OTR Interviews

Is Pres. Obama 'Spiking the Ball' in Bin Laden Killing with Ground Zero Visit?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Thursday, President Obama is headed to New York to Ground Zero, marking the death of the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks. And who can forget President Bush's visit on that same site on September 14th, 2001.




BUSH: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you! And the people who...


BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!



VAN SUSTEREN: So what can we expect to see when President Obama arrives? Karl Rove joins us. He's a former senior adviser to President George Bush and author of the book "Courage and Consequence."

Nice to see you, Karl.


VAN SUSTEREN: President Bush 43 was invited by President Obama to join him tomorrow. He declined.

ROVE: Yes, as was President Clinton, who similarly declined.


ROVE: President Bush has had the attitude that he -- his successor deserves his -- his, President Bush's, discrete silence and his low profile, and he's continuing that.

VAN SUSTEREN: The president has said that releasing the pictures would be like "spiking the ball," you know, the he's opposed to it. Is going to Ground Zero spiking the ball, as well?

ROVE: Well, it depends on what he does. I think this is an important moment for America not to just celebrate Usama bin Laden, but for the -- his demise, but for the president to -- for President Obama to explain to the American people why the war on terror continues, why this is a milestone, not the endpoint of the war on terror, and to explain why the mission in Afghanistan is so important.

This is a moment where a lot of people will say, Well, we got -- we got the guy we were after. It's over, isn't it? And President Obama will regret it if he doesn't use this opportunity as a teachable moment to explain what we face. You already saw today the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Lugar, said, OK, well, Afghanistan, it's over, right? Time to come home. And more and more people are going to feel that way unless the president explains what the policy is and why it's necessary to remain and why the war on terror is not yet finished.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's gotten much more complicated, I think, especially with Pakistan, because a lot of the -- a lot of the assaults on our troops are coming through Pakistan.

ROVE: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and the Pakistan -- at least our Admiral Mullen has accused Pakistan of not cooperating and getting the Haqqani network, which is...

ROVE: Not fully cooperating...

VAN SUSTEREN: Not fully cooperating...

ROVE: ... and as you say, with the Haqqani network, literally providing them, you know, a sanctuary.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's gotten actually a little bit worse or more -- and tangled up.

ROVE: And again, this is the moment where the president needs to be engaged and to be fully involved diplomatically, militarily, economically, using all the leverage we have in order to get further cooperation with the Pakistanis. There is a -- this is -- it's clear that the Pakistanis -- I don't think they knew where he was, but it is a sign of their incompetence that they didn't know where he was.

You know, we did need their assistance to identify him. We had assets inside Pakistan, Pakistanis inside the country who helped us identify him, according to the news reports. But it's -- the president needs -- this is less about celebrating the demise of Usama bin Laden than it is about explaining to the American people what lies ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think that he has a difficult challenge and sort of -- and a tough one tomorrow because some of the family members of the victims want to see the pictures.

ROVE: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: And some don't. So he's going to -- he's going to have a lot of unhappy people and a lot of -- I mean, I use the word happy loosely, but he's going to have people who are -- who are content.

ROVE: Right. Look, this is a close call, and I recognize that. I come down this way. If the military says, Don't -- don't -- don't release it because it's going to complicate our lives and our mission, then I would be inclined not to release it. It's not enough to say, OK, well, we ought to release this because it will dampen down the skepticism in the Islamic world that he's actually dead.

Look, his -- al Qaeda spokesman went out and called him a martyr and said that they would seek retaliation and revenge for his death by attacking the West. I mean, you know, his own people are admitting he's dead. And there'll always be skeptics, but you know, that's not a good reason to release the photograph.

Also, it's not a good reason not to release it in order to say, We're not -- we don't spike the ball. I mean, you know, Sarah Palin had a point when she said, Look, this demonstrates America's power. And that's a legitimate reason to release the photograph. But I -- but where I come down is, I -- you know, you want to listen to the military. If this has implications for our fighting men and women on the frontlines in this war, then we ought to listen to the military and not release them.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think about the spike the ball is that -- that bin Laden spiked the ball and people had to jump from the windows. I mean -- I mean, there are so many different -- I mean, so many horrible answers to everything that's said.

ROVE: I understand. But if this affects the men and women who are on the frontline, who've taken and donned the uniform or our country and are at a -- at the -- at the danger point between us and the terrorists, if their commanders believe that it would put them more at risk, then we ought to listen to them, no matter how much satisfaction it would give us to see that photograph.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it too cute and clever to put it in a time capsule and say, you know, (INAUDIBLE) part of history?

ROVE: Well, look, it is part of history, and at some point in the distant future, it'll be sitting there in the National Archives, and at some point, it will -- it will be released, but not now and -- if the military says, Please don't do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, thank you.

ROVE: You bet. Thanks.