Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript



WALLACE (voice-over): With 37 days until the election, we go on the campaign trail with Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., GOP VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is a high stakes election. We are giving the country a very clear choice.

WALLACE: And we sit down for an exclusive interview in which we discuss the economy, the new focus on national security, and, growing criticism of the Romney campaign.

Paul Ryan, only on "Fox News Sunday."

(on camera): Then, we'll preview Wednesday's first Obama-Romney debate. We'll ask our Sunday panel what each candidate needs to do to win the first face off.

(voice-over): And our Power Player of the Week has spent almost half of his life telling the inside story of how a president rose and fell from power.
All, right now on Fox News.


WALLACE: And hello again, from Fox News in Washington.

With just five weeks until Election Day, a new poll showing President Obama leading in key swing states, the presidential debates may be Mitt Romney's last, best chance to turn the race around.

And so, we wanted to find out what the Romney-Ryan plan is when they face off against Obama and Biden.


WALLACE (voice-over): We caught up with running mate Paul Ryan Saturday in Derry, New Hampshire. Before we sat down for an exclusive interview, we spoke briefly as he was about to take the stage for a campaign town hall.

(on camera): What do you think? Just before you go out on stage, each time?
RYAN: President Obama is taking us in the wrong direction. Mitt and I are offering them a different direction and I'm excited at the opportunity to give people the chance to pick that choice. That is what gets me excited about this.
Thank you so much for coming out, everybody.

WALLACE: Congressman, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."

RYAN: Great to be back with you, Chris. Welcome to New Hampshire.

WALLACE: Thank you.

What does Governor Romney need to do Wednesday night in that first debate?

RYAN: He needs to give the American people the choice that we're offering.

That's what we're doing. We owe the country a very clear choice of a different future. You can either have a dynamic growing economy that produces opportunity, or you can have a stagnant economy that fosters dependency.

We can stick with the failed policies of the last four years or the next four years -- we need a brighter future. Stagnation versus growth, dependency versus opportunity and upward mobility. That is the classic choice, clear difference that we're offering.

And so what we hope people get out of this debate is that choice.

WALLACE: Well, it's interesting, because for the last -- I don't know -- six months, the Romney campaign has said this is the referendum on Barack Obama's record. Now, you're saying it's a choice.

RYAN: It's not a change in strategy. It's a phase of the campaign that we've now entered into, because I think it's important. The president is trying to paper over his problems.

The president has been trying to mislead and distort a record. It's a failed record. We think it was very important to point that out.

Look at unemployment. Look at our poverty rates. Look at the 23 million people struggling for work.

But now, at this phase of the campaign, we think it's critical that people understand it doesn't have to be that way. We can get our country back on track. Mitt Romney is offering the leadership and the policies and the principles that enable us to do that.

WALLACE: It is clear that you two, you and Romney, are trailing in the polls, especially in the key swing states. And there are a growing number of top Republicans who say that Romney needs a clear victory, not a wash, a clear victory on Wednesday or else the donor support will dry up and so will the grassroots support.

RYAN: First of all, the polls are close. This is going to be a close race.
Second of all, I don't think --


WALLACE: But you are trailing.

RYAN: Well, we're running against an incumbent president. We're running against an incumbent president with incredible resources. But more importantly, I don't think one event is going to make or break this campaign.

Look, President Obama is a very -- he's a very gifted speaker. The man's been on the national stage for many years. He's an experienced debater. He's done these kinds of debates before.

This is Mitt's first time on this kind of a stage. I think what people --

WALLACE: Yes, but he did 23 debates during the primary.

RYAN: I think what people are going to see who is Mitt Romney, what kind of president is going to be and what are the choices I have. That, to me, is what matters in this particular debate and all the debates; which is I know what President Obama has done, I know all of these empty promises and broken promises, I know about the ugly stagnant economy. What is Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan offering to get us back on track?

And I think that's what we get out of Wednesday. And if we get that out of Wednesday, then the country understands the choice they have to make.

WALLACE: I understand that Governor Romney plans to make a major foreign policy speech in the next few days. Do the two of you think that the president has engaged in a cover-up in his and the administration's explanation of what happened at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi?

RYAN: Well, I'll let others decide that. I mean, there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress that are calling for an investigation, as we need to have.
I mean, their response was slow, it was confused, it was inconsistent. The first said that it was a YouTube video and a spontaneous mob; we now know that it was a planned terrorist attack. If this was one tragic incident, that would be a tragedy in and of itself. The problem is it is part of a bigger picture of the fact that the Obama foreign policy is unraveling literally before our eyes on our TV screens.

And so what Mitt Romney is going to do is lay out a very different vision for foreign policy, one that is a policy of American strength versus what I would articulate or claim the president's policy is one of weakness.

We are seeing the ugly fruits of the Obama foreign policy unravel around the world on our TV screens. Syria, we've got 20,000 dead people. Iran is closer toward a nuclear weapon. The Middle East peace process is in shambles. And we have our flags being burned all around the world.

Russia is thwarting us at every stage in the process. This is a weak foreign policy with terrible results which makes us less safe.

WALLACE: Let me just pick you up on a couple of those. Syria, Governor Romney would not put U.S. troops on the ground in Syria. Iran, Governor Romney's red line seems to be about where Barack Obama's is. There is no big difference...

RYAN: Oh, sure there is. Look, first, let's go to Iran. That's probably the most important. That's the biggest threat we have today. The difference is credibility. The president's Iran policy lacks credibility.

What I mean when I say that is, the ayatollahs in Iran, they have to make a decision to stop pursuing a nuclear weapon and pursue a peaceful resolution, but they are not doing that.

And I would argue they are not doing that because the president doesn't have credibility. He fought and resisted tough sanctions until the last moment. He was silent for too long on the Green Revolution while we had a chance for a peaceful uprising for democracy, they cracked down.

When he puts the military option on the table, he does it in a way that doesn't have credibility because his administration sends out mixed signals such as, they are more worried about an Israeli attack than Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

WALLACE: Let me give you an opportunity to establish instant credibility and a difference. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, gave a very dramatic speech at the U.N. this week. He had a drawing of a bomb. He drew a red line.

RYAN: I saw that.

WALLACE: And he said, if Iran amasses that amount of medium enriched uranium, which would be enough to make a bomb, we have to strike. Would you and Governor Romney put the red line the same place that Benjamin Netanyahu did?

RYAN: So what Mitt Romney and I have said is a nuclear weapons capability is what we have to stop. Now we have to speak with credibility. That means a Romney/Ryan administration will be one of credibility where we don't establish daylight between our allies, especially Israel.

Where, when we say what we are going to do, it is believed. That is the issue here. The ayatollahs, by virtue of the conduct, don't believe the president when he says his interest is to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

WALLACE: But you're not putting the red line any place different than the president.

RYAN: The president has moved his rhetoric a bit to look more like ours, and that's good. But the problem is it is built upon a mountain of non-credible actions. I have been in Congress for a number of years. We have been fighting for tough, crippling sanctions since 2009 on Iran.

The administration resisted us. Tim Geithner tried to stop us from doing this until overwhelming bipartisan support for these crippling sanctions, then the administration came onboard.

When we are sending those signals overseas, the ayatollahs don't think we are that serious because they are racing toward a nuclear weapon. They are four years closer toward a nuclear weapon.

Syria is a good example. When you hesitate, when you don't speak with clarity, and when you don't project your confidence in American values, it projects weakness and equivocation.

When you gut the military, as the president is proposing to do, that shows that we are weakening our resolve, we're weakening our military. And when you project weakness like this, bad things happen, and look what is going on around the world.

WALLACE: Wednesday's debate is not going to focus on foreign policy, by the rules, it's going to focus on domestic policy, especially the economy. Looking back over the historical record, the question is, why aren't you guys running away with this race?

Let me put up some statistics. Unemployment is 8.1 percent. No president has won reelection with unemployment that high since FDR in 1940. GDP growth in the second quarter, just announced, 1.3 percent. We checked, no president has won reelection with GDP growth that low since they started measuring growth in 1930.

Question, given all of that, why are you and Romney losing at this point?

RYAN: We are going to win this race. Given that, we are going to win this race.
WALLACE: But you are not at this point. You are losing.

RYAN: Look, we can debate polls. I can tell you this. The president is offering four more years of the same. And the president has been very good at distorting the issue, at disguising the truth. He has been very good at distracting the people.

He can't run on hope and change any more. So he is running on division, on distraction, on distortion to try and win an election by default. Mitt Romney and I are going to give the people a very clear choice.

Here's what you need to do. Here are the pro-growth policies to get this economy growing, to get economic opportunity, to increase more take-home pay for the middle class, to get out of poverty into the middle class, to get economic opportunity, to get job security.

We're going to show the country, here's what you need to do to tackle these problems.

WALLACE: But, Congressman, Mitt Romney has been campaigning for two years, there are only five weeks left in this campaign, forgive me, but I want to look at a couple of polls here.

According to a Wall Street Journal survey, 42 percent of Americans now think that the economy will get better in the next few years, 18 percent think it will get worse, 32 percent say it'll stay the same.

And in a New York Times poll, when asked who can handle the economy better, Obama now leads Romney by six points in Ohio and five in Florida.

With five weeks left, with months, years of campaigning past us, isn't Romney in danger of losing the rationale to his campaign that he is the better steward of the economy?

RYAN: Well, you know, in these kinds of races people really focus near the end, and that's happening now. The president has done a very good job of trying to distort our record. Look, our pro-growth tax reform, it cuts tax rates by 20 percent, higher take-home pay for middle class, pro-growth economic policy. That right there creates about 7 million jobs.

So in the final analysis, people are going to realize all the president's offering is more of the same but with another round of stimulus and higher tax rates on job creators.

We're offering very specific reforms. How do you save and strengthen Medicare and Social Security? How do you prevent a debt crisis? How do you grow jobs? How do you have an energy policy that unleashes American energy and has energy independence?

WALLACE: OK, well, here's my question. The fact that the message hasn't gotten through as effectively as it did so far, is that your fault, is that the Romney campaign's fault? Or is it the voter's fault?

RYAN: It's not the voter's fault.

It's -- look, I think the president has done an effective job at trying to confuse the issues, at trying to distort our positions, at trying to distract people. But at the end of the day, I just don't think that's going to work because --


WALLACE: Do you take any of the responsibility that --

RYAN: Look, we are going to prosecute this campaign in the way in which we've always planned, is which we're going to give this country a very clear choice. You want stagnation and dependency, you want growth or opportunity? And so, we're offering those specifics.

The problem that we've had is that not everybody knows all these specifics that we've put out there. Not everybody knows these plans -- our five-point plan for a stronger middle class. Not everybody knows that we have these solutions that will get people better job security.

WALLACE: Let's talk specifics.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No matter how many times they tell you they are going to talk specifics, really soon -- they don't do it! And, the reason is, because the math doesn't work.


WALLACE: You're the master of the budget, so briefly, let's go through the plan.
The Obama camp says independent groups say if you cut those taxes rates for everybody, 20 percent, it costs $5 trillion over 10 years -- true?

RYAN: Not in the least bit true. Look this just goes to show if you torture statistics enough, they'll confess to what you want them to confess to. That study has been so thoroughly discredited. It wasn't even a measurement of Mitt Romney's -- his policy.

Here's what we're saying --


WALLACE: Well, how much would it cost?

RYAN: It's revenue neutral. It --


WALLACE: No, no. I'm not talking about the -- we'll get to the deductions, but I'm talking --


RYAN: No, no.

WALLACE: -- about the tax rates.

RYAN: So the cut in tax rates is lower all American taxes rates by 20 percent.

WALLACE: So how much does that cost?

RYAN: It's revenue neutral.

WALLACE: Look, it's not revenue neutral unless you take away the deductions.

RYAN: That's -- that's --


WALLACE: I'm looking to get to that in a second. The first half, lowering the tax rates, does that cost $5 trillion?

RYAN: No, no. Look, I won't give you a baseline with these, because that's what a lot of this is about. We're saying, limited deductions so we can lower taxes rates for everybody. Start with people at the higher end.

Here's the way it works, I've been on the Ways and Means Committee for 12 years -- both parties, Republicans and Democrats, have junked up the tax code with so many giveaways and special interest tax breaks. What we're saying is, you keep you money in your pocketbook, in your business, in your family in the first place.

The way it works today is you send more of your money to Washington and then if you do what Washington approves of, you can have some of it back.

We're saying keep it in the first place. And every time we've done this, whether it was Ronald Reagan working with Top O'Neill, the idea is from Bowles-Simpson commission on how to do this. There's been a traditional Democrat and Republican consensus lowering tax rates by broadening tax rates works, and you can.

WALLACE: But I have to --


RYAN: Let me just -- let me just --


WALLACE: You haven't given me the message.

RYAN: Well, I don't have the -- it would take me too long to go through all of that, but let me say it this way. You can lower tax rates by 20 percent across the board by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, for home purchases, for health care.

So what we're saying is people are going to get lower tax rates and therefore, they will not send as much money to Washington and they'll keep it and decide for themselves.

WALLACE: All right.

RYAN: When we've done this, we've created economic growth.

WALLACE: If, just suppose, that the doubters are right, President Romney takes office and the math doesn't add up.

RYAN: First of all, we've run the numbers, I've run them in Congress, they do. We've got about five other studies that show that you can do this.

WALLACE: OK, but let's assume it doesn't. The question is, what's more important to Romney? Would he scale back on the 20 percent tax cut for the wealthy? Would he scale back and say, OK, you know, we're going to have to raise taxes for the middle class?

I guess the question is what's most important to him in his tax reform plan?

RYAN: Keeping tax rates down. By lowering tax rates, people keep more of the next dollar that they earn. That matters. That is incentives. That's pro-growth policy. That creates 7 million jobs. And what should go first...

WALLACE: So that's more important than...

RYAN: That's more important than anything. And more importantly, it's not what deductions are in the tax code but it's who gets them. And don't forget that the higher-income people have a disproportionate amount of the loopholes that they use. So when you close a tax write-off or a tax shelter for a higher-income person, more of their income is subject to taxation so you can lower tax rates.

That's where we begin. So where we go is by denying those deductions and loopholes to higher-income people, which allows us to lower tax rates for everybody across the board and still afford important preferences for the middle-class taxpayers.

WALLACE: Governor Romney has taken heat for the 47 percent video, where he told big -- big donors that 47 percent of the country -- it's actually 46% -- don't pay federal income taxes and view themselves as victims.

Fox News did a poll this week and they found that 79 percent think all Americans should pay at least some income taxes. Do you think it would be good if -- if every American paid federal income taxes, had -- even if it's a dollar, even if it's $2 -- had some skin in the game?

RYAN: We don't think that imposing new taxes on anybody is a good idea. Don't forget, Chris, the only person running for president who's proposing higher taxes is President Obama.

So our point is we don't want to...

WALLACE: Because he would end the Bush tax cuts for the -- for the wealthy.

RYAN: Yeah, tax rates -- he already passed all these ObamaCare taxes. About a dozen of them hit middle-income taxpayers, breaking that promise. He's proposing a massive tax increase on job creators in January.

But to go to your question, we don't think the idea or the solution is to impose new taxes on low-income people. We want to get people out of poverty, back to the middle class. And that's why our economic policies are designed to create jobs and opportunities so people can get higher take-home pay.

The key is this, get people from not paying income taxes because they have bad incomes to the middle class so they have jobs that have higher take-home pay so then they pay taxes.

We want to create more taxpayers. We don't want to tax more people with bad tax policy. We want to create more taxpayers by growing the middle class, by getting people back to work with higher take-home pay.

The secret to this is economic growth, Chris. Look, the premise of these conversations; the premise of your tax reform point is as if the economic pie is fixed and that it's governments job to redistribute the slices. That's not true. That's not how the world works. We want to grow the pie. We want economic opportunity. We want people to be able to get a better job, have more income security and higher take-home pay. And you can do that through economic growth. That is what we're trying to provide. That's what we can get if we put these pro-growth policies in place.

WALLACE: A number of top Republicans say that, when Romney picked you as his running mate a little over a month ago, that they thought that this indicated that you guys were going to run a bold reform agenda campaign. And they are now expressing some frustration that instead of you changing Romney -- you've heard this -- that they feel that Romney is changing you and you're running a much more cautious campaign.

And even your own good friend and Wisconsin home state governor, Scott Walker, has gone on the radio to complain about this.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: I just haven't seen that kind of passion. I know that Paul has transferred over to our nominee, and I -- I think, a little bit -- it's a little bit of some pushback from some of the folks in the national campaign.


WALLACE: Walker says he doesn't see passion. He doesn't see reform. He doesn't see fire in the belly.

RYAN: Scott's a good buddy of mine and he's always been a good backer of mine. Come out to -- with Mitt and myself to Ohio, to Iowa, to North Carolina, to Virginia, to Florida. Attend our town hall meetings. Look at how we're walking people through how we fix Medicare, how we fix Social Security, how we create jobs, how we reform the tax code, how we have an energy policy, an education policy, a trade policy.

Mitt Romney has put out more specifics on how to revive this economy, on how to get people back to work than the incumbent president of the United States has. So I hear the handwringing in Washington -- and Washington likes to talk about process. Come out into these states with us and see what we're talking about. See the forceful case we're making for economic opportunity. See the specific plans we're putting on the table, the bold solutions.

Mitt Romney has never once asked me to temper anything down. He said go out there and sell this.

WALLACE: Well, you talk about the handwringing. There was a report this weekend that you have been talking to conservative commentators and trying to get them to stay on board, not to jump ship, not to get too discouraged. But in the course of those conversations, you've admitted the campaign has made missteps.

Question: What missteps?

RYAN: I think -- I think -- first of all, 47 percent, Mitt acknowledges himself that was an inarticulate way of describing how we are worried that in a stagnant Obama economy, more people have become dependent on government because they have no economic opportunities. It was an inarticulate way to describe what we are trying to do to create prosperity and upward mobility, and reduce dependency by getting people off welfare back to work.

So, yes, those -- we've had some missteps, but at the end of the day, the choice is really clear and we're giving people a very clear choice. We have these pro-growth solutions for opportunity and upward mobility and a dynamic economy. You've got the president promising basically four more years like the last four years of stagnation, of dependency.
So yes, here and there we have -- we have not been able to frame that choice as clearly. I really believe, by the end of this day, people are going to understand exactly what they've got and the choices they have.

WALLACE: Do you think the mainstream media is carrying water for Barack Obama?


RYAN: I think it kind of goes without saying that there's definitely a media bias. We've -- look, I'm a conservative person, I'm used to media bias. We expected media bias going into this.

That's why we're trying to cut through and go straight to people. That's why when you hear people in Washington complain about media bias, come out into these states with us and attend out town hall meetings.

WALLACE: But where have you seen it? Where have you seen it in this campaign where you feel they're judging you and Romney by one standard and Obama and Biden by another?

RYAN: I don't think -- I'm not going to go into a tit-for-tat or litigate this thing. But as a conservative, I've long believed and long felt that there is inherit media bias. And I think anybody with objectivity would believe that that's the case.

WALLACE: Do you think mainstream media wants Barack Obama to win?

RYAN: You'll have to ask mainstream that.

WALLACE: No, what do you think?

RYAN: I think most people in the mainstream media are left of center and therefore, they want a very left of center president than they want a conservative president like Mitt Romney.

WALLACE: So they want Obama to win and they want to lose?

RYAN: I don't know. I'll let you decide what people want, what's in their hearts, what's in their minds. But obviously, we are offering conservative reforms that are proven ideas to work to grow the economy. We want to reapply our nation's founding principles to fix the problems. I would argue the president is replacing our founding principles.

WALLACE: We've been talking about the presidential debate on Wednesday, but the following week, you have your own debate, vice presidential debate against Joe Biden. And I know you've been watching tapes of Joe Biden and I know you're going to play the expectations game and say he's the greatest debater since -- who? -- Daniel --


RYAN: You want me to start now?

WALLACE: No, no, I don't want to hear that. What I do want to hear, though, is, you know, you watch tapes of games.

RYAN: I do.

WALLACE: What are his techniques? What are his tricks? What are his strengths?

RYAN: He's fast on the cuff. He's a witty guy. He knows who he is and he's been doing this for 40 years.

So you're not going to rattle Joe Biden. Joe Biden has been on the national stage. He's ran for president twice. He's a sitting vice president.

What I hope to achieve is to give people an alternative. A very different governing philosophy, different policies.

And Joe is very good on the attack. Joe is very good at trying to confuse the issues so that the person who leaves the debate confused about who stands for what. My job is to make sure that they are not -- they are not confused about what we stand for and what they stand for.

WALLACE: Now, you have Ted Olson, perhaps the most respected --

RYAN: Very smart guy.

WALLACE: -- lawyer, Supreme Court Appellate lawyer in the country. The guy who won Bush v. Gore as your stand-in.

What other similarities between Ted Olson and Joe Biden?

RYAN: They're about the same age, and Ted Olson is one really good debater. I hope -- I hope Joe Biden shows up more than Ted Olson, because I tell you, he's one of the best litigators in America.

But what Ted has done is he has studied Joe Biden's tape, Joe Biden's record, Joe Biden's, you know, style. And Ted, as you know, is one of the best litigators in America, he's pretty good at adapting to that.

WALLACE: Have you got lines already prepared? A tax line?

RYAN: No, I'm not really a line guy. I'm more of a gut guy. I'm more of a you know me well. I don't try to be anybody other than who I am. I believe in what I believe. I do what I do. And I really believe in the policies that we're providing, that we're pursuing. And at the end of the day, I'm just going to go in there and be me.

WALLACE: And are you hoping that Joe Biden makes one of his occasional gaffes?

RYAN: I don't think he will. You know he doesn't do that in debates. You know, gaffes, he's kind of legendary for this, that's not in these kinds of situations. He does not -- he's a very disciplined person when he speaks in these kinds of situations.

He doesn't produce gaffes in these moments. Those are when he's off the cuff, you know, on the stomp, on campaign speeches.

WALLACE: So you're not counting on one of those.

RYAN: I'm not counting on a gaffe, no.

WALLACE: Thank you so much so much for talking with us. Safe travels on the campaign trail.

RYAN: You bet. Thanks, Chris. Appreciate it


WALLACE: With that interview, we have now talked with both men on the Republican ticket.

But, it has been a different story with the Democrats. Each week, for years now, we have invited President Obama and Vice President Biden to join us here on "Fox News Sunday." When we last sat down with Mr. Obama he said he would be back soon.


WALLACE: Senator Obama, thanks for talking with us.

OBAMA: I enjoyed it.