Did Obama's U.N. Speech Help or Hurt America's World Image?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 23, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: He says the Holocaust didn't happen. Is he delusional, or is he just plain mean? Outrage at the Iranian president. Delegations from around the world who just can't stomach him got up and walked out on the Iranian president's U.N. speech. One foreign minister who walked right out the door will be here in moments.

But first, part of President Ahmadinejad's controversial speech.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (Through translator): It is unacceptable that a small minority should dominate the politics, economy and culture of vast parts of the world through a complicated network and establish a new form, in fact, of slavery and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the United States, to obtain its racist ambitions.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, all day, protesters were not quiet about their outrage at the Iranian president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Ahmadinejad is not elected by people or for people! He is against not people of Iran, against humanity! He is that Hitler of this time!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop torture! And shame on you! And you are not our elected president. Stop killing people and just leave our country and give us our country back!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has not election! The people don't want him, but he has the gall to come here in the United Nations and represent the people of Iran! Nobody (INAUDIBLE) He doesn't represent us!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama, don't support him! Don't support him! Don't support him!


VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama gave his first speech to the General Assembly today. The president on how the world used to work together to solve big problems.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, this cannot solely be America's endeavor. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone. We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world, and now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.


VAN SUSTEREN: Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi spoke to the General Assembly for more than 90 minutes.


MOAMMAR QADDAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (Through translator): Let there be a civil war in Iraq. Let the Iraqis want to have a civil war (INAUDIBLE) enough. Who said that Taliban -- if the Taliban becomes in government, they would have a nuclear weapon or they have transatlantic missiles or those airplanes who hit New York, this very same place? Did the airplanes take off from Afghanistan or from Iraq? No. These planes were in J.F. Kennedy Airport.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, after his speech, Qaddafi planned on heading to Bedford, New York, where Libyan agents had pitched a giant Bedouin tent for the dictator. The tent was being built on property owned by none other than Donald Trump. Trump has been getting hammered for letting Qaddafi use that property. And, well, that plan has now been scrapped. The town of Bedford ordered the tent be taken down.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton joins us live outside the United Nations. Good evening, Ambassador. Ambassador, in terms of our president's speech, he said this. He said, "We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."

What does he mean by "continued Israeli settlements?" Maybe you don't know what he meant, but maybe you do.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I think this is one of the indications why Israel should be very worried about the tone of the speech. He didn't say, No new settlements. He said, "the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," which to me calls into question everything that's been built in the territories occupied since 1967. That was only one of the things he said, but it was very striking.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything else he said that was striking to you, before we move on to Ahmadinejad?

BOLTON: Sure because with respect to Israel, he talked about territories occupied since 1967, meaning, in effect, he might want to go back to the '67 borders. I thought it was a very anti-Israeli speech. I was stunned at how he tried to show moral equivalency between terrorist attacks and the Israeli response. I thought the speech overall was just a -- was just as naive and Wilsonian as one can imagine and sent real signals about how Obama views the United Nations as the place that's going to solve all of our problems.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, in a few minutes, we're going to have the Canadian foreign minister, who walked out before Ahmadinejad spoke. Several walked out while he spoke. He said -- what drove the United States out, he said something, in fact, that -- to -- talking about U.S. racist ambitions, which then sent the U.S. delegation and others out of the room.

Were you surprised at what Ahmadinejad said? We're so used to him saying such rotten things that he seemed actually toned down a little bit tonight.?

BOLTON: Well, he didn't deny the Holocaust. I guess that's the one silver lining that you could come up with. But look, this is an expression of what Ahmadinejad and I think most of the major figures in the Iranian regime believe. That's the basis on which they act. That's the basis on which they're acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. And it's indicative that the president's effort to extend his open hand and have Ahmadinejad unclench his fist are doomed to failure.

That's one reason I like having Ahmadinejad come to the U.N. Americans can see firsthand why this man is not somebody who's a reliable negotiating partner, as the administration thinks, and who is never going to give up Iran's nuclear program.

VAN SUSTEREN: I understand the sort of symbolic nature of everyone getting up and speaking at the General Assembly, but from a very sort of practical viewpoint, what do we or what does any nation get out of this -- these group of speeches in the Assembly here in New York?

BOLTON: Well, you know, the benefit, I think, to the United States is a lot of people come to New York and spend a lot of money. That's not a bad thing, especially in difficult economic times. And frankly, the real work occurs in hotel rooms all across the city, where people are having separate meetings unrelated to the U.N. But when you get this many heads of state and foreign ministers in one place at one time, you can actually get a lot of work done. As I said, it doesn't have anything to do with the U.N., but it's very useful.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the positioning of the speeches, who goes first? This morning, President Obama spoke, for instance, before Qaddafi. Qaddafi then spoke several hours before Ahmadinejad. How is that actually arranged?

BOLTON: Well, like everything else in the U.N., there's a protocol that almost defies understanding. Brazil always speaks first. Don't ask me why. The United States always speaks second because we're the host country. And Qaddafi spoke third because this year, Libya is president of the General Assembly, and that's the protocol that follows there. Beyond that, it's -- you know, with Libya being president, they help control the schedule, so that's the partial answer to your question.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Mr. Qaddafi's speech -- anything strike you today about what he had to say?

BOLTON: Well, it was great. You know, 90 minutes to two hours of him reading from torn-up notes and whatnot -- this is, again, an indication of what happens in the U.N. Libya is on the Security Council this year. People wonder why it's so hard to get resolutions through the Security Council. You saw an indication of it. We're going to see more tomorrow when President Obama chairs his photo-op meeting of the Security Council at the head of state level with Colonel Qaddafi right there. Maybe he'll have another two-hour speech to give. I can't wait to watch that one.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, where -- do you have any idea where Qaddafi is tonight? Because he had -- everyone thought he was going to be on some property owned by Donald Trump. And I actually believe Trump, that Trump had no idea it was going to happen. Trump's -- Trump's a real strong American and with -- he would not like Qaddafi on his property. Any idea where Qaddafi is tonight?

BOLTON: No, but you know what he's done in other locations is they just clear a floor of the Libyan embassy, pitches his tent inside. Then he can pretend he's actually out in the desert somewhere, still enclosed by his tent, and he'll was sleep soundly. So that's probably what he's going to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does -- a lot of people would like to -- especially New Yorkers, who hate the traffic -- they'd like to get rid of sort of this -- the General Assembly or even the U.N. But why -- why is it important, or maybe it isn't in your mind, that the U.N. be in the United States?

BOLTON: Well, you know, I think that having the U.N. here in New York, apart from its economic benefits to the city, puts it in a place where you can actually keep an eye on it from time to time. I think if it were overseas in Geneva or one of the other U.N. cities, a lot more would happen that Americans couldn't influence. At least here, our non- governmental organizations and our media, such as they are, can cover it more closely. And besides, it's been here and it's probably more trouble than it's worth to move it at this stage.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, we seem to show the high-profile speeches, the Qaddafi, President Obama, and of course, Ahmadinejad and others. But you're -- you've been following this for so long. Do any of these countries ever say anything sort of nice about United States, like, Thank you very much for your aid, thank you for taking a leadership on certain topics? I mean, do you get any of that?

BOLTON: Well, some of them will say it to you in private, but you know, when you have our own president here apologizing for past policies by previous administrations and basically giving a speech that's all about him, it's very hard to imagine what other governments would see profit in actually thanking the United States for some of the things we've done in the past, like, oh, I don't know, defending freedom around the world, just to pick one at random.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, as always, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you very much, Greta.

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