Foreign Powers Testing Obama?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," November 23, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST OF “HANNITY”: All right. It was October 2008 when Barack Obama's running mate then Senator Joe Biden made the ominous prediction that the world would, quote, "test Barack Obama" if he were elected president. Remember this?


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Remember I said it standing here. If you don't remember anything else I say. Watch, we're going to have an international crisis.  A generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.


HANNITY: Well, at 3:55 a.m. this morning the president awoke to that crisis. And tonight at least two South Korean marines are dead after the North fired on a small island to the west of the peninsula. Now dozens of civilians were also wounded in this attack.

The White House has strongly condemned what it called, quote, "belligerent actions by the North." Still the administration has refused to characterize attack as an act of war. At this hour 30,000 American troops remain stationed in the region and the worst border standoff since the Korean War continues.

But despite all of that, our commander in chief declined to appear before cameras today to make a public statement on the crisis.

But don't worry, maybe he can find time to address this situation tomorrow after he pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

And here to help analyze the administrations response or their lack thereof is the author of Courage and Consequence, which is now available in paperback, the architect Karl Rove.

You put a new chapter in there, too, Mr. Rove. I noticed.


HANNITY: Well, I -- it wasn't a myth to me. No shock, surprises, on this program. But all right, first of all, what is happening? What should the administration's response be here?

The president was saying on his Asian trip we would stand by our allies. How far is he willing to go with 200, you know, bombs bring sent off into South Korea or 200 shells being sent in there?

ROVE: Well, let's put this first of all in the proper frame. North Korea is a dangerous regime. It's got nuclear weapons. It is run by a -- sort of an irrational old style communist regime. And they're in the midst of a succession struggle.

Kim Jong-Il has designated his young son Kim Jong-Un as the new leader. We've had in the last couple of weeks a -- the discovery of a major enrichment facility which shows that the North Koreans have broken every pledge they made to rein in this activity.

And then we had the G-20 had a meeting in Seoul. So we have in Pyongyang in North Korea looking South and seeing all the major industrialized countries meeting in South Korea, sort of herald in the successes in the South Korean democratic capitalist experience.

And they've now, you know, taken a provocative act. And they've done so in order to do what the North Koreans always try and do, which is force direct talks with the United States, gain concessions for the west, and win some measure of respect on the international stage.

So the first thing that we need do is not give them what they want.  So I have to say, I think the president handled it appropriately by not going out and strongly condemning them today. Because in a way that's what the North Koreans want.

They want -- they want -- they want to do a provocative act and then gain the attention of the United States and use it as an excuse to them, engage the United States in a dialogue.

HANNITY: Well -- China is -- by the way, China is appealing for the six-party talks to resume. And look, China, which is buying up all the American debt and America's, you know, treasuries. They are North Korea's sole, major ally. Their only support -- their only economic support, the North is an economic basket case. Kim Jong-Il has visited, what, China twice this year.

What are we to make in China's involvement in all this?

ROVE: Well, look, I think the administration was very smart to go out and immediately say no six-party talks because that's what the North Koreans want.

The question is, are the administration saying to the Chinese -- the pressure point here is China. You're absolutely right. We ought to be saying to China look, this is your friend. You're the only -- this is your puppet. You keep them -- you keep them in line or they're going to be in line.

If they -- and if they get out of line, if the -- if the Korean peninsula falls into war it will be the responsibility of the North Koreans and it will destabilize your economy and hurt you. You're afraid of all those refugees, economic refugees from North Korea, wait until there's a war.

If you allow a war to go forward, because this regime has gotten out of control, then you're going to have a huge price to pay and it will be your responsibility. So we need to be pressuring the Chinese.

Now here's where my problem is with the administration. The weakness of the administration did not invite the North Koreans to make this provocative act. They're fully capable of doing that on their own.

But its taken place in a condition of where the administration is weak. President Obama is weak on the international front. He's not seen as strong. They are not afraid of him. They don't -- they don't fear his determination. It's like -- you know, the actors like the North Koreans, saying look, we can do this and get away with it because we have nothing to fear from Obama.

And the Chinese similarly might be saying to themselves, Obama has been ineffectual in taunting us on our currency, he's been ineffectual on the stimulus program and on climate and all these other things where he's told us to do something that we don't want to do.

And I worry about the Chinese saying you know what? We really don't need to respond to U.S. pressure.

HANNITY: So wait a minute.


HANNITY: So the world is looking at the United States of America and its president as being weak?

ROVE: Absolutely. In fact, look, I put in my book last year at the first G-20 meeting the newly elected president went to. I thought it was astonishing that he went there and said, I want you -- the industrialized countries -- to follow what we've done with our stimulus bill and they all told him to get lost.

They weren't going to do it. And he knew that in advance of going to the meeting. Because these meetings are scripted all in advance. So why go to that meeting and say something that you know is going to be rejected?

And it led some of the foreign leaders to question – there’s a moment right after one of their key meetings when Sarkozy was seen with his aides and overheard by the press saying to his aides, is this man weak?

And of course they've concluded that he was weak.

HANNITY: Yes. All right.

ROVE: And that -- that is a problem for the United States and it's a problem for the world.

HANNITY: Let me -- let me go to politics here for just a second. The president's approval rating now in the 30s. Poll out today looking at potential 2012 contenders against Obama.

You got Governor Palin with 19 percent, Mitt Romney with 18 percent, Mike Huckabee comes in third, I think it was 16 percent. And Newt with 15 percent. Those are the only four in double digits.

I know it's early, but as you assess the field, your thoughts?

ROVE: Yes. Look, first of all, it's -- to me, what's interesting about it there is no -- nobody way out in front. This is going to be the first presidential election that you -- that you and I have seen in modern times in which there's been no clear front runner.

And I frankly think that's good for the Republicans if the contest unrolls in the way that I think it's going to unroll, where all these candidates will be scouring the country for support in 2011. That's going to be good for them to, you know, lay out a narrative why it shouldn't be Obama, why it should be them.

You know to show that they got the leadership, the decision-making, the strength to be the chief executive. Show that they can unify the party.

If these candidates go out and crisscross the country, working on those problems, at the end of the day it could potentially be a strong -- a strengthened Republican Party, increase the registrations, give the country a better sense of what the Republican -- the eventual Republican nominee would do -- he or she -- and make us stronger in the 2012 election.

HANNITY: All right. Is there --

ROVE: But let's not underestimate how tough it's going to be to beat him.

HANNITY: I agree with that. Is there any one person you're favoring and do you think all of them could win?

ROVE: Look, I could make a case for every one of them but I can make a case against every one of them. I'm going to be interested in helping whoever the nominee is at the end of the day. But it's going to be a good contest and I think healthy for the party and the conservatives.

HANNITY: So you won't -- you will not pick anybody for the primary?


HANNITY: All right. Karl Rove, good to see you.

ROVE: I'm going to be -- I'm going to be a commentator and observer, just like Hannity.


HANNITY: I have --

ROVE: Happy Thanksgiving.

HANNITY: I follow the Ronald Reagan model. I'm not picking anybody in the primary.

All right. Karl thanks for being with us.

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