This is a rush transcript from "The Story," January 11, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, on "The Story," did the Obama administration help keep this man, Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian terrorist alive? That's the reporting from Kuwait that sparked a Twitter war between former Obama officials and foreign policy pundits. It is the second story along these lines in recent days. The other was reporting that the Obama administration halted something called "Operation Cassandra", designed to stop Hezbollah drug operations. So, why would they have done either as these reports suggest? The theory in both is that the Obama White House was currying favor with the Iranian regime in order to get the Iran nuclear deal done. Trace Gallagher joins us tonight on the story with the back story. Hey, Trace.
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK HOST: Hey, Martha. General Qasem Soleimani is the Commander of Iran's terrorist Quds Force. The Washington Times says the general is also responsible for the deaths of more than 500 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The Kuwaiti newspaper, al-Jarida, now claims that three years ago, near Damascus, Israel was on the verge of assassinating General Qasem, but the administration, the Obama administration, warned Iran and thwarted the operation.
In an effort to confirm the story, New York Times Columnist, Bret Stephens, sent out a tweet tagging Ben Rhodes -- he's the Former Deputy National Security Advisor under Obama. Rhodes didn't respond but Former National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor did, sarcastically writing: "Yes, WTF, Ben? Immediately confirm or deny this totally unsubstantiated claim and then tell us why you don't support assassinations."
Bret Stephens then responded that the Obama administration certainly didn't object to assassinating other terrorists like Usama bin Laden and that led to this back and forth. First, Vietor saying: "Yes, taking out Usama bin Laden is the same as assassinating an Iranian political leader." Stephens comes back with this: "Seriously, Tommy Vietor? Soleimani is an Iranian political leader? Actually, he's the head of Quds force which is a U.S. designated sponsor of terrorism."
Veitor responds, writing: "He's a military leader, Quds force commander, major political figure in their system, and a general piece of blank but to blithely suggest the U.S. should support his assassination is irresponsible." Then, Tommy Vietor sends another tweet that appears to confirm that the Obama administration did warn Iran saying: "We were well aware of the dangers posed by Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Obama sanctioned them, repeatedly, among other deterrents but an assassination of Soleimani by Israel would be destabilizing, to put it mildly." When Bret Stephens asked if that was confirmation, there was a bit of mild name-calling. Finally, Ben Rhodes weighed in accusing the New York Times of propagating garbage. And finally, we should note the Kuwait newspaper is also reporting the U.S. has now given Israel the green light to assassinate General Soleimani, the White House has not commented. Martha?
MACCALLUM: Trace, thank you very much. So, Marc Thiessen, who you see here often on THE STORY got in the middle of this buzz saw when he chimed in on it today. He's an American Enterprise Institute Scholar and Former Chief Speechwriter for President George W. Bush, he's he also a Fox News Contributor. Marc, why did this incite you? You know, why did this make you want to dive into the middle of this and give your own opinion?
MARC THIESSEN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER CHIEF SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, just because this -- this just shows the blithe attitude of the Obama administration had towards terrorism. I mean, this is the same guy who went on Bret Baier's show and said, dude, that was like three years ago when it had to do with the --
MACCALLUM: You know what, since you mentioned it, let's show that because I don't think a lot of people remember who Tommy Vietor is.
MACCALLUM: And he's the person whose tweets we just showed. So, here's that piece with Bret Baier a while back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Did you also change attacks to demonstrations in the talking points?
TOMMY VIETOR, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: Maybe, I don't really remember.
BAIER: You don't remember?
VIETOR: Dude, this is like two years ago. We're still talking about --
BAIER: Dude, it is the thing that everybody is talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Dude. So, dude is still chiming in. And getting himself in the middle of this despite the fact that he was not in the administration at the time, right?
THIESSEN: Yes, no, but Ben Rhodes didn't confirm it either. I mean, look, dude, Soleimani is a terrorist. You know, he tweeted one of those tweets that Trace just showed, he said that he called him an Iranian political leader. He's not an Iranian political leader, he's Iran's Usama bin Laden? This is the guy who runs the Quds Force, which is their premier terrorist organization that funds all of their terrorist proxies around the world.
This guy is the one who is running the Shia Militias in Iraq during the Iraq war, providing them with advanced Iranian roadside bombs, armor- piercing bombs that killed thousands, and injured thousands of American soldiers including Sergeant Bennett who's going to be on shortly. I mean, this is a guy -- he blew up a Jewish Cultural Center in Argentina. This is the guy who was running the operation. They were going to assassinate the Saudi ambassador by blowing him up in a restaurant in Washington, D.C., an attack that could've killed hundreds of Americans.
This isn't some political leader, this is a terrorist. He has more American blood on his hands than probably any living terrorist except for maybe Zawahiri and al-Qaeda. So, getting rid of him wouldn't have been destabilizing as Vietor said, it's would've been made the world a better place.
MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, is it accurate to say that, you know, when you see the chants of death to America in the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran, this is the man who carries that out.
THIESSEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that the Quds Force is -- you know, the Quds Force that he runs, these people were behind the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 that killed a bunch of Americans in Saudi Arabia. They were the ones who trained al-Qaeda on how to blow up buildings so they brought down -- when they brought down the U.S. embassies in East Africa. They were providing -- the Quds force was providing sanctuary for al-Qaeda leaders in Iran. And the Obama administration them self, said that there's been -- on their watch, there was a marked increase in terrorism by the Iranians -- by the Quds force.
MACCALLUM: So, you know, I mean, but Ben Rhodes has said, you know, that this is not true. That they didn't do this. That they didn't tip anyone off to the fact that the Israelis wanted to assassinate him. They've also pushed back on the Cassandra Project story. They say it is not true that they basically took the gas pedal off when it came to the Project Cassandra effort, because they -- you know, the Hezbollah drug running and money raising effort for their military operations. They say both of those things are not true. Does anything about what we learned today or the stories that we've read on this so far indicate that that's not the case or indicate what their mindset was on these things?
THIESSEN: Well, in the case of Project Cassandra, there's 14,000-word piece in politico that says otherwise. So, they have to explain -- they have some explaining to do in sort of responding to the people who went on -- who went on both on and off the record who informed Politico about that. On this piece, I mean, this is worthy of investigation. I mean, remember how upset the left was when Donald Trump reportedly, accidentally shared Israeli intelligence with the Russians about an ISIS attack? If this is true, then what this means is that the president of the United States intentionally shared Israeli intelligence with Iranians to protect the terrorists. That is a very, very serious charge, and at the very minimum, it requires investigation and looking into it to see if there's any truth to it.
MACCALLUM: And we all remember how Ben Rhodes basically bragged about how he would create an echo chamber to advocate for the Iranian deal, and that he enlisted like-minded policy groups and journalists to say "things that validated what we had given them to say". So, you know, we'll watch this. We'll watch this reporting and we'll watch this back and forth and see if there is more to substantiate in the future. Marc, thank you very much.
THIESSEN: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Always good to see you.
THIESSEN: Good to see you.
MARTHA: So, as Marc just pointed out, the terror of Qasem Soleimani and his Quds Force was an everyday reality to our troops on the ground in Iraq. It is believed that as many as 1/3 of our casualties were a result of Iranian bombs and weaponry thrust into the Iraq conflict in order to kill an injure as many U.S. Military members as possible. That's why the suggestion that the U.S. would do anything to aid them is gut-wrenching.
My next guest is an Iraq war veteran who in 2005 was severely injured outside Baghdad by an EFP, which is signature Iranian explosive, and now Retired Staff Sergeant Robert Bartlett is an Advisor to a group called United Against Nuclear Iran. He's joined tonight by Y.J. Fischer, a Former State Department Diplomat under President Obama, who helped implement the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Welcome to both of you. It's great to have both of you with us tonight. You know, we're sort of going back in history, looking at what was going on then, and what enabled this group to continue to grow and continue to carry out their terrorism and attack our own military on the ground. Sergeant Bartlett, when you listen to this back and forth, what do you think? What goes through your mind?
ROBERT BARTLETT, ADVISOR, UNITED AGAINST NUCLEAR IRAN: Total betrayal of everybody who's served for this country, and the country itself, and its people. Soleimani, that's all he wants to do is kill Americans, kill Israelis. So, for us to give any kind of enablement to that country and that regime, that current regime is just treason. I got no other word. You know, I hate to use it, but I can't see it any other way -- it's treason. If I did anything relatively close to that, I'd be held for treason, and I'd be in Leavenworth.
MACCALLUM: Y.J., you worked on the Iranian Nuclear Agreement. When you listen to this discussion, does any of it ring true for you?
Y.J. FISCHER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT DIPLOMAT UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, not at all. You know, Tommy Vietor is a very smart guy but he's also a very funny guy, and I thought his tweet was pretty funny. I mean, how do you respond to something this outrageous? Of course, the Obama administration did not aid Iranian officials and pass Israeli intelligence. You know, I think Marc put it well, the only known instance of a U.S. government official ever burning Israeli intelligence was when Donald Trump passed Israeli intelligence about a covert anti-ISIS operation to the Russians. I mean, this --
MACCALLUM: You know, let me ask you this --
FISCHER: -- that we are talking --
MACCALLUM: I understand what you're saying. Let me ask you this: in terms of any potential plot to take out Soleimani, which the Israeli papers are now reporting is the policy, that that would be allowed, that the United States would not stand in the way of that if the Israeli forces were able to pull that off, would you be in favor of that policy?
FISCHER: Absolutely. Qasem Soleimani is an absolute threat to the United States. And that is part of why under the Obama administration there was real effort to impose intense sanctions on him and to do --
BARTLETT: Billions of dollars. Billions of dollars going to him? Come on. Billions of dollars and you're saying you increased the sanctions? Are you kidding me? The Iran nuclear deal. You've got to be kidding me.
FISCHER: I would say if you look at the recent protests, one of the things they show is that the Obama administration actually negotiated a much better nuclear agreement than its critics argue, right? I mean, if you look at the Iranian regime, it is weak and brittle, not empowered as its critics said it would be. If you look at the Iranian regime in the region, it is overextended not flush with cash.
MACCALLUM: It has.
FISCHER: I mean, one of the things --
MACCALLUM: Also though -- they also supported the Assad regime, supported their attack on their own people in many cases, and also reportedly continues to support the regime in North Korea. So, they do have billions of dollars, they're not funneling it to their own people in the form of economic growth. And one of the thing their people are so upset about is that they're funneling it into these other terrorist operations in other countries.
FISCHER: That's exactly right. But one of the things critics allege about the nuclear deal was that it was going to give them more money to do these things. There is no doubt that the Iranian government is mucking around in the region doing terrible things, a threat to the United States; they are bad actors. But the nuclear agreement never gave them the kind of wealth that people were worried about. They were never flush with cash to extend their operations in the region. One of the things that we've seen is they are overextended and our population is angry about that.
MACCALLUM: Sergeant Bartlett, do you agree?
BARTLETT: No. I totally disagree. I think the Iran nuclear deal was a setup, so they could push the billions over in the middle of the night in cash. And then, there's no trace of where that cash can go because you can't trace it and the different currencies it was. And so, they can actually use it and buy nuclear weapon directly from North Korea; supercharge their nuclear program so both countries who hate the U.S. would have the weapon. And then, in 30 days, Iran will have a nuclear bomb. And they would be a trained force to use it. It takes 30 days. And that's a nuclear physicist who gave me that information. Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous to say it didn't pave the way.
MACCALLUM: Y.J., in terms of the Cassandra Project, the Department of Justice has just begun a project to look into that, to figure out what happened there, and to continue to do what we can to end the activities of the drug running and drug business that fuels so much terrorism in the Middle East. Was there ever any effort from what you saw to say in any way shape or form during the perpetuation of the Iran nuclear deal? You know, we need to have a separation between these two things. We know that they're guilty of massive terrorist activities across the Middle East, but we want separation in terms of hammering out this deal.
FISCHER: Absolutely not. I mean, again, I go back to the point that if you look at the recent protests -- I understand the point being made, but if you look at the recent protests, what is clear is that the Iranian government is not flush with cash. They don't have lots of money. The nuclear agreement was not -- you know, if we take a step back, the real allegation here is that the Obama administration was coddling the Iran regime. And there's just no evidence that's true. And in fact, the protests show that the nuclear agreement was a hard-nosed agreement. I never sat in a single meeting in the White House situation room with Secretary Kerry, with anyone where anyone ever tried to mention the nuclear agreement and those negotiations as being a reason why we weren't going to be just as tough on the Iran regime.
MACCALLUM: All right. Y.J. and Sergeant Bartlett, I'm going to give you the final word, Sergeant Bartlett, because you lost a lot, thanks to an Iranian EUD.
BARLETT: It's not just me who lost a lot. My buddy right next to me was killed instantly, and I've got to do this for him. He's not here. He doesn't have -- he's not with his daughters anymore. So, if I'm not standing up and giving him a voice then who is, right? So, you can't say that the Obama administration was friends with Israel and do what they did with the Iran nuclear deal. And then, say, hey, you know what? We're not really cozying up to Iran, but we're going to give them billions of dollars in the middle of the night because we think oh they're going to win some court case. It's a load. It's a total load and the people of the United States know it. And the reality is these people got caught. And that's what's happened. It just happened a little earlier this time. I'm just glad that the truth came out.
MACCALLUM: We're going to stay on it and there are a number of forces that are working these stories and we'll continue to see where they go. Y.J., thank you very much.
BARTLETT: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Sergeant Bartlett, always a pleasure.
FISCHER: Thank you again.
MACCALLUM: Good to see you both.
BARTLETT: Appreciate you.
MACCALLUM: You bet. So, things got pretty heated in Washington today in the ongoing fight over immigration. And late tonight, what the president said about certain countries has ignited a major firestorm. But he wasn't the only one to stir the pot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The five White guys I call them, you know.
PELOSI: Are you going to open a hamburger stand next or what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Congressman Sean Duffy and Juan Williams react to both controversies, and where we're going from here right after this on THE STORY.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right now, we're counting on Republicans and Democrats to come together which we think they will to make a deal on DACA and on border security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Pace was quick today on the Hill at the White House. The president wants an immigration deal. Senator Lindsey Graham says it has to be done in tandem with next Friday's cut off to fund the government or he believes, you heard him last night here on THE STORY, that it won't happen. The vice president told us yesterday that it could wait until after the funding deal and deal with the March 5th cut off for DACA. So, reports are, that at the White House, you may have heard, got a little heated in the oval office. Chief National Correspondent Ed Henry is live at the White House with the very latest on the president's comment tonight. Hi, Ed.
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, great to see you. Breaking tonight, Fox News has confirmed that oval office meeting today on immigration the president used an expletive to lash out at immigrants coming in from African countries and Haiti. This was a smaller group of key lawmakers following up on yesterday's big bipartisan meeting on the same subject. We're told the president got upset that some lawmakers were saying that as part of a broader deal, they wanted to restore protections for immigrants from countries like El Salvador, various African countries, Haiti as well.
As first reported by The Washington Post, the president declared: "Why are we having all of these people from (BLEEP)hole countries come here?" Instead, the president said, the lawmakers should be focused on bringing in more immigrants from nations like Norway, front of mind, because remember, he was holding meetings with that country's prime minister yesterday. And no surprise, this is a president who speaks his mind bluntly, especially on an issue that animated his presidential campaign. But White House Spokesman Rob Shaw did not deny the comments. Instead saying, the president wants a merit-based system and "certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries but President Trump will always fight for the American people."
The comments today came at a meeting that included two key senators on the matter: Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham who are working on a deal that would include ending the visa lottery program and then taking some of those 50,000 visas to protect people from places like Haiti, who've been living in America under what is known as temporary protected status. Other problems may spike this proposed DACA deal anyway. It gives protected status to the so-called DREAMERS to satisfy moderates like Senator Jeff Flake. But conservatives point out this is a no-go without funding for an actual wall instead of a small payment of general border security. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE , R-ARIZ.: We have an agreement that was -- the bipartisan group, I'm talking about; the six of us working, that we're shopping among our colleagues now, that we don't want to release details until we talk to more of our colleagues.
REP. MARTHA MCSALLY, R-RI.: They have got to come off their unreasonable view that it's DACA or nothing. It's not happening. We've got to secure our border. We've got to end chain migration, the visa lottery, and have these other fixes in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: We should note that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also made comments some controversial comments of her own today on immigration, lashing out at the fact in her words the talks are led by five White guys which sound like "the five guys fast food chain". Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The five White guys I call them, you know.
PELOSI: Are you going to open a hamburger stand next or what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Well, one of those White guys is Pelosi number two: Congressman Steny Hoyer, a Democrat who rebuked her for what he called an offensive comment, a sign that this already volatile debate is already getting more inflamed, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Ed, thank you very much. Here now, Wisconsin Congressman, Sean Duffy; and Co-Host of "THE FIVE", Juan Williams, he is also a Fox News Political Analyst. Gentlemen, welcome. The president took a few stepping forward in all of this the other day with the meeting that he had. Perhaps, it would be wise to keep a camera in there all the time. Maybe that would keep the language sort of on track. But this is not helpful.
REP. SEAN DUFFY, R-WIS.: This is not helpful at all. It's a distraction. But I got to tell you, it's not going to distract us from the mission that we actually want to get a solution for the DACA kids who want a secure border. We want to end chain migration and end the lottery system. And we do think there is a deal here. But you heard this conversation is taking place with the self-appointed group of Republicans and Democrats. I would argue that the information I've heard from the deal, that's not going to get through a Republican Senate or Republican House. This is a crappy deal that I don't think anyone will buy into. It doesn't accomplish the goals that the president ran on.
MACCALLUM: Let me ask you this: what do you think the president meant with that comment, and how do you think he should have put it if he was trying to express that, I don't know?
DUFFY: I just -- I can't put myself in the president's head. It's an unfortunate comment. It's -- I can't defend it. I don't think anybody can. I don't know where he wanted to go with it. So, I don't know, Martha. I don't have good insight. It's a really hard spot to sit tonight to try defend or analyze what he is trying to mean because it's offensive. I don't like it.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST AND POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I was trying to understand what politicians are trying to do. So, at best you can say he was trying to talk about the diversity of the lottery, which is, you know, part of his objection right now is that we have a lottery that specifically targets people from countries that aren't equally represented in terms of the immigrant flow coming into the United States. And he is saying, oh, we don't need that, but his language, as the congressman said, I think is deeply offensive. Remember, Donald Trump's family came from a place that once would've been described in those terms by the elites at that time. And then, secondly, there's the racial angle, because then he says, oh, maybe we need more people from Norway. I don't think there's any getting away from the color of people from Norway as opposed to people coming from Haiti, Africa or El Salvador.
MACCALLUM: You know, he has said -- and I'm not making any excuses for him, but he has said in the past, you know, that we want to bring in people who have the skills for the jobs that we need here. We have a lot of low skilled workers in this country. You know, having them -- getting jobs for them is the priority. Many countries do, at times, restrict immigration from certain areas because they want to change the flow of where people are coming from, right? You know, that's what I was sort of asking you. I mean, you know, is there a legitimate argument to be made for saying we need to cut off immigration from certain countries and we need to encourage it from others. That is not a racial question, but a question of skill, of skill set.
DUFFY: Then, it's not by country. I think it gives us your best and your brightest. Your hardest working people. I don't care where you came from.
MACCALLUM: Well, that's what he -- he's said that in the past.
DUFFY: But -- that's exactly what he didn't say that tonight, and I think it leaves a lot of room for speculation and claims of racism and it doesn't advance the cause of our mission to secure the border. So, yes.
WILLIAMS: He didn't talk about qualified people here. He said blank countries in a way that I think suggests anybody coming from such a country is not -- that's not -- I mean, I don't think that's what he should be saying, let me just say that. That's not what I expect from the American president. We're a country that takes people who've been oppressed. People who have suffered natural disasters, and we turn them into Americans who produce great things.
MACCALLUM: But that's what this argument is all about. But everyone agrees with that sentiment but they have to come in legally, and you have to have rules.
WILLIAMS: That's fine. But that's not what he said, Martha.
MACCALLUM: No. Clearly, it was not.
DUFFY: This evening conversation on the five of us watching earlier, but Donald Trump speaks like he might be sitting in a Wisconsin bar. He doesn't use always the most refined language and sometimes he's speaking freely and maybe off the cuff and it's a language that can be misinterpreted. And the problem is when that language gets leaked out, he looks horrible. And so, you've got to ask who's sitting in the room with you and what language are you using?
MACCALLUM: One last thought on Nancy Pelosi's comment, because I think that was an offensive comment as well, that these five White guys -- why do we have to make these kinds of judgments about the people who are included in conversations? What difference would it make?
WILLIAMS: Well, of course, it makes a difference.
MACCALLUM: Don't you want the best people whoever they are regardless of color to be talking about this issue?
WILLIAMS: Sure, but also, I think, you have to understand that there was nobody in there who was of any Hispanic origin tied in any way to people.
MACCALLUM: So, they can't have any sensitivity?
WILLIAMS: Of course, they can. And I think that's why they, the four guys, then said, you know, we'd like Senator Menendez, Robert Menendez, of New Jersey to come into the group because they want some perspective that's not simply a group of White men. But remember there was a joke about the five guys hamburger.
DUFFY: But this again broken down in racial lines, this is ideological lines. I mean, have you the hard-core fight with five White guys or six White guys.
MACCALLUM: Is president (INAUDIBLE) talking about dealing with the situation with love yesterday. The language is a little different now as we've talked about, but that he has expressed that sentiment many times. So, I don't know why have you to be of a certain color or background to understand the situation.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think it'd be helpful to have somebody who's sensitive to the way that the language is written, especially for people who are recent immigrants -- and Hispanics the ones we are talking about here. But I think that the congressman's point's well taken, too. There are lots of White guys, you know, I'm thinking Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, people on the strong conservative side, who have objections to this.
DUFFY: But what I care about is not what race or what sex you are, I care that you're an American and you're going to fight for America.
WILLIAMS: We agree on that.
MACCALLUM: I agree.
DUFFY: That's the key.
MACCALLUM: All right. Thanks, you guys. Great to have you here tonight.
DUFFY: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, this is from Karl Rove's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, quote, now listen to this: "Long before the presidential election, the populist candidate's mental state was under attack. The New York Times ran a series over several days suggesting he was unfit for office. An anonymous psychiatrist diagnosed 'megalomania'." So, who was that about? What if we told you it was written 100 years ago? Karl Rove joins us with the answer, next.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR: It is 100 percent of the senior staff of this White House, the people dealing with him on a daily basis, who said this is -- this is unusual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is unstable.
WOLFF: This is -- it's not just unstable. It's unpredictable, erratic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Meghan McCain went after him hard today. That was "Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff. The president famously fired back the other day, quote, actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been my mental stability and being like really smart. He is set to have a physical at Walter Reed tomorrow, as we said about that.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you think the physical will go tomorrow?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it's going to go very well. I will be very surprised if it doesn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: My next two guests say that many presidents and candidates have been raked over the coals for their mental acuity, their personality, their lifestyle, but usually long after they are gone from Pennsylvania Avenue. For instance, biographies say FDR used his daughter as a go between for middle of the night trysts with his mistress.
JFK not only seduced a 19-year-old White House staffer, but asked her to perform favors for his friends as well. Where were the psychiatrists with press passes to diagnose those presidents, we asked.
Now, more on that, Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush and a Fox News contributor, and Victor Davis Hanson joins us on a piece that he wrote about the president as well. Gentlemen, welcome. It is great to have both of you with us tonight.
Karl, let me start with you because we teased that really interesting intro to your piece today, which reminds us that there has been this kind debate over presidents and presidential candidates very much in the past.
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, 121 years ago, in a closing days of the frantic 1896 campaign, The New York Times (INAUDIBLE) a three-story, four-day series on William Jennings Bryan that said he was insane. They used the term of the time for insane (INAUDIBLE) and they quoted anonymous sources and others on the record, all diagnosing the candidate from a distance.
He was delusional, a megalomaniac, a demagogue, obviously incapable of serving as the leader of the United States. So, look, this is routine. Let's be honest about it. Virtually every modern president has had some kind of tell-all expose book written generally early in their term, usourced, single sourced, anonymous gossipy quote sensationalism.
You may remember one that was published shortly after George W. Bush became president called Bush's Brain, which suggested that he was an idiot and I was the guy who had the brain.
ROVE: They forgot that President Bush was a Yale history major and a Harvard MBA. He responded to it not by tweeting but by sending inner office mail an elaborately wrapped package. When I opened it up, it was a game of cranium --
ROVE: -- with the presidential seal on the outside, which is his way of saying, don't worry, I get what they are trying to do.
MACCALLUM: Victor Davis Hanson, you wrote this column basically that outlines some of the outrageous behavior of past presidents. They had the luxury of having it not documented during their time in office.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: They did. I mean, can you imagine right now if Donald Trump was running a blood pressure reading of 245 over 135 while he was chain smoking and having two or three martinis at night as you said and his daughter Ivanka was running clearance for an affair that he was conducting with a staffer?
This is not like drinking 12 diet Cokes that we're told. So, whether it's JFK or whether it was Bill Clinton, we have -- we have to get some historical perspective. In absolute and relative sense, crazy people don't win or actually destroy a field of 16 really well qualified primary candidates.
They don't beat the Clinton machine that was the most well funded, well connected, well reported campaign in recent memory. And then they don't achieve two quarters of consecutive 3.2 economic growth or historically low unemployment or high stock market or business confidence where it is.
We are going to have record oil production, 11 million barrels next year. We calibrated the entire Middle East just on energy efficiency alone. So, these are tangible achievements. So, what it's really about, I think, is an ongoing effort whether you like him or not to delegitimize the president of the United States.
Remember, we challenged the voting machines and then we said the electoral college was going to be challenged and then we were told that (INAUDIBLE) was going to be invoked. And then there was impeachment suit. And then talk of the 25th amendment.
So, Trump the colluder, Trump the tax cheat, Trump the predator, and now it's Trump the deranged president that somehow got nominated and somehow got elected and somehow had some pretty impressive achievements in his first year.
MACCALLUM: It's a great piece. You know, Karl, you praised the bipartisan meeting the other day, but we know that we live in a world where there is a leak a minute basically. And tonight came out of the meeting, the bipartisan meeting where they were supposed to be getting together to put something on the table with regard to immigration. Your thoughts on that.
ROVE: Yes, look, the president sometimes is not his best friend. The remarks, crude and dismissive remarks in that meeting are going to hurt him. But, look, back for just a second on this book that generated all this week, I was forced to read it before "Fox News Sunday" last weekend.
And it's amazing to me how out of touch was what a president being a president is all about. My favorite chapter is Chapter Eight. At great length, Wolff goes and excoriates the divisions among the west wing staff.
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is insisting on working with the leadership in Congress in order to advance the agenda and Jared Kushner wants to reach out to business executives and Steve Bannon wants executive orders. And he closes off this chapter by saying, and President Trump doesn't seem to understand he can't have it all.
Well, every president wants to do all three of those things. It just showed to me the ignorance of Wolff when approaching the job of the president.
MACCALLUM: And of course every one of those people is going to try to carve (ph) out an agenda and they're going to try to push it with the president and, you know, see how far they can get and how much they can accomplish. Gentlemen, thank you very much for your unique perspective on pieces that you wrote.
DAVIS HANSON: Thank you.
ROVE: You bet.
MACCALLUM: Interesting reading. I highly recommend it. Thanks, gentlemen.
So coming up her, huge news today from Walmart. Raises pretty much across the board. President Trump getting the credit. But is that the whole story? We are going to talk about it. Fox Business host Charles Payne joins us once again here on "The Story" with his story about what is really going on in America with the economy, with Walmart, with all these races, when we come back.
MACCALLUM: Big news from Walmart today, the world's largest retailer and private employer announcing that it's boosting pay, handing out bonuses like so many other companies have announced since the tax cut deal. They are raising the starting rate for new hires to $11 an hour. And it is thanks, they say, to President Trump's tax bill.
Charles Payne is host of "Making Money" on the Fox Business Network. He joins me now. Obviously, Walmart is huge news. I mean, one of the biggest companies in the country.
CHARLES PAYNE, "MAKING MONEY" HOST: Yes, it's absolutely huge news. It's the largest private employer. And it's a company that has gotten a lot of grief over the years, you know, because, you know, they paid little money and things like that. But they have their own issues, you know.
This is an Amazon world and Walmart has been struggling to a degree and also to compete in it. They admit, management said, this happened strictly because of the new tax policies. And let me tell you, it wasn't higher minimum wage, it wasn't just $1,000 bonuses, maternity leave, paid maternity leave, paid parental leave, $5,000 bonus for folks who adopt people.
I mean, think about these. These are issues that Americans love and embrace. These are progressive ideas to be quite frank with you.
MACCALLUM: Yes. They are sending a message, because all of these actions they know are going to get a ton of headlines. So what's the message that these companies are sending to President Trump and to their employees as well?
PAYNE: Well, they're sending to President Trump thank you. Listen, we needed relief. We needed help. Particularly retailers in America. They pay for the most part the highest taxes in this country. They weren't like the multinationals. They couldn't write it off. They couldn't make money overseas and stash it in in a bank overseas.
PAYNE: They were the ones under the most pressure. So they said thank you to President Trump. They also acknowledged because President Trump put a lot of pressure on the business community whether it was Boeing complaining about the cost of the Air Force One or other companies. He let them know, I will shame you in front of everyone if you do the wrong thing. Listen, he is a profit-motivated person, he understands that.
MACCALLUM: He speaks their language. No doubt about it.
PAYNE: He speaks their language, but he also speaks the language of main street and he is connecting those.
MACCALLUM: What about this number from Quinnipiac and there's a lot of other numbers in here that, you know, people say don't reflect well on the president. But I think when you ask someone, how do you feel about the economy, and 66 percent of them say, excellent or good.
That was one of the only questions in this poll that didn't have some sort of political weight on it.
MACCALLUM: That's an extraordinary number.
PAYNE: It's so much -- it's the biggest number, first of all, ever since they've been --
PAYNE: -- in 2001, and it's double what the average was for the last six or seven years. It's double that number. I will tell you even more impressive, that was a combination of excellent and good. Just take excellent, Martha. For January, 18 percent of Americans said excellent. In December, it was 11 percent.
A year ago, two percent. It shows you just even more recently, in December, what we saw a record amount of consumer purchases, people are spending. There is something going on beneath the surface that's not reflected in any political polls. We saw it in the numbers in December. And now we are seeing it in these sort of surveys. You are right. All the other stuff, listen, when you set up a poll, you start asking --
MACCALLUM: That said, just so people know, that people felt that it was because of President Obama and not so much --
MACCALLUM: -- because of President Trump. How do you explain that?
PAYNE: Two things. First of all, the weighting of the poll, 36 percent Republican, 38 percent independent, only 23 percent, I'm sorry, Republican. So, 23 percent, it's a small absurd number. But the questions leading into that also were sort of disingenuous.
How fit is the president? How intelligent is the president? They were sort of negative --
PAYNE: Right, exactly. So, leading into that, but you cannot get around the fact that Americans are saying that this economy is on fire. Everyone admits that. Everyone is seeing it. And it is something, I think, is great. I think we all should celebrate it. Dow up 200 points. MACCALLUM: It is measure of future earnings and optimism in the country.
PAYNE: Absolutely. It is. It's a great time.
MACCALLUM: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: So in the age of internet bullying and body shaming, one brave woman takes on an internet hater in a very unique way and her response is going to make your day. Our own beloved Janice Dean. She is up next.
MACCALLUM: So bullying and body shaming as we all know are nothing new, but in the age of social media, the taunts and the insults are a bit more potent. They sting from time to time. Anonymous haters perhaps (INAUDIBLE) some unknown location in their kitchen, wherever they are.
What is worse, our society still hasn't figured out exactly how to handle them and you certainly can't silence them or maybe you can, until this story caught our eye today about one of our dear friends, one of my oldest friends at Fox News. We started on day one together, Janice and I were office mates.
So a viewer, a nasty person named JoAnn had the gull to write this. Dear Janice, please stop allowing Fox to dress you those short skirts. They are not flattering on you. You're an attractive lady, love your 80's hair, but your legs are distracting every time you walk on the screen. Love, JoAnn.
How would you respond to that? Would you respond at all? Janice has a courage to write back. Hi, JoAnn. Fox doesn't dress me. I dress myself. I'm sorry if you don't like my legs. I am grateful to have them to walk with. You're right. I don't look like the typical person on TV, and I'm proud to be a size 10. Imagine that.
You can always turn the channel if you are offended by my huge legs, which they're not, which Janice wrote. I hope you don't mind. I may share your post with everyone on my Facebook page. All the best, Janice.
Here with me now, Fox News senior meteorologist, awesome person and smart, terrific courageous.
JANICE DEAN, SENIOR METEOROLOGIST, FOX NEWS: We did start together. By the way, that's like a trivia question.
MACCALLUM: I know.
DEAN: We shared an office, you and I.
MACCALLUM: Yes, we did. We shared a little office with no window, interior, and that's how we got a start. And here we are. So here today. And I am so proud of you for what you said and did on this today. And we all get these kind of creepy things. But, you know what? You -- what you wrote about how important it is to you, to be able to use your legs is very personal to you.
DEAN: Well, I think that was the difference. We all get the trolls, right? And whether or not we respond, I think most of us are just, OK, let it be out there and I am not going to respond, but it was just that message and the fact that she was going after my legs, which I have always, you know, had a sore spot about. I always wanted to be a little bit thinner.
MACCALLUM: We all have our thing (ph).
DEAN: Right, of course. So, women out there, men too can identify with that.
DEAN: It was a sore spot. Something that I got teased about when I was in school. But the fact that I was diagnosed, you know this and the Fox family knows this, I was diagnosed with MS, multiple sclerosis, over 10 years ago, I realized more than ever that I could lose my ability to walk at any given time. I've heard from MS patients who say they literally wake up one day and they try to get out of bed and they fall.
DEAN: Right. So, I am potentially someone who might -- that might happen too and I might be in a wheelchair. point in time. Patients try to wake up one day and try to get out of bed and fall. Right? So i am potentially someone who that might happen to and i might be in a wheelchair. And I'm OK with that.
But to have someone go there and say your legs are unattractive or don't wear those skirts or don't show off your legs, it hit me. The part also that really got to me was that I posted it on Facebook because I wanted to see what the response would be.
MACCALLUM: How many people follow you on Facebook? Saw JoAnn's note?
DEAN: But my MS nurse, Jen, who was my very first person who I really talked to about the disease, she wrote under JoAnn's message, be proud of those strong legs. Be proud that you can walk and you can dance and you can jump and you can make snow angels and you had two beautiful children that have helped you along the way. Be proud of those strong legs.
And I thought, darn right, I'm proud of these strong legs. I'm proud of the fact that I'm a size 10. And I'm healthy. And I have a wonderful family. And I'm sorry, JoAnn, for whatever you are going through that you had to write something like that.
MACCALLUM: She is no longer on social media.
DEAN: Well, you know what? Martha, someone asked me today if I can meet JoAnn, what would I do? I'm going to be honest. I would ask her if I could give her a hug. Because why would you go out and do that, unless you have something wrong going on with your life?
MACCALLUM: She is a human being which we assume she feels terrible about what she wrote and, you know, we all do things that we regret and you are very kind to say that. You know, I think about when you were diagnosed and I remember you talking about it, tears in your eyes, way back then.
And I've watched you marry, have your children, thrive in every way and I just think you're amazing. And I really thank you for being here tonight and sharing your story.
DEAN: Listen, one other secret? We have the strongest women here on the Fox News channel including this one right here.
MACCALLUM: I think they are learning that if they didn't already know.
DEAN: Oh, yes.
MACCALLUM: Thank you, Janice. Good to see you.
Stick around, folks. Quote of the night is coming up next. Thank you, Janice.
MACCALLUM: So that powerful visit from our good friend, Janice Dean, is followed by this quote of the night from former first lady, Nancy Reagan. She says, a woman is like a tea bag. Only in hot water do you realize how strong she is.
We will see you back here tomorrow night at 7:00. Send us an email. If you have a quote of night for us, we would love to hear it. We will be back tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. like always. Tucker Carlson up next. Have a good night.
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