OTR Interviews

The GSA and Secret Service scandals: Proof that 'hope and change' is really more of the 'same old, same old'

Karl Rove on the short and long-term effects of the GSA and Secret Service scandals and whether they could impact Obama's reelection chances. Plus, Jeb Bush VP speculation


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 20, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Out of control, embarrassing, shameful! Is that the new image of our federal government? From the GSA to the Secret Service, it is one scandal after another. And are Americans -- are they just plain fed up? And will they voice their frustration in November?

Now, we asked Karl Rove, author of the book "Courage and Consequence."


VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, nice to see you.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's been quite a week. We've had a GSA scandal, guys in -- naked in bathtubs with unmatching wine glasses.

ROVE: Please, I'm not the expert on the etiquette of naked bathtub appearances with wine glasses.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that's why you were booked.

ROVE: Exactly.


VAN SUSTEREN: And then we had this hooker scandal in Colombia, where they were supposed to be protecting the president or preparing for him, and they don't even want to pay the bill for their hookers, the Secret Service. Is he or -- on a serious note, is -- are all these scandals going to so alienate voters that it's just, like, Throw the bum out, no matter who's running?

ROVE: No, I don't think so. I mean, I think you got to differentiate between the Secret Service, which I think people are going to hold the Secret Service responsible for whatever ultimately comes out of this story, and the GSA, where I do think they will say, Well, you had your person in charge of this agency, your political appointee. What was she doing? Why wasn't she paying attention to business?

But look, the worst thing for the president is not the long-term effect of this specifically. It's the long-term sense that Washington is out of control and the sense that he's in charge and -- and even more than that is, it obscures his ability to get any other kind of message out.

He's chewed up the last couple weeks on Hilary Rosen and now on this. And I mean, it's obscuring his ability to get out, you know, a message that I think he'd probably consider more beneficial.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suspect that it would be, you know, pushed right in his face (INAUDIBLE) talk about change. And this whole GSA thing is not new in terms of scandals with this president. But you know, if you run on the sort of the mantra, you know, I'm going to change things, you know, and then we see it's sort of business as usual -- I'm not saying it's easy to change the whole culture of Washington. But this is -- I mean, I think -- I think Americans are particularly appalled by this.

ROVE: I think you're right. One of the great promises he had was he was going to change Washington, change the tone of Washington, change Washington itself. And people got to read into that what they wanted to. And whether it was post-partisanship or dysfunctional Washington, they thought he was going to take care of it. And he hasn't. And to the degree that GSA adds to that, it's not helpful.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's interesting that it's the power of the sound bite. Last year, Governor Romney had that sound bite played over and over in ads, where he says, I don't like -- where he said something like, I like to fire people, and people were, like, gasping, like to fire people.

And now I would suspect -- this is from a Gretawire blogger -- that, I like to fire people -- it's sort of -- a lot of viewers would like to have someone to fire...

ROVE: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... GSA workers and Secret Service. So now it's -- it can be turned around.

ROVE: Yes. Well, we'd like to all be in charge of making decisions about who we deal with in our lives, whether it's where we buy our car, where we buy our soap, where we eat our meals, where we take our laundry. We like to be in charge.

But presidents, we require them to be, you know, the buck stops here, Harry S. Truman's famous mantra. And I think people do want to know what the president's doing to move, particularly with the GSA scandal, where he has a lot of direct authority.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yet if you look at sort of how much money is squandered in this city, the $820,000 on that fancy party in Vegas and not to mention the bathtub and the wine, which I love to keep mentioning...

ROVE: You're fixated on the bathtub and the wine. It makes me very uncomfortable.


VAN SUSTEREN: It is true. I mean, like ... I mean, I can't even imagine -- his wife apparently posted it, which is, like, you know, my husband would -- well, first of all, my husband wouldn't do it. But secondly, is my husband would probably shoot me if I posted something like that.

ROVE: Who did she think that was going to impress, their FaceBook fans? I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, but then you -- then you look at the FaceBook with the Secret Service, where the -- where the guy is bragging about checking out Governor Sarah Palin. He's supposed to be watching her. He's bragging about it.

ROVE: Very unprofessional. I got to tell you, during my time at the White House, I became very fond of and enormously respectful of the people who serve in the Secret Service. And I would suspect that when this is all said and done, the people who are most hurt and most upset and most angry about the performance of these 11 agents are going to be their colleagues in the Secret Service.

This does not speak well of the agency that these men and women devote their lives to. And they take on an awesome responsibility when they join the Secret Service. And I would suspect that many of the men and women that I was fortunate to call colleagues and friends at the White House are going to be very upset with the performance of these 11 agents.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I agree. I've seen nothing but seriousness of purpose among the Secret Service. But then I stop and think, if he's putting this on FaceBook, his friends are seeing it. His colleagues are probably seeing it. He's probably saying things at the office. So you know, it -- there are a lot of people who probably knew about it and didn't blow the whistle, that this guy, who's a supervisor, is probably not paying attention to his job.

So you know, I actually think it's -- you know, people turned and looked the other way and didn't blow the whistle, the people who turned and looked the other way about these parties in GSA -- there were others who may not have been directly involved, but they knew.

ROVE: Well, and let's also be careful about one thing. He was a supervisor, but he was not a supervisor of the presidential protective detail, the so-called PPD. This is the -- these are the people who protect the president.

When the president goes abroad to do a big international conference and they need additional agents, they'll reach out through the rest of the Secret Service.

And it was interesting to me, one of the agents was in the international sections and another one of the agents of the three who resigned was in the training facility. Neither one of them was in the presidential protective detail.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except that they did protect a vice presidential candidate, this man did.

ROVE: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right, I want to talk for a second about this -- about the election. There has been news today -- and of course, every time Governor Jeb Bush says anything, you know -- you know, we grab it, you know, and we sit and spend hours trying to figure out what he meant.

But there is a report that he said that he would consider running as vice president on the Republican ticket, if asked. But he also added that he didn't think he'd be asked. Your thoughts?

ROVE: Well, you're right. It's going to create a little bit of speculation here for a couple of days. What's interesting to me is we're - - we're on April 20th. This decision is likely to be made in July or early August, or mid-August even, because the Republican convention is at the tail end of August.

Are we going to spend the next, you know, April, May, June, July and part of August talking about vice presidential candidates?


ROVE: Yes, we are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, we are!

ROVE: So -- and the interesting thing is, look, at this point in 2000, who would have thought that it was going to be Dick Cheney or Joe Lieberman? Who at this point in 2004 thought it would be John Edwards? Who at this point in 2008 thought it would be Joe Biden or Sarah Palin?

So this speculation's fun and we'll all get into it. We'll just sort of -- we'll be, like, in our own, you know, political bathtub, vice presidential bathtub with glasses of wine.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now you brought up the bathtub! Now you're on the bathtub!

ROVE: I just wanted...

VAN SUSTEREN: You brought up the bathtub!

ROVE: I wanted to make you feel comfortable. I wanted to put it into context...


VAN SUSTEREN: No, I think you have bathtub on your mind!

ROVE: No, no, no. I'm very disquieted by your conversation about the bathtub. Anyway...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you brought it up!

ROVE: ... we're going to spend the next several months talking about this. But it's -- it is going to be a very interesting process inside the campaign. It has got to be a meticulous, conscientious, thoughtful, in- depth process in which they examine the public statements, the public actions, the rumors, the speculation, the financial records, you name it, of all of these potential vice presidential running mates.

And we're all going to be out here speculating about who it's going to be or who it might be. And at the end of the day, it's going to be something that probably catches us as a surprise.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's assume that all the candidates are flawless. They don't have any skeletons in their -- in their closet, anyone he might consider. What is it that Governor Romney will be -- what does he need most? Or what would be the most helpful to him as a running mate?

ROVE: Well, that's an interesting -- you put it the right way. He's got to look for from the perspective of the president of the United States. This is the first presidential decision our president makes, and he makes it when he is a candidate.

Barack Obama made it as a candidate and George W. Bush made it as a candidate. But it was their first presidential decision. And you put it in the right context. Who is -- out of the available people, who is it that's going to be a good partner to them in the act of governing?

Who will be a good partner to them in the Oval Office? In other words, whose judgment do they trust? Whose abilities do they recognize? What kind talents will they bring that will add to the ability of the president to get his job done?

And second of all, whom will the country have confidence in if something terrible happens to the president of the United States? That's got to be in the back of anybody who occupies that office because too often in our history, the president has come from the ranks of the vice president.

The political considerations ought to be secondary. And look, I'm -- I'm -- I'm the guy that in the 2000 campaign was completely focused on politics. You know, George W. Bush was not. Hence the -- you know, the moment in July of 2000 and -- and -- when he asked me to come in and tell him why he shouldn't pick Dick Cheney. And I outlined my eight reasons sitting five feet away from President -- then Governor Bush and Dick Cheney.

So -- and bush called me the next day and said,, Look, all those political reasons you had why it shouldn't be Cheney, you're right. Go solve those problems. But I'm looking at this as a prospective president, and he would be a great partner to me in the Oval Office, and if something terrible happened to me, the country would have confidence in him as the leader of the free world.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's play the parlor game, since it is April and we have -- we won't -- we won't learn until August. What do you think Governor Jeb Bush would be -- that -- what would be his greatest contribution to the ticket?

ROVE: That he is an articulate proponent of reform conservatism, which has got to be what's -- which is -- you know, starting last November, Mitt Romney indicated was going to be at the core of his general election campaign -- entitlement reform, budget reform, pro-growth policies, reforming the tax code. Jeb would be an articulate advocate on these.

Second of all, he'd be enormously effective in the Hispanic community. He's married to a Mexican-American. He speaks fluent Spanish, Catholic and understands the community and comfortable campaigning in it, and that would be helpful.

VAN SUSTEREN: And Florida.

ROVE: And Florida. But look, here -- there's a debate in political science over this. In fact, I brought you a little reading material here, "Evaluating the impact of vice presidential selection on voter choice," and a very interesting one called "The vice presidential home state advantage reconsidered, analyzing the interactive effects of home state population and political experience 1884 to 2008."

I'm sure you're going to want to...

VAN SUSTEREN: I am going to read that!

ROVE: ... take this home and...

VAN SUSTEREN: I will -- you know, what? I will read that, actually. And I'll read (INAUDIBLE) when you come back next week, I'll have it all read.

ROVE: Great. Fabulous.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll be tested.

ROVE: There we go. Excellent.

VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, thank you.

ROVE: Appreciate it.