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Gov. Rick Perry on Rebooting His Presidential Campaign
Written by Chris Wallace / Published October 30, 2011 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Gov. Rick Perry
The following is a rush transcript of the October 30, 2011, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace, reporting from Austin, Texas -- where Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry looks to relaunch his campaign.
With a new plan to reform taxes and cut spending, the one-time front runner tries to reinvigorate his run for the White House. In a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive, we'll talk with the Texas governor about getting American people back to work, immigration, foreign policy, and whether he's going to skip some of those GOP debates.
Rick Perry only on "Fox News Sunday."
Also, President Obama takes his new message for a test drive. We'll ask our Sunday panel if "we can't wait" is a new way to govern or just a campaign slogan.
And our power play of the week tries to help our national leaders do the right thing. All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
And hello again from Fox News. This time reporting from Austin, Texas, in the Texas State History Museum.
We've come to the Texas state capitol in Austin to talk with the former frontrunner in the race for Republican presidential nomination who is now trying to relaunch his campaign.
We'll continue our series of 2012 one-on-one interviews with Texas Governor Rick Perry.
And, Governor, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
TEXAS GOV. RICK PERRY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you and welcome to Texas. I hope you enjoyed your stay.
WALLACE: We have so far.
You have dropped in the polls from a high of 38 percent when you got in August, to a low of 6 percent in one of the polls this week. Your new campaign staffers talk about trying to reboot Perry 2.0.
So, what's the message you want to give to voters as you try to get them to give you a second look?
PERRY: Yes, for the first eight weeks we were traveling across the country, just shaking hands, introducing ourselves, and people knew two things that I was a governor of state of Texas and I had a beautiful and smart wife. In the last two weeks now, they've actually got to put the meat on the bone, if you will. We laid out our jobs and energy plan, 1.2 million Americans back to work, opening up our federal lands and our waters for energy exploration, getting this country back truly secure from hostile countries that we're buying foreign oil from.
Then we laid out just this last week, people are just getting their arms around our "Cut and Balance and Grow" plan where we talk about 20 percent flat tax, where we talk about how to cut the spending, how we grow this economy. And I think when Americans take a look at that, they're going to go -- you know what, not only is it a great plan, this fellow has got the record as the governor of Texas for 10 years of doing it. And that's who we need in the White House, who's got the courage to stand in the gap and put these tax reforms in place.
WALLACE: But why should voters -- and some have certainly been paying attention in the last couple of months. We have 6 million people who watched the last FOX debate. Why should those voters disregard the last two months -- quite frankly, your poor performance in the debates and some parts of your record on immigration, in-state tuition, the HPV vaccine that didn't turn out to be as conservative as they might have hoped?
PERRY: Well, when you take a look at the -- I readily admit I'm not the best debater in the world. With as many debate as we got coming up, I may end up being a pretty good debater before it's all been said and done.
But when they look at the record, when they look at what we've done, nobody has been stronger on immigration than I have. You want to take the issue of whether or not governors have to deal with tough and hard issues because the federal government has absolutely failed at securing that border, and then we have to deal with that. I readily respect that and I would not tell any state they need to do a particular thing on that as we did in the state of Texas.
But whether it's putting Texas ranger recon teams, $400 million, on that border, vetoing driver's license bill for illegals, whether it was passing a voters identification bill before you can vote. There's not anybody on that state that's any tougher, any right on on the immigration issues than I am.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the debates, though. Your staff indicated this weekend that you're going to skip some, but the news overnight is you've signed up for the next five debates, which take you through November and into early December. But you told Bill O'Reilly this week that you felt it was a mistake to participate in any of them. Why?
PERRY: Well, I said that 18 debates is, I think, way too many debates frankly. It's an incredible amount of time and preparation and what have you.
I really like getting out and being able to talk with people, just like I'm talking with you today where you have time to lay out your ideas. We got a great debater, a smooth politician in the White House right now. That's not working out very good for America.
If you want to know how somebody is going to perform in the future, take a look at their past. And as governor of the state of Texas, we created more jobs in the state than any other state in the country. And I think that's what Americans are really interested in.
People sitting around the coffee table today, the kitchen table, and they're going to -- how are we going to get this country back working again? I've laid out the plan, I got the courage and I got the record to put it in place.
WALLACE: We're going to get to your plan and drill down to it in a moment, but I still want to focus on these debates, because what I've heard in e-mails I got from a lot of conservative voters they say, OK, maybe he's not the greatest debater, but we need somebody next fall where there's going to be these three big debates, 100 million people watching each time, who's going to be able to get up on that stage with Barack Obama and make the case against him. And they worry based on your performance that you are not that man.
PERRY: Well, I'm not worried a bit that I'll be able to stand on the stage with Barack Obama and draw a very bright line, a real contrast between an individual who's lost 2.5 million jobs for this country, someone who is signaling to our opponents when we're going to pull out of a particular war zone, an individual who has taken an experiment with the American economy and turned it into absolute Frankenstein experience. I think I will stand on the stage and draw a clear contrast with Barack Obama.
WALLACE: OK. You did propose a major tax reform plan this week, and as I said, we got some time. So, let's drill down into some of the details of it. You give people a choice, a 20 percent flat tax, or they can stay in the current system. Now, one assumes that most people are going to figure it out and decide to go with the plan that they pay the fewer taxes, less in taxes.
Your campaign said and I sent it out to a private acting firm, this would mean $ 4.7 trillion less in revenue over the first six years, from 2014 to 2020. Doesn't the Perry plan blow a hole in the deficit in?
PERRY: You got to look at the spending cuts as well and you have to look at the dynamics of the growth that goes on here. I mean, you can't just take one piece of this and say here's the plan. It's not. This is a plan that gives people an option and I think a good option, to be able to do their taxes on a post card -- literally taking that 20 percent tax -- flat tax, deducting mortgage, deducting charitable, deducting (INAUDIBLE) taxes, $12,500 for each dependent, subtracting it and sending it in -- I mean, literally on a postcard. It's that simple to put it on that postcard right there. That's it.
And then, people have the confidence -- people have the confidence, the job creators, this plan is about getting people back to work, putting the confidence back in the American entrepreneur to know that the regulations are not going to be there, that these tax burdens.
You know who's going to hate this more than anybody, Chris? The Washington lobbyist that have been carving out all of these corporate tax loopholes, they've been manipulating our tax code, make it simple and put those guys out of business. I guarantee you, that's the type of approach that Americans are looking for, a simple tax code corporate tax rate of the 20 percent as well, bring those corporate tax proceeds back from offshore at 5.25 percent.
And we will balance that budget in 2020. No one says it's going to be easy, but we need a president who has a commitment to that, who's got a track record of doing that and I have.
WALLACE: All right. A couple of quick questions to that. You talk about simplicity. But the fact is, a lot of people would have to calculate their taxes the old way, they have to calculate their taxes with the alternative minimum tax, they have to calculate their taxes with the new 20 percent. Far from being simple, you might have to calculate your taxes, it's going to be a boon for my accountant, three ways to figure out the cheapest.
PERRY: I don't think that's not the case at all. I think most Americans know right off the top of their heads they're going to take that 20 percent flat tax, they're going to take their deductions and they're going to send that in. They're not going to have to go ask an accountant or a lawyer.
They maybe some folks out there that want to go ask those accountants, go ask those lawyers, that's their business. That's the great thing about the choice here.
But this will substantively change the IRS as we know it today.
WALLACE: OK. Let's talk about this question of growth because, as I say, your campaign says, static scoring, which is just going with the numbers and the assumptions as they are, almost $5 trillion less in revenue over the first six years. Now, your campaign says, yes, but you got to get economic growth and that's going to end up being a $1 trillion more.
Here's the problem with that -- everybody agrees that if you lower taxes, you do increase economic growth. But even conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation say almost never do tax cuts pay for themselves. That you still end up, you may get some increased economic growth, but you still end up with lower revenue.
PERRY: And you know what? There's nothing wrong with lower revenue. I think Americans are ready for Washington, D.C. to quit spending money.
WALLACE: But we have a deficit problem, sir.
PERRY: We will pay off that deficit. Our plan balances this budget in 2020.
PERRY: We'll pay off the debt.
No one else on the stage is laying of on a plan. Mitt Romney basically just nibbles around the edges. He leaves the rates where they are. Mr. Cain's plan, it creates two new sources of revenue.
I don't want more revenue in Washington, D.C.'s hands. I want more revenue in the private sector, job creators' hands, and American citizens out there. I guarantee you, they'll make better decisions about how to spend that money than Washington, D.C.
WALLACE: OK. We're going to get to the spending cuts, because that's an important part of it, in a moment. But I want to any ask you one last thing about the tax plan, and that's tax fairness. Almost everyone who looks into your plan says the people who do the best in this plan, in terms of a tax cut, are the wealthy.
According to one analysis up here on the screen, a family of four earning $425,000 would see their tax bill tax drop from $91,000 to $46,400 -- almost 50 percent cut. This is what you said the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: For those at the top, it is hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of dollars for them.
PERRY: But I don't care about that. What I care about is them having the dollars to invest in their companies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Question -- when the rich and by all of the studies of income inequality, when the rich get richer and the middle class are struggling, why don't you care about tax fairness?
PERRY: Everybody gets a tax cut here. Everybody gets a tax cut here.
WALLACE: But the rich got a much bigger tax cut.
PERRY: And, historically, those who have money put more money into their business. They hire more people. That's what we need to be focused on -- how do you give incentives to the job creators in this country so that those $14 million people that don't have jobs out there have a shot of having the dignity to take care of their family? That's what I really care about.
The idea of class warfare, and that's what we're talking about here. You got the president, you have some people out there that want to talk about class warfare, that the rich are having more money or what have you. I am interested in individuals who are going to be able to invest in this country, have the confidence that an environment that's been created, that they're going to be able to keep more of what they work for. When they do that, they'll invest in companies and create jobs. That's what the debate should stay on. Not creating class warfare.
WALLACE: But I just want to make it clear -- you are saying that yes, the wealthy, the job creators, as you've called them, they are going to end up getting bigger tax cuts under the Perry plan than the middle class. And you're OK with that.
PERRY: I want to see people investing. I mean, the idea again -- I'm not for class warfare. If somebody wants to go push the class warfare issue and try to divide this country, I'm for bringing people together to create jobs and give Americans a better chance to take care of their families.
WALLACE: OK, let's turn to spending. You say that you are going to cap spending at 18 percent of the economy, GDP, gross domestic product, which is a level we have not seen since 1966. How on earth are you doing that, Governor?
PERRY: By cutting spending. Listen, Americans are sick and tired of Washington's business as usual. They're sick and tired of seeing hundreds of thousands of federal employees be put on the tax roles that they are having to pay the jobs of stimulus dollars, $4 trillion worth of debt under this president's watch and practically no jobs being created.
They are looking for someone who has the courage to stand up and say, here's how we are going to fix Social Security. If you are on it, if you're approaching, it's going to be there for you. But give our young people the truth and give them options of being able to have a private account or whatever it is, or maybe ratcheting up the age in which people become eligible for it. Americans are looking for some ideas about how to get out of this mess that Washington has put us in and spending cuts is one of them.
Do away with earmarks. I mean, clearly stand up and say, pull out the veto pen, and if you have earmarks coming my way, they'll never make it into law.
WALLACE: OK. But the -- according to a Congressional Budget Office, to cut -- to go down to 18 percent GDP, you would have to make cuts between $700 billion and $1 trillion a year. That's roughly a quarter of the federal budget.
You talked and you said here, you got to have the courage to do it. You're going to make hard choices. Like what? I mean, tell me programs that people count on, not waste and fraud. But programs that people count on that you are saying, President Perry, I'm sorry, you're going to have to do without.
PERRY: Yes. Let me share one place you can go to get a really good broad menu of that. Tom Coburn has a piece of work called "Back and Black." I believe it's $9 trillion worth of reductions. I hope folks will go take a look at that.
But let me give you one example. You can take the Department of Education and you can put the elementary and secondary programs together, and cut those in half and send half of it back to the states. Save $25 trillion right there --
WALLACE: Twenty-five trillion or 25 --
PERRY: Excuse me, $25 billion.
WALLACE: OK. But that still leaves you with $975 billion.
PERRY: But I understand, but you ask for an example. There is one of the examples. I mean, we have so many programs in government that aren't creating jobs. All they are doing is creating government jobs, and Americans are sick of that. They want someone who will stand up and say, listen, we're going to cut the size of spending, we're going to cut the size of these programs. Is it going to be -- anybody who stands up and said, oh, this is going to be painful, you might consider them to be suspect, you better believe it's hard.
In Texas, this last session of the legislature, we cut spending by the first time since World War II, a lot of gnashing of teeth, a lot of people saying, oh, the world is coming to an end. But the fact is, you got to have a president that has the courage to stand up and say, the future of this country demands that we have less spending going on -- and I will do that.
WALLACE: OK. The purpose of all of this, of course, is to put America back to work, to create jobs. No question about it. You have a strong record here in Texas of creating jobs, 40 percent of all the new jobs in the last two years here in the state of Texas.
You talked about that in your first TV commercial. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, PERRY CAMPAIGN AD)
PERRY: As president, I'll create at least 2.5 million new jobs, and I know something about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Governor, here's what I don't get about that 2.5 million jobs -- 2.5 million jobs is terrible. That wouldn't be nearly enough for the first four years of the administration. We looked at it. We would roughly need 6 million jobs in the first four years just to stay even with population growth.
So, 2.5 million jobs, the unemployment rate would increase. Jimmy Carter created 10.5 million in his first four years.
PERRY: Listen, I think it's amazing people, when we've lost 2.5 million jobs in this country and there is another state that is juxtaposition to that, that created a million jobs and for people to go, well, that's not enough.
Let me tell you any jobs at this particular point in time helps. But you give confidence to the American people. Give you a good example -- bring in that money that's offshore, the money that can be repatriated at 5.5 percent in my plan. That will create, according to the Chamber of Commerce, American Chamber of Commerce, $360 billion worth of economic activity.
We've got to give Americans the confidence that they are going to be able to keep more of what they work for and that these regulations that are strangling businesses, small banks with Dodd-Frank, Obamacare that's coming down to effect, that is going to give the confidence to these job creators.
WALLACE: But how do you answer this question. Two and half million doesn't keep pace with the population growth. We would -- our unemployment rate would increase under this goal?
PERRY: I don't believe that for a minute. That is just absolutely false on its face. Americans will get back to work. Are we going to go out and make some, you know, claim and say, oh, it's going to create 10.5 million jobs? We would be having the same conversation. Oh, that's not realistic.
I will tell you one thing. You give this plan a chance. You put Americans where they know that they can pay their income tax on a postcard, that they're going to have those kind of cuts, that they're going to have a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution in four years and they will go back to work. Manufacturing jobs will come back to this country.
The idea that I'm going to let people talk this plan down for the sake of just having an intellectual discussion is not correct. I know what happened. In Texas, we have seen it and Americans are dying for a president that understands, create an environment where job creators know they can risk their capital and have return on investment. They will go create jobs -- and lots of them.
WALLACE: What do you think of President Obama's plan to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year?
PERRY: Well, I think any time a commander-in-chief -- and I got a little experience here, I wore the uniform of our country as a pilot in the United States Air Force. I also am commander in chief of 20,000-plus Texas National Guard troops that we loan to the federal government on a pretty regular basis.
The idea that a commander-in-chief would stand up and signal to the enemy a date certain of which we're going to pull our troops out I think is irresponsible. You need to be talking to your commanders in the field. You need to be working with the experts who understand what's going on in those countries for instance. We need to finish our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. You better believe I want our kids home as soon as we can and safe.
But to give that signal that we're going to pull them out is really bad public policy. More importantly, it's putting our kid's lives in jeopardy.
WALLACE: But in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the president says there have got to be limits to how long we spend building those other nations when there are so many problems here at home.
PERRY: Well, have a conversation with the generals. I mean, when you think about what this president has done, he fired one general because he didn't like what they said about it. He didn't listen to other generals on other issues. I mean, from my perspective, he's lost his standing of being a commander-in-chief who has any idea of what is going on in those theaters.
He's making mistakes that are putting our kids that are in the theater and I think future issues dealing with -- whether it's in the Middle East or whether it's in the South China Sea with our allies, putting all of that in jeopardy because of this unwavering or I should say, this wavering or this aimless approach to foreign policy which he has.
WALLACE: You said recently that the federal government doesn't have any need to be subsidizing energy, correct?
PERRY: That's correct. I think the federal government needs to be completely out of the subsidization or tax credit side on the energy.
WALLACE: Why is that?
PERRY: States can do it.
WALLACE: OK. And I understand and you have done it in this state. But why then in 2008 did you as governor write a letter to the energy secretary in Washington, Samuel Bodman, urging him to approve a federal loan guarantee for an energy company in Texas?
PERRY: I don't recall which one that is. But let me share with you -- I think --
WALLACE: Let me just -- just to help, I'll put it up on the screen. It was July 29th, 2008, so not so long ago. You wrote the Bush administration, Samuel Bodman, "I am writing to express my strong support for the proposed nuclear power generating facility." This is NRG, in Matagorda County.
WALLACE: I mean, it sounds like you are asking him to do just what you say he shouldn't do.
PERRY: We were asking to, at that particular point in time, for the federal government to support the nuclear power industry in the state of Texas or across the country for that standpoint. But from a general standpoint, any type of federal dollars flowing in these industries we think is bad public policy, whether it's the ethanol side, whether it's nuclear power side, whether it's the oil and gas --
WALLACE: Well, why did you ask him to give the money?
PERRY: Well, let me just tell you -- I have changed my position from the standpoint of having any desire to have the federal government. What -- I learned some things over the course of the years, and what I've learned is, is the federal government, by and large, you keep 'em out of these issues, particularly on the energy side. And I think that's the best position for us to take as Americans today.
Let the market figure it out. Are you going to have federal government making some impact on the nuclear energy side, from the standpoint of research and development, or having places to deal with these spent fuels and reprocess them? Yes. But giving straight up money to energy -- do away with it.
WALLACE: What do you think of Mitt Romney?
PERRY: I don't really know Mitt Romney well enough to be making statement. You know, we've served together as governors back earlier --
WALLACE: Oh, come on.
PERRY: No, I don't. I really --
WALLACE: I'm not talking about whether you'd like to have dinner with him. But you obviously have a view of his public record and his --
PERRY: Oh, well, he is a competitor and I happen to believe laying out the differences in our record is very important. I mean, I have been a consistent conservative.
You go back through my record through 20-plus years, I have been a consistent conservative. I have always been in favor of the Second Amendment and protecting Second Amendment. I've always been pro-life. I've always been a fiscal conservative.
And Mitt's been on both sides of those issues. He's, you know, been for a ban on guns in Massachusetts. He's been for pro-abortion. He's been for, you know, supporting gay right. And now, he's on the other side of those issues.
So, from the standpoint of having different positions, we certainly do. We are very, very different from the standpoint of consistency on those issues that I've just mentioned.
WALLACE: You have just brought in several new staffers who, quite frankly, have a history of aggressive negative campaigning. For instance, they were involved in the Rick Scott campaign in Florida, which is a tough campaign. How hard are you prepared to go after Mitt Romney in this GOP primary fight?
PERRY: Well, I don't get confused with just telling the truth with someone might say that's negative. If we are telling truth about someone, the truth is the truth, whether it hurts your feelings or not.
WALLACE: You got a little bit of a problem here. And I want to put up a new poll. This is the new "Iowa Des Moines Register" poll just out this morning. It shows Herman Cain and Romney way ahead of the field in the low 20s and you back in fifth place at 7 percent.
Isn't Herman Cain standing your way in terms of a one-on-one battle with Mitt Romney?
PERRY: Well, I think as people of Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina or Florida, any of those early states, look at the plan and I think that's what they are just now doing. Obviously, this race is not settled at all.
As they look and see who is it that will lay out a plan to get America working, when they look at what Mitt's doing and just nibbling around the edges, when they look at what Herman's plan does from the standpoint to create two new sources of taxes, both the VAT and a sales tax, and they look at our plan that really will get America working and then they take and know that there is a 10-year record of being a solid conservative on issues, whether it's immigration or whether it's on fiscal conservatism or social issues -- I feel pretty comfortable where we'll be on election day.
WALLACE: Campaigns can -- can -- can make candidates stronger. I want you to be honest there, because you had a rough two months. What you learned in these last two months?
PERRY: Well, the thing that I've learned is that you pace yourself. It's not a sprint. It's a marathon and we got in late, and we worked awfully hard for those first eight-plus weeks to go raise the money and we had a $17 plus million for 40 day fundraising push. So -- and it's always good to come off of the battle line and catch your breath. So, that's what I learned is don't sprint it, just take a nice easy run at it and continue to stay focused and take your message to the people.
And I think at the end of the day, people in Iowa and New Hampshire, all of those early states, they're going to take a look at this and go -- you know what, this is a guy that's got a record, he's got a plan that will actually get America back working and he is consistent and has been all of his life.
WALLACE: And just finally and briefly -- because you're in a hole. They're up in the 20s, you are down at 7 percent -- how confident are you that you can get out of that hole and turn this thing around?
PERRY: Well, I'm confident that we're going to be out there competing. I mean, obviously, we've got a war chest that allows us to get that message out there. We got a great team put together across the country. We've got not just people in -- on the ground but we've got great volunteers.
So, I feel very confident that as people take a look, they focus in on what's important about getting America working again. They're going to look at the plans. They're going to look at the candidates. They're going to look at the records. And they're going to go, you know what, Rick Perry is who needs to be leading this country to get us out of the mess that Washington, D.C. has got us in.
WALLACE: Governor Perry, we're going to leave it there. I want to thank you so much for coming in and answering our questions today.
PERRY: Thank you, Chris. You're welcome.
WALLACE: You'll be happy to know that the people of Austin have treated us great. And we'll see you on the campaign trail, sir.
PERRY: We'll see you, sir. Thank you.
WALLACE: With Governor Perry's appearance, we have now interviewed all the major Republican candidates in our 2012 one-on-one series except Mitt Romney. He has not appeared on any Sunday talk show since March of 2010. We invited Governor Romney, but his campaign says he's still not ready to sit down for an interview.
Coming up -- President Obama does it his way, working around Congress to push his agenda. We'll ask our Sunday group how that strategy is working as we continue "Fox News Sunday" from Austin, Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can no longer wait for Congress to do its job. The middle class families who have been struggling for years are tired of waiting. They need help now. So, where Congress won't act, I will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama launching his new campaign to work around Congress and take executive actions to help the middle class.
And it's time now for our Sunday group, back in Washington -- Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst; Mara Liasson of National Public Radio; former White House press secretary and now co-host of "The Five," Dana Perino; and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Well, the president took a series of actions on a West Coast swing this week. He announced a plan to help people who are in danger of foreclosure, to help students or ex-students who are having trouble paying off their loans, tax credits to try to get some veterans hired.
Brit, it reminds me a little bit of the kind of bite-sized initiatives that Bill Clinton took in 1996 which helped him a lot to give him the sense that he was looking out for the middle class.
Do you think this could help Barack Obama?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it could. It's unclear how much real difference any of these programs will make. I mean, he's basically just making some adjustments in programs that are already on the books to try to make the benefits a little more accessible to people, and a lot of people might appreciate that. But I don't think in the scheme of things that these are large enough initiatives to make any real difference, and they're certainly not going to have any effect on the big burden that he carries, which is the high unemployment rate.
You know, back when Clinton was doing those things, the economy was booming. The economy is not bombing, and it doesn't appear that it will be booming. And if he can't do anything to turn that around, I think he is working around the edges.
WALLACE: Well, let's follow up on that, Mara, this idea of working around the edges, because the analysts have looked at this, and the real-life practical effects of a lot of these measures the president took, which, of course, again, are executive actions, it's not legislation. They are fairly minuscule.
In fact, according to one analysis, his plan to help students with their student loans would mean something like $4 to $8 dollars a week. And I guess the question is, does that matter? Do the facts matter, or is the symbolism here, "I'm with the middle class and Congress isn't," is that what really matters?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, clearly it's the latter. I think the White House understands that the president doesn't have within his power, with these executive orders, the ability to change the trajectory of the economy.
I think they assume that the economy we have today is the economy they're going to have on Election Day. Now, the latest economic news shows that maybe it won't get any worse. That's probably the most they can hope for. But I think when presidents are stymied by Congress, and can't get their agenda through, they turn to executive orders.
The difference between Obama and Clinton is that this isn't a substitute for a big agenda. He had a big agenda. It just couldn't get passed. Now he's trying to do this.
I think the goal of the White House is to convince people that the president has a plan, that he is fighting for the middle class, and that the Republicans blocked him from doing any more.
WALLACE: There was another interesting development on the president's western campaign swing. And he made some remarks at a fund-raiser in San Francisco. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We have lost our ambition and our imagination and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam, and unleashed all the potential in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Dana, and that is after the president, a couple of weeks ago, talked about the country getting a little soft competitively. Is there any reason, is there a political strategy behind, in effect, talking down the country?
DANA PERINO, CO-HOST, "THE FIVE": Not one that I can see. And certainly it comes, interestingly, in the wake of the death of Steve Jobs, which we have celebrated as one of the best innovators in history, maybe world history, if we live long enough to understand that.
In the 2010 election, if you go back to the midterm, President Obama -- actually, there was a check on his legislative power, because the Democrats ran the executive branch and Congress. They got everything that they wanted done -- health care, the banking regulations, and the stimulus bill.
It was in 2010 that the people said, I'm not for that. Now we have divided government. So, going forward, I think that if they look at some of the things like the free trade agreement, they've been wanting that for a long time. They finally send them up to the Congress, they get them done, and then what happens? President Obama, at the last minute, canceled the Rose Garden ceremony in order to do the Iraq announcement.
So, anything that Congress does, they don't even want to give them any credit for that. So then you look at the bigger picture. I don't think that most people disagree that America's gotten soft, but I think they disagree on the reason and then the remedy for moving forward.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I think Dana is right. Most Americans think that there is a problem here. Most Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
And the president's agenda, in saying that the country needs that vision, that sense of, we can do it, we can overcome, really goes back to the idea that he wants to pass more spending bills on infrastructure, which is something the Senate comes back tomorrow, they're going to take up. The Senate is reluctantly to do it. Specifically, the Republicans.
And Chris, this week, we had some Fox News polls that came out that said, in fact, 52 percent of Americans think that President Obama has ideas to produce jobs, but he's being blocked by Congress. So, when you see the president go out with this small agenda, he is campaigning against a do-nothing Congress. And again, look at poll numbers. The president's approval rating right now is in the mid-40s. But you look at the Congress' approval rating, it's down there at nine percent. And Republicans in Congress, about 20, 22 percent.
So their approval rating is half of his. So he decides, you know what? You may not like me, you may not like some of the things that I stand for, but remember, you like Congress even less. And you will vote for me if I am running against them.
HUME: Remember though, Chris, when the voters go into the voting booth, they're not going to see a line -- one of them says President Obama, the next line says the Congress. I mean, it's the Republicans in Congress. He's going to be running against some nominee who will not be necessarily burdened with the record of Congress, who will have an independent approach to all of this, and who, by the time he or she finishes the race on the Republican side, and is crowned at the convention, and so forth, and is all dressed up in presidential garb, will look a bit stronger than any of those candidates look right now.
WALLACE: And Mara, I want to go back to this question of the do- nothing Congress. We've only got about 30 seconds here, but it seems to me a lot of the voters aren't going to say, well, gee, Obama couldn't get his agenda through because Congress blocked him. They are going to say he did get his agenda through, the trillion-dollar stimulus, the health care reform, and we don't like it and we don't think it works.
LIASSON: Yes, he's not going to -- he cannot run against the Republican Congress in the 2012 election. What he's going to try to do -- he hasn't gotten to it yet -- is lay out a big vision for the future, kind of what he would do if he had a second term, and contrast that against the Republican nominee. And the White House will argue that that person wants to take us back and reenact the policies that got us into the mess in the first place.
The Republican Congress might be a useful foil right now. I mean, their numbers are as low as any Congress has ever been. But it's not going to be the foil for him when the campaign gets going.
WALLACE: All right, panel. We have to take a break here.
But up next, the Republican presidential race rolls on, and both Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have to walk back some campaign misstatements, when we return from the Texas State History Museum in Austin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. And so I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you're seeing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet, and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try and reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's apparent flip-flop this week on global warming.
And we're back now with the panel.
I think we would all agree that Mitt Romney's biggest potential liability is his reputation as a flip-flopper who changes position because of political expedience. And he seemed to have a bad week, as you saw. He seemed to change his position from what he had said earlier on global warming and the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, and this was just days after he appeared to flip on the question of whether or not to support that ballot initiative in Ohio, and whether he supports John Kasich, the Ohio governor's plan to limit collective bargaining for public workers.
Brit, how big a problem is this for him?
HUME: I think it's his single biggest problem, really, apart from the fact that, because of the flips, because of the positions he's flipping from, were positions to the left of where the core of the Republican Party is, people don't trust him as a conservative. And I would say, you know, people usually like it if you change positions and you come toward their position. But you are only allowed a certain number of flips before people begin to doubt your character.
And I think Romney exhausted his quota sometime back. And these fresh ones I think are over the limit, and I think they hurt. And I don't think the fact that he's flipping in the direction that Republicans will like will help very much, because I think they don't trust him.
WALLACE: Mara, one of Romney's rivals, former governor Jon Huntsman of Utah, said this week -- and you could just tell he was jumping on it -- he called Romney a "perfectly lubricated weathervane on all the major issues of the day." Now, we knew, as Brit mentioned, that Romney had problems back in 2008 on his switches on gay marriage and gun rights and abortion. Is he still vulnerable on this?
LIASSON: I think he is, although last time around, the race was much more about social issues, so he had to make a big effort to show that he was a social conservative. He doesn't have to do that this time because the race is about his strong suit, the economy, and creating jobs. But I do think it's a problem for him. The question is -- I think it will be a problem if he is the nominee. This is clearly the line of attack that the White House will use against him. The question is, is this an impediment to him getting the nomination?
And the question right now in the Republican race, is this going to become a two-man race? Is Rick Perry going to be able to revive his campaign enough to really challenge Romney, or does Romney have a relatively unimpeded path to the nomination?
And so I think the answer to that question really depends a lot on Rick Perry and what he can do. And, you know, it's a cliche to say you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, but Perry is really, really suffering from his first impression.
WALLACE: All right.
But, Dana, there is an important name we are leaving out of this discussion, and I want to bring it in. And that is the surprise frontrunner in this race, and that, of course, is former businessman Herman Cain. And let's put back on the screen the poll from Iowa, The Des Moines Register poll out just today, and there you see it.
I mean, it's a statistical dead heat, but there's Herman Cain at 23 percent, Romney at 22 percent, well ahead of the rest of the field. And I guess the simple question is, is Herman Cain for real?
PERINO: Certainly. And his numbers show it. And also -- I mean, in the poll numbers. But he also raised I think $5 million in one month.
But even this week, his campaign, too, said we have got to slow the pace down here a little bit. They have got five debates in the month of November.
What's interesting to me in that poll is that Michele Bachmann, having won the Iowa Straw Poll just two months ago, is now poling down at eight percent in Iowa and down about three percent nationally. So, while it still remains fluid, you have to wonder if some of these candidates like a Santorum, a Huntsman, and Gingrich and Bachmann, can they keep going? And I think maybe through November, certainly they can, because you can go from debate to debate.
WALLACE: Juan, let me bring another aspect of Herman Cain into this, because he had to handle his own damage control this week trying to explain again and trying to disavow those comments he made earlier in which he seemed to suggest that, at least in some cases, he supported choice, family choice, when it comes to abortions.
Here's what he said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I used the word "choice" talking about a specific situation that he was trying to pigeonhole me on. That's what they use to try and come after me. I am pro-life, from conception, end of story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, Cain's staff, Juan, tried to blame that on over- scheduling, fatigue, said that it had led to a couple of gaffes on this and other areas, and that they were going to scale back his schedule.
How much trouble is the infidel's misstatements? Or are voters, because he is not a professional politician, willing to cut him some slack?
WILLIAMS: Bingo. I think that's the answer.
I mean, you know, for people like me, you, all of us here on the panel, we are just kind of baffled by this man's success, because if you interview him and ask him tough questions -- you've had the experience of right of return, we go on to abortion -- you can go on any number of issue, even the 9-9-9 plan, which is now a 9-0-9 plan, you say, hey, this stuff, even from a conservative point of view, doesn't always comport, doesn't make sense. But people like it, the branding is terrific. 9-9-9 is the standout policy initiative of the entire GOP campaign thus far.
Herman Cain, I think almost as a snub to Mitt Romney, is described to me by conservatives as authentic, that he's the real deal. He really has passion for conservative positions, and that they believe is someone who can take the fight to President Obama.
So, to me, it looks like the grassroots really find him to be the charmer. It's stunning to me, Chris, that if you look at Herman Cain, that he has lasted this long.
Everybody talks about, oh, well, you know, everybody has a moment in the sunlight. It was Michele Bachmann, as Dana was talking about, for a while. Even Donald Trump had a moment in the sun. Obviously, Rick Perry, that you interviewed this morning, was up for a while when he first got in the race.
Everybody has been looking for alternatives. But Herman Cain, once he bumped up, he stayed up. And this is what this morning's Iowa poll shows. I am just stunned by his success.
Now, the question is, does he have the money? And so far he doesn't have the money.
Does he have the campaign structure? This week, he had an ad with a guy smoking in it. It went viral. It was so popular. And people relate to the idea, you know, you're not going to tell me if I can smoke or can't smoke.
So, it plays into the sense of overreaching government. I think that right now, he's on a roll, and I don't -- the establishment doesn't see it, but apparently the voters see it.
WALLACE: Thank you all. We're going to have to leave it there, but obviously plenty more to talk about. And thank you, panel. We'll see you next week.
Don't forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group picks right up with the discussion on our Web site, FoxNewsSunday.com. And we'll post the video before noon Eastern Time.
Up next, as we continue from the state capitol of Austin, Texas, our "Power Player of the Week."
WALLACE: And we are back, reporting from Austin.
He spoke at the funeral for Ronald Reagan and he officiated at the burial of John F. Kennedy Jr. He calls it a front row seat to history, and he's our "Power Player of the Week."
REAR ADM. BARRY BLACK (RET.), SENATE CHAPLAIN: There's an old saying that sometimes, God puts us on our backs in order to get us to look up.
WALLACE (voice-over): Barry Black is chaplain of the U.S. Senate, who opens each session with a prayer.
BLACK: Lord, bless our senators in their labors today
WALLACE: But he does so much more -- running four bible study groups, and acting as pastor to the senators, staff, and their families, 7,000 people.
BLACK: The Apostle Paul in Corinthians Chapter 4 said, "There are saints in Caesar's household."
WALLACE: Part of it is private counsel.
(on camera): Do senators come to you with real private issues?
BLACK: Yes. Things that, if I told you, I would have to kill you.
WALLACE (voice-over): Senators also seek his advice on policy, especially when it comes to ethical issues such as the 2005 case of whether to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.
BLACK: "Chap," you know, "what's your take on the Schiavo issue?"
WALLACE (on camera): And will you tell them what you think is --
BLACK: Oh, yes. My position is nonpartisan and nonsectarian, but it doesn't mean that I have to put my brain in neutral.
WALLACE (voice-over): Some have questioned whether opening the Senate with a prayer violates the separation of church and state. Black has no doubts.
BLACK: There has been uninterrupted prayer since 1789.
WALLACE (on camera): If the Senate can begin its day in prayer, why can't a public school?
BLACK: I personally think we probably made a mistake by removing prayer from our public schools
WALLACE (voice-over): Chaplain Black asks God for wisdom. But this summer, as the debt ceiling debate dragged on and the country neared default, his prayers became more urgent.
BLACK: We are weary from the struggle, tempted to throw in the towel.
They were getting a little more intense, but that was the way I felt. And so I poured out my heart to God. That's what prayer is.
WALLACE: Black grew up in a Baltimore housing project. His mother earned $6 a day as a maid. She gave her kids five cents for each verse of scripture they could recite, until Barry Black was ready to recite the entire book of Genesis from memory.
(on camera): But her reaction was?
BLACK: Time out.
WALLACE (voice-over): He spent 27 years in the service, becoming chief of Navy chaplains, before coming to the Senate in 2003.
It's a remarkable story for a kid from the projects, but Black says there was always a plan.
BLACK: When I was 8 years of age, my mother brought home a record, and I played it over and over again until I had memorized it. "The morning sun had been up for some hours over the city of David."
WALLACE: It was the Senate chaplain, Peter Marshall.
BLACK: I never walked into this building without a sense of wonder and without a sense that this was my destiny.
WALLACE (on camera): Amen.
BLACK: Praise the Lord.
WALLACE: Chaplain Black was elected to his post when Republicans controlled the Senate, but he has stayed on with Democrats in charge. In these day of congressional gridlock, he's apparently one of the few things the Senate can agree on.
And we'll be right back with a final word from the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum here in Austin, Texas.
WALLACE: And that's it for today. Our thanks to the great folks in Austin, especially here at the Texas State History Museum, for all their help.
We're heading back now to Washington, but have a great week. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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