Charles Krauthammer on GOP Debate and Restoring America's Legacy

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 23, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY: Continuing now with our lead story: the decline of America in the context of the Republican debate. Joining us now from Washington, Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer. Did any of the candidates on the stage last night give you, Charles Krauthammer, confidence they can begin to restore America's legacy?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think there are two ways to answer that. In one sense, you would say the majority of them, because what is taking us into decline is an administration which sees and has seen for the last three years its future or where America ought to go as a European model of social democracy.

Now, the irony here is that that Europe model is collapsing in front of our eyes. Yet, we elected a president three years ago who thinks that's the ideal and with Obamacare, huge stimulus spending, etc., that's where he wants to go. And that's the wrong path.

Therefore, really anybody who espouses the opposite ideology, meaning smaller government, less taxation, less debt, less spending, less regulation to set free the economic power of capitalism, would be one to restore it. However, if you are going to do it, you have to achieve the presidency.

So it isn't just ideas and policies or even leadership. It's who can be elected. If you aren't elected, you are not going to change anything. Obama will be re-elected and the path towards European social democracy will be inevitable. It will be eight years of that and it will be irrevocable.

Therefore you've got to ask yourself the Buckley Rule, after Bill Buckley. He said I would vote -- I always vote for the most conservative candidate who can win. And that, I think, will be the key way to answer your question: Who on the stage was acceptably conservative? Perhaps not the most ideological, authentic or committed but still acceptable who can win? And I think with the performance of Governor Perry, I think him as the answer to that question is rather questionable now. Because I think he had a bad debate, three in a row and the question is could he win in November? That's really up in the air.

O'REILLY: Why did he have a bad debate though? Why did he have -- specifically, give me one -- give me your top choice to demonstrate that Governor Perry had a bad debate.

KRAUTHAMMER: I will give you a couple. His best moment, the most affecting moment, the most sort of moving moment is when he countered the Bachmann attack on him on the vaccine he ordered about cervical cancer and said you were responding to the lobbyists. And he gave a new answer. And he said no, I was lobbied by a 31-year-old woman dying of cancer. That's a powerful response. And yet, two things happened. A, in the debate, after that moving anecdote, he had nowhere to go and he repeated an old line he had used in the other debates, namely "I choose life." He didn't sort of elaborate, explain or exploit the moment. Excuse me -- and now we learn that the anecdote is false. That he met with the woman after he had done the executive order. So here is the big moment and it turned out to be not quite true.

O'REILLY: All right. So a lot of Americans don't know that because they don't know the follow-up story on it.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. And I'll give you…

O'REILLY: That will hurt -- that will hurt him. Go ahead.

KRAUTHAMMER: And that other example when he jabbed at Romney, when he gave a litany of stuff where he accused Romney of changing his mind on a series of issues, a practiced politician, one who is not a rookie, one who has been in the race before, one who might have spent the last month in the hustings perfecting his stump speech and his responses would have had a fluid response. Instead, he stumbled, could not really remember the three points he made against Romney. And that was a give-me, which I think he blew.


KRAUTHAMMER: He is a new entrant who comes into the race at the top, which is really a difficult thing.

O'REILLY: Oh absolutely. You come in, the expectations are sky high. And if you don't live up to them, people are disappointed.

Now Michele Bachmann, a lot of pundits believed that this was her last stand last night because Rick Perry has taken a lot of her support away from her. But she really didn't break out last night, did she?

KRAUTHAMMER: But I'm not -- I think she tread water. But I'm not sure she has to do a breakout. Look, who took the oxygen out of her campaign? Perry. If as is possible, I'm not saying it's going to happen but it's possible, the performance in the debates Perry has had which have been weak begin to bring him down to earth…

O'REILLY: They'll go back to her. Right.

KRAUTHAMMER: …and he no longer has the front-runner -- it will go either to her or perhaps Santorum, who had a good night. But there will be one sort of anti-Romney more to the right candidate, the more established ideological candidate and it could still be Bachmann. She had a rough month, but if there is a decline in Perry, she could be the one who benefits.

O'REILLY: All right. But you have said on this program before that you believe Mitt Romney has the widest appeal and the best chance to beat Barack Obama as it stands today.

KRAUTHAMMER: And I think all you have to do is to ask a Democrat. Who do you worry about the most as being the opponent Obama has to face, has to debate and has to beat next year? And I think they will say Romney.

O'REILLY: All right, Charles. Thanks very much. We appreciate it as always.

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