Obama's 'Gates'-way to Disapproval

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Are the American people turned off by the way President Obama handled this controversy? According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, yes, 41 percent of those polled disapproved of the president's handling of the arrest, 29 percent approve, 30 percent don't know. Is this bad news for President Obama?

Joining us live is Dick Morris, author of the book "Catastrophe." Dick, what do you think about those numbers and the way people are responding to this?

DICK MORRIS, DICKMORRIS.COM: Well, I agree with them. Look, I believe, based on what I've heard, that Professor Gates is a brilliant person with a fine academic record and that Sergeant Crowley is a great police officer who performed admirably.

The problem I have is with the president of the United States. This guy who has his finger on the button, who on his judgment can destroy the world simply by pushing a button or flipping a switch, needs to tell the American people about his conduct, not the cop's and the professor's.

How come he went on a national press conference, knowing nothing about the facts, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that cops are stupid, or that the cops behaved stupidly? That is a rush to judgment, a hair- trigger judgment, and I think he's the one that needs to apologize, not these two guys.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I have sort of a three-part analysis of it. In terms of the polling and the number of results, I guess I want to know who was polled and whether this is, you know, down racial lines, whether it's, you know, African-Americans or whites who were polled or a combination. So that would be my first question in terms of analyzing those numbers...

MORRIS: I'm sure it was a national sample. I'm sure it was a full national sample, 12 percent black.

VAN SUSTEREN: And second -- 12 percent black? OK. And in terms of the actual question how he handled it, it's two parts. One is his statement at the press conference, and the second is, having made that statement, you know, are they looking at how -- at what he said at the press conference or having the beer summit? Because at the press conference, I mean, I don't know that isn't 100 percent because I think, intellectually, when you say, I don't know anything about it, and then you take sides, you know, that is -- that's acting stupidly. How he handled it and tried to bring people together, that's a different question.

MORRIS: Well, you got to put the beer summit into its perspective. What he tried to do is to deflect blame from himself so that people wouldn't look at his outrageous conduct but instead would look at whether the professor and the cop could get back together again. And that's fine. Those are two reasonable people. But neither of them is elected to run the country.

The guy who's elected to run the country needs to tell us why, in the space of one hour, he said doctors are thieves, he spoke about a guy who had performed tonsillectomies just to make money, and he said the cops acted stupidly, while first admitting that he didn't know any of the facts. So the whole purpose of the summit was to deflect attention from his misdeeds and reflect it into these two people's possible misdeeds.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do these numbers mean, when take in -- you know, looked at -- looking at other past president and sort of -- you know, I assume that part of the numbers are also reflected by the ongoing controversy about health care reform.


VAN SUSTEREN: But are these -- are these numbers in any way instructive to us?

MORRIS: Well, the number that I think you're talking about is his job approval. That's really the central number for any president. And until his job approval sank to 52 -- Rasmussen now has it at 49, Zogby at 48 -- Gallup and FOX have it higher, but that's because they poll all voters. Rasmussen and Zogby only do likely voters, and that's what's important. But once it drops below 52, which is the vote share that he got, he's shedding real votes, people that voted for him. So when he gets 49 percent approval, it means that at least 3 points of his vote have run out on him. And those, by the way, are the difference between winning and losing. So you bet it's significant.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this sort of the beginning of the end of a honeymoon? I mean, when presidents come into office, they all seem to come in with great fanfare and great numbers, and Ii don't -- you know, I haven't looked at these, tracking them compared to past presidents. But what's your prediction on this?

MORRIS: Well, when you compare them to the 12 post-war presidents' numbers, the lowest of the 12 was Gerald Ford, but he was never elected and he had just pardoned Richard Nixon. The second lowest was Bill Clinton at 41, but he had only gotten 42 percent of the vote on election day. So you know, he wasn't losing any of his voters. He won in a three-way race.

And then the third lowest this Barack Obama. So I think that's pretty significant that his numbers are lower than really anybody at this stage in his presidency, except for those two abnormal situations.

As to whether it's the beginning of a trend, I think the key thing here that's eroding his ratings is health care. Obama has always been more popular than his programs are. But now that he's using his popularity to sell his programs, he's bringing his job approval down. And that's the conundrum that he's in. The more he talks about health care, the more he undermines his approval ratings that are central to passing the bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it seems to me health care, there are two -- two considerations. One is, obviously, the importance of health care to the American people. That -- I mean, that's -- that's one issue. The second is if it doesn't pass, the political impact on this president -- is this something that, you know, three years from now will just be such past history that nobody will remember it, or can this be a rather serious blow?

MORRIS: Yes, no, if he doesn't pass it, it's the turning point, it's the point at which he's starting to go down. And I don't know if he'll ever win anything again after he -- if he fails to get this passed.

But look, the important point about this health care debate is that the elderly, in particular, are beginning to learn what we wrote about in our book "Catastrophe," that this program will deny them needed medical care.

I had an example of that today, Greta. My uncle is battling colon cancer. He's 78 years old. My prayers go out to him. And he's made a decent recovery because he's on a drug called Avastin. Avastin costs $50,000 a year, and they're not allowed to use it in Britain or Canada. My uncle would be dead today if the same scarcity-induced socialized rationing that's been forced in Britain and Canada becomes introduced in the United States. They're just not going to pay $50,000 a year to keep a 78-year-old alive. It isn't worth it from the bureaucrats' perspective. And when Obama talks about cutting the cost of health care, it's decisions like that that he's talking about.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it make such a huge difference that this didn't get pushed before the recess and that, I mean, the fact that all these members of Congress and the Senate are going to back to their districts and they're going to come back in September -- is that -- you know, politically, is that very sort of dangerous to his agenda as to health care?

MORRIS: Yes, you bet it is. The reason he wanted to pass it before the recess was so that he could put it through while his approval ratings were still high. I believe that when you get into September, he's going to find himself in the mid-40s, not in the high 40s around 50. And the more that drops, the worse shape he's in.

The congressmen and the senators will now go back home. And if it was ever important for the elderly in particular to make their feelings known, this is the time because what the elderly have at stake in this fight is whether they're going to have access to quality medical care or not because you can't cover 50 million new people without cutting back on existing coverage. And if you existing coverage, you're going to cut old people because they don't, quote, "deserve it," unquote.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dick, thank you.

MORRIS: Thank you.

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