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Ron Paul Talks Presidential Politics, Policy; Reps. Shuler, Simpson Urge Super Committee to Go Big
Written by Chris Wallace / Published November 06, 2011 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Mike Simpson, Rep. Heath Shuler, Jim Lehrer
The following is a rush transcript of the November 6, 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.
With controversy surrounding several GOP presidential contender, one candidate looks to make a move.
He has the money to compete with the front runners, but does he have the message to reach the voters? We'll talk with Congressman Ron Paul as we continue our series of 2012 one on one interviews. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.
And then, a large bipartisan group of congressmen is urging the super committee to go big in cutting the deficit. We'll talk to the leaders of the group of 100: North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler and Idaho Republican Mike Simpson.
Plus, sexual harassment allegations rock Herman Cain's campaign. We'll ask our Sunday panel if Cain can survive the charges and keep his candidacy alive.
And our power player of the week plays a key player every four years in the election of the president.
All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
The Republican presidential race intensified this week. But for all of the ups and downs, one candidate has held steady, raising millions and staying within striking distance with the leaders.
Continuing our 2012 one on one series of interviews, we are joined by Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
And, Congressman, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
TEXAS REP. RON PAUL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Nice to be here.
WALLACE: Let's start with the campaign because the voting -- and this is remarkably -- has now less than two months away. I want to put a couple of recent polls.
In the last Des Moines Register poll, you are running third in Iowa, but 10 points behind Cain and Romney. In the latest TIME poll, you're running third in South Carolina by about the same margin.
Now, we should point out you won the Iowa straw poll yesterday and congratulations on that, sir.
PAUL: Thank you.
WALLACE: But how do you expand your support? How do you go from being a respectable third to actually win it?
PAUL: Well, the one thing is, not by changing my message because I've had a message that's been the same. But the message becomes more appropriate every day because I have talked about, you know, our monetary system, our spending, our debt. And we are in the midst now of a sea change in the world because of this expansion of debt worldwide and we are on the hook for it because we have a dollar reserve standard and the American taxpayer is on the hook.
And it's moving in this direction. This is in the news every single day. We spend too much and my message is cut spending. Not raise taxes. Change the opinion of what government should do.
In my proposal, I say real spending cuts not like the others, tinkering on the edges. I want a trillion dollar cut in the first year to show that it's spending that is the problem.
WALLACE: We're going to get to that in a minute and I should point out, of course, it was the Illinois straw poll. The Iowa straw poll was back in August in Ames.
PAUL: I'll talk both of them.
WALLACE: There you go. You almost won the Iowa straw poll.
WALLACE: Many conservatives say they like your views on less spending and smaller government and adhering to the Constitution. But the problem they have, the bridge too far is foreign policy. They are upset with what they view is isolationist views when it comes to fighting the war on terror.
PAUL: Yes. And I think that is a false charge about isolationism. Isolationism is when you put on tariffs and protectionism and you don't want to trade with people and you don't want to travel.
And mine is the opposite. Mine is really very open. But I don't want troops around the world because I think it hurts our national defense. By having too many troops, it helps to bankrupt our country, the wars that we have been fighting, that were undeclared -- and from view point is unconstitutional and illegal.
But in the last 10 years, this foreign expenditure around the world has contributed about $4 trillion worth of our debt. We can't change that.
But I think we're better off serve -- our national security is better off by a different foreign policy. That's my argument.
WALLACE: But for instance, drones. A lot of people say that they are terrifically affected. They've taken out a lot of the al Qaeda leadership, it doesn't involve putting troops on the ground and it's cheap. It -- you know, as I say, it doesn't involve a lot of manpower and it does strike, it's been very deadly in its effectiveness. So, why are you against drone strikes.
PAUL: Because I don't agree with that assessment, because I think it makes it worse, because if you have one bad guy and you go after him and say, you know, he's the one -- he's the al Qaeda leader, let's kill them. Sometimes they miss. Sometimes there is collateral damage. And every time we do that, we develop more enemies.
Take for instance, we are dropping a lot of drone missile bombs in Pakistan and claim we killed so many. How about the innocent people who died? Nobody hears about that.
This is why the people of Pakistan can't stand our guts and why they disapprove of their own government. So, we are bombing Pakistan and try to kill some people, making a lot of mistakes, building up our enemies. At the same time, we are giving billions to the government of Pakistan and we are more or less inciting a civil war there.
So, I think that makes us less safer. Everyone you kill you probably create 10 new people who hate our guts and would like to do us harm.
WALLACE: Do you think allegations against Herman Cain are relevant in this campaign?
PAUL: The allegations against his program, he's liking, you know, the Federal Reserve and his national sales tax -- yes, they are very legitimate and his support for bailouts, those allegations are very legitimate.
Those other allegations, these problems that he had -- no, I don't think, I think the media blew this way out of proportion. I think there are a thousand stories out on there and I think that dilutes the real debates, because his views on foreign policy for instance are dramatically different than mine.
I mean, he wants to expand on these. And he believes in the bailouts and the Federal Reserve and all this. I think that's what we should be talking about. And I don't like the distractions. So, I don't agree with all of the concentrations on that.
WALLACE: Let me ask you one question more about distractions, though. Just speaking as a practical politician, do you think that they help you? Do you think that may get some of his supporters to take a second look at you?
PAUL: Oh, I think there is a cycle going on here and I don't think that in particular. I think we have seen sudden surges of candidates and then they fall again. I think all of that is all helpful to me, but not specifically because there's been these challenges.
But I think when people get to know what Herman stands for, I think that helps me because they are not going to say, oh, he's not really for any cuts and he's for adding this national sales tax. So, yes, that helps me a lot. WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about what Ron Paul stands for and specifically your new plan to restore American. And let's drill a little bit into it. Here it is.
You call for cutting the federal budget, as you said, by $1 trillion roughly 25 percent of the budget in the first year. You say you would balance the budget in three years, spending would be 15.5 percent GDP by three years. That's the last time it was that low was 1951.
Question -- even the conservative American Enterprise Institute says those kinds of dramatic short term cuts would send this country back into a recession.
PAUL: You know, that's exactly what they said after World War II, and they cut the budget 60 percent and they cut taxes 30 percent, and released 10 million people from the military and we finally had an economic boom for the first time since the 1920s.
So, no, you shouldn't fear freedom and free market and let people spend the money rather than the government. If you take all these resources out of the hands of the government, that doesn't mean the money isn't going to be spent. It means that the individuals are going to be spending it.
Maybe we create an environment where people would start investing and building automobiles and whatever they need to do. But it's where the money that is so spent. It's not like we kicked it away. We put it into productive use.
When I -- government spends this money. It's nonproductive. It goes into bureaucracies. It goes into regulations. It goes into subsidizing corporations that don't deserve to be subsidized.
It goes to bailing people.
No, that's all wasteful spending and that damages the economy. You want the money to be spent by individual and businesspeople, not the government.
WALLACE: But I think we both agree that there are legitimate functions that government can perform and that no one else can. Let me ask you about some of your cuts which maybe more controversial. Again, let's them on the screen.
You would reduce funding for the National Institutes of Health by 22 percent. You would reduce funding for the Centers for Disease Control by 38 percent. What the specific programs would you cut, Congressman.
PAUL: I would try to wean ourselves off because these are functions that are not properly authorized by our government.
WALLACE: Well, wait. Let me just pick up on that. I mean, you don't think that the government has a role in trying to do research, to try to finding answers to new diseases.
WALLACE: Or the -- the Centers for Disease Control if there is an epidemic a world?
PAUL: Well, if it's international, yes. And if it's people coming in yes, we have some responsibility.
But what is R&D and how this money should be spent, unfortunately, it's spent on political reasons rather than market reasons. So, when that happens, the lobbyist come in and line up and special drug companies -- the drug companies are very much in favor of this. But the decisions are made by politicians and bureaucrats rather than the market place.
You want more R&D. You would have much more R&D and it would be better directed if investors and the market makes these decisions, because believe me, the politicians and the bureaucrats aren't smart enough to know what you should be investing in and which immunity. All these decisions are made.
When government makes a mistake, it hurts everybody.
PAUL: If a businessman makes a mistake in R&D, it hurts only that company.
So, it's this reliability on government to make decisions that are made in the economy is what we had for 150 years. We don't have this idea that government has to be the vehicle for making significant economic decisions, this is rather new. And to think that the individuals and corporations that make these decisions, there is nothing wrong with that.
WALLACE: Let's turn to Iran, because there is growing fear around the world, and there's going to be a new IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, report this next week that the country is getting closer to a nuclear break out as it's called, where they have all the element and all the skills to assemble a nuclear weapon.
Would President Paul do anything to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?
PAUL: Only by a change in foreign policy and treating them differently. One thing I would caution is an overreaction. If you say what is true, but they have been saying that for 10 years or so. So, it may or may not true. They haven't proven it.
But you are saying they might put a weapon together. See, the worst thing could be an overreaction and go to war over this. This week, our international relations committee passed a very, very strong sanctions bill against Iran which means that if any other country, even if an ally does any trading with Iran, we're going to punish them.
So, that is -- when you put on strong sanctions, those are acts of war because we did that in Iraq for 10 years, and little kids died, could get medicines and food. It led to war.
So, I would say treat them differently and it'd be less threatening.
WALLACE: When you say treat them differently --
PAUL: Don't put sanctions.
WALLACE: So, how are we going to persuade them not to pursue a nuclear weapon?
PAUL: Well, maybe offering friendship to them. I mean, didn't we talk to the Soviets, didn't we talk to the Chinese. They have thousands of this weapon, and we work our way through the Cold War.
I was in the military during the '60s and it was dangerous. But we didn't think we have to attack the Soviets. They had capabilities. The Iranians can't make enough gasoline for themselves.
For them to be a threat to us or to anybody in the region I think is just blown out of proportion. People are anxious to use violence against the Iranians. I think it would undermine our security. I think it would be very destructive to Israel because this is going to blow that place up.
It is not like a changeover of government in Egypt or someplace like that, which is always a negative because they are reacting to our foreign policy.
WALLACE: Finally, there is speculation -- and I understand, you are running for the GOP nomination. But there is speculation that if you don't win, you might run as a third party independent candidate.
Can you state flatly that you will support the Republican nominee in the off-chance it isn't Ron Paul?
PAUL: Well, you know, probably not unless I get to talk to them and find out what they believe in. But if they believe on expanding the wars, if they don't believe in looking at the Federal Reserve; if they don't believe in real cuts, if they don't believe in deregulation and better tax system, it would defy everything I believe in.
And so, therefore, I would be reluctant to jump on board and tell all of the supporters that have given me trust and money that all of a sudden, I'd say, we'll we've done is for naught. So, let's support anybody at all because even if they disagree with everything that we do.
WALLACE: So, does that mean that you might then consider an independent run?
PAUL: No, it doesn't mean that at all.
WALLACE: But would you?
PAUL: I have no intention doing that. That doesn't make sense to me to even think about it, let alone plan to do that.
PAUL: Because I don't want to do it. That's the reason.
WALLACE: That's a really -- you know you answered it right there.
Congressman Paul, it's always a pleasure to talk with you, sir. Thank you so much. and we'll see you on the campaign trail.
PAUL: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next: the two congressmen leading -- I like that. I just don't want to do it.
The two congressmen leading the bipartisan group of 100 wants the super committee to go big when it comes to cutting the deficit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERSKINE BOWLES, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: I have great respect for each of you individually. But collectively, I'm worried you are going to fail -- fail the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the debt commission sounding the alarm that the congressional super committee will fail to meet its November 23rd deadline to find $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts.
Now, 100 members of Congress representing both parties, calling for the super committee to go big and cut the national debt by $4 trillion dollars.
Joining us is the congressman the leading the group of 100, North Carolina Democrat, Heath Shuler; and Idaho Republican Mike Simpson.
Congressmen, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."
Let's start with the letter that your group, 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans sent to the super committee this week and here is the key sentence. "To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretion spending and revenues must be on the table."
Congressman Simpson, as the Republican, will you support more revenues either from raising tax rates or cutting deductions, closing loop holes as part of the plan to cut the deficit.
REP. MIKE SIMPSON, R-IDAHO: You have to. The reality is you can't get to $4 trillion without revenues. And we might have different ideas about what those evidence would like, I think you could get additional revenues by actually lower the tax rates and eliminating all these exemptions underneath and that time of thing.
And I think you'd an economic boom in this country and the revenue would come in the federal government.
So, more revenue is key to this.
WALLACE: But when you say it, you would take the money from closing the loopholes as the Bowles-Simpson said, and use that for deficit reduction. You wouldn't make it revenue neutral.
SIMPSON: No, some of it would go to deficit reduction. It has to if you are going to get to $4 trillion and everybody agrees we have to get to $4 trillion to stabilize our debt and start decreasing the deficit.
WALLACE: All right. Before I bring in Congressman Shuler.
Two points, Grover Norquist, which I'm sure you're familiar, the head of Americans for tax reform has a pledge that you and all but six House Republicans signed to oppose any net increase in taxes, exactly the opposite of what you just said to me.
And I also want to play what House Speaker John Boehner said this week. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: Our conference is opposed to tax hikes because we believe that tax hikes will hurt our economy and put Americans out of work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Question -- how many House Republicans do you think will follow you and are willing to break their pledge? And quite frankly, I put their political futures at risk to make this deal.
SIMPSON: Well, first the pledge, I signed that in 1998 when I first ran and I didn't know I was signing a marriage agreements that would last forever. And I think the majority of the members of Congress understand that you have to have additional revenue.
SIMPSON: If you look at the percentage of the GDP that comes into the government right now, it's about 14 percent, 14 percent to 15 percent. It's traditionally been 18 percent, in that neighborhood. So, the revenue coming into the government has decreased as a percentage of GDP. And the expenditures that used to be around 19 percent are now up at 25 percent. We got to bring those closer together again.
WALLACE: OK. And that brings me to Congressman Shuler.
Will you support real cuts, raising the eligibility age, slowing the growth of benefits as part of the deal to cut the deficit? And would you accept the deal that the Simpson-Bowles commission, the presidential commission, which was basically about three-one spending cuts to tax increase?
REP. HEATH SHULER, D-N.C.: I think both Simpson report not only reflects the members of Congress feel about the program, but what the rest of the world is looking at America to say, are you going to make these significant cuts?
And when it comes to entitlements, it has to be on the table. We cannot do this without entitlement. We can't do it without revenue.
WALLACE: When you say all on the table, but I must say, Mike Simpson went further. He said he would support it. Would you support it?
SHULER: Absolutely. In order to save these programs, we have to make sure they have more sustainable resources, but also get rid of the fraud and abuse that's been in the program for quite some time.
WALLACE: Do you think that President Obama going around the country, blaming the do-nothing Congress, making it sound as if all you need to do is get millionaires and billionaires to pay more taxes, do you think that's constructive and setting the stage for a compromise?
SHULER: Well, far too often, we've seen how politics has played such an important role in Washington, especially the closer we get to the presidential elections. The most important thing we can do is, both Democrats and Republican come together as Mike and another 100 members, and adding every day to the list, work together to make sure that our debt and deficit spending that we have been having over the last decade doesn't continue, that we have a more sustainable path for our future. And we put the next generation into situation where they're not having to pay everything. Every dollar that we borrow is a tax on the next generation.
WALLACE: So, to answer my question directly. Do you think what the president is doing these days is constructive or not?
SHULER: Well, I think it's -- it would be much more helpful if the focus was on what he can do and the support he could give the super committee. The problem that you have is the politics.
If he supports the super committee, or he supports one way, that pushes of my colleagues on the other side in the opposite direction. So, I think, in one sense, if he's, you know, on the sidelines and allow that the members of the Congress, and rank and file members that continue in our numbers and support the super committee to do something big, $4 trillion-plus. I mean, Mike and I would like a $5 trillion or $6 trillion and put everything on the table.
WALLACE: Let's talk about that because you both had mentioned it. The super committee charge is to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by the day before Thanksgiving. But both of you have talked repeatedly about $4 trillion. Why isn't $1.2 trillion enough?
SIMPSON: Because that doesn't pay down our deficit and kicking the can down the road and, frankly, we are out of road. We have to make difficult decisions. And no matter what the super committee comes up with, it is going to be a difficult vote for every member of Congress because there's going to be part of it that they don't like.
But the reality is that, if I'm going to make a difficult vote that I'm willing to make, I want it to mean something and I don't want it just kicking the can down the road.
WALLACE: You know , Congressman Shuler, for all of these talk about -- well, your group is growing. The prevailing sense and conventional wisdom here in Washington right now is that the super committee is deadlocked, that in fact, the great chances are that they're not going to come up with any deal before November 23rd. Before we get to whether that is real or not, what do you think the impact would be if the super committee comes up empty, on the markets, on the credit rating for this country?
SHULER: It would be devastating to our country, that not only look as if the Congress is more dysfunctional that it already is. But the whole world is watching, that we're going to be able to come up with something that big.
And having the support of 100 members and the 45 members in the Senate.
So, not only have a bipartisan, But this is bipartisan way that we an support those 12 members and say, we have your back and we know you have to make difficult decision and choices that's going to impact us not only here in the U.S. but truly what's happened all over the world. We need to continue to be the leaders of the world. And the way we do that is those members need more than our hundred members in the House. We need more members of Congress to join us. WALLACE: I'm going to pick up on that in a second.
But, your thoughts, Congressman Simpson about the impact if the super committee doesn't meet that November 23rd dead line.
SIMPSON: As he side, the world is watching, and I actually think the market would start to tank if the super committee doesn't come up with something because I think they're looking -- you know, the markets will either correct the situation or we will. And I think the economy will suffer greatly and the American people will suffer greatly.
And who is going to suffer the most whenever the economy goes down? It's those who are less well off.
So, we have to do something. And the tough thing is -- I know it sounds ridiculous and everything else. We've got to put aside our elections. We've got to put aside the Republican and Democrat.
We've got to put aside politics, and we've got to do what's right for the country. This is one time where I think it's critical. We've got once chance to fix this and this is that chance.
WALLACE: Now, I guess what I don't understand and it is impressive and that's why we are having you on the program, a hundred members signing this. As I say, 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans is a big deal.
But there isn't seem to be a sense. I mean, maybe I am missing something. Is there a growing move? Because the general opinion I think, the conventional wisdom, is this isn't going to get done.
That the committee -- we may get to the 1.2 trillion but they are not going to make a bargain and the Republicans are not giving up on taxes and the Democrats aren't going to give up on serious entitlement reform.
SIMPSON: We didn't want to put pressure on the committee to do something. What we wanted to show them that there is support out there to do something big. And getting hundred members of congress to sign it is nearly impossible. So, when you 100 -- now, we have 103 and more members are looking at it, I think you'll see that number. And I think overwhelmingly as I talk to people, even people who didn't this sign the letter know that this is the right thing to do. And we'll just a little nervous --
WALLACE: Do you think and -- you know, Republicans have pretty been strong about opposing the revenue, do you think how many Republicans do you think would go along?
SIMPSON: I couldn't give you a number. But I believe there is a majority in Congress of Republicans and Democrats in a bipartisan basis. And that's the more important thing.
You look at anytime in this country that has the problem, the solution is a bipartisan solution. If it was a Republican only sort of proposal, it wouldn't work and wouldn't go anywhere, because Democrats only propose it would not go anywhere. It has to be bipartisan.
WALLACE: Last thing. And you said you didn't want to put pressure on the super committee, but -- Congressman Shuler, they are the guys and women who are deciding this issue and they have two and a half weeks.
I think at this point, 12 members of the super committee are seen largely as agents of the congressional leadership and the members -- the leaders who appointed them. Should the members break with the leaders, act as independent agents, and make the grand bargain and let the political chips go where they may.
SHULER: Well, certainly, I agree with that Mike and I would have been really good option to have on the super committee.
WALLACE: There may be a reason.
SHULER: But reality is. You have over a hundred in the House statesmen and women, and in the Senate who -- Senate who are acting in the way that give them that support. And if that is the reason for the leader, it's to say we have your back, we know it's tough and it give them the opportunity to break from the leadership role.
They were appointed by our leadership. And that's not a reflection, of the U.S. and it's not a reflection of what's true in our Congress.
We have to see the middle of the road, Tuesday group, the Blue Dog members, continue to step forward because we represent 80 percent of America.
WALLACE: And to give you the last word, Congressman Simpson. Good.
The super committee membership, they break with the leadership. Should they act independently and take into their own hands.
SIMPSON: They need to do what's in the best for the country. But if you look at the recent comments of Speaker Boehner, he has suggested that revenue can be on the part, that it's going to be apart of the solution.
WALLACE: We just hear him say, here, tax highs no.
SIMPSON: Nobody is in favor of increasing tax rates. But we are in favor of increasing revenue. We have to increase revenue.
So, I think Speaker Boehner wants a big deal. He tried to negotiate, one with the president earlier on the debt ceiling limit, that didn't come about. But I know in speaking with him, he wants to solve this problem.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you both so much. We'll stay on top of the story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WALLACE: Up next Herman Cain is accused of sexual harassment. But he stays on top of the polls and increases his fundraising. We'll ask our Sunday group what's going on when we come right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can't argue with Herman Cain on the merits. They can't argue with Herman Cain on policy. So what do they do?
CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Unless you kowtow to an old order, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured, rather than hung from a tree.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: Well, that's a new ad produced by the super PAC Americans for Herman Cain, linking his troubles this week to what Clarence Thomas went through when he faced similar charges during his confirmation.
And it's time now for our Sunday group -- Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal, and also the host of "The Journal Editorial Report" here on Fox News Channel; former Democratic senator Evan Bayh; Bill Kristol, from The Weekly Standard; and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Well, at the end of this week, of all the allegations involving Herman Cain, it seemed to be the most interesting thing was the reaction to it, Paul, and that is the fact that he's still tied in polls taken since the story broke with Mitt Romney as the two front- runners in the race, and, in fact, his fund-raising has gone up.
What's going on?
PAUL GIGOT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think the American people, particularly Republican primary voters, have no love lost on the media, so they treat with skepticism reports in the media. They know that some of these accusations are not the same as facts. And they also know that business routinely settle these kinds of cases because they don't want to absorb the reputational risk.
So the accusation is not a fact. And I think people are waiting to see how he handles it, and then they'll react, and see how this all figures into his ability to become president. That said, I don't think this has helped him. I don't think this is something that you want to have happen as a candidate. And the question I would ask is, why, if you knew these settlements were out there -- which they were -- these are facts. Never mind the accusations, we knew the settlements existed, he knew it, and he didn't prepare for that eventuality, that they would come out.
He should have disclosed them himself, get it out of the way early. What are you going to do, have this come out if you get the nomination after Labor Day, when you're the nominee? What would Republicans think then?
So I don't think this reflects well on his crisis management or on how well prepared he is to be president.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh, I want to put up a couple of polls and get you to react to them.
When asked whether the sexual harassment charges are a serious matter, 39 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents said yes, 55 percent said no. Among strong Tea Party supporters, as you can see there, it was even more lopsided, 75 percent to 20. But a new Reuters poll out today finds the number of Republicans who view Cain favorably has dropped from 66 percent last week to 57 percent now.
Senator Bayh, what do you make of that?
EVAN BAYH, FMR. U.S. SENATOR: If I were a Republican strategist, Chris, I'd be a little worried about this. He's clearly starting to see the first signs of some slippage among even Republicans, and it's clear that he still resonates with the Tea Party element, the most fervent supporters.
But when you look at the Independents, the moderate, particularly women swing voters, he's really taken on some water there. So that means in a general election, he would be a pretty damaged candidate.
I don't think he's ultimately going to be the nominee, but it does raise another issue. And that is, will the element in the Republican Party that brought us Christine O'Donnell, for example, in Delaware, or the nominee in Nevada or Colorado or Alaska, will they have an outsized influence on the Republican nominating process and insist that the ultimate candidate embrace positions that make it more difficult for that person to win in a general election? And that could happen, which would raise the final thing I would mention, which is, what about the Mitt Romney?
You saw the rise and fall of Donald Trump. The conservatives didn't go to Romney. The same thing with Michele Bachmann, didn't go to Romney. Rick Perry, still didn't go to Romney.
Now you have Herman Cain taking on all this baggage, and they're still not going to Romney. And so that really raises a question about Mitt Romney if he's going to be the ultimate nominee. Will he have the fervent support of the Republican base that you need to win? Right now, it looks like an iffy proposition.
WALLACE: Bill, Herman Cain clashed with reporters last night when they continued pressing him about the harassment charges after an appearance in Texas.
Let's watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are getting back on message, end of story. Back on message. Read all of the other accounts where everything has been answered, end of story. We are getting back on message. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: How about Republicans? We saw this in the ad at the beginning from his super PAC, But I've heard it from a lot of conservatives linking the allegations against Cain to what Clarence Thomas went through, and the clearer implication at the opening statement is, this is the way the left goes at conservative blacks.
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think it's that comparable to what Justice Thomas went through. Anita Hill showed up 10 years later to attack Clarence Thomas, not having filed any complaints at the time. There was no record of anyone having complained about Clarence Thomas in a series of high executive branch and judicial positions.
These apparently -- they were complaints filed contemporaneously by employees against Herman Cain. So I think it's legitimate enough for people to raise them if they wish, and I suppose to look at them and consider whether they affect one's judgment of whether Herman Cain could be the nominee.
But he's not going to be the nominee, if I can just be honest here for a minute. He was never going to be the nominee.
The support for him was, I think, a symbol of conservative and Republican distrust of some of the front-runners, willingness to award someone for being bold, for having comprehensive reform plans, for being an outsider. But the air is slowly going to go out of the Herman Cain bubble regardless of the sexual harassment charges.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'll tell you what, I think that he has been the pinata for the black liberal establishment now for a good while. They see him as some kind of token put out by the Tea Party as an acceptable kind of black to Republicans. And I think it's been just thoroughly insulting. I think it's been harmful to him, to Herman Cain as a human being, and disrespectful of the success that he's had.
On this panel, people say he's not going to be the nominee. But you know what? I didn't think he'd come this far. I never thought he would reach this point. But people on the Republican side, especially Tea Party folks, see him as authentic, and that's exactly what they don't see in terms of flip-flops that come from some of the other Republican candidates.
So I think the thing that worries me is now this is a way that you can drag him down. And I just think it's insulting to Herman Cain. And, of course, it then led to questions, is this attack coming from the left, the people who said, oh, he's a bad apple among black people, he's on the crack pipe? Unbelievable.
So, in that sense, it is analogous, the idea that you go after conservative blacks or conservative women in this way. I don't like it. I think the people who are challenging the orthodoxy get attacked. And as I said, my worry is now that this is the way that people -- and this is what Herman Cain apparently thinks -- people in the Perry campaign or people in the Romney campaign have found an effective way to go after him as a black Republican.
WALLACE: You know, I want to pick up on Juan's point, Paul, about his appeal in the party, because even before this last week, he had a remarkable ability, I thought, to withstand problems. He had the misstatement about abortion. He was about to get through that. He's had some fairly dramatic gaffes his knowledge about foreign policy, was able to get through that.
And I wonder -- it seems that the Republican voters are willing to cut him some slack because they see him as an outsider, as authentic, as not a career politician. And right now, that really carries you a pretty long way in the Republican primary vote.
GIGOT: Yes, I agree with that. He's a repository of everything that people don't like about politics, because he doesn't speak like a politician, he has a relaxed, comfortable manner, he's willing to say things, rather than in a scripted way.
I mean, with Mitt Romney, people always tell me, "I wish he would just muss his hair up."
GIGOT: With Cain, he doesn't mind saying "Uzbeki -- Uzbeki -- Uzbekistan," and kind of mocking the idea of expertise. Now, I think he can take that too far, because, ultimately, when you get in the voting booth, people want somebody who knows something about the world.
WALLACE: So let me just ask you quickly -- we've only got 30 seconds left -- do you take him seriously as a possible nominee?
GIGOT: I think that he doesn't really think -- he didn't think he would get this far. And that's the problem. I don't think he was prepared for this, and I think that that really, in my mind, is going to wear with Republican primary voters in the end, and they're probably not going to nominate him.
WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here, but when we come back, growing speculation that Israel may launch a preemptive strike to take out Iran's nuclear program. We'll talk about that and new intelligence Iran is closer than ever to developing a nuclear weapon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: They believe, rightly or wrongly, that a nuclear-armed Iran poses an existential threat to the state Israel. I don't think there is any doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran tips the scales in the Middle East in a very, very serious fashion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator John McCain defending Israel as it considers whether to launch a preemptive strike against Iran.
And we're back now with the panel.
Well, a lot of talk, a surprising amount of talk, out of Israel this week that Israel has tested a long-range missile that could strike Iran, that it has had exercises, long-range air strikes, and that it might -- open speculation that it might attack Iran's nuclear program.
Question for you, Bill Kristol, do you think that they're really considering this, or that this is a lot of huffing and puffing because they're trying to scare the West into imposing tougher sanctions.
KRISTOL: Yes, I had discounted the talk earlier this week, partly because I think there is a certain bluffing element, and probably because the Israeli media is even more unreliable than the American media. But when Israeli President Shimon Peres, who has not traditionally been very hawkish on most issues, said -- I think it was Friday -- that the possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than it has been before, he's the president of Israel, he's a very respected senior elder statesman, he's not a guy who simply threatens military action at the drop of the hat, by any means, I do think Israel is seriously thinking about whether they could live with a nuclear Iran.
And incidentally, it's U.S. presidents and U.S. secretaries of states of both parties who have said an Iran with nuclear weapons, this Iranian regime with nuclear weapons, is unacceptable. It seems to me the United States has the obligation to act and not leave it to Israel to stop this threat to any kind of peace or progress in the Middle East.
WALLACE: Juan, what is your sense of what's going on Israel. I mean, usually if they're going to strike, there is absolute radio silence beforehand, not a lot of talk in the papers.
WILLIAMS: Well, the difference here is, I think, at the moment that we have the IAEA report coming out which -- WALLACE: And that's the U.N. unclear watch dog.
WILLIAMS: Right. And there is opposition forming to even the publication of the report by people who want to limit the idea of U.N. sanctions, further sanctions, against Iran, and this is primarily the Russians and the Chinese. And they have interests there, and I think that the reason that the Israelis are being very clear about this is that they think that the report indicates, according to sources, that there has been more development of nuclear weaponry and preparations for it in Iran than was previously known.
So, it's not that they are just thinking about it and modeling it, but that they may actually have something about to come on line. If that's the case, then, I guess Israel would see it as more of a purposeful and direct threat, immediate threat, to their existence.
In terms of the United States, I think the United States role here is -- I would not say the United States should go in and do it itself. I think if Israel does it, who's going to back up Israel? The United States military.
GIGOT: But Israel doesn't want to do this if they don't have to.
WALLACE: Go ahead, Paul.
GIGOT: Well, I mean, they realize the costs of this are not nothing, that if they do this it's very risky. But I think, in the end, they will if the United States shows it won't do anything. And that's what I think Peres is saying.
He's trying to suss out whether the Americans finally are serious about doing something. And so far, I would say the Obama administration has not been serious at all.
I mean, we had an assassination plant that was discovered against the Saudi ambassador in a Washington restaurant, and the president said there would be consequences. What consequences have there been? We have decided to pull out entirely out of Iraq, which helps Iran. That's not a message of deterrence to Iran.
BAYH: You can't argue, Chris, to the extent that we're bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, it limits our flexibility to be more aggressive with regard to Iran. But there are three things I would emphasize here.
Number one, from a technical standpoint, the Israelis may be able to launch a one-off strike on Iran, but they don't have the ability for the kind of sustained bombing campaign that it would really take to degrade their nuclear arsenal, particularly this new site that's buried in a mountain. The odds of hitting that on a single strike just aren't very high. You would have to bomb them for several weeks in a row.
There's only one country that has that kind of capability. That's the United States. That's number one. Number two, for us, this raise -- for the Israelis, it is an existential question. For us, it raises the issue, is the Iranian state a normal nation state that is belligerent and does things we don't like, but ultimately is not suicidal and to be deterred, or are they really a suicidal theocracy that might actually use nuclear weapons even if it meant a nuclear retaliation against them? That's a different case.
We have to decide that for ourselves. And --
WALLACE: Well, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, what's your view on that?
BAYH: I think that the odds are that they are not a suicidal theocracy. But the question is, if you're Israel, can you afford to run that risk? Probably not.
Which raises the third point for us, is, even if you worked your way through that analysis, the Saudis are not going to sit idly by with a nuclear Iran. They are going to immediately seek nuclear weapons, which sets off an arms race throughout the Middle East, which means, for us, it may be better to try and stop that before it gets started by using limited force to prevent Iran from going nuclear when it gets right down to it.
WALLACE: Do you see any sign though, getting to Paul's point, that the Obama administration, worried about oil markets, worried about the world economy, is prepared for all the blowback of a military action and, as you said, a sustained military action against Iran?
BAYH: Not at this moment. I think they are trying to defer the moment of reckoning. The Chinese, the Russians are difficult, but ultimately the day of reckoning will come, Chris. And we have to ask ourselves, is a nuclear Iran acceptable? If the answer to that for any of the foregoing reasons is no, there is really only one way to keep that from coming about, and that's the use of force.
WALLACE: All right.
Bill, in the time we have left, you just came back from a week in Afghanistan, traveling all over the country. What's your sense of what's going on there? And what about these reports that we got in the last few days in "The Wall Street Journal" that the Obama administration is exploring a shift from a primary combat lead role to more of a secondary advisory role? What do the commanders on the ground think of that?
KRISTOL: The commanders anticipate such a shift and welcomes such a shift in 2014, which is when it's supposed to happen. The one message we got consistently --
WALLACE: This report, I might just -- to interrupt -- said that it was going to be sped up and it was going to be next year, 2012.
KRISTOL: That I think would be disastrous. The president has already put things at risk by his precipitous withdrawal down to 68,000 troops in October of 2012. But the message we got from commanders -- American military commanders, American diplomats, from Afghans, friends in the Afghan government -- was that if we can hold that 68,000 level through 2013, continue the counterinsurgency operations, work on the hand-over to the Afghan forces in a orderly way, not in an excessively rapid way, this is a winnable war.
And that was really the message that I took away. I mean, it's incredibly impressive, of course, what our troops, what our soldiers, what our Marines are doing there. The highlight of the trip was going out with them and seeing these areas that recently cleared at some considerable cost. But really, there is a disconnect between the impression here in Washington, which is that it's hopeless, it's terrible -- it's a tough place, it's a difficult government to work with.
We have made huge progress. We took the fight to them, and attacks actually on our troops and on friendly Afghan troops are down by over a quarter year over year, even though people expected an increase in the attacks, which we've been on the offensive with the surge troops.
The president took a risk by drawing down the surge troops too quickly. The disaster would be if he takes another risk for political reasons in 2012 with this NATO summit coming up in Chicago in May, if he decides, I want to show that we are drawing down more in 2013. I think that really could be the tipping point and the difference between success and defeat.
WALLACE: Thank you all. See you next week.
And don't forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group picks right up with the discussion on our Web site, FoxNewsSunday.com. We'll post the video before noon Eastern Time.
Up next, our "Power Player" of the week.
WALLACE: There have been 35 presidential and vice presidential debates since Kennedy-Nixon in 1960. The candidates have come and gone, but one man has been there election after election, and he's our "Power Player of the Week."
JIM LEHRER, AUTHOR, "TENSION CITY": Every move you make, every word you speak, could affect the outcome not only of the debate, but of the presidency of the United States.
WALLACE (voice-over): Jim Lehrer is talking about the high stake of presidential debates, and he should know.
LEHRER: Good evening from the Clark Athletic Center at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
WALLACE: Lehrer has moderated 11 of them. In 1996 and 2000, he was the sole questioner.
LEHRER: That's like one person holding all that dynamite in his or her hand. It's really tough stuff.
WALLACE: Now Lehrer looks back at those 11 debates over the last six presidential elections in an entertaining new book called "Tension City."
(on camera): "Tension City," not just for the candidates, but for the moderator.
LEHRER: Absolutely right. I relate it to walking down the blade of a very sharp knife. At any moment, you could slip and you could cut yourself. And I have the scars to show it.
WALLACE (voice-over): Lehrer still agonizes over an error he made in his first debate 23 years ago, when he mistakenly told Vice President Bush his time was up.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a different principle --
LEHRER: I'm sorry Mr. Vice President.
BUSH: It's only on yellow here. Wait a minute.
LEHRER: And I hear the magic words of an executive producer in my ear saying, "Jim, he's right. You're wrong."
I'm wrong. Go ahead. My apologies.
BUSH: Jim --
LEHRER: You said nobody is perfect.
Every live person in America who cares about this election is watching, and I just wanted to drop right into the hole and stay there.
WALLACE: For 36 years, Lehrer has been the relaxed, unflappable anchor of public television's evening newscast.
LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer in Washington.
WALLACE: But he says he was a bundle of nerves for every debate. He's also come up with several theories.
LEHRER: It is never, ever about the moderator. And any time they are talking about the moderator when it's over with, even positively or negatively, in my opinion the moderator has failed.
WALLACE: He says the key is to get the candidates talking to each other.
LEHRER: Say it directly to him --
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John, 10 days ago --
WALLACE: --- even when the rules prohibit direct exchanges. And Lehrer says there's another rule. No matter how fair you try to be, the moderator will always gets criticized.
LEHRER: If you've got an apple question for Billie Bob, you better have an apple question for Sammy Sue, because in the real world -- I mean, forget perception. Some people are going to perceive you unfair no matter what.
WALLACE: He's a remarkably boyish looking 77, but Jim Lehrer stepped down as anchor of the PBS "NewsHour" last June.
LEHRER: And there does come a time to step aside from the daily process, and that time has arrived.
WALLACE: And for the third time, he says he's finished moderating debates. This time, he insists he means it.
LEHRER: I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and goodnight.
Of all the things I have done, it is the single most exhilarating experience that I could have ever had when they are over. I just feel like I've accomplished something that matters, and it's good for my country. And that's the absolute truth. I did something that needed to be done, and I did it reasonably well.
WALLACE: Indeed, he did.
How did Lehrer become the dean of moderators? He would love to say because he's so brilliant, but he acknowledges the truth is, because often the candidates couldn't agree on anyone else.
And that's it for today. Have a great week, and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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