Roundtable II: This Week in Politics

George Will, Haley Barbour, Bill Burton, Nia-Malika Henderson, David Ignatius.
1:00 | 03/18/12

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Transcript for Roundtable II: This Week in Politics
-- probably Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. These guys have a fundamentally. Different economic philosophy that we do. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail their most of -- founding members of of the Flat Earth Society they they would not have been. That the world -- round. If you give anyone of these guys the keys of the White House they will bankrupt the middle class again. Probably -- agreed with one of the pioneers. Of the radio instead. Television won't last -- a flash in the pan. Television is here to stay -- -- so I. After just a couple weeks ago you wrote that Republicans should essentially throw in the towel in the presidential race concentrate on the on the race for the house and the senate does anything you've heard. Over the last two weeks -- you -- about room. But my position -- now is that there may come a point deficit. -- -- political assets being finite enthusiasm time and money. You might want to concentrate on getting nowhere -- gavels of the committees of congress in Republican hands because Obama can't be beaten by these people. It's not yet time to do that but. Because -- -- a moment ago Dryden and things are going badly for Republicans things are going reasonably well on the economy at least by the normal metrics and the president's job -- going -- driven by -- for pizza. Which tells you something about how fragile and brutal whose support is -- there so at this point I'd say no keep fighting but prepared to retrench. I mean you think this should be almost the high water mark for the president economies. Coming back. Republicans and it could have been much worse a few weeks for Republicans look at his approval ratings in the 43% want all 41%. -- this week. Is numbers show that the EU isn't being given credit by the public for big achievements but. We saw this week that president vice president beginning a real campaign. To take to the country the idea that they've been effective in dealing with challenges they're gonna. Talk as they -- in the seventeen minute video about the problems that they inherited them things they've done. We can already see that this is president will run in part on the fact that he -- after Osama -- laden and kill them. And dealt with -- security issue the country cares most about so I think they're revving up we'll have to see. How Obama communicates politically with a country as the campaign really -- -- -- just beginning. Governor what what what what's -- take me you've heard that you had a good sense of -- -- -- -- Just from here -- love of god by the way right. This year and I talked issues are about -- the American people are being told by the news me about we will immediately how great the economy is. The economy is not great -- America maybe it's got a little better but it -- -- country -- from my views. The leaders were robbed and counsel law it looks like to me and I can add if you take an American today last month -- since we're. 58 point six portion of adult Americans have job. Except for the Obama administration you have to go back in 1983. The fire at a time when that small percentage of Americans are working and 10% of them working part time so. Yeah we've had some improvement on jobs and -- we need a lot more because the -- Real recession we had the 1980s we were creating jobs 5060700000. A month and we -- out bragging about. Creating jobs -- two -- so thousand. We believe yes. Can't wrong it's mourning in America right I mean it's for people are still heard. Watching the Clint Eastwood at that -- halftime and America's probably a little more accurate. But if you look at the difference between what they look like a political. Those are Karl -- it certainly was from Republican Clint Eastwood by the -- But if you look at where our country is verses where it was three and a half million private sector jobs created over the course the last couple years the economy grow -- instead of contracting things moving in the right direction. Yes things are getting better but not a case where the president. Has demonstrated its satisfaction I don't think anybody is bragging necessarily that we are where we need to be I think what you have -- -- a difference between the presence and a we're moving in the rich -- and Republicans or San were almost about to fall off a -- America is in the its darkest moment. The American people are hopeful and optimistic about where this country is gone and I think the -- is ultimately going to be a big difference in the election and how people. Since this campaign -- -- See Romney sort of refining this in Santorum as well saying the economy is getting little battery -- A Ronnie this -- that we are -- recovery you can imagine that's probably an -- campaign for Obama. At some point in I think you -- Santorum and somewhere saying this can't be a campaign -- all about the economy it's got to be about social issues you hear me and that. This interview took could lose the on the that's right -- -- and that's why he's expanding he's apparently want to talk about pornography. And some of and that certainly I think energizes. The base and we talk about whether it now this is going to be damaging for the Republicans and all but I think one of the things that it's doing it's a protracted race is keeping the base energized -- they feel like. They at least have a shot at this thing with Santa form as a candidate in -- they lost I've heard from Republicans that that would be essentially satisfying to them they would feel like they you know they had divorces her. Are we fight this on pornography and contraception in -- -- social animals. 2010 was. Greatest -- -- government present policies. In decades and this will be a referendum on his policies despite the fact that bill and his friends would like four to be anything but. And the big policy right now that people are concerned about energy files. Because terrible energy policy for three years. Has brought about very high gasoline prices and other energy prices and -- -- as correctly there's no silver bullet. When you've had three years of terrible policy. Designed to drive up the cost of interview -- Americans are usually. Weathers the keystone fictional plot -- on the moratorium in the gulf. Did the least amount of offshore drilling. Lions available -- we've had in decades. All of those things are gonna lead to very high energy -- to -- after all. It's what the president secretary of energy called for he said what remind Americans it brought gasoline up we're using your. We're halfway there. Candidate I can promise you don't really hot at right now. About two different takes at yesterday's papers the Wall Street Journal off front page story yesterday talking about gas prices are going to be a central issue in the campaign. Really responsible for bringing the president's numbers down and yet New York Times. Story here are saying the -- gas prices people care about them but they don't -- votes to announce with -- what do you say. I think I think it's clear today that twice weekly reminder of the -- 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 in eleven years ago. And so I don't think that that people take their sense of well being from the headline metrics about the unemployment greater job creation. This week we were told by -- Nobel Prize winning economist that at this rate of job creation but pleases the administration. We were read something like full employment in thirteen years. And I think the American people and to a. You know the -- people. Make their decisions. At election time on the margins in the -- if they think these are things getting a little bit better -- -- and that they've been improving. You know on this in this last six months or a year and and people -- likely to feel let economies firming talking to a senior Treasury Department official this year he said. This week he said one fast I think his business investment is beginning to grow much faster rate of growth and GDP the fact happens and 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 freefall better than this administration begins to be of much worse issue. Well if -- just make one point on what governor Barbara salmon. Energy prices and our oil policy. I -- the truth of the matter is this administration has expanded. Oil production more than we've seen the last ten years. Quadrupled the number of rigs that are operating. In the gulf off interstate. 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. Yeah because the present policy is right is because of Shell Oil in North Dakota Ohio -- department doesn't do when the president could do something the president -- -- -- Expand a domestic production but the bottom line is that that is not enough. And everybody this table illness but the price of oil is not driven by just what the president can do there are. Water global factors like demanded Russia and China that are driving up the price of -- not. Not whether the president -- line for one -- pipeline to move forward just one pipeline. Well look it you made -- Jonathan. The the the explosion in production of oil and issues that special private -- -- for about private capital that one dad. Being contributed toward -- while drilling and hydraulic pressure 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 dollars more monies that -- -- -- taxpayer. To regulate what house calls an explosion of -- natural gas production United States and is increasingly element of -- -- I I -- to return to Afghanistan if it does look like this election's going to be largely about the economy but Afghanistan certainly came back in the picture this week and a big week. In a big way we had first look at staff sergeant who -- on the massacre there -- accused of killing sixteen civilians. And then in Afghanistan you -- President -- actually calling Americans demons on Friday. And here you have President Obama asking everyone to kind of remained calm hold the course in Afghanistan. US wires -- that poll numbers indicate people. Are interested in ending the war in Afghanistan it's because we've been there for ten years and people get -- And they know friends and neighbors who have lost. Loved ones as a consequence of war. No one wants. -- governor I'm hearing Republicans. Getting more and more we -- -- about Afghanistan. We couldn't get a direct answer to senator Santorum but whether but he didn't even rule out saying it could be time to come home -- -- -- judo and obviously development from. -- last year. Last January 15 months ago. Ousted would need to rethink our policy in Afghanistan and in fact the policy change from the Bush Administration won't terror. To nation build. And it changed of that any kind of conversation with the American people. You've got to Horner mall world about 500 al-Qaeda. In Afghanistan reports to see we have a 100000 troops -- A year ago. So Iraq. Because we've changed the mission when you change in mission the American people need this was general betray us change has -- honest now this is. This is what president Obama's it was being. You know president -- -- Warner wrought with the Rome -- -- right. He's wanted in General Petraeus was -- general attempt president made the decision as I've told you -- for happened in Afghanistan. When the ambassador was -- -- but let me just say again there a lot of Republicans. Who were very strongly for Afghanistan if the -- -- here. Who are very strongly against. Nation build and -- -- there should not done so be done having as George Will so to talk time to pull plug them. We time all the a year and a half ago that we need to rethink this and if -- if we're fighting terrorism over the here. Why don't need -- 100000. Troops home -- when or hundred terrorists a hundred al-Qaeda terrorists. In Afghanistan and -- -- Republicans that -- expressed view -- the -- and Joseph Biden internally in the. And then in the second decade but what -- -- much the longest war in our history is not surprising that the American people are out of patience. And the events -- recent weeks are in terms of their impact on domestic opinion a slow motion cumulative Tet offensive. -- the -- offensive in Vietnam was a huge military operation to actually defeat -- -- north Vietnamese never mind that it shattered American support. And that's what's happening now the American people who 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 Gallup. From chasing terrorists to building democracy to than retreating from that it is time to come. Home. Why are we know what what is the mission now analysts think governor burned room and and George are are right in saying that the president is not. Communicating in the public. A clear strategy for what we're doing over the next. Two years we've made a commitment with our NATO allies organist and Afghanistan -- the -- 2014 there is a timetable for withdrawal. This is about getting to the exits and an orderly way. That the the argument that that you would make is that if we if we pull the plug -- in rush out. We almost guarantee. A civil war returning to Afghanistan. A partition that would be very ragged and development that would that would be contrary to state destabilizing -- -- part of the world whispered that's very dangerous. The present some -- to sell this proposition that. We're not fighting for a victory the plant the flag and then then say we want it were fighting for. -- degree of stability and security in this dangerous place and it. I grant it's going to be hard and I what I really think it's the president's gonna make the case -- to do it better and more early. But a year from now war two years or three years from now the basic asymmetry will prevail witches. We sooner or later coming home and the Taliban are now they say they are home and that. I go they're pretty often and what I hear every time ago was the put on on remain unpopular. And this is these are -- Liberation fighters that the couple is -- -- it gets a demons he was referring to the Taliban in case may not I guess the thing that's most troubling is that our client. In in Afghanistan president -- extremely analog form I think that's the thing that our commanders I feel. So sorry for. Struggling to deal with the -- -- government you know one days as go back to your -- -- next. It's just it's it's it's a difficult situation we've seen in the past is that cars like coming comes back and then you get a collaboration. If there's no cooperation between US and Afghan forces salute that can be -- transition to Afghan control next year there is no policy which it. It's it's Republicans really thinks stepping into this -- and into listen. Muddled message in many ways that that Obama has I think if you listen to santorum's comments on this morning he seems to either want to stay here or one -- women. And that's if someone's which you've heard from from Romney as well he gave a speech in October. 2011. At the citadel where he essentially said you know he would listen to the generals -- he thinks -- -- -- be closed through December 2011. A rather than -- in December 2012 rather than in the fall. I'll -- what I think also you don't hear people in these town hall meetings with Republicans bringing this issue won't it has very much receded. A from the public's mind I think it comes up there's only bad news flowing out of this and I think you've seen a president. Really been able to I think eat until a franchise that was national security for Republicans they seemed to be very volatile. We're talking about Afghanistan -- -- and almost never comes out. All this week I thought you saw the president talked quite a bit about Afghanistan and defense the president when he laid out his strategy on Afghanistan is that we're going to be three -- we're Gannett. Degrade al-Qaeda stop the Taliban's momentum and strengthen the government's security force in Afghanistan. If you talked it if you look at the picture about how to right now 22 of the top thirty commanders are dead. If you look at the Taliban their momentum has been -- The -- the security obviously still needs to be strengthened so I think the president laid out a very clear strategy may -- that message doesn't get through every single that. But the second thing that I will say is that there's been abject incoherence from the Republican -- like neo sang imagine this race. Mitch McConnell supporting the president -- has -- governor Barbour -- -- -- kind of message that he actually had which was which I disagree with obviously but was actually -- coherent thought about Afghanistan for Mitt Romney you get everything from. Immediate withdrawal to you indefinite. Presence in the country so I I think that Mitt Romney has been left woefully unprepared for national security in the general election. OK very quickly David you've got a first look at these treasure trove of documents seized in bin Laden's compound. Just just quickly what what what is most important thing. Learning from the this was actually -- and we learned that the bin Laden wanted to kill Obama has in his mind that Obama successfully. Re branded the war on terror calling -- the warmer -- that that was agreement. My take away was this man rooting. In this in this compound. Increasingly felt. And al-Qaeda and -- -- so alienated itself from Muslims around the world that it should. Come up with a new name of the name of marketing process and they. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- So. He was I think he was a man who who surrounded by the loss of his comrades. Increasingly despaired as bush. -- wants her to go through got a lot of attention here this week that was George Clooney coming talking on the hill going to the white house of course getting arrested I caught up with -- right after he was released. Here's what he had -- said. That you accomplished simply by getting arrested here -- I don't you know -- you never know you're accomplishing anything all we're trying to do is bring attention to a moment. In -- it is actually important. So he was talking obviously about Sudan is -- it about a and yet another massacre. Ethnic cleansing in Sudan. We we haven't heard much out of anybody on this in the and the -- -- -- the president certainly not that that the Republicans. Congress -- tried -- in steps George Colonia the most handsome man in America to bring attention to this worked -- that you think back to South Africa and that conflict mayor in this sort of high profile protest and getting arrested really I think each change that time in terms of the public conversation. On -- the apartheid system here and that's why the strategy they're using here this old fashioned way of protest and -- on the hand you have this newfangled way of a bringing attention to this conflict and you've gone -- with this -- EV DO and eggs exposed and that way. -- George George Clooney is serious about this stuff and he's been there six times and in this -- alleged this was a big issue for George Bush. It was one actually that the President Obama criticized. And then Senator Obama criticized President Bush for not doing enough on its fallen off the -- out. I don't doubt clearly seriousness I don't doubt the awful most of what's going on there and in the Congo and elsewhere but again he's talking to a country. That is suffering from fatigue. A formidable. As. Just they didn't mention powerful world while ago talking about Afghanistan -- set our client. Americans don't men fought war for why we fight war for -- in troops but not for Klein's.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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