Why Is Left Silent on Obama's Gitmo Reversal?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 8, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: You may remember Barack Obama saying this:


PRESIDENT OBAMA: To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend, and that is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists.


O'REILLY: But that was then. This week the president announced that military tribunals will resume and reinforced the fact that the USA has the right to detain Muslim terrorists captured overseas indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay. Now the interesting wrinkle here is that the three most liberal mainstream media outlets -- The New York Times, The Washington Post and MSNBC -- have been largely silent on the reversal.

Joining us now from West Palm Beach, Florida, Fox News analyst Karl Rove. Largely silent. The Wall Street Journal today had an editorial on it but I'm looking in the others and nothing. Why?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Well, I think there are three or four reasons why. The first is, look, if you're on the left of American politics, Obama -- President Obama has given the left so much they don't want to be critical of him.

Second of all, he did this by an executive order. So it doesn't have the force of statute. He could have gone to the Congress and asked for statutory authority to do these things and make the minor modifications he did in the military tribunals, but instead he did it by executive order.

And then, I think the biggest reasons though are twofold. One is he gave a sop to the left by saying that he would submit to the Senate with a thing called Protocol One. This is an amendment to the 1949 Geneva Convention which blurs the line between enemy combatant and unlawful enemy combatant. It was so bad that Reagan kicked it out and it was -- and its action was editorially endorsed by The New York Times and The Washington Post. But, you know, 30 some-odd years later, Obama trying to give himself a little bit of cover.

And the final reason, Bill, is that -- and this probably is the most troubling of all. In a telephone call today with 9/11 families, administration spokesman said that the administration remains wedded to the idea of trying the "worst of the worst" like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

O'REILLY: But that's not going to happen. They can say that but Congress has denied funding for any of that -- a Democratic Congress had passed before the…

ROVE: That's right.

O'REILLY: But look.

ROVE: That's right.

O'REILLY: All of those things may be valid. But President Obama has to know and certainly the left in this country, both the far-left and the moderate left know, that this is a reversal. It's a simple reversal. He's going to…

ROVE: Sure. Absolutely.

O'REILLY: He's going to ramp up the military tribunals. He's going to basically defend the right of the United States to hold these people indefinitely over there and that's exactly what he said he would not do.

ROVE: Well…

O'REILLY: There's no way -- it's almost like read my lips, no new taxes.

ROVE: Yes.

O'REILLY: And then, here come the new taxes. It's the same thing.

ROVE: Yes but you're -- you -- you are making two assumptions. You said ramp up military tribunals. Let's see if he gives the military the financial resources to have the lawyers and the experts…

O'REILLY: But he says he's going to.

ROVE: …to actually ramp those up.

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter.

ROVE: Well…

O'REILLY: Perception is reality.

ROVE: …he says he was going to resume them. He said he was going to resume them.

O'REILLY: Yes, resume them.

ROVE: He didn't say he was going to ramp them up. Right.

O'REILLY: All right.

ROVE: But there's a big difference between saying go, go at whatever slow pace you can go and by God get this thing done.

O'REILLY: But there isn't a big difference in the court of public opinion, Mr. Rove. It looks like a severe flip-flop. That's what it looks like to everybody.

ROVE: Look. It – it, look, it'll look like a severe flip-flop if he actually goes through and does it. And it would be an even -- it would be an even better flip-flop. Frankly, I welcome this flip-flop.

O'REILLY: Well, most of us…

ROVE: The security of the United States would welcome it.

O'REILLY: …most of those who want quick justice, swift justice do welcome it. That's right.

ROVE: Right. And look, he's ran into the reality. The reality is that you have to deal with these people as we've dealt with them since the beginning of the republic through military tribunals and not through the civilian court systems. Civilian courts are not met, not designed, were never intended to be used to take care of the kind of people we're talking about here, which are illegal enemy combatants, people picked up on a battlefield. So he's just hit -- he's hit reality. And I welcome his healthy dose of reality. Let's see though how rapidly he goes after these people and if he does ramp it up.

O'REILLY: Now going forward, because we always want to advance these stories. I don't know really what the president is going to run on. I mean, we all agree that the left-wing, the far left as disenchanted as some of them maybe, and Matt Damon, I don't know if you know the actor Matt Damon, do you know him? He actually turned on Obama…

ROVE: I don't know him personally but I have seen him in a couple of good movies.

O'REILLY: Right.

ROVE: Yes.

O'REILLY: So we all -- we all think they will vote for President Obama no matter what he does. That's these committed liberals, uber-liberals, you know, they may not like him or they may be disappointed and they're going to vote for him. So then he goes into the campaign, because he's -- President Obama is really in the campaign mode now, would you agree with that? You can see a different shift of tone.

ROVE: Oh, absolutely.

O'REILLY: He's campaigning for the presidency now. He goes into the campaign, he says, listen, you know the talk radio, the right-wingers they say I'm a radical guy and I'm a radical socialist, but I'm really not. I wonder if he'll use Guantanamo Bay. I wonder if he'll use these things where he's contradicting himself as campaign issues to persuade the independents that he's really not the far-left guy.

ROVE: Yes. I doubt it. I think he's going to try and fight it more out on the question of jobs, the economy, spending and deficit. I think the White House is infatuated with these things like they said. We are meeting the Republicans in the House halfway on spending. There's $57 billion difference between the two. They offer $6.5 billion in spending cuts and that's meeting people halfway? I mean, you know, but no, I don't think he's going to want to do that. I think he's going to want to keep it on the firmer ground for him of the domestic front because, look, the more he talks about things like this, the more it brings up, look, he's executed the Bush policy in Iraq. He has taken the Bush surge in Iraq and applied it to Afghanistan. I mean, he is continuing the administration's -- the previous administration's policy in the Persian Gulf by helping to add -- aid our allies there.

O'REILLY: Well, you would -- the rendition, Patriot Act, all of the things that the Bush administration put into place to protect us, he hasn't knocked any of them out. And now Guantanamo Bay is here for the foreseeable future. You may be right that these issues aren't going to be paramount, that it will be all about the economy and that, you know, looking to the future and winning the future, whatever, maybe. But I still think that the perception is that, you know, he's now a politician. He's now a politician.

ROVE: Well you -- no, no. Look. Wait a minute, you asked me did I think he would emphasize these. I don't think he'll emphasize them. But do we think now that the American people think he's a flip-flopper? You bet so.

O'REILLY: All right.

ROVE: And when he tries to run the game of being a centrist in the next election, we're not going to listen to him as closely as we did and believe him as we did in the last election.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Rove, thanks very much.

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