This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 30, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK PERRY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a former Air Force pilot, I had the great privilege to fly attack airlifters around the globe from 1972-1977. I know the credo of survivors of war that only the heroes are the ones who never make it home.
MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a conservative businessman. I spent most of my life outside politics dealing with real problems and the real economy. Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: All right, two of the top GOP contenders speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, one coming in as a veteran and somebody who is a currently serving governor and the other as someone who says, I'm a businessman, I'm a conservative from the outside. Only I can turn things around.
Charles, what do you think of the speeches?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: These are the early small darts. These are the little pin pricks, Perry on the theme that I served, Romney on the theme that I'm a businessman, he is a politician. So that is one line of attack. I mean it's not a major attack.
And I find what was interesting in the two speeches was how un-isolationist each was. There had been a hint of that in the debates, early debates. People were critical of the wars in Afghanistan, somewhat obliquely, and a lot on Libya. And yet, here, Perry spoke about he defended America unilateralism and preemptive war, which you would think after the Bush administration would be unpopular, but he didn't hesitate in doing that.
And Romney did something unusual in his speech, which was also a tough speech - aggressive speech. He actually mentioned American strength having accomplished stuff in the past, defeating the Soviet Union, et cetera. But he included in the list getting Saddam out of a spider hole, which is a reference to the Iraq war, which is extremely rare in political discourse unless you are attacking the Iraq war.
So I thought it showed that any isolationist strains they're going to leave to Ron Paul and to Dennis Kucinich, and the major candidates understand that if they are going to draw a distinction between them and Obama, it would have to be on that. And I think the relative success, the early success in the Libyan war probably made isolationism or retreat not a big theme for Republicans.
BREAM: Kirsten, what did you make of what we did hear from them on these bits of foreign policy?
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I guess, ya know, I was surprised, actually, at how to me it came off as chest beating to a certain extent. In the current climate and how badly the wars really have gone and how expensive they've been, it was somewhat surprising to me. I guess it's popular with the Republican base. It's not something I think that would be popular in the general election. And I would suspect that if one of them becomes a candidate they will be some walking back on that a little bit.
BREAM: And I want to look at the most recent polling that we have as well. These are the newest polls out from CNN. And basically they are looking at Republicans and Republican leaning independents all across the country about who they would prefer at this point. Rick Perry just a few weeks in this race jumps out to 27 percent to Romney's 14 percent. Today, Romney, ya know, he had to go on to home turf for Perry and Texas and make this speech.
But is it time now, Steve, to whittle this down to two? What about Bachmann, Cain, Paul, still many others who say, hey, I'm running, too?
HAYES: I think you're moving actually very quickly to a two person race. I think -- if we're not at that point it's likely that we will be soon. And the other announcement today that was interesting on the political side of things was that Mitt Romney is now going to Jim DeMint's confab in South Carolina next week. I think that's a significant announcement. It had been the Romney -- basically the Romney strategy to lay low, to avoid attacks, to avoid engaging and to let the others in the Republican field take shots at one another while he focused on President Obama.
While his speech today focused on President Obama, ya know, there was this line about career politicians getting us into this mess that some have read as a jab at Rick Perry. And I think the fact that he is going to South Carolina is an interesting development. People have been saying that Mitt Romney really needed to engage, I think that this may be the beginning of that engagement.
BREAM: A very conservative early primary state, of course. And you mentioned that he talked about the president today. Part of his speech he said, "Have we ever had a president who was so eager to address the world with an apology on his lips and a doubt in his heart?" Charles, is it time for him to spend more time focused on the president than it is Perry for now?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I think both in the general and in the Republican campaign, that line is going to succeed. I think one of the things that the president has done when he -- especially when he goes abroad and apologizes for America, it's extremely unpopular.
And look in relation to what we spoke about earlier about Guantanamo. He went abroad and attacked and denounced Guantanamo as a stain on America. And yet he, himself, has kept it open. So it isn't exactly consistent, and I think it's a line of attack that Republicans can easily use on the president and ought to use on the president.
BREAM: And Kirsten, quickly, anything that the next tier down of candidates can do to pull themselves back up into this fight?
POWERS: Only if somebody stumbles. Only if Rick Perry stumbles. I think that that's the main thing that people are hoping will happen. But he's kind of got it all and Romney is the presumptive, ya know, frontrunner from before. And, ya know, I think Steve's right, it really is the two of them battling it out.
BREAM: Alright, panel, thanks very much. That's it for the panel. Stay tuned, though. There are some new clues about where Muammar Qaddafi may be hiding out. The latest on that next.
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