'This Week' Transcript: GOP Candidate Rick Santorum

PHOTO: Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum on "This Week."

KARL: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: It's a two-man race.

SANTORUM: We did it again.

KARL: Santorum sweeps the South. Can he take the fight to the convention?

SANTORUM: The time is now for conservatives to pull together.

KARL: Can Mitt Romney regain his momentum?

ROMNEY: Senator Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign.

KARL: And how will Republicans reunite after this bruising contest? Questions this morning for our headliner, the man who continues to surprise, Rick Santorum.

Then, the White House on offense.

BIDEN: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, these guys have a fundamentally different economic philosophy than we do.

KARL: And on defense, after a tragedy in Afghanistan.

OBAMA: No one wants it. This is a hard slog. This is hard work.

KARL: That and the rest of this week's politics with our powerhouse roundtable. George Will, Haley Barbour, Bill Burton, Nia-Malika Henderson and David Ignatius.

Good morning, everyone. George Stephanopoulos has a well-deserved morning off.

It's been a wild week on the campaign trail with voters in Alabama and Mississippi giving Rick Santorum's campaign a lifeline. Yet in the all-important delegate race, Mitt Romney still holds a big lead. With 496 delegates, Romney has nearly twice as many as Santorum, and he is almost halfway to the magic number; 1,144 needed to win the nomination.

But our headliner this morning has been on a roll. Former Senator Rick Santorum joins us now. Good morning, Senator.

SANTORUM: Good morning, Jonathan. Good to be with you.

KARL: So, Senator, front page of the New York Times today has a big headline saying Republicans are girding for a fight on the convention floor. You have been saying this for days, saying that basically nobody can really get a majority of the delegates before the convention. Are you saying essentially that your best chance of winning this nomination is a fight on the convention floor?

SANTORUM: Well, we still believe that there are plenty of delegates out there for us to do what we have been doing, which is actually going out there and winning states and winning the tough battles, and doing so over pretty overwhelming odds. If you consider the fact that we're, you know, to deal with Congressman Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich, who is in this race and certainly pulling more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney, and being outspent. You know, here in Illinois, when I was just there yesterday, you know, by 10 to 1, yet we're hanging in there, we're fighting, we're climbing, because we have got the best message, the best contrast with President Obama and the best vision for our country. And I think that's what people are responding to, and I think they're getting tired of the negative ads. They're getting tired of just tearing down the other side, which is what Romney has been doing now for two elections in a row, and really providing no real vision for the country.

KARL: But how likely do you think it is that this is going to come to a battle on the convention floor? As you know, this is something that Romney has said would doom the party's chances against Barack Obama?

SANTORUM: I don't it dooms anybody's chances. Look, this is a primary process where somebody had a huge advantage, huge money advantage, huge advantage of establishment support, and he hasn't been able to close the deal and even come close to closing the deal. That tells you that there's a real flaw there. And the fact that we're able to do this, just by having a, as I said before, a great message, and the American people, Republicans and conservatives, lining up behind us -- enthusiastically doing so -- fighting the establishment, you know, clawing our way, you know, into contention here. It just tells you that people are looking for something different, they are looking for something that they can, you know, go after President Obama and make the contrast.

You know, as I was saying yesterday out on the road in Illinois, I mean, there's just -- there is increasingly -- the more I look at the record of Governor Romney and match it up against Barack Obama, I feel like I'm doing a training run for the general election. The same issues I'm out there campaigning on against Governor Romney are the same issues I'm going to campaign against Barack Obama on, which is, you know, the government overreach in health care, and cap-and-trade, trying to control the manufacturing and energy sector of the economy. And of course, you know, the bailouts. All of these things are -- you know, unfortunately Governor Romney and Barack Obama are in the same place. So that's one of the reasons you are not seeing him close the deal is mandates.

KARL: Are you saying that there's not much difference between Romney and Obama?

SANTORUM: On those issues, there clearly isn't. And as you know, Jonathan, those were the issues that really spurred our victory in 2010 was this idea of government mandates and control of the economy, and you know, the bailouts, and the attempt to try to take over the energy use in our country through cap-and-trade, and of course the successful takeover of the economy, Obamacare. Governor Romney is on the same page as Barack Obama on all of these issues. And that's what, again, you see conservatives all across this country rejecting someone who they don't see a difference between this president. We can't be out there nominating someone who gives away the most important issues that conservatives care about in this election when it comes to the economy.

KARL: You know, Gingrich has suggested, Newt Gingrich has suggested that he's actually helping you out here, that by staying in the race he's making it harder for Romney to get a majority of the delegates. I imaging you don't see it that way, but if this -- you believe this is a two-man race. Is it time for a head-to-head debate, you against Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: I would love to have a head-to-head debate with Governor Romney. The idea, for example, you know, he pushes back and says Romneycare is nothing like Obamacare and he never advocated for it, which of course he did, in op-eds as well as on television programs. And even in the 2008 election, when he got up and was questioned by Fred Thompson in the 2008 election, Governor Romney said mandates, I love mandates. Mandates work, this is what we need to do, we need to force people to buy insurance, and he defended his record in Massachusetts, and in fact argued for exactly what President Obama put in place, was a government-mandated health care program at the federal level.

I would love to be able to get one-on-one with Governor Romney and expose the record that would be the weakest record we could possibly put up against Barack Obama. And that is again, why I believe ultimately, you know, we did very well yesterday in Missouri. I think we're going to do really, really well in Illinois, even though we're, again, you know, we're being outspent, and of course Congressman Gingrich is on the ballot, and certainly the speaker is taking a lot more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney. But still, we're hanging in there because people are seeing, they're coming around to the fact that we can't nominate such a weak candidate in the general election.

KARL: OK, well, I just heard from you a challenge for a head-to-head debate against Mitt Romney, and I will in turn give you an invitation. We can do it right here on This Week. Are you in?

SANTORUM: I accept. I'd love to do it. I -- see if Governor Romney is willing to come out. He's been turning down every single debate. He's hiding behind the billionaires who funding his super PAC and spending outrageous amounts of money, all running negative ads, tearing down the opponent on specious issues, not talking about the issues that people are talking about at their kitchen table. And in fact, a lot of the criticisms that he's leveling against me are things that he himself has done, and in fact far worse, like giving money to Planned Parenthood personally and funding abortion clinics while he was governor of Massachusetts with taxpayer dollars. I mean, this is someone who will say anything to get elected, and I think, again, people are recognizing they want the genuine article.

KARL: OK. So, now, Puerto Rico primary today, you obviously spent some time down there, took some heat for suggesting that if Puerto Rico were to become a state, they would need to have English as the official language. And I want to play something else you said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: They would have to speak English. That would be a requirement. It's a requirement that we put on other states. It is a condition for entering the Union.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So, what did you mean by that? Because as far as I can tell, there's no requirement for official English right now.

SANTORUM: There were requirements -- yes, there were requirements put on other states when they came into the union that English be the principal language and that it be taught and spoken universally in those states. There's several states where, as you know, there were other languages spoken in the Southwest, Oklahoma, Hawaii. And so it was a condition of admission to statehood, and that's simply what I've said. There's only 15 percent, according to the census, are fluent in English in Puerto Rico. And what I have said is that obviously Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking country -- excuse me, a Spanish-speaking island, not a country but a Spanish-speaking island -- and they'll continue to speak Spanish, and of course that's their culture, and they have every right to do so.

But what I have said is that, you know, there should be fluency in English as well as Spanish. And if they want to -- and I think it just makes sense, just like here in this country. I mean, Governor Romney and I have both said that we would like English as the official language of this country. Yet when Governor Romney went to Puerto Rico, he said, oh no, you don't have to speak English if you come -- as a requirement to be a state, yet he wants English to be the official language of this country. This is the hypocrisy of Mitt Romney to go and pander for votes, knowing full well that there's no way he would stand for that if -- as Puerto Rico coming into statehood without having proficiency in English. Yet to get 20 delegates, he's willing to say whatever he needs to say in order to get those votes. And I'm hopeful the people of Puerto Rico will see through the charade of what Governor Romney will do to get votes.

KARL: All right, let's turn to foreign policy. Obviously it's been a rough, rough week in Afghanistan, I mean really a rough couple of months. You have heard Newt Gingrich suggest it's time to get out. What is your sense? Is it time to pull the plug on the war in Afghanistan?

SANTORUM: You know, this is a terrible tragedy. Things that have been occurring, and obviously some of them are just simply that, just simply tragedies of people doing irrational things.

The bigger issue here is the policy of this administration. The policy of this administration does something you simply can't do if you want to win a war, particularly against a guerrilla insurgence force, and that is give them hope that they can survive. And that's what the president has done from day one that he came into office, where he put a timeline for us to leave Afghanistan. Once you give a timeline, you give the enemy an objective to hold on, to bunker down, if you will, and survive whatever onslaught the United States is going to put forth.

And the other problem is, you have all those actors in the region, from Pakistan to the Afghans, who are opposing the Taliban, who realize that the United States isn't going to be there to finish the job, and that they are going to have to deal with the Taliban afterwards. And so you have created an untenable situation.

And so I, you know, in some respects I agree with Congressman Gingrich. If this is the game plan, if the game plan is we're leaving irrespective of whether we're going to succeed or not, then why are we still there? Let's either commit to winning, or let's get out.

KARL: OK, so what does President Santorum do? Do you commit to winning, and what does that take? Or do you say it's time to get out?

SANTORUM: Well, I think if you commit to winning and you change the entire dynamic in the region. You change the dynamic with respect to the Taliban, and you recognize that we're going to stay there and we're going to finish the job.

And by the way, that may not mean the heavy footprint that we have in Afghanistan right now. There may be, as we did when we initially threw the Taliban out, we did so with a few handfuls of troops, I mean, several hundred troops. There's a lot of ways in which we can play and be an effective actor in that country. And certainly I would work with our experts in that area to see what troop op complement we would need, and work with the Afghan government to make sure that we commit to them to be successful, whatever that -- whatever that means, whatever that's necessary to accomplish.

KARL: OK. I want to turn to the economy, give you a chance to respond to something we heard, a pretty extraordinary statement from Mitt Romney about you and about your credentials on the economy. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We're not going to be successful in replacing an economic lightweight if we nominate an economic lightweight. And I'm an economic heavyweight. I know how this economy works. I am going to get it working for the American people because I care about the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: OK, so are you an economic lightweight?

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: When a candidate has to tell you he cares about the American people, that tells you something, number one. You can either demonstrate that or you can try to convince them by telling them that.

I think we -- I don't go around telling people I care about them. I show that I care about them, number one, number two -- by the policies and by what I've done in my political career.

Number two, if Mitt Romney's an economic heavyweight, we're in trouble, because we was 47th out of 50 in job creation in the state of Massachusetts when he was governor. He may have had some success at making money for himself and his partners at Bain Capital, and I give him a lot of credit for doing so, but that's a very different thing than going out and creating an atmosphere for people to create -- that create jobs.

And again, for Mitt Romney to say he's the economic heavyweight -- this is a man who doesn't understand conservative principles. Conservatives don't go out there and say, I'm going to create jobs and I'm going to change the economy, I'm going to manage the economy. Just the opposite. What we believe in is getting government out of the way, creating opportunity, and let the private sector do these things.

This is Mitt Romney again, you know, the CEO trying to go in and manage something. We don't need a manager. We need someone who can go in there and transform Washington and get it out of the hair of people in the private sector, reduce regulation, and cut taxes dramatically. We do. He doesn't. His program is, according to the Wall Street Journal, is weak and timid. Ours is bold. They called our plan supply-side economics for the working man, because we talk about getting jobs for everybody in our economy, getting manufacturing jobs back here, growing the energy sector. I was for growing the energy sector and for harvesting the resources in this ground when Mitt Romney was putting caps on CO2 as governor of Massachusetts, and talking about cap-and-trade and imposing all sorts of government regulations on the energy industry.

KARL: Your stance on pornography has also gotten a lot of attention this week. I want to read something -- this is from your website. You say, "America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography. It causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences." What did you mean by that?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, we do something rather unusual in our campaign. When people write into our campaign and ask for our opinions on issues, we actually respond to them and post them up on the website, and that's what happened here. And someone was asking about the fact that President Obama and his attorney general don't enforce the existing pornography laws. And we wrote back and put it up on our web site saying that we would, of course, as president enforce those laws, because obviously Congress in its wisdom understood that hard-core pornography is very damaging, particularly to young people, and that exposure on the Internet can be very damaging, and of course it's very damaging to a lot of folks who--

KARL: So what do you do about it, though?

SANTORUM: -- are in all sorts of settings (ph). You enforce the law. There are laws against purveying hard-core pornography. And that -- we have attorney generals in the country, at least under the Bush administration, who did prosecute that. And this administration isn't. And I simply said I would follow the law, which I know in the case of Barack Obama can be somewhat of a hefty challenge for him, but we're going to do it as president.

KARL: OK, and finally, I have got to ask you, you've mentioned how liberal you say Mitt Romney is. You, back in 1996, supported Arlen Specter for president. This was a one-issue candidacy. He was a pro-choice candidate. Take a listen to what he said when he announced his campaign for president. You were on the stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA.: I want to take abortion out of politics, and leave moral issues, such as abortion, to the conscience of the individual. That is a matter to be decided by women, not by big government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And take a look. I think we have a screen graph from that. You were there on the stage with him. You were -- you were probably his most -- maybe his most prominent supporter. Why did you support Arlen Specter for president?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, when your colleague is running for office, and you know, I was his colleague in the United States Senate. He asked me to stand with him. That certainly was not one of my prouder moments I look back on. But look, you know, you work together as a team for the state of Pennsylvania. And I felt that Senator Specter had stood up and supported me when I was running in 1994, and I did likewise. I certainly knew that Arlen Specter was going nowhere. I certainly disagreed with a lot of things that he said, and it was something I look back on and wish I hadn't done.

KARL: OK, all right. Two quick ones. One, your top aide, one of your top aides, John Brabender, raised the issue of Seamus the dog, of course the dog that famously rode on the top of Mitt Romney's car. Do you think this is an issue for the campaign?

SANTORUM: By the way, I just want to add that when I was standing up behind Arlen Specter, Mitt Romney was pro-choice. Mitt Romney was giving money to Planned Parenthood and was out there talking, being -- echoing the same themes, by the way, that Arlen Specter was echoing. So if we want to compare folks on issues, Governor Romney was -- I was standing up by the way during that time fighting the partial birth abortion ban act, which by the way Senator Specter supported. And one of the things that to me was a key was for his support for that issue.

As far as Seamus the dog, look, all I would say is, you know, the issues of character are important in this election, and we need to look at all those issues and make a determination as to whether that's the kind of person you want to be president of the United States.

KARL: All right, well, Seamus the dog. I think we'll be hearing more about him going forward. But thank you, Senator Santorum, we appreciate your time.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, Jonathan.

KARL: We turn now to our roundtable. We're joined as always by George Will; columnist David Ignatius; Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter at the Washington Post; former Mississippi governor and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour; and Bill Burton, co-founder of the super PAC Priorities USA, and of course former deputy press secretary for President Obama. George, tell us, are we headed towards a brokered convention or an open, contested convention, whatever you want to call it?

WILL: Probably not. Since the multiplication of primaries in the last 50 years, conventions have stopped being deliberative bodies and have become ratifying bodies, just ratifying what took place elsewhere.

However, both Santorum and Gingrich now say their objective isn't really to win 1,144 delegates, but to stop Romney from doing it. And this week, Newt Gingrich said he wanted to emulate Warren Harding -- talk about defining aspirations down (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

WILL: Harding of course went to the 1920 convention way behind, and then in room 404, the Blackstone Hotel, the original smoke-filled room, he finally wound up winning this. And that's their hope. I think it is unlikely, but it's not impossible.

KARL: And really, I mean, Nia, if you look at the numbers, though, Romney needs to do better than he has been doing to clinch it.

HENDERSON: He does. He has got this big contest coming up on Tuesday. They are sort of saying this is it or bust. The math looks good for him. We've got about two dozen more contests. It looks better for him than it does for Santorum. There are some Southern contests coming up -- Louisiana, West Virginia, Texas is down the line -- so he'll have some wins here, I think, Santorum. He's got some momentum going into this thing, but I think the problem is, it's going to be hard to claim momentum if he keeps coming in second.

Gingrich is going to stay in here. He looks like he is having fun. He was dancing with his wife--

(CROSSTALK)

So he'll stay in this thing. He is in some ways I think Santorum's frenemy. He is in one way his wingman, but his worst nightmare in some ways. But I think he's going to be able to play into this strategy that Santorum's campaign outlined in this memo on Monday that says they're going to stay in this thing and try to deny Romney the nomination.

KARL: Actually, Governor Barbour, I think that Newt Gingrich is right about this, that if he stays in -- if he gets out, not all of his votes suddenly magically go to Rick Santorum. I mean, he's taking votes away from Romney as well.

BARBOUR: I think that's probably right. But look, it's up to the primary voters. Whether or not we have an open convention is up to the primary voters who are left between now and there.

We have had twice -- three times really -- Governor Romney looked like he was poised to begin coalescing, and each time he lost the next week, and now we're at another juncture. But if it is -- if it is a convention where we get there with nobody having the vote, not necessarily all bad. The last time we did it, it was 1976. And after the convention, Gerald Ford made up 30 points against Jimmy Carter, and probably if he hadn't said Poland was out from under the Russian, Soviet domination, he probably would have won that election. So a contested convention isn't necessarily all bad.

If the incumbent's convention is contested -- and of course that is one of the advantages President Obama has, no nomination contest -- but in 1980, of course, Carter was hurt badly. But it isn't necessarily bad to have a convention, and when the Republican voters decide, then we'll go from there.

KARL: That's interesting, because David, usually what we hear from your colleagues is that this would be doom. I mean, this is another five months of Republican infighting. This would cede ground to President Obama. You know, basically, what Romney said is this plays right into Obama's hands.

IGNATIUS: Well, if Santorum is the come-from-behind kid who just gets stronger and stronger as a candidate -- and he has gotten stronger in these last races -- and that sense of inevitably falls away more and more from Romney, coming into a close convention where the Romney support crumbles even more could make him an even more attractive candidate. He comes out of that convention having won a big one that people didn't expect months ago.

KARL: Bill, you'll sign up for a brokered convention?

BURTON: It's interesting to listen to Mitt Romney on this. He blames other people for reasons that are going to help President Obama. He says you know, if we got this whole way, it's only going to help the president. Mitt Romney's problem is Mitt Romney. And when you listen to him over the course of this week shift his message from anything that a voter might care about to delegate math, you can see why he's having trouble catching on.

If I'm his campaign, I am trying to focus on the economy, trying to focus on issues that actually matter, not going on television day after day talking about the probably of different mathematical scenarios.

KARL: But you also hears -- and this point has been made a lot, I think Governor Barbour has made this point -- that you know, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, that was a brutal, bruising battle that went into June, and last I checked it didn't really hurt you guys, did it?

BURTON: Well, it's hard to say that this campaign is much like that campaign. You had two titans of the Democratic Party duking it out for the nomination, and this time around you've got Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich fighting over whether or not Planned Parenthood should exist, fighting over contraception, duking it out over delegate math. This is a different kind of contest than we had in 2008.

A long primary doesn't necessarily hurt the nominee that emerges, but in this case, I think it's hard to argue that Mitt Romney is stronger as a result of a long, extended fight.

KARL: Go ahead, Governor.

BARBOUR: I don't think anybody in their right mind thinks that this way the primaries have played out has been good for the Republican chances. But what to me is remarkable is it hasn't helped Obama much. Look at the polling. A lot of people in America have made up their mind about Barack Obama. He's got 41 percent job approval, he's got 43 percent job approval. If this Republican nick-nick-nick-nick kind of primary is really hurting, he ought to be soaring. Well, he's not soaring. And it's because the American people know that this is a referendum on Barack Obama's policies and the results of those policies.

BURTON: Well, Governor, I'm sure the people would love for this to -- on the Republican side -- would love to just see this as a referendum as opposed to a choice between the president and whomever the Republican nominee is going to be. But let's just take one state for example, Michigan. Michigan, you had a real knockdown, drawn-out fight between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, and the result is that Mitt Romney is down 18 points to President Obama as a result of that primary in that state.

KARL: It's early, George.

WILL: It is early. I want to go back to the problem of the convention. One thing that would be very bad is to have a repeat of 1952. Eisenhower and Taft in a tight race. Eisenhower wins on the first ballot, because he wins delegate challenges about the seating of particular delegations. Florida broke the rules this year by having a winner-take-all primary earlier than the Republican rules allow. If there's a challenge to that, any way the challenge to the seating of particular delegations gets settled is going to embitter someone a lot.

KARL: And there is going to be. There will be a challenge to that. You'll see a challenge in Arizona. You're going to see a challenge to Michigan. You're going to see a big fight over those issues. Can't be all that helpful.

We have got to take a quick break, a lot more to go with our roundtable. After a very tough week in Afghanistan, the calls to leave are growing louder. Is it time?

And handcuffs for a Hollywood icon. Can a protesting actor make a difference?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this your first arrest ever?

GEORGE CLOONEY: It is my first arrest. Thanks for asking. And let's hope it's my last.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And as gas prices become a political football, the late-night comics are having some fun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: A new CBS poll found that 80 percent of Americans say they're not better off than they were four years ago. The other 20 percent own gas stations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, these guys have a fundamentally different economic philosophy than we do.

OBAMA: If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the flat earth society. They would not have believed that the world was round.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: If you give any one of these guys the keys to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class again.

OBAMA: They probably would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who said television won't last. It's a flash in the pan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: All right, welcome back. Television is here to stay, George. So I want to ask you just a couple weeks ago, you wrote that Republicans should essentially throw in the toll on the presidential race, concentrate on the race for the House and the Senate. Does anything that you heard over the last two weeks change your mind about that?

WILL: Well, my position, then as now it was, that there may come a point, I said, when political assets being finite, enthusiasm, time and money, you might want to concentrate on getting all the gavels of the committees on Congress in Republican hands, because Obama can't be beaten by these people. It's not yet time to do that.

But, what Haley said a moment ago, is right, I mean, things are going badly for Republicans. Things are going reasonably well in the economy, at least by the normal metrics, and the president's job approval is going down, driven by gas for Pete's sake, which tells you something about how fragile and brittle his support is out there. So at this point, I would say, no, keep fighting. But prepare to retrench.

KARL: And yet, I mean, you think this should be a high-water mark for the president, the economy is coming back, Republicans, I mean, Haley, it couldn't have much worse a few weeks for Republicans, look at his approval ratings, David, 43 percent in one poll, 41 percent in another this week.

IGNATIUS: His numbers show that he isn't being given credit by the public for big achievements. But we saw this week the president and the vice president beginning a real campaign, to take to the country the idea that they have been effective in dealing with challenges.

They're going to talk as they did in this 17-minute video about the problems that they inherited and the things they have done. We can already seen that this is a president who will run, in part, on the fact that he went after Osama bin Laden and killed him and dealt with national security issue the country cares most about.

So, I think they're revving up. We'll have to see how Obama communicates politically with the country as the campaign really gets started, which is just beginning.

KARL: Governor, what's your take? You heard -- you heard a good sense of where they're going to come at you?

BARBOUR: Well, it -- just from here --

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: You're not a flat earth guy, by the way, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BARBOUR: Just hearing you and David talk, just as a reminder, the American people are being told by the news media, by the liberal media elite, how great the economy is. Well, the economy is not great out in America. Maybe it's gotten a little better. But it kind of reminds me of an old country song from my youth, the lyrics were, "I've been down so long it looks like up to me now."

And if you take in America today, last month, according to the Census Bureau, 58.6 percent of adult Americans had a job. Except for the Obama administration, you have to go back to 1983 to find a time when that small a percentage of Americans were working and 10 percent of them were working part time.

So, yes, we have had some improvements on jobs. Lord, we need a lot more, because the last real recession we had in the 1980s, we were creating jobs at 500,000, 600,000, 700,000 a month and we weren't out bragging about creating jobs at 200 and something thousand a month.

KARL: I mean, Bill, you guys can't run on it's morning in America, right? I mean it's -- people are still hurting.

BURTON: Well, I think the Clint Eastwood ad that it's halftime in America is probably a little more accurate. But if you look at the difference between --

KARL: That did look like a political ad, didn't it?

BURTON: Listen to Karl Rove it certainly was, from Republican Clint Eastwood, by the way.

But if you look at where our country is versus where it was, 3.5 million private sector jobs created over the course of the last couple year, the economy growing instead of contracting, things moving in the right direction, yes, things are getting better, but not at a pace where the president has demonstrated any satisfaction.

I don't think anybody is bragging necessarily that we're where we need to be. I think what you have is a difference between the president saying that we're moving in the right trajectory and the Republicans who are saying we're almost about to fall off a cliff. America is in the -- its darkest moment.

The American people are hopeful and optimistic about where this country is going. And I think that that is ultimately is going to be a big difference in the election and how people see this campaign.

HENDERSON: You do -- I mean, you do see Romney sort of reframing this and Santorum as well, saying the economy is a little getting better.

I think, oh, Romney this week said we are at -- in fact, in recovery, you can imagine that's probably going to be in a campaign ad for Obama at some point. And I think you see Santorum in some ways this can't be a campaign that's all about the economy, it has got to be about social issues. You hear him in that --

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- could lose the edge on economy.

HENDERSON: That's right. That's right. So that's why he's expanding. He's -- apparently wants to talk about pornography in some way, and that certainly, I think, energizes the base. I mean, we talk about whether or not this is going to be damaging now for the Republicans in the fall, but I think one of the things that it's doing, this protracted race, is keeping the base energized.

If they feel like they at least had a shot at this thing with Santorum as a candidate, and in the end, they lost, I've heard from Republicans that that would be essentially satisfying to them. They would feel like they, you know, they had their voices heard.

KARL: Are we going to be fighting this on pornography and contraception and --

(CROSSTALK)

BARBOUR: -- you know, 2010 was the greatest referendum of an incumbent president's policies in decades. And this will be a referendum on his policies, despite the fact that Bill and his friends would like for it to be anything but.

And the big policy right now that people are concerned about is the energy policy, because terrible energy policy for three years has brought about very high gasoline prices and other energy prices.

And the president says correctly, there's no silver bullet.

When you have had three years of terrible policy, designed to drive up the cost of energy, so Americans would use less of it, whether it's the Keystone XL pipeline, the moratorium in the Gulf, the least amount of offshore drilling lands available that we've had in decades, all of those things are going to lead to very high energy prices, which after all, is what the president's Secretary of Energy called for.

He said what we really need in America is to get the price of gasoline up to where it is in Europe. Well, they're halfway there.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: I can promise that we really want the --

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Right now, I've got two different takes in yesterday's papers. "The Wall Street Journal", front page story yesterday, talking about how gas prices are going to be a central issue in the campaign, really responsible for bringing the president's number down.

And yet "New York Times," a story here saying that gas prices, people care about them but they don't swing votes, don't sway votes. What do you say, George?

WILL: Listen, I think it's the -- the twice-weekly reminder at the pump triggers thoughts about the economy generally of the sort that Haley's talking about, the fact that there are fewer Americans working today than were working 11 years ago.

And so I don't think that people take their sense of well-being from the headline metrics about the unemployment rate or job creation. This week we were told by a Nobel prize-winning economist, that at this rate of job creation -- that pleases the administration -- we'll reach something like full employment in 13 years and I think the American people intuit that.

IGNATIUS: You know, the people make their decisions at election time on the margins, they think, are things getting a little bit better? Have they been improving, you know, in this -- in this last six months or a year? And people are likely to feel that. The economy is firming.

Talking to a senior Treasury Department official this year, he said -- this week he said one fascinating thing, is business investment is beginning to grow much faster than the rate of growth of GDP.

And if that happens, then you begin to get an accelerator. And the best issue for the Republicans, certainly for Mitt Romney, which is the ability to manage an economy in freefall better than this administration, begins to be a much worse issue.

BURTON: Well, if I can just make one point on what Governor Barbour was saying on energy prices and oil policy, I mean, the truth of the matter is, this administration has expanded oil production more than we have seen in the last 10 years, quadrupled the number of rigs that are operating in the Gulf off of your state, Governor Barbour.

Dozens of pipelines have been approved and are moving forward. And energy -- so energy production is the highest it's been in this country in a decade.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: And this is not because of the president's policies, right? This is because of shale oil in North Dakota, Ohio --

BURTON: Well, it's in part because of -- when the president could do something, the president did do things to extend domestic production. But the bottom line is that that is not enough.

And everybody at this table knows that the price of oil isn't driven by just what the president can do, there are broader global factors, like demand in Russia and China, that are driving up the price of oil, not whether or not the president is allowing for one pipeline to move forward or not.

KARL: Just one pipeline, Governor?

BARBOUR: Well, look, you made the point, Jonathan, the explosion in production of oil and gas in the United States, is on private lands, paid for by private capital without one dime being contributed toward horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing by the government.

In fact, the president's budget calls for eight federal departments and agencies to regulate hydraulic fracturing. This is in the president's budget, $43 million more money spent by the American taxpayers to regulate what has caused an explosion of natural gas production in the United States and is increasingly helping us with oil production.

KARL: All right, I want to turn to Afghanistan. It does look like this election is going to be largely about the economy, but Afghanistan certainly came back into the pictures this week in a big week -- in a big way. We had a first look at the staff sergeant who went on a massacre there, accused of killing 16 civilians. And then in Afghanistan, you had President Karzai actually calling Americans demons on Friday. Here you have President Obama asking everyone to kind of remain calm, hold the course in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Why do poll numbers indicate people are interested in ending the war in Afghanistan? It's because we have been there for 10 years, and people get weary. And they know friends and neighbors who have lost loved ones as a consequence of war. No one wants war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So, Governor, I'm hearing Republicans getting more and more weary about Afghanistan. We couldn't get a direct answer out of Senator Santorum about -- but he didn't even rule out saying it could be time to come home.

BARBOUR: Well, Jonathan, as you know, when I was thinking about running for president last year, last January, 15 months ago, I said we need to rethink our policy in Afghanistan. In fact, the policy change from the Bush administration's war on terror to nation-building, and it changed without any kind of conversation with the American people. You got 100 or more, about 100 Al Qaida in Afghanistan, reports the CIA. We have 100,000 troops there a year ago. So why? Because we have changed the mission. And when you change the mission, the American people need to have --

KARL: This was General Petraeus' change, this one--

BARBOUR: No, this is what President Obama said was the good war. President Obama said the war in Iraq was the wrong war, and this is the right war. He is the one that, you know, General Petraeus was the general at the time. The president made the decision. As I told you, I (ph) just (ph) happened to be in Afghanistan when the ambassador was against that. But let me just say again, there are a lot of Republicans who were very strongly for Afghanistan if the target was the war on terror, who are very strongly against nation building in a place where that's not going to be done. I mean, ask George Will.

KARL: So time to pull the plug, though, time to pull--

BARBOUR: I said year and a half ago that we need to rethink this. And if we're fighting terrorism over there, why do we need 100,000 troops on the ground when there's 100 terrorists, 100 Al Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan? And there are a lot of Republicans that have expressed that view over the last year and a half.

KARL: And Joe Biden internally.

WILL: In the second decade of what is now much the longest war in our history, it is not surprising that the American people are out of patience. And the events of recent weeks are, in terms of their impact on domestic opinion, a slow-motion cumulative Tet offensive. Now, the Tet offensive in Vietnam was a huge military offense and actually a defeat for the North Vietnamese. Never mind that. It shattered American support, and that's what's happening now. The American people have said, we can't define the mission, no one can tell us what winning would look like. We have had not just mission creep but mission gallop from chasing terrorists to building democracy to then retreating from that. It is time to come home.

KARL: Where are we now? What is the mission now in Afghanistan?

IGNATIUS: I think Governor Barbour and George are right in saying that the president is not communicating to the public a clear strategy for what we're doing over the next two years. We have made a commitment with our NATO allies that we're going to stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. There is a timetable for withdrawal. This is about getting to the exits in an orderly way.

The argument that you would make is that if we pull the plug and rush out, we almost guarantee a civil war returning to Afghanistan; a partition that would be very ragged, and developments that would be contrary to our interest, destabilizing in a part of the world that's very dangerous. So the president somehow has to sell this proposition that we're not fighting for a victory to plant the flag and say we won it; we're fighting for a degree of stability and security in this dangerous place.

And I grant it's going to be hard. And what I really think is if the president is going to make the case, he has do it better and more clearly.

WILL: But a year from now or two years or three years from now, the basic asymmetry will prevail. Which is, we, sooner or later, are coming home, and the Taliban are home.

IGNATIUS: They are home. I mean, I go there pretty often, and I what hear every time I go is that the Taliban remain unpopular. These are not liberation fighters that the country is screaming --

KARL: President Karzai said there are two demons. He was referring to the Taliban and the Americans.

IGNATIUS: I guess the thing that is most troubling is that our client in Afghanistan, President Karzai, is extremely unreliable, and I think that's the thing that our commanders -- I feel so sorry for our ambassador, Ryan Crocker, great ambassador, our commander General John Allen, struggling to deal with this Karzai government that one day says goes back to your bases, the next day -- it's a difficult situation.

What we have seen in the past is that Karzai kind of comes back, and then you get a collaboration. If there's no cooperation between U.S. and Afghan forces so there can be a transition to Afghan control next year, there is no policy.

HENDERSON: What you don't see is Republicans really I think stepping into this gap, and until this muddled message in many ways that Obama has. I think if you listen to Santorum's comments this morning, he seems to either want to stay or want to win. And that's in some ways what you've heard from Romney as well. He gave a speech in October 2011 at the Citadel where he essentially said he would listen to the generals, where he thinks pullout should be closer to December 2011 rather than -- December 2012 rather than in the fall. But I think also, you don't hear people in these town hall meetings with Republicans bringing this issue up. It has very much receded from the public's mind. I think it comes up. There's only bad news flowing out of this, and I think you have seen a president really been able to I think eat into the franchise that was national security for Republicans. They seem to be very muddled with --

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: He never talks about the Afghanistan, it almost never comes up.

BURTON: Well, this week, I thought you saw the president talk quite a bit about Afghanistan. In defense of the president, when he laid out his strategy on Afghanistan, he said we're going to do three things. We're going to degrade Al Qaida, stop the Taliban's momentum, and strengthen the government security forces in Afghanistan. If you talk -- if you look at the picture of Al Qaida right now, 22 of the top 30 commanders are dead. If you look at the Taliban, their momentum has been stalled. The security obviously still needs to be strengthened there. So I think the president laid out a very clear strategy. Maybe that message doesn't get through every single day.

But the second thing that I will say is that there has been abject incoherence from the Republican side, like Nia was saying. Imagine this race--

KARL: Mitch McConnell supporting the president.

BURTON: Imagine this race if Governor Barbour were in it and a kind of message that he actually had, which was -- which I disagree with obviously -- but was actually a coherent thought about Afghanistan. For Mitt Romney, you get everything from immediate withdrawal to indefinite presence in the country. So I think that Mitt Romney has left been left woefully unprepared for a national security debate in the general election.

KARL: OK, very quickly, David, you got a first look at this treasure trove of documents seized in bin Laden's compound. Just quickly, what is the most important thing we're learning from that?

IGNATIUS: This is absolutely fascinating. We learned that bin Laden wanted to kill Obama and has in his mind that Obama's successfully rebranded the war on terror, calling it the war on Al Qaida, and that that was hurting them.

My takeaway was this man brooding in this compound, increasingly felt that Al Qaida had blown it, that it had so alienated itself from Muslims around the world that it should come up with a new name, that the name Al Qaida--

(CROSSTALK)

IGNATIUS: It was a rebranding exercise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It worked for Phillip Morris.

IGNATIUS: So, I think he was a man who, surrounded by the loss of his comrades, increasingly despaired of his mission.

KARL: I want to turn to the other thing that got a lot of attention here this week. That was George Clooney coming, talking on the Hill, going to the White House and of course getting arrested. I caught up with him right after he was released. Here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Do you think you accomplished something by getting arrested here, bringing attention to this?

CLOONEY: I don't, you know, you never know if you're accomplishing anything. All we're trying to do is bring attention to a moment in time that is actually important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So, he was talking obviously about Sudan. He's worried about yet another massacre, ethnic cleansing in Sudan. We haven't heard much out of anybody on this in the political world, certainly not the president, certainly not the Republicans in Congress.

HENDERSON: That's right. And in steps George Clooney, the most handsome man in America, to bring attention to this. You know, this worked in -- you think back to South Africa, that conflict there, and this sort of high-profile protesting and getting arrested really I think changed the tide in terms of the public conversation around the apartheid system there. And that's certainly the strategy there, using here this old-fashioned way of protesting. And then on the other hand, you have this newfangled way of bringing attention to this conflict in Uganda with this Kony video in -- exposing it that way.

KARL: But George Clooney is serious about this stuff. He has been there six times. And this is a legitimate -- this was a big issue for George Bush. It was one actually that President Obama criticized -- then-Senator Obama criticized President Bush for not doing enough on. But it's fallen off the radar.

WILL: I don't -- I don't doubt Clooney's seriousness. I don't doubt the awfulness of what's going on there and in the Congo and elsewhere. But, again, he's talking to a country that's suffering from fatigue of foreign involvement.

BARBOUR: And Jonathan, not just that, David mentioned a powerful word a while ago, talking about Afghanistan and Karzai. He said our client. Americans don't want to fight wars for clients. We fight wars for our interests, but not for clients.

KARL: All right. That's going to have to be the last word. Thank you very much, all of you (ph), for joining us. Join us online for a special Web extra interview with Governor Barbour. We'll talk more about the Republican race for president, and he'll answer questions about those controversial pardons issued after he left office in Mississippi.

Check it out on abcnews.com/thisweek later today. And I'll be back in a moment to answer some of your questions that you had for us this week. But first, we pause to honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Finally today, you have been Facebooking and tweeting us at #askgeorge. And since George is not here today, I'll take a few of your questions.

First up, from Gary Brand, Governor Romney's strength is supposed to his fiscal acumen? What's been spent per Romney vote compared to his competitors?

Well, we did the math and here's what we have, $12.70 per vote for Romney; just $3.01 for Santorum, $4.78 for Gingrich and Ron Paul, $6.33 per vote

And Steve Lalia would like to know, do you tend to gain weight when you're on the campaign trail? Well, I was just in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and ran into this place, where I had some excellent pulled pork, Archibald and Woodrow's, great stuff. But it can definitely be hazardous.

And then, a week earlier in Ohio, at Der Dutchman, look at these doughnuts, I mean, you eat this stuff you're going to gain weight.

And Rick Santorum -- it's not just me -- this photo went out, you probably saw, of him in Puerto Rico, sunning. He said after he saw the photo that he could probably stand to lose 15 to 20 pounds. More questions next week. Send them in at #askgeorge on Facebook or any time at abcnews.com and Yahoo!

That's all for us today. "WORLD NEWS" has David Muir with the latest headlines tonight. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. George Stephanopoulos will be back here next week.

END

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...