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Uncivil Discourse - and Hypocrisy in the Senate on Display

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 1, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALAN GRAYSON, D - FLA.: If you get sick and America, this is what Republicans want you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this. Die quickly. That's right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson gave that fiery speech on the House floor, and in the face of criticism, the congressman is not backing down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAYSON: I call upon the Democratic members of the House, I call upon the Republican members of the House, I call upon all of us to do our jobs for the sake of America, for the sake of those dying people and their families.

I apologize to the dead and their families that we have encoded sooner and this holocaust in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Many Republicans are calling on Congressman Grayson to apologize, and some want action from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Now, what does Speaker Pelosi say?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D - CALIF., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is no more reason for Mr. Grayson to apologize -- if anybody is going to apologize, everybody should apologize.

But the point he made it is time for us to talk about health care. Typically, the Republicans would like to use this as a distraction from the fact that they have no plan to take us forward to improve quality, lower cost, expand coverage, and retain choice in a way that is sustainable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Karl Rove joins us live.

And, Karl, and listening to the speaker, I remember when Congressman Wilson got a whole day for an afternoon debating his boorish behavior, which at the time I thought to myself where I grew up, you didn't need a long afternoon of discussion to realize it was boorish.

This, and this one doesn't warrant -- apparently she doesn't think they should have an afternoon of debate or discussion.

KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi had three alternatives. She could do what she did, which is to say forget it. We are not apologizing. She could have, as the leader of her party, privately suggested to Grayson that he needed to make an apology, or she could join in making a request that he publicly apologize.

Remember, when Congressman Wilson yelled "You lied!" immediately after the speech members of the Republican leadership went to him and said you must immediately go and apologize, which she did to Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff.

For Speaker Pelosi, by taking the attitude that she has done to, show yourself to be hypocritical and has no one to blame for the deterioration in the dialogue in the House of Representatives except herself.

Congressman Grayson did two bad things. One is mischaracterized the Republican plan by saying die quickly, and then in his non-apology he then compared what he thought Republicans were doing to the holocaust, which is in itself reprehensible. It diminishes the holocaust and it is offensive.

And for the speaker to not so sense that is a real comment on the speaker's lack of leadership. She could have easily said, look, to him privately, you ought to go apologize. And then she could have danced around this issue having done her responsibility as a leader of the House of Representatives to have kept some measure of decorum.

But she didn't, and as a result she has lost some of her moral authority.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suppose you gave the three choices, the other one of course would be the one that I mentioned, which I do not want to see, because I think it's a total waste of Congressional time. I think they should be reading bills instead of this.

But they could do what they did with Wilson and have the whole afternoon trying to decide his conduct or behavior was boorish or not.

ROVE: Look, that was a waste of time, it was an inappropriate use of the house. It was an attempt by the leaders of the Democratic caucus to humiliate their Republican opponents and browbeat them, and serve no good purpose for the public.

In fact, it works to the disadvantage of the Democrats because it caused the Republicans being in a Wilson went in and apologize. He went to the White House chief of staff and send, at the direction of his leadership who told him this is wrong, he went and apologized. Grayson seems to be being applauded by the speaker.

The other thing the speaker did today was she made a gratuitous and completely inaccurate statement. The Republicans have offered a comprehensive plan. It has been drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Congressman Nunez of California.

It is embodied in a bill. It is a comprehensive plan that is sustainable, does not to the deficit, does not raise government spending, and keeps health care -- makes health care more private not, less government, not more government.

And she knows that. She has not given a bill of fare hearing. It exists, it can be read on the Internet. Dr. Paul Ryan's website and there is a link to it. It is a fantastic bill would serve the country well if it were debated and passed.

VAN SUSTEREN: As I listen to everything that has happened on this whole Grayson thing, there is a small part of me, though, I do like the way the British sort of bark at each other. Maybe we should all is to tube system where they sort of -- is it the House of Commons when the party leader comes to the floor, and they sort of bark at each other.

ROVE: Yes. But that is a parliamentary system that is based around parties.

VAN SUSTEREN: I sort of like that.

ROVE: Well, but you know what, it is the result of hundreds of years of tradition.

We have a different tradition in this country. We have placed constraints on the behavior of members of Congress in order to have a more civilized, more decorous set of proceedings.

We could go that way, but you know what, if we go that way, let's not pretend. Let's not have the speaker go out there and pretend that she is calling, and she did last week, for civility and decrying the language in bringing herself to tears about the rhetoric that was flowing, and then turn around and basically say yes, you, member of Congress from Florida can say the Republicans want seniors to die, and I'm not going to say anything about, and then you can go around and compare it to the disruption of the Jew -- Jewish population of Europe by Adolf Hitler and I'm not going to be offended either.

I mean, on so many levels that is just absolutely offensive. And for the speaker not to say anything about that -- and again, she doesn't need to go out there and take the lead and say I'm calling on him. She can do this privately. She should have done a privately in the immediate aftermath as a Republican House leadership did with Joe Wilson and said that was an appropriate, go apologize. And Wilson understood that and did.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose that we should also talk about your op-ed today. It had a rather spicy headline "Obama Can't Outsource Afghanistan."

What is the purpose of that? What did you mean by that deadline? I do not know if you even wrote the headline, but what did you mean to?

ROVE: I didn't write the headlines, but I did write in the copy that he has had a tendency to outsource being important decisions to others, like the drafting of the stimulus bill was done by House appropriations committee chairman David Obey.

The president has washed his hand of Attorney General Holder's decision to reinvestigate the CIA interrogators. And in this instance there have been a couple of crumbling stories in which someone either in Joe Biden shop or in the White House or at the State Department for Defense Department has shined a big spotlight on Joe Biden's views on what ought to be done in Afghanistan.

Typically in Washington this is done as a way to sort of set up a trial balloon or give people a sense of where the ministration might be heading in one direction or another.

And Vice President Biden's views on those simply would lead to other and complete disaster. He would reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan dramatically, not increase them.

The mission would be done largely offshore with loosely sending missiles into attack people and special operators, the special forces units and Navy SEALs to sort of go find bad guys.

But we would basically say whatever happens in Afghanistan happens in Afghanistan, and we don't care. And we have done this before. We did this during the 90s largely when we responded to Usama bin Laden loosening off a couple of Tomahawk cruise missiles toward the camp that he left.

If we were to do this, actionable intelligence...

VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, let me ask you this, because I went back in time, and in January 24, 2008 is when President Obama, he was Senator Obama at the time, said we need to send more troops.

And I don't know why he seems to she may not have changed his mind, but at least he hasn't made his decision. But what happened in those last years of the Bush administration we are still not?

ROVE: Well, what happened was, to a large measure, as things began to improve because of the surge in Iraq, Usama bin Laden and his people turned their focus away from Iraq where they were losing to Afghanistan and Pakistan where they had a safe haven in the tribal areas to regroup in a porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to begin to launch attacks.

And so will, we are in a fluid situation, and things move according to what is happening elsewhere in this conflict. So as it got killed, captured, and squashed in Iraq, starting with the Anbar province with the Anbar awakening, they needed someplace to go.

In the place that they have largely gone, not exclusively as they have also begun to make movements into East Africa -- but the place we went was to the Afghan Pakistani border, particularly the tribal regions of Pakistan where they could regroup and begin to attack America again.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I was surprised to hear that President Obama has only spoken once to his top commander General McChrystal since he took over, and so I do not have any frame of reference.

Can you tell me how often President Bush talked to top commanders, because I was very surprised at that, but maybe that's the way it's done. How did President Bush handle that?

ROVE: Well, I was surprised, too, which is what prompted the column, because President Obama is detached, aloof, and incurious when he needs to be engaged and involved and questioning.

You can read things, you can be briefed by officials in Washington, but there is no substitute for being able to have the kind of compact that you can have as president of the United States with your commanders in the field.

President Bush at times would have a weekly -- a week or two would go by without the president talking. That is to say, in a month he might have three or four secure video conferences, teleconferences with his commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now, of course you want to have the Secretary of State on there if possible, the national security advisor, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint Chiefs. You want to keep the chain of command. There is a CENTCOM in Florida, so you want to have the chain of command.

But it is very helpful for the president to be able to sort of eyeball his commanders, hear what they think is important, make judgments about how they think, how the reason, and it helps you understand better what the recommendations might be grounded in, and it helps you make a better judgments about their recommendations.

In for President Obama to have talked to General McChrystal just once before I think he was on the secure video conference today, it was really troubling.

For the president -- look, he received this report at the end of August. We are now at the beginning of October. Five weeks have passed, almost five weeks have passed. The president considers it to be a higher priority to fly off to Copenhagen to pick the 2016 Olympics than he does to find a solution on this.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have to go, but you will agree that he will be working on Air Force One. It is a nonstop job whether he is on Air Force One nor at the White House. He is not going to be sitting around.

ROVE: But I don't know what he is -- it is a sign of something that he may -- I don't know if he is going to be working on Afghanistan. The fact of the matter is he needs to be in better contact with his commanders in the field...

VAN SUSTEREN: That I agree, that I would think.

ROVE: Maybe he ought to go from Copenhagen to Afghanistan to meet with his commanders or go someplace in the region so he can have a face-to-face sitdown with Odierno in Iraq.

Remember, we do not know he has been talking to Odierno and McChrystal in Afghanistan. He ought to have a face-to-face, take the jump on from there.

VAN SUSTEREN: If he will do an interview with me I will ask you that, but he has declined.

Anyway, Karl, thank you.

ROVE: You bet, Greta.

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