OTR Interviews

Has Obama given Romney a new voice?

Obama's comments on business owners appear to have fired up the presumptive GOP presidential nominee


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Today on the campaign trail, Governor Mitt Romney hammering the president for his, quote, "attacks on success."


MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We appreciate the work that they do and the sacrifices that are done by people who work in government, but they did not build this business! They -- the -- the idea to say that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple, that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motor, that -- that -- that Papa John didn't build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn't build McDonald's, that -- that Bill Gates didn't build Microsoft -- you go on the list -- that -- that Joe and his colleagues didn't build this enterprise -- to say something like that is not just foolishness, it's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it's wrong!


President Obama attacks success, and therefore, under President Obama, we have less success! And I will change that!


My own view is that what the president said was both startling and revealing. I find it extraordinary that a philosophy of that nature would be spoken by the president of the United States.

I'm convinced he wants Americas to be -- Americans to be ashamed of success. I want Americans to -- to -- to welcome and to -- to celebrate success and to encourage people to reach as high as they can, and in some cases to build enterprises. I don't want government to take credit for what the individuals of America accomplish! Whether they work in government or work in the private sector, it's the people of America that make America the unique nation, the exceptional nation that it is!



VAN SUSTEREN: Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume joins us. Nice to see you, Brit.

BRIT HUME, FOX SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Greta. Glad to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Governor Romney didn't go as far as to call the president a felon as been suggested by some Obama campaign staff members. However, he does say that President Obama is ashamed of success, or appears to be, and attacks success. Is that a fair criticism?

HUME: Well, I think there's a distinct difference of viewpoint here between the president and Mitt Romney, between liberals and conservatives on how central government is to the success of our economy and to the success of our businesses.

And the president was making, I think, a perfectly understandable point over the weekend, that the government plays a role, that government creates an infrastructure, roads and bridges and our legal system and the copyright laws, and so on, and the national defense that make possible, or at least make -- or help to make possible the things that go on in this country.

But then he took it a step farther when he said, Look, if you build a - - if you've got a business, you didn't build that, someone else made that happen. Now, he might not quite have meant to go quite that far, but I think it does suggest a view that he holds that government really is sort of the nerve center, the point of inspiration, the key, really, to our success as a nation and our success as an economy.

And I think -- I think Republicans and conservatives very strongly disagree with that. And I suspect, Greta, that most Americans disagree with it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, has there been any indication since then -- to try to put what he said in the proper context -- has there been any indication since then that he has dialed it back, explained it, said he felt differently than many conservatives are interpreting now?

HUME: Well, I think some in his campaign has tried to do that and suggested that, look, he said something...

VAN SUSTEREN: How about him, though?

HUME: Well, he said something today to the effect that the point he was making, that there are a lot of things that we do together as a nation that makes us stronger and help us all.

But -- and it's been very amusing to me to watch media outlets rush to provide the context of his comments and to try to -- try to said that all he was really talking about when he said "built that" -- "you didn't build that" -- he meant didn't build the roads and bridges.

And I don't think -- I don't think it can be read that way. And let's recall what else he said. He was talking -- before he said that, he was talking about successful people and he said, I'm always struck by people who think, Well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I work harder than everybody else. Let me tell you. There are a whole bunch of hard-working people out there.

Now, the unmistakable, I think, suggestion he's making there is that the people who do well in America do so simply because they take better advantage of all the wonderful benefits conferred upon them by their government.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess, you know, with all of us trying to guess what his context is, you know, and people and taking liberty trying to guess what it is, I'm a little bit surprised that he didn't take full advantage of his microphone today and just tell us, you know, what he meant or explain it further.

I find it rather unusual that he's sort of is outsourcing it to his campaign staff, to use a word that's been batted around a lot.

HUME: Well, Greta, I think that the reason for that is that he's basically said what he thinks. And if you look, for example, at the stimulus, which was the first big piece of legislation that came along that actually passed -- and it was his main effort, his principal, indeed, one might argue, almost his sole effort to deal with the economic meltdown, and all -- and it was a huge amount of spending, you know, upwards of $800 billion -- a huge share of that, the lion's share, really, went to protect government jobs.

And I think the president believes in his heart that the work that is done by government is really more important than other work that may be done in this country, that it is -- it is -- it is a primary importance, and that is why he would seek to spend these emergency funds that were designed to revive the economy for that purpose because he thought that should come first because I think in his mind and in his heart, government really does come first.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess that it would be more convincing if our unemployment level weren't at 8.2 percent.

HUME: Well, I'm not saying it was effective.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, no, I'm saying that, you know, that he -- he might want to sort of massage his views on how to effectively be a steward for the economy when -- when his -- his -- his program, the stimulus bill, has been, I suspect, somewhat disappointing to him, as well.

HUME: Well, now, one -- one -- one would imagine so, although you don't hear him saying that. He doesn't -- you know, he'll say -- well, he has said that there -- it turns out that shovel-ready jobs weren't so shovel-ready. But that's about as close as he's come to admitting that the stimulus was a huge disappointment in terms of its impact on our economic recovery, which has been weak.

VAN SUSTEREN: How important do you think this is as a campaign issue for Governor Romney and even for the campaign? I mean, it's always when you're in the midst of it, you think it's the most important issue, but we're about three-and-a-half months out.

HUME: Well, that's true. We got a long way to go, and it remains to be seen how much of a half-life this will have. But I did note this today, that as Governor Romney was speaking -- and a lot of -- he has a lot of critics on the right who think he's been way too weak and way too soft and way too slow to rebut charges against him leveled by the Obama campaign -- people were very spun up about his comments today and how strong he seemed and how -- and how he was speaking, you know, without notes and with real force on this issue.

Whether he'll follow that up with more of the same and whether it will endure as a campaign -- I do think that the public will largely agree with what -- what the president -- what Mr. Romney is saying here. Whether he'll follow that up with advertising and convert this into a major campaign issue, and whether it will work remains to be seen. But I think the opportunity may be there for him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the -- it -- the reason one of -- that -- that I wondered that, in part, is Charles Krauthammer told Bill O'Reilly tonight that if the election were held today, he thought that Governor Romney would lose to President Obama. And he did add that, you know, we're still three- and-a-half months out...

HUME: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and it's a long time, But it's sort of interesting how -- I think a lot of conservatives are not -- are not, like...

HUME: Conservatives right now are going through the -- a -- they got the blues. They were happy a few weeks ago and Republicans were happy and it looked like Obama was doing badly and the jobs report seemed to hurt him and they think that jobs report's not going to get any better because they think the policies are wrong and they thought that the public was wising up to that.

Now Obama's been on a little bit of a run and you see it in the polling in some of the key swing states, and so forth, so Republicans have been worried. I feel differently from Charles about this because if the election were held today, people would have by now become much more focused on it and would have confronted the choice that I think they won't confront, really, until sometime in October, which is, All right, do we want to ratify what we have now and ready -- and are we prepared for another four years of this president and these policies?

My sense about this is, when it comes down to it, people are going to say, No, I don't really think so. Let's take a look at the other guy. And they haven't really done that yet. And if the election were going to be held today or tomorrow, they would have done that, and I think that their attitudes might be different.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I suspect with -- I mean, there's so much passion right now on both sides, I wonder how large the undecided is at this point.

HUME: Well, I think it's...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, it's -- I...

HUME: That's a good point. I think -- I suspect it's large enough to make a difference, but it's smaller than it's been in the past.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suspect, as well. Brit, nice to see you. Thank you.

HUME: Thank you, Greta. Thank you.