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updated 12/21/2003 2:33:56 PM ET 2003-12-21T19:33:56

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NBC News
MEET THE PRESS
Sunday, December 21, 2003

GUESTS: Representative TOM DeLAY, (R-Texas) Majority Leader
MARY MATALIN, Former Adviser to Vice Pres. Dick Cheney
JAMES CARVILLE, Author, "Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back"
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News

This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS (202)885-4598 (Sundays: (202)885-4200)

Meet the Press (NBC News) - Sunday, December 21, 2003

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MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: One week after the capture of Saddam Hussein, how goes the war in Iraq? Can the Democrats successfully challenge George W. Bush on the war? And, on the economy, tax cuts and deficits. With us, an exclusive interview with the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Republican Tom DeLay of Texas. Then our political roundtable: for the Democrats, James Carville; for the Republicans, Mary Matalin. The political odd couple squares off. And joining us now is the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay of Texas. Good morning. Merry Christmas, sir.

REP. TOM DeLAY, (R-TX): Good morning. Merry Christmas, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman DeLay, one week after the capture of Saddam Hussein, how would you describe the situation in Iraq?

REP. DeLAY: Well, I think it's very exciting. I think the American people on Sunday, a week ago, felt a huge sense of relief that we finally got Saddam Hussein. It sent a very real message, not just to the people of Iraq but to the people of America and around the world, that this tyrant no longer will be able to kill people, will no longer be able to support terrorists, will no longer be able to use weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors or his own people. They feel a sense of relief and a sense of progress. And on the ground, the progress that we're showing in Iraq by getting more of the insurgents, the kinds of infrastructure rebuilding that's going on, reconstruction that's going on, the democracy that is starting to show itself, is very encouraging, and very exciting.

MR. RUSSERT: Two weeks ago, your former leader in the House, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, was on MEET THE PRESS. He also talked to Newsweek magazine, and this is what he said. I'm "`very proud of what [Operation Iraqi Freedom commander Gen.] Tommy Franks did--up to the moment of deciding how to transfer power to the Iraqis. Then'--`we go off a cliff.'" Talking about the reconstruction efforts and trying to deal with the resistance. Would you agree with Speaker Gingrich?

REP. DeLAY: No, I wouldn't say we went off a cliff. I think the war continues. The war on terror continues. Iraq, as the president has said, is a battle in that war on terror, and we're going to fight terrorists whether it be in Israel, or Iraq, or Syria, or Afghanistan, or anywhere in the Philippines; this is a war that we're in. And the war just didn't end because we got Saddam Hussein. It's going to continue. But I am just so proud of our military and our intelligence capabilities as of late. We're making incredible progress. We're getting terrorists all over the world. And the world is much safer today than it was on 9/11.

MR. RUSSERT: As you well remember back in October of 2002, Congress voted to authorize the president to attack Iraq if he decided that that was in the best interest of the United States. The primary rationale provided by the administration was that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. Nearly 180 members in the House of Representatives cited the nuclear threat in their speeches as they voted to vote for authorization. I want to go back and show you what you said in October of 2002 about Saddam. "...once a madman like Saddam Hussein is able to deliver his arsenal, whether"--it's--"chemical, biological or nuclear weapons"--there's--"no telling when an American city will be attacked at his direction or with his support. ...the threat from Saddam Hussein's terrorist state. ...Only regime change can remove the danger from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Only by taking them out of his hands and destroying them can we be certain that terror weapons will not wind up in the hands of terrorists."

Why haven't we found significant stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction? And was the country, the world, misled in the suggestion that Saddam possessed biological and chemical weapons in the imminent--and the risk was imminent?

REP. DeLAY: Well, first, Tim, I don't accept your premise. The president didn't overemphasize weapons of mass destruction as the only reason to go into Iraq. And in my own remarks, if you had given the entire remarks, you would have seen that I went through a complete list of things that this--Saddam Hussein has been doing, that has been proven to have been right. First and foremost, he used weapons of mass destruction against Iran, against Kuwait, against his own people. So we knew that he had the--at least chemical weapons of mass destruction because he had used them in the past. He was violating U.N. resolutions for 10, almost 12 years. He violated every agreement that he made after he lost the war in Desert Storm.

He lied to the American people. He lied to the world. He supported terrorists. We have proven that to--to be the case so far. He had weapons of mass destruction. I think we'll still find them. But it wasn't the only thing. And I--we have found that he has supported terrorists in Israel. He had missiles aimed at Israel. He supported terrorists around the world. It was in his best interest to do so. So I think we did the right thing in the war on terror and that is to go after the terrorist Saddam Hussein, and we got him.

MR. RUSSERT: President Bush, former President Clinton, even the Germans, the French said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. If, in fact, we do not find significant stockpiles, has this been a colossal intelligence failure, and should there be an aggressive, bipartisan attempt to find out what may have gone wrong?

REP. DeLAY: First of all, under the Clinton administration, there was a resolution passed by Congress in 1998 that called for regime change and the establishment of democracy in Iraq. This was the Clinton administration, who wasn't exactly good on the war on terrorism. So everybody knew that we had to have a regime change. If we don't find weapons of mass destruction--and I think we will, and we've already found evidence that not only did he have it, but he violated United Nations' resolutions all along the lines, particularly when it comes to weapons instructions. So, you know, we are winning this war on terror. We can nitpick it apart, looking for downsides or trying to smear the president, but we're winning this war on terror and the American people know it.

MR. RUSSERT: General Wesley Clark, a Democratic candidate for president, former NATO supreme commander, said that we should not have gone to war with Iraq because the threat was not imminent; that, rather, the focus should have been on Osama bin Laden. And this is how it was reported in the papers this week. "Clark said that President Bush should have tracked down and captured Osama bin Laden rather than waging war in Iraq"... "Capturing Saddam doesn't change the fact that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, bin Laden, the biggest threat to the United States," Clark said in N.H. ...Clark said that, if he were president, bin Laden would be in custody already. "I would have kept the focus on Osama bin Laden."

REP. DeLAY: Well, Tim, I got to tell you, sometimes--you know, it's harder to find Osama bin Laden than it is to find--or it's easier to find Osama bin Laden than it is to find Wesley Clark's foreign policy. General Wesley Clark, as you pointed out, was commander of NATO. He was also removed from that post because of character reasons. So, you know, what he says, frankly, doesn't hold a whole lot of weight with me. "Go after Osama bin Laden"--I knew that that would be the first thing the Democrats said after we got Saddam Hussein. They said, "Oh, well, that's good we got Saddam Hussein, but you haven't gotten Osama bin Laden." What we have gotten is we've destroyed his network. The president took the war to them in Afghanistan. We can do both and we did both. We've upset the al-Qaida networks to the point that they can't do anything right now. And we're still after Osama bin Laden, at the same time we went into Iraq and did a magnificent job in Iraq, at the same time we're dealing with terrorists in the Philippines and terrorists around the world, and at the same time we're protecting the American people here at home. Pretty good accomplishment. Unfortunately, Wesley Clark must live in a different world.

MR. RUSSERT: General Clark would say that President Clinton praised his performance as NATO commander and was not removed for character reasons. General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has a different view, but I'll leave that to next time I talk to General Clark. I want to talk to you about something you did say about the Democratic candidates on Tuesday. "The Democrats' hateful, moronic comments are beyond the pale, and the Democrats know it, and they don't care because they have nothing to offer the public debate but rage, resentment and quackery. Until other Democrats stand up against this hysteria, they're admitting to the country their party has no claim to national leadership. I guess Oliver Stone is on the Democrats' short list for vice president." That's pretty harsh, Congressman.

REP. DeLAY: It's pretty harsh what the Democrats are saying. It's amazing to me the comments that you're hearing now coming from national politicians running for national office. You'd think it would come from the French or their party or from these demonstrators that demonstrate in the streets that you see. But these are supposed to be legitimate people saying some pretty outrageous things, like Wesley Clark. If we left it up to Wesley Clark, Saddam Hussein would still be in place and he'd be paying the families of suicide bombers in Israel. If we listened to Howard Dean, of all people, who last week alone made all kinds of outrageous remarks trying to smear the president--you know, tough rhetoric's one thing, and we can all disagree on the direction of this war or what kind of way we ought to participate.

But they've gone over the top. I mean, Howard Dean saying that we're not safer because Saddam Hussein is out of office, and some making--and sort of saying that the president has concocted this war to save his political hide, that "Baghdad Jim" McDermott, the congressman from Washington, talking about that we could have gotten Saddam Hussein anytime we wanted to, but we just got it when things looked bad, that's when we trot him out--those kinds of outrageous comments are just beyond the pale.

MR. RUSSERT: You said this specifically about former Vermont Governor Howard Dean: "If this cruel, loudmouth extremist is the cream of the Democrat crop, next November's going to make the '84 election look like a squeaker"--'84 being when Ronald Reagan carried every state but Minnesota and the District of Columbia against Walter Mondale. What has GovernorDean said that is cruel and extremist?

REP. DeLAY: Well, cruel and extremist in just about anything you--you look at everything he said. Just this week alone, he said that we should turn over the security of the American people to the United Nations, that we should get permission to fight this war on terror. If we were waiting for permission, we wouldn't be in Afghanistan. We wouldn't be routing out the al-Qaeda and Taliban. We wouldn't be in Iraq. Iraq would continue to be supporting terrorists around the world if we listened to Dean  He now wants--now that we're in Iraq and we're starting to build a democracy and bringing even countries like Libya on board, understanding that we've got to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East, Howard Dean just is an extreme extremist. And I think it's wonderful that he's doing what he's doing. I think the American people understand that he lives in a different world than the American people do, and just this week alone, they can see it.

MR. RUSSERT: But Governor Dean is appealing to the Democratic base. He believes, if he can rally that base and get a large turnout, that he can beat President Bush. Do you believe that Governor Dean could beat President Bush? Or do you stick with your prediction it would be a landslide for the president?

REP. DeLAY: Well, I hope Howard Dean is nominated for the Democratic nomination, I got to tell you. As I said--as you pointed out earlier, I think the Democrat platform for 2004 could be titled "Dean Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." We would love to run against Howard Dean. He is so far out there on the fringe. Maybe he is appealing to his base, but that—you can't win by just exciting your base. You've got to be able to get 51 percent of the electoral votes in this country, and he would have a long way to go. And he's already made so many outrageous statements. We can't--I can't wait to see the commercials that will be run next year.

MR. RUSSERT: "Cuckoo's Nest" was your expression, not mine, Congressman, just for the record.

REP. DeLAY: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: But Governor Dean does believe that he can run very forcefully against the Republican position on performance on deficits. Here is the headline in the Los Angeles Times: "The Republican-controlled Congress has passed the third tax cut in as many years, an enormous Pentagon budget, a costly experiment in nation-building in Iraq and a vast expansion of Medicare--all at the request of President Bush. Their actions have left the federal budget swimming in the largest deficits in history."

And they point to Republican concern, Congressman. Let me show you this front-page story from The Washington Post: "The Wall Street Journal editorial page accuses Bush of Medicare fiasco and Medicare giveaway. Paul Weyrich, coordinator of the conservative movement, sees `disappointment in a lot of quarters.' Bruce Bartlett, conservative economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, pronounces himself `apoplectic.' An article in the conservative American Spectator calls Bush's stewardship on spending `non-existent,' and Steven Moore of the Club for Growth labels Bush a `champion big-spending president." $500 billion deficits as far as the eye can see. Why isn't that a legitimate issue for Governor Dean, who balanced the budget in Vermont, to go after the president on?

REP. DeLAY: Well, first of all, Howard Dean has a real hard time with the truth. He says one thing one day and says something else the other day. This isn't the largest deficit in history. It may be the largest dollars in history, but as a percentage GDP, it is not the largest deficit in history. But it is something that we need to deal with. And I also remind you that it was the Republican House of Representatives that first

balanced the budget in well over 40 years; 40 years of control by the Democrats of the House of Representatives. And we did it in the '90s. So we have credibility; they don't. And we are bringing spending down and I think some of the conservatives need to really look at the record. Yes, spending was up under Clinton years because we had to give him more spending in order to finish our appropriations process, but under President Bush, spending has been ratcheted down. To this year, we held spending down to the lowest percent of growth, like 4 percent growth, in the last 15 years.

And as far as Medicare is concerned, Tim, Medicare is something that I'm very proud of as a conservative, that we took a failed program, a program that will cost us over $400 billion a year, which means 20 percent to 30 percent of a family's income will go just to pay for Medicare, a system that doesn't provide quality care for seniors and redesigned it to bring it into modern-day care so that seniors can get pharmaceuticals that will keep them from getting strokes, heart disease or off the dialysis machine, keep them out of the hospital, which will lower the cost of Medicare. I think it was the conservative thing to do, to modernize and improve and strengthen Medicare. And I'm very proud of the fact that we did it.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, Democrats would say that Bill Clinton was president when, in fact, the budget went into surplus and that he submitted budgets that cost less than the Republican Congress offered. They would also say that this year, when you--non-defense spending has gone up 12 percent to 15 percent.

REP. DeLAY: It was Bill Clinton who vetoed twice the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and we forced him to sign it. It was Bill Clinton who vetoed twice the welfare reform and we made him sign it. It was Bill Clinton that fought us every step of the way for six years while he took credit for everything that we did. Bill Clinton deserves no credit for balancing the budget in the 1990s. He never presented a balanced budget to the Congress. It was the Congress that did it against his vehement objections. I was there, Tim. I know history. People can try to change history but I know what happened.

MR. RUSSERT: His first budget submission which passed without one Republican vote, you'll give him no credit for that.

REP. DeLAY: None at all because it raised taxes and made it even more difficult for us to come back in 1995 and change his economic policies and get us back to balance.

MR. RUSSERT: As long as we have these $500 billion deficits, will you not introduce any more tax-cut legislation?

REP. DeLAY: Tax cuts will lower the deficit and bring us to balance. That's how we balance the budget. You cut taxes so it leaves more money in people's pockets. They save. They invest. The economy grows. And from the economy, the revenues to the government grows. It's history. It's always happened that way. And we will grow ourselves out of this deficit as long as we can restrain spending, which we are doing. And you're going to see it again next year. As we restrain spending and revenues grow in the government, we'll get back to balance, but it'll be the Republicans in the House and the Republican president that did it, not the big spending Democrats that want to take everybody's money and dampen this economy that is starting to show signs of booming.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. DeLay, your Congressional Budget Office put a report out just yesterday that we're facing a potential economic crisis, we're going to need dramatic tax increases or dramatic spending cuts across the board if you're going to deal with the baby boom generation coming on for Medicare and Social Security. That is your Congressional Budget Office.

REP. DeLAY: Well, they're not always right. In fact, if you look at the Congressional Budget Office, it has never been right in any of its predictions. They're always off. They try to predict 10 years, 20 years out. And, frankly, it's hard to predict what's going to happen next year. But I know this. History has proven that when you cut taxes, the economy grows and it's growing. We cut taxes and the economy is not only growing but it looks like it's got a potential to be booming. And if it's booming and we continue the policies that we have been putting into place recently, particularly cutting taxes, regulatory reform, spending restraint and fiscal restraint, then we can get to balance. It's how you balance the budget that's important. You know, the Democrats want to balance the budget by raising spending and raising taxes. The Soviet Union had a balanced budget. Well, you can raise taxes until you balance it, but the economy will go into the toilet. We have shown and we have credibility on the economy and the economy's recovering because of Republican policies.

MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, Congressman, as you know, you have come under some criticism about your fund-raising activity. This is an article in the Associated Press. "Two watchdog groups filed a complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, asking that the IRS deny a tax exemption to a DeLay-backed charity that will throw parties and offer a luxury suite for major donors to watch President Bush's acceptance speech at the 2004 Republican Convention. `Celebrations for Children' will raise money for abused and neglected children by using the events at"--a--"New York convention in August as"--the--"drawing card, paying for them with a portion of the donations to the group. Representative--`DeLay is using the nation's charity tax laws and the pretext of helping children as a cynical cover to raise and spend huge amounts of prohibited soft money to finance political activities,' said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21." What's your response?

REP. DeLAY: Well, first of all, Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 is a leftist organization that is supported by Democrats and supports Democrats. Secondly, I think it's pretty sad that hehas taken in after our ability to raise money for abused and neglected children. My wife and I are very much involved in trying to build a community that gives abused, neglected children a safe, permanent home. The foster care system in this country is abominable. What we're doing to children is outrageous and we need to change it. And we're trying to do that. And we're trying to raise money to do that. And we're trying to raise money any way that we can. And I don't think it's wrong--and you raise money around this country all the time by having galas, or parties, or golf tournaments, giving people some fun activity so that they will contribute to your cause, and that's what we're doing. I don't see anything wrong with it. I think it--what's wrong here is people are attacking our effort to raise money, to take care of abused, neglected children, the most vulnerable children in this country, and they can criticize me all they want to. But I'm going to take care of these kids.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Wertheimer will say that his group brought actions against Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore and the Democratic Party, that they are, in fact, non-partisan, and that he asked "Why would you mix politics and helping children? Why not just give all the money to the kids rather than hosting political parties?"

REP. DeLAY: We are giving all the money to the kids. But you have to have a party to attract people to come and have a draw to raise the money. And I might say Mr. Wertheimer always points out that he brought one action against Hillary Clinton. He's been in his leftist business for, I don't know, 20 or 30 years. Most of his actions are after Republicans. And he's a leftist organization. But that aside, the point here is abused, neglected children in this country have to have a safe, permanent home. They have to have roots. They have to be shown and raised instead of warehoused. And we're trying our best to change that system, and doing it in a meaningful way and we will continue to do so despite what the left says.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Tom DeLay, we thank you for sharing your views with us this morning.

REP. DeLAY: Thank you, Tim. Merry Christmas.

MR. RUSSERT: And to you. Coming next, Democrat James Carville has a new book, "Had Enough?" He no doubt got a few of those political bruises from his Republican wife, Mary Matalin. They are both coming up next, right here on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville, will Iraq and weapons of mass destruction be an issue in this presidential campaign?

MR. JAMES CARVILLE: Oh, I'm sure they will, absolutely. I mean, I can't see how they could not be. And, you know, of course, American credibility around the world will be an issue. Of course, how--the postwar planning for Iraq is going to be an issue. I can't imagine that these things won't be brought to the table. I can't imagine that they won't be engaged, and should be fully engaged.

MR. RUSSERT: You have your new book out...

MR. CARVILLE: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and we'll show it: "Had Enough?"

MR. CARVILLE: That was a...

MR. RUSSERT: "A Handbook for Fighting Back." And there he is with a bandage and a black eye.

MR. CARVILLE: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: Ten years of marriage with Mary Matalin. I can't believe it.

MR. CARVILLE: See, I got...

MS. MARY MATALIN: OK, it was a rough weekend.

MR. CARVILLE: She gave me a wood shampoo. Got that rolling pin, you know, and hit me on the eye, going to knock me out.

MR. RUSSERT: Upside the head. But on page 55 of this book, Mr. Carville--I read it very carefully...

MR. CARVILLE: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...you said this: "Kudos, Mr. President. You were a star. You were like Harrison Ford in the movie `Air Force One.' Just like him, you were a pilot. Just like him, you played the part of a president. There's just one thing to remember: People liked that movie because, in the end, he got the terrorists." Now, that Saddam has been captured, are you going to revise that book?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, I mean, I think that--hey, Saddam--there's not much evidence Saddam Hussein was much of a--people that--he was a tyrant and a dictator. His ties to terrorism are pretty sketchy, if at all. But, I mean, it was just kind of a--the book is a-- wouldn't take everything in literally, nor would I take the cover literally. There was probably a little bit of a makeup artist there. But there's a lot of--I think a very legitimate criticism of this is that we deflected much-needed resources from Afghanistan, a place where there were existent terrorists, to go to Iraq to look for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. And I think that's a very fair observation to make.

MR. RUSSERT: In your book you have pictures of various world leaders, and you say: "What type of leader likes wearing a military uniform?" And there they are. You have Muammar Qadhafi, Fidel Castro, Jiang Zemin, Yasser Arafat, Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush.

MR. CARVILLE: The point I was making...

MR. RUSSERT: A little hard, isn't it?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, the point I was making in the book was that, in democracies, it is very unusual for democratic leaders to wear a uniform. Again, it was tongue in cheek. I also have it--like "What is the definition of an SUV?" in there. So if you got to take the--the book is not considered to be like a serious, academic thing. What it is, is a road map for Democrats and things that they can be for in there. And we like to have a little fun. We also have some recipes in there, too. But most democratic leaders outgrow the need to wear uniforms.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, we just heard Tom DeLay basically saying to the Democratic Party, "Please nominate Howard Dean." This is very unusual. Normally Republicans will say, "We're not going to get involved in the other party." The National Review, a conservative publication: "Please nominate this man," showing a picture of Howard Dean. What is it about Howard Dean that is prompting Republicans to say to the other party: "We want this man as your nominee"?

MS. MATALIN: Well, with respect to the leader, I don't know if that's a universal opinion. We don't have anything to do with their primary, which has been very uninformed, uninformative, backward-looking, mean, negative, pessimistic, as has been his candidacy so far. I don't--my personal opinion is if his candidacy doesn't get better, his policies or his projections or his coherency or consistency doesn't get any better, I don't think this country wants to have a race like that. We're in a transformational time, a big time. We're facing new threats. The economy's in a different place. We have to update our antiquated Medicare and energy. And there are so many big things to do that the president's been working on, and they're running a campaign--all of them are--of polemics, of pettiness, of pouting. And his, in particular, is inconsistent and incoherent. So I presume that they're all going to read this goofy book. And, you know, maybe it's going to be comedic. But this is a time for a big debate, and so far we're not hearing it from that side.

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville, this was The New York Times on Friday, an article about Governor Dean, and it says: "A Democrat casting himself as the anti-Clinton." And Joe Lockhart, Bruce Reed...

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...Leon Panetta, Laura Tyson, Mickey Kantor, all whom worked for President Clinton, all very critical of Governor Dean--what is going on?

MR. CARVILLE: You know, I don't know if I--I can't explain everything that every Democrat does. I think Governor Dean sort of lashed out at Clinton, and I think his remarks about the capture of Saddam Hussein were probably not the most politically astute I've ever heard. But, you know, he's not the only candidate. Look, Senator Kerry, in a David Yepsen piece in The Des Moines Register, is coming on like gangbusters in Iowa. Senator Lieberman's people tell me, and I've seen it in national polls--has moved up quite handsomely there. So, I mean, the idea that it's all Governor Dean or nothing--I think we're going to have a pretty good run here at this nomination, and I think a lot of things are going to get aired out. I think a lot of these guys are talking about big and important things. And I did share with you--I was watching the kids back there, but I literally was stunned at Representative DeLay basically telling the Democrats, "Whatever you do, nominate Howard Dean." I thought it was an unbelievable comment by a congressional leader of an opposing party to do something like that. But before--I think we're going to have a good run down the stretch here, and I think we've got some pretty good candidates out there. And I think the main thing--a lot of them are really starting to improve here.

MS. MATALIN: No, all the congressman is saying is if Dean continues running the way he has been, which is a different position every day, this intemperance, inconsistency, incoherency, then it won't even be a race, OK? I presume that they're going to circle the wagons if he's the nominee or whoever's the nominee. And any Democrat who can walk and chew gum, you know, it'll get to at least 47 percent. So let's get off of DeLay's back and just...

MR. CARVILLE: I'm not on his back. I'm praising him for being honest.

MS. MATALIN: DeLay is agreeing with you...

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MS. MATALIN: ...that so far Dean has run a campaign not worthy of the loyal opposition and not worthy of these times.

MR. CARVILLE: Look, I'm saying DeLay is--I thought it was remarkable. Last thing I'm doing is attacking him. Most people try to hem and haw, but, of course, he had the Soviet Union with balanced budgets...

MS. MATALIN: You know--and they're...

MR. CARVILLE: ...and a couple of his economic...

MS. MATALIN: Speaking of the Soviet Union, Howard Dean doesn't know it's Russia now. He keeps calling it the Soviet Union.

MR. CARVILLE: Yeah.

MS. MATALIN: What have their other candidates had to say that's coherent or forward looking? They've gone from attacking Bush, Bush-bashing all the time, to now Dean attacking all the time.

MR. RUSSERT: But, James Carville, your party is badly divided. If you go and look at what Dick Gephardt and John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have said about Howard Dean--and I'm going to show you those string of quotes because they almost become a "George Bush for reelection" commercial. Here is Dick Gephardt on Howard Dean. "[Dean's] positions don't demonstrate a person grounded in serious foreign policy experience and expertise." "Senator John Kerry...[said] that Dr. Dean lacked `the judgment to be president' and `the credibility to be elected president' for asserting that America was no safer because of Saddam Hussein's capture." And listen to Joe Lieberman on this program last Sunday morning.

(Videotape, December 14, 2003):

SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (D-CT): If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would be in power today, not in prison.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: You could almost see Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman...

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and the president coming on and saying, "And I authorized these

commercials because..."

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: "...I agree with Joe and Dick and John about Howard Dean."

MR. CARVILLE: You know, if we went back and I wanted to go through the history of the Republican primaries from the '76 Reagan-Ford primary to the Bush-Reagan primaries in 1980 to what President Bush--what they were saying about John McCain in 2000 at a great Bob Jones speech, we could all reconstruct what happened in the past. The truth of the matter is that the Democratic Party is diverse. We are divided now. I suspect when this thing is over that we'll emerge pretty strongly behind a candidate, and I think it's a long way from being over. And I think--and you look at what Senator Lieberman and Senator Kerry are doing, and I think Senator Gephardt's showing some strong support, I think the press and our people are rushing to the conclusion this nominating process is over. It is a long way from over. And my guess is we're going to end up with a pretty strong nominee here. I feel pretty good about that.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Howard Dean would be a strong nominee?

MR. CARVILLE: I think attacking Bill Clinton is not the way to get the nomination. And I think that the wrong fight--I think the right fight in Iraq is that we were misled to get into this war. We had no plan when we got there. I can take him right to the report of the 3rd Infantry Division, not whether or not we're better off if we captured Saddam Hussein. Of course the world is better off with Saddam Hussein in jail. I think he can be a strong nominee, but he's got to learn to position himself better, and he's got to learn to pick better political fights. But there is evidence that other people in the race are becoming stronger as we sit here and talk.

MR. RUSSERT: If by late spring the Democrats have, in fact, a nominal nominee but there's a gathering view that that person could not win a general election, do you believe that the Democratic Party would go to your old friend Senator Hillary Clinton and say, "Senator, you need to save our party and save our..."

MR. CARVILLE: If that were the case, I would be on my knees begging her. And there's a sense...

MS. MATALIN: Oh, he'll be on his knees, all right.

MR. CARVILLE: ...if that would happen, that's...

MS. MATALIN: You're not getting involved in that.

MR. CARVILLE: I'm not getting involved, but I certainly would beg her to run. And there's a sense that if that happens, hey, we've got a .400 hitter out there, you know? Please. I'd be on the bench. She is not in any way, shape inclined to run. She doesn't want to run. She said she was going to run for re-election. That's her plan. I just think, of late, I have never seen a politician grow more than Senator Clinton has. And, I mean, if you look at the latest round of interviews on this show and the growth that she's had, it would be spectacular. But I know her pretty well. She's a pretty hard-headed lady, and she's got her mind made up and she's not going to run. I don't think that that's going to happen. I think we're going to have a spirited run here, and I think we're going to emerge with a strong nominee. And I think Senator Clinton is going to be most excited person in the world when that happens, so she won't have to deal with the James Carvilles of the world on their knees begging her to run for president.

MR. RUSSERT: Until 2008.

MR. CARVILLE: Till 2008. Absolutely. I'd be the first on board there.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, this is an article in the papers a couple of weeks ago. Headline: "Dean Looming Larger on Bush's Horizon. Advisers to President Bush once relished a race against Howard Dean, but they say they have become increasingly wary of him, worried that his unconventional and intense appeal poses a threat they had once underestimated. "Although one administration official said Dean is still widely viewed in the White House as `a gift from God,' a more cautious view is gaining currency. "`He has the biggest potential to go down in flames, but he also has a certain wild-card potential,' said"--"Vin Weber," a former Republican congressman. Do you agree with that?

MS. MATALIN: I think his ability to speak his mind is initially impressive. But he also appears to be the kind of guy who lets no thought go unexpressed. It's like--and he says he has inconsistent thoughts. There's a difference between speaking your mind and saying everything that floats through your mind. But he has yet to offer an alternative to the president. Nor have any of the Democrats. Nor have they as a party. They just keep saying Bush has no plan. Of course he has a plan in Iraq. He has a forward-looking plan to—and he's solid, he's steady. And there's an intemperance, almost a recklessness, about the inconsistency, and the way in which Howard Dean speaks his mind.

MR. RUSSERT: But if Iraq is not secure, and the deficit is still at $500 billion, and job growth is sluggish, why can't the Democrats say to the country "We balanced the budget, we had record surpluses, this president is giving tax cuts to the `rich,' and spending at record"—you saw the comments from other Republicans.

MS. MATALIN: Yeah, I know, but they say--just because they say it loudly and enough doesn't make it true. The Dow just busted 10,000. It's 20 percent up for the year. We had the fastest housing starts in 18 years, worker productivity in 20 years. Real income, disposable income, is up. Unemployment is down. We've created--the economy has created over half a million jobs. It's the fastest-growth GDP in 20 years. It's called recovery. Recovery from a recession that we inherited.

Iraq is much more secure. It will be secure. If he has a short-term plan, which is pre-emption and prevention, pre-empt the terrorists before they get us, prevent them from getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction, and a break in a 60-year policy of stability that was creating oppression and tyranny and human rights violations in a region. You think they'd be supporting that. He's forward looking.

MR. RUSSERT: James.

MR. CARVILLE: No problem.

MS. MATALIN: We are happy and excited to run on this record.

MR. CARVILLE: All right.

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville, you heard Congressman DeLay say that they were...

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...going to grow their way out deficits and that it was the...

MR. CARVILLE: Right, right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...Republicans in Congress, not Bill Clinton who brought fiscal sanity...

MR. CARVILLE: Right. Right. I also heard Congressman DeLay say that the Soviet Union had balanced budgets. I mean, you know? And I also heard him say every time that you could take--cutting taxes grows the economy. We had the longest economic expansion in the history of the United States of any country in the world under Bill Clinton that was started because of responsible fiscal policy. I would also add that the Clinton--the lengthy and deep Clinton recovery were built on two things: Strong fiscal policy; that is, surpluses and a strong dollar. This administration is buying a short-range recovery because of the most irresponsible fiscal policy of any administration in history, about growing huge, huge deficits, and talking the dollar down around the world.

MS. MATALIN: No, no.

MR. CARVILLE: You can't buy--you can buy a short-term recovery by talking the dollar down and a deficit up. A real fundamental recovery is one that has strong fiscal policy, surpluses combined with a strong dollar. That's the difference between the Clinton eight-year recovery, and what we are experiencing now.

MR. RUSSERT: Take 20 seconds. How do you beat George W. Bush?

MR. CARVILLE: I think you beat him by contrasting on the big issues. You beat him by saying that the United States wants to rejoin the community of nations. You declare an end to unilateralism and arrogance. You talk about health-care costs. You talk about the deficit. You talk about challenging America to be a better place. You talk about a common nation coming together and a common sacrifice to defeat enemies abroad and to defeat looming problems at home. This president has done nothing about the rise in cost of entitlements, the rise in cost of health care, the rise in deficit, and he's done nothing about America's decline in position in the world.

MR. RUSSERT: Equal time. Take 20 seconds and say how you beat any Democratic candidate.

MS. MATALIN: But I've gone more than 20 seconds to thank you for the time. We have a recovery the likes of which we haven't seen in 20 years. We are safer. We are--have the first policy in 20 years since the inception of its rise against terrorism, which every predecessor was afraid to touch. We have modernized Medicare. We have an economic policies that not only have stimulated us out of this recession but will take off the onerous burdens from the economy of too much regulation, too many frivolous lawsuits. It's going to tackle Social Security. He's positive, forward-looking, steady, optimistic. He believes in the American people, and the faith in the people that he has and the faith that he has in himself and the programs that he has already put forward and the vision that he has is going to be--so far is beating hands down what they've offered.

MR. RUSSERT: To be continued.

MS. MATALIN: Merry Christmas.

MR. CARVILLE: Merry Christmas.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, we're going to take a break. But we're going to be visited by two angels here on the MEET THE PRESS set. Yes, angels do exist. They're going to be right here after this message.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And on this Christmas week, we are joined by Matty, age eight; Emma, age five, the Carville-Matalin girls. There they are. All right, Matty, who's going to win the Sugar Bowl?

MATTY CARVILLE: LSU, period.

MR. RUSSERT: LSU, period? And what's their nickname?

M. CARVILLE: Tigers.

MR. RUSSERT: Tigers. Now, Emma, my boy is getting ready to go to college because boys go to college to get knowledge.

EMMA CARVILLE: No. Girls go to college to get more knowledge.

MR. RUSSERT: And what do boys do, Emma?

E. CARVILLE: Go to Jupiter to get more stupider.

MR. RUSSERT: What is that all about? Who taught you that? Ai-yi-yi. Now, you told me that Santa Claus was coming, right?

E. CARVILLE: Yup.

MR. RUSSERT: And I told to you he's going to come to MEET THE PRESS. And I found out that your favorite TV program was named "Lizzie McGuire" with Hilary Duff. And this one says "To Matty." This one says "To Emma"--autographed pictures. Take that and that.

MS. MATALIN: Oh, wow.

MR. RUSSERT: And Hilary Duff also sent each of you a basket full of "Lizzie McGuire" books and dolls and games and everything.

MR. CARVILLE: Oh, my goodness.

E. CARVILLE: Hey, she knew my favorite color.

MR. RUSSERT: She did, huh?

MS. MATALIN: Cool. What do you say?

MR. CARVILLE: What do you say, girls?

E. CARVILLE: Thank you.

M. CARVILLE: Thank you so much.

MR. CARVILLE: Huh? Is this the coolest thing in the world?

MR. RUSSERT: Why do you like "Lizzie McGuire"?

MS. MATALIN: Because she wears miniskirts? No, you're not dressing like that.

MR. CARVILLE: Why do you like...

M. CARVILLE: No. No. I think she's funny.

MR. RUSSERT: She's funny?

M. CARVILLE: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, also, you remember last year we--whenever you girls come on

Christmas, we know how happy and lucky we are, right? But there's also little children, OK, who are in the hospital, in St. Jude's Hospital, OK, because they're sick. And St. Jude's and Kay Jewelers make this little dog called Duncan, and they wanted each of you to have one of these little dogs to hold, OK, and to remember all the children in the country who aren't as

fortunate as we are. So you give Duncan a big hug tonight as well for Christmas?

MS. MATALIN: Sure.

M. CARVILLE: Thank you.

E. CARVILLE: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: All right. How's that?

MS. MATALIN: That is--I'm jealous.

MR. CARVILLE: I'm jealous, too. Wowee, what a haul.

MR. RUSSERT: And now, Mom and Dad, we're going to ask each of you to offer a

Christmas wish for our country. Mary Matalin, what would you say to America today as we approach Christmas week?

MS. MATALIN: Well, may we all be as blessed--may everyone in the world be as blessed and as free and as lucky as we are, all of us.

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville?

MR. CARVILLE: I think that Time magazine putting our soldiers as people of the year--and I think that if we all think about people who are serving this country in far-flung places and dangerous places and hope them all of the safety and godspeed that we can. I think they're people we can focus on, too. And also, you know, how lucky that my family is to be here and have these children be on MEET THE PRESS and get these wonderful gifts and somebody, you know, maybe not as politically as I agree with Mary, but to have a wife like that is quite a remarkable thing. And...

MS. MATALIN: Are you running for office?

MR. RUSSERT: Actually, next Sunday what we're going to try to do is change the whole conversation in the country.

MS. MATALIN: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: We have two very special guests: Laura Bush, the first lady of the United States, and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the 35th president of the United States.

MR. CARVILLE: Wow.

MS. MATALIN: It'll be great.

MR. RUSSERT: And they're going to come here and talk about caring and teaching and volunteerism and patriotism--the fact that Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, Independent--people can be patriots, all, and still have different views about where our country is going and where it's headed. But next week we're going to try to find common ground. And I think we've made a pretty good start today. We were blessed with Matty Carville and Emma Carville. And they're pretty happy, aren't they?

MS. MATALIN: Yes, they are.

MR. RUSSERT: Can you wave goodbye to everybody in the country?

MR. CARVILLE: Wave bye-bye, dear.

MR. RUSSERT: Say "merry Christmas," "happy holidays."

MS. MATALIN: Merry...

EMMA CARVILLE: Merry Christmas.

MR. RUSSERT: Huh? Let me hear.

M. CARVILLE and E. CARVILLE: (In unison) Happy holidays.

MS. MATALIN: Oh, good.

MR. CARVILLE: Go Tigers!

MR. RUSSERT: Uh-oh!

MR. CARVILLE: Go Tigers!

MR. RUSSERT: We'll be right back.

E. CARVILLE: No, they're my worst nightmare!

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS. Merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us right here at MEET THE PRESS, celebrating our 57th year. Take care.

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