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Special Report

Assessing Obama's Midwest Trip

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 16, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The only thing that is holding us back is our politics. The only thing that's preventing us from passing the bills I just mentioned is the refusal of a faction in Congress to put country ahead of party. And that has to stop. I need your help sending a message to Congress that it's time to put the politics aside and get something done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama continuing his bus tour in Iowa today. He was actually just 13 miles down the road from Texas Governor Rick Perry who was campaigning just in Dubuque in Iowa. The president said he is cutting Governor Perry a little slack, when talking -- when Governor Perry essentially said that he is running for the military to once again respect the office of the president. I'm paraphrasing that statement. But the president said he is new to the campaign trail. I'm going to cut him some slack.

We're back with the panel. What about this Midwestern bus tour, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When the president accuses the Republicans of putting party over country and at another stop he said they want America to fail so they will succeed politically, that is a sophisticated way of essentially accusing the Republicans of near treasonous behavior. Now of course he is sophisticated and practiced and articulate so he won't use the word the way that Perry did. But it's the same idea.

BAIER: Now wait, are you suggesting that Texas Governor Perry is not articulate?

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm saying the way he articulated his attack on Bernanke, it was a demonstration that he does not have the art and the artful way of presenting it that Obama does.

It's an essentially an equivalent claim. These people care nothing about country, only about self-interest and politics and re-election. So "A," it demonstrates that the president is practiced at this. Perry could use practice. But it's essentially the same, I think unhealthy kind of attack. It's really something that neither party ought to do.

And the president combines it with a pretense that, of course he stands above all of this. But look at this scene. He is on a political trip, which he pretends is not. Therefore, our tax money is paying for this trip under the pretense that it's explaining his policies. It's clearly a campaign trip. It's all a stump speech.

So he is on political trip in which he accuses his opponents of playing politics putting it above country, when he himself is engaged in politics at the same time and pretending that only he speaks in the name of the national interest. He does this over and over again. I know it's going to be a theme of his campaign. I think he ought to be called out on it, if you're gonna call out Perry on his use of that, I'd call out the president on that as well.

BAIER: Kirsten, it does have the Harry Truman "give them hell" running-against-Congress feel it to. And obviously Congress has an approval rating of roughly 10 percent, so politically it probably makes sense. But he said that he'll be putting forward a specific, quote, "very specific" plan to boost the economy, to create jobs and to control our deficit. Are there people, do you think, out there on the trail who are saying, where has this been?

POWERS: Well, that would be the obvious question, I think. I don't really understand this trip completely. I don't know how he benefits from it. It does looks like a campaign stop. It does look like a reaction, actually, to Perry and Bachmann, and the Republicans out there. Ya know he's gotten in a fight with a Tea Partier.

BAIER: That was last night.

POWERS: Yeah, I mean, it's just -- it's not really enhancing his stature at all.

And then he's also talking a lot about how he is the compromiser and Republicans won't compromise. And of course Democrats don't want to hear this. Democrats are angry at him. Democrats don't want him compromising. That's exactly their issue with him. So I just don't see how this is benefiting him.

BAIER: We should clarify -- the fight with the Tea Party person was a question about Vice President Biden calling Tea Party members terrorists. And the president denied that and pushed back, and said they held him up against the cliff of this default.

Bill, what about the trip overall and the overall optics of it?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it's kind of a disaster. I think this White House is really flailing about. I was with the last president to lose after one term, I was in his White House, George H.W. Bush, a fine president, who nonetheless was denied re-election in 1992. We didn't panic until 1992 until the election year and started doing stupid things.

And they are panicking the summer before the election. Harry Truman, his great whistle stop tour, speaking from the back of trains, that was two months before the election. It only makes sense for President Obama after the Democratic convention to go around beating up the Republican Congress.

But he's now president of the United States. And it's a big advantage still to be president. I don't care how much anti-incumbent sentiment there is or how much people are unhappy, he should take advantage of being president. And I think with this bus tour, he's -- it's him on one bus and Rick Perry is on another bus. And we're sitting here comparing the two of them and they're comparing each other. And he's taken himself down to the level of a candidate for president from being president, I think.

KRAUTHAMMER: And that's the irony of it all. He pretends in his speeches and the content of his speeches that he hovers above all of this in an Olympian way. And yet, as Bill indicates, he is down there in the mud at the same level, with people who are competing with him, who want the stature that the job endows in him. And he -- I think he is squandering it. I think he is in a panic mode.

BAIER: That's it for panel. But stay tuned for all of the scrutiny on the newest member of the GOP field.

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