It's My Fault But Bush's Fault, Too

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 27, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, here's a quiz for you. How can President Obama take responsibility for problems at the MMS and also blame President Bush at the same time. Now, listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With regard to the Minerals Management Service, Secretary Salazar yesterday basically blamed the Bush administration for the cozy relationship there, and you seemed to suggest that when you spoke in the Rose Garden a few weeks ago when you said for too long, a decade or more -- most of those years, of course, the Bush administration -- there's been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agencies that permits them to drill. But you knew as soon as you came in -- and Secretary Salazar did -- about this cozy relationship, but you continued to give permits, some of them under questionable circumstances. Is it fair to blame the Bush administration? Don't you deserve some of that?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, let me just make the point I made earlier, which is Salazar came in and started cleaning house, but the culture had not fully changed in MMS. And absolutely, I take responsibility for that. There wasn't sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes need to take place. There's no evidence that some of the corrupt practices that had taken place earlier took place under the current administration's watch. But a culture in which oil companies were able to get what they wanted without sufficient oversight or regulation -- that was a real problem. Some of it was constraints of the law, as I just mentioned, but we should have busted through those constraints.


VAN SUSTEREN: Former White House press secretary Dana Perino joins us live. Dana, when does a problem become a new president's, and when it is left over from an old president?

DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY/FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think what you've seen over the past several years, actually, not just the past year-and-a-half that President Obama has been in office, but for many years, the Democrats and Republicans -- they just blame each other for every single problem. And the Obama administration invited these criticisms that they're getting and these comparisons to Katrina.

I would think that by now, the American people have said, Enough is enough, this is your problem. And in fact, the people that they're talking about at MMS were not political appointees from the Bush administration. They are attacking civil servants.

And I checked something. Speaker Pelosi said today that there were political appointees who burrowed into the system and are now civil servants at MMS. As far as I can tell from the checking that I did, Greta, that is not true and there's not a single one that burrowed in.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's what I don't understand. If I were the president -- and of course, nobody's going to vote for me to be president, but if I were the president, I'd point fingers at Congress! I mean, they've been asleep at the wheel! It's their job to oversee the Department of Interior and MMS. And all Congress does is gather and have a committee and start pointing fingers every place else. But where was Congress with this horrible culture, where they're having affairs in one office with people they regulate and they're getting gifts and they're looking at porn? I mean, there were all those horrible things. Where was Congress on this one?

PERINO: Well, remember that one of those reports from the inspector general came out during the Bush administration, and it was about career employees who were in Lakewood, Colorado, Colorado, the home state of -- and my home state -- of Secretary Salazar, when he was attorney general of the state of Colorado.

I actually think if we all could just take a step back -- Hurricane Katrina was the largest hurricane to hit America. It hit an area larger than the United Kingdom. This problem in the gulf was an engineering flaw or a structural flaw, a huge problem. But is it any one person's fault? No. What we would all be better doing is to work together to try to solve the problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of interesting. The president says, I take responsibility, and he actually acts sort of defensive, I thought, in the press conference on this. And I actually think that he has less responsibility than even his own party is criticizing him for. You know -- you know, when you look at criticizing your president, you say, you know, What's -- where has he exercised judgment where it has -- you know, has an effect? He's exercised judgments, for instance, with the stimulus package, and we still have unemployment rates of 9.7 nationally. That's the low number. That does belong to him, that unemployment rate. This, though, belongs to BP, and everyone's trying to sort of -- they're trying to hit him with this, as though he's done some horrible thing, and he's taken the bait.

PERINO: Right. And I -- look, I felt for president Bush at the time during Katrina, and I understand that President Obama is dealing with something. But I do think that we are 40 days into this. And I think that the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, has the right to be questioning what this government is doing.

And I also think that today -- I think Stephen Hayes earlier on Fox said that President Obama undercut his own message today when he said, I take full responsibility. But then when asked about the MMS director who was -- apparently either resigned or was fired today, President Obama said he didn't know anything about it. And yet he was there at the press conference to say he was fully in charge and taking responsibility.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he also said it was appropriate, what happened with Congressman Sestak, and then he didn't give any information, so it's not exactly like...

PERINO: Imagine!

VAN SUSTEREN: ... we haven't seen this before. I mean, it's, like, you know, if he knows enough that nothing bad happened, how about telling us? You know -- - you know, which -- maybe nothing bad did happen. But this whole idea of knowing one thing and yet not telling, you know, or making a statement is distressing.

PERINO: Well, remember, during the U.S. attorney issue during the Bush administration, Democrats came after us really with full force. And the difference is we at least answered the questions that we could, and we turned it over to independent investigator. I don't think we should just accept the White House's view of this.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't...

PERINO: I do think that there should be an independent look.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think anyone's going to accept it. I think everyone's waiting for what they're going to say. Dana, thank you.

PERINO: OK. Good night.

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