Economy in focus as Trump's critics ramp up attacks

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 8, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Yes, all going up, until just today, when everything went down just a little bit, first down day of the trading year.

We're waiting to hear from the president, who is going to be delivering a major speech to farmers in Nashville. He's the first such president talking to this group in 25 years. George Bush Sr. was the last.

Meanwhile, critics are ramping up their attacks on him, but the economy and the market seems to be proving a lot of those critics wrong. If that is part of the instability that they like to talk about, probably a lot of investors would welcome that instability.

Anyway, Kevin Corke is there with the president in Nashville and has the latest -- Kevin.


A little loud here at the Opryland Hotel, as you can well imagine, pretty excited crowd looking forward to the president's remarks.

I want to share just a bit of the gaggle notes, as we got them before the president made his way here. He's actually, by the way, in the building. He's not begun his speech yet.

Very interesting. The president talked about his opposition, if you will, to Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He also talked in length about Michael Wolff, calling him a fantasy writer.

Wolff, of course, the author of the latest book "Fire and Fury" which has created so much of a controversy in Washington and consternation for the White House.

In case you just missed this one, he also talked about an Axios piece, Neil, that was sort of laying out his executive time. I'm not suggesting that the piece was saying he didn't work hard. It just said that he had more free time than other presidents. And he pushed back on that, saying he works as hard as any president ever has.

Now, as you pointed out, he's actually here in Nashville expected to address this overflow crowd of the American Farm Bureau in just a few moments.

He's going to be talking once again about the importance of the new tax law and how it will benefit American families and, in particular, America's farm families.

Let me show you a little excerpt for you, my friend, while we have a moment.

This is, again, as prepared from the White House. "From now on, most family farms and small business owners will be spared the punishment of the deeply unfair estate tax known as the death tax, so you can keep your farms in the family. In every decision we make, we're honoring America's proud farming legacy."

Now, as you also know, Neil, as we have discussed on a number of occasions, usually, events like this are back-ended by other policy initiatives and announcements and the like. And we will see once again if that is the case.

Now, I can tell you this. Given the venue here, it is a massive crowd. Given it's a state that he won like 60 to 34 and given the VIPs in attendance, it is a pretty good bet he will be rolling out something. Of course, we will let you know what we find out here shortly.

Live coverage your way in just a bit, but, for now, my friend, back to you.

CAVUTO: Thank you very much, Kevin. We look forward to that.

The president is firing back at his critics and invoking Ronald Reagan while doing so. This tweet saying, "I have had to put up with the fake news from the first day I announced that I would be running for president. And I have to put with a fake book written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I."

A guy who used to work for that president, in fact, elected him president, former Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins.

Ed, is there a similarity here?

ED ROLLINS, FORMER U.S. OFFICE OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: Well, there's only a similarity in the sense that they -- from the day Ronald Reagan got elected, they were trying to dismiss him as a viable person.

They talked -- he was the oldest man to serve in the presidency. Trump is the same age at this point in time. And they were always basically saying, well, he was a movie star, he was this, he was that.

They forgot the fact he had been governor for eight years in California. He had won a great campaign, won by a landslide in 1980, won by a bigger landslide in 1984.

I think what happened to Reagan -- and Reagan didn't pay attention to it. That was the good thing, was Reagan didn't worry about what was in the press and he didn't go crazy over it. And he had a staff certainly in the first term that was very loyal to him.

Second term, he had a new staff, mainly Don Regan's people, who had been the treasury secretary. And that didn't work quite as well. And after Iran-Contra, he was very disturbed that that could happen on his watch. Those were things he was contrary to.

But every single day, and I was with him all the time until the end, he functioned effectively. He had a great sense of humor. He was a guy who was shot in the second month of his administration, almost killed. He had basically colon surgery. He had a whole variety of things.

But more fundamental than any of it, he was deaf in one ear. The gun had gone off when he was making movies and he was hard of hearing. And he was a little bit blind. But other than that, he was fully functioning, could write beautifully, he could speak beautifully and basically had a core of beliefs.

Again, the key thing was, he came in knowing what he wanted to do. Didn't have disarray in his White House initially. And I think, to a certain extent, but they still tried to take him apart.

CAVUTO: Ed, I think you said a lot of profound things there, as you always do, my friend.

But I thought the most was his sense of humor, that if he was thin-skinned, he certainly didn't show it. And he let the critics and the criticisms just sort of roll right down his back.

And I wonder if there's a lesson there. Some of our more effective presidents have been able to turn what are seen to be flaws, you know, but by just joking or kidding about them, John Kennedy famously saying that he wouldn't let his -- yet his father told him he wouldn't pay for a landslide.

Or even Ronald Reagan in dismissing critics who say he wasn't too bright, and he would famously say, well, I'm here, aren't I?



CAVUTO: What could maybe a Donald Trump learn from that? I know he bristles at this criticism in this book and...

ROLLINS: What happens to him is, he goes out and he will have an event like today and he will basically have a cheering crowd.

CAVUTO: Right.

ROLLINS: And he will come back and he will read the papers tomorrow and basically won't be as praise-worthy.

He sees these as sort of his ratings, where a lot of politicians have been around awhile, and certainly Reagan, by the fact he had a long career in movies, they don't pay any attention to it. You pay attention to the people you believe in like FOX and other places.

But The Washington Post, The New York Times, they're never going to write good stuff about him. And I think every day he wants that reinforcement. He's like every politician. He wants to be loved a little bit. And I think that's -- and he reacts and overreacts sometimes.


ROLLINS: But the key thing I think is you are going to be measured by your programs. You had a great end of the year, have a great year this year and basically serve out this term and let history write the books about you.

CAVUTO: What do you make of Michael Wolff's premise that the president is unstable and that people around him think he's unstable, that essentially he's too nuts for the job, as if they would know or be able to qualify that?

ROLLINS: And, you know, there's hundreds of people who work in the White House. Who are the people who are basically saying he's unstable? It's certainly not the general who is running the show at this point in time. It's certainly not his Cabinet.

World leaders who basically sit down face to face with him, no one walks away saying this guy is not stable. We knew what he was when we elected him. He was a different sort. He wasn't a professional politician. He had a unique personality.

You know, he basically got a lot of his support after his television shows and what have you.

CAVUTO: Right.

ROLLINS: And I think to a certain extent, he's a good communicator and he basically goes out and connects with audiences. And he knows what he wants to do. And they're not necessarily popular positions with the mainstream media, but they are certainly popular positions with his supporters.

CAVUTO: Maybe the lesson here, maybe Ronald Reagan first laid it out, others successful presidents, John Kennedy, is you never let them see you sweat. You never let them think that they're getting under your skin. There's some value in that.

ROLLINS: There's tremendous value in that.

I use a different term. I say never show pain. No matter how hard they hit you, never -- react like it's no big deal. And Reagan was great that way. And I asked him one time, I said, don't you ever take any of this seriously? He said, Ed, I was a movie star for 25 years. I wasn't a great actor.

He said, I got panned every single day, every single movie. And I basically just -- you just keep going on, appreciate what you have. I'm just grateful to have this country to serve and I basically care very much about the people.

And I think to a certain extent, that's where what drove him. He cared about the young people in this country, and every day he got up and he did that.

CAVUTO: You talk about the people who serve him as well.

The rap that comes through in this book -- I don't know how true it is. I finished reading it this weekend. I was left the impression that he's surrounded by people who either don't like him, trust him or are afraid of him.

There's none of the comradery and loyalty, for example, that Ronald Reagan enjoyed with his staff, Cabinet officials, higher-ups, people like yourself. But that might be just a wrong impression. What do you think?

ROLLINS: No, I think it's very true. I read the book over the weekend, too.

And I didn't learn anything new, having watched it pretty closely. I was kind of amazed at the disarray. And I was really amazed in a very short period of time -- this was before they had to change the chief of staff -- they were all kind of getting even with each other.

Everybody kind of had their own little power center. Everybody had their own little media program, as opposed to basically being there to serve the president.

One of the key things when you do a lot of campaigns, you do a lot of service, as I have, in government, you serve the person that is there. There are 538 people who got votes in Washington, D.C., president, vice president, 100 senators, 435 congressmen.

Everybody lives off of their reflected power. And the bottom line is, those are the people who got the votes, those are the people you serve. And if you can't serve them, you walk out. You don't basically trash them in magazines and publications.


We're listening to Sonny Perdue, the agricultural secretary, getting set to introduce the president.

But I did want to, while you're still here, my friend, is get your sense of where the president goes to from here. I think if it were not for some of these lapses where either tweets or gets vexing with those who are criticizing him, he does have a record with the markets, and the economy, these tax cuts that could be bigger and more substantial and beneficial to the American people and the economy than has generally been given the case, that that would have him soaring right now.

ROLLINS: Well, I think he's turned this thing around.

And, obviously, the chief of staff change, the general, is very important. And I think, to a certain extent, there's order there now.


ROLLINS: And a great accomplishment at the end of the year.

I think it was a learning curve. He's never been in government.


CAVUTO: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ROLLINS: And none of the people around him had ever been in the White House, had ever been in government. His campaign was composed of people that -- Bannon and those people, never been in a campaign before.

So, to a certain extent, they're kind of in there -- they're like ducks. Every day is a brand-new day. And I think to a certain extent, he knew what he wanted to do and it's kind of a question of working itself out.

And it hasn't been a communications operation. It's much better now. Someone like Hope Hicks is very loyal to him. Sarah Sanders is very loyal to him. But there are a whole bunch of people out there trying to serve themselves and tell -- there's always a tendency to tell the press I'm so smart, I'm the one making the speech, I'm the one that is doing this, I'm really the power behind the throne.

And basically the bottom line is you're there to help the person that won. You help them every single day to move forward.

CAVUTO: Why can't he then leave it maybe to surrogates or people on his behalf, hey, look at these markets, look at everything else? Maybe that is something that the president will remind people to do.

ROLLINS: Well, he needs to do.


ROLLINS: And the truth of the matter is, every single member of the Cabinet, there ought to be a theme of the week, ought to be out telling the thing.

Here he comes.

CAVUTO: All right.

Ed, thank you very, very much.

ROLLINS: Let him carry his own speech.

CAVUTO: Indeed. Indeed.


CAVUTO: Ed, you would be a wonderful anchor, if you wanted to take the step back there.


ROLLINS: I just want to be with you.

CAVUTO: There we go.

ROLLINS: Thanks, Neil.


ROLLINS: The president in Nashville, Tennessee, on a day the markets continue to confound people, a minor dip today, but a good economy and good market overall.

Let's listen.


CAVUTO: All right, you have been listening to the president of the United States in Nashville, Tennessee.

He is going to be putting pen to paper on two executive orders that will expand broadband accessibility to rural America. That's a problem in rural America, where they don't have the ease of use that is provided in a lot of urban areas, hence putting a lot of agricultural communities, to say nothing of those who just simply live in rural areas, they don't even have to be farmers, at a disadvantage.

You could see a who's-who crowd of Bob Corker. That looks like Phil Gramm in the back there, and we have a host of others. Who else is there, Pam? Yes, Marsha Blackburn is there, and on and on and on.

The fact of the matter is, the president signing these documents is just continuing to put to paper a commitment he made some time ago that through executive order he can unleash a great deal. And he's been doing just that here.

I'm joined by Charlie Gasparino and Madison Gesiotto and Katie Frates, along with Gary Kaltbaum.

The president, at some of these initiatives, has been talking up just this. Let's listen.

TRUMP: Streamlining and expediting requests to locate broadband facilities in rural America.


TRUMP: Might as well be efficient. We will do the other one while I'm here.

Nice job in putting a mic at that table, folks.


TRUMP: Supporting broadband tower facilities in rural America and federal properties managed by the Department of the Interior.

Those towers are going to go up, and you're going to have great, great broadband.

Thank you.


TRUMP: I'm going to give everybody a pen.

Thank you, everybody.


CAVUTO: All right.

I also notice Lamar Alexander behind him as well. But it's Bob Corker who just amazes me right now, given their war of words over these months.

But he joined the president on Air Force One back and now they struck up a friendship. I understand Senator Corker is quite the golfer, the president not too shabby a golfer himself. Whatever the case, those two seem to have buried a hatchet here.

But whoever was in charge of the microphone at that desk has now disappeared. We can't track that individual down. But, obviously, that was a big mistake. The president making light of it, though, on a day he was reminding folks, look what's been happening in the markets, look what's been happening in the economy, and look at this $5.5 trillion in tax cuts.

We wondered where he got that figure. That's the net total of -- I'm sorry -- the gross total of tax cuts offset by about $4 trillion in revenue raisers. Hence, you get the $1.5 trillion net tax cut cost over the course of 10 years. But it began in $5.5 trillion in the aggregate, and of course the number raises to offset that prompted all of this.

Anyway, back with my guests.

Katie, did the president make good on just -- on just forcing that point across and letting people know, all right, there might be a lot of people paying attention to this Michael Wolff book, he did not, and maybe that's the way it should be? What do you think?

KATIE FRATES, OLYMPIC MEDIA: Well, this was a good time for him to get off Twitter, be there in Tennessee. I think it was a politically savvy move to do this right now, because it reminds everyone in the middle of America, it reminds rural workers, rural families that Trump still sees them, he pays attention to them, he cares about them.

And that's something that the Democrats failed to do in the election, and if they don't catch up to this, that Trump is reminding those voters, you feel just disenfranchised, and I'm listening, then they're going to have a bad time.

I think it was really smart on Trump's part. I just hope he stays off Twitter after the fact.



CAVUTO: Madison, I was surprised that he's the first president in 25 years to address this farmers group. Why has been that the case? Do you know?

MADISON GESIOTTO, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes, you know, the farmers love him.

I think he is someone that wanted to go back there, because this is part of his base. These are people that voted for him. They wanted to hear from him.

And, of course, the strong economy is really helping them. One thing that he hit on is regulations. For every one new regulation, they cut 22. And to really put this in perspective, when Obama left office last year, I nation federal registrar, we had almost 100,000 pages of regulations. That was an all-time high.

This year, or last year, 2017, as we came out of 2017 into this new year, 2018, we cut that by almost half, down to under 62,000 pages, which is just incredible...


GESIOTTO: ... in only one year of work. And so I think people recognize that.

And that not only benefited people at the Farm Bureau, but across this country in a diversity of markets and in industries.

CAVUTO: All right, 1,000 of pages sounds like one of Charlie's books.




GASPARINO: Thank you. Thank you for selling my book.


CAVUTO: Look, anything I can do, pal.

You know, Charlie, the president was more or less getting back that this is one of the things that I can do alone, if I want to, these executive orders, executive memoranda, whatever you want to call it.

And as you reported very early on, a lot of corporations, businesses of all sizes and shapes, that this was the biggest burden to them. Before they saw the fruition of tax cuts, it was getting regulations off of their back, and this was a reminder that is something a president can do.

GASPARINO: It's a de facto tax cut. And it's what we were reporting on FOX Business all year, that just by the fact that he hired more free market people in the various agencies, you didn't even have to do anything on it.

Then, on top of it, he did executive orders which cut some of these regulations. That was the de facto tax cut for corporations. And that's why you see the markets, and not just the markets, the economy.

And, remember, the markets and the economy were supposed to slow down after seven years. Right? Even though it was like a weak growth spurt, it was supposed to slow down. That's the usual cycle. And they kept going.

And one of the reasons why, big reason, is this whole thing with regulation. I will say one other thing, Neil. That was a very sane speech. We keep hearing that this man is insane from the Democrats and from Michael Wolff, 25th Amendment.

That -- no -- no insane person gives that speech. That was a great speech. But my one worry about President Trump, if I was his political adviser, I would say, you give -- he does some great stuff. And most of his best speeches are economic speeches. And you have so many skills.

Did you just pollute the water so much with so many people that you can't like get back in their good graces? Did all the tweeting, errant tweeting just hurt him so much with people?

CAVUTO: Well, we won't know that for a while.


CAVUTO: But, Gary, one thing that the president can use in his events, well, if I'm crazy, it's the kind of crazy markets and these records that a lot of people seem to be relishing.

If I'm crazy, then the world is crazily going along with this run-up in paper wealth that not only we have seen here, but spurred similar run-ups across the globe.

He doesn't have to do that, of course. And it's always risky assigning the president and giving him the credit for something exclusively like that, because when the markets go down, he will have to take the blame as well.

But he seems to be preaching to a choir that could say look, you know, truth be told, this has been a crazy, but a very real run-up. And if that's crazy, we welcome it.

GARY KALTBAUM, KALTBAUM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Well, I'm sitting here, and I'm watching and listening to him.

And all I'm thinking about, why isn't he doing this every day, talking about the numbers and the facts?


KALTBAUM: After the close today, Visa is adding to their retirement plans a heck of a lot of money for their employees, just in addition to the billion dollars that is in bonuses, the wages going up, the investments.

He has all the ammo going forward to get popularity up, but he keeps undercutting himself with the tweets and answering the nuts -- I call them the nuts because they're using this verbiage that they shouldn't be using with dementia and Alzheimer's and this and that.

Do more of this, less of that, and watch what happens.

FRATES: Absolutely.

KALTBAUM: This was a great speech, and the more the better.

CAVUTO: Katie, what do you think of that?

FRATES: I think he's absolutely right. Less of the tweeting. More focusing on this, hard numbers, achievement, success, rural America. And he is going to be flying high for a while.

GASPARINO: It's not even just rural America.

KALTBAUM: It's everywhere.

GASPARINO: There are certain facts here that -- yes, that is undeniable.

The Trump -- the economy was supposed -- this is the thing that blows me away. Economic cycles last seven years, even though it was a weak recovery. The markets were due for a construction, no doubt. I'm not saying a crash, a correction.

Yet they extended the gains. Markets went to 25000, pricing in more economic growth. And you see some better economic numbers. That is a major, major achievement. And most of it is because of him and what he's done.

Yet we never hear from it. I know we hear more about sloppy Steve Bannon than these numbers. And I'm telling you...

KALTBAUM: Exactly.

GASPARINO: ... it makes no sense.

CAVUTO: I did talk a little bit -- and, Madison, maybe you can give me your thoughts on this -- with Ed Rollins of Ronald Reagan fame, of course, a big strategist for him, who said that Reagan was famous for just having a sense of humor and letting all of the criticism slide, even though he might personally bristle at some of it.

Would the president be wise to do that? Because he is the one in the driver's seat in this economy and these markets, whether you want to exclusively credit him or not, but just to accentuate the positive and let -- and don't punch down on the negative.

GESIOTTO: I understand what people say repeatedly about his tweeting.

But, at the same time, I think he needs to continue to tweet. And one of the reasons why is this. If he was putting out only his economic numbers, there's going to be a lot of young people, specifically millennials, that aren't going to really care or pay attention to that.


CAVUTO: Well, that's your generation. They have an attention problem. Yes.

GESIOTTO: What brings a lot of people to his Twitter page is some of the other stuff that he is tweeting.

GASPARINO: Oh, it's hurt him. It's hurt him.

GESIOTTO: And then, incidentally, they see these other numbers that he tweets about.


GASPARINO: It's hurt him.


GESIOTTO: I don't think it's hurting him.

And if you want to say -- if people want to say he's insane, that's the type of insane I want to see in the White House, because it's working.

GASPARINO: No, no, it's not working. I mean, here's the thing.


GESIOTTO: It is working.

GASPARINO: Oh, yes? Then why is his approval numbers, as the economy is growing, so lousy? That means it's not working.

GESIOTTO: No, what he's doing is helping American people. And that's what I want to see.


CAVUTO: Charlie, you want to see more of this, right, what we just heard.

GASPARINO: I would love to see this.

By the way, you could tweet stuff like this out. It's the other nonsensical stuff.


CAVUTO: All right, so you want to see more of this.

GESIOTTO: I want to see both.

CAVUTO: Gary, you want to see more of this, right?

GASPARINO: It's stupid if he does both.

KALTBAUM: Look, look, listen, he does have to answer some of the nonsense.

CAVUTO: All right.


KALTBAUM: But he should not be answering the nonsense 24/7. This should be the 24/7.

GESIOTTO: He doesn't answer it 24/7.

FRATES: He also shouldn't answer nonsense with nonsense.

CAVUTO: I so wish we had more time. I'm so happy we do not.


CAVUTO: I want to thank you all.

The markets were down today, the first down day we have had this year. But the markets are up on the week and the month and so far this young year. So, he's doing something right.

We will see you tomorrow.

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