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Should Politicians Be Role Models?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Culture Warriors" segment tonight: It seems every few weeks another American politician is caught up in a nasty scandal. It's getting worse than professional sports. Question tonight: Should American politicians be role models? And why is all this craziness happening?

Here now, the "Culture Warriors," Alicia Menendez in Washington in for Margaret Hoover this evening and here in the studio, Gretchen Carlson. OK. Role models first. Yes, should politicians be role models?

GRETCHEN CARLSON, CO-HOST, "FOX & FRIENDS": No. I think in this day and age, you would hope that parents could be role models, but even that is not always true to the case. The only person that you can be rest assured that is a good role model is God.

O'REILLY: But God is invisible. That's the problem. And it used to be in America that you elected leaders. Leaders. And leaders were, by very definition, role models.

CARLSON: Right. And that was before the media knew about every personal detail of every person on this planet. That's before social media came into the forefront in the last five to 10 years. If you would have asked me 15 years ago whether or not politicians should be role models, I would have said yes.

O'REILLY: All right. What do you say, Alicia?

ALICIA MENENDEZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think they have a choice. As you said, in this media day and age, they have to be role models. And I think there are people of aspirational stories like Marco Rubio, like Barack Obama, that for some constituencies that does mean that they're role models. And I think when it comes to people's private lives, what really bothers me is not only the primary action, infidelity, the cheating we see a lot, but the lengths that these men will go to to cover up what they've done. And very often, it's that behavior that I think is more abhorrent than even the first behavior.

O'REILLY: So you, Alicia, say that politicians should be role models and that they should actually work toward that goal. But Carlson says no, they can't be because the intrusion of the Net. And we talked about that last night, by the way, because it is pretty interesting, that Founders, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and a bunch of other guys, if they lived now, they'd probably be out of the game.

CARLSON: Exactly. Well, scandals have been going on. I'm not saying I like it. I'm not saying I agree with it.

O'REILLY: JFK, FDR.

CARLSON: Right. I'm just saying...

O'REILLY: Dwight Eisenhower -- the Eisenhower thing is a little undefined. But all very, very powerful men who have helped the country and who were legitimate role models and icons, when you strip away what they were doing in their private time, today they could not have survived.

CARLSON: Listen, politicians, in my mind, should be accountable for doing the job that they were elected for. If they can be role models at the same time, hats off.

O'REILLY: You don't have any problem with a guy like Schwarzenegger doing what he did?

CARLSON: Of course I have a problem on a personal level. But what I'm saying is that I think in this day and age -- look what happened with Bill Clinton. And I think that was the changing point in our society. After his scandals, he became more popular as president because people liked the job he was doing.

O'REILLY: I'll give it to you, and I talked to this -- I talked to Morris about this yesterday off camera. I'll submit to you, if Clinton had done now what he did in the mid '90s, done. Because the intrusion, Alicia, by the Net carries a story 24/7 relentlessly over and over. Not only is the story presented, but every speculation in the world. It's hyped a thousand times worse, although I don't know how you get much worse than what Schwarzenegger did. So we're in a changing world here.

Now the question becomes also -- Schwarzenegger did a dismal job, Alicia, dismal, as governor of California. As we pointed out last night, when he took office the debt of the state was about $32 billion. When he left, it was $92 billion, OK? This guy had lost control early on. And something like he was hiding, a double life, that kind of thing, can absolutely impact on your job, can it not?

MENENDEZ: Absolutely. And I think that, again, is what makes this so disturbing, is the distraction, is the double life and, again, is the lengths that people are going to to cover it up, which is often what gets them into the legal nuance that forces them to resign, to quit. But, Bill, you know, I just don't know what these people are thinking. And I think...

O'REILLY: It doesn't really matter what they're thinking.

MENENDEZ: Right.

O'REILLY: What matters is they have power, and, you know, they get caught up. Look. Nixon, Clinton, Governor Spitzer here in New York, Governor Schwarzenegger in California, Blagojevich.

CARLSON: The list goes on and on.

O'REILLY: Every three weeks…

CARLSON: Here's -- here's the other negative impact that I think that this has on our political life in America, and that is that no human is perfect. And even if you've done...

O'REILLY: We all know that. We all know that. Look at Sanford. We just showed Sanford.

CARLSON: Even if you made a small mistake in your life and you might be qualified to run for office in this country, you are not going to because you will know...

O'REILLY: We did that last night. You didn't watch "The Factor" last night.

CARLSON: I did.

O'REILLY: Absolutely inhibiting people from coming in.

CARLSON: Yes.

O'REILLY: You make one mistake, they're going to ram it down your throat. If you've got kids, you don't want to put the kids through that. We all know that. But there's something in the water -- there's something really in the water when you get into the power realm. I think power changes people. I really think it changes people, and I think that's what we're dealing with here. You know, sense of entitlement. I can get away with it because I'm so and so. All right. Ladies, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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