B+ President? Karl Rove Grades Obama

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, reaction to the B+ the president gave himself from Fox News analyst Karl Rove, who joins us now from Austin, Texas.

You know, I can't imagine George W. Bush even grading himself. I mean, if I asked him that question, he wouldn't have answered it. I don't think he would have. Do you?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No. And no president should. I mean, particularly at the end of the first year. The question is, you know, sort of how do they do over the sweep of time? And while you get a sense from the first year of how they're getting off to a good start or a bad start, it's not conclusive by any means whatsoever.

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I do think that President Obama lacks something that his predecessors have had. You know, President Reagan got the tax cuts passed in 1981 and the Gramm-Rudman spending restraint passed. In 2001, George W. Bush got the tax cut passed and the No Child Left Behind passed. It's hard to point to anything that this president has done except maybe the stimulus bill, which was $787 billion to supposedly stimulate the economy, but less than $200 billion of it has been spent. And we'll spend more between 2011 and 2019 than we'll spend this year on stimulating the economy because of that bill.

O'REILLY: Well, I don't even know if we need to stimulate the economy anymore. I'd like to see all of this money-troubled asset relief program TARP go back in and pay down the debt. I mean, come on. This is a $12 trillion debt?

ROVE: Sure, absolutely.

O'REILLY: And now the Senate, these pinheads, are raising it to $14 trillion. I mean, look, the world is looking at us going like we're not going to invest in this country. I mean, this is Las Vegas. All right, but let's you have give…

ROVE: Well.

O'REILLY: Go ahead.

ROVE: You know, they've got to raise the debt limit because they're spending money…

O'REILLY: Yeah, they're spending more money.

ROVE: ...like, you know, drunken sailors.

O'REILLY: But if you took this $700 billion that you really don't need any more, I mean, the economy's coming out of it itself. And I do give Barack Obama some credit for that, by the way, for stabilizing things. I do.

ROVE: I don't.

O'REILLY: But you don't need to do it anymore.

ROVE: I don't. Yeah, you know what? I don't and neither does he. Have you looked at the White House papers that they put out? They talk about the bank rescue package and say we, the Obama White House, only spent $5 billion of that money. The rest of it was spent by our predecessor. Now, we're making a profit on that money, but they're blaming the Bush administration for having spent the money. And they say they only spent $5 billion. If we did stabilize the economy because of the TARP program, they claim they only spent $5 billion of it.


ROVE: The rest of it was Bush, therefore…

O'REILLY: But a lot of it is psychological. A lot of it is psychological. A lot of it is, you know, look, we can debate it all day long. But I want to get to your report card.

ROVE: Sure.

O'REILLY: On the economy itself, you give the president a…



ROVE: Yeah, look, the stimulus bill was not stimulated. The American economy is strong enough it's going to come out of recession. The question is did these policies impede or speed up its recovery? I think they impeded its recovery. I don't think they sped it up.

O'REILLY: OK. Afghanistan you give him a…

ROVE: I give him a B-.


ROVE: I think he did the right thing, but it took him too long. And he was too cute about it. Rather than saying I agree with my commanders' recommendation, he had to make his thing look different than the commander recommended. So he said rather than the 40,000 that the commander asked for, I'm going to authorize 30. But I'm going to get 7 from NATO. And oh, incidentally, I'm going to give Gates the ability to send three on his own. And oh, incidentally, I sent a little bit more than I told you I would spend — send earlier this year. So actually, we're going to end up with 43 rather than 40. But he had to look different in order to do it.

O'REILLY: Yeah, I mean, he wanted to prove a point that he was in charge and that he was taking it very seriously.

ROVE: Right.

O'REILLY: That was a lot of psy ops involved there.

ROVE: Right.

O'REILLY: Foreign policy overall, you give him a…

ROVE: I'd give him a C. Look, maybe even a C-. What has he been able to achieve? We thought that, you know, he sort of led us to believe that his presence on the stage would change all these relationships. It hasn't changed the relationship with North Korea. It hasn't changed the relationship with Iran. It hasn't changed the relationship with Russia. It hasn't changed the relationship with Europe. They're happy to have him around, but they don't seem to really respect him or fear him.

O'REILLY: OK, but wouldn't you say that the world in general now likes the USA better than it did two years ago?

ROVE: You know, that's not what matters. What matters is do they respect us and do they follow us? And they don't do either one of those things as much as they should today. And they certainly aren't doing them as much as they did last year.

O'REILLY: OK. And you give him a failing grade in governing as he campaigned?

ROVE: Yeah, I give him — I'm sorting through my pieces of paper here. I give him a D-. This is a guy who ran as a relentless centrist, who said that he would control spending, reduce the deficit, that it was not red state, blue state but it was the United States, that he would govern from the center. And he is governing from the very far-left wing of his Democratic Party.

And while I think he has set a good personal tone, in fact, I would give him an A- in the sort of personal behavior, I mean, he has set a good example, he and his wife and family as our nation's First Family. You know, he's a little bit too prone to say I and he's very much too prone to say hey, it's not my responsibility. It's somebody else's.

I thought today was a key example of that. Here he is lecturing these banks about irresponsible lending, and he, when he came to the United States Senate, was defending the irresponsible lending by Fannie and Freddie by refusing to join a filibuster to subject them to the same kind of regulation we give banks, savings and credit unions.

So I mean, there's a little bit of disconnect. But he has been a good example of what we would, as a nation, like to see in our chief executive in his personal behavior.

O'REILLY: All right. Now finally changing the tone in Washington, he did campaign on that. You give him a…

ROVE: I give him a C-. He has aspirational rhetoric, particularly early in his term. But I think his speech writers are getting worn out. And look, this thing on the banks again, I mean, he says I don't want to vilify or demonize anybody, but then he goes and attacks them as fat cats. I didn't come here to Washington to bailout, Wall Street.

O'REILLY: But they are fat cats.

ROVE: Well, they are fat cats, but…

O'REILLY: Do you really want to…

ROVE: ...is that really appropriate for the president of the United States? That's what we expect Barney Frank to say. But the president of the United States ought to have a different tone. And look, how much do you think those guys like being used as a prop for him to go out and demonstrate his populace appeal to the American people?

O'REILLY: OK, but I'm going to take issue with you here.

ROVE: And frankly, the American people do.

O'REILLY: I'm going to take issue. The Wall Street Journal reports that this year could have more — kill the music. The Wall Street Journal says this year could have more bonuses in the banking and financial industry than any other year. It's wrong, Mr. Rove. Not when all these people are suffering. It's wrong. I'm glad he went after them.

ROVE: Here's what's wrong. Here's what's really wrong. Here is what's really wrong. The federal government borrowing $1.4 trillion since January 20. And private lending going down $210 billion, because the government stepped in and said we're going to subject you to stress tests. And if you make an improper loan, you could go to jail. The tough language is causing people to constrict their lending and to be looking at their balance sheets and…

O'REILLY: That's a different issue though.

ROVE: …to be afraid of what the future holds.

O'REILLY: That's an issue. I agree with you on that that you've got to have…

ROVE: That's the president.

O'REILLY: ...free commerce. But that, look, the issue of stop giving all these things, all these bonuses.


I'll take a ice cream pop. Is that the Good Humor man that's coming through here?

ROVE: It was.

O'REILLY: Look, I'm saying that you can't be giving these huge bonuses in this time. And if the banks do, I'm going to be right on it. Mr. Rove, as always.

ROVE: And you know what? We all ought to vote with our feet as consumers. If we don't like the behavior, we ought to change banks.

O'REILLY: Out of there. Absolutely.

ROVE: Yeah.

O'REILLY: I'm going to name names, but I want him to be on that. But I do agree with you, if you want the banks to lend, you got to give them some room. Mr. Rove, thanks very much.

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