'This Week' Transcript: Obama Adviser David Axelrod and Sens. Jim DeMint and Robert Menendez

CLINTON: What is the state of our union? It is growing stronger, but it must be stronger still.


MORAN: So sometimes they've got to find a way to say, "Things aren't so great." What should Barack Obama do?

DONALDSON: Only Jerry Ford went before Congress and said, "The state of the union is bad."

MORAN: Right. And he lost the election...


ROBERTS: There you go.

MORAN: But, seriously, what should Barack Obama do when he gets before the Congress and the country on Wednesday night?

DOWD: Well, I think the first thing -- he has to do a combination of things. He has to basically say he understands people's fears and concerns and anxieties and give voice to those fears and concerns and anxieties again, but also point a path to the promised and hope and how we're going to get there.

People want to be understood in their anxieties, but they also want a sense of hopeful and optimistic. And I also think, instead of going up there and pointing his finger at Republicans...

ROBERTS: Right, he needs to...

DOWD: ... he's going to have to say, "I embrace this. We went off a bit over the course of the last year, but I want to bring a bipartisan solution to the problems of America."

ROBERTS: He needs to call on them, you know, call them to action and ask them to be in it together for the country, you know, so that they look unpatriotic if they're not.

DONALDSON: Well, here's where I differ you. I think, to some extent, David Plouffe is right. When he said bed-wetting, he's talking about Harry Truman. He's talking about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and, to some extent, Ronald Reagan.

I think the president has to make it clear, and I don't mean by name-calling, that he is now going to lead and he is going to set an agenda which he believes is good for the American public, and he wants their cooperation, but he's going to try to get it done. If he just says, "Come, bring me your plans." When he threw the public option under the bus last September by saying, "I'm for it, yet if you have other ideas, bring it to me," you knew it was dead. He needs to be very affirmative, I think, about saying, "This is what the country needs, and I'm going to lead to get it."

MORAN: But doesn't he need to get some distance between himself and congressional Democrats?

WILL: Yes.

MORAN: Isn't one of the problems that he has...

WILL: Yes.

MORAN: ... is that people thought he was something else, and now he looks like -- basically, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama are the same person?

WILL: Approval of Congress among Republicans is 17 percent. Approval among independents is 14 percent. So that -- that's what he's really lost.

I don't think the country is angry so much today as it is sober and frightened. And it's frightened by the deficits, the sense that there's no plausible economic assumption that will make this turn out well.

So I expect the president on Wednesday night will come in with a plan -- and it will be bogus and rejected -- to have a commission that will recommended difficult choices on entitlements and taxes and all the rest.

ROBERTS: We've had those before.

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