This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 18, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight: If Karl Rove were a Democrat, how would he advise President Obama? Mr. Rove joins us now from Washington.
So I love doing this to you. Obviously, everybody knows that you were an adviser to President Bush. Let's take that. And you are now in the White House, and there's President Obama. Things are not looking good for him right now. You tell him to do what?
KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, well look, it is a muddle. And on big legislative projects like this you tend to get into muddles like this. The question is how do you get out of it? I have seven pieces of advice.
First of all, figure out what it is you're trying to solve. At the beginning of this whole thing, it was to get cost down and access up. Now here it is to punish the insurance companies by giving them a government competitor. So figure out which it is. What's the problem you're trying to solve?
Second of all, what is it that you want to do? We saw the muddle over the last couple of days on a public option. Do you want it or not want it? It used to be he insisted that he wouldn't take a bill without it. Now his Secretary of Health and Human Services says it's nonessential. Decide how you're going to do this.
You got a bill through the House only with the vote of Democrats. And the Senate, they want a bipartisan bill but they don't — they're not engaged in a bipartisan way. You need to figure out how you're going to try and get this passed.
Fourth, control the infighting. It's clear there's all kinds of currents inside the White House. That's why we had this befuddlement on the public option.
Fifth, lower the visibility. He has been out there way too much. The more that he's been talking about this, the more this thing has gone south. And he needs to be very careful about shooting straight. He is saying things on the stump that people are reacting to, and they're reacting in a negative way because they think they're not essentially true.
Now here are the big two. He needs to show some success in my opinion. That is to say they ought to be looking at piece of this and say are there some things that we can do through executive action that we can begin to show some progress? For example, they say there's lots of waste and fraud in Medicare, and we're going to get rid of that over the next 10 years and fund part of health care with that. Well, prove it. Go out and do it. If you got to the executive authority to do it, go out and do it and show some success.
And finally, he needs to figure out if he's trying to figure out if he's trying to do too much, too quickly. After the stimulus where nobody read the bill, S-chip after $410 billion omnibus, after the gigantic energy tax and cap-and-trade that nobody read the bill, the American people have a sense this administration is winging it and trying to do too much too fast. Maybe he ought to be saying let's go get the insurance reforms about which I can get a large bipartisan consensus. Let's try and do this piece next. Let's try and do that piece next. They need to make a decision whether they're going for the whole hog or whether this is better — they'd be better off if they went at this piece by piece by piece.
O'REILLY: OK. How much trouble do you think Barack Obama is in right now? Because it seems to me that the polls have stabilized this week. They have stabilized. But he's lost maybe 20 points in his job favorability rating, and his disapproval rating has skyrocketed in conjunction with that. So how much trouble is he in? Or is this just an ebb and flow?
ROVE: Well, there is an ebb and flow, but people are now looking at him fundamentally different than they did at the beginning of the year. They see him as a traditional big-spending liberal, and they're not comfortable with where he is on the policy questions. And he has declined faster than almost any recent president. I haven't been able to find anybody who's had their negatives rise as fast as he has. And his positives have dropped faster than most presidents. So he is - he's not in a good place. That's not to say his presidency is thereby determined. But this measure, he's stabilized. Maybe I'm not certain of that. I want to wait `til next week, but his proposals continue to decline. For example, today there were new numbers showing that for the first time ever now, more people opposed the public option than support it, which is the opposite of where it was last week.
O'REILLY: Sure, and I mean…
ROVE: These numbers aren't yet stabilized.
O'REILLY: ...and you made a good point. The more he goes out and talks about it, the more confusing it gets. I still don't know what he's talking about in these meetings. And he only takes eight questions. And he uses an hour. He talks way, way too much. This reminds me of what happened to President Bush. When President Bush won the initial Iraq invasion, his poll numbers were in the 80 approval rating. When he cut through there, they took the statue down in Baghdad, it looked like everything was going America's way, President Bush reached the apex of his popularity. Then, Iraq started to go south. And it was not a dramatic fall, but it was a consistent fall.
O'REILLY: And he never really fully recovered from that. Could that be — could health care be Obama's Iraq?
ROVE: Maybe, maybe not. There is a big difference though. If starting in July of 2003, when it was clear there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which everybody from Clinton, from both Clintons to you name it, Al Gore, Harry Reid, you name it, they all thought there were weapons of mass destruction there. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry both said there were weapons of mass destruction. But when that became obvious in July of 2003 that they weren't, the Democrats began to say consistently that Bush lied, and that drove his numbers down. I don't think Republicans are going to act in a hyperpartisan way and say that Obama is lying. Credibility is the thing that is most important thing to a president, and if your opposition doesn't believe you're legitimate to begin with, and begins this drum beat particularly when they're aided by the media, it can be enormously corrosive.
O'REILLY: OK, but…
ROVE: …more likely to see that here.
O'REILLY: ...talk radio and some cable people are really hammering Obama as now being an incompetent, not as a liar so much, but as an incompetent. The guy's in over his head. He doesn't know what he's doing. And that, I think may stick. That might stick.
ROVE: Well, it may. And look, I wrote a column early this year which I said I thought the Obama White House was winging it. And I think they're winging it to their disadvantage on this issue. I think though there's a difference between saying he's a liar and saying, look, he has bungled this issue and we disagree with him on the substance of the issue, which is what most of this debate has been about.
O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Rove, thanks very much. As always, we appreciate it.
ROVE: You bet.
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