‘Special Report’ All-Star Panel on Biden’s Omicron policy


This is a rush transcript from “Special Report,” December 1, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re learning more every single day. And we will fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be detected in the United States.

DR. GRANT COLFAX, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: To best protect against this variant, get vaccinated, for goodness sakes.

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Whatever happened to President Biden’s promise to shut down the virus?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We’re working on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Well, the Omicron variant is here in the U.S. California with the first official case. Many experts say it’s probably already been here. But what about this and the moves that the administration is potentially making?

Let’s bring in our panel, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, Guy Benson, political editor at Townhall.com, host of “The Guy Benson Show” on FOX News Radio, and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at “The Federalist.”

Mollie, let me start with you, and this potential travel restriction that the administration is considering. This is how “The Washington Post” writes it, “It’s part of enhanced winter COVID strategy. Biden is expected to announce Thursday U.S. officials would require everyone entering the country to test one day before boarding flights regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival. In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self- quarantine for seven days even if their test results are negative.” That’s pretty restrictive.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, “THE FEDERALIST”: This would have been unthinkable that anybody would assert that they have this type of power to restrict Americans’ freedom of movement, particularly when, as you noted, it would apply even to people who have tested negative for COVID, and even people who are vaccinated. That makes no sense at all.

We are constantly told that politicians are making decisions based on the science, and, yet it really seems they are making really gross political decisions that restrict civil liberties that have no relationship to the science. We don’t know that much about the Omicron variant other than it’s silly we are calling it that out of deference to Xi in China. But we don’t know —

BAIER: Skipped a letter in the Greek alphabet, basically.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, out of deference to the Chinese leader even though we are not doing anything to actually deal with China’s role in spreading this global pandemic. We are making decisions that don’t seem to have any basis in science. They are based in desire for political power. And I think people are kind of done being terrified and done being motivated by fear.

BAIER: Mara, it’s pretty remarkable, if you think about it, the extent. And we don’t know if the Biden administration is going to go this far, especially with the last one, with the quarantining for a week. But the fact that they are even considering it, not knowing whether the Omicron variant is severe, is mild, is whatever.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, a couple things. First of all, I think that officials have been pretty good this time of saying what they don’t know, saying we need a week or two to see if the vaccines work against this, to learn more about this new variant.

I would be shocked if they picked that last possibility of making everyone quarantine for seven days coming back to the country vaccinated or not. But I do think that a more robust testing regime — I left the country several times during the pandemic, and I always had to get a test before I boarded the plane to come back. And actually the countries that are gotten ahold of COVID much more than we have, like South Korea where I think there have been something like 3,500 deaths, are countries that do a mass testing regimen. That is really the key. So there probably should be more tests. Asking everyone to stay home for seven days seems extremely unlikely.

BAIER: It’s not New Zealand or Australia, Guy, but it’s restrictive for us.

GUY BENSON, POLITICAL EDITOR, TOWNHALL.COM: Why would they even float this weeklong mandatory quarantine idea in the lead of that “Washington Post” story? Maybe it’s a trial balloon to see how it goes over on shows like this. But even as you reread those paragraphs to Mollie in your first question, I had read the story, I was shocked anew that they are even putting this possibility out there. You are telling me someone gets fully vaccinated and boosted, and they’re a U.S. citizen, and they want to come back to the United States, they have to test before they get on the plane, then a few days again later. And even with all three shots and two negative test, they also have to be at home for seven days quarantining?

It feels like we are going backwards. We are in a post vaccine era right now. It doesn’t feel that way, and there is not a good reason why. And I think that’s the most frustrating part to so many people. They are staying we don’t know, let’s be cautious, let’s wait and see about Omicron. Then they’re floating this stuff. There is incoherence there.

BAIER: Here is Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Fauci today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R-KY): What he always defaults to is more rules, more regulation, and less of your liberty. Why would you make a blanket decision for the whole world on locking the economy down, locking the country up, banning travel before you know whether this is a deadly variant or a less deadly variant? It’s incomprehensible that this man is still in charge of anything.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: Everybody who is coming into the country needs to get a test within 24 hours of getting on the plane to come here.

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: But what about people who don’t take a plane and just these border crossers coming in in huge numbers.

FAUCI: That’s a different issue. There is testing at the border under certain circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: That’s the tough part is that that’s not science. That’s politics about border politics.

HEMINGWAY: And Dr. Fauci has shown that he is a politician and an idealogue. And that was an excellent question to ask because we have had so many people crossing the border, many of them illegally at the southern border, and that those people would have more freedom of movement than American citizens is just mindboggling, particularly after years of screaming about the previous administration being fascist, and here you have actual major problems that people should be screaming bloody murder about.

BAIER: I want to play one more soundbite. This is about the consideration of this move and not shocking allies. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When President Trump instituted the travel restrictions was a real shock to European allies. Are you committed to — I mean, are you committed —

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unlike Trump, I don’t shock our allies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Mara, except if you talk about the Afghanistan withdrawal or the French deal about submarines, or — there have been some shocking ally moments in this administration.

LIASSON: Yes, there have been tensions. I don’t think you can compare them to the ones of Trump floating the idea of maybe leaving NATO. But, sure. One of the problems with this pandemic management is that all the countries in the world haven’t been on the same page, and different countries have instituted different regulations. It’s hard to get a global pandemic under control if you don’t have a global approach to it.

BAIER: We’ll see what happens. We will follow it all. Panel, thank you.

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