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This is a rush transcript from “Special Report,” April 18, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There may be people sitting in an airport bar watching right now wondering, if they are boarding a flight tonight, is the mask mandate still in place?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We’re continuing to recommend people wear masks. I don’t have any update. This just came out through the courts just this afternoon. And as soon as there is an update, we will provide that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: And, just after that news conference, there was an update. Senior administration officials saying the TSA is not enforcing its security directives, emergency amendment requiring masks on public transportation, or transportation hubs at this time. While the CDC still recommends it, the TSA is not enforcing it. So essentially right now the mask mandate is not in place after that federal ruling.
Let’s bring in our panel, FOX News senior political analyst Brit Hume, Guy Benson, political editor at Townhall.com, host of “The Guy Benson Show” on FOX News Radio, and Harold Ford Jr., former Tennessee Congressman, co-host of “THE FIVE.” Harold, what about that? It kind of puts the administration in a bind if this judge rules one way or they are still considering things, now it’s not in place.
HAROLD FORD JR., FORMER TENNESSEE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, thanks for having me. The law and the courts speak louder than what the White House and those of us can say. I follow the data and the law, and I’m comfortable if this judge sees fit that this should not be imposed. The fact that more people are vaccinated, that fewer people are being hospitalized and thankfully, prayerfully, fewer people are dying I think is a positive thing. I think the administration would be better suited to focus their energies and political pursuits elsewhere, including inflation, Ukraine, and crime and the border.
GUY BENSON, POLITICAL EDITOR, TOWNHALL.COM: I got an email from a Democratic group. I’m on their list just to see what they’re up to. And they are already fundraising off of this, saying it’s a Trump judge that’s done this. Do you support this? Give us money. And it’s, I think, a tricky situation for them, because on one hand, many travelers and the airlines themselves for the most part want these mandates gone. But this judge has decided otherwise — or has actually agreed with them. And the administration is stuck, as you say, in a bind, of choosing between what most people, I think especially the traveling public supports, and what a lot of their base supports and at least some of their scientists say.
BAIER: Here is the White House COVID — the head of the COVID strategy over the weekend. Brit, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID COORDINATOR: We don’t think that a zero COVID strategy, which China is pursuing, is one that is likely to work. I think it’s very difficult at this point with a highly contagious variant to be able to curtail this through lockdowns alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Specifically, about Shanghai, and some of those images, Brit, are really amazing, the protests.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They are. They are. And did you hear that eye-popping number in the report — 400 million people under lockdown in cities across China? We have been reading about Shanghai for weeks now, but now this is apparently all over the place. Great swaths of highway are empty, and so on. China in large part is paralyzed. And the damage to the economy and the people there is going to be extraordinary.
Can Xi Jinping, whose dictatorial tendencies are evident in this lockdown, can he really survive this? On paper you look at it and you say, well, who is going to overthrow him? But this is the stuff on which uprisings are made.
BAIER: Meantime, here in this country, domestically, a lot of issues facing a people as we get ready to head, Harold, to November and the midterms, the biggest among them, inflation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I think the president has richly deserved his approval ratings. It’s hard to find anything that’s going in the right direction. He has not governed as a moderate, but if I become the majority leader he will be a moderate. He won’t have any choice.
ART LAFFER, FORMER REAGAN ECONOMIC ADVISER: There’s no sign that inflation is slowing down. If anything, it’s going stronger and stronger. So that could lead to a big, sharp downturn in the economy at some time in the future, just the way it did under Ronald Reagan in 81 to 82. It will be the worst of all worlds, high inflation and high unemployment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Now, there are some pundits over the weekend, Harold, who said, well, the president can’t really do anything about. There is nothing he can do about it. This is a “Wall Street Journal” opinion from FedEx founder Fred Smith saying “The sky is still the limit.” Quote, “Had we passed the Build Back Better bill that Biden wanted, my guess is now that we would be Weimar Germany right now.” He says “We would have 25 percent inflation rather than nine percent or 10 percent. You can’t print money without regard to the fundamental laws of economics.” Tough spot.
FORD: Fred Smith runs the biggest company in my former district in Memphis. He knows a lot of what he is talking about. I think those in my party whom are suggesting that inflation is not an issue, they need to stop reading Harvard papers and start listening to those in Hartford and Harrisburg who are actually experiencing the day-to-day life of what it means to pay higher prices.
I think the president, and I have said for a long time, should acknowledge it. I don’t think he needs to take all of the responsibility for it, but he has to take responsibility for what we are going to do going forward will.
I think you have to reposition known from what we spent on COVID to help small businesses. I think there is a plan out there maybe to divert money from small businesses to help healthcare initiatives. They should not do that. Just add to it if you need it, but don’t take money from middle class families and main street in the country.
And two, you have to be smart about taxes. People aren’t afraid — don’t want rich — I should say would not not support rich people paying more taxes, but you have to tell people what we’re going to use the tax money for, which means fighting crime and protecting our border. I would give back to the bread-and-butter, kitchen table issues that are on the minds of everyday voters in all of our battleground states. If you do that, we have a chance of perhaps not losing as many seats, and perhaps even saving face and maybe even gaining a few seats somewhere along the way.
But until and unless we do that, Bret, Democrats, we’re going to have a hard time come November.
BAIER: I should have pointed out that FedEx found Fred Smith will be a guest on SPECIAL REPORT on Wednesday, as we look at the supply chain issue that is still happening at ports around the country. Brit, what about the thought that this administration can’t fight the battle on inflation so should be focused on something or trying to get something else through. They’re trying to find some path on the way to November.
HUME: I don’t think it’s going to do them any good if they try to do that, Bret, because inflation affects everybody. And it effects people in the lower income ranges the most because they, whatever they do — richer people can afford the gas and food prices. And they can cut back on luxuries. But I’m talking about people who don’t spend on luxuries, but they spend on food and fuel and so on. Many of them in rural areas have long drives and have to have the fuel. These people are getting killed by this inflation.
So the administration gives up on it or says it can’t do anything about it or argues that it can’t, that’s not going to work. People don’t want a government that says they can’t solve the problem. They want a government that can. And there are lots of things the government could do despite some pundits’ arguments to the contrary.
BAIER: And Guy, hashtag “Putin’s price hike” not doing it?
BENSON: Not sufficient. It’s one part of the broader puzzle, but I think people generally understand that is a pivot, that is a political talking point. And what the Biden administration struggles with here is credibility. They want to spend $5 trillion more dollars on build back better, which every House Democrat except for one voted, which would have raised taxes on millions of middle-class households. They can try to talk a better game. It’s not going to serve them well because their voting record and their overall policy record is speaking loud and clear, and the polls are, too.
BAIER: All right, Harold, you are the head of the DNC, or the DSCC. What do you come up with ahead of November? What’s the pitch?
FORD: We reform maybe bail reform law in the country. We do not revoke Title 42. We say no new taxes on small businesses all across this country. And we reposition and repurpose every dollar that we have not spent on COVID to small businesses and small communities and rural communities across this country and say whether we win or lose, we are for America and we’re for communities all across our country.
BAIER: And you get AOC and the progressives to come along.
FORD: I get Joe Manchin and I get him to get the rest of them, Bret, and we’d win with a majority. Even if we have to have a few Republicans, we’d gain them, too.
BAIER: Possible plan there, Brit?
HUME: Sound advice, I think, from Harold, but it goes against everything this administration has stood for and done so far. It would require a remarkable reversal. We saw that when the Republicans took the House in 1994 when bill Clinton was president. Whether Joe Biden is capable of such a thing, he has no record of that effect, is in doubt to me.
BAIER: All right, panel, as always. Thank you.
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