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Talking Points

Bill O'Reilly: The Decline of America and the Republican Challenge

By Bill O'Reilly

In analyzing the Republican debate Thursday night, you have to start with the decline of America. There is no question that the USA is in trouble. Economically, we are simply in chaos. The country owes more than $14 trillion. Congress and the president will not cut spending drastically, and the presidential campaign of 2012 is shaping up to be a class warfare event.

Looking back, America's decline began on Sept. 11, 2001. The Al Qaeda attack forced the Bush administration to take drastic action. Trillions of dollars were spent, two wars initiated, and what we did to protect ourselves alienated many throughout the world. The good news is we have been protected and we did defeat Al Qaeda, but it came at a tremendous cost.

After being hopeful for two years, Americans have now lost confidence in the Obama administration. All the polls show that. The high unemployment rate and craziness in financial markets combined with the huge government takeover of the health care system are scaring many Americans. And when we get scared, we get angry. And we should be angry. The federal government is making things worse, not better economically.

A report on Friday by the U.S. Census Bureau says there is no growth in household income; no state is doing well. Maryland has the highest median income: $69,000 per household. Mississippi has the lowest: $37,000. But nowhere are we, the people, prospering.

The stock market, where millions of Americans have their retirement funds, is absolutely insane. Nobody knows what's going to happen there.

And then there's foreign policy. Countries like Iran and Pakistan are openly insulting the USA. No longer is America feared, and no longer do many Americans have confidence that their government has a handle on complex problems at home or abroad.

So the theme for the Republican challenger in next year's presidential race is likely to be "I'll restore America," because it will be hard for President Obama to argue that the country does not need restoration.

At Thursday night's debate, nine Republican contenders took the stage in Orlando, Florida. Nothing dramatic happened, but there were some interesting expositions.

Let's start with the front-runner, Rick Perry. The governor knows that at this point Mitt Romney is his real competition for the nomination. So Perry is trying to brand Romney as "Obama-lite." He seized upon education to make that point. President Obama wants the feds to set much of the educational agenda with his "Race to the Top" program. Perry tried to lay that on Romney:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK PERRY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is one person on this stage that is for Obama's "Race to the Top" and that is Gov. Romney. He said so just this last week, and I think that is an important difference between the rest of the people on this stage and one person that wants to run for the presidency. Being in favor of the Obama "Race to the Top," and that is not conservative.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Gov. Romney?

MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nice try. Let me tell you what I think I would do. One, education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level. We need to get the federal government out of education.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

A decent parry by Mitt Romney.

On the subject of illegal immigration, Gov. Perry has some problems because he opposes a border fence and supports paying college tuition for illegal alien students. Perry addressed that directly:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: We put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. We've got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now. I supported Arizona's immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it. Every day I have Texans on that border that are doing their job. But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they have been brought there, by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart.

RICK SANTORUM, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Gov. Perry, no one is suggesting up here that the students that are illegal in this country shouldn't be able to go to a college and university. I think you're -- you're sort of making this leap that unless we subsidize this, the taxpayers subsidize it, they won't be able to go. Most folks who want to go to the state of Texas or any other state, out of state have to pay the full boat. The point is, why are we subsidizing -- not that -- not that they can't go. They can go. They just have to borrow money, find other sources to be able to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Rick Santorum won that point. Most Republicans are uneasy with taxpayer money supporting illegal aliens, especially in the face of the massive debt. Perry realizes he is vulnerable on this question and hit back at Santorum:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Have you ever even been to the border with Mexico?

SANTORUM: Yes.

PERRY: I'm surprised if you have but you weren't paying attention because the idea…

SANTORUM: But the answer is yes, of course I have.

PERRY: …that you are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana does not make sense. You put the boots on the ground. We know how to make this work. You put the boots on the ground.

SANTORUM: But it's not working, Governor.

PERRY: You put the aviation assets in the ground. No, it's not working because the federal government…

SANTORUM: But it's not working. You're saying we know how it works. Is it working in Texas?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

It will be interesting to see what the new poll numbers on Rick Perry show, but the governor does remain a force because of his economic philosophy, which is working in Texas.

As for the other candidates, there is not much chance that they will secure the nomination. But I was struck by Herman Cain's analysis of Obamacare Thursday night. As you may know, Mr. Cain was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My surgeons and doctors have told me that because I was able to get the treatment as fast as I could, based upon my timetable and not the government's timetable, that's what saved my life because I only had a 30 percent chance of survival. And now I'm here five years cancer-free because I could do it on my timetable and not on a bureaucrat's timetable. This is one of the reasons I believe a lot of people are objecting to Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

That kind of vivid personal account brings home a big problem with feds running so many programs vital to Americans.

"Talking Points" believes the United States is in desperate need of strong, fair leadership. That's one of the reasons I wrote my new book "Killing Lincoln." Abraham Lincoln was the gold standard of leadership for this country. His personal sacrifice dealing with the worst crisis America has ever faced is what we need today: politicians not looking out for themselves, not wedded to an ideology, but willing to do difficult things for the good of all Americans.

Simply put, the economy's got to get fixed, the debt has got to go down and the federal government has got to recede it can't run everything. Private enterprise has to be stimulated. And above all, Americans have to regain hope that the USA is indeed a place of opportunity, fairness and sanity.

And that's "The Memo."

Pinheads & Patriots

Our auction for the Wounded Warrior Project is over. This unique piece of history -- a poster signed by the five living presidents -- has been won. We will announce the winner on Monday's program.

But if you would like a facsimile of the poster, you can get one by donating $25 or more to the Warriors. So far more than $125,000 has been raised that way. You can donate by going to BillOReilly.com, where we have a link to the Warriors.

All of you who are helping the Wounded Warriors are patriots.