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Roundtable on the Situation in Honduras

Roundtable on the Situation in Honduras

By Special Report With Bret Baier - June 29, 2009

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: All of us have grave concerns about what is taking place there. President Zelaya was democratically elected. He had not yet completed his term.

We believe that the coup was not legal, and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: The coup happened over the weekend in Honduras after the democratically elected president was rousted from his bed, thrown onboard a plane to Costa Rica, and the military essentially took over. The president currently, Manuel Zelaya, was kicked out.

And you just heard the president of the United States, President Obama saying it wasn't illegal too. A couple hours earlier, his Secretary of State said they hadn't made a legal determination, and they're withholding judgment.

What about all of this, the coup, what it means for the U.S., and the response. We're back with the panel - Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the president has a knack for getting all of these big decisions wrong. Two weeks ago he refuses to meddle in a country where peaceful demonstrators are getting shot by a theocratic dictatorship. He doesn't want to choose sides.

And now he's eager to president on behalf of the president in Honduras who is a Chavez wannabe, who is strong-arming his way to a referendum that has been declared illegal by his Supreme Court as a way to have a referendum to establish a constituent assembly which will establish a new constitution, which will be a Chavez-like dictatorship.

That's what everybody understands in Honduras, and that's why the Supreme Court had ruled the referendum illegal. Only Congress has a right to call it, not the president. Congress had denounced it.

The Supreme Court had told the military not to assist in the referendum because it's illegal. So Zelaya fires the chief of staff of the army. The Supreme Court orders him reinstated, he fires him again.

This guy is acting extra-constitutionally. Yes, he was elected, but Hitler was as well, and Chavez also was. It's easy to dismantle a democracy if you a president if you are intent on doing it, and he is intent on doing it.

So our decision ought to be, yes, a coup isn't a nice thing, but it's preferable to having Zelaya dismantle the democracy. And we should insist on the elections of a president as scheduled in November, so it is a temporary situation.

Look, a rule of thumb here is whenever you find yourself on the side of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro twins, you ought to reexamine your assumptions.

BAIER: We should point out, Mara, that Hugo Chavez said in a speech today, he referenced U.S. interference in Honduras. And U.S. officials are saying that they knew this coup was in the works and they were working behind the scenes.

LIASSON: I actually have a different take. I think that the president's words - it is almost like he doth protests too much. I think they're perfectly happy of the outcome of what happened. They would rather not have a Chavez-like president, another one, in Central America.

Now, I think it's the correct public diplomacy in politics to say that, of course, we're for the democratically elected president, and we don't like coups in Latin America. But when all the dust settles, they will be happy to work with the new guy.

They are not working to get Zelaya back into power. That's not what the U.S. is doing here. You are kind of extrapolating that position from his statements.

I think in terms of the split also in terms of the State Department and the White House with Secretary of State Clinton being less forward, not really willing to say this was illegal, I think that, in the end, this is the outcome that the United States would have preferred. This is not the method that they want to publicly condone.

BAIER: We should point out the new guy is the congressional leader Roberto Micheletti.

LIASSON: Constitutionally -

BAIER: He was next in line.

LIASSON: He was next in line constitutionally. The military didn't install him. This is what was supposed to have happened.

BAIER: He was sworn in as president.

KRISTOL: Yes, he is equivalent of the speaker of the house. He has become president. He has pledged fair and free presidential elections in November with international observers.

That seems like a pretty adequate outcome for a president who was trying to go around the constitution and clearly was trying to stage his own semi - his own coup, as it were, sitting as president.

So I don't know quite why our president is so upset about what seems to be a good outcome.

LIASSON: He's -

KRISTOL: I disagree. He is playing a very dangerous hand here. Chavez says he is going to intervene and invade. And we are signing onto resolutions -

BAIER: Invade Honduras?

KRISTOL: Yes. And it's not out of the question. He can do it. I mean, the OAS says this is illegitimate, the U.S. says this is illegitimate. Obama makes it sound like we will not recognize the new government. He's, of course, been much tougher on this than on Iran, as several people have pointed out.

But, again, I've come back to the fact this new government has said free and fair elections in November. That is not really your classic military coup, where you take over for 15 years, you're sticking people in jail and you're dissolving congress.

And it does is seem to me that it is unbelievable that on the same day it is happening, instead of reserving judgment, President Obama is out there denouncing this one, whereas in Iran, it is who knows if those elections were fair out there? There weren't international observers there.

LIASSON: He corrected that statement.

BAIER: Charles, how does this end up?

KRAUTHAMMER: It is not harmless, America supporting the president supporting in this, because it puts us on the side of the U.N., the OAS, and Chavez, pressure on the government, isolation on the existing government of Honduras could bring it down and a restoration of this guy and a Chavez dictatorship.

 

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