updated 7/16/2004 11:18:31 AM ET 2004-07-16T15:18:31

Guest: Robert Littell, Richard Blow; Cokie Roberts

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

WILLOW BAY, GUEST HOST:  Remembering John F. Kennedy, Jr.  He was born into wealth and privilege, heir to a dynasty.  He grew up in front of an entire nation, from the heart-wrenching images of a fatherless little boy to the paparazzi snapshots of a glamorous young man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) politics?

JOHN F. KENNEDY, JR.:  Not today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  Professional defeats and triumphs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY:  Ladies and gentlemen, meet “George.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  And the relentless scrutiny of his personal life.  John F. Kennedy, Jr.‘s sudden death stunned the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I didn‘t think that that would happen to him, of all people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  Tonight, five years after the loss of a small plane carrying John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, we share memories about this young American icon with some of those who knew him best.

The political pulse.  The stage is set for the Democrats‘ big show.  But will the John-John ticket play in the heartland?  Why Hillary‘s no longer a no-show, why Ron Reagan‘s a headliner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT REAGAN‘S SON:  It‘s just unconscionable that there are some people in Washington who are standing in the way of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  Will the Bush kids on the campaign trail make a difference?  And what‘s behind the rumor that Vice President Cheney could be off the ticket?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  People haven‘t got much to talk about, so you get speculation on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  And will this film play a role in the November outcome?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - “FAHRENHEIT 9/11”)

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  Members of Congress, this is Michael Moore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  Inside the campaign trail with Cokie Roberts.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight, substituting for Deborah Norville, from studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Willow Bay.

BAY:  Good evening.  July 16, 1999, five years ago tomorrow night, John F. Kennedy, Jr.‘s plane disappeared off the coast of Martha‘s Vineyard.  And the next morning, the nation awoke to the devastating news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JULY 17, 1999)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  John F. Kennedy, Jr., was on a plane that took off from an airport in New Jersey at around 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time last night.  That plane was apparently not going far and was due to be landing somewhere before midnight, but the plane never arrived at its intended destination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  America‘s favorite son, his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren, all on their way to a family wedding, were lost at sea.  And as the news unfolded over the weekend and wreckage from the plane was recovered, the nation‘s worst fears turned to reality.  Three young lives were wiped out, and the Kennedy family was left to grieve again.

Joining us now is Robert Littell, JFK, Jr.‘s friend of 20 years and one of his closest pals.  He‘s also the author of “The Men We Became: My Friendship With John F. Kennedy.”

Robert, welcome.

ROBERT LITTELL, FRIEND OF JOHN F.  KENNEDY, JR.:  Thank you for having me, Willow.

BAY:  There have been a number of books written since John F. Kennedy, Jr.‘s death, but none by someone as close to him as you were.  Why did you decide to write this book?

LITTELL:  Several reasons.  One of them, somewhat personal, in that my own stories that I had, that we shared 20 years together, they started to fade, as all memories do, and I had a fear of that.  That scared me a little bit because some of his spirit was in there, and some of me was in there.  And when that started to just recede into the back of my head, I started to write down individual ideas about stories and—not thinking that anything would be written about it.  And then with everything in the press over the past couple years, I didn‘t recognize him so much anymore, and I felt compelled to stand up for him.

BAY:  You didn‘t recognize him because of the way he‘d been portrayed in the press?

LITTELL:  Exactly.

BAY:  Because of the speculation that ran so rampant, particularly after his death?

LITTELL:  Right.  And I did know him very well.  And not many people saw the man that he had become by the time he passed on, and I felt compelled to stand up for him, frankly.  I almost felt obligated to do this for him.

BAY:  You were welcomed by the Kennedy family, particularly John‘s late mother, into her homes in New York and Martha‘s Vineyard.  Did you worry at all about what she would think about you writing this book?

LITTELL:  No.  In fact, I think she would have enjoyed it.  John was a honorable man, and I think I‘m standing up for him here as a loyal friend.  He was the most loyal friend I‘ll ever have.  He was my biggest fan and...

BAY:  How did you see—how did you feel that loyalty?

LITTELL:  He made sure—we had to carve—that‘s a very good question because we had to carve out a stable relationship within his celebrity, within the maelstrom that exists around him.  We started that at an early age.  We recognized that in order to have a stable relationship, we might have to do a little more bonding than the next guy, so...

BAY:  Early age, meaning...

LITTELL:  Eighteen years old.  Yes, right on the—we met on the beach.  I didn‘t even know who he was, which was kind of funny.  It probably...

BAY:  He must have thought that was quite refreshing.

LITTELL:  I think he liked that.  Yes, he probably did.  I was a Republican out of the Midwest originally, so—we hit it off as two competitive guys were.  we started a mutual admiration society between us and grew together.  And that‘s the story I wanted to tell in my book, essentially, what a great guy he was when I met him.  And over time, he became an awesome individual.  I mean, I call him a superman in the sense that he wanted to use his powers, in a Nietzschian sense.  He wanted to use his powers for the benefit of others, but not for recognition.  He had the recognition when he was born.  He was born in the White House, essentially, to a president-elect.  He‘d had all the fame and fortune he ever needed, and he wanted to pay the American people back.  And I thought it would be nice to tell that story.

BAY:  Your friendship did stand two decades, starting, as you say, in college, and you grew to become adult men together.  We have some footage of him toasting, or perhaps it‘s roasting, you and your wife, Franny...

LITTELL:  Right.

BAY:  ... at your rehearsal dinner.  So let‘s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY:  I just met Fran and Rob this evening.  (LAUGHTER)  They made quite an impression on me during our brief time together.  We all went through college, and Rob and I have been close friends and roommates, and remained close friends even after we were roommates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  How was your friendship different as adult men, as you moved from school into careers, into marriages?

LITTELL:  Well, we went through the various passages together in life, a graduation, and then you would go to your friends‘ weddings . And then watching him, he was actually on a much faster track than I was.  He was about to enter politics by the time he passed on.  He was talking about that.  He was actually considering three different seats.  He‘d been offered to run for Lautenberg‘s seat in New Jersey.  He was thinking about Senator Moynihan‘s seat here.  And he‘d also been offered an opportunity to run for Claiborne Pell‘s seat in Rhode Island.

BAY:  There‘s a great story that you tell in the book about a time that Hillary Clinton announced that she was going to run for the Senate seat in New York.

LITTELL:  Yes.

BAY:  Tell us about that.

LITTELL:  Well, John and the Clintons were friends, actually, and they‘d spent a bunch of time up in the Vineyard, having fun, playing games, Botticelli, a word game, and John felt very friendly towards her.  But he did pick up the newspaper, “The New York Post,” and it said, Hillary to run for senator.  He goes, What‘ve I got to do, move to Arkansas?  But it was a friendly thing.  It meant that he wasn‘t going to run for that seat at that time.  I imagine it probably provided him with a little relief, gave him a little more time to just be himself and grow into himself, which was a big thing for him.  He wanted to do things on his own terms.

BAY:  What did he say—how did he describe to you his desire to enter political office?  What did it mean for him?

LITTELL:  I think it meant everything to him.  It‘s what nourished him.  That‘s why he got up in the morning, to a certain extent.  He‘d been given so much...

BAY:  A political future is what nourished him?

LITTELL:  Yes.  Absolutely.

BAY:  Or a life of service?

LITTELL:  A life of service.  But he wanted to go home.  And those were the exact words he used to me in 1988, watching the Republican convention, of all things, when Ronald Reagan rode off into the sunset on a horse, which was a contrived video, but we both got a little teary-eyed watching it.  We both liked President Reagan.  And he said to me, right then and there, he was a little misty-eyed, he said, I‘m going home someday.  And I was a little surprised, frankly, and I ended up after that—at the end of that discussion, I was going to be the ambassador to Bangladesh and—but John—from then on, I knew—I kind of thought about it in my head.  I thought that‘s the only thing he could do.  Then he expressed it, and we talked about it every—once a year until he died.  But he had started a committee, actually, in 1999, of Jeffrey Sacks and Gary Ginsberg  to look into various seats.  So he had his proto-cabinet in place already.

BAY:  You say—you used the expression he wanted to go home, and I know you meant that in a different sense, but so much has been written about, has been speculated about his marriage.

LITTELL:  Right.

BAY:  What were his views of marriage?  How did that relationship work?

LITTELL:  That‘s a good question.  His views—I met my wife, Francesca, the first week that I met—the first week at school, the same week that I met John, OK?  I was looking for some stability.  He was always looking for stability, too.  He was a monogamous guy who was always looking for a wife.  He said when Christina Haig (ph) called in 1984, he said, My wife is available, because she‘d broken up with her boyfriend.  And so he thought he was going to marry Christina.  He thought he was going to—I don‘t think he ever thought he was going to marry Darryl, but he was always looking for a wife.

He was a monogamous guy.  He was a loyal guy.  And it wasn‘t just loyalty amongst guys.  It wasn‘t like he was just a knight with men and not with women.  He‘d been brought up by two extraordinary women, and he respected them probably more than he did guys.  But he was always looking for his wife, as far as I knew.  And he had some fun on the side here and there, but that was just badges of courage, I‘d say.

BAY:  How did they—you talk about—about the two of you carving out a way to be friends...

LITTELL:  Right.

BAY:  ... in the midst of the glare of this celebrity.  How did the two of them do that for their marriage?

LITTELL:  Well, it was difficult for Carolyn up front, I think, because she was so sensitive.  She was a real empath, in my experience.  She was my kids‘ favorite friend, which I think really tells a tale on its own there.

BAY:  Because she had that way of listening.

LITTELL:  Totally, yes.  She‘d look you right in the eye.

BAY:  And becoming so engaged in what you were saying.

LITTELL:  Right.  Exactly.  And you believed that she knew you better than you knew yourself.  But she cared, too, and that was the neatest thing about her.  She was the type of person, if she saw, you know, a broken-winged bird in the road, she‘d run out and get it and put her hand up to the truck.  And that‘s just—that was the way she was.  But she was too sensitive in the beginning of their relationship because there was paparazzi outside.  You know, she‘d go outside, and she didn‘t have Prada shoes on and her hair done, she felt a little nervous about it.  So her sensitivity, her empathy, hurt her in the first couple years.  But by ‘99, she was eating burgers and standing on tables, and she was back to herself again, to the point where I think that she had grown, actually.

And what John saw in her was what he saw in his mother, was this extraordinary woman who could have had the world by the tail, and they would have.  Probably next week at that convention, they would have been stars, I think.

BAY:  And what do you think the future would have held for him and for them as a couple?

LITTELL:  Yes, that‘s—I think of them—I kind of—I‘ve extrapolated him, in my sensibilities now.  His spirit‘s very alive in New York here.  And I see him either in politics, at this point, or maybe even a vice presidential candidate.  He was ready in ‘99 to be any number of offices because he‘d prepared himself so well.  Behind the scenes, though.  It wasn‘t—it‘s almost like the set here.  You see us, but back there‘s a lot of work going on, and John was the same way.  He didn‘t necessarily—you didn‘t see him doing the work.  You didn‘t see him mastering so many skill sets.  And it‘s too bad we didn‘t get to see that.

He had a great life.  Don‘t get that wrong.  But it would have been great to see him next week.  And I don‘t know if it would have been 2008, 2012, but he wanted to go home, and I bet he would have gotten there.

BAY:  You mentioned earlier that one of the reasons that you wrote this book is you felt that the memories of John were beginning to fade.  Now, after having written it, looking ahead to tomorrow, the fifth anniversary of his death, what place do those memories hold in your heart now?

LITTELL:  Well, it was—I—with writing the book, I‘ve essentially gone full circle, and I‘ve reconnected to my friend, which was really a wonderful experience.  And I‘ll take a bike ride this evening, and I‘ll go by all our old haunts and I‘ll smile.  You know, he‘s alive and well.  It‘s terrible.  We lost a unique individual, an extraordinary—an American, frankly, an extraordinary American who had the experiences and the abilities that no one else had, given who he—I mean, hanging out with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.  And all those experiences wore off on him, so he was—but he didn‘t let you know that—he didn‘t necessarily let you know how accomplished he was.  He just wanted to be a regular guy.  He was a rebel, in a sense, and he associated—he had an affinity with the common man, and that‘s where he wanted to be.  That‘s where he wanted to hang out because he thought that‘s where life was.

BAY:  And we‘ll remember that.  That‘s a nice thought.  Ride by his old haunts and smile.

LITTELL:  Yes.

BAY:  Robert Littell, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

LITTELL:  Thank you very much, Willow.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY:  Ladies and gentlemen, meet “George.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  It was JFK, Jr.‘s passion.  All about “George,” with one of John‘s friends and colleagues, when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY:  Ladies and gentlemen, meet “George.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  That was John F. Kennedy, Jr., launching his political magazine, “George,” back in 1995.  It‘s been five years since JFK, Jr., died when his plane went down off the coast of Massachusetts.  Richard Blow was, the executive editor at “George,” and he joins us now.

Richard, as we said, it has been five years since that day.  Are the memories still vivid?

RICHARD BLOW, FORMER EXEC EDITOR “GEORGE”:  Yes, it‘s amazing how vivid they are, and watching this video brings them back just like that.  I remember that press conference very well because, you know, John had never done anything like that before in his life, and all of a sudden, he was going to go on stage and introduce the magazine.

BAY:  Is that so?  He had never done anything...

BLOW:  I think that the only time he‘d really taken reporters‘ questions in a big group like that was after his mother had passed away.  So nobody knew what was going to happen.  John was very nervous.  He was up late the night before, cramming, and everybody was worried that no one would ask a single question about “George” magazine, that everybody would say, Who are you dating?

BAY:  Well, yes, it‘s interesting that you mention that because we actually have some footage from that press conference, in which John addresses some of the questions that he‘s gotten throughout the morning.  Let‘s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY:  The answers to the most frequently asked personal questions are as follows: yes, no, we‘re merely good friends, none of your business, honest, she‘s my cousin from Rhode Island, I‘ve worn both, maybe someday, but not New Jersey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLOW:  Fantastic line.

BAY:  Did—it was a good line.  Did the magazine—was it ever able to come out, in essence, from under the shadow of John‘s celebrity?  And did that interfere with its mission?

BLOW:  Well, it was both a blessing and a curse.  I mean, without John, that magazine could never have gotten started.  I mean, a monthly glossy magazine about politics was not what most people would have said was a commercial sure bet.  So in that sense, he was enormously helpful.  And of course, he helped land interviews and make connections.

BAY:  What was his mission with “George”?

BLOW:  Oh, it was a very clear mission.  He was immensely frustrated that the world of politics that he knew, the people he saw in politics, were not the same people portrayed in the media.  And he thought there was this fundamental disconnect between the world of politics that he knew and the way that the press covered politics.  He wanted to start a magazine that would change that.

BAY:  And do you feel as, if during the run of “George” magazine, you all were able to do that, change the way politicians were covered, make people think a little bit differently about the other coverage of their elected leaders?

BLOW:  Yes, I think we had some impact.  And one of the things that was clear was that the magazine really hit a nerve with readers.  We had, over the course of five years, an average of something like 450,000 readers a month.  And people don‘t realize this now, but “George” was the largest political monthly ever.  I mean, John founded the largest political magazine in history.  So clearly, something was working.  And also, this was a magazine which, when we began, people said, Oh, it‘ll never last.  It‘ll will be a year, maybe two years, at the outset.  But you know, for five years, until John‘s death, it was going strong.

BAY:  What was your working relationship like?  You were executive editor.  How did you two work as a team?  I‘m assuming John didn‘t manage the day-to-day details in the office.

BLOW:  Not the day-to-day details, but he was there every day.  John was really more of a vision guy, a big picture guy, but he also had a very strong sense of what he liked in a magazine story and what he didn‘t like.  You know, the optimism that was part of his personality was something he really wanted in the magazine.  As far as working with him, it was a fascinating—John was a fascinating guy to work with because, on the one hand, he was really involved in the magazine, but on the other hand, he wasn‘t always comfortable in that role as a journalist.  When he began, it was a kind of experiment for him to sort of see how the media worked, to see—to go behind the curtain.

BAY:  What parts of it was he uncomfortable with?  Was he uncomfortable probing and pushing people?

BLOW:  Well, a couple things here.  Every month, John would do an interview with a political figure.  And he was actually very uncomfortable with this.  He was very uncomfortable asking people questions, and I think it was because he was uncomfortable being asked questions.  And the other thing was that whenever...

BAY:  Which is a little bit of a tricky thing if you‘re a journalist.

BLOW:  It‘s a tricky thing for the journalist.  And if he had his way, he probably wouldn‘t have done those interviews at all, but the reason he did is because commercially, they were very important.

BAY:  Those were the marquees gets...

BLOW:  That‘s right.

BAY:  ... to have John...

BLOW:  That was the brand name, the John Kennedy interview.  And in fact, we had a fight at one point because we wanted to brand the interviews, “The John F. Kennedy, Jr., Interview,” and he refused to do it.  And people said, John, come on, it‘s a natural.  And he said, No, no, no, no, no.  I‘m—There‘s no chance that that‘s going to happen.

BAY:  And did you or anybody else in the editorial staff ever offer feedback?

BLOW:  Oh, sure.

BAY:  Even did you edit those interviews?  What was that process like?  Did he—did he respond to positive and negative feedback well?

BAY:  He took criticism extremely well.  He knew that this was not something he had done, that he had hired people who were trying to make a career in this field, and I think he suspected that this was a temporary thing for him.  And he also knew that people might have a difficult time criticizing John‘s work, that we all might be a little reluctant to criticize the boss, especially given who was the boss.  So I think he bent over backwards to be even more open to criticism and suggestions than he might have otherwise been.

BAY:  You wrote about book about your experience working with John, “American Son: A Portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr.,” and you received a fair amount of criticism for writing about the inner workings of a place that you guarded...

BLOW:  Right.

BAY:  ... fiercely when you were executive editor.  Why did you write the book?  And was that criticism fair?

BLOW:  Well, I think it‘s a little bit inevitable when you‘re one of the first people to come out and do it.  It‘s interesting to see Rob now because several years after, he‘s written this book, and he really didn‘t have to go through the sort of trauma and fire that I did, which is great.  But I think that the reason I wrote the book is because I felt that this was John‘s only kind of major public work.  As Robert spoke, I‘m sure there would have been more.  I think a life in politics was what John was headed for, but in the meantime, this magazine was his public legacy, or at least a very large part of it.  And I thought that here you had the son of a president who had decided that the political media was so wrong and so sarcastic and negative that he needed to start his own magazine, despite the fact that it was kind of the last thing he‘d really think of doing.  I thought that was pretty important.

BAY:  There‘s been some talk of unearthing the legacy of “George” and, in fact, starting either “George” up again or a slight variation on it.  Do you think that‘s a good idea?

BLOW:  Well, sure.  You know, “George” worked.  “George” was a good idea.

BAY:  It worked to a point.  I mean, it worked in creating some buzz and changing the discourse.  My sense is it was not particularly financially successful.

BLOW:  Well, it was a new magazine, and people forget that, you know, most magazines take something like seven or eight years to really get on their feet financially, and “George” didn‘t get that chance.  But I always thought the content was very strong, and it was also important.  It was about trying to get people to reconnect with politics again.  And how could you be against anyone trying to restart a magazine that did that?

BAY:  Richard, I‘ll let that be the last word.  Richard Blow, thank you very much...

BLOW:  Thank you very much.

BAY:  ... for joining us.  We‘ll be back right after this.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Every vote is going to be counted!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  The Kerry-Edwards ticket.  Will women voters be the key to their success?  Plus, if not Dick Cheney, then who?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The president‘s spoken to the subject.  He‘s made his decision.  I‘ve made mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Cokie Roberts weighs in when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAY:  Cokie Roberts has covered Congress, politics and public policy for more than 30 years.  She‘s a political commentator at ABC News and an analyst for NPR, and her recent book about America‘s founding mothers has been a bestseller since it came out almost three months ago.

Cokie, welcome.

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:  So nice to be with you, Willow. 

BAY:  You‘re chuckling when I said 30 years.

ROBERTS:  That‘s a long time, isn‘t it?

BAY:  And you have a lot to say about those stories and others, but let me get to the news of this evening that Senator Clinton will speak at the Democratic National Convention.  And we hear from Senator Clinton‘s camp that she‘s delighted and honored to do that.

What went on here?

ROBERTS:  There was a backlash against the fact that the Kerry campaign had apparently decided not to invite Hillary Clinton to speak at the Democratic Convention.  Women rose up, particularly the Democratic chairwoman in New York, but also some female members of the Senate.  And so she has now been invited to introduce her husband, which is a somewhat interesting role for Hillary Clinton, who is such a Democratic star in her own right.

BAY:  Obviously a good move to put her on the agenda for the night.

ROBERTS:  Well, I think it probably is.  It will roust the faithful in the hall and that will make them very happy.  I suspect that the reason that the Kerry campaign had decided not to do it to begin with is that she‘s a very polarizing figure.  And in the same way that George Bush has decided to have moderate Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger speak at his convention, the Democrats were looking for more unifying figures to speak at their convention.

But Hillary Clinton has such a strong support group inside the Democratic Party that it was a little hard to keep her off the podium.

BAY:  Speaking of polarizing figures, Dick Cheney in the news with the rumors that everybody‘s been talking about for quite some time, finally making it onto the front page, and even the vice president himself answered a question on C-SPAN.  They asked him if he could envision any circumstance in which President Bush would ask him to step aside.

Here‘s what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  If I thought that were appropriate, I certainly would.  But he‘s made it very clear that he wants me to run again.  The way I got here in the first place was he persuaded me four years ago that I was the man he wanted in that post, not just as a candidate, but as somebody to be a part of the governing team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAY:  So why‘s this hitting the papers today?

ROBERTS:  It‘s just been talked about and talked about so much over the last few weeks that I guess the “New York Times” just decided to go ahead and tell its readers what its reporters were talking about.

Look, months ago, actually maybe a year ago, it was my view that the smart thing for George Bush to have done would have been to find some health reason that Dick Cheney wasn‘t going to run again and then name Condoleezza Rice to the ticket.  That could really throw up American politics and African-American women on a Republican ticket, but now it‘s too late.

Now there‘s too much speculation; it would be seen as an act of desperation if Cheney even were sick, nobody would believe it.  And so he really, the moment has passed, I think, for replacing Dick Cheney.

BAY:  So you don‘t think we‘re in for any surprises here then?

ROBERTS:  I doubt it.  Of course, we always love the notion that there might be a surprise.  You know, the best idea to think of is throw open the convention, let them decide.  But life is never that much fun.

BAY:  We‘ve been jokingly referring to them as the John-John ticket.

ROBERTS:  Right.

BAY:  But what do you think of the pairing of John Kerry and John Edwards?

ROBERTS:  Well, it‘s got a lot of advantages.  John Kerry clearly is lightened up by John Edwards, which is a good thing, because you know, he can put you to sleep otherwise.  And I think that Edwards does have a certain appeal in small towns, rural areas, and perhaps in the South. 

Iit‘s going to be very interesting to see, though, Willow, whether the Republicans are able to define Kerry in a way that makes it look a lot more like the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket of 1988, where George H.W. Bush was able to very quickly define Dukakis and Bentsen as out of the mainstream liberals.

This President Bush is trying to do the same thing here and it could easily stick.

BAY:  It could, although Kerry and Edwards are both working very hard, daily, to counter that.

ROBERTS:  The problem is, they‘re members of the United States Senate.  And there‘s a reason that we don‘t elect senators directly to the presidency:  the last one was John Kennedy in 1960 and there was only one other ever before that, and that was Warren G. Harding, not a great example.

But the fact is that voting records are a problem, and each of these gentlemen has a voting record that‘s going to be very hard to say, “No, I‘m not liberal even though I did vote against partial birth abortion, even though I did vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, even though I did vote against funding the war in Iraq.”  So, it‘s hard one.

BAY:  Issues aside for a moment, wives and kids are making news on the campaign trail this week, a lot of them.  Let‘s start with Mrs. Edwards.  She came out with a list of don‘ts for her husband, let‘s take a look.  No pancake-flipping, because she said he doesn‘t do it at hope, he‘s not doing it on the road.

ROBERTS:  Well, he probably would miss, you know.

BAY:  No dancing.  We won‘t go there.  And no costumes.  We won‘t go there either.  Does this suggest—this is from “People” magazine—that someone has a sense of humor in that group?

ROBERTS:  Yes.  I think she has a wonderful sense of humor.  So does Teresa Heinz, by the way, but this is a very smart wife thing to do.  I‘m not so sure it‘s smart to let “People” magazine know, but you know, remember Michael Dukakis in that tank?  Somebody should have said to him, “No, don‘t get in that tank.”  It‘s a silly picture, and costumes, hats, all of that, are so easy to ridicule. 

And you know, the wife is the only person, assuming the relationship is a good relationship, is the only person who really has her husband‘s best interests at heart and nothing else on the agenda.  Everybody else in the campaign has his or her own political career to be concerned about, either as consultants or as candidates, and they care about themselves at least as much as they care about the candidate.

BAY:  And does that play with voters?  In other words, do voters recognize that a wife presumably is doing this for the right reasons?

ROBERTS:  Oh, I would think so.  I mean, any one of us tries to keep our husbands from acting like a silly person.  I‘m not sure, as I say, that we would tell the world what we tell our husbands not to do.

BAY:  What do you think of Teresa Heinz Kerry?  She‘s awfully popular on the campaign trail, and the press seems to really like her as well.

ROBERTS:  Well, that came as a surprise to a lot of people, particularly some of, again, Democratic operatives, because it‘s so much easier to have the little wifey who doesn‘t say anything and just sits there with an adoring smile on her face.  And it was clear that Teresa Heinz Kerry had a life and had opinions, and was in a long tradition of American women who are like that.  But is also always worrisome for people who think that she‘s a loose cannon, she might not be in control.

The truth is, she‘s been very disciplined on the campaign trail.  She‘s worked very hard.  And she‘s as smart as she can be.  The only moment of criticism that I‘ve seen, which just shows you how crazy we are in this country at some point, was when she took the little Edwards boy, Jack Edwards‘ thumb out of his mouth for a picture and I started hearing, “His mother was right there, what was she doing taking his thumb out of his mouth?”  Come on, give me a break.

BAY:  Is it likely to translate into any votes?

ROBERTS:  No.  I mean, we have no evidence that spouses make a difference, or even that vice presidential candidates make a difference.  But what they can do is convey a sense of comfort.  First of all, for the candidate themselves, but also, I think that if Americans look at a candidate that they don‘t quite recognize and they do recognize the woman he‘s married to, that that can help.  I think Laura Bush has helped George Bush, for instance.  She‘s such a lovely person who is also so very smart.  I think that people do sort of take a second look saying, “Hmm, that‘s interesting that she‘s married to him.”

BAY:  And now their daughters are on the campaign trail as well.

ROBERTS:  And that‘s very interesting.  Those girls have been more out of the political eye than any children in political history that I can think of.  And even though both their grandfather and father, and of course, uncle were all in politics, their mother was pretty adamant about keeping them out, and she succeeded.  So the fact that they‘ve now made the choice to go into the fray and go on to the campaign trail, I think is very nice.  And it‘s probably particularly nice for their parents to have their company.

BAY:  Is that the reason you believe that they‘re on the campaign trail?  Mrs. Bush gave an interview to “The Today Show” and she said that very thing.  Is that it?

ROBERTS:  Well, I‘m sure the campaign‘s thrilled to have them, to soften the president‘s image, to show him as a regular guy, as a good dad, and pictures of him and his daughter, Barbara, buying ice cream can‘t hurt. 

BAY:  And they‘re awfully cute those girls.

ROBERTS:  But I think it‘s also true that they‘re 22, they‘ve graduated from college, and now it‘s time you know, for them to act like responsible voters.

BAY:  Cokie, we‘re going to let that be the last word for just a moment, because we‘re going to have more with Cokie Roberts for a look at “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  Will it play a role in November?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAY:  How important will the women‘s vote be this year?  Can they make or break the election?  More on that and other political news with Cokie Roberts in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAY:  We‘re back with ABC News Political Commentator Cokie Roberts.

Cokie, we were talking about wives on the campaign trail.  And the role of a wife, as Teresa Heinz Kerry said, keeping her husband honest.  But, how important will women be as voters in this election?

ROBERTS:  Gee, in the last three elections, women have been the majority of voters, actually in the last several, but I know the statistics offhand in the last three presidential elections.  The turnout was 52 percent female, 48 percent male.  And for instance, in 1996, if the 19th Amendment had never been ratified, Bob Dole would be president. 

He would have been elected president, and it would have been a less interesting, but somewhat more relaxing period of time.  He won the male vote, only by a point, but he won the male vote, and Clinton won the female vote by a whopping 16 points.

In the last election, Gore won the women‘s vote by about 11 points, Bush the men‘s vote by about nine points.  So, you know, it makes a tremendous difference how women turn out, and what they decide to do can absolutely make the difference in this election.

BAY:  There is a subset of the women‘s vote that I think is up for grabs, and I‘d like to get your sense of it.  Twenty-two million single women didn‘t vote in the last election; 16 million of them were not registered.  Does that group, that subset, represent a real opportunity for...

ROBERTS:  It represents an opportunity for Kerry.  The truth is that married women tend to vote pretty equally Democratic or Republican, more Republican than Democratic, all things being equal.  And that‘s even more true for married women with children.

But single women, working women, older women who are single, all tend to vote Democratic.  But you know, young people have just not come to the polls and it‘s something that‘s quite remarkable because they don‘t seem to understand the value that their vote has even after the close election of 2000, when everybody in this country should understand how much every vote counts.

BAY:  Do you get any sense at all that that notion is changing, that young people are inspired by the political dialogue right now?

ROBERTS:  There was a recent poll taken by another network, from either of ours, that showed that 82 percent of the people said they thought that this presidential election was important, that it mattered who was president. 

Now, that of course, sounds on the face of it, of course it matters who‘s president.  But in fact a few years ago, it was only about 60 percent of the people.  So I think terrorism, war, and the economy have convinced people that the presidential election does matter.  Now, whether that then translates into them getting out the vote is still a question.

BAY:  I have the results of a poll that was released in “Ladies Home Journal” that I‘d also like to get your reaction to.  People was asked, “Are you influenced by who the candidate‘s wife is?”:  88 percent of women said no and 90 percent of men said no.  That‘s actually pretty close.  I gather you would agree with that, but it doesn‘t make sense to me because I would assume, for example, I think a lot of people voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger because Maria Shriver was by his side.  Am I wrong?

ROBERTS:  Well, I‘m sure that there‘s some Democrats who voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger feeling that if she could get along with him and she‘s from a Democratic family, maybe I can too.  But I think people will not answer that question honestly, in fact, because it makes you seem a little bit silly to say that it matters who the wife is.  You‘re supposed to be saying, “Oh, it only matters, you know, who he is and what he does.”  But of course, it certainly affects our general sense of the guy.

And look, when it comes to voting for president, that‘s what we vote for.  We don‘t vote on a bunch of issues or position papers or those kinds of things.  And we‘re smart not to do that, because we‘ve learned that issues will change, things will happen, and Lord knows, we‘ve learned it in these past four years, that you can‘t possibly anticipate.  So what we do is, at least at the presidential level, do a basic gut check, do a, “Do I feel comfortable with this guy no matter what happens in the next four years or do I at least feel more comfortable with him than I do with the other guy?”

And I‘m sure the wife plays into that, and the kids do too into that decision.  But I don‘t think it‘s the kind of thing you‘d say yes to the pollster because it makes you feel shallow.

BAY:  We‘ll have more with Cokie Roberts in just a moment, including the role of celebrities in the presidential election.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAY:  We are back with Cokie Roberts, which always puts me in a good mood.

Cokie, I‘d like to shift gears dramatically and talk about the role of Hollywood and the role of entertainers in this campaign season, which is really quite significant.  Starting, of course, with Michael Moore.  The film generated enormous buzz, and even more revenue.  But what will, if any, the impact be come November?

ROBERTS:  It‘s hard for me to believe that a movie has a real impact.  There are clearly people who hate George Bush, whose views have been confirmed by the movie, and there might even be some people who were swayed by the movie, although I can‘t imagine it was many.

But I think in the long run, Michael Moore can be a bigger detriment for the Democrats than he can be for the Republicans, because there‘s this whole—the Democrats always have to worry about is being painted as a party that hates America.  And Michael Moore plays into that, and to the degree that the Democrats associate themselves with him, I think it‘s a problem for them.  And clearly John Kerry does, too, because he has stayed far away from commenting on the movie.

BAY:  Another group closely aligned with Democrats are entertainers in the Hollywood community.  We‘ve seen them come out in  droves.  Hollywood is really galvanized in its support of the Democrats.  Gets a lot of attention but, again, are there real political liabilities.  As we saw today, for example, Whoopi Goldberg losing her, I guess, Slim-Fast deal because of what she said.

ROBERTS:  It was an economic liability for her.  But, sure it can be.  Again, it‘s an opportunity to paint   the candidates out of the mainstream weirdos who are not like you and me.  And that is a very important part of a political calculation.

Bill Clinton, when he was at the depths of his personal approval ratings stayed in office because people gave him very high scores on he cares about people like me.  And John Edwards has done very well on that as well.  This George Bush did much, much better on it than his father ever did.  So, the Democrats have to stay normal so the people recognize them and hobnobbing with movie stars, particularly movie stars who are saying outrageous things can be a problem.

But look, they raise tons of money. 

BAY:  Well, exactly.  I mean that‘s the downside.  So is the upside simply money, or is there more?

ROBERTS:  Well, there can be a glitz factor that attracts people.  And of course, some of the movie stars are very popular.  People go to the movies for a reason.  And so, I think it pretty much depends on the star.

BAY:  You mentioned young people before.  What about the role of Hollywood?  We‘re seeing some celebrities like Queen Latifah, for example, really working hard to get out the vote, get out the youth vote?

ROBERTS:  I think that‘s a great thing for them to do, and a wonderful role for people who have influence to play.  And if in fact, young people listen to Queen Latifah, “You go, girl!”  You know, I‘m delighted that she is doing  that because you need to get young people out, and the more people can appeal to them, the better it is.

BAY:  Great.  On that note, you go, girl!  Cokie Roberts, thank you so much for joining us.

ROBERTS:  Nice to be with you, Willow.

BAY:  We‘ll be right back with a look ahead at the sentencing tomorrow of Martha Stewart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAY:   Thanks for watching.  Coming up tomorrow night:  the sentencing of Martha Stewart.  By this time tomorrow we should know if she will be heading to prison and for how long. 

Plus, what will happen to Martha Inc. if Martha is behind bars?  Is there any one person who can replace her?  We‘ll meet a few of the top contenders.

All that tomorrow.

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough with a look at wooing women voters:  “Scarborough Country” next. 

END   

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