OTR Interviews

Buchanan: 'This is a failed president, no doubt about it'

Conservative commentator takes on excuses for Obama's poor debate performance, says new jobs numbers indicate we're back to the starting line on the economy


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 5, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: OK, I know, you've heard of the no-spin zone, but right now, the Obama campaign is in an all-spin zone! It is excuse after excuse after excuse! The president's supporters are ramping it up, jumping on the excuse bandwagon! And if you thought Vice President Al Gore's altitude excuse was wild and way out there, well, the latest, some now insisting the president didn't get a fair shake because he didn't have a teleprompter! Yes, you heard right, a teleprompter for a presidential debate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How unfair was it for the debate commission to not allow the president to not use a teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know about that. But it doesn't sound right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't sound...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think the debate commission should have allowed the president to use his teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do feel that. He should have been allowed to use that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it was fair for the debate commission to not let him use his teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's totally unfair, actually. I mean...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Why would you not let him use his teleprompter, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it was fair for the debate commission to not allow the president to use his teleprompter last night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I don't think it was necessarily unfair. Sometimes you can get nervous, so it might be nice to have something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It would be nice...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it was unfair for the debate commission to not allow the president to use the teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was kind of sketchy for both parties involved. You know, there was a lot of, you know confusion with the prompter guy, or whatever. So you know -- I just thought it was a little unprofessional, in that sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it would have helped President Obama if the debate commission would have allowed him to use his teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know he didn't -- wasn't able to use his teleprompter. I was unaware of that. I think it probably would have gone a little bit smoother for him. You know, that's why they (INAUDIBLE) why they have speech writers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he should have been allowed to use it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think do. I think they all should. I mean, (INAUDIBLE) memorize an hour-and-a-half debate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think the debate commission didn't allow President Obama to use his teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really know why they didn't let him use his teleprompter, you know, but...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it was fair. And I don't think, you know, he got enough opportunity to speak at times. You know, they would keep trying to cut him short.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he was holding back a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holding back? Why do you think he used the strategy to hold back and let Mitt Romney look so good?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because this is only the first debate and he has to be careful what he says. So...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it was fair for the debate commission to not let President Obama use his teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I mean, you could tell that he was struggling, but what can do you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it was fair for the debate commission to not allow the president to use his teleprompter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he should be allowed to use it next time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shouldn't they both be able to?


VAN SUSTEREN: OK. That video was taken yesterday after President Obama's rally at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Thanks to Jeremy Segal of Breitbart.com.

So what about all these debate excuses? Former senior adviser to President Reagan Pat Buchanan joins us.

PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT REAGAN: You went to Madison. You got some explaining to do.


VAN SUSTEREN: Wow. I didn't...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... laugh at me!


BUCHANAN: The debate -- they're unhappy he didn't have his teleprompter! OK. Go ahead, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Your thoughts about that?

BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, good heavens, these are college kids. And thinking someone ought to have a -- basically, should be able to sit up there and cheat with a teleprompter and read it off there for a debate? Do they not know what a debate is, an unscripted, open debate in American politics? We've had them since Jack Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1952?

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think they thought it through, whether or not what they thought that (INAUDIBLE) ask the president questions. We take a 20-minute break while they come up with an answer, load the teleprompter, and then come back on and then answer it.

BUCHANAN: That's unbelievable. These are -- Madison -- what -- you know, it's an outstanding school. These are bright kids there, you know? Not good, Greta.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's go -- well, OK, let's go to the former vice president of the United States. He suggested that the reason might be is because Denver is a mile-high city and the altitude was high and so that may have somehow made it difficult because President Obama just arrived in Denver that afternoon.

BUCHANAN: Is he aware that the president gave his acceptance speech in 2008 in an open stadium in Denver? It didn't seem to bother him there. He did a great job on that open -- in Denver. I don't know what the vice president is thinking.

But you know, really, it has -- let me say this, Greta. I've never seen it, but you know, almost expected it, the next morning, it was all out, a pack of lies, Romney had told lies, changed his position. He misrepresented things. He got his facts wrong.

And it came down to a simple question. If he did that, the president had 4 minutes more than Governor Romney, I understand. Why didn't the president call Governor Romney out on that? If he said, Wait a minute, you said this here and now you're saying that now, am I understanding you're changing your position right up here, Governor? You're -- you certainly can, but you ought to say so.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I think it would have even been better to say, Look, I had a lousy night last night. Good thing there are three more -- or two more debates. And I'm out on the -- on the trail now, but lousy night last night.

I mean, I think that would have been better. But his supporters going out with these excuses that are -- that are silly -- I mean, by the way, I should note that we've done a little research and the altitude for the next two debates -- Boca Raton is 16 feet and for Hempstead, New York, is 58 feet.

BUCHANAN: Sixteen feet? You're almost underwater down there...


VAN SUSTEREN: A little rain, it will be underwater. But it -- you know, it's -- it's -- it's stunning, some of these excuses.

BUCHANAN: Well, it really is. But you know, I will say this. You are getting a certain measure of honesty out of -- you know, usually people say -- in the Reagan/Mondale thing, some Reagan folks said, Well, he won the first debate.

You're getting total admission on the part of almost every journalist I've seen, liberal, moderate, conservatives. Barack Obama did a lousy job, and Mitt Romney -- where did that fellow come from, full of spirit and drive and energy? I think you're getting that on all sides, and what you're trying -- getting now, however, is explanations and excuses for why Barack Obama did as bad as he did.

And I think, you know, a lot of them just say that -- you know, the president didn't show up at the -- question is, why did he do that bad? He had to know -- he's got -- in a 90-minute debate? You know, I don't understand it. Some people say, you know, he hasn't had any press conferences. He's not up to that.

But he has -- I'm sure he saw a film of Governor Romney in his own debates coming at them, people in that same way. And to be utterly unprepared?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Brit Hume tweeted tonight -- and Brit Hume isn't here with us, but I'll read his tweet.


VAN SUSTEREN: He says, "Has it occurred to anyone that one reason the president had a rocky debate is not that he performed poorly, but that he has a weak case."

BUCHANAN: He does have a very weak case, and he's on defensive, unlike 2008 when he was on offense. But he knows that. He's gone in there, and he's got to have an answer when Governor Romney gives him all these figures that we all know the governor's used before, and to come back on the governor and come back strong, and he didn't do it. He seemed unprepared.

He seemed -- some people say he seemed like he's bored. He's weary with the job. He's tired. He was sullen. He didn't feel like he wanted to be there. He doesn't like the debate. All of these things, I think, played into it. But I mean, I think the president's got to realize that this is the worst debate performance, just about, I've ever seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he's very fortunate in that today sort of changed the narrative in the media, to a large extent, are the jobs numbers...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... the fact it went down to 7.8 percent. So people are talking about that. And that has changed -- that has someone moved the discussion a little bit off his debate performance...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... and more on this whole discussion about the jobs.

BUCHANAN: Well, things do move on. But let me say this -- 7.8 percent is the exact rate Barack Obama inherited, right? And he yet says, I inherited the worst situation since the Great Depression. Every single month since he's been in office, unemployment has been higher than the worst situation since the Great Depression.

In other words, we are now right back where he started from. And every month has been worse. How do you say you had a successful economy when the whole time of your administration has been worse than George Bush's? I mean, 7.8 -- is that the best month? It's the best month he had!

And what have we done? You've tripled the money supply. You have -- you have -- he's had the stimulus package. You've had all of these things done. You've had four straight trillion-dollar deficits. And we are right back at the starting line on the economy!

This is a failed president. There's no doubt about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, the polls are out today, at least some polls. And right now, we're starting to see in post-debate polls that the impact of Governor Romney's win. Right now, it looks like Governor Romney is closing the gap in several swing states.

According to a new Rasmussen poll, in Ohio, President Obama is leading Governor Romney by just 1 percentage point, 50 percent to 49 percent. In Virginia, Governor Romney leads President Obama 49 to 48 percent. And in Florida, Governor Romney also leads President Obama, this time by 2 percentage points, 49 percent to 47 percent. Of course, all three are in the margin of error, but they do show gains by Governor Romney. So he got -- it appear he got somewhat of a bounce coming out of this debate.

BUCHANAN: He's got somewhat of a bounce. But this is like a great wave, Greta, what he had Wednesday night. And I think it's a vitally important event, and I think we're not going to see how far the wave rolls up the beach until around Tuesday, when all of the polls are taken post- debate.

And but if these numbers hold for the others, especially Ohio, where the governor has really been down about 8, 7 points -- if he's tied then or ahead in Ohio after that, and Virginia and Florida, it is a brand-new ballgame entirely. But keep your eye on Ohio because I think that's the critical state and it's the toughest one for the governor right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I think what's sort of interesting about this year, compared to at least maybe eight years ago or farther back, is that the early voting's already started.


VAN SUSTEREN: So that, you know, so that if he gets -- so even if he, like -- if he did well now, he's got a chance of getting some good numbers off -- off -- off tonight. And then, of course, if he gets clobbered by President Obama in the next debate, you know, he may not quite feel the pain if people change their minds.

BUCHANAN: Well, that's what is really crucial, is early voting was taking place when Barack Obama was ahead in most polls by high single digits. But Governor Romney's stepped in here Wednesday, and you're exactly right. Since Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I have to think that the early voting going on then is tremendously to Governor Romney's benefit. And you're right.

But it -- we'll find out next Tuesday or something like that and next week. But this suggests one thing that Governor Romney's got to do. They got to keep going. They got to keep their foot on the accelerator. He had a terrific victory, but I wouldn't rest at all.

I think -- and I mean, looking forward to this thing next week, next Thursday night. That's going to be important. And the second debate's going to be important. And I heard earlier someone say, Governor Romney, really, I mean, Obama should be favored. He's good at that format, moving around. But how does he come out and attack Romney? They're going to tell him to do it. (INAUDIBLE) start talking about Bain Capital? That reduces...

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, I...

BUCHANAN: ... the president.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... actually thought he was smart not to do that the other night because...

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... he wants to look presidential. And he doesn't want to look -- he doesn't want to get fingerprints on being sort of petty and going after someone. And I think the same is true of Governor Romney vis- a-vis President Obama. And -- and they can -- they can do that all through their ads and then -- and flood the markets, and through their super-PACs. They don't have to look dirty.

BUCHANAN: Exactly. Exactly. If the president goes at, you know, the 47 percent and Bain Capital and the tax returns, it diminishes the president. It reduces him from the presidential level. And it makes him look petty and it makes him look not like -- his greatest asset is that people say, you know, he's a genuinely nice guy who's been doing his best. He gets into that mode and I think he risks his most priceless asset.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, like...

BUCHANAN: But what does he do? Go back to Brit Hume's point. I mean, he's got a tough, almost impossible record to defend, I mean, in terms of, Was it a good economy the last four years? It's been the worst economy we've had in the lifetime of most Americans! And the numbers are there. And so how does he defend it if Romney keeps coming back, smiling and going after him?

VAN SUSTEREN: I think the smartest thing he can do is get out and communicate to the voters and get out there and talk to them. I think that's his strength. And...

BUCHANAN: What can he communicate, do you think?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, look, he still gets a crowd. Thousands and thousands...

BUCHANAN: He can get the crowds...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... of people.

BUCHANAN: He's got to be able to say...

VAN SUSTEREN: And he's got a -- he's got a ground game.

BUCHANAN: ... if you elect me, it's going to be far better in the next four years than the last four years and far better than what this fellow Romney's going to give you. That's what he's got to say or convince the country of!


VAN SUSTEREN: Pat, thank you.