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ABC's George Stephanopoulos: Will GOP Landslide Be a 'Blessing in Disguise' for Obama?

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday tried to find the upside to a possible Democratic landslide in November. Talking to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, he wondered if major Republican gains could be "a blessing in disguise for President Obama." [Audio available here.]

Stephanopoulos touted the historical model of Bill Clinton losing the Congress in 1994, but being reelected in 1996.The host, who was a senior advisor to Clinton when the Republicans won the Senate and House in 1994, didn't seem very happy at the time.

In his book, All Too Human, he recounted with gloom: "Our nemesis Newt Gingrich was now Speaker- two heartbeats from the White House. If Clinton really were a prime minister, he'd have been out of a job." [Page 322. Emphasis added]

O'Reilly dismissed the comparison: "It's a different world...Bill Clinton was like Martin Van Buren, I mean, as far as the media's concerned. This is a hyper medium. Everything is blown up the second it happens on the internet and cable."

At one point during the interview, O'Reilly derided the President's plan to let tax cuts for upper income groups expire as "class warfare." He pressed the ABC host, "Would you agree with that?" The ABC journalist unsurprisingly quipped, "Not necessarily."

After O'Reilly described a tax rate of 40 percent as too high, the argumentative Stephanopoulos asserted, "That's what the rates were under Reagan and people did pretty well." (Of course, the top marginal tax rates under Reagan were actually going down, a point Stephanopoulos ignored.)

A transcript of the September 14 segment, which aired at 7:08am EDT, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: For more now, we're joined live by the host of The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News, Bill O'Reilly. Also has a brand new book: Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama. Welcome back.

BILL O'REILLY: Hey, George. How are you?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm doing great. Thank you.

O'REILLY: George never looks tired in the morning. Can you get a close-up of George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not too close.

O'REILLY: Eight o'clock at night. Here's George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you're my bedtime TV watching. I go to bed early.

O'REILLY: I appreciate that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to talk about the book. Let's get into the tax fight first. Because, I was struck by the Wall Street Journal this morning. They think that John Boehner, the Republican leader made a big bungle on Sunday when he said he would vote for the extension of middle-class tax cuts, even if all the tax cuts weren't extended.

O'REILLY: Well, I think he was caught in the tanning bed in the salon and he didn't really hear what was going on. Look, the whole thing is class warfare. Would you agree with that? I mean-

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily. But, go ahead.

O'REILLY: No? But, really though, what the President is selling is he's saying the upper tier are going to have to be responsible for the tax revenue, primarily. And the other people will get a tax cut. He's saying, "Look. I don't care about these people, who earn a lot of money. But, you know, I want to help you." I think that's class warfare.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's saying we can't afford it. He's saying there's $700 billion in costs there that we can't afford. That's his argument.

O'REILLY: Yeah. And who imposed those costs?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who did?

O'REILLY: George? He did. So, you know, look. I think 35 percent to the government is a fair deal. I think it is. And then, if you get over 40, which is where he wants to put it, that's kind of punishing people. So, I don't buy the tax cuts for the rich.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No. That's what the rates were under Reagan and people did pretty well.

O'REILLY: Look, I don't care whether it was under Reagan or George Washington. All right? I work hard for my money. Do I want to fork over 40 percent over to the feds and then pay property taxes and sales taxes and every other tax in the world? Come on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think is going to happen?

O'REILLY: I don't know. You know, look, it's going to be another brawl. Republicans will stretch it out just because they want to create, the Republicans do, an image of chaos for November. They want to say that President Obama just can't govern. That's what the end game is.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about these midterm elections? We're seeing, a lot of these states, the Tea Party on the rise, on offense again. You write about the Tea Party in your book. You say- unfortunately, I hope we can put it up right now- "Unfortunately, some Tea Party people play into the bogus far-right stereotype by demonizing President Obama in crude ways. I admire what the President has accomplished in his life. Please, don't tell Rush Limbaugh. And how he overcame a childhood that could have ruined him." So, do you think on balance the Tea Party has been a net plus or a minus?

O'REILLY: Well, there's two separations. I say in Pinheads and Patriots that the Tea Party, primarily, patriots because they tell people what they believe and get involved. That's patriotic. I don't care, really, what your ideology is. If you're out there, and you're sincere and telling people this is the way I'm see my country and I want to improve it, you're a patriot. Whether, you're a liberal, a Tea Party person, whatever. Okay? However, if the Tea Party people basically attack President Obama personally, that diminishes their movement.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say, stick to policy.

O'REILLY: If they say he's a Muslim. If they say he was born in, where, Indonesia. This really hurts their overall message of "Get off our back." The Tea Party message is "Get off our back." That's a good message. I mean, I don't want the feds on my back. I don't want them in my living room, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That message has toppled some Republican establishment candidates. Bob Bennett.

O'REILLY: Who are deemed to be wishy washy on that. Look, the tea party is a simple movement. They want local control. They want the feds not to have as much power. Whereas, President Obama wants this huge federal apparatus. That's a good debate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Bottom line, do you think Republicans are going to take control of Congress? And if they do, is that a blessing in disguise for President Obama?

O'REILLY: I have no idea. I don't really do the party politics thing. Morris over- Dick Morris. He thinks they will. But he's got, you know, he's rooting for them. But I'll tell you what. President Obama has got a leadership problem right now. He has got a leadership problem. If he gets whacked, if he loses the House, that's going to get worse. This is a huge election for President Obama himself. He has a leadership problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you think if he loses, that spells trouble for him in 2012?

O'REILLY: Of course.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not the opposite, where for Bill Clinton lost in '94, the Congress, it actually helped him.

O'REILLY: It's a different world. It's a hyper world now. Bill Clinton was like Martin Van Buren, I mean, as far as the media's concerned. This is a hyper medium. Everything is blown up the second it happens on the internet and cable. So, it's no longer those rules. And the perception gets out there much quicker than it did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you've been weighing in on the controversy over the Islamic center sown at Ground Zero. I was struck yesterday that the imam, Imam Rauf, went to the Council on Foreign Relations, seemed to back off a bit. Said that all options are open. He may even consider moving it.

O'REILLY: Did you see the Factor's exclusive last night?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I did.

O'REILLY: Rauf is now tied in with this Khan who is a Truther.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, there's no evidence that Rauf believes anything like that.

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter. It's his pal! His pal!

STEPHANOPOULOS: They served on a board together.

O'REILLY: He's formed the Muslim organization with him. And the guy, Khan, has been talking down at the Burlington Coat Factory building. I don't know whether he got a free suit. But, this guy, Khan, says that al Qaeda didn't do it. And Rauf goes in and says I'm a man of peace. He may be. But who are you hanging around with? And then when we asked Rauf for a comment, he runs and hides.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to talk to him as well at some point.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.