CBS Frets Obama Won’t Be Tough Enough on Drug Companies

On Monday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Sharyl Attkisson filed a report focusing on worries that President Obama will not go far enough to challenge drug companies, which she believed may “jeopardize support among Democrats and the public.” Anchor Katie Couric introduced the report as she suggested that Obama, who repeatedly promised during the campaign that all negotiations would be public and shown on C-SPAN, had instead made a "backroom deal":

When he was running for President, Barack Obama attacked pharmaceutical companies for charging too much for prescription drugs, but now he's teamed up with those same companies to promote his health care plan. And Sharyl Attkisson tells us critics accuse him of making a backroom deal that could end up costing seniors plenty.

Despite the risk that price controls could reduce the supply of drugs or diminish their quality, or that importing cheaper drugs from Canada could have the effect of drying up Canada’s drug supply, Attkisson complained of the possibility Obama may not support price controls:

But what did the pharmaceutical industry get in return? Initial reports said the White House agreed not to seek price controls on drugs for seniors on Medicare and would not support importing cheaper drugs from Canada. ... But news of a back-room deal riled fellow Democrats, including a key committee chairman, Henry Waxman.

Then came a soundbite of liberal Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman complaining about drug company profits: “We're not bound by that agreement. We weren't part of it. And we feel strongly that the drug companies shouldn't get off with a windfall at the expense of our seniors.”

After a clip of Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Children's Health Research Group complaining of "a very bad deal for the American public even if it's a good deal for the drug industry," Attkisson concluded: "The President may have won crucial support from the pharmaceutical industry, but the question is whether that could jeopardize support among Democrats and the public." 

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Monday, August 10, CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: When he was running for President, Barack Obama attacked pharmaceutical companies for charging too much for prescription drugs, but now he’s teamed up with those same companies to promote his health care plan. And Sharyl Attkisson tells us critics accuse him of making a back room deal that could end up costing seniors plenty.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: While much of the health care debate has been carried out publicly, some very private negotiations have gone on, too, between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry – so private neither side will release all the details, yet they've potentially involved millions of Americans. Sources say negotiations involving the White House and the pharmaceutical industry shifted to fast forward in mid-June. President Obama had just taken a serious hit on the escalating cost of his health care plan and needed a shot in the arm. Days later, he got it with the full backing of the pharmaceutical industry and its promise to save Americans $80 billion in health care costs.

NANCY-ANN DEPARLE, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF HEALTH REFORM: This is just part of the legislative process. Working with industry is part of getting this done. And the great thing is the pharmaceutical industry and others in the health care sector are supporting reform this time.

ATTKISSON: But what did the pharmaceutical industry get in return? Initial reports said the White House agreed not to seek price controls on drugs for seniors on Medicare and would not support importing cheaper drugs from Canada. Both the White House and the pharmaceutical industry now dispute that. But news of a back-room deal riled fellow Democrats, including a key committee chairman, Henry Waxman.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA): We're not bound by that agreement. We weren't part of it. And we feel strongly that the drug companies shouldn't get off with a windfall at the expense of our seniors.

ATTKISSON: Whatever the case, the pharmaceutical industry is now so firmly in the President's camp it's developing plans to spend up to $150 billion promoting it with TV ads like this:

CLIP OF AD: The President and Congress have a plan-

ATTKISSON: And consumer watchdog Dr. Sidney Wolfe says there’s reason for the public to be skeptical.

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE, PUBLIC CHILDREN’S HEALTH RESEARCH GROUP: We'll give you this, you'll give us this, all sort of off the record, not really incorporated in any kind of legislation. And I believe, in the long run, a very bad deal for the American public even if it's a good deal for the drug industry.

ATTKISSON: The President may have won crucial support from the pharmaceutical industry, but the question is whether that could jeopardize support among Democrats and the public. Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News, Washington.

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On Monday's Special Report with Bret Baier, as FNC aired a special episode with host Baier stationed in Jerusalem to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during the show's "Fox All Stars" segment, conservative columnist and FNC contributor Charles Krauthammer charged that as the Obama administration pushes for a peace plan, the President has actually pressed Israel even further on the issue of construction on existing Jewish settlements, going further even than Palestinians had previously demanded in recent negotiations

Before noting that the issue of settlements had previously "been in consensus," he continued:

The U.S. and Israelis had agreed, no new settlements, no new expansion of territory in settlements and dismantling of existing settlements. And the Palestinians had accepted that, had never refused negotiations for anything else. But then Obama adds a condition of no thickening of settlements, i.e., you don't construct a kindergarten if children are born, which the Israelis have rejected. And all of a sudden, the Palestinians and Arabs have said no negotiations until Israel jumps through this higher hoop.

Krauthammer concluded: "So the Arabs and Palestinians have said we are not going to move, we're going to let Obama extract unilateral concessions out of the Israelis, and that is why the process has stopped."

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Monday, August 31, Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC:

SHIMON PERES: I think we are going to make maybe by the end of September. President Obama will chair it. And I think at least there is a chance that we will decide to reopen the negotiations. I'm talking very friendly and very frankly with Bibi Netanyahu.

I think he is aware of the choice, and there is no chance, no escape, no alternative but to go ahead and make this peace.

BRET BAIER: Israel President Shimon Peres talking about a previously undisclosed meeting that is expected to happen at the U.N. General Assembly gathering in New York later on in September. When the White House was asked about it, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that he would not contradict our interview with President Peres.

He also said there is hope for progress as far as the settlement issue. So what about all of this and also the developments on Iran, Israel, and Iran? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, let's start with you in the Brady Bunch format here. What about this development on the peace process and this meeting that we didn't know about?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's more like Hollywood squares, actually. The whole delay in the peace process is a self-inflicted wound on the Obama administration. Let's remember that for over a year, the previous prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, had been negotiating with the head of the Palestinians and made an astonishingly generous offer in December of '08, which the Palestinians refused, as they always refuse. So Obama comes in and instead of picking up and trying to get the Palestinians to moderate, what does he do? He attacks Netanyahu. He tries to make an issue of settlements, which had been in consensus. The U.S. and Israelis had agreed, no new settlements, no new expansion of territory in settlements and dismantling of existing settlements. And the Palestinians had accepted that, had never refused negotiations for anything else. But then Obama adds a condition of no thickening of settlement, i.e., you don't construct a kindergarten if children are born, which the Israelis have rejected. And all of a sudden, the Palestinians and Arabs have said no negotiations until Israel jumps through this higher hoop. So the Arabs and Palestinians have said we are not going to move, we're going to let Obama extract unilateral concessions out of the Israelis, and that is why the process has stopped.

JUAN WILLIAMS: I think that this is really great news. It was impressive that, you know, that Special Report is able to break this story, because I think this is really the start of a new epic, potentially, in some sort of Middle East peace deal, and it's necessary. To leave it as it is, the status quo, I think would have been lamentable. I think history would have judged the Obama administration as being neglectful on a key issue of our time. And of course it extends everything across the Middle East, because it touches on a terrorist threat. It touches on Iran. It touches on the safety of the world in terms of terrorist threat. So let's take away this element, and I think you have an opportunity with the notion of talks opening in the fall. And I think that the Obama administration has been wise in this regard, you know, to say to the Palestinians as well -- you have got to come to the table willing to make sacrifices and compromises. The question is whether the difficulty between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas and who is exactly in charge of the Palestinians, how will the Obama administration handle this? You can't ask Israel to negotiate with two sides of the same people, you know. Who is the legitimate government of the Palestinians? That is the real issue for me.

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think Juan is right that that is a major issue, and it's an issue that I think ultimately could present a serious stumbling block. But I think the most interesting thing to come out of your interview with President Peres was this emphasis on the Sunni states. You're reaching when you are talking about these coming negotiations, you have got a point at which there is some common ground between Israel on the one hand and various Sunni states on the other -- Qatar, Dubai, United Arab emeritus, Saudi Arabia, obviously, being the biggest and most important one, on the question of Iran and what happens to Iran. And what seems to be potentially this emerging deal is a nine- month suspension of settlements, probably with a natural growth settlement, which, as Charles points out, gets us back to essentially where we were, and then in exchange, potentially having the U.S. put more pressure on Iran, leading regional pressure on Iran and potentially at the U.N. I think it's difficult right now for Israelis to put much faith in Barack Obama and the United States actually doing anything on Iran. We have seen what he said repeatedly on Iran, even at times when all that was required was a denunciation of what were some horrible efforts on the streets of Iran. He didn't do anything.

BAIER: Charles, quickly on Iran and Israel's positioning to really practice, prepare for the possibility that Iran becomes nuclear, did you hear anything in President Peres' response that perked your ears?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he is very much of a moderate, but even he reflects even the moderates and the left of Israel, and understand that Israel will not accept a nuclear Iran and they will attack. That is absolutely unmistakable, unless the world stops them. It is only a question of when. And the only question is how long will they give the United States to actually help the program before Israel acts?

BAIER: All right, former vice president's criticism of the Obama administration is making big news. We'll talk about that with the panel. We'll dissect it, next.