'Factor' Exclusive: President Obama Talks Afghanistan, National Debt, Civility and Fox News With Bill O'Reilly

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, a "Factor" exclusive. After the live stuff was over, the president and I continued the conversation, beginning with Afghanistan.


O'REILLY: At this point, are you confident that we're going to win in Afghanistan? And can you say to the American people the blood and treasure is worth it, we are going to defeat the Taliban? Can you say that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I can say that we will defeat Al Qaeda and that the Taliban will not be retaking Afghanistan.

O'REILLY: You can say that with surety?

OBAMA: Well, look, the -- I can't say anything with -- with 100 percent certainty. But I have confidence that our troops have done an incredible amount of work, that they are now on the offensive rather than being on the defensive, and we're starting to transition so that Afghan security forces can start taking over.

The Taliban are still going to be an element in Afghanistan. But what we've said to them and what we'll say to I think everybody in the region is as long as you respect the Afghan constitution, as long as you lay down arms and are not involved in the violent overthrow of the government, then those of you that want to participate in the political process, you should.

O'REILLY: OK. So it would be good to get them in. Karzai is a problem. I mean, Karzai you know, the people of Afghanistan do not respect that man. We're backing another guy like we backed Mubarak, another guy who is very troubling.

OBAMA: Well, look, I think that Karzai has a very tough task in building a country…


O'REILLY: Yes, but he…

OBAMA: …the third -- the third poorest in the world that has never had a strong tradition of central government. It doesn't have a civil service, 70 percent illiteracy. So he's got challenges. Now, what I've also said to him is you've got to improve governance.


O'REILLY: And he says -- and he says to you I will do what I want.

OBAMA: Well, no -- I don't think he says he will do what he wants. What he'll often say is it is that this is hard and it takes time. And what I'll -- and what I have to say to him is that the American people have made a big investment here, and you don't have…


O'REILLY: So you trust this guy and you -- do you trust Karzai?

OBAMA: You know, I would say that I trust that he cares about his country and he cares about the relationship with the United States. But I do think that he has got some -- some big changes that he's got to make in his government to be legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people over the long term.

O'REILLY: At the end of the year, we'll have almost all of our troops out of Iraq.


O'REILLY: OK, guess who shows up a couple weeks ago? This Sadr, this thug.


O'REILLY: The Iranian guy, all right? He comes back. It looks to me like Iran is waiting for us to leave and is then going to try to dominate Iraq. Do you see it that way?

OBAMA: No, I don't. If -- if you look at what the government formation process has been, first of all you've got a democracy that's up and running. You've got a lot of squabbling between all the factions in Iraq just like you've got squabbling here in the United States, but they haven't resorted to arms. The Sadrists got -- I think like the tourism ministry and a couple of other -- you know they wanted defense, they want all the -- the big fancy stuff…


O'REILLY: Yes, they've got a lot of bombs. What I'm worried about is that Iran, a more powerful nation than Iraq…


OBAMA: Right.

O'REILLY: …starts to just foment turmoil throughout Iraq and so they can have the sphere of influence there. I think people are worried about that.


OBAMA: Well, Iran is a big neighbor of Iraq and those two countries will have a relationship. But Iraq, I'm confident, is going to be able to maintain its independence and it maintain a strong partnership with the United States.

O'REILLY: I think -- I'm worried about that. All right.


OBAMA: Oh I worry about everything, Bill.

O'REILLY: Two more questions.


O'REILLY: One is a criticism and one is a compliment. The criticism comes at the State of the Union address. I did not see urgency from you about the $14-plus trillion debt. I saw a little -- you know, we'll freeze this, we'll freeze that. I didn't see the urgency here. Almost every economist I talk to says if the United States continues to rack up debt the way we're racking it up, our dollar is going to collapse and everybody is going to be down the drain. Why didn't I see more urgency from you?

OBAMA: Well, look Bill, I think there was enormous urgency.

O'REILLY: Did you really?

OBAMA: Look, -- look at what we're doing. We're cutting $400 billion. We're proposing to cut $400 billion of spending over five years.

O'REILLY: GOP wants triple that.


OBAMA: While -- no but -- but -- understand that by doing that we will get domestic spending to the lowest level as a share of GDP since Eisenhower. That means we'll be spending less in terms of discretionary spending. We'll be spending less than we did under Reagan.


O'REILLY: But that's a little bit slight of hand because…


OBAMA: No, it's not, Bill.

O'REILLY: …because there is so many entitlements in the defense and stuff like that.


OBAMA: Well, and we're making cuts in defense. Now, here is what you're -- here is what you're absolutely right about. The long-term problem is entitlements.


OBAMA: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. And what I have said to Republicans is I want to work with you to figure out how we cut spending on that.

O'REILLY: Let's see if those pinheads can come up with something.


OBAMA: We are not going to be able to do it. One -- one side is not going to be able to get it done…


O'REILLY: Right.

OBAMA: …because it requires tough choices.

O'REILLY: As an American, I -- I'm tremendously worried about that.

OBAMA: But I -- I am worried about -- so am I.

O'REILLY: You've got to put the brakes on that.


O'REILLY: OK, next on the rundown, the rest of that exclusive interview. Does the President really feel that Fox News is unfair and unbalanced? We pose that question after these messages.


O'REILLY: Continuing now with our exclusive presidential interview. After the live chat before the Super Bowl we taped about 10 minutes more with Mr. Obama. In this segment, civility kicks it off.


O'REILLY: I thought you gave a great speech in Arizona.


OBAMA: Thank you.

O'REILLY: On the civility factor.

OBAMA: I appreciate that.

O'REILLY: But I don't think that people have -- are going to respond to it. I think that the civility in the media and in politics is going to go downhill, continue to go downhill.

OBAMA: Why is it do you think?

O'REILLY: It's because, there is just a -- such division between conservatives and liberals and there's a lot of money to be made, a lot of money to be made if you can polarize people in the media and there -- you know, it sounds good. But here's my question. How much damage do you believe the media is doing by participating in this rancor -- and people have accused me of that?

OBAMA: Yes. I don't think it helps. Look…


O'REILLY: But how much damage is it doing to the country?

OBAMA: I think what it does is over the long term, it is making it harder and harder for the sensible center to get together to solve problems, and I think that is damaging. We just talked about spending. We want to cut spending; a lot of Republicans sincerely want to cut spending. In order to do it though everybody is going to have to make compromises because everybody wants to cut what the other guy likes. They don't want to cut what they like, right? And so you've got to make some tough decisions. The only way you make those tough decisions is if you are willing to cut the other side a little bit of slack.

O'REILLY: I know.

OBAMA: And -- and the media, unfortunately, if I have a -- have a -- a nice talk with John McCain and we are agreeing to do something…

O'REILLY: Boring.

OBAMA: Nobody is going to report on that.


O'REILLY: No, but it's more personal. It's personal stuff.

OBAMA: But if -- but if -- but if -- but if there is an argument, then that's what gets reported. And -- and as a consequence, I think a lot of politicians think the way I get on the news is if I insult somebody. And -- and not rewarding politicians for simply insulting the other side but rather rewarding them for coming up with sensible solutions.

O'REILLY: That's a pipe dream. And that's never going to happen. I mean, you know that.

OBAMA: Bill, you can start the trend.

O'REILLY: Yes, I could start the trend. Look, I don't think I'm a personal attack guy. I call it the way I think it should be called.

Last question, then I will let you go. FNC and -- and the Obama administration, Fox News and the Obama administration, a little bit of rocky history.

OBAMA: Right.

O'REILLY: Ok, now, I'm -- I sincerely want to know.


O'REILLY: What -- you said earlier that you watch me and you know what I'm doing.


O'REILLY: What can I do better for the country -- not for you -- I'm not in business to help you, Mr. President, with all due respect. I'm in business to watch out for the folks. But what can I do better? What can FNC do better?

OBAMA: You know, I think -- and I appreciate the opportunity. Here -- here is what I would say, Bill. The most important thing that the news, whether it's Fox News or MSNBC or whoever, can do is give people the facts. And make sure that they've got all the facts. So let's take the example of spending. You know, if people know that only 12 percent of the budget is domestic discretionary spending, right? Things like, you know, environmental protection or food safety or etc., and that most of it is either defense, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. So we can't eliminate the deficit just by eliminating foreign aid and earmarks. Then people will have to grapple with some of these tougher issues and that makes it easier for me and Republican leaders to come up with real solutions. So…


O'REILLY: Don't you think we have given the facts at Fox News?


OBAMA: You know, I -- I think if -- I think that what is true of the media generally is that they hear one side's argument or the other side's argument but getting the whole picture so that the people can look at a budget, let's say, and say here is the federal budget and, by the way, a lot of you viewers, you care about Social Security, you -- you want Social Security there, you want Medicare there, but we're going to have to do something on entitlements if we're going to actually fix the problem.


O'REILLY: OK, but -- but you're talking more like a professor than…


OBAMA: No, no, but what I'm saying is that's an example of just the facts without the spin, I think, is something that would be good for everybody.

O'REILLY: I think the hard news guys do that but when you get into the primetime opinion makers…

OBAMA: Right.

O'REILLY: …that -- that's…


OBAMA: But -- but the opinion makers is where I think a lot of the viewership gravitates.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.


O'REILLY: Absolutely. Do you think you are being treated fairly by Fox News now?

OBAMA: I would say that the news guys I think try to do a good job, although, look, let's face it. I mean, Fox News, I think, has a -- has a point of view. There is nothing wrong with that. There -- there is a strong history in America of -- of all news having some sort of point of view. And Fox News has a point of view and I -- and I think that's part of our democracy.

O'REILLY: Do you respect it?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Mr. President, thanks very much.

OBAMA: It's great talking with you. Thanks so much.

O'REILLY: Right. I enjoyed it.


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