Rove: President Obama's Syria speech was 'odd ... gratuitously took a slap at' Bush

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 10, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, Karl Rove joins us. Nice to see you, Karl.


VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Karl, first, your -- your reaction to tonight's speech by the president.

ROVE: Well, let's start by saying the things I liked about it. He gave a concise, direct explanation of why this was in America's security interests and how this was a violation of international norms.

He confronted some questions and concerns that people have, slippery slope, is it going to be better or worse if we do this, is there going to be retaliation. And I thought the most powerful part of his remarks were the sort of compelling description of the horrors of chemical warfare.

But having said that, it was an odd speech. It was a speech in which he basically asked Congress to postpone a vote, that if it were held today or in the next 10 days, he'd lose in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly, in order to pursue a proposal by the Russians, which I think is unlikely to work, but if it does work, it's going to give Russia a boost in the region at the expense of the United States.

And you know, the tone was just -- I mean, it's like he's the only president who cares about peace. He's the only president who cares about avoiding war. And he gratuitously -- and maybe I'm a little sensitive to this, having served in the administration -- took a slap at his predecessor, suggesting that his predecessor had -- and let me quote it specifically -- that his predecessor had sidelined the people's representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

As I remember painfully, there was a use of force resolution passed for Iraq in 2002 and one for Afghanistan in 2001. The only president in the last decade is what his reference was who's not gone to Congress for the use of -- for the authorization for the use of force was President Obama himself when he took action in Libya, didn't go to the United States Congress and get an affirmative action -- affirmative approval of action in the war.

But this is not going to move the ball. At the end of the day, he starts out way behind. I support what he's doing personally, but I don't think he really advanced the cause much.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think it moves the ball, but what I think it does, it put us in endless limbo because I think what it does is in some ways allows the president out of the box that he had somehow -- somehow boxed himself into. Now he can sort of put this on hold on Capitol Hill. That was going to be sort of a trigger that required him to act. Now we're going to have endless discussion on Capitol Hill, and then we're going to have this endless diplomacy with Putin and Assad. Meanwhile, we're going to get all distracted with the continuing resolution that's going to expire at the end of the September, and the debt ceiling.

I think what this does is just put -- sort of sends this one off into space.

ROVE: Yes. Well, I think it does send it off into space. The question is whether it orbits around and comes back. But I think you're right on the point about endless negotiations and discussions with Putin. And we got a taste of that today. Putin says yesterday, you know, We propose the international community take control of these weapons. Today, he says, "Well, there has to be an agreement by the United States in advance to forswear the use of military force."

So this is the kind of endless negotiation we're going to have not about the little details of this, but the big things. Now, remember, we're also leaving out one other member of the Security Council, which is China. And there's no guarantee that we will have China as an active, constructive participant in this process, either.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, the -- just crossing the wires is this information, that there's a French draft of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would give Syria 15 days to make a complete declaration of entire chemical arms program.

So a report, but it doesn't say they're going to do anything except report.

ROVE: Yes. Well, and look, does it take 15 days to give -- you know, to run an inventory of what they've got and share it? No. Look, it's one thing to declare it. The other -- then we have to verify that their declaration is accurate. Maybe they said out of a thousand tons of poison gas that we've gotten, chemical weapons, Oh, well, we gave ten tons of it to Hezbollah for safekeeping. I mean, this is going to be an exhaustive process to confirm that whatever initial declaration they have is accurate.

And then we're going to have to have an agreement on how those -- how those material gets secured, how the facilities get mothballs, how the facilities get monitored and how the weapons get guarded. And this is not an easy process to be done. I sort of like the French saying 15 days to get a declaration. I'd it to say, you know, 24 hours, 48 hours to get a declaration. But it's a sign of how long and complicated this could be.

VAN SUSTEREN: When I look at these things, I always think, What is my opponent thinking or how is my opponent look at it? And I'm trying to think, if I were President Assad tonight, listening to this speech -- so let me ask you, if you were President Assad tonight, listening to this speech, what would you be thinking?

ROVE: I'd say, You know, it was a smart move, and Putin may be right. I mean, look, my view is Putin says -- Putin -- or the Russians are saying to the Syrians, Look, you don't need these weapons to stay in power. They've had a deterrent value until now, but now you've gotten yourself in trouble with the international community. You don't need them.

So why don't we get involved in a process where we talk about giving them up? You've denied you have them. So keep denying that you have them, but we'll start this discussion about putting them under international control.

In the meantime, we're happy to sell you whatever weapons you need in order to stay in power, which are, you know, AK-47s and lots of bullets and tank shells and artillery shells, mortar shells, grenades, and so forth, plastic cuffs to put all your prisoners in. We're happy to sell you all that stuff.

So I -- you know, if I'm Assad, I look at this and say, you know, the Russians were right. We can buy some time. And the president of the United States knows that he can't get approval from at least one house of his Congress, and that's why he's doing it. He's doing it out of weakness.