All-Star Panel: 'Deceitful' rhetoric in presidential campaign?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 21, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDE BARACK OBAMA: We don't need an extra tax break. You do!


OBAMA: Their vision is wrong for moving America forward. It's not a vision you've got to accept.

PAUL RYAN, R - VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tony, you built this business.


RYAN: The government didn't build it for you. It's your business, your achievements. And we all benefit from that.


JOHN ROBERTS, ANCHOR: The back and forth in the campaign trail today. And we're back with the panel. You know, my inbox this morning I got an e-mail from Matt Rhodes, campaign manager for Mitt Romney, which talked about deceitful rhetoric raising money on this. Rhodes said "Let's be very clear -- When you accuse your opponent of committing crimes and refuse to condemn attacks that link your opponent to killing someone, you've lost all credibility." That, of course, in response to what the president was saying in his brief White House press conference. Has the president, Kirsten, lost all creditability?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: No. He has definitely not lost all credibility. But look, it's a fair criticism to say that when he comes out and says that his campaign did not accuse -- make an accusation that they clearly did, there is a problem with that. They have it on tape, they have Stephanie Cutter on tape making the "felon" reference. They should just own that, and apologize for it, I think. And I also think it's fair to say the guy ran on hope and change. And he's not running a campaign based on hope and change. But the reality is, I really don't think that this is the conversation most voters are having and the Obama campaign knows that.

ROBERTS: So here's a couple of examples, then. So you have the president saying nobody accused of him being a felon. You've got Stephanie Cutter is on tape saying it either makes him a felon or it means that he's just being dishonest with voters. You have the Joe Soptic episode where the White House said we don't know anything about this guy and then had to backtrack and say we had him on a conference call where he told that same story. People could legitimately say, Jonah, there's a lot of things that are adding up here.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Absolutely. Some of these things are still on the Obama campaign Web site. They have these things that he's disavowed; you can go see them for yourself. And one of the things that drives me crazy about the way a lot of the way media is framing this is they're saying what a nasty, negative campaign season this is. And they cite that Obama accuses – the Obama campaign accuses Romney of killing a woman with cancer and of being tax dodger and a felon and all of these things. And then they say, and Romney has come back by charging Obama with cutting billions of dollars from Medicare. Well, these are not equal things. One is a substantial policy charge. And the other one is – and again we have it today. Oh it's such a negative campaign because Mitt Romney is accusing Obama of being negative. Well, it's a factual thing that Obama is being negative and it's not a negative attack to say so.

ROBERTS:   So what about this, Charles, attacks on substantive issue of policy versus the politics of personal assassination?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think the Obama administration decided it can't run on its record. It's not a good one. It can't run on its accomplishments, if you go down the list of the things it's proudest of ObamaCare, the stimulus is not something you want to run on. All of them are unpopular. Now it's the kill Romney campaign, as was the headline of a memo that was leaked in August last year.

So to summarize the campaign, it is a Obama campaign saying, Mitt Romney will lay off your dad, kill your mother with cancer, deny your sister contraceptives, throw your son out of college, and if you're African-American, put y'all in chains. That is not -- I mean they say are we going negative? No, no, we are talking about issues. You know, he was talking about Dodd-Frank and regulatory implementation of regulations on Wall Street in talking about change. This is preposterous. They don't have a record. They know that.

And the reason they are worried about the Ryan appointment and all the energy it injected into the campaign is that it was -- it's a way to make it into a campaign about issues. And they know they are going to lose it if it's on issues.

ROBERTS: Kirsten, do you think that the Romney campaign in a turnaround from July now has the Obama campaign on the defensive?

POWERS: No, I wouldn't say that. I think, look -- I really, the Obama campaign is playing a different game. They are -- we are having stories about the burn rate. They are building a really sophisticated campaign, this is sort of noise that is going on. But they are spending their time building a campaign, micro-targeting people, buying airtime. That's why they are spending so much money.

And so, they are running a good campaign. They know where their voters are. They are getting to those voters. They are getting the message that they want to get to those voters. And I don't think that these sort of inside Washington conversations is putting them necessarily on the ropes.

ROBERTS: On this idea, Jonah, of the burn rate, the Obama campaign went into red in July by about $30 million. It still has an enormous war chest, it's got about $130 million on hand. But Mitt Romney has more. And we're coming up a few days from now, they'll be able to tap into the general election campaign. So do they really have any worries when it comes to the amount of money that they have?

GOLDBERG: It's like my same response to what Kirsten had to say. We'll see, right? The Obama campaign is betting big on this infrastructure and all of these things. The bet is that they will get -- turn out the vote. But the enthusiasm among their base isn't where it should be given how much money they spent on it, given that they've spent tens of millions of dollars on these ads trying to tear down Romney and build up Obama. We still see this as, basically, a deadlock race.  So, it depends. We don't know whether he is wasted this money or not. And it's sort of a cliche, but we won't know until Election Day.

ROBERTS: Charles, President Obama, the Obama campaign spending money -- at least the Romney campaign spending money at about three-fifths the rate of the Obama campaign. Though the Obama campaign had a larger figure, it was almost $600 million compared to just under $500 million. Is that an indication of what?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think Kirsten is right. They see their only hope is to run kind of a micromanaged, constituency-oriented campaign. Each constituency is, you know, dangled some kind of benefit -- free contraceptives, cutting student loans, Hispanics, the Dream Act. Every constituency has a goodie handed out as we approach Election Day. And perhaps I'm naive, but if you have a record of this administration, then you then have an argument over the record and the philosophy that was underlying it, you will lose. So, we'll see if it's technique or ideas. I used to think I was cynical, but perhaps I'm just a babe in the woods on this.


ROBERTS: Plenty of time left for you to become cynical. Thank folks for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.  That is it for the panel, but come back for more on President Obama's relationship with the White House press corps, something you probably haven't seen before.

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