Karl Rove on Obama's Afghanistan Speech

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 1, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILY, HOST: Now for the top story: the best analysis anywhere. We begin with Fox News analyst Karl Rove, who's in Philadelphia tonight.

You know, there wasn't the sense of urgency that you would expect from a wartime commander saying, "Look, these are bad guys. We're fighting evil." He didn't define the evil. He didn't get emotional. He didn't put any urgency behind his words, like if we lose, this is going to lead to more bloodshed around the world. Let's wise up, everybody and get in there and win it. I didn't see any of that. It was more like an academic speech.

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KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Well, it was tired. And you're right. I mean, I think he might need a new teleprompter with some Energizer bunny batteries in it. You know, look, at the core of tonight was good news, but it was badly delivered in a, you know, in a weak frame. And, you know, I appreciate what he did. The core of it was "We're going to surge in Afghanistan like we did in Iraq. I'm going to send 30 of the 40,000 troops that McChrystal requested." But, you know, reading the background briefing of the president's aides today to the press corps at West Point, I got more information about what they intended to do and how they intended to do it than I got from the president in his speech.

O'REILLY: But are you going to tell me — are you going to sit there in Philadelphia, Mr. Rove, and tell me that it took three months to put that thing together? That he had to sit on it three months? That looks like a three-weeker to me.

ROVE: Look, it was — it took him 80-some-odd days to do this. It took us 50-some-odd days to move the Taliban from power in Afghanistan after 9/11. It took him 80-some-days to basically say, "I'm going to give McChrystal three quarters of what he requested in order to get done the job that I told him to do on May — on March 27." So no, I — it's — look, this — this had a couple of good points and, I mean, let's not lose sight of the fact that he did something which is going to be politically courageous for him to do, and that is to face up to his left and say, "I'm going to send 30,000 of the 40,000 troops."

O'REILLY: I don't believe that. Let me — let me tell you why I don't believe that. I think that's just bunk, because there are so few liberals in this country who don't understand the danger the Taliban poses. We may have one coming up behind you, Congressman Kucinich, who we love, but maybe he doesn't understand. But the majority of the American people will rally to this cause, Mr. Rove, if it's presented…

ROVE: I agree with that.

O'REILLY: …if it's presented to them as an urgent situation. It there was no urgency…

ROVE: Yes. But look, the American people were prepared for this decision. And recent polls show that roughly just under 50 percent of the American people were willing to accept more troops, and 37 percent wanted to have troops reduced. I suspect we're going to see that gap widen so that he pops up over 50 percent. But you're right. He did not rally the country. He did not explain the stakes. He did not explain how he intends to do this. He did not — it was just the high points. "I'm going to send 30 to 40,000 more troops. They're going to go over there and do something really important. And then I'm going to start withdrawing them in 18 months."

O'REILLY: I don't begrudge him that. I don't begrudge him the withdrawing though, because I think the Afghans have to step up. Look, we've been there eight years now. You know that, because you were involved in the initial campaign to get rid of the Taliban. And this government under Karzai has been in, and we don't see any progress. We don't see them doing jack.

ROVE: Wait a minute.

O'REILLY: You don't have any police force. The army is shoddy. So I think the Afghans have got to put a little pressure on them.

ROVE: But, look, things did get better between 2001 and 2006, 2007. He himself acknowledged it tonight that it's been over the last couple of years. In fact, his briefers today were even more explicit in acknowledging that.

O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. They got better in the sense that there wasn't any — there wasn't any outright violence, but the government was still weak. Look, if the government — the U.S. government and NATO have been training people all along to the extent that they should have been, there would be a standing Afghan army that would be worth something. It doesn't exist.

ROVE: Well, I'm not — I'm not certain I agree with you that it — that everything would be perfect if we'd been — if we'd been training. Look, we are dealing with a largely illiterate, poor country that has no — you know, no great tradition of a standing army or a standing police operation. But, look, here's the point. We are where we are today, and the question is does it serve America's strategic interests for the president of the United States to say, "I'm going to surge on these additional troops there." And the enemy knows that we're going to send one quarter less troops than was requested by the military commander. And then for him to say, "In 18 months I'm going to start withdrawing those people." That says to me — that sends a very — very bad signal to the enemy that you can wait us out. And when he ended on that note, that boy, we've got to worry about our economy and about America and coming back and taking care of things here. Look, we're not the only people watching and paying attention to that speech. That strikes a very isolationist note…

O'REILLY: That was a softy to the left.

ROVE: ...undermine America's credibility.

O'REILLY: That was a sop to the left. There's no question that that line was put in there, as you pointed out, to calm his left-wing supporters down. But, look, the problem with Barack Obama, I think, is becoming increasingly clear. Not even — not just on Afghanistan but on a whole — a whole other bunch of issues. He's an academic. You know, we saw a very charismatic, energized guy on the campaign trail. He's vanished. You know, the guy in New Hampshire that was storming the beaches of Clintondom and kicking those walls down, he's gone. He's back to being an academic. That was like a classroom dissertation, where half — I thought half the cadets were going to fall asleep. I mean, where is — where is the table pounding: "Hey, these people cut your head off. Hey, these people won't let women out of the house; they can't go to school. These are savages. Look what they did, and they'll do it again"? Where was that? Where was that?

ROVE: There was — there was no passion there. And there was also this sort of — these bland statements of things that are simply not true. When he said, for example, that we have established a new relationship in the Muslim world this year because of his presence in the White House, I thought to myself, what kind of new relationship do we have in the Muslim world?

O'REILLY: I'll tell you. I'll tell you right now.

ROVE: How is it demonstrating itself?

O'REILLY: It's Dubai going bankrupt just like California. They did exactly what we did. They're in simpatico with the poor economic policy. Look, Obama is going to tell you that because he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Rove. Did you miss that?

ROVE: Well, that was aspirational. That was because they hoped that he would do things. Not because he actually did anything. Look, let me say one other thing.

O'REILLY: All right.

ROVE: I thought also there was a deliberate attempt to sort of suggest that there was a different responsibility with regard to creating responsibility, a stable regime in Pakistan and the same necessity in Afghanistan. It was sort of like we really need to worry about getting stability among — in the government and the civil institutions in Pakistan, and in Afghanistan all we've got to worry about is that the Taliban can't come back. The Taliban will come back unless we establish stable institutions in Afghanistan.

O'REILLY: Well, it's going to be very, as he said — and that was absolutely true — very hard to do that in Afghanistan. You've been there. It is as primitive as you can get outside of central Africa on this planet.

Mr. Rove, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

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