'This Week' Transcript: Economic Panel

So I guess, is that, do you think, what caused the backtracking? Although those poll numbers were out before the speech on Friday night. Listen to what the president said in the gulf in Florida on Saturday, yesterday.


OBAMA: I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about.


ROBERTS: That's really not what he was doing. I mean, if you listen -- as you played the whole first part of what he said -- he said they have a right to build on private property, all of that, and -- granted, he didn't say it's wise to build on private property, but it was very clearly an endorsement. And then to walk back from it is just so silly. He's already taken all the flack for having said it.

DOWD: I think they figured out this is a real political problem they have. And I think they either had a tin ear at the beginning of this and how it was going to come across or they mishandled it totally from the beginning, because if they understood, I think, the public on this, where two-thirds of the public say they have a right but two-thirds of the public say don't do it, he would have given a speech going directly to those points, instead of saying -- one day saying they have the right and the next day saying I didn't necessarily say it was the right thing to do.

I think this is a big problem for the president, because it feeds a broader narrative about him, which is, it's my way or the highway. In many ways, to me, it reminds me of Bush, which is, is, "I don't care where the American public is on this. I'm going to say what I think is the right thing to do."

He did on -- he's done it on immigration in Arizona. He's done it on this. He's done it on health care. I think that's the political problem...


IGNATIUS: ... problem for him. I thought that the speech Friday night was a model of political courage, in the sense that he said what he believed knowing that it was going to cost him. The White House has stayed out of this issue knowing that it's political poison, and I think the president spoke to it fairly directly. This is America. People have a right to build on property that they own, even if it's going to be a mosque near Ground Zero.

He said -- I was sort of sorry that he was trying to walk it back in these more nuanced comments yesterday.

FREELAND: I totally agree with David. And I think, you know, Matt, too, the point of my way or the highway, another way of talking about that is leadership, conviction, having your beliefs, and not governing according to polls.

And I think if you asked most Americans, what kind of a leader do you want, if you ask people in the world what kind of a leader, you want someone who governs according to conviction.

And I do think this touches on, Christiane, the economic panel that you had earlier. I think that it touches on it in two important ways. This point about private property might seem like a parsing, but it is actually essential.

And I think to have the president -- and we had similar comments from Mike Bloomberg coming out and saying, actually, we believe that the rights of private property are so strong, we are not going to change them because -- because...


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