Has America Become 'Lazy'?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have been a little lazy I think over the last couple of decades. We have kind of taken it for granted, well, people will want to come here, and we aren't out there hungry selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.

JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president was making the case that it is time for the United States and our foreign policy to focus on the Asia Pacific region.

We need to redouble our efforts to be engaged in the region. This is certainly true economically and also important strategically as well. And that is the case that the president was making.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Answering questions, the president's aides, about the statement, about America being lazy about foreign investment. Back in September, you may remember the president said America is getting soft. "A little soft" he said, is the quote. And went further last month in San Francisco, saying we have lost the ambition, our imagination, our willingness to do the things that built Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam.

We're back with the panel. Juan, is this a trend? Are the critics wrong in criticizing this in bringing this up saying that the president is kind of soft on America?

JUAN WILLIAMS, "THE HILL": I think the critics want to invite the idea that somehow he's not being strongly pro-American, he's not inspiring us and praising us for our strength. But again, I think the idea is most Americans at this point think overwhelmingly the country is heading in the wrong direction. We have to get back on track and have to be more assertive about the benefits of doing business in America, specifically business that we want to attract the best, most growing innovative industries in the world to come here and establish themselves in the United States. I think that is the message.

BAIER: Sam, he has said other things, prodding America's ingenuity, saying don't bet against American workers, don't bet against America, to be fair. But it seems like it is getting a lot of attention.

SAM YOUNGMAN, "THE HILL": It is. This is the president trying to do what he thinks is tough love, trying to light a fire under the backside of Congress to get them moving on these jobs bill. His way of doing it seems sort of like a pep talk at halftime. However, in an election that is going to be bout character, in an election that is going to be very close and very nasty, these kinds of things will come back to hurt him. You remember very well in 2008 when he said Americans are bitter and cling to their guns and to their Bibles. That was something that hurt him with a lot of voters. And the more we hear this, the more it will hurt.

BAIER: Increasingly, Charles, there are Republican candidates on the stump who weave in American exceptionalism in their answers. It seems to try to wedge in between these statements.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: No one is asking him to go out there and be a jingoistic cheerleader. But when you call your own country lazy when you are abroad and call it unambitious and soft when you are home, I think what you are showing is not tough love but ill-concealed contempt. Obama is ready to blame everybody except himself for the lousy economy and the lack of investment.

Why are people reluctant to invest? We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, in the industrialized world. Obama has spoken about it. It's the one issue on which the Republicans would have agreed on lowering that rate, eliminating the loopholes. In three years in office he has done nothing. He has an NLRB trying to shut down $1 billion plant Boeing has constructed as a favor to Obama's union allies. People look abroad and say this isn't a place I want to do business. It's his issues, his overregulation and over-taxation and all the red tape he has added. And now he blames Americans' laziness. I think it's unseemly.

BAIER: Juan, we talked about the Keystone XL pipeline and all of this talk about we can't wait. But the administration can wait on this pipeline. We just learned that TransCanada, the company, says it will plan to move the pipeline out of an environmentally sensitive area in Nebraska and is confident the project will still win approval despite the delay from the U.S. administration. What about that and how it plays internationally and nationally?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think nationally, if they are able to make a case that is out of the environmentally sensitive areas, I think it's a big boost. Remember, you have a Republican governor opposed to this plan. So it's not all together, oh, it's just liberal environmentalists here. But if they are able to make the case, I think again it bolsters support and gives President Obama and his administration a better basis for saying yes, I approve of it and the jobs that come with it. That is the key.

BAIER: So maybe the meeting with Prime Minister Harper had some benefits in this summit?

YOUNGMAN: They are making an offer he can't refuse. At some point, it's like Charles said, he is not going to win on the base. But I think he's done insulting them. So he needs to make sure this is on the clear and free and not another black eye for environmentalists.

BAIER: Charles, I want to ask you about Iran. The president said when he came in to office the world was divided. Now the world is united isolating Iran. He said the U.S. is in a much stronger position than we were two or three years ago on Iran. He said it at a news conference late last night. He did not mention the planned attack that has been tied to Iran of the Saudi ambassador to kill him. What about that statement and where the administration is?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think what you have here is a mistaking ends and means. Obama imagines that you've succeeded in the policy against Iran if you have a strong western united front. But that's only a means to actually achieve a curtailment of the program. He can have as strong a front as he wants, but Iran is closer to a bomb today than he was when he entered office. And what we are going to have under his policy is a very strong united west, and an Iran with nukes.

The objective is stop, slow down the program. And to boast about Iran's isolation when actually the Chinese and Russians stand with Iran and said we won't allow any new sanctions, I think is to entirely misunderstand how much the policy has failed.

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