pretty soon. He certainly suggested that. But I don't think that he's going to let these companies go bankrupt.

I agree with Fred. He does not want to throw good money after bad, as he said, and he wants to put some conditions on it. But, as Dick Cheney said, he does not want to be known as the Herbert Hoover of this economy.

And he said to you, "I am a free-market guy, but I am not going to let the economy crater just in order to preserve this ideology of a free market system." In other words, he is trying to save the free market system by not having the economy collapse.

This is really, really difficult, and a lot of the stuff that the administration is doing isn't working yet.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": I was fascinated by the counting of how he developed this reactionary. He was told by Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke that this depression could be worse than the Great Depression. And that really caused him to act.

And he has not been Herbert Hoover-like, I the sense of what Herbert Hoover did was to raise taxes and impose tariffs, thereby making the problem worse. What Bush has done is to move big. I mean, they have thrown $8 trillion into the economy in loans, guarantees, and actual money.

But, you know, Bush said, "How did we get into this whole mess? We're an overleveraged society." America is over-leveraged.

Guess what is the biggest overleveraging of all is, meaning going in debt? Bush raised the national debt from $5 trillion to $10 trillion on his watch, passed a Medicare prescription drug benefit that will cost trillions of dollars over time, none of it paid for.

So he is the great over-leverager.

BARNES: Mort, you have written that he caused the whole overleveraging by everybody else.


KONDRACKE: I think he inspired it.

BARNES: Who has said when I say Bush sign that Medicare drug benefit year, I knew that we were leveraged only 25 to one and we could go to 30 to one? Who has ever said that? What's the empirical evidence for that?


KONDRACKE: The president sets the tone of what other people do. And if he says deficits don't matter-

BARNES: He didn't say that.

KONDRACKE: Cheney did.

BARNES: All right, but Bush?

KONDRACKE: That was clearly the policy of the government.

BAIER: Clearly, the president is making the case that he is putting ideology aside here and doing whatever it takes to prevent this economy from collapsing.

LIASSON: His legacy I think the biggest part will be Iraq. And if Iraq is stable, over the long run that will help his legacy.

But right now, he is presiding over the worst economic crisis, maybe even worse than the Great Depression. And the thing that's striking when you talk to people is they do not know if the things they are doing will actually work or not.

BAIER: Worse than the Great Depression?

LIASSON: It could be, maybe. We do not know yet. The bottom is not in sight, and, you know, so far banks are not lending. And that's what all this money was supposed to get--

BARNES: Right now it is not even as bad as the 1981-82 recession. But you're right about one thing--all of this money that was put out there, $8 trillion, and the results are pretty meager so far.

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