'This Week' Transcript: Gov. Rick Perry and Stephen Colbert

PHOTO: Stephen Colbert on "This Week"

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to "This Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): South Carolina scuffle.

ROMNEY: (inaudible), I know it's going to get tough. No one is going to be happy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The candidates go at it.

GINGRICH: His record is so much further to the left than the average voter.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So do their wealthy supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering begins when Mitt Romney came to town.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our exclusive guest this morning, comedian Stephen Colbert.

COLBERT: Nation, I have a major announcement to make.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Launching a mock presidential campaign.

COLBERT: We're going to (inaudible).

STEPHANOPOULOS: To make a serious point about money and politics.

COLBERT: I love my super PAC and I love the money.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Plus, Texas Governor Rick Perry, drawing fire for his attacks on Mitt Romney.

PERRY: Companies like Bain Capital. Vulture capitalism.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is helping President Obama? Can he survive South Carolina?

And our powerhouse roundtable weighs in on all of the week's politics with George Will, Cokie Roberts, Peggy Noonan, Paul Krugman and Jonathan Karl.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. A lot to cover today, as all of the Republican campaigns blanket the state of South Carolina with ads and appearances before what could be the decisive battle of this nomination fight. And their ranks may now include a fake candidate. Stephen Colbert is standing by live for an exclusive interview on what he hopes to achieve with his comic campaign. That's coming right up.

But we begin with Texas Governor Rick Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Perry, thanks for joining us this morning.

PERRY: Good morning, George. How are you?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm doing well. Thank you. Less than a week to go in South Carolina, you're still lagging far behind. To borrow a metaphor from your home state, has South Carolina become your Alamo?

PERRY: I don't think so. But we get out every day and go take our message of job creation, and, you know, we're the most consistent fiscal conservative and social conservative in the race, and that's our message, both on the airwaves and out on the campaign trail. The retail politics in South Carolina has been awesome.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, Governor, that big group of social conservatives meeting in Texas yesterday, decided you're not the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. They want Rick Santorum to have that mantle. You didn't even make the final ballot.

PERRY: Well, that's what they said about Ronald Reagan as well, that, you know, he was unelectable, he was not the one that they wanted to pick. But South Carolina citizens said, you know what, he is. So we'll wait and see Saturday what the people of South Carolina say.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your message this final week?

PERRY: Well, it's all about jobs and getting this country back working again. I'm -- 11 years of executive governing experience that have created a million jobs in my home state, the 13th largest economy in the world. I keep the taxes low, the regulatory climate fair and predictable, a legal system that doesn't allow for oversuing. And in a state that's got quite a military history and a lot of veterans here, I think they're looking for a president who not only has worn the uniform of the country, but also has been the commander in chief of 20,000-plus National Guard troops that have been deployed multiple times. They know my commitment to the men and women of the military, and we'll stand with them and support them over the course of the years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor, as you know, you have taken some heat this week from many Republicans for your attacks on Mitt Romney as a vulture capitalist during his time at Bain Capital. Want to read some of them here. Sean Hannity said, "it almost sounds like Occupy Wall Street." Rudy Giuliani, "it's ignorant and dumb." Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, "it really gives the Democrats a lot of fodder." Any regrets for using that phrase?

PERRY: I think the issue -- it's not a new phrase. It was used by Stewart Stephens (ph), who was one of Mitt Romney's consultants, against Meg Whitman. I think the issue for everyone is, look, this is not something that we knew wasn't coming up. And it's better to be talking about it here in January in South Carolina than it is in September and October with a nominee. So if it's a fatal flaw, then we need to talk about it now.

The issue has been about who's best prepared and who has the background of creating jobs, and that's what those comments were always about, was that, who is the job creator that's on that stage, and I will submit to you that my job creation record is incomparable when it comes to the other candidates on that stage.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't buy Mitt Romney's argument that at Bain he created more than 100,000 jobs?

PERRY: I think, you know, the issue is, what is the total -- it's just like Sarah Palin, when Sarah asked that question, she said, you know, that's really what this issue is all about, not whether or not did the Bain Capital is a job creator or not, but did they really create that many jobs? So, yes, I think the question is out there, and it's a good conversation to have. We're going to get tested by Obama and his group. So, you better have all of these answers done early. No surprises in September and October.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I think what a lot of Republicans are worried about, is they're going to hear that phrase "vulture capitalism" coming out of your mouth, from President Obama and the Democrats in the fall?

PERRY: Well, the issue is about job creation. And as I said, I think if this is a fatal flaw, it needs to be talked about now, rather than in September. So, you know, we're talking about it, and the people of South Carolina will decide whether or not that's a problem or not.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, Governor Perry, what is your plan going forward? If you don't come in first or a close second in South Carolina, is that it for your campaign?

PERRY: Well, we'll make that decision on Saturday. Our intention is to win South Carolina and go forward from there. But to try to plan out your campaign months in advance, I think is a little bit of a stretch.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Perry, thanks very much for your time this morning.

PERRY: So long, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Take care.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And here now for an exclusive interview, the latest candidate. Comedian Stephen Colbert rocked the political world this Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: I'm forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina. I'm doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Colbert, welcome to This Week. Down in South Carolina, your campaign seemed to hit a brick wall right out of the gate--

COLBERT: Excuse me, I don't have a campaign, George. I don't mean to correct you. I have an exploratory campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Exploratory--

COLBERT: Finding out whether there's a hunger for a Stephen Colbert campaign right now. Don't force me into a campaign yet. I realize you're a political operative, but there are stages to this, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in the South Carolina Republican Party. Here's what Matt Moore had to say about it. There's no blank space on voting machines to write-in a candidate. Stephen Colbert has about as much a chance of being elected president in South Carolina as he does of being elected pope. Zero.

COLBERT: First of all, I'm a Roman Catholic and I teach Sunday school. So I'd say, I have a pretty good shot of being pope. A better shot than Matt Moore does, down in South Carolina.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're married, aren't you?

COLBERT: Excuse me?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're married, aren't you?

COLBERT: George, are we going to get into our private lives right now? Are you married?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, I am.

COLBERT: You are, OK.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I'm not going to be pope or a president.

COLBERT: I have an exploratory committee to be pope right now, George. And that's after I have my exploratory committee to be president. But they say I can't get on the ballot in South Carolina? Is that what he's saying?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, no write-in.

COLBERT: They said you can't go to the moon. They said you can't put cheese inside a pizza crust. But NASA did it. They had to, because the cheese kept on floating off in space.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, this is not your first time looking at a presidential run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: I'm doing it, Tim, because I think our country is facing unprecedented challenges in the future, and I think that the junctures that we face, are both critical and unforeseen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Last time, you tried to run, though, as a Democrat. Now you're looking at running as a Republican. Isn't that the biggest flip-flop ever?

COLBERT: No, George, I got burned by the Democratic Party in 2008. I can't go back to even contemplate that. I thought that the Republicans would be more welcoming than the Democrats. But it turns out in America, it's not how many people you have behind you, it's who you know. And if the Republicans are trying to keep me out, if the Republicans will not allow even a write-in candidate in South Carolina, well, that doesn't sound like freedom to me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what does that mean--

COLBERT: Excuse me, George, I was talking.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You finished your point. Let make mine. What does that mean if you do not get the Republican nomination for president, if you choose not to run in South Carolina? Will you run as a third-party candidate?

COLBERT: Well, there are already a couple of third-party candidates out there possibly. Trump is thinking about going third party, Ron Paul might go third party. So I might just leap to like fourth of fifth party.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He all but ruled it out when I talked to him last week.

COLBERT: What?

STEPHANOPOULOS: He all but ruled it out when I talked to him last week.

COLBERT: Who?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ron Paul.

COLBERT: Ron Paul? That's not what he said to me. So I think I might go as a fourth or fifth party candidate, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're open to running through this whole year.

COLBERT: This is an exploratory. When you're exploring, you don't know what you're going to find.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The voting is in six days in South Carolina.

COLBERT: Well, George, I mean, just because something's difficult doesn't mean it shouldn't be worth doing. You know, I'm exploring right now. I'm a one-man Lewis and Clark. And I'm just looking for my Sacagawea.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What will your decision turn on?

COLBERT: Excuse me?

STEPHANOPOULOS: What will your decision turn on?

COLBERT: If there's a hunger for Stephen Colbert out there. That's what we're exploring. Or, George, if I find out in my exploratory phase that one of the other candidates might be better for the United States than a Stephen Colbert. Then I've got 5 percent in South Carolina, and I'm willing to throw my weight behind one of the other candidates. All they have to do is come kiss my ring like they did Donald Trump's. And they can come visit me this week if they want.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're serious about this pope thing. But I want to turn to what your supporters are saying. There's a super PAC supporting you in South Carolina. They released a new ad overnight taking a very tough shot at Mitt Romney.

COLBERT: I have not seen this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mitt Romney really believes...

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Corporations are people, my friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... then Mitt Romney is a serial killer. He's "Mitt the Ripper."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mitt Romney, a serial killer? "Mitt the Ripper"?

COLBERT: That's powerful stuff. That's powerful stuff.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Doesn't that cross the line?

COLBERT: I had nothing to do with that ad. I have no control over that ad. If anything in that ad is inaccurate, if he did not say "corporations are people," and if he did not make his money cutting up...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're calling him a serial killer.

COLBERT: ... corporate -- I am not calling anybody a serial killer. I can't tell Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow what to do. It's not my super PAC, George. It's the super PAC of, and I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly, Jon "Stew-air"? I believe it's a soft "T."

But, listen, if that's not accurate, I hope they take it down. I don't know if Mitt Romney is a serial killer. That's a question he's going to have to answer. But I know one thing, that sounds like it's superstar actor Jon Lithgow voicing that. And he played a serial killer on "Dexter." Two points make a line.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're like Newt Gingrich. If it's untrue, you want it to come down...

(CROSSTALK)

COLBERT: Absolutely. I do not want any untrue ads on the air that could in any way be traced back to me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We've got some questions from viewers on Facebook. Matthew Topper wants to know: "Who will your V.P. be?"

COLBERT: George, see, you're pushing me into being a candidate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Time is running short.

COLBERT: I'm in an exploratory phase right now. I'm still putting together my exploratory committee. And I'm looking -- would you be willing to be on my exploratory committee?

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I cannot be on your exploratory committee, nor would I be willing to...

COLBERT: Why can you not be on my exploratory committee?

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...to run for vice president. But who are you looking at for vice president?

COLBERT: Well, I -- George, I certainly -- I'm looking at myself right now. You know, I read The New York Times last week that there are three Stephen Colberts, one of those two other guys might be a good vice presidential candidate. If I'm running, and I'm not...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have to be born in two different states, according to the Constitution.

COLBERT: Really? Well, I was born in Washington, D.C., which isn't a state at all. So I think I've got it covered all around.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The second question from Facebook comes from Sharon Smith, it reads...

COLBERT: I love that Facebook. That thing is growing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They are. "How does Mrs. Colbert feel about the possibility of having her husband run for president?"

COLBERT: Mrs. Colbert isn't on the exploratory committee. And, I think she's probably going to find out about it by watching the show today.

So, honey, we might be running for president, sorry about that. I should have told you before I came on air.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your guess on how she feels about it?

COLBERT: She would make a fantastic first lady of South Carolina.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Finally, Wanda Renee...

COLBERT: Wanda Renee?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Wanda Renee.

COLBERT: I know Wanda, she's a good woman.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Also on Facebook...

COLBERT: Really? Do you get your questions from anywhere but Facebook?

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, we got a few of them from Facebook, though. "Do you believe the outcome of the 2012 presidential election is based on how much money each candidate can raise?"

COLBERT: No, it's how much speech they can express, because money equals speech. It doesn't matter if the speech comes from money or comes from your mouth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you agree with the Supreme Court?

COLBERT: On almost everything. Money equals speech, therefore, the more money you have the more you can speak. That's just -- that just stands to reason. If corporations are people, corporations should be able to speak. That's why I believe in super PACs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you believe in super PACs. You believe they're full expression of the First Amendment?

COLBERT: Without a doubt, do you not, George? Do you not believe that some -- are you saying...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm asking the questions today, Mr. Colbert.

COLBERT: Well, you answer one of my questions, I'll answer one of yours. Do you believe that corporations are people?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not going to weigh in on that. We're going to have a long campaign here. But I want to know what you think about that.

COLBERT: Really? Corporations are people. You won't weigh in on whether some people are people. That seems kind of racist, George.

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I am going to move on because one of your top supporters...

COLBERT: Really, I bet you will.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of your top supporters got in a little hot water, Jon Stewart, you just called him Jon "Stew-air," he's running now...

COLBERT: Again, I'm not familiar with him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's running your super PAC. But listen to this, what Roger Ailes, the chairman of FOX News, said about him. He said that Stewart "hates conservative views, he hates conservative thoughts, he hates conservative verbiage, he hates conservatives, he's crazy. If it wasn't polarized he couldn't make a living. He makes a living by attacking conservatives and stirring up a liberal base against it."

It's not going to help you all that much in South Carolina to have someone who, according to Roger Ailes, hates conservatives supporting you.

COLBERT: No, Roger is a friend. We hit the steam room together a lot. And I usually do his back. I agree with Roger. I mean, that's why I'm disavowing anything that Jon Stewart does that is not accurate. I believe that Jon Stewart is a loose cannon. I believe that he's a liberal. I believe that he has it in for conservatives.

And that's why I think if any of these ads are inaccurate, if any of these ads cause trouble, that's Jon Stewart actually trying to undermine my exploratory committee, because, again, I don't have a super PAC anymore. That's Jon Stewart's super PAC.

It's one of the reasons why it's so hard to form this exploratory committee, George. I had to give away my super PAC. That is my baby. You know how hard it is to give away your baby?

STEPHANOPOULOS: It hurt.

COLBERT: Now imagine if that baby also had a whole lot of money, how much harder would it make it to give away your baby? Because you might get the baby back, but it may not have the same amount of money when you gave the baby away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm going to try to get serious here. I don't know how much...

COLBERT: Good luck with that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... success I'm going to have here. But what difference do you hope to make with this mock campaign?

COLBERT: It's not a campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This mock exploratory committee.

COLBERT: Exploratory committee. And it is not mock. It is a real exploratory committee. As a matter of fact, I will be the first person to ever actually have committee members on my exploratory committee.

We're going to have someone who's good with explosives. We're going to have a guy who's a mountain climber. And we're going to have a brain in a jar.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you are -- but are you worried about how much money, what money is doing to this political environment?

COLBERT: No. Why would you worry about what money is doing to the political environment? There are $11.2 million in super PAC ads being run in South Carolina. Super PACs are outspending the candidates two to one in South Carolina right now.

That just means, according to Citizens United, there's just more speech than there was before. And I don't know about you, but I believe in the freedom of speech, especially as a member of the press, you should support that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: When is your decision coming?

COLBERT: George, again, I know that it's your job to try to get a story, but I can't tell you what I've found yet because I've just started exploring. You know, did Queen Isabella say, go to America, and then say, have you found anything? Like, I haven't even gotten on the Nina and the Pinta and the Santa Maria yet. Let me go and come back. Let me find the spice routes and then come back, please.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And come back when you find them. Mr. Colbert, thank you very much.

COLBERT: Thank you so much, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, our powerhouse roundtable weighs in on all of the week's politics, Bain Capital, the backlash, and the big debate about free enterprise and fairness.

Why is the Hillary for veep story still going strong?

And his fairy tale season is over now, but what did the frenzy over Tim Tebow tell us about ourselves?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can from whoever you can.

ROMNEY: This president is making the federal government bigger, burdensome, and bloated. I will make the federal government simpler, smaller, and smarter.

OBAMA: We shouldn't weakening oversight and accountability, we should be strengthening oversight and accountability.

ROMNEY: This president has enacted job-killing regulations. I'll eliminate them.

OBAMA: We've always come together through our government to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed.

ROMNEY: Mr. President puts his faith in government, we put our faith in the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: A little preview of what could be the fall campaign, now to talk about it on our roundtable. We got a great roundtable together today. Joining us from the Newseum in Washington, George Will and Cokie Roberts.

Here with us in the studio, Paul Krugman from "The New York Times" and Princeton; Peggy Noonan, "The Wall Street Journal"; ABC's Jon Karl.

And, George, let me begin with you. We want to get into that big debate on free enterprise and fairness coming up. But first, Mitt Romney in South Carolina, polls show a pretty close race, even though social conservatives are now rallying behind Rick Santorum. It seems like Romney is being helped by a split opposition.

GEORGE WILL, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He has. George, the Republicans haven't had a really protracted nominating contest since 1976, when the Reagan-Gerald Ford went all the way to the Kansas City convention.

We have had the two first nominating events in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are swing states. South Carolina is solidly Republican. Rick Perry is a veteran on this, campaigning in a state with 450,000 veterans. Newt Gingrich is from next door in Georgia. Rick Santorum is an evangelical Christian, campaigning now in a state with that 60 percent of the Republican vote.

And still, and still, it looks as though Mitt Romney may survive. And survive, he may even win, win or come in a close second. They go on right away to South -- to Florida, a very expensive state to campaign in. So it's very possible that this whole contest could be over on the 31st day of this month.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That would -- that would be incredible.

And, Jon Karl, you were covering this group of social conservatives who met yesterday, trying to prevent that from happening. They have come behind now, Rick Santorum saying he should be the candidate to take on Mitt Romney.

JONATHAN KARL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but a couple points about that. First of all, it took them three ballots to get there. So it wasn't like Santorum was the overwhelming, immediate favorite here.

And, you know, there's no sign in South Carolina that social conservatives have rallied behind Rick Santorum. It remains a divided field among them, again, working very well for Mitt Romney.

And on George's point about Florida, there have been 400,000 absentee ballots already requested in Florida. Now, what is the one campaign that has an absentee ballot program going on? It's the Mitt Romney campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he could already be putting it away in Florida?

Peggy, you spent some time this week in South Carolina. It seems like you came away with the impression that Romney was going to get it. The question is how much damage he's going to take.

PEGGY NOONAN, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, how much damage under these Bain attacks, how much money is spent by the super PACs and by campaigns to do the Bain attacks.

What struck me that's so interesting about South Carolina, is indeed it is true, the not-Mitts haven't had a chance to come forward because they're broken up. The evangelical vote itself is broken up. The Tea Party vote is broken up. So, the solid vote is the Romney vote. So, he looks like -- he's in a very good position.

The interesting point, also, is the dog that didn't bark -- and that is the assumption on many parts, that the evangelical vote in South Carolina would naturally perforce reject the Mormon candidate, hasn't happened.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly what I wrote in my notes. (Inaudible) to you, Cokie? Surprising?

COKIE ROBERTS, NEWS ANALYST: It is surprising. But keep in mind, Rick Santorum is C catholic. And they're not particularly popular in South Carolina, either.

So, I think that, you know, you've not -- you don't have the obvious person to go to. Newt Gingrich has all of his moral problems. You've got the Mormon, the Catholic and Rick Perry. And his campaign seems dead. So it really is, it's just too -- it's too hard for everybody to come down on the side of one of these conservatives.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, Paul Krugman, I want to bring you in on this, and Peggy mentioned this. Really interesting to see the social conservatives now coming behind Rick Santorum. But you saw the establishment close ranks behind Mitt Romney even more in reaction to these Bain attacks.

PAUL KRUGMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" : Well, it's -- yes, because, look, the rule for the Republican Party these past 30 years has been you use your social conservative issues to rally the base and to win elections. But, ultimately, it's always in the hands of the economic conservatives.

Ultimately, it's always -- you know, whatever they talk about, in fact, the priority after the election is about cutting taxes on rich people.

In 2004, George Bush won reelection by promising to defend the country against gay married terrorists, and then the day after the election, he says now I have a mandate to privatize Social Security. So Mitt Romney is the kind of the guy that the Republican Party establishment has always wanted.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible) next in line, at least.

KRUGMAN: But, you know -- and (inaudible) on these other issues.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead, Cokie.

ROBERTS: Rick Perry was making a good point, though, that -- I mean,. it's obviously in his self-interest to make this point. But to get these attacks out of the way now really does help the Republican Party. Clearly, it would be a huge upset if Romney were not the nominee at this point. And these -- and these -- and this whole line of attack is certain one that the president would use against him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There's no question about that, Cokie, but that's why everybody is shaking their heads -- well, almost everybody. Peggy and Paul both want in. But it does raise an important question. I want to bring in George Will first and then get Peggy and Paul here.

Do these attacks immunize Romney or infect him?

WILL: I think they do both. But they probably, on balance, immunize him more. It's been 70 years, George, since Joseph Schumpeter, a famous Austrian economist then at Harvard, put into our vocabulary the phrase "creative destruction." American people are clear that capitalism destroys jobs on occasion.

Over one 25-year period recently, it was estimated that 15 percent of all American jobs disappear every year to try to create more than that. So it's the adjective. Is it creative destruction? And in this sense, it seems to me, it's much better to have this argument now than in October. And in the South Carolina, it's extremely good for Mitt Romney to be attacked now in the vocabulary of the left.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Paul?

KRUGMAN: Yes, the thing is, we're only immunizing if the thing would go away. This is not like some punitive scandal that, once everybody's heard the story, it stops being a story. The issue about jobs, about economic inequality is going to -- is going to continue to resonate.

So I think it does -- it -- actually, all it does is it gives the Democrats a chance to court Republicans, the same thing they're doing. Plus, you know, we are learning more about Mitt Romney.

This morning's "Washington Post" had a very interesting article about how Bain functioned under Romney, which said basically they were into double-crossing. Not double-crossing the poor workers, but double-crossing their partners in deals.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, the stories on Bain keep coming.

ROBERTS(?): I think there is no inoculating Romney against the Bain attacks. The potential is that they can become exhausted by September, October and November. There's no inoculating. There may be exhausting. But let me tell you what I think the threat of the Bain attacks is.

Romney has been coming forward, identifying himself as a businessman, a job creator, a man who knows how to turn around an economy, and that's a good place to be and Republicans love that person.

However, there's a strong populous streak in the Republican Party, and there's a sense that they don't like these Wall Street sharpies who, in the 1990s and in the '00s, were rapacious, greedy and bad guys. There's a difference between I'm a businessman and oh, my gosh, I was secretly a bad guy. That's the potential harm.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Undoubtedly, but, you know, these attacks have been clumsy. And I am mystified as to why Romney opponents haven't done more to go after his record as governor of Massachusetts.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, they're starting that now. You're seeing that (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're almost over here. You know, the rate of job growth in Massachusetts is six times higher for government jobs than private sector jobs. That's the kind of thing that would resonate. But this documentary that the super PAC for Gingrich has been putting out there, I mean, it's unbelievably bad. I mean, it's wrong on the facts. Three of the people featured --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) been a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but three of the people in this were -- you know, actually got raises under Bain when, you know, when Romney was there. They didn't lose their jobs until Bain sold it to a teachers' union in Canada. I mean, it's been --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If that becomes the answer, that will be a powerful answer. But when you just look at that half-hour, not really knowing that much, it's got power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's got power and they were slow to respond. The Romney people were slow to point out that the thing was riddled with inaccuracies.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) is that people always talk about these business men like they are some big saviors. And they run for governor all the time. They've run for Senate from time to time and gotten elected.

But by and large, we don't elect them. By the time the election day comes along, enough has been said about their businesses that disturbs people, but even more so, their sort of lack of political ability disturbs people. And so you have to be careful about running as a businessman.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that does to a big --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And generally, we don't vote for them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That leads to a big development. The cover of this week's "Economist." It's got Mitt Romney up there, under the headline "America's Next CEO."

Paul, you weighed in on this this week in "The New York Times", saying America is not a corporation.

KRUGMAN: Yes, it's, you know, even if we had Steve Jobs running instead of -- instead of Mitt Romney, you know, or Gordon Gekko, whoever we're getting here, those are not the same skills that are required. It's not the same -- it's not even intellectually the same thing.

The things that you have to run an economy are very, very different from things you have to do to run a corporation. And, you know, the thing about Romney is his opponents don't have to make a case that he was evil. They just have to cast doubt on his case, which is I know how to run this thing because I ran a successful business.

And, of course, you know -- we have a situation which is macroeconomic problems. And macroeconomic problems are almost exactly the kind of thing we're thinking like a corporate leader, is all wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, George Will, did Mitt Romney make a mistake in -- and maybe a mistake akin to what the Obama administration did when they promised 8 million jobs -- 8 percent unemployment coming out of the stimulus by saying that he created more than 100,000 jobs at Bain Capital?

WILL: Well, it invites a lot of bookkeeping as to what the net-net is. How many created and how many destroyed. The fact is, capitalism, in some of its aspects, is a lot like surgery, it's necessary. But you don't want to look at it up close because it's unpleasant.

And I think the American people understand this. George, the part of our society that has seen the most creative destruction is the intensive industry of agriculture. A hundred years ago, 30 percent of the American people were working in agriculture. Today it's less than 2 percent. I don't think the Americans are upset by that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about on the point that Peggy was making, George, do you think, you know, in order to put this election away, Republicans are going to have to really corral at lot of its blue-collar base who aren't in love with Wall Street?

WILL: They're not in love with Wall Street. They're not in love with the professorial president. And it's going to be very hard for them to fall in love with Mitt Romney.

That's why the Republicans, so far, one of the lessons of their campaign is that the enthusiasm and energy they were counting on to drive their campaign throughout 2012, the enthusiasm is not yet there.

ROBERTS: Except that Obama is likely to give it to them. I mean, that is the case. They're expecting Barack Obama to inject the enthusiasm into the Republican base.

NOONAN: One of the great phrases that has been used in defense of venture capitalism and Bain Capital is Schumpeter's "creative destruction." Whenever I hear Republicans say that, I want to say, you know what, America has been looking for five years at a lot of destruction, creative and non-creative.

They're not going to like that defense. They're going to like a defense that says, guess what, I can create jobs, I have a plan. We can move this thing forward. We can save our country. Treatises on the essential nature of capitalism, I think, won't do it for Mr. Romney.

KRUGMAN: Yes. If we just talk substance about that instead of the campaign for a moment, the fact of the matter is that creative destruction is a great thing when the economy is near full employment and when the issue is clearing away the deadwood and getting new companies, we can make that case.

But that's not the world we're living in right now. We're living in a world that is kind of in a low-key version of the Great Depression, an economy with 13 million people out of work, with 4 million people out of work for more than a year.

What you really need, substantively, is you need something that is about creating demand, about expanding employment. We don't want ruthlessness. We don't want -- you know, and particular, we don't want to be slashing government spending while the economy is still deeply depressed.

So if we actually do end up with a President Romney and if he actually does the things that he says he's going to do, then it would be a total disaster.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that is precisely the debate you saw right at the top of this "Roundtable" between the speech that Mitt Romney gave on Tuesday night in New Hampshire, and the one that President Obama gave in Kansas.

President Obama saying you're going to need government to help invest in certain parts of the economy. Mitt Romney's basic point, get government out of the way. And?

ROBERTS: Well, that's going to be the debate of this campaign. That is your bottom line debate that we are having right here in Washington right now in the capital, and the debate that's going to be out there among the American people is the fundamental question on the role of government.

And the Democrats continue to believe that it has more of a role than the Republicans do, particularly in this incarnation. You know, we've seen times when Republicans think that the government should have more of a role but not right now.

And Democrats are also weary about it because of the size of the deficit and the concern among voters about the deficit and the debt. And so, you know, it's going to be a nuanced debate. But still that is the fundamental debate of this...

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: There was an amazing Gallup result about people's concerns. Are they concerned about employment or about the deficit? And it's totally class-linked. High income people worry about deficit. Low income people worry about employment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jon, that means right now both parties have about a third of the electorate locked up, maybe a little bit more on that precise argument. But they're going to be fighting over a sliver in the middle.

KARL: Yes, and, you know, one of Romney's problems during the primaries has been lower income. He has done very well among higher-income Republican voters. But even lower income, the populist Republicans. And this is what Gingrich has been talking.

It's not about using the language of the left. It's about using the language of Republican populism. And Romney has not connected with lower income middle class, working class Republicans.

KRUGMAN: His inability to even pretend to relate to the problems of ordinary people is quite extraordinary. You would think he would...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: When he starts talking about fearing a pink slip, or how he likes to fire people, taken out of context or not, using that phrase, I promise you it will be taken out of context in the fall campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: No question about that. Peggy?

NOONAN: There are some counties in South Carolina that have unemployment higher than 20 percent. Of course, joblessness is a big issue. I don't imagine the 2012 campaign as being a lovely debate between Republicans and Democrats over the size of government. It should be big. It should be small.

The fact is, the American people kind of think that government often gets in the way of growth and gets in the way of job creation. It will be more like that. And if it's like that, the Republicans will have a big leg up.

But mostly people just want to see who can turn this thing around -- this economic thing around.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to switch topics now. We're also seeing this week a lot of fallout by this book about the Obamas by Jodi Kantor at The New York Times. It finally provoked a response from the first lady herself with Gayle King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I guess it's more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here and a strong woman, you know, but that has been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I'm some angry black woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Cokie, the first lady said that she hadn't read the book, but clearly is irritated by what she has read about it in the last couple of days. It does show butting heads at times with the White House staff, and not always happy in the White House. But is the White House overreacting to the book?

ROBERTS: Probably. From what I understand, it's a sympathetic portrayal of the first lady. But, look, as you well know, staffs and first ladies do butt heads. And they have from the beginning. And staffs and candidates' wives butt heads because the candidate's wife or the first lady has only one interest, and that is her husband's back.

And she is trying to do what she can to protect that. And staffs have other agendas. It's also true -- this has been true from first ladies from the beginning. Martha Washington had troubles, you know, with the Congress because she wanted to get revolutionary soldiers their pensions, because she had to been to camp with them throughout those long eight years of the revolution.

She also -- by the way one of the other things that Mrs. Obama is quoted as saying is that she hates living in the White House. Obviously she has tried to get rid of that because the reaction of voters will be, fine, so don't live there anymore, go away.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: George, why don't you weigh in on this.

ROBERTS: But, you know, again, let me just say quickly, Martha Washington also said, I am -- "they call me first lady of the land," she wrote in a letter to a niece, "but I am more the chief state prisoner." Because she was there, stuck in the house in New York.

STEPHANOPOULOS: George?

WILL: George, backwards reels the mind to the 1980s and all of the stories, many of them quite true, about the conflicts between Nancy Reagan and certain members of the president's staff, including his chief of staff, Donald Regan.

Mrs. Obama is black, she is a woman, and if she doesn't get angry on occasion, she is not human. She is human. End of story.

KARL: You know, I have read through the book. And it is a positive portrayal. I mean, sure, there's a few anecdotes. But it's an overwhelming positive portrayal. She comes across very real. I mean, the whole idea that she considered staying in Chicago to let her kids finish school, that's normal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I felt bad for the president when I heard that.

NOONAN: Amen to all that has been said, first lady is a hard job, eventually they all feel like prisoners. They get written about. Everybody also wants to find some tensions between the East Wing and the West. They always find something. Let it go.

KRUGMAN: And what strikes me is how incredibly scandal-free this administration has been. That some harsh words said on a couple of occasions is a scandal? My gosh.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, the talk about a former first lady continues. We get a question on Twitter on this, it came from Jennifer Moore. "I'm wondering if any of your panelists think there is any chance we may see Hillary step in as V.P.?"

Now, George, I'm going to start with you on this. And what I can't figure out is why this conversation continues. I mean, as far as I can tell, it has never been considered in the Oval Office, never been considered by the first lady, never been considered by Vice President Biden. Yet the talk goes on and on and on.

WILL: Well, it goes on and on and on among the professionally talking classes. It makes some sense in this particular, if you laid a maps over the places where the Democrats lost congressional seats in 2010, it would fairly much replicate where Hillary Democrats outpolled Obama Democrats during the 2008 primary.

So, there's a sense in which she could connect with the kind of working-class Democrats who are now Reagan Democrats or now trending to become Republicans. So, it makes it kind of a sense.

But, frankly, George, I have never met -- and now this will make this my eleventh presidential campaign in Washington, I have never met anyone who said they voted for presidential candidate A because of running mate B.

ROBERTS: Well, the only evidence that we have that it ever happened was with Lyndon Johnson in 1960 where he was able to carry Texas and therefore the election.

KARL: There is enough evidence that enough people voted against Sarah Palin.

ROBERTS: But the truth is, the reason that this continues in my view, George, is because we talked about the enthusiasm gap on the Republican side, but there's an enthusiasm gap onthe Democratic side as well. And so there is -- the people who talk about putting Hillary Clinton in, are people who think that will help get voters excited about a Democratic ticket.

KARL: It probably would, right?

NOONAN: No, people think politics is magic, that you can magically remove one person on the ticket, put in somebody else and everything becomes electric and electrified. It's not like that.

The president apparently doesn't want to do this. The vice president. Hillary doesn't. There's no talk anywhere in Washington of seriously doing this. But the campaign strategists on the comment threads of our great nation are all very...

KARL: There you go letting the facts get in the way of a story.

NOON: I didn't mean to.

ROBERTS: One more thing...

KRUGMAN: Everything that I hear, and I talk to people who are pretty seriously involved is that she's a terrific secretary of State. And why would she trade that huge career success for a bucket of orange...

STEPHANOPOLOUS: To be in line to run in 2016 if she chose to?

KARL: There you go, George.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: I'm not making the argument. I do not believe it was going to happen. It just made me think, though, of -- you know, I was talking to Clint Eastwood a few weeks back. It turns out that back in 1988 James Baker actually considered for a nanosecond, replacing -- putting Clint Eastwood on the ticket in '88, but that went away as well.

Finally last night, big football game. Blowout. Tim Tebow's season finally ended. And here's what he had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM TEBOW, DENVER BRONCOS QUARTERBACK: It still wasn't a bad day. It still was a good day, because before the game, I got to spend time with Zach McCloud and make him smile. And overall when you get to do that, it's still a positive and it's still a good day. Sometimes it's just hard to see, but it depends on what lens your looking through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOLOUS: George, that smile and that attitude is somewhat appealing, but how do you explain how Tim Tebow became such a polarizing figure this season?

WILL: That's a good question. Because when Hank Greenberg of the Tigers and Sandy Koufax and Sean Greene of the Dodgers, all three Jewish missed extremely important late-season games because of observance of Yom Kippur, no one said this was exhibitionism and no one complained about it. They thought it was exemplary.

As far as I could tell, in every particular Tim Tebow is an exemplary gentleman. And maybe this is just the democratic small d, democratic nation's itch to level people. It's unattractive the attacks on Tebow from whatever source.

ROBERTS: I just want to say that god, however, is not a broncos fan. I think we just have to make that clear. His team is the Saints. And you know, as the archbishop said when the Saints were named the Saints, Archbishop (inaudible) was asked if that was disrespectful, he said no, but just remember that most saints are martyrs.

NOON: You know, Tebow is just about the most popular sports figure in America right now. He's not controversial, really, not with regular Americans. With folks like us, we talk about the controversy. But this guy is loved. He has come up and across the past few months as a kind of refreshment as an inspiration.

And after all of the terrible scandals in sports and outside the past few six months or the past year, he comes as an antidote and somebody that parents can point out for their children and say, that's a good man. See that man?

KARL: And then when it comes to football, he's controversial. He's decisive even among football analysts, because he's not your typical NFL quarterback. But this guy is good. He already has as many playoff wins as Tony Romo. After 15 games, he has had 15 starts. He already has a better record than Aaron Rodgers had after 15 starts, than Drew Brees, sorry Cokie, had after 15 starts.

He's going to be around. He's going to be a force. And the good personal side to go with it.

KRUGMAN: I have been keeping my commentary Tebow-free. And I'm going to maintain that.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: OK George, we have a little over a minute left. And I don't want to end the program without giving you a chance to weigh in on Steve Colbert. His take on Super PACs. You have been outspoken on the whole issue of Citizens United.

WILL: Well, Stephen Colbert is a better comedian and he's an excellent one than he is a constitutional scholar. And in fact the Supreme Court has held over and over again that money is indispensable for the dissemination of speech, campaign reformers constantly argue that, a, there's too much political speech in this country, b, they know the right amount and, c, they want to criminalize speech in excess of that.

Reformers spend so much of their time, George, regretting their reforms. Super PACs are a consequence of driving money away from candidates, away from campaigns and away from the parties. Do we have too much money in politics? I'm astonished how little money there is in politics considering the stakes of our politics in allocating wealth and opportunity. In about four weeks, George, people will begin doing in America what they do every year, spending about $2 billion on Easter candy. We spend less on politics.

KARL: George, it is distorting the system. Right now, we look at Super PAC money. In South Carolina, the Super PACs are spending twice as much as the campaigns themselves. Basically the campaigns have been outsourced to groups that don't have to play by the same rules that the campaigns have to play by.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: I wished we had more time. But we don't. I hope you guys can continues this online. Thanks a lot to all of you for this great roundtable.

And coming up Ron Paul, a fan of Michael Jackson? John Berman on how taking politicians' words out of context can be dangerous.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOLOUS: We'll be back with John Berman's closeup in a moment after these words from our ABC stations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOLOUS: It is a time-honored tradition in politics: twisting your opponent's words by taking them out of context. And we're seeing it even more than ever this time around.

For John Berman's take on it here's closeup this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: What is Ron Paul's favorite Michael Jackson album?

RON PAUL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dangerous.

BERMAN: What is Newt Gingrich's favorite type of dark meat?

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Elephant. They have 105,000 muscles in their trunk.

BERMAN: OK, neither of those things are true. We took their words out of context. But in politics it's safe to say that out is in.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDNETIAL CANDIDATE: I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

BERMAN: This got a ton of buzz, but Mitt Romney was talking about firing insurance companies not down and out workers.

ROMNEY: In politics, people are going to try and grasp at anything, take it out of context, and make it something it's not.

BERMAN: Sure can. A little like say this ad from Mitt Romney.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.

BERMAN: President Obama wasn't talking about this economy, he wasn't even talking about this decade, he said those words in 2008.

OBAMA: Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy we're going to lose.

BERMAN: Context has played the Romney family for generations.

GEORGE ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: I just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get. When you go over to Vietnam --

BERMAN: In 1967, that derailed George Romney's presidential ambitions because people thought he was talking about some kind of Manchurian candidate brainwashing. He was talking about briefings from our military. He was taken out of context. Howard Dean --

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR, VERMONT: We're going to California, and Texas!

BERMAN: That scream sounded crazy on TV. But the room he was in was really loud. He needed to be heard. He called that --

DEAN: Out of context.

BERMAN: Yes, context might be the most abused substance in politics. But there are three key groups to rehab. Group one, to all the candidates complaining about being taken out of context. Let's give you some context. You're running for president, how is that for context?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't act surprised if people twist your words.

BERMAN: Group two, us, reporters. Good ones, and there are plenty, point out the context.

KARL: It's complete misrepresentation of what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's false.

BERMAN: In group three, you voters, find out the context. Because if you just believe every ad or soundbite, without asking any questions, that would be as Michael Jackson might say, simply -- dangerous

That's my closeup on this week. John Berman, ABC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we'll be right back with answers to some of our questions.

But first, a moment to honor those who served and sacrificed.

This week, the Pentagon released the names of seven soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, today, your voice, This Week. Our look at how the campaign is playing in social media. Huge online interest in Ron Paul. Our partners at Yahoo! News put him on top of their candidate search rankings. Mitt Romney placed second, but he's still golden in ABC's OtusNews.com political stock market. That measures online sentiment, plus ratings from ABC's political experts. Yes, Romney's down 2.6 percent since last week, but he's still the blue-chip choice, highest value of all Republicans.

Rick Santorum has plunged nearly 12 percent. Newt Gingrich down almost 8 percent. The only candidate to pick up steam, Ron Paul. They love him online. He's up 5 percent over last week.

Also we have been asking you to Tweet and Facebook your questions to me at @askGeorge. Ann Tracey posted this question on Facebook -- "I'd be interested to know whether Ron Paul is seriously considering a third-party independent run at the presidency."

I actually asked him that last week at the debate. He didn't rule it out, but he does seem reluctant to a third-party run, in part perhaps because he would like to see his son, Rand Paul, the senator, run for the Republican nomination in 2016.

And Jason Miller had some kind words on last week's program. "Great show today. When did Jake Tapper get so funny?" I'm glad you noticed. He's actually a really funny guy. He has to stay pretty buttoned-up for his day job, but he showed a little personality on This Week. You can also follow him on Twitter and you'll see that sense of humor every single day.

Remember, you can always join in the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo and on Abcnews.com. And send me your questions at hashtag George.

That's all for us today. "World News With David Muir" has the latest headlines tonight. And throughout the week, check out Otusnews.com for the very latest from our entire political team. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.

END

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