Roundtable on Obama's Stimulus Campaign

Roundtable on Obama's Stimulus Campaign

Special Report With Bret Baier - February 9, 2009


OBAMA: I can't tell you with 100 percent certainty that every single item this plan will work exactly as we hoped. But what I can tell you is that I can say with complete confidence that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will only bring deepening disaster.

SEN. MIKE ENZI, (R) WYOMING: The federal government has maxed out its credit card. But while most Americans are wisely trimming the fat of their budgets, reexamining their spending patterns, and focusing on what is truly essential, Congress hasn't smartened up yet.


BAIER: There you see Republican senator from Wyoming Mike Enzi talking about the economic stimulus plan, and President Obama on the road today pitching this plan in Elkhart, Indiana.

The Senate has set up to vote a final vote tomorrow at noon on what is now an $838 billion economic stimulus plan.

Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard," Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau Chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times," and Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio.

Juan, you saw the president out there in Elkhart today really in a campaign-style event pitching this plan. Is it working?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it is working, if you look at the polls right now. His ratings are just terrific. He's close to 70 percent in terms of favorability rating.

If you look at the rating of congressional Democrats right now, it's about 20 points higher than it is for congressional Republicans.

And In terms of specifically the stimulus plan, again, most of the American people say yes, we like this stimulus package--not as high as the White House would like it, but today, the president and his White House aides were all about polls, all about saying these polls are very positive, very good.

That is a little bit of a turnaround from last week when we were looking at the stimulus package, and saw it was about 38 percent said they liked that stimulus package, because I think the message from Republicans is that there is a lot of pork in this package, a lot of unnecessary spending that is going to weigh down future generations, was getting through.

But something must have shifted, because this is the same Gallup poll, and it has very different result.

BAIER: Lynn, he is setting up for this prime time news conference tonight where he will again pitch and talk directly to the American people. But this plan that has passed the Senate so far still has a lot of stuff in there that, potentially, Republicans say, should be cut.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Yes, but the decision is do the Republicans want to offer up enough -- what can the Republicans do to change it?

Right now, as long as they have the three moderate Republicans who voted with them, they really hold the key. So when we talk about Republicans in the abstract, they might be unhappy, but really all the Obama team has to do is keep Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter happy.

They are threatening, especially Susan Collins, to not vote on the final package if it's not to their liking.

So as we talk about this, I think it's helpful to abstract out Republicans in general, and three, specifically, who seem to hold the key to the kingdom right now.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, they do. But if you only have three Republicans, it is not a bipartisan bill by any stretch of the imagination.

I mean, when Democrats claimed that when George W. Bush got ten Republicans(ph) to vote for his tax cuts back in 2001, they all said only ten Democrats, that's not bipartisan. This isn't either.

The strategy that Obama, the president, and his aides are using is one called a "panic strategy," in other words to say things are so terrible, if we don't pass this immediately, including a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with stimulating the economy or even ameliorating some of the pain of the recession, if we don't get it passed, as the president said today, he said it will be a "darkening disaster."

Remember he said it will "take a crisis and make it a catastrophe." He said today in Elkhart, Indiana, he said the situation we face could not be more serious.

Yes, it could. It was more serious in the recession, at the same time in the recession of 1981-'82, and the one from '73 to '75. After all, you know, it went up to 10.8 percent unemployment in the recession in the early '80's.

He said economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don't act immediately, millions of jobs will be lost. Some have, and some haven't.

BAIER: Juan, for people out there wanting this thing to be cleaned up, in this Senate bill there is still $198 million in lump sum payments to Filipino Veterans of World War II, two-thirds of whom live outside the U.S.

No one is saying that is not the right thing to do in an appropriations process, but there are a lot of critics that say some of this stuff is not stimulating.

WILLIAMS: Right. Some of it, to my mind, there's more than that. There are things there that you would just say look like ornaments on a Christmas tree, that everyone is throwing in whatever they can at this moment. And you will see more of this as the governors get involved and make their pitch what exactly they want.

The folks in Elkhart, by the way, want a movie theater renovated. You say, well, exactly what-the Obama folks say this is going to create jobs, this is going to help people.

And I think that the risk -- Fred says, it's not going to ameliorate some of the hurt. But when people in the country have such great anxiety about their 401k's, about job losses, they want to see the government take some steps, and this is a proactive government saying we're taking steps to get you help right now.

BAIER: And, Lynn, last word, in the conference where the House and Senate come together, there isn't real hope that it's going to go down from here, is there?

SWEET: History shows that these things go up, because that's how you put the coalition together.

But the point isn't the specific things that the mayor or the governors or might spend it on. And, as Obama has said, there might be stuff that might make jobs but might not seem like good policy.

But that is the smallest part of some of the objections to this. The mega-road and bridge projects, that's what they hope--the deadlines are in the bill on it-that's what they hope could at least create jobs.

Big question, balance of tax cuts over spending--still to be resolved.

Special Report With Bret Baier


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