Panel on Geithner, Dinner w/Obama

Panel on Geithner, Dinner w/Obama

Special Report With Bret Baier - January 14, 2009


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Is this an embarrassment for him? Yes. He said so himself. But it was an innocent mistake, a mistake that is commonly made for people who are working internationally or for international institutions. It has been corrected. He paid the penalties.

And, as I have said before, if my criteria, whether it was for cabinet secretary or vice presidents or presidents, or reporters, was that if you never made a mistake in your life, none of us would be employed.


BAIER: There you see President-elect Obama today defending his nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, and the mistake he said that he made dismissing concerns about Geithner's four year failure to pay self-employment taxes.

Now Geithner's confirmation hearing has been postponed as lawmakers, senators, look into this issue.

How serious is this, and what about other problems facing the president elect before he is sworn in? Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Fred, we talked about it last night. It gained steam today, and the president-elect weighed in. Your thoughts?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": If this was a common mistake made by Geithner, you would have thought a guy as smart of he is would have heard about it, common mistake, not have made it. But he did.

And the only problem he has--look, I don't think Democrats in the Senate are going to do anything to embarrass their new president Barack Obama. And there are 58 -- I guess there are not 59 of them yet, there may be. And a number of Republicans are for Geithner as well.

But there is a period here between now and next Wednesday, and if there is -- if the complaints of some Republicans rally a public outcry against Geithner as Treasury Secretary, the guy who will be in charge of the IRS, then that could change.

Is it likely? No.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Absolutely. I think it's going to go away.

There are enough Republicans who are coming out and saying this is minor that I think that it's going to dominate the vote. I mean, all the Democrats are going to vote for him, and you've got Senator Bennett, Senator Graham, Senator Ensign, you know, Senator Hatch, one after the other is coming out in favor of Geithner. So I think this is going to go away.

I think the most important thing that has happened on the Obama front was his convincing the Democrats yesterday that they should go ahead with the TARP money, the $350 billion second tranche of TARP.

I mean, this was a major breakthrough for him. He said he vetoed their rejection of it, if they came up with it, and they all swooned and fell in line.

I think the most interesting thing that he has done is to have dinner with Charles and a bunch of other conservative columnists.

BAIER: What a transition, Mort?

The President-elect reaching out to conservative columnists, and we understand that Charles Krauthammer was there. Were you, in fact, there?


BAIER: OK, that's all we get out of you?

KRAUTHAMMER: That's all. It was all off the record, so if I tell you more, I have to shoot you.

BAIER: It was at George Will's house, and I saw our friends at "The Politico" called it a dinner and said "The silence of the lamb chops" because no one is talking about it. But what can you say about it?

KRAUTHAMMER: What is interesting is the fact that he would want to do this. And you see that since his election he has kind of reached out to people that may not be ideological allies, to Rick Warren, the pastor who will be at his inaugural, to John McCain, whom he has treated with a lot of dignity and respect, and to a bunch of right wing columnists last night, in part, because I think he is a guy who is intellectually curious and wants to exchange ideas, but also in part he wants to co-opt the vast right wing conspiracy.

And I'm here to tell you that, speaking for myself, he has succeeded. I am brainwashed entirely. I'm in the tank, and I am a believer of hope and change and, above all, audacity.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Look, this is the easy stuff, to have dinner with Charles and Bill Kristol, and so on, and invite Rick Warren, and so on.

When you're a president, you are accountable. You have policies. You make decisions. You anger people, and I suspect he will anger a lot more conservatives than liberals.

BAIER: Charles, let me ask you one question. The speed bump question--before he gets sworn in--Geithner, the consensus here is that it's not a big issue. What about other things, the TARP funds?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think he will get the TARP, a, because the country needs it, the banks are in trouble. Citicorp looks as if it may actually collapse. He will have to have the money.

And, secondly, for political reasons. The Democrats in Congress don't want to embarrass him and to force a veto. So it will probably pass it before Inauguration Day, so it happens on Bush's watch.

KONDRACKE: Besides having dinner with conservative columnists, he also had dinner with a bunch of liberal columnists. I'm here to invite President-elect Obama to have dinner at my house with a gaggle of moderate columnists anytime he wants. And I will form a group.

And I will invite Fred, who was rudely not invited to the conservative group last night.

Special Report With Bret Baier


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