'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod and Sen. John McCain

David Axelrod and Sen. John McCain are interviewed on 'This Week.'

ByABC News
May 3, 2012, 1:02 PM


TAPPER (voice-over): Good morning. Welcome to "This Week." The president comes out swinging.

OBAMA: We are not turning back the clock. We are moving forward.

TAPPER: With his first official re-election rallies, the battle has been joined.

OBAMA: Corporations aren't people. People are people.

TAPPER: But a faltering economy here at home...

ROMNEY: It's unacceptable in this great country that we have this kind of president who's failed us so badly.

TAPPER: And a tug of war overseas...

ROMNEY: If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom.

TAPPER: ... dominate the headlines. Topics this morning for our exclusive headliners, the president's chief campaign adviser, David Axelrod, and the man who ran against President Obama last time, Senator John McCain. Plus...

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Seau has deceased. This case is being investigated as a suicide.

TAPPER: Tragedy again strikes the NFL. That and all the week's politics with our powerhouse roundtable, George Will, Bay Buchanan, Tavis Smiley, Austan Goolsbee, and Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. It's your voice, your vote. Reporting from the Newseum in Washington, Jake Tapper.

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

We're exactly six months from Election Day, and in case you had any doubt, the presidential campaign is now officially in full swing, with President Obama holding his first two re-election rallies yesterday in the critical battleground states of Ohio and Virginia.

The president was a wee bit rusty at first, nearly forgetting his wife, Michelle, as he walked off Air Force One in Columbus. Oh, there she is. And after that, the first lady introduced him at Ohio State.


M. OBAMA: We just cannot turn back now, right? We have come so far, but we have so much more to do.


TAPPER: And then the president stepped up and made his pitch.


B. OBAMA: If people ask you what this campaign is about, you tell them it's still about hope. You tell them it's still about change.


TAPPER: And let's now bring in the president's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod. David, thanks for joining us.

AXELROD: Sure. Good to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: The president kicked off his campaign in Columbus, Ohio, and Richmond, Virginia. And here are the headlines in the newspapers that greeted him, which were reporting on Friday's jobs report. The Columbus Dispatch, "Job numbers don't mirror hope." The Richard Times-Dispatch, "April job growth slight, portion of Americans in labor force falls to lowest level since 1981."

The headlines say it all, don't they? The economy just isn't strong enough, and what the president has been able to accomplish has not been enough.

AXELROD: Well, Jake, let's consider where we were when the president took off. We were losing 800,000 jobs in one month. We lost 4 million in the six months before he took office, or nearly 4 million. In the last 26 months, we've gained 4.2 million private-sector jobs. The last six months, we've gained nearly 200,000 jobs a month.

And you have to look at the trend, not one month or short periods of time. Now, we have a lot of headwinds. The president said yesterday we have to be vigilant, we have to be persistent. We've got headwinds from Europe and the Middle East and so on.

But we have to push forward. And Congress can help. The president has offered a series of ideas on small-business tax cuts, real small-business tax cuts on helping people refinance their mortgages, take advantage of low interest rates, on getting a surface transportation bill done. All of these will help our economy move forward, but we can't -- what we can't do is go back to doing what we were doing before the crisis, because that will result in the same disastrous outcome for our economy and the middle class.

TAPPER: And, David, when the president gave his speech yesterday, he acknowledged that people are still hurting. Let's take a listen.


OBAMA: The real question -- the question that will actually make a difference in your life and in the lives of your children is not just about how we're doing today. It's about how we'll be doing tomorrow.


TAPPER: David, it seems as though the president is acknowledging that he cannot win on the premise, are you better off than you were four years ago? Doesn't that in itself suggest failure?

AXELROD: No. As I said, Jake, we've come a long way from where we were. We're in the middle of recovering from this recession, but there's a larger project, which is, how do we rebuild this economy in the long term so the middle class is growing and not shrinking and people who work hard can get ahead, people who act responsibly are rewarded for that responsibility? That's what we're working on.

And what we can't do is what Governor Romney has suggested, which is to go back to the same formula that -- that hurt our economy and hurt so many people, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that we can't afford, cutting Wall Street loose to make its own rules. That is not a prescription for the kind of growth that we need in this country.

And by the way, I would note that in 2004, when the recovery from that recession was more laggered than what we have today, Governor Romney ran around this country saying that President Bush ought not to be blamed for that and it was just politics to blame him for that. I suggest it's just politics when you hear Governor Romney today, and he certainly wants to go back to that same disastrous formula.

TAPPER: One of the issues that you guys are going to be facing, one of the headwinds is the lack of enthusiasm, or at least less enthusiasm. When I covered you guys, your campaign in 2007, 2008, you would -- you and your staff members would excitedly regale us with the huge numbers of crowds, crowd estimates. At OSU, at Ohio State yesterday, in a stadium that seats about 18,000, there were roughly 14,000 people there. Now, granted, those 14,000 were very excited. They supported the president. But there were still more than 4,000 empty seats. Doesn't that indicate that there is a problem you're facing when it comes to fewer people who are excited about the president?

AXELROD: Jake, you should have gone along on the whole trip. In Virginia, there was an overflow crowd. And that's the way it is. But the fact is that 14,000 is 11,000 more than the largest crowd that Mitt Romney has ever drawn.

So I think there's enthusiasm for the president's candidacy. And, you know, we've got tremendous volunteer response. Just from that event, we got thousands of more volunteers in our campaign. I am certain that we are going to have an enthused volunteer core and enthused electorate out there.

The thing that we've seen over time is that Republican enthusiasm has dropped precipitously, partly because what we've seen from Governor Romney is all negative. Ninety percent of the ads that he's run in this campaign, $55 million of advertising, 90 percent of it he and his team have run have been negative. His attacks, his speeches now are entirely negative attacks on the president, doesn't talk about his own record, doesn't really talk about his vision.

That is not going to create enthusiasm. I think what the president's talking about will create enthusiasm, which is, how do we build an economy in which the middle class has a shot, everybody gets a fair shake, everybody has some confidence that their kids might do better in the future? That's the project we're working on.

TAPPER: The Republicans say -- speaking of records, the Republicans say that based on the OBL ad, the Osama bin Laden ad, and some of the other attacks from the campaign against Mitt Romney that your campaign, the Obama campaign, is not running on his record. When can we expect to see ads about the president's record run by the Obama campaign?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, we're certainly running on our record. You could hear it in the president's speech yesterday on our record and our vision and our ideas for the future. The Osama bin Laden mission was certainly part of the president's record, and we are talking about that.

And in this coming week, you'll see us unveil an advertising campaign, an extensive advertising campaign, that is very much about where we were and where we've come and the things that we've accomplished, the revitalization of the auto industry, the distance we've traveled from when we were losing 800,000 jobs a month, the fact that we're safer today because bin Laden is gone, that the war in Iraq is over, and -- and many other things that we're proud of and that speak to the progress that we've made since this president was elected.

TAPPER: There's been a lot of back-and-forth in the last week about whether or not President Obama was spiking the football when it came to the mission in which Osama bin Laden was killed. Here is an ad from a group called Veterans for a Strong America that I want to play for you.


OBAMA: I said that I'd go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him. And I did. I did. I did. I did.


TAPPER: David, do you ever worry that, in the president's eagerness to remind voters of the successful mission, that he may come across as self-serving?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, the president hasn't been spiking the ball. This was the one-year anniversary. It's part of his record. And it's certainly a legitimate part of his record to talk about.

Look, the president in the last campaign said that he would go wherever he had to, to hit high-value Al Qaida targets, including Osama bin Laden. One of the first things he did when he got here into the presidency was order the CIA to make this a top priority. That's one of the reasons -- that's the main reason why we were able to be in a position to find bin Laden.

And then he ordered a mission that was -- was, frankly, risky, dangerous. Bob Gates said it was one of the most courageous, one of the gutsiest decisions he saw -- he's ever seen a president make. And it turned out successfully.

And let me tell you something, Jake. If it hadn't, you'd better believe the other side would be talking about it, and Mitt Romney would be the first one.


AXELROD: So let's set that aside. That's politics, man.

TAPPER: Speaking of Mitt Romney, lastly, I want to talk to you about this Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, who sought refuge at the U.S. embassy in China. We played a little clip of Mitt Romney earlier criticizing the president, saying if the reports were true, it's a dark day for freedom and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration. Do you have any response to the criticism from Mitt Romney about the administration's handling of this issue?

AXELROD: Listen, I think what's -- what's shameful is when presidential candidates are so craven to score political points that they speak irresponsibly on half information at a time when the president is trying -- and the administration is trying to resolve a situation that is very, very sensitive and very difficult.

We want to help Mr. Chen achieve his goal, which is to come here, and we want to do it in accordance with our values, and we want to be successful in doing that. And we're making some progress in that regard. But it doesn't help to have candidates blunderbussing around, trying to score political points, when we're in the middle of that process.

TAPPER: All right. David Axelrod, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Have a good Sunday.

AXELROD: All right. Good to be with you, Jake. Thanks.

TAPPER: And then we're joined in the studio with the president's opponent in 2008, Senator John McCain. Thanks so much for being here.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Jake. Thanks for having me on.

TAPPER: Well, you just -- you heard David Axelrod talk about how Mitt Romney was blunderbussing around. It's true that even conservative pundit Bill Kristol said that it was foolish for Mitt Romney to make these comments in the middle of this international kerfuffle. What's your take? Should Mitt Romney have not said what he said?

MCCAIN: Well, I think that it's very clear that there were a number of missteps here, having him go to the hospital and then not allowing the American embassy people there, the back-and-forth. The key now right now is to get him out of there and to the United States. That's I think what we all ought to focus on.

But I also think it's important to recognize that people who helped him are being rounded up and detained. People are being arrested. There's other people who helped Mr. Chen get to the American embassy. We've got to focus a lot of attention on them, as well. But first priority is to get him out of there and to the United States.

TAPPER: There's been a lot of back-and-forth about this Osama bin Laden web ad that the Obama campaign is running. And it quotes Mitt Romney in 2007 saying in an Associated Press interview, quote, "It's not worth moving heaven and Earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." Now, you and Romney were opponents at the time, and you actually took issue with those comments before Obama did. Here's an article from Politico at that time. Headline, "McCain hits Romney on bin Laden comment." McCain was asked about Romney's remark, that it's not worth moving heaven and Earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. "It takes a degree of naivete to think bin Laden's not an element in the struggle against radical Islam," McCain said. It would seem that you and the president agree on this issue, no?

MCCAIN: Well, I think what Mitt was saying also, if you looked at the entire context of his remains, was that bin Laden was part of the overall war on terror and we shouldn't just focus on that interview. The back-and-forth of a tough primary campaign, there's a lot of things said back-and-forth.

But let me say that, compared to this president's record, let's begin with Iran. Let's begin with 1.5 million people demonstrating in the streets. A young woman named Neda being bled -- bleeding to death, that the whole world has seen, and they're chanting in English, "Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you with them?" He didn't say a word. That's one of the most shameful episodes, in my view, of -- of our history.

In Iraq, he keeps bragging about Iraq. Iraq is unraveling. We all know that there should have been a residual force there, and now the whole situation is unraveling. In the words of General Keane, the architect of the surge, we won the war and are losing the peace, thanks to the president's commitment to get completely out.

On Israel, relations have never been worse. They've never been worse between the United States and Israel. And now Syria, thousands of people being massacred in the streets, and the president -- I'm not making this up -- goes to the Holocaust Museum, where we said never again, and says that he is setting up an Atrocities Prevention Board. I'm not making that up. Instead of standing up for the people of Syria, who are -- who are being massacred and slaughtered, tortured, rape. Terrible. I was in a -- in a refugee camp in -- in southern Turkey and saw these people, the wounded, the killed...

TAPPER: Do you think that we should be arming the rebels in Syria?

MCCAIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's an unfair fight. The Russians are plying arms -- supplying arms. The Iranians are on the ground. How could we not stand up for these people? How could we sit by and watch this slaughter go on, while the president of the United States is totally silent and goes to the Holocaust Museum, where Elie Wiesel says to him, why don't we do something about Syria if we're -- if it's never again? He goes to the Holocaust Museum and makes that comment.

And if I sound a little emotional about it, it's because I've been to the refugee camp. I saw these young women who have been raped. I saw these young people who have been wounded. I saw the 25,000 who have had to leave their homes and go to refugee camps.

And this administration is silent. This leading from behind is not going to work, my friend.

TAPPER: Is -- is there not -- do you not have any concern -- there are reports that some of the rebels in Syria are affiliated with Al Qaida, are extremist. Are you not concerned at all that arming these rebel groups in Syria could end up having a horrible blowback effect?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't know what horrible blowback effect there would be, besides the fact that extremists may take it over. But right now, there's another side...

TAPPER: That's a pretty big blowback effect.

MCCAIN: ... to this question -- well, look, the longer it lasts, the more likely there are for extremists to come in. And, by the way, I heard this same story in Libya. I heard it in Tunisia. I heard it in Egypt. There's always, "We don't know who they are."

I'll tell you who they are. They're a direct repudiation of Al Qaida. Al Qaida believes in acts of terror to change governments. These people believe in peaceful demonstration. Is there a danger? Yes, there is. But Iran is -- is -- is the one who would lose the most by Syria, by Bashir Assad being overthrown. Iran is controls Syria. They support Hezbollah. This -- in the words of General Mattis, our commander of Central Command, said if Bashir Assad goes, it would be the greatest blow to Iran in 25 years.

So there is a strategic component. And what it really means, Jake, is our interests are our values, and our values are our interests. That's what America is all about.

TAPPER: We're running out of time, so I just want to ask you one question. And that is, Mitt Romney is going through his vice presidential selection search right now. You went through this four years ago...

MCCAIN: I remember it well.


TAPPER: ... a much discussed decision. What's the best advice you can give Mitt Romney about picking a running mate?

MCCAIN: I think it's a person that he knows he could trust, and the primary -- the absolute, most important aspect is, if something happened to him, would that person be well qualified to take that place? I happen to believe that was the primary factor in my decision in 2008. And I know it will be Mitt's. And I'm very happy to say, we've got a very deep bench.

TAPPER: All right. Senator John McCain, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

And don't go anywhere. We'll be back with our powerhouse roundtable in just 60 seconds.




LENO: And Mitt Romney is criticizing the president. He said Obama should not politicize the death of Osama bin Laden. Mitt Romney made that announcement on the anniversary of bin Laden's death, standing next to Rudy Giuliani, in a fire station, in New York City, at 9:11 in the morning. So I don't know.

KIMMEL: You know they -- everyone was cheering, "We got him, we got him"? Just remember the fact that we didn't get them. The Navy SEALs got him. I was on my couch eating crescent rolls and watching "Dance Moms" or something, I think.

COLBERT: Presidents don't spike the football. You do an end-zone dance on an aircraft carrier even if you never found the football.


TAPPER: And we're joined now by our roundtable. As always, George Will, Romney adviser Bay Buchanan, who is also the author of a new book, "Bay and Her Boys: Unexpected Lessons I Learned as a Single Mom," radio and television host Tavis Smiley, who also has a new book out, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto." I'm going to have to get these two signed before you guys go. Also, Austan Goolsbee, former Obama economic adviser, now a professor at the University of Chicago, and Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren.

So you heard Senator McCain making a very robust argument against the Obama administration's foreign policy. Let's go back to that Obama campaign ad, the web video about, would Mitt Romney have taken the same course of action? Do you think he went too far?

WILL: I do. Look, self-absorption is part of the occupational hazard of politics and then it's also part of the job description of being president. All that said, try to imagine Dwight Eisenhower talking about D-Day, saying, "I did this, I decided this, I did this and then I did that." It's inconceivable. If you struck from Barack Obama's vocabulary the first person singular pronoun, he would fall silent, which would be a mercy to us and service to him, actually, because he has been so incontinent in his speechmaking for the last three years that you wind up with, as you said in Ohio State University, empty seats.

TAPPER: Bay, your take? Do you think national security is going to play as big a role in this election as it has in previous ones? Polls indicate that people are far more concerned about the economy.

BUCHANAN: There's no question the economy is going to be the key issue. And, you know, in a good campaign, you only have three issues that the candidates will spend their time on. Others will come up and go but the three. And it clearly is. It's jobs. It's the outrageous reckless spending in Washington, the huge deficits, and back to jobs. That's where it's coming around to.

I don't think that national security will be a key issue, but the -- what happens here is when the president does something like this on the issue of national security, it suggests that he's not presidential, that he's totally focused on this politics, he's taking credit for something where, sure, he deserves credit, and Americans gave him credit, but also there are some other great Americans who were involved, risked their lives to accomplish that goal. And you don't see him acknowledging that, which is something that is foreign to Americans. American heroes are always ones who give others credit for what took place.

TAPPER: Well, I've definitely heard him praise the SEALs. It's just a question about -- well, Tavis, what's your take?

SMILEY: He has -- he has -- I respect Bay's point of view, but he hasn't just praised the SEALs. The first lady spends an inordinate amount of her time working with military families. I think that's a bit of an overreach, respectfully, Bay.

But I'm just troubled by the fact that this president has sitting behind his desk a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I regard Dr. King as the greatest American this country has ever produced. We could debate that, but that's my assessment, he's the greatest American we've ever produced.

And for a person who talked about nonviolence, who the president quotes often, Dr. King once said that war is the enemy of the poor. And I just hate seeing the president play into the hands of the right by running around bragging about having to off Osama bin Laden. It's not -- I don't think it's presidential. I think it's bad strategy, with his playing into their hands. But more importantly for me, it's antithetical to the person he says is one of his great heroes.

TAPPER: Now, Austan, in 2007, I was covering your campaign. You were part of the campaign, the Obama campaign. And I remember, when the president came out, gave this speech about how if he got good intelligence as president, he would be willing -- about a high-value target in Pakistan, and Pakistan wouldn't act against him, the U.S. would be willing to go in and get him, under an Obama administration. You guys took a lot of heat for that.

GOOLSBEE: Yeah, from Mitt Romney, as well as people from the Democrats. And it strikes me...

TAPPER: Including Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton.

GOOLSBEE: Yeah, so it strikes me that -- I respect that -- the view that maybe the culture of nonviolence in society in general has -- has lessened over time, but on this, is this a relevant campaign issue? Mitt Romney condemned then-candidate Obama for saying that if he had intelligence and he didn't have a -- if he wasn't going to ask the Pakistani government if he could take out Osama bin Laden, he would. The president did that. It strikes me as totally relevant whether the opposing candidate would do so now. And for Romney to say, well, that was totally obvious, I would have done the same thing, as you saw David Axelrod say, I was there at the cabinet meeting where Bob Gates said, in all his experience, this was among the toughest decisions that he had ever seen a president make. So I don't think it was obvious that somebody would pick it. And I think it's perfectly legitimate.

TAPPER: Should the president get credit for this decision?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, sure, he should get credit for it, but I think he would have gotten a lot more credit for it if he'd been more magnanimous and given the credit to the SEALs. Instead, all we hear is the edited "I, I, I, I, I, I," and everyone acts, well, were you there or not? He would have been much smarter, shrewder politically, saying, "Look what a fabulous job the SEALs did." He did say some of that, but he should have left himself out of it.

And, look, this is going to be overshadowed by what else is going on in the world. We've got North Korea going to test a nuclear weapon again. We've got India doing a long-range missile, Pakistan doing a long-range missile, Honduras on the front page of the New York Times talking about the drug trade that's coming into the United States. We have Mexico, which is at civil war, which the president doesn't recognize apparently much at all. We've got journalists being killed there, left, right and center, all the time, and civilians. And you've got the situation which is my favorite, the Sudan, which is -- there's another...

TAPPER: And you just got back from there a couple weeks ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: I just got back from the Sudan. And we'll go into China to help one guy, and I'm not saying we shouldn't help this one guy, but we won't step on President Bashir's toes, and he is killing -- we saw bombers going over it. He's killing 300,000 to 1.2 million of his people, but, oh, no, we don't want to touch his toes.

So I think there are a lot more worldly events come November that are going to overshadow him saying, "I, I, I," and it would have been smarter to say -- he would have gotten a lot more attention if all he did was praise the SEALs.

SMILEY: Those persons are Africans, though. We should point that out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, yes, but the thing is that, also, I should say -- you know, maybe selfishly, but the -- the China is in there. And if we're -- and if you want to be selfish about it and not humanitarian (ph), say China's going in there, 6 percent of China's oil. They're very interested in it, and they're -- they're building the roads. They're doing the infrastructure. And if China doesn't get their oil, they're going to go to the international market, which is going to jack up the price, and we're going to pay for it that way.

TAPPER: George, speaking of Chen, what does this symbolize to you? Is this a reality check on our actual alliance with the Chinese?

WILL: It's a wake-up call about the nature of the extremely nasty regime we're dealing with, a regime -- I'm not just talking about the forced sterilizations and third trimester abortions under the one-child policy, but a general indifference to the rule of law.

Since 1972, when Nixon opened China, both parties have said, "Our policy is slow-motion, wide-open regime change," and we will subvert the Chinese authoritarianism by enmeshing them in the world of markets around the world.

TAPPER: And that will work? That will bring them?

WILL: Well, it produced two things. One was -- has been called McDonald's triumphalism. We see them eating at McDonald's in China, and we say, well, if they eat like us, then maybe they'll be like us. And the other is the Starbucks fallacy. We see them going to Starbucks in Shanghai, and we say, well, if the Chinese get a taste of choice in coffee, they're going to insist on a choice of political parties. Time for us to back off and say, it may be possible for them to have an authoritarian, semi-market state capitalist regime.

TAPPER: We only have a little bit of time. I just want to get your thoughts on this, Austan, because when you were -- in the White House, you were rather bullish on the potential of the United States and China to work out economic differences, but isn't there fundamentally this problem, that the communist, authoritarian government is just not going to let that happen, at the end of the day?

GOOLSBEE: Maybe. I mean, that -- if you said, what's the biggest threat to the economic relationship, I think it's that, that the -- ultimately, there will be a deciding point between growth and control in China. And if the authoritarian kind of regime is going to try to exercise control, that maybe the growth is eventually going to slow down. I think that is a danger.

TAPPER: OK. We'll be right back with more of our powerhouse roundtable in a moment. As the Obama-Romney battle heats up, the candidates go looking for every last vote. Might college students hold the keys to November?


FALLON: Mitt Romney told students that if they want to go to college or start a business, they should just borrow money from their parents, which should work fine, as long as your parents are Mitt and Ann Romney.


TAPPER: Plus, a politician's steep fall from grace. What are we learning from the John Edwards trial?


LENO: John Edwards has gone from $500 haircuts to $12.95 haircuts at Supercuts. More good news. The next haircut he's going to get in prison will be free. So that's -- doesn't pay for that at all.



TAPPER: And the suicide of an NFL great, the serious consequences of violence in America's favorite sport.



FERGUSON: Not such a great day for President Obama, who today admitted he made up a girlfriend in his autobiography. It's a good thing Oprah's off the air. This is the kind of thing that can get you kicked out of the book club right away.

FALLON: Today, Mitt Romney visited a firehouse here in New York City. Of course, he was disappointed when he learned that a firehouse isn't a house where you get to fire people. He's like, what?

LENO: President Obama has revealed his new re-election campaign slogan, "Forward." That's a good message for Obama. He's telling voters, whatever you do, don't look back at all those campaign promises I made. Just look forward. Just look forward. Don't worry about that.


TAPPER: Ah, the sounds of the Beastie Boys, and we -- we remember Adam Yauch on this Sunday, but we're back here with our roundtable to talk about issues other than the Beastie Boys.

George, the president kicked off his campaign yesterday. Thoughts?

WILL: He kicked it off a day after we saw the emblematic achievement of the Obama administration, which is to make a decline in the unemployment rate bad news. It ticked down from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent because 342,000 of Americans succumbed to discouragement with the Obama economy and left the economy.

Male participation rate in the economy today is lower than it has been at any time since we began keeping this statistic in 1948. Indeed, if the workforce participation rate were the same today as it was when Mr. Obama was inaugurated, the real unemployment rate would be measured at about 11 percent. That's no record to run on.

TAPPER: Let's go...

GOOLSBEE: Wait, wait. But it would have come down from 17 percent or 18 percent. I mean, there's -- I think the conundrum of the economy is there's -- starting from a horrible base, there has been improvement, and we vary between -- we have three months of almost stellar, and now we've had two months of pretty mediocre, and it feels like we're sort of aiming in the -- in the nether region in which it's, again, pointing to a razor-thin margin.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the...

GOOLSBEE: So I think -- I do think, if you see -- there were 14,000 people at the rally for the president in Ohio. There were another 8,000 people in Virginia. If all 22,000 of those people opened their wallets and gave $1,000 each, that would be less than one donation from a billionaire to the super PACs. And that's why he's in for the fight of his life.

VAN SUSTEREN: But he is in for the fight of his life, because what he -- what really helped him in '08 was the enthusiasm factor. You say 14,000. Well, the place could have held 18,000. Usually he had lines. He didn't have that. He spoke to the nation from Afghanistan on Tuesday night. That was a big deal. And you look at the ratings on cable news, and it was just nothing. Nobody even paid any attention. No one's like even paying any attention to him. It made -- it's extraordinary.

And he gives his big kickoff against the biggest -- one of the big hockey games. I'm thinking like, who's paying attention to this? Everyone's paying attention...


VAN SUSTEREN: But -- but let me just say, Bay, for you, on your side, is that the best thing you have going for you is that your -- you know, Bachmann, Santorum and Gingrich, they're saying, well, at least our guy's better than theirs, and that's not much enthusiasm, either.

BUCHANAN: You know, the enthusiasm factor is going to be there, I can tell you now. Take a look at what we just heard this morning on your program. You know, President Obama, his record -- we've lost -- Americans have lost more jobs, lost more homes, and more people have fallen into poverty than any time since the Great Depression, and we have David Axelrod, his man, come on television this morning, and what did he say? We have to figure out how to work the economy so that it helps the middle class. Three-and-a-half years, they haven't figured it out. He's admitting they don't know how to do it, and he wants us to give him more time, what, to figure it out?

SMILEY: Let me...

BUCHANAN: Americans are suffering across the country. There's no more time for this man.

SMILEY: Bay, I think we have to all agree here, though, that neither Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney are speaking to the angst of the poor. Every politician who runs for the White House, Jake, thinks they can campaign by talking about the angst of the middle class. The middle class of this country as we know it is disappearing. You have the perennially poor. You have the near poor. And you have the new poor.

We believe that the -- that the new poor are the former middle class. So you can't have a campaign now where we just talk about the angst of the middle class without talking about the poor. That's what's missing in this context.

VAN SUSTEREN: But even with the poor, it's the -- sort of the morality issue, but there's also -- it's sort of the -- you know, almost the selfish issues, because the -- as the poor class grows bigger and bigger, the entitlement grows bigger and bigger, and we have bigger and bigger economic problems. So there's morality issue and also the question, it's a real drag on the economy, if we don't help them and don't inspire...


TAPPER: And, George, you and I were talking about this earlier. You think that we're witnessing the birth of a new entitlement, with the president's push on -- on student loans.

WILL: Well, look what happened. It's a slow-motion, almost absentminded creation of a new entitlement, exactly at the moment when the entitlement state is buckling under the weight of its already existing commitments. Five years ago, Congress says, well, let's cut in half the interest rate on certain student loans, from 6.8 to 3.4.

TAPPER: 6.8 to 3.4, yeah.

WILL: We'll do it, they said, temporarily. Well, now we're coming up against the expiration of that, and they're saying, well, let's temporarily move it on yet again.

TAPPER: But Romney supports that, as well.

WILL: I understand that. And that's why this is a bipartisan example of how entitlements -- because once you do this, once you extend it again, you'll never go back to 3.4 percent.

SMILEY: But when -- but when -- but when student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, and we want to label that an entitlement, we don't call corporate welfare an entitlement. I just -- I don't see...

WILL: Of the two-thirds of the people who graduate from college with debt, the average debt is something under $30,000 total. That is just about the one-year difference in earnings between a college graduate and a high school graduate. We're talking about a pittance a month (ph).


SMILEY: But, George -- but if we give interest-free loans to bankers, why not interest-free loans to students, George?

WILL: Let's not give interest-free loans to anyone.


GOOLSBEE: The thing is, there's nothing that's better for the long-run health of the country than educating our kids. Extending the high-income tax cuts for guys that make $10 million a year is way worse for the overall economic health than extending subsidized student loans for people to go to college. It helps us all that they degrees.

BUCHANAN: I'll tell you something that's even more important, and that's jobs for these kids. Over 50 percent of our youth do not work.

GOOLSBEE: I agree with that.

BUCHANAN: People who are graduating from college, 53 percent, do not get jobs when they graduate. We are going to lose that whole generation because, you know, when the jobs do come back, they're going to hire college graduates just coming out.

GOOLSBEE: Which is exactly why we should be getting...

BUCHANAN: So what's going to happen to those...


GOOLSBEE: ... them to college, not cutting them off.

BUCHANAN: Your president is talking about -- our president is talking about interest on student loans. These kids need jobs. That's what they need. Let's create jobs in this country. That's where he has failed so miserably.

GOOLSBEE: Well, as a factual matter, to your previous statements about job creation, the going back to the George Bush policies of, "Let's cut high-income taxes and hope that trickles down and generates jobs," it didn't. The first term of George Bush's administration, the job performance was substantially worse than it has been under this president. So I think going back to that -- what is the evidence that that worked? It generated an economic crisis unlike any we've ever had before.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the problem is...

GOOLSBEE: So why does that make sense?

VAN SUSTEREN: But the problem is, politically, is there -- it's very hard to sell that and make people feel enthusiastic, like when you go out there and you sell, well, it could be a lot worse, or we're doing a little bit better, because what Bay has -- their side, well, our guy can do a little better, and that's the problem you have politically, is that it's horrible to have to be running on that.

TAPPER: Speaking of politics, I want to change the subject a bit to a big primary that's coming up in Tavis' home state of Indiana. The Republican senator there, the incumbent, Dick Lugar, looks like he's not going to have a very good Tuesday. Here's some of the sound that we have from him and his Republican opponent.


LUGAR: America faces serious challenges, but Hoosiers' courage and determination are unbreakable. It's this spirit that guides me every day in the Senate. My job has been and always will be to live up to the ideals of our state.

MOURDOCK: Dick Lugar has spent thousands of dollars telling you things about me that he knows are not true. He thinks this campaign's about me. But it's not. It's not about him, either. It's about America's future.


TAPPER: That's the state treasurer, Richard Mourdock, who according to polls looks like he is going to defeat Senator Richard Lugar in the primary on Tuesday, although who knows? Nobody's voted yet, so I'm just saying. But, Bay, you're excited about this.

BUCHANAN: I am, and I'm speaking as an individual, as a conservative activist, we are very excited. And this is -- goes to Greta's point. There is great enthusiasm in our party, and you read, hey, the Tea Party, it's done with, it's had its heyday. They should never write something like that, because that's what this is about. Lugar's been in Washington 36 years. He doesn't even own a home anymore in Indiana. He just lives here, has a farm back there, and kind of visits. And you know what? Americans, they've had it with this kind of government.


VAN SUSTEREN: You might want to hold -- you might want to hold that euphoria, because the polls also show that, while Lugar is behind for the primary, in a match-up with Donnelly, the congressman, the Democrat in November, is that -- is that Lugar would do much better. And if you're worried about the Republican Senate, you might want to pay more attention...


VAN SUSTEREN: And that Donnelly and Mourdock are neck and neck.

SMILEY: But, Greta, there's even a -- there's even a larger issue here beyond Mr. Lugar and Mr. Mourdock. This is a race where Dick Lugar is on his heels now over being bipartisan. He has a 77 percent conservative voting record. I grew up in this state with two United States senators, one on the left, a guy named Birch Bayh, and one on the right, named Richard Lugar. I am not a Republican, and I don't live there anymore, but my family still lives there, but I grew with Rick Lugar -- Dick Lugar as my state senator, as my United States senator.

To see him now on his heels over being bipartisan, we say what we want in Washington is for the parties to get along, to solve our major problems. And for the Tea Party and Mr. Mourdock now to be putting him on his back over being bipartisan, over trying to cross across the aisle, that's insane, Bay.

BUCHANAN: What your point is, is that -- that being bipartisan has helped, but what has happened in Washington? That's what the American people are looking at.

SMILEY: Bay, he has a 77 percent conservative voting record, Bay.


BUCHANAN: ... situation is worse.

SMILEY: So it's as if to the Tea Party and Republicans, if you don't vote with us 100 percent, if you don't have purity, we want you out.


BUCHANAN: Conservatives -- conservatives...


GOOLSBEE: I hope the president names him ambassador to...


TAPPER: I'd love to bring George (inaudible) for one second. What's your take on this? You know -- you know Dick Lugar. You probably know Mr. Mourdock, as well.

WILL: I know them both. And there comes a point when people bring out the most powerful slogan in politics, it's time for a change. And the fact is, he's served with distinctions for 36 years, and I don't think we should commit promiscuous sociology here by finding something about the country when people in Indiana said enough. Let's try someone else.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

TAPPER: I want -- there are two more topics I want to get to, and we're running out of time. I do want to talk about the John Edwards case. Tavis, you've been watching the case. Cate Edwards, the daughter of John Edwards and the late Elizabeth Edwards, at one point having to leave the courtroom in tears, as the very disgustingly dirty laundry is aired in the courtroom. Bad day for the defense.

SMILEY: I think it was beyond a bad day. It was a horrific day. I thought, up until that moment, that Mr. Edwards had a chance to make his case in this courtroom, but when your daughter ends up walking out of court in tears and everybody sees that, it was beyond a bad day. I think for me, that was the turning point in whatever this trial's going to end up being.

VAN SUSTEREN: Look, I think that most people think that the charges are weak, who have studied them, but he is so disgusting. I mean, what he did to his wife when she was dying -- what I do worry about, stepping back, is whether he can get a fair trial, because how can you possibly like that guy? That juror is sitting there, trying to be fair and weigh the evidence, and it's very, very hard to give that guy a fair thing, because what he has done is disgraceful.

BUCHANAN: There's $1 million here. There's $1 million -- you know, people say, well, maybe it's not prosecutable. He was -- he was moving around $1 million to somebody who was a campaign worker. He doesn't report it to the Federal Elections Commission. I doubt seriously he reported it to the IRS. So exactly what was happening here? There's no question that there is real problems...


VAN SUSTEREN: He's a creep, Bay, but he's still allowed to a fair trial. And he created the hatefulness of himself by himself. He has -- he has poisoned the jury by his own behavior, but he's entitled to a fair trial.

TAPPER: But check out George's take on this.

WILL: Well, being a cad is not a crime. And the question is whether or not campaign finance laws are being stretched to cover something that was not -- some of us think -- fundamentally a campaign finance contribution.

BUCHANAN: Well, the key here is -- I agree. I looked at this, and I've spent a lot of time working in the campaign finance laws. The problem is, what was that $1 million? What was it? OK, it was -- it went to somebody who was a campaign worker. He says, well, it wasn't.

TAPPER: This is Andrew Young.

BUCHANAN: It's private. Yes. Well, exactly...


VAN SUSTEREN: And the jury will decide that, Bay, but they've got to decide it fairly.

BUCHANAN: And the jury will decide it.

VAN SUSTEREN: But over -- over...


VAN SUSTEREN: But the thing is, they can't be poisoned by the guy is such a...


TAPPER: But the interesting thing about Andrew Young is, he was actually -- this payoff, this alleged payoff money, he was actually embezzling the alleged payoff...


SMILEY: But the saddest -- but the saddest part of all of this is, he's the last presidential candidate to really talk about poverty in this country. And to see how far he's fallen from that...

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and -- and what a fraud. While he's talking about two Americas, he's got two wives or two women. I mean, really?

TAPPER: So he was living what he was talking about. That's not a fraud. That's exactly...


TAPPER: He's practicing what he preaches.


VAN SUSTEREN: The jury should -- the jury should only look at the evidence and give him a fair trial, but he has so powerfully poisoned anyone against him.

BUCHANAN: You have to ask, why didn't he take care of it? Why did he go and get money from a campaign donor and finesse...


TAPPER: He obviously was deluded. He thought that he could still be president. I mean, or attorney general. He thought that Obama was going to pick him to be attorney general.


BUCHANAN: ... taking care of it. It's legal for him to take care of it.


GOOLSBEE: But I agree with Bay. I think it's pretty -- I think it's highly suspicious what's going on that there may be criminal activity, though I do think, Greta, you can find a lot of people who do not pay attention to politics. I bet you could find a jury with a lot of choices of people who are like, who's John Edwards? I don't know anything about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: But they're -- but they're hearing it. It's not like they heard it from us in the media. They're hearing -- this stuff is coming out in the courtroom, the wife, as Tavis said -- or, I mean, the girl -- the daughter -- there are so many women here...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... the daughter went out in tears. I mean, if you've heard nothing about John Edwards, you're hearing all of it now in the courtroom, so they're going...

GOOLSBEE: That's fair.


TAPPER: We only have three minutes left. I do want to turn to the National Football League, which has had probably one of the worst weeks in the history of the football league, both with the suicide of a prominent Pro Bowler and also with a lawsuit brought against the NFL by 100 former NFL players, saying that they were not adequately protected by the football league, especially when it comes to these head injuries that some say have led to some of these suicides. George, is football in trouble? Or is this just the media making a meck, a muck?

WILL: Football's in trouble for two years. First of all, the human body is not built for the violence that is inherent in football at the highest level. Second, people are going to watch football differently from now on, because they're going to feel a little bit like the spectators in the Coliseum in Rome, watching people sacrificed for their entertainment, with a kind of violence that is unseemly. Third suicide in 15 months. One of the suicides shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied for what we delicately call neurological issues. Sportscasters for years have been saying there's some collision -- oh, he really got his bell rung. No, he got his brain damaged.

SMILEY: It's a good decision, number one, that his family, I think, has allowed his brain now to be used for research. I celebrate and applaud that decision on their part. That's a courageous decision for them to make, I think, number one.

Number two, Commissioner Goodell ought to be more serious about this, but we all know what the problem is here. Money. There's too much money in this game for them to take this issue as seriously as they should.

And, number three, while I have great respect for those former players who now pressed this issue with this lawsuit, the current players ought to be more concerned about this. The current players union ought to be more vocal, because these are the guys down the road, George, who are going to be in that same situation.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Greta, who actually owns one share of the Green Bay Packers.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me brag about only one share. As an owner, you know, look, I think it's terrible what's going on, but I think it's sort of like politics, as you only complain about the other team and the other people who are doing it. I think actually the more interesting issue -- and this is a shout-out to Donna Brazile, who's a frequent guest here -- is the Saint -- as the New Orleans Saints, I think they got bigger trouble. And Drew Brees, who is approaching Johnny Unitas' 42 consecutive games with touchdowns, he has six games away, and what's going on at the Saints, with all the suspensions and their coach gone, I think that he can -- that there's a lot of pressure on him. He's not going to be able to do it this time. And it's a different game between Drew Brees and Johnny Unitas.

TAPPER: You're a big football fan, Austan. Are you worried?

GOOLSBEE: I am a football fan, and I hate the Packers. But I am worried in the following way...

VAN SUSTEREN: And I hate the Bears.

TAPPER: We have 30 seconds left, so...

GOOLSBEE: Human beings have shown in every sport and all over the place that the people themselves are willing to sacrifice their health, even their lives for money, for glory, and the glory's never been higher, the money's never been higher. I think even knowing that people are getting injured, we're getting a bit of the old Mount Everest thing, of the more dangerous it looks, the more glory it is, and the more people want to try it. I don't know how we get out of that.

BUCHANAN: And that's why the organization should step in.

TAPPER: All right. I'll be back in a moment with the stories behind some of the amazing photos you've submitted in Your Voice, Your Pics. But first, we remember and we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.

This week, the Pentagon released the names of five servicemembers killed in Afghanistan.


TAPPER: Finally today, all week you've been tweeting and Facebooking us your questions at #askgeorge. And since George is not here this week, I'll take on one of your questions.

Our question comes from Teresa Trujillo, who asks, why has the president spent so much time fundraising? We elected him to govern the nation.

Well, Teresa, we looked into it, and you're right. President Obama is fundraising at a record pace compared with his predecessors. He's already attended 133 fundraisers as president, compared with 86 during George W. Bush's first term and 70 fundraisers during President Clinton's. Political scientist Brendan Doherty, who helped us compile these statistics, reminds us that the cost of campaigning increases each election cycle, so presidents have to fundraise more than their predecessors to remain competitive.

But the president's critics point out taxpayers foot most of the bills for his travel to these fundraisers and asked whether the president's time would be better spent at work in Washington.

More questions next week. Send them in at #askgeorge on Facebook, Twitter, or anytime on abcnews.com.

And before we go, Your Voice, Your Pics. For two weeks, you've been submitting photographs of what Americana means to you. We've got a ton of submissions, the small town general store, an afternoon at the park, sunset on a Florida beach. And former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm sent us this photo of her state's famous Mackinac Bridge.

Each snapshot tells a uniquely American story, and so we asked the photographers of two of the most popular photos to tell us the stories behind them.


LOWRY (ph): My name is Richard Lowry (ph), and I live in Ashburn, Virginia. I drove to Camp Lejeune, and all the Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regimen were assembling to leave on ships. That photograph, in my eyes, exemplifies the determination, dedication, and sacrifice that our young men and women of this generation are making.

WILLIAMS (ph): My name is Matt Williams (ph). This is my son, Connor (ph), and we live in Edmond, Oklahoma. This was April 20th. We were downtown in Oklahoma City at the canoe and kayak Olympic boat tryouts. It's a pretty simple photo. Put a flag in a baby's hand, and they're going to wave it. It just makes for a great American moment.


TAPPER: We admit, we're suckers for toddlers waving American flags. We'll share more photos on next week's broadcast, and you can get the details about how to submit your photos and vote for your favorites at abcnews.com/thisweek. And we'll be back in a moment with some amazing images of last night's super moon.


TAPPER: That's all for us today. Tune into "World News" with David Muir for the latest headlines tonight. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. George Stephanopoulos will see you back here next week. And we leave you with last night's super moon, the moon's closest pass to the Earth this year.