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Special Report

President's 'Economic' Bus Tour

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You've got to send a message to Washington that it's time for the games to stop. It's time to put country first.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: All he is doing is campaigning. And that's what this bus tour is. It's a campaign trip. It's paid for by taxpayers. And we're not going to sit around and let it continue without at least responding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: President Obama at the start of his three-day economic bus tour through the Midwest, and Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus firing back. And we're back now with the panel.

And I just want you to note, Charles, we have some late-breaking news. It looks like a bulletin from Reuters. "Obama says in September we'll put forward a specific plan to boost economy, create jobs, control deficit." Are your socks knocked off?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Absolutely. I'm almost shoeless. Look ya know, this is one of the great events in American history. He hasn't had this issue of debt on the table for two-and-a-half years, especially since December when the budget, his deficit reduction commission report. And he has done nothing on this. And even today, after the gyrations of the market and after the downgrade and after the whole debate in the country of how we are going to go over a cliff on debt, all of a sudden he says, oh we're gonna wait until September?

If he has an idea, how about giving it? He hasn't, in the whole debate on the debt ceiling he never once gave a plan. He never once -- in fact, these Democrats in the Senate have not even issued a budget in 800 days, in two years. The Republicans put a budget on the table, which was extremely radical, $6 trillion in cuts, including a radical reform of Medicare, for which the Democrats have attacked incessantly. The Democrats proposed nothing. Now he tells us well, well in September, of course, after I have ten days on the vineyard, where I can relax and really think really hard in the presence of Larry David and other luminaries, I'm sure, he will come up with a plan. Pathetic. [INAUDIBLE]

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: -- thank you. If Reince Priebus is right, Karen, and that this is more politics than it is economics, and it certainly isn't economics other than feeling their pain if he's not going to announce an economic plan until September, I want to put up a new Gallup poll because this is pretty dramatic. As he embarks on this bus tour, the Gallup poll has his job approval rating at a new low for his presidency -- 39 percent now approve of the job that Barack Obama is doing -- 54 percent disapprove. Do you see this tour boosting that?

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I don't think the country's problem is that it hasn't seen enough of Barack Obama lately. The problem, and if you talk to Democrats, they've been howling. They want a sense of where the president stands on these issues.

And during the debt ceiling negotiations he talked a lot about process. He was the adult in the room. Everyone should come together. But Democrats really are demanding some bottom line -- some bottom line positions from this president. So I think that, this is as much, ya know him responding to what his base is demanding. Now his office, they'll say, well in August, nobody is paying attention, but...

WALLACE: Ya know, let me ask you about the clip that we played, Jonathan, at the top of Obama, because clearly one of the things that he is trying to do, is to get voters to rally in a sort of the Reagan-esque way, to go over the heads of Congress to the voters and say call your congressman, you know, demand that they make a deal, that they compromise. At 39 percent, how much clout does he have to get some kind of mobilization of the electorate?

JONATHAN WEISMAN, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, ya know, live by the Gallup poll, die by the Gallup poll. Actually, he bumped up today to 41 percent. So it's not exactly, ya know, a trend. We don't know where it's heading.

But the fact of the matter is, that right now this seems to be a race of both parties to the bottom, and the winner is going to be who lands last. I mean the Republicans aren't very popular either. And so, nobody came out of the big budget fights this summer smelling well.

And I think the president, ya know, I watch Reince Priebus, and ya know, bless him, the fact of the matter is that whatever party is out of power from the White House always says it's not fair that the White House is campaigning. But the White House always campaigns using taxpayer dollars. This is classic stuff.

And I don't know. The president, we haven't seen the president in full campaign mode. But he is a very good campaigner. So don't, you know, don't think that he might not be able to pick himself up a little bit on this thing.

WALLACE: Ya know in the end, all of this is noise, and what really matters is the substance of the economy. Is it going to start growing again? Are people going to get back to work? As I said, in September he will put forward a specific plan to boost the economy. What can he do, given how broke we are and that the things he has tried before like the big stimulus get an argument that certainly didn't work anywhere near what he claimed it would.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that is his problem. I mean, in part, the reason he doesn't propose anything is because he's already proposed. It was called the stimulus. It happened in '09 and it didn't succeed. It left us with a huge debt and an ailing economy, a stagnant economy, an economy stuck in neutral.

He also had Obamacare, which is adding on to it. It's gonna cost over $1 trillion. It's weighing the economy down with uncertainty, higher cost, higher insurance cost, et cetera. So he tried his program. It failed. And now he's got small stuff. Ya know, extending the payroll tax cut, which everybody agrees is probably a good idea, other small stuff, patent reform, yes, great idea, it's not going to have any impact in the short-term or even in the medium term. So he doesn't have anything.

Unless he is going to propose a giant stimulus which will not go anywhere, probably more tax cuts. Maybe he would have an entire holiday for all payroll taxes. Who knows? But I can't imagine it's gonna be anything of significance. He has to give the appearance of movement and the appearance of a plan, because the fact is he doesn't have one.

WALLACE: That's it for panel, but stay tuned for dramatic example of exactly this, how the economy is doing these days.

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