OTR Interviews

Is President Obama ducking responsibility 'per se' for the $535 M Solyndra debacle?

Is the president dodging blame for the failure of Solyndra and other energy policies?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 22, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN,FOX NEWS HOST: Well, President Obama is taking credit for the southern pipeline. Is he simultaneously ducking responsibility for blowing $535 million taxpayer in the Solyndra disaster?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, we wished Solyndra hadn't gone bankrupt. Part of the reason they did was because the Chinese were subsidizing their solar industry and flooding the market in ways that Solyndra couldn't compete. But understand this was not our program per se.


VAN SUSTEREN: What does President Obama mean by that? Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York joins us.

Good evening, Byron. Let's go first to what Rush Limbaugh says, and he says that President Obama can't take credit for the southern part of this pipeline. Rush right or not?

BYRON YORK, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think he's basically correct about that because the controversial part of the pipeline has been the part that brings the oil from Canada all the way down to the Texas coast for refining.

There is a sort of bottleneck of oil in Oklahoma, and this part of the pipeline, from Cushing down to the refineries, will help. But the whole point of the Keystone XL pipeline had been to bring the 700,000, 800,000 barrels of oil a day down from the Canadian oil fields. That's still not happening.

VAN SUSTEREN: Could the president have stopped the southern part? I mean, is this a ministerial task that the president has in OKing it, or is this something that he could -- he could have prevented, the southern part?

YORK: Presidential approval is required for the international part of the pipeline.

VAN SUSTEREN: So -- so...

YORK: But for a domestic thing, it is not a presidential decision. The Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies approve it, but it's not at the presidential level.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if the president doesn't have to approve of the central or the southern pipeline and the president is now claiming that he is responsible, does he not know that we have videotape? We have YouTube? We have all that sort of thing? I mean, this is something that will make him look very bad if he's out there bragging about it and he has zero credit.

YORK: And we can figure that one out. Listen specifically to what he said today. He said, I am ordering my administration to cut through the red tape and reduce the bureaucratic hurdles and get this going.

He didn't say, I'm approving this lower part of the pipeline. He's saying, I'm going to cut through the red tape. Now, Republicans are saying, Wait a minute. That red tape was from the president's own administration. And -- but in any event, perhaps that part of the pipeline will now get built.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, so what happens to the northern pipeline from Canada to -- down to Cushing, Oklahoma?

YORK: Well, it's dead for the moment, but the president has put the decision off until after the election, saying it needed more study. But I personally think he's going to come under more and more pressure to do something sooner.

You have to remember not only do we have a new Gallup poll showing that 57 percent of Americans want to see this pipeline built -- that includes 81 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and a plurality, 44 percent, of Democrats.

And also, there was a test vote on this in the Senate a few weeks ago, and 11 Democrats switched sides, sided with the Republicans in favor of building this pipeline. The only reason it didn't pass was that Democrats filibustered it. Sixty votes were required. They didn't have 60 votes.

But if the president has lost 11 members of his own party in the Senate and the election's not here yet, he could lose more if Mitch McConnell tries again.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's go to Solyndra. And let me take partial quote, but, "Understand this. Solyndra was not our program per se." That was to NPR today. Is he saying that the $535 million authorization that went belly up is not his fault?

YORK: Well, I hope he's not saying that. I think what he was saying...

VAN SUSTEREN: Does he not know we have videotape...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... and YouTube and everything else? I mean, if -- you know, we got this type.

YORK: Yes. Well, what he was saying is that there was a preexisting program to encourage green energy and to give grants to green energy companies.

But the Bush administration did not give a grant to Solyndra. A grant was not imminent for Solyndra when the Bush administration was still in office.

The Solyndra grant is a product of the Obama administration, and the president's going to have a particularly tough case to make because just a few -- 60 seconds ago, you showed video of him touring Solyndra in 2010. So if he had not gone to Solyndra physically himself and praised it as a model of the kind of enterprise he wanted to give federal funds to.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's hard for me to understand how he could say that it wasn't his because it was late August 2009 -- he was inaugurated in January -- when White House asked the -- asked OMB to speed along the approval. The approval happened September 1, 2009. And then September 4, three days later, Vice President Biden and Secretary Chu are out there for this big razzle-dazzle groundbreaking.

So I mean, it's, like, I -- I'm having a difficult time understanding how he can say this was not -- that, you know, this was somehow not our program, quote, "per se."

YORK: These two things that we've been talking about are not unrelated because the president knows that in the campaign, whoever the Republican nominee is -- probably Mitt Romney -- is going to hit him over and over.

And the way the Republican criticism is going to be, while the president was dumping taxpayer dollars into these green energy projects that weren't working out and costing taxpayers money, he was not doing sufficient exploration or approving the Keystone pipeline or encouraging American independence in oil and gas.

So these two things the president has done today are really kind of related, which is, Don't blame me for Solyndra, and I'm really working hard for pipelines.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I go back to doesn't -- don't people know we have videotape and YouTube and everything else? We know what people have said and under what circumstances. Byron, thank you.

YORK: Great to be here.