Interviews

Former GE CEO: No one wants to go out with a total gridlock

Jack Welch on next steps for Obama after GOP takes Senate

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 5, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, you listened to the better part of an hour and 20 minutes of the president of the United States insisting he's not feeling mopey. But a lot of Republicans were waiting for something akin to an apology or a mea culpa.

But, for all this time, the president might have been talking about the American people, how good they are, how good the country is, but he was also treated to a press that was not quite your usual compliant or supportive press.

There was a lot of critical questions as to whether he was to blame for what turned out to be a Democratic rout.

Whatever, I want you to take a very close listen to this from the president a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As president, I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work.

So to everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two- thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too. All of us have to give more Americans a reason to feel like the ground is stable beneath their feet, that the future is secure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Now, I want you to listen to something else from 20 years ago, almost to the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1994)

THEN-PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I think that I have some responsibility for it. I'm the president. I'm the leader of the efforts that we have made in the last two years.

And to whatever extent that we didn't do what the people wanted us to do, or they were not aware of what we had done, I must certainly bear my share of responsibility. And I accept that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: A little different, two presidents facing what had been shellackings in the midterm election prior. That was then.

What does Jack Welch think of this president right now?

The man who was arguably considered one of the greatest CEOs of all time, responsible for my career, for good or ill, joins me with what to make of that.

Now, you were listening to a lot of that. What did you think of it?

JACK WELCH, FORMER CHAIRMAN & CEO, GENERAL ELECTRIC: Bill Clinton has got that touch. Bill Clinton has that touch. And it's a beautiful touch.

But I like the way the president talked at the end about a great America, an extraordinary America. See, I -- I -- I haven't liked the way he's made America, not exceptional, not extraordinary, not special.

And his policies, more importantly, are what I'm down on. I think the idea that he said in that speech today, I don't read the tea leaves on an election, come on. Come on. The last time, when he won, he was out of his mind about elections have consequences.

CAVUTO: Those are good tea leaves.

WELCH: Those are -- well, he read those.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

WELCH: I think let's not argue about him. Let's get the policies.

We have a wonderful chance here. This is a great day in America. We have a wonderful chance to lay out what Republicans stand for, put forth their positions, clear and articulate. And let the people see a veto or a support. But the idea we have got to get something done, I don't want Republicans compromising back on those principles.

I want them to lay out their principles. Then, when they get laid out, we will have a vote in 2016.

CAVUTO: So you don't really think much is going to get done over the next two years?

WELCH: No, I think it can.

CAVUTO: Oh, OK.

WELCH: If in fact he wants America to be exceptional, if in fact we want to bring -- look, we have had income redistribution. The lower end got handouts. The top end got rich on the Fed.

The middle income got squeezed. And we have got to get that group jobs, high-paying jobs. We have to have oil open up. We have got to have trade agreements. We have got to have all the good things that can happen to make this economy a 4 percent-plus economy and not be arguing whether it's 2.5 or 2.6.

CAVUTO: Yes, it's not a great recovery. That's for sure.

One of the things that happened today, we can take a look at this, where the Dow sprinted to a record today, S&P doing much the same, and a lot of it built on the heels that we're going to have at least a more business- friendly Washington and more constructive business developments.

But some of the things you alluded to, Jack, I still can't see -- I can see certainly a Republican Senate pushing them. I can't see this president signing onto them.

WELCH: Well, let's lay them out, though.

Let's decide who is the party of no. Who are we going to demonize now? We have been demonizing the Republicans as the party of no, doesn't get anything done, need compromise, all this stuff.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: And we have to remind people that, when you have a Republican House, you send all that stuff to the Senate. If Harry Reid is blocking it...

WELCH: And 380 bills in his drawer.

CAVUTO: You can't do it, right.

WELCH: Now, Harry Reid deserves as much credit for this Republican surge as the president. He was the puppet doing the -- throwing the...

CAVUTO: The gatekeeper, yes.

WELCH: The gatekeeper puppet.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But what happens now? What do you think the president would accept? Do you think he would accept opening Keystone? Do you think he would be open to corporate tax reform or the kind of things to make these next two years consequential for him, constructive for him, good for the country?

WELCH: I don't know.

CAVUTO: What's your gut?

WELCH: I don't know him well enough. I would assume he would. Bill Clinton would have.

CAVUTO: Right.

There was a difference, though, right, Jack? Bill Clinton was still facing a reelection. He didn't want to be a one-termer. This president is three- quarters of the way through.

WELCH: But no one wants to go out with a total gridlock.

I mean, look, the Republicans are going to have to compromise. But they are going to have to get their positions out there. I want them to compromise around a veto, so we see what gets vetoed. I want to see the medical tax issue laid out there. I want to see repatriation at a certain tax rate vetoed or approved. I want to see...

CAVUTO: Well, this way, we know clearly where the president stands, what he's doing to do.

WELCH: This is the break of this whole election.

CAVUTO: Yes.

WELCH: We're now going to see what the Republicans stand for, a positive, growth-oriented economy, trying to get the middle class better off. And that's what they stand for.

And they're going to do it. They're going to deliver it. We're going to get those Reagan Democrats, if you will, to see what we can do for them to grow this economy.

CAVUTO: All right, let's talk about then how likely that is, though, because whatever gains the Republicans had in the Senate -- by they can build a coalition -- but they're a long way from 60 votes, certainly a long way from the 67 to override a veto.

So, I guess it goes back, Jack, to this idea what we can realistically expect when there's the other personal element here. We're told Mitch McConnell and the president don't like each other. Now, each man insisted today in different ways that's not the case.

I'm hearing from everyone who knows these guys very well that it is the case. You have been in corporate America forever. You know what it's like to deal with other CEOs or companies you might want to merge with or whatever. You just don't like the guy or there might be other heads that you butt with. How do you deal with that?

WELCH: You under -- you get in the other person's head. What are they really after? And you live in that person's head. And you try and see, how can I meet what is that head?

CAVUTO: but what if you hate that head?

WELCH: Now, you -- you have got to get that out of there.

CAVUTO: Really?

WELCH: You have got to get it out of there.

CAVUTO: Because I thought of you. Remember with the Honeywell merger?

WELCH: Yes.

CAVUTO: You and Bonsignore, the other guy. I don't want to dredge up old stuff.

Didn't seem like you were in simpatico.

WELCH: Oh, no, we were.

CAVUTO: OK. Fine.

OK. I thought you were anti-Italian or whatever.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But what I'm saying is that -- that it's tougher, isn't it, when you don't like the other guy?

WELCH: When you don't trust the other person. Trust is a big thing, OK?

CAVUTO: Oh, all right.

WELCH: But if you trust the other person, he has different views or she has different views than you, you do, Neil, that's how you negotiate. You get in the other person's head, and you try and find out, how can I meet their needs and meet my own?

CAVUTO: Sort of like what Reagan and Tip O'Neill used to do.

WELCH: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: Yes.

WELCH: I mean, this is...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: How likely is that with this cast of characters?

WELCH: Look, I think what I want to see happen is, I want to see clear Republican proposals around Republican principles laid out there.

And then let's argue about what he vetoed, if he does veto, what he will accept. And then the country will have a clear look. But the idea that we don't read tea leaves on last night's elections is insulting to everybody. The tea leaves were laid out for him. They don't like his policies. It isn't anything to do with him personally. He's a charming guy.

(LAUGHTER)

WELCH: He's got crappy policies.

CAVUTO: But what...

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: What did you think at the outset, though, with a little snide little attack on Republicans, three-quarters of people didn't even vote?

WELCH: I know, yes.

CAVUTO: Now, that's his wont and all.

But rarely does he ever admit a mistake or concede something that was his own doing? You have seen this article in The Washington Post went on for quite some time. That article just didn't pop up out of nowhere, where Harry Reid and a lot of people are saying, you're to blame, you put us in this box, Mr. President.

WELCH: Harry Reid has trouble saying that.

CAVUTO: But what do you make of that, that there's a lot of resentment? He doesn't feel that. I think he genuinely feels it's everyone's fault but his own.

WELCH: I can't read his thoughts like you.

All I know is, I like him talking about America being -- Americans being extraordinary. And I want to see 4 percent growth. I want to get to 4 percent growth. That's how we will start to see job -- we won't be fighting about nickels and dimes. People will have jobs.

CAVUTO: But you have to get to a clear-headed point, as Bill Clinton did, maybe for no other reason than survival, to say, all right, whatever I'm doing isn't working, and I have got to change.

But if you don't feel that you have to change and that your -- it's either the people got it wrong, Republicans are misreading those tea leaves, how can you get anything done?

WELCH: Look, if senators -- if we put up the right policies in the Senate, like, if Harry Reid had let Pryor vote several times, Pryor would have had a better shot.

CAVUTO: That's a very good point.

WELCH: Throw in some votes.

If we throw the policies out there, and these guys vote to block them, supporting him on things that are clear-cut benefits for the middle class and growth -- I want growth.

CAVUTO: Good for you.

You got a lot of press when you were on with us for our weekend special -- it was very highly rated, I might point out -- when you talked about how Republicans have to go outside their petri dish. Ted Cruz impressed you. Everybody said, my God, Jack Welch, the consummate CEO, likes Ted Cruz.

WELCH: I think Ted Cruz represents clear-cut thinking, smarts.

CAVUTO: Wow.

WELCH: And there are other people who will too.

CAVUTO: So not Christie, not Bush, not any of these others?

WELCH: No, no, you said it -- you said not. I say I want a hard...

CAVUTO: But you like Cruz over them?

WELCH: I want a hard look at...

CAVUTO: Over them?

WELCH: I want a hard look at Cruz, OK?

CAVUTO: A hard look at Cruz. Don't give me the Boston thing.

WELCH: I'm giving you the Boston thing.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: All right.

WELCH: Cruz and -- Cruz and Paul deserve real looks.

CAVUTO: Very good.

WELCH: I don't want wishy-washy. I want our policies out there, and then let the world see what we represent.

I'm sick of being the demon and these demonizations by the middle of -- let Middle America see what we are.

CAVUTO: Fair enough, for good or ill, up or down. You're right about that.

Jack Welch, always a pleasure. Let me know how you feel next time.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: All right.

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