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Bush and Clinton Update on Haiti on "Fox News Sunday"

Bush and Clinton Update on Haiti on "Fox News Sunday"

By Fox News Sunday - January 17, 2010

HUME: I'm Brit Hume in for Chris Wallace, and this is "Fox News Sunday."

Haiti struggles to recover from a devastating earthquake. We'll ask former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton how they'll bring help to Haiti.

Also, we'll update the United States-led rescue and relief efforts with Lieutenant General Ken Keen, who is leading the task force there, and Dr. Rajiv Shah, chief administrator for the USAID.

And we'll get the latest from the area in a report from correspondent Steve Harrigan.

Plus, in Washington, Democrats work on a final health care reform bill with a vote looming. What does the GOP do next? We ask Mitch McConnell , the Senate's top Republican.

And our Sunday panel handicaps that special Massachusetts Senate election. Will the Republican actually capture a safe Democratic seat on Tuesday? All that that right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. We'll hear from the former presidents and our other guests in a moment. But first, the latest from Haiti. Authorities say at least 50,000 people have been killed and there are fears that death total could more than double.

Relief agencies estimate that one-third of the country, some 3 million people, are in need of help and, officials say, there is no electricity and the water system has collapsed.

For more now, we turn to Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan in Port-au-Prince.

Good morning, Steve.

STEVE HARRIGAN: Good morning, Brit. Each day we've seen some small steps forward on the ground here in Port-au-Prince -- two radio stations now operating. Also, we've seen the International Red Cross on the ground in mobile units treating people. Some feeding points open also -- very orderly distribution of rice.

That being said, there are still a lot of people here with nothing. And my own definition of "nothing" keeps having to change every day. About every square inch of open territory is occupied by families. Many are in tent cities. People without tents just have plastic tarpaulins over their head.

Yesterday we saw a family that didn't even have a tarpaulin. It was a mother and three children trying to crawl underneath an SUV just to get out of the sun. So "nothing" keeps getting lower here in Port- au-Prince.

As far as the level of pain goes, for some people it's just hard to understand. We saw a woman yesterday waiting four days and nights by a collapsed house calling out to her son who was in that house. It took four days for rescuers to arrive. With no communication, that's the way things work here. That boy did not come out alive.

Finally, one last thing. This is a difficult place to operate even if you do have money. We were driving to a tent city yesterday -- just one final example -- and it was a rough road, and our driver thought his tire might explode. I said, "Look, we'll buy you a new flat tire." He said, "That's not the problem. There are no tires."

So to move around here, as far as logistics go, basic things like food, gasoline, tires, even if you have money here, simply cannot be found yet. Brit, back to you.

HUME: Steven, one quick question: Where are you staying?

HARRIGAN: Brit, we're in a local hotel here. We're bunking, all four of us, our fixer and our driver, taking turns with the shower. So we do have food, water, sporadic electricity here, but no mosquito nets, which is one thing I'm going to make sure is always in my bag.

HUME: All right. Understood, Steve. Thanks very much.

Steve Harrigan, reporting from Haiti.

Thanks.

With us now are Lieutenant General Ken Keen, who heads the Haiti task force -- he's down there -- and Dr. Rajiv Shah, chief administrator of USAID and the president's point man for the crisis.

Good morning and thanks to both of you.

SHAH: Good morning.

HUME: General Keen, let me begin with you, sir. To what extent is -- are those supplies that were accumulating there at the airport where you are now getting out into the country to reach people?

KEEN: Well, we had a very good day yesterday, Brit. Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division who have only arrived within the last day or two delivered over 70,000 bottles of water and 130,000 rations.

And we're going to be able to increase that every day, but that's only what we are doing. The United Nations forces are doing likewise, as well as the international community.

But clearly, this is a disaster of epic proportions, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us.

HUME: How are you doing -- how are you getting the material out into the countryside? Are you dropping it out of helicopters? Do you drive it in trucks? How is it working?

KEEN: Well, our nation can be proud, because our Navy immediately turned a aircraft carrier south right after the earthquake, and she arrived, as we had troops -- so we are principally using the helicopters off the USS Carl Vinson.

And as we move other equipment in here, we'll be able to get more ground transportation to increase our tentacles out into the countryside. But right now, we're relying principally on helicopters.

HUME: Now, how is the -- who's in control? Who's in charge? Who's coordinating all this? Is it -- is it just -- is it chaotic or is it -- or is there an orderly kind of line of command down there now?

KEEN: Well, it -- the control of it -- we are here in support of the government of Haiti. We have established, in conjunction with the United Nations and the international community, a humanitarian coordination center where we all are represented in there 24 hours, seven days a week. We're doing that in the -- co-located in the United Nations facilities.

I want to congratulate the nation of Brazil, in particular, the commander of the multinational forces here, Brazilian Major General Floriano Peixoto. I've known him for 30 years. We've worked together before. We're coordinating our efforts to do everything we can to get supplies out to the Haitian people.

HUME: Do you have a sense, sir, of what this death count is likely to end up being? We hear, you know, 50,000. We hear that people are having to be buried in mass graves. What is your estimate of that, if you have one?

KEEN: Well, I think it's too early to tell, but it's clear it is a significant -- and I do know that the United Nations forces are doing everything they can to support the government of Haiti to take care of that and make sure, because there are issues, obviously, that we've got to deal with as we go forward.

HUME: Dr. Shah, let me turn to you. You were just there yesterday with Secretary Clinton. To what extent is the Haitian government functioning at all?

SHAH: Well, we had a chance to meet with President Preval yesterday during our trip to Haiti, and he asked us to do -- to be coordinated with him and to work with him -- and in response to his request to help provide services to the people of Haiti and to help rebuild Haiti in a specific way.

But it's worth stepping back and noting that, you know, this happened Tuesday just before sundown. And almost immediately, the president pulled us together and ordered a swift and aggressive, comprehensive and coordinated response. And that's what we're trying to deliver.

And so I had a chance to spend time with General Keen yesterday. We have our civilian and our military partners working in cooperation with the U.N. and with the government of Haiti to execute the president's orders. And we're really bringing all of the resources that we can deploy from across the federal government, whether it's helicopters from the Carl Vinson or whether it's, you know, humanitarian supplies from U.S. Agency for International Development...

HUME: Yeah.

SHAH: ... or others to make sure we address this problem as...

HUME: Yeah.

SHAH: ... comprehensively as we can.

HUME: It appears, just from looking at it from a distance, that there has been an outpouring of support, that the relief agencies, public and private both, are pouring material, supplies, food, water in there.

Is there any shortage of the stuff you need to distribute? Or is the problem mostly getting it distributed?

SHAH: Well, we're very, very focused on both of those challenges.

HUME: I understand that.

SHAH: And we've had to do that...

HUME: But do you have enough...

SHAH: ... in parallel.

HUME: Do you have enough supplies there? Are you getting enough material to distribute?

SHAH: We can always use more. For example, we sent down 600,000 humanitarian daily rations. I think 130,000 of those were delivered by helicopter yesterday and by...

HUME: Now, those are what, are they meals ready-to-eat of the kind that the military -- MREs, and you tear them open, and you have...

SHAH: And daily -- yeah, and those are daily rations, so those...

HUME: Right.

SHAH: ... will feed someone for a full day. But the need there, as estimated by the World Food Programme, is 8 million. So we're sending down more supplies, and we're...

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Eight million a day? SHAH: Well, it's 8 million for this initial period, because that's what the distribution system can handle. So we're really trying to address it in a comprehensive way and trying to get as many commodities, whether it's food or water, medical supplies, tents and tarps.

We need as many of those types of commodities as possible. We've mobilized a lot of that. We're staging a lot of it at Homestead Air Force Base in Miami and sending it down.

HUME: How are your -- are your resources divided between the distribution of the -- of the needed supplies and the evacuation of Americans who were said to live there -- you know, some say 40,000 to 50,000. I don't know about that number, but how much are you doing of each of those tasks?

SHAH: Well, the president was very clear initially when he said the immediate priority is saving lives. So our first priority was to go in with urban search-and-rescue teams.

U.S. urban search-and-rescue teams were the first ones to hit the ground. These are teams with 70 people with great capabilities, specialized equipment, lighting. They work around the clock to try and save lives, and they've been successful.

HUME: This is digging people out from under broken buildings?

SHAH: Under broken buildings, under multiple layers of concrete. Sometimes they'll dig for 14, 16 hours before they get...

HUME: And how are they doing?

SHAH: ... someone saved.

HUME: How are they doing?

SHAH: And I had a chance to meet some of our guys from the Fairfax County and Los Angeles and Miami that have been successful. They've saved a couple dozen lives. Most are Haitian.

And they've coordinated an effort that really includes 30 teams and thousands of individuals from around the world engaged in this effort. So that was our immediate priority.

Our next priority, which started in parallel, of course, is getting those commodities down there and making sure we have the food, water, shelter, and basic needs met for the people of Haiti. That's an immediate priority that the whole government's coming together to supply.

And then, of course, working in close partnership with our military partners to make sure there's security and effective distribution. So if roads are blocked, we'll use helicopters. And then trying to bring it all together logistically and do more every single day so we can meet the needs.

HUME: Would you describe the Haitian government now as functional?

SHAH: Well, certainly, some ministries are more functional than others. We've -- for example, the health minister has asked us to support the development of a hospital system and has asked us for certain medical supplies, and we're able to be responsive to that by sending our health and human services disaster medical assistance teams down and placing them in places that are identified by the health ministry.

In other places, the government has really, you know, suffered greatly themselves because of the actual devastation, and that kind of responsiveness to their needs will be more difficult.

HUME: General Keen, a question for you, sir. How serious is the security problem? Are you confronting criminals, looters? I understand the jails were affected and criminals were running loose. How serious a security challenge are you facing, sir?

KEEN: Well, yesterday when our paratroopers went out to deliver supplies, they didn't encounter any security issues or problems. In fact, they had very positive encounters. They had interpreters with them. They were interacting with the populace, and they were able to deliver those supplies in a very orderly fashion.

We did have an incident with one helicopter that couldn't land and had to release its supplies.

But there are increasing incidents of violence. We are looking at that very closely. We do need, obviously, a safe and secure environment to continue and do the best we can with the humanitarian assistance.

We're working very closely with the United Nations, who's been here, obviously, for a long time and been doing the security and stability mission.

HUME: General, whose job is it -- who has the authority down there to carry out law enforcement and provide security? Does the United States forces who are there -- I'm sure they have -- they can defend themselves, but what about more generally? Who's providing security down there?

KEEN: Well, the United Nation forces have a mission to provide security and stability within the construct of what they are doing here, and they are doing that. But the police have been devastated as well. We've seen increase in presence of the police on the street, but it's limited.

So we do have to secure ourselves, as you said, but we also have to address how we are able to continue our humanitarian assistance mission in a safe and secure environment, so we're going to have to work, and we are working, alongside the United States and...

HUME: Got it.

KEEN: ... the United Nations and the government of Haiti to continue this security challenge that we face.

HUME: General Keen, thank you very much, sir, for taking this time.

Dr. Shah, thank you as well. Thanks for coming in.

On Saturday, President Obama asked former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to help with the Haiti relief efforts. After their White House meeting, the two former presidents sat down with FOX News senior White House correspondent Major Garrett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOX NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT MAJOR GARRETT: President Bush, President Clinton, thank you very much for joining us on "Fox News Sunday."

First question to the two of you: Do you intend to go to Haiti any time soon? And if not, why not?

Mr. President?

BUSH: I don't intend to go anytime soon, and I do think it'll be a -- there will be an appropriate time for the president and I to go down in our capacity as co-heads of the Clinton-Bush Fund, but I have no intention of going any time soon.

GARRETT: Bad idea to go down now, sir?

CLINTON: Well, I may go in a few days because of my U.N. job. But if I do, I'm going to try to stay out of the way -- that is, just do the work I have to do to work some things through with the Haitian government and thank people for what we're doing and see what else I'm supposed to do.

But I agree with President Bush. We don't need more people down there now unless they are literally delivering, providing, food, water, shelter, medicine, medical care. It's chaos. You've seen it on -- you report it every night, every day. And all of us should be helping.

But the airport -- it's all they can do to manage the planes that they have to bring in and out of there. So I think there are some -- if you have a really good reason to go, you should go. Otherwise, everybody should stay.

Now, in the next -- after the emergency passes, we'll go, and we'll go more than once. But we need to let the people get fed and...

GARRETT: Picking up on your point, Mr. President, how have you two personally reacted to what you've seen? When did you start seeing it, and how have you felt it internally?

BUSH: I've been watching TV from Dallas, Texas, and I feel sick to my stomach. I feel -- it's really emotional, and it's -- that's the way it is for a lot of Americans. And therefore, a lot of Americans are going to want to help. And our job is to make sure their help is not squandered, that it's spent properly.

GARRETT: President Clinton, you have a deep historic relationship, personal relationship. How has it affected you personally?

CLINTON: Well, it's been extremely painful because of -- considering I went down there, you know, in December of 1975 the first time, because I was heavily involved when I was president, because my foundation worked there afterward, and because of the work I was doing with the U.N.

I know a lot of the people who perished in the U.N. building, so -- but I also think -- I just -- I've been almost equally moved just by what we've all seen on television.

And I'm just grateful that we're in a position to help, you know, because I think every American who has watched this, and probably every citizen of the world who's watched this, says, "Gosh, I wish I could do something."

Well, you can do something. And if you just have one dollar, or $5, or $10 now, you can send it to our Web site or any of the others that -- to just -- because now we've got to help them get through the days. In a few weeks we'll be working on rebuilding. But right now, we got to survive.

GARRETT: President bush, as President Obama pointed out, PEPFAR has been an enormously important part of Haiti. Your brother Jeb knows the region, knows it well -- your father. Do you think this could this be a larger Bush family effort? Do you plan on enlisting either your brother or your father in any of the efforts?

BUSH: They're going to want to help. The -- and Laura went down there to analyze the PEPFAR program, since -- and we've had an interest -- certainly not quite as deep as Bill's. He and the secretary of state have spent a lot of time down there.

We care about it. I care about it because if you see a neighbor in need, it's important to help. And so if people do want to help, they ought to -- they ought to dial up -- one place to dial is our Web site, which is clintonbushhaitifund.org.

And you know, one of the things I'm concerned about, Major, is there's going to be an outpouring of money. And I just want people to make sure that they're careful about where they send their money.

And we're -- we can assure them there will be transparency and the money will be accounted for and then, more importantly, spent on programs that will be effective on the ground.

GARRETT: President Clinton, I want to talk to you about briquettes, organic briquettes, in Haiti. You carry one around with you.

Explain briefly to our audience, who may not understand what this means, how something that small can change what's happening now and change the face of Haiti.

CLINTON: Well, before this earthquake hit, Haiti's per capita income was about $780 a year. Seventy-five percent of the people were living on less than $2 a day.

One of the big problems was the deforestation. One of the reasons that the hurricanes hurt more there is its trees have been taken down. People will cut...

GARRETT: For fuel.

CLINTON: For fuel. They cut up the trees for charcoal to cook dinner. By the same token, Port-au-Prince and the other cities, like most cities in poor countries, hardly pick up the garbage. And they have these unsightly landfills that are public health menaces.

There's a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince which brought the crime rate down and the employment rate up by collecting the garbage, taking the organic material and turning it into fertilizer for farmers, recycling the plastic and the metal, and taking the paper and mixing it with charcoal -- I mean, with sawdust and wetting it, then drying it and cutting it in these little briquettes.

And three of them will burn as much or as long to cook dinner for a Haitian family as charcoal, and at about a quarter of the price. So it's -- you employ ten times as many people in the process. You save money for the families. You reduce the incentives to tear down the trees.

And if you do that and, at the same time, build income-earning trees like mango trees, reconstitute the mahogany forest, plant jatropa and other of these fast-growing trees you can cut down without deforestation -- that is, the roots stay and they grow up again -- you can really -- this will -- this will be a part of Haiti's rebuilding.

I know it's hard for people to think about that now. But these -- this government and the people of Haiti had an economic development plan that I was helping them to implement, and we're going to go back to it once the smoke clears.

And it -- that's the kind of thing that can make a huge difference. That's why your listeners need to know if they got $5 to send today or six months from now, they can make a difference there.

GARRETT: President Bush, many Americans who are in Haiti are there as missionaries. There is an incredibly strong faith-based commitment of America to Haiti.

BUSH: Yeah.

GARRETT: Talk to us about that for a minute and how that should -- motivates the two of you and Americans generally.

BUSH: A lot of people hear the call to love a neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves. My own church, Highland Park United Methodist Church, had a group of church members in an eye clinic. They fortunately came out. Sadly, one person died.

But Haiti has been a focus for a lot of the faith-based groups because they see incredible suffering and great poverty and great need. The ultimate recovery of Haiti is going to be aided by faith- based -- the faith-based communities. It's not going to be only faith-based community, but it will be helped by the faith-based community.

And for those of faith who want to help, our advice is send money now. And once things stabilize, then it's -- then you can lend your talent and time.

CLINTON: I just want to echo that. Haiti has 10,000 non- governmental organizations active there. That's the -- per capita, the largest number in the world except for India. And an enormous number of them are American faith-based groups.

We have gotten them all to try to register, organize, so that they can coordinate their efforts and amplify the impact of their efforts. And they're going to be a very important part not only of dealing with this emergency but the long-term reconstruction of Haiti.

I think the American people should know that. They should be proud of that.

GARRETT: President Bush, President Clinton, thank you very much for joining us on "Fox News Sunday." We look forward to talking to you again for an update on this should circumstances warrant.

CLINTON: Thank you.

GARRETT: From the Map Room, Brit, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUME: Thank you, Major. And thanks to both the former presidents.

For more information about the earthquake recovery and how you can help, please go to foxnewssunday.com. Information is there.

Up next, the top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , will be here. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: With us now to discuss a number of issues is the minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell .

Senator, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

MCCONNELL: Glad to be here.

HUME: What are you hearing from Massachusetts in the special election coming up in two days? MCCONNELL: Well, what we know for sure is that it's extremely close. In the most liberal, the bluest state in America, there is a very, very close special election for United States Senate.

To give you a sense of how it's electrified the country, I was flying back from Kentucky yesterday. A number of people brought up the health care issue. But one in particular was worthy of note.

I got off the plane. A lady came up to me, said, "I'm one of your constituents, but my husband here is a Massachusetts resident, so we're on the way to Massachusetts so he can vote for Scott Brown on Tuesday." I mean, this has electrified the country.

I think people have been -- looked at this health care bill and think it's a terrible proposal, that it's going to cut Medicare and raise taxes and raise insurance premiums. They want us to stop it.

And all of a sudden they realize there's an election somewhere in the country where you can affect -- where you can have an impact on it. And so it's quite a -- quite a phenomenon.

HUME: Let's assume that the election is held and Brown is the apparent winner, Republican Brown. What does that mean for the term in office of Paul Kirk, who is the interim senator, the Democrat who is serving out the balance of Senator Kennedy's -- the late Senator Kennedy's term?

Does his term end on the day of the election, so that -- whether the new senator is seated or not? Do you know?

MCCONNELL: Well, it's an interesting academic question. What we have to do is wait until the election is held and then focus on that.

I think the first step is to see what the people of Massachusetts say on Tuesday, and then everybody will be looking at the process for swearing in the new senator after that.

HUME: Is there any doubt in your mind that the winner, if it's -- if it's Brown, would be sworn in promptly, in time to vote on the next -- in the next round of votes on health care?

MCCONNELL: Well, the winner, whoever it is, should be sworn in promptly.

HUME: But are there ways that the Democrats could interrupt that process?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know, I'm sure all the lawyers will be looking at this. The important thing to remember, though, is that this is, in effect, a referendum on the national health care bill which the Democrats, in secret, are trying to work out now.

They have arrogantly ignored American public opinion all the way to this point. And they're trying to get their members to continue to ignore public opinion one more time. Regardless of the outcome Tuesday, we know that in the most liberal state in America you're going to have a close election for the United States Senate because people in Massachusetts don't want this health care bill to pass.

HUME: All right. In political terms, just raw political -- I understand that you, Senator McConnell, and most of your Republican colleagues oppose this bill on substantive grounds. You think it would be bad for the country.

So let's just -- let's assume that for the purpose of this question, which is in raw political terms is it better for the Democrats and worse for the Republicans if the bill passes or if it fails?

MCCONNELL: What's important is it would be good for the country if it failed.

HUME: I understand you think that.

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

HUME: But what about the politics of it?

MCCONNELL: I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way. This arrogant attempt to have the government take over one-sixth of the economy, on the heels of running banks, insurance companies, car companies, taking over the student loan business, doubling the national debt in five, tripling it in 10 -- you've got, Brit, sort of widespread public revulsion to this program.

HUME: We see that. What I'm trying to get at, though, is a question that goes back to 1994. Democrats believe that if the health care reforms that the Clinton administration sought to get through had, in fact, passed instead of failed, that they would have been better off in the...

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

HUME: ... 1994 midterms when they lost control of the Congress. And they all believe that the same holds today. Do you agree with that?

MCCONNELL: No one seriously believes that. I mean...

HUME: Well, then you must believe that if this fails...

MCCONNELL: Either way...

HUME: ... if this fails now, they're better off.

MCCONNELL: Either way, whether it passes or whether it fails, it will be a huge issue not just in 2010 but 2012. This is a unique issue. Everybody's interested in health care, all 300 million Americans. This issue isn't going away, whether they pass it or whether they don't. The American people are telling us, "Please don't pass this bill."

HUME: All right. Now, the Democrats made a deal with organized labor the other day which would postpone by, what, five years the tax on the so-called Cadillac health plans that many labor union members enjoy by virtue of their contracts, while leaving non-union workers with the need to start paying the tax right away. It looks pretty blatant in some respects.

First of all, will that fly in the Senate, even with Democrats, in your judgment?

MCCONNELL: Well, the whole proposal is ridded with special deals. The "Cornhusker Kickback," the "Louisiana Purchase."

HUME: Well, what about this one?

MCCONNELL: This is just another special deal for a favored constituent.

HUME: And what do you...

MCCONNELL: ... and it encourages people, actually, to join unions, presumably, because they would get better treatment from the government on their health care proposal.

HUME: Well, there was a -- those other special deals that you referenced here, quickly in passing, caused a kind of a backlash to the point where Senator Nelson, for example, is saying that the special deal that Nebraska got -- everybody got -- and it turned out to be an embarrassment, unpopular even at home.

Do you see any sign that there would be such a reaction against this deal for labor?

MCCONNELL: Absolutely. I mean, most American workers are not members of unions. In fact, I think organized labor in the private sector has about 7 or 8 percent of the workforce.

What about all the workers who are not in labor unions? Why don't they get a special deal?

HUME: What's your sense of what will happen here? If Martha Coakley wins, Democrats hold the seat, is this bill stoppable?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think it's stoppable because the American people are literally screaming at us, "Please don't pass it."

HUME: They've been screaming for a while. But what about whether you can stop it in the Senate?

MCCONNELL: Well, we're going to do everything we can to defeat this bill. The American people are asking us to defeat the bill. They're hollering at us, "Please defeat this bill." I'm still hoping that at some point some Democrat is going to say, "I don't buy any longer this arrogant notion that we ought to ignore our constituents and pass it no matter what they think." It is perfectly clear if it's unpopular in Massachusetts, it's unpopular everywhere. The American people don't want us to pass this bill.

HUME: Let me turn, if I can, quickly to the proposal that the president made this week in which the banks that received TARP funds, rescue funds, whether they paid them back with interest or not, and some banks that didn't receive TARP funds, would pay a new fee called -- which is being labeled a bank tax by some.

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

HUME: This is clearly a measure designed to close the revenue gap that the government faces. What about that? Is that -- is that going to fly in the Senate, in your judgment?

MCCONNELL: Well, it's interesting that the president brought up the bank tax. He wants to change the subject away from the health care. It's clear that they are trying to -- not all TARP recipients would have to pay the tax. Only some TARP recipients would have to pay the tax.

HUME: The auto companies are exempted.

MCCONNELL: Yeah, the auto companies who are unionized would be exempt from it. I think the important thing here is that TARP be ended. We're going to insist that TARP funds be paid back with interest. Many of these people who are being taxed, the institutions that are being taxed, have done that.

In addition to that, we need to end TARP, because what's going to happen here is the government is going to use it as sort of a revolving fund to continue to spend.

And Senator Thune from South Dakota is going to offer an amendment this very week to end TARP. I'm going to support it, and I think that's what most of my members think ought to be done.

HUME: Can the bank -- is there -- in your judgment, if the leadership presses for it, can that bank tax be stopped?

MCCONNELL: Well, I don't know. We're going to take a look at it. But what we ought to do is end TARP, get the money back with interest and end TARP.

HUME: All right. What's your prediction in Massachusetts?

MCCONNELL: Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close Senate race. Regardless of who wins -- regardless of who wins -- we have here, in effect, a referendum on this national health care bill. The American people are telling us, "Please don't pass it."

HUME: Senator McConnell, good to see you, sir.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

HUME: Thank you for coming in.

Coming up, the Massachusetts Senate race we've been talking about that could swing the balance of power in Washington -- our Sunday panel looks at the political angles right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHA COAKLEY: We never take elections for granted, and we're not paying attention to the polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT BROWN: ... the people around the country want somebody down there who's going to be an independent voter and thinker and bring some common sense back to Washington, then they -- I need their help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: That's just a brief sample of the candidates' moods in what's turned out to be a Senate race of considerable consequence, that one in Massachusetts.

It's time now for the Sunday group of Fox News contributors -- Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio.

Well, if you had any doubt about that -- whether that Senate race is close, or tight, or in an unexpected posture, let's take a look at a couple of polls that are recent here that will give you a sense of that. We should have -- be able to put it up on the screen.

Well, there you see -- in two out of the three there, you see Brown is up a few points. The latest Rasmussen poll has Martha Coakley, the Democrat, up by a couple. So as everybody is saying, it's pretty close.

And if you don't think the Democrats are worried about this race, get a load of this ad -- the flyer that was distributed by Democrats against Scott Brown, seven -- "1,736 women were raped in Massachusetts in 2008. Scott Brown wants hospitals to turn them all away."

This the result, apparently, of a measure that Scott Brown backed in that state which would have allowed conscientious objectors, if you will, who work in hospitals not to participate in abortions. It certainly doesn't seem to add up to backing up the charge that was made there.

So, Bill Kristol, where, in your judgment, watching this from a distance but with great attention, does this race stand?

KRISTOL: I mean, it's worth just commenting how extraordinary it is. The Suffolk Poll, which is 50-46 Brown right now, very recent poll -- and that's consistent with internal tracking polls from both campaigns, I believe -- a slight Brown edge.

That poll -- two months ago they did a poll just before the primary. They matched up Brown and Coakley, who were the front runners in each party. Coakley was ahead by 30 points. So this race has moved 30 points in two months. In two months.

Now, that tells you something, I think, about what the country's judgment -- and the voters of -- Brown's run a good campaign. Coakley's run a poor campaign. But the voters of Massachusetts are well aware that this is a national referendum on the health care bill and on Obama's general big government liberal program, and they don't like it. And that's Massachusetts.

And on this flyer -- I mean, that is the face of desperation in a campaign. In Massachusetts, the attorney general running -- 73 percent of the vote in 2006. At the end of -- the Massachusetts Democratic Party sends out a flyer with, really, a pretty despicable lie about Scott Brown, who voted for a conscience clause for day-after -- the morning-after pill for people who came to emergency rooms.

That clause required the emergency room to find someone else to provide the medication or pay for the woman to go elsewhere to get the medication. He then voted for the bill -- the amendment lost. He voted for final passage of the bill, which requires emergency rooms to treat women. And this is denying 1,700 rape victims treatment?

I mean, it's really an ugly case of desperation by the Massachusetts Democratic Party. I can't believe it's going to work. And will President Obama distance himself from it today when he's up there campaigning for Martha Coakley?

HUME: Nina?

EASTON: Well, the race is tight. In fact, Coakley's internal polls show her down -- within the margin of error, but a couple points down.

And I think what happens historically in these kinds of races where it's a lower turnout, when the momentum is breaking in a certain direction -- in this case, the momentum and the energy is all with the Republican -- that that tends to carry the day on election day.

So I think yes, they're nervous. They're very tight. I would say two things. One, I agree with Bill. I do think this is a referendum on the health care bill, because 60 percent of Massachusetts voters think the bill is too expensive. Fifty-one percent think that -- they oppose it. And the other thing is that Massachusetts, this liberal Massachusetts -- the dirty little secret about that state is that they do not have a history of electing women to national office.

We now have Niki Tsongas , the widow of Senator Paul Tsongas, in the congressional delegation for Massachusetts. Before she -- and that was a recent election. Before that, 25 years before they had elected a woman to Congress, 35 years before they had elected a woman Democrat.

And then we have Coakley saying on a radio show -- she said that Red Sox great Curt Schilling was a Yankees fan, which doesn't help her on that score. So I think that's something else that is feeding into this election.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, if we're going to talk about history, this is a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1972, and the seat in question has been held by a member of the Kennedy...

HUME: You mean a Republican.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm sorry, Republican. And the seat in question has been held by a Kennedy or a Kennedy, let's say, associate, or flunky, or some sort, since...

HUME: Ally.

KRAUTHAMMER: ... 1952.

HUME: We'll say ally.

KRAUTHAMMER: 1952. So this is really astonishing. And if you look at the internals, what's so interesting is about a tenth of the electorate only has cast a vote as an absentee -- absentees. And of those, according to the ARC poll, Brown has a 16-point advantage, 58- 42.

And if you look at independents, which were the swing electorate in Virginia and in New Jersey in November, Coakley is behind by over 20 points.

WILLIAMS: Well, look. It's no question that independents have swung towards Brown in this race. And independents, it's interesting to note, or unenrolled voters, are a majority of the voters in Massachusetts.

But remember, it's a three-to-one registration edge for Democrats in the state, three-to-one. So Coakley's challenge is really to rally her base. And that base has to do with something that Nina was touching on -- women, especially, who seem that this -- they're just sort of uninterested in this race, assumed that it was going to go to the Democrat.

Well, now women are being charged up by the Democrats, by Coakley, with these efforts, such as that flyer that had to do with giving help to... HUME: Do you think that flyer will work or backfire?

WILLIAMS: I think the flyer will work in the short-term with women, who -- you know, the appeal...

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Well, that's all there is. There ain't no long term here.

WILLIAMS: Right. Well, it...

HUME: ... The race is on Tuesday.

WILLIAMS: Well, what I'm saying is is there time for Brown to come out and refute it successfully? And I don't think so. But it's a...

HUME: So you think that...

WILLIAMS: I think it's going to have some energy.

HUME: ... you think that damages him.

WILLIAMS: I think it will damage him.

And then the second thing is to say that you've got to remember minorities play a role here. Blacks, Hispanics, have not shown any enthusiasm for Coakley. President Obama goes up there today, and he needs to stir up the people who voted for him, Obama supporters.

HUME: Based on what you've seen in his performance and his efforts as a -- as a -- as a political leader and as a -- as a speaker in recent months, do you think he can make a big difference?

WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah. Well, all he has to -- just his presence...

HUME: I understand.

WILLIAMS: ... because I think the White House feeling, from what I heard from White House officials this week, is he wouldn't go unless he thought there was a chance here to make a fast difference.

And he thinks he can make that fast difference, and the issue -- the whole health care issue and the like he feels has played against him. But remember, he remains personally popular, especially in Massachusetts.

KRISTOL: I just have a higher view of the women of Massachusetts than Juan does, having gone to school there and taught there, and they are not going to fall for this.

This is really an unbelievable low blow. And there is a gender gap, as there always is. The Democrats are doing better among women if you look at the polls. But this -- the idea that the women don't know what's going on, or people aren't interested in the race -- this has been the sort of mainstream media... HUME: Well, that's true, Bill, though, of -- this is not even -- now, this is not just an off-year election. This is a -- this is a -- this is a special election...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: And there's going to be a large turnout. And there are more people involved in this race -- there are more grassroots donations, certainly -- on the Republican side and probably, by now, to some degree, on the Democratic side -- than in a typical Senate race.

People are more involved in this race than in a typical Senate race, not less. What was Martha Coakley's strategy? It was to put everyone to sleep. "Hey, this is a boring Massachusetts Senate race. We always elect a Democrat. Let's elect a Democrat."

And now she's upset, and the mainstream media are upset that, guess what, the voters of Massachusetts decided, "Well, OK, let's have a campaign. Let's make up our mind."

WILLIAMS: No, no.

KRISTOL: But let's not -- that's what the...

WILLIAMS: It became a nationalized election. And in fact, Scott Brown is running away from some of this because he doesn't want to be identified as the Tea Party candidate. He doesn't want that. He wants to say he's getting support across the board because such an affiliation with the far right here could hurt him with those independents.

KRAUTHAMMER: He's running as the guy who will stop health care. That's his case.

WILLIAMS: That's what he wanted to do.

KRAUTHAMMER: "I'm the vote that will stop it."

WILLIAMS: And low taxes, and all the rest.

KRAUTHAMMER: But essentially, it's a referendum on health care. It's a referendum on the Obama agenda. And Obama's up there because everything hinges on this election...

HUME: All right.

KRAUTHAMMER: ... his agenda and also his popularity.

HUME: All right. Suppose, then, he goes in, he stirs people up, Democrats have a majority, enough of them turn out, Coakley gets elected. Does that mean that this is a big win for him and a sign that health care isn't as...

KRAUTHAMMER: No.

HUME: ... unpopular as we thought?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's an escape. That's all it is. It's a -- it's a -- the negatives here -- his risks are huge. It could be a Copenhagen III. He goes -- he ends up in Copenhagen, he loses the Chicago Olympics, he returns, and he doesn't get anything on climate change.

And now he ends up in Massachusetts, which is even friendlier. He's got to come back with a victory.

WILLIAMS: Very quickly, let me say Democrats...

HUME: Quickly.

WILLIAMS: ... are losing on this one even if Coakley wins, because all the momentum is coming from the anti-health care plan side.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. It shouldn't have been close.

HUME: OK. We've got to take a break here.

When we come back, we'll discuss that health care reform bill and the home stretch for it. And the new taxes for the nation's major banks -- we'll talk about that, time permitting. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: On this day in 1994, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck southern California, leaving behind billions of dollars in damage. The Northridge quake, as it was called, left the Santa Monica freeway partially collapsed, snarling Los Angeles traffic for months.

Stay tuned for more from our panel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: And we're back now with Bill, Nina, Charles and Juan.

Subject: health care reform before the -- before the House and Senate, a bill being worked on. And the latest wrinkle is to overcome labor union objections to the proposed tax on so-called Cadillac health plans.

The latest deal is that labor union members will be exempted from that tax for a period of some five years, while non-union people with similar plans will have to pay the so-called Cadillac tax. The New York Times, in its wisdom, referred to this as a reasonable solution to a problem that threatened to derail the plan.

Well, what about this? Where does the bill stand? And what about the deal cut for organized labor? How will that play in this country?

Juan Williams?

WILLIAMS: Well, it plays well with the unions. I don't think there's any question about that. They'd been putting pressure on the White House, didn't have much success. They went up to Capitol Hill. They've had some success there, and now...

HUME: It seems like they had a lot of success in both places.

WILLIAMS: Well, no. They weren't having much success with the White House. And what's really interesting about this week is President Obama has really put his name on this negotiation.

He's been staying up late. He's involved -- I think it was from 10:00 to 6:00 on Wednesday. He was up late on Thursday night involved in these negotiations.

Now, it's possible, the White House says, that the House could still just vote for the Senate bill, but everybody's focused on the idea that these Cadillac plans now would be held exempt through 2018, essentially a five...

HUME: For labor members.

WILLIAMS: For labor unions, so that they would not have to pay the extra tax. The problem is, of course, it drives up the cost. There's no -- you know, you're trying to reduce the cost of increase Medicare and Medicaid spending. And it wouldn't do it. So how are we going to pay for health care?

It's a huge, huge problem for people who are...

HUME: Do you think this gives...

WILLIAMS: ... defending the health care plan.

HUME: You would not disagree that this deal is just a -- is basically just a special benefit for a special interest?

WILLIAMS: Of course. That's what it is.

HUME: All right. So the question is how well do you think it will play in the country?

WILLIAMS: In the country?

HUME: In the country.

WILLIAMS: Remember, Brit, the country is not the audience here. The country may have a judgment to make on -- day-to-day right now, the health care plan is not very popular. People may say they want health care reform, but things like this look very unsavory. It's...

HUME: That's what I'm asking.

WILLIAMS: People say, "Oh, it looks like a bribe, a special interest reward." And people say -- they see that kind of compromise, they say, "This is tawdry."

KRAUTHAMMER: It is a bribe, and that's why it is so unpopular. Look, it's not just a question of it depriving the Treasury of revenue. It's question of equity.

You've got two workers, same type of job, same plan, one of whom -- same income, one of whom is a member of a union. And the guy who isn't is going to end up having a tax of 40 percent on his plan, and the other guy is not. And that's simply incredibly unfair. And obviously, it's a corrupt bargain.

What's really hurting the bill here isn't only the opposition on the substance, the half a trillion in cuts in Medicaid, in Medicare, and half a trillion in taxes. It's the process.

The idea that it's been -- that deals are made corruptly and so openly is astonishing -- the "Louisiana Purchase," a cool $300 million for the Landrieu vote, the -- what happened in Nebraska, this eternal exemption that Nebraska would have on paying for the extra Medicaid cost, and now the unions.

The reason it's hurting Obama is he ran on the idea that he would change our politics. It would not be driven by special interest. There would not be the secret deals.

And he's done it with the unions, with the pharmaceutical companies, with the doctors, with the hospitals, all in a way that everybody can see. And that's why he's hurting so much in the polls and on the health care issue itself.

HUME: Is the deal-making on this bill, Nina -- is it fair to say that this is any worse than the kind of horse trading that's done all the time in Congress, and log rolling and so on, to round up votes? Is this just more conspicuous, or is this...

EASTON: Two points. Is it...

HUME: ... is this -- is this worse?

EASTON: I would say -- I would say two points to that. One is that this is major social legislation -- historic, landmark, whatever you want to call it. And at every other point in history -- the Medicare in the ‘60s -- we had Republicans as well as Democrats supporting it. There was -- there was bipartisan support.

And you take this bill, which is -- already has no Republican support, has divided the country, and you start throwing in this deal- making, all it does is further divide the country, and it hurts his reputation, as Charles said.

The second point is he came in here to change the way that Washington does business. You could have -- on this, for example, you could have in the health care bill said, "Look, we're going to do away with tax preferences for employer-based plans," which is a lot of economists say, "Look, that's the way to reduce health care costs, because it makes people more connected with their healthcare choices."

They would have actually brought in $250 billion through that, as opposed to $90 billion. They would have been in economic, better fiscal footing if they had done that.

But now it is -- it is this horse trading thing. And I think Senator Ben Nelson , as you pointed out earlier in the show, has seen the dangers of this, because now he says that deal that he cut with the White House over Medicaid -- he doesn't want any part of that anymore. He's seen the political dangers of this.

So I think this White House is -- they're dedicated to ramming this thing through while dividing the country and, I think, hurting the president's reputation.

KRISTOL: Juan said, correctly, I think, that from the point of view of the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership, the country's not the audience. And I think that's very revealing. That is their point of view.

But I don't think that works in America. You know, if we had -- if we had a European system -- you know, you get elected, you ram through your legislation, people get a chance five years later, maybe, to vote yes or no.

America has a different system. It is more democratic. There are more checks and balances. People are responsive to public opinion. I don't believe this is sustainable. They cannot -- they cannot ignore public will for a piece of legislation of this magnitude. They cannot pass this bill, I don't think.

HUME: You don't think -- do you still think the bill will fail?

KRISTOL: Yes.

HUME: All right.

WILLIAMS: Oh, you're really wrong.

HUME: Well, hold...

WILLIAMS: They have 60 votes right now, holding, right? They will get the 60 votes. This is -- let me just say this. It's a matter of...

HUME: In the Senate.

WILLIAMS: In the Senate. It's a matter of leadership.

KRISTOL: But Brown might win, so...

WILLIAMS: Sometimes you have to understand that you push ahead, there's going to be a lot of flak, there's going to be a lot of dogs barking, but the wagon train moves ahead.

KRISTOL: The public -- the American people don't think...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: The American people don't think they're barking dogs.

WILLIAMS: Once it passes...

KRISTOL: They think they have a right to say something.

WILLIAMS: Once it passes...

KRISTOL: And they are saying something in Massachusetts. And they are saying something and communicating with...

WILLIAMS: OK.

KRISTOL: ... their senators and congressmen. And therefore, I do think the bill will fail. HUME: Let me ask everybody -- hear everybody on this question that I asked senator McConnell and I didn't get very far with, which is this: In raw political terms, is it better for the Democrats if this bill goes down or if it passes?

Bill?

KRISTOL: I actually think it's better if it goes down now. They have time to recoup.

EASTON: They clearly feel that it's just as dangerous to have it pass -- to have it not pass. So I think -- I think it -- they're hurt either way.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think Democrats think that the public perception of how bad it is is wrong. And thus, if it passes, they will see the benefits in the future and they'll be OK.

HUME: So they're better off -- they're better off...

KRAUTHAMMER: They think...

HUME: Well, what do you think?

KRAUTHAMMER: They are wrong.

HUME: You think they're wrong.

KRAUTHAMMER: The bill is as bad as everyone thinks, and it's going to hurt them for decades.

HUME: So you think it hurts more...

KRAUTHAMMER: If it passes..

HUME: ... if it passes.

KRAUTHAMMER: If it passes, it will be a millstone for years.

HUME: What do you think, Juan?

WILLIAMS: If it passes, it'll become extremely popular. You watch. Americans like Social Security. In fact, one of the big points of opposition of this is people fear that their Medicare benefits, and Medicare Advantage and the like, may be cut as a result. No. I think if the...

HUME: Will be cut, won't they?

WILLIAMS: Will be cut. That's what their fear is. So if this...

HUME: Well, that'll happen, won't it?

WILLIAMS: No, not necessarily. We don't know exactly. A -- we don't know -- for example, taxes may come up. Deficit may be lower. All sorts of things may happen. We can't predict that. But I think Americans like entitlements, I've got to tell you.

HUME: All right, panel. Thanks very much.

Don't forget to check out the latest edition of "Panel Plus" where our group right here continues this discussion. It's on our Web site, foxnewssunday.com. It comes up shortly after the show ends. And we'll go at it again.

In the meantime, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Well, that's it for today, folks. Have a great week. You'll be relieved to learn that Chris Wallace will return for the next "Fox News Sunday," and we'll see you then.

 

For more visit the FOX News Sunday web page.

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