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updated 8/8/2004 4:55:02 PM ET 2004-08-08T20:55:02

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NBC News

MEET THE PRESS  Sunday, August 8, 2004

Guests: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser;

Rep. Dennis Hastert, (R-Ill.), Speaker of the House, Author, "Speaker:  Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics"

Maureen Dowd, New York Times, Author, "Bushworld:  Enter at Your Own Risk"

William Safire,  New York Times    

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


                    (Sundays: (202)885-4200)

MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday:  continuing controversy over the war in Iraq; the recommendations of the September 11th commission and the timing of recent terror alerts.  With us: President Bush's national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

Then, how will Congress deal with the biggest budget deficit in history and the reform of our intelligence community?  With us:  the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois.

And Bush vs. Kerry--86 days to go.  Our political roundtable with two Pulitzer Prize-winning columnists from The New York Times:  William Safire and Maureen Dowd.

But, first, we are joined by the president's national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Welcome back.

DR. CONDOLEEZZA RICE:  Thank you.  Nice to be with you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Front page, lead story, in The New York Times:  "Diplomacy fails, the slow advance of nuclear arms.  US weighs covert moves against Iran and North Korea."  What can you tell us?

DR. RICE:  Well, the United States has been very actively and aggressively involved in a diplomatic strategy to try and deal with the threats of nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea.  It was, in fact, the president who really put this on the agenda in his State of the Union address, the famous "axis of evil" address.  And our allies have really begun to respond. It was--for a long time, Tim, we were the only ones who seemed to think that Iran really did have an aggressive program to try and acquire nuclear weapons. We are now getting stronger IAEA action against them.

MR. RUSSERT:  You mean, International Energy Atomic...

DR. RICE:  That's right.  And we believe that in September we will get a very strong statement out of the board that Iran will either be isolated or it will submit to the will of the international community. As to North Korea, we have created the six-party framework in which all of North Korea's neighbors have said to North Korea in a concerted way, "You must give up your nuclear weapons programs in order to be a part of the international community."  And that includes China, which has long been North

Korea's only benefactor, really, in the international community.

So, yes, these are tough problems.  These are problems that developed in the 1990s.  These are problems that we have been working on, and we will use many means to try and disrupt these programs.

MR. RUSSERT:  Including covert action?

DR. RICE:  Well, obviously, the president will look at all the tools that are available to him.

MR. RUSSERT:  Would we discourage the Israelis from using covert action?  In 1981, they took out an Iraqi nuclear reactor.  Would we discourage them to do the same to the Iranians.

DR. RICE:  Well, I think that I don't want to get into hypotheticals on this. I do think that there are very active efforts under way, for instance, to undermine the ability of the Iranians under cover of civilian nuclear cooperation to get the components that would help them for nuclear weapons developments. We've had, for instance, the Russians say that the Iranians--they will not continue the civilian nuclear programs if the Iranians do not return the fuel for those programs to Russia.  That's a very good step. The president succeeded at the G8 in getting a one-year moratorium on countries being able top reprocess, which is a means by which one really gets the weapons-grade material, under cover of civilian nuclear programs.

So we are having diplomatic successes, but these are very tough problems. They've been growing for a while.  They were ignored for a long time--that these countries were cheating on their obligations.  And this president's very tough non-proliferation and counter-proliferation programs, as well as the fact that we've been fortunate to wrap up the A.Q. Khan network, the Pakistani nuclear scientist who was selling components to rogue states, gives us a chance of getting a handle on these programs.

MR. RUSSERT:  Bottom line:  Will we allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb?

DR. RICE:  I don't think the international community believes that it can afford to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

MR. RUSSERT:  So we will not let it happen?

DR. RICE:  I think you cannot allow the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon. The international community has got to find a way to come together and to make certain that that does not happen.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn to the war in Iraq.  These are the latest casualty numbers, U.S. troops: killed, 924; wounded-injured, 6,087.  The primary rationale given for the war was to dismantle and disarm Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.  In light that we have not found those weapons of mass destruction, can you justify the cost of human life that we have suffered in Iraq?

DR. RICE:  The primary reason for going to war against Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a--he represented a regime against which we had gone to war in 1991, which we had gone to war again in 1998 because we were concerned about his having thrown out weapons inspectors and that he was continuing his weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.  He was an avowed enemy of the United States who had attacked his neighbors, who had used weapons of mass destruction.  He was tying down our forces in Saudi Arabia.  He was a threat to change in the Middle East, which is at the core of how we change the security environment in which terrorism is taking place.  And he was a friend of terrorists.

Now, it is true that stockpiles have not been found in Iraq, but I think we've gone all the way over to the other side in assuming somehow that Saddam Hussein was not a weapons-of-mass-destruction threat.  Of course he was.  And people who--and intelligence services around the world, both the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, the United Nations inspectors, knew that this was somebody who had the knowledge, the capability, the intent to make weapons of mass destruction, had used them before, refused to disclose them, was, of course, continuing to defy the international community.

Sooner or later, Tim, the international community had to mean what it said about Saddam Hussein. When it said that it could no longer tolerate his defiance and he had one last chance to disarm or be disarmed, he chose defiance.  And the president fulfilled the obligation that he had given to the international community when he went to the U.N. in September of 2002 and said, "If he will not comply with his obligations, then he has to go."

MR. RUSSERT:  But having not found the kind of stockpiles of chemical and biological and potential nuclear that we thought he had, you have no second thoughts that the war was not necessary?

DR. RICE:  Absolutely not.  Because Saddam Hussein had been a threat for 12 years, ever since he invaded Kuwait and set the Middle East on a course of instability.  Somebody had to take care of Saddam Hussein and set the Middle East on a different course.  This president is not confused about this point. He knows that this was the right thing to do.  And now we have an opportunity--and let me just say, Tim, every sacrifice of an American soldier is felt deeply by us all, because this is a great sacrifice for the men and women in uniform, for their families and for the American people.  But nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.  On September the 11th, we were brutally attacked by people who had an ideology of hatred so great that they, with a few people, threatened to try and bring down our way of life.

MR. RUSSERT:  But there's no linkage between September 11 and Iraq?

DR. RICE:  There is no linkage between the plot of September 11 and Saddam Hussein's regime that we see.  But I think it would be wrong to say that there is no linkage between what happened to us on September 11 and the instability and lack of hope and lack of freedom in the Middle East.  And Saddam Hussein's regime was one of the prime elements in that kind of Middle East.  Now, we have a chance to build a different kind of Middle East.

MR. RUSSERT:  You talked about September 11.  On Thursday, John Kerry was asked what he would have done differently on September 11, and this is what Senator Kerry had to say:

(Videotape, Thursday):

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA):  First of all, had I been reading to children and had my top aide whispered in my ear, "America is under attack," I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the president of the United States had something that he needed to attend to.  And I would have attended to it.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Your reaction?

DR. RICE:  My reaction is that anyone who thinks they would have known exactly what they would have done under those circumstances--I just can't imagine that you would say something like that.  The president of the United States was confronted with one of the greatest tragedies that had befallen the United States in our 200-plus years of history.  He decided on the spot that he was not going to alarm the third-graders.  He was not going to alarm the American people.  He was going to proceed in a calm way.  That was the right thing to do. And anyone who has any doubt about that just needs to look at what he did in the hours subsequent to that:  when he made a statement to the American people that still stands that evening as the core of how we think about fighting terrorism; when he went to ground zero on that Friday and talked to the relief workers and told them that everybody would hear America for what had happened to us; and when he has led since then a war on terrorism that has been effective, that is making America safer--not yet safe, but safer; when he has liberated two countries; and when we are on a course to finally deal with the

threat of terrorism, which had been ignored for so long in the past. I really--I don't think that talking about that seven minutes, although the president handled that seven minutes correctly, in my view, has anything to do with how one would carry forward the war on


MR. RUSSERT:  Let me talk about the September 11 commission report and this is how it was reported upon on Wednesday in the papers.  "But while Mr. Bush agreed to create such a [national intelligence director] post"--which had been recommended by the commission--"he rejected the commission's recommendation that the national intelligence director have direct control over the intelligence community's $40 billion annual budget and veto power over the people named to head intelligence agencies.  Under the White House proposal, the intelligence director would have far more limited budgetary and personnel authority."

Now, the chairman of this commission report, Tom Kean, had this to say.  "We believe that the position has to have budget authority and appointive authority.  ...  Otherwise it's not going to be much better than what we have now."  Tom Kean's a Republican.  Arlen Specter, Republican from Pennsylvania, "If you don't have the authority to pick the people, isn't a national director just a shell game and a shell operation?"

DR. RICE:  Well, first of all, Tim, I think there has been some misconception of what the president is talking about here.  He took the time to read the report.  He took the time to discuss it with his advisers, and he believes that there should be a national intelligence director.  The only thing that he's taken off the table that this person shouldn't be in the White House and shouldn't be a part of the Cabinet because he...

MR. RUSSERT:  So he would allow budget authority and a point of authority?

DR. RICE:  The president is determined to give this person effective authority to present for the process of budget through OMB, a unified, integrated intelligence budget.  Nothing is off the table.  We're discussing the mechanisms by which that might be done, and I think you will see that the president most certainly believes that this person needs to have more effective authority than the director of Central Intelligence now has.

So we're working through the issues.  You obviously want to do this in a way that is deliberative and sound, because these are major reforms.  You have a war ongoing.  You want to make sure that there is fundamental support to the war fighter in intelligence, that there's fundamental support to homeland security.  But the president fully understands that budget authority is an important element of this, and he's looking at how those mechanisms would work.

MR. RUSSERT:  So complete control over budget and personnel is on the table?

DR. RICE:  Well, of course, everything is on the table.  But I think the president will look for a way that gives this person effective control.

MR. RUSSERT:  What does that mean?

DR. RICE:  The person needs the ability to make sure that the president's priorities in intelligence are being represented in the budget.  What that means for how that relates to the intelligence budget which is currently broken up into several budgets I think we'll have to look at the mechanisms for doing that. But the president has said and said clearly that he wants a unified and integrated approach to the national intelligence program.

MR. RUSSERT:  The right to hire and fire?

DR. RICE:  We'll look at what that would mean.  You obviously don't want to disrupt the lines of authority for people who have to run these agencies at Defense or run these agencies at the Homeland Security Department, but the president is looking at what the best mechanisms are to give this person the effective authority he needs to integrate the intelligence programs.

MR. RUSSERT:  Last week, the Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, had a news conference.  On Thursday, The New York Times wrote this editorial.  "This week [Homeland Security officials] were specific:  the five financial institutions were in danger of being bombed in the `near term.'  The terror alert was raised to orange for those sites in New York, Washington and New Jersey.  But things quickly lapsed into confusion.  For three days, officials at news conferences and background briefings said their concerns were based on new information, then old information, then back to new information.  Many people were scared out of their wits on Monday, cynical on Tuesday and befuddled by [Wednesday]."

DR. RICE:  Well, the government has a duty to warn when we find information that is more specific than the sort of general warnings that have been out there.  The president's made that commitment.  Tom Ridge has made that commitment.  All of us have.  And starting on a week ago Friday and going through the weekend, we began to get important intelligence from some of the people that were being rounded up in these raids in Pakistan, from raids that were done that produced physical evidence, all in the context of a pre-election threat that we had talked about before.  And so while it was not imminent, it did give a time frame that suggested some urgency.

Among the things that were found were casing reports on several financial targets in New York City and Washington, D.C., and the decision was made that you had no choice but to warn people that their buildings had been cased. Now, yes, some of the reports came from 2000, 2001.  Perhaps some of them had been updated.  But whether they had or not, we know that al-Qaeda meticulously plans over a number of years.  The casings for the East Africa Embassy bombings which were done in 1998 had been done five years before.

And so this information in the context of reporting about a pre-election threat in the context of what we were hearing from people who were being picked up in raids, in the context of known terrorists who were thought to be plotting against the United States made it imperative that we warn that this was going on.

The good thing, Tim, is that we don't have a situation like we had before 9/11 where the information was not being shared.  It was being shared--this was in some way textbook for the sharing of information that was coming in from the field, coming in from liaison with Pakistan.  Three years ago, Pakistan was not a fighter in the war on terrorism.  And here you have them able to take down terrorists and to provide information which then could be shared in the government, could then be shared with state and local officials who were on some of the conference calls and you could have an effective response to these terror threats.

MR. RUSSERT:  Howard Dean, who ran for president, as you well know, had some very pointed comments last Sunday.  He said the following:  "I'm concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism.  His whole campaign is based on the notion that, `I can keep you safe, therefore at times of difficulty for America, stick with me,' and then out comes Tom Ridge.  It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it."

DR. RICE:  Well, I wish that Governor Dean had been able to sit with us on Saturday and Sunday of last weekend and go through these terror threats. America was attacked on September 11, and everything that we've been doing since then, whether with it is with new allies in places like Pakistan to fight the war on terrorism, whether it is trying to enable state and local governments to really use information more effectively, whether it is sharing intelligence, it's all to try and prevent another attack.  Now, we know we have an uphill fight, because the terrorists only have to be right once.  We have to be right 100 percent of the time.  But the idea that you would somehow play politics with the security of the American people, that you would not go out and warn if you have casing reports on buildings that are highly specific in New York City, are you really supposed to not tell the people of New York City or the people of Citigroup or the people of the New York Stock Exchange, their security experts, that we found casing reports that are highly specific about vulnerabilities?  I don't even understand what Governor Dean is talking about.

MR. RUSSERT:  But Democrats point out that Rom Ridge said he would divorce himself from politics, but in his presentation he lavished praise on President Bush and the war on terror.

DR. RICE:  Well, he works for the president of the United States, and the president of the United States deserves credit for having us in a position where we now actually are getting--because we're on the offense in our war on terrorism--where we're actually getting information that can help us on the defense.

MR. RUSSERT:  But wouldn't it be better if he refrained from campaign pitches?

DR. RICE:  I don't think this was a campaign pitch.  Tom Ridge is out there to tell the American people that there is a vulnerability, that there is a threat, and that they need to be vigilant and to give to local and state officials the way to be quite specific in their responses.

But, Tim, we're either going to fight this war all out and on the offense or we're not.  We're either going to recognize that we can't sit back and just defend the country, that we've got to go out, that we have to find new allies in the war on terrorism as we have, for instance, Pakistan, that in the war that we're fighting in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, we are changing the circumstances out of which these terrorists came.  And what the people of those countries need to know is that we're in this for the long term.  We're not going to set artificial deadlines for American forces.  We're going to be there for the brave Afghans and Iraqis who are taking risks for democracy, and that we are going to finish this job. This president is in no way confused about what our obligations are.

MR. RUSSERT:  And for the long term, if President Bush is re-elected, will you stay in your current position?

DR. RICE:  Tim, I'm trying to get through the next few weeks.  I think we'll cross those bridges when we come to them.

MR. RUSSERT:  Dr. Rice, we thank you for joining us and sharing your views.

DR. RICE:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Coming next, the speaker of the House with his new book, "Speaker:  Lessons from 40 Years in Coaching and Politics."  And our political roundtable with New York Times columnists William Safire and Maureen Dowd. They are together and coming up next right here on MEET THE PRESS.


MR. RUSSERT:  The speaker of the House, our political roundtable after this brief station break.


MR. RUSSERT:  And we're back. Mr. Speaker, welcome.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (R-IL):  Welcome.  I'm glad to be here.  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Before we talk about your book, let me talk about the September 11th Commission report.


MR. RUSSERT:  When this report was issued, this is what you had to say:  "So I would say it's going to be very difficult to take this report...basically after we have adjourned for the summer, and we won't be back here until the 1st of September, and in three weeks, you know, produce a piece of legislation that's going to be comprehensive and the best thing in the world."

Question:  "By the end of this year, do you think Congress will have acted on the recommendations?"

Hastert:  "You know, I'm just saying that's how long we're in session.  I'm not sure."

Why not call Congress back to Washington right now to work on this report and guarantee that the reforms can be implemented to help our intelligence agencies?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, Tim, you know how the legislative process works.  You've got to take all ideas. There's Republican ideas, House ideas.  Porter Goss has some ideas, the president has some ideas, the commission has a lot of ideas.  You need to bring those together, you need to take them through a process.  And if you remember, when the commission wanted to drag its feet and not come up with its report in April and drop it in August, I said, "No, we need to get this thing as quick as possible."  And there was a deadlock at one time.  They agreed to come in the end of July.  Subsequently I've asked, in the House of Representatives, all the relevant committees to come forward. We're having 15 hearings; some of them already have been done in this month. And I hope that when we come back in September and October, we have the recommendations, so we can move forward.  I think that's what we ought to do.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you believe legislation will be passed this year to reform our intelligence systems?

REP. HASTERT:  I think that's possible.  But always what I wanted to say is we don't want to knee-jerk into something with bad results, and we need to make sure that we look at all the potentials and go through the whole hearing process, regular order, if you will, before we come up with a bill.  I hope that we can get it done.

MR. RUSSERT:  This year?

REP. HASTERT:  I hope so.

MR. RUSSERT:  In your book, you write this about terrorism:  "Despite ... tangible successes [in the war on terror], Democrats move forward with their conviction of criticism, which extends beyond the necessary, watchful eye of oversight into the realm of uninformed hysteria.  Under the President's leadership, Republicans have tried out best to fight the War on Terror abroad--secure our homeland, and preserve our freedoms.  Many Democrats, including presidential candidate John Kerry, look first for a political criticism rather than what is best for our country."

"Uninformed hysteria"?  What's an example of that from the Democrats?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, I think Howard Dean's comment the other day that all this is--the warnings that we went through--and you just talked about them--you know, was political.  I don't think it's political. I think we have to be very, very cautious, and when we have intelligence and new intelligence, even if it's old new intelligence, take that and meld it with everything else and come up with a conclusion of what's right and what's wrong.  It's a very, you know, tough decision-making process.  But to politicize everything that's happening, I just think that's just wrong.

MR. RUSSERT:  But why can't John Kerry point out differences with President Bush or criticisms of his conduct of foreign policy and still be a patriot and not be guilty of uninformed hysteria?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, I hope that he is--points out problems.  That's what this process is all about.  I know the Democrats on the committees that we're having point out problems; we point out problems. We try to find the differences between that.  And, you know, quite frankly, though, John Kerry talks about this and says that we ought to come back into session.  You know, he missed 38 out of 49 hearings on intelligence.  I hope when we come back that he comes back, too.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Speaker, as you well know, we have the largest budget deficit in history.  The Office of Management and Budget offered a breakdown of the causes of the turnaround from surplus to deficits, and here's from The Boston Globe:  "Deep within its latest report, OMB [Office of Management and Budget] offers a breakdown of the cases of the turnaround from surplus to deficits in 2004.  It attributes $216 billion to the Iraq invasion, homeland security, and other unforeseen expenses ... and $290 billion to the tax cuts themselves."

The Washington Post said this:  "As the administration notes, tax cuts account for 29 percent of the deterioration in the budget balance in the past three years.  The lesson of the new deficit numbers is that these cuts are a cost the country cannot afford."

The administration admits that that a third of the deficit is attributable to tax cuts.  Why not roll them back?

REP. HASTERT:  You know, Tim, I taught economics for 16 years to high school kids.  I always said it was the toughest job I ever did until I came to Congress and tried to explain it to some members of Congress.  You know, I also had a book called Samuelson--when I took economics in college it talked about priming the pump and deficit spending.  Quite frankly, we lost $250 billion just in 2002 itself in reduction in capital gains and other reductions in taxes that we've had, not because of tax cuts but because the economy fell. What we did in tax cuts is try to stimulate the economy, to get consumer confidence back, to get investor confidence back and to get investments for businesses into capital goods so we can create jobs. You know, jobs are coming back, not as fast as we want, but the plateaus--we're stepping up.  Consumer confidence is back, as high as we've been.  And even unemployment is down over the last 20 years, on an average. And so, you know, look at it--if you're not going to get this economy back, we're not going to balance the budget until we have a vibrant economy.  And one of the ways to get the economy back is to stimulate it through the tax reform that we did.

MR. RUSSERT:  In your book, you say that we should abolish the IRS and replace it with a flat tax or a national sales tax.

REP. HASTERT:  Or a VAT tax.

MR. RUSSERT:  Or a value-added tax.  Critics will say those are the most regressive kind of taxes, that the reason we have an income tax is that people who make more money pay more taxes.  And here you are, going after the little guy, taxing every item they possibly want to buy.

REP. HASTERT:  Well, that's the people you know--it's the devil you know as opposed to the devil you don't know when you start to--taxation.  But let's look at it this way:  We have an embedded tax in this country.  Every time the little guy buys a loaf of bread, a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, an automobile, a refrigerator, he has an embedded tax of 20 to 25 percent, because every corporation in this country pays income taxes, but the cost of those taxes are embedded in the product.  The kicker is when we sell our products overseas, those taxes are still in the cost.  And so we're impeded in being in good competition overseas.

When somebody else overseas brings their product here, whether it's a television or an automobile or a pair of shoes or a pair of pants, their VAT taxes drop off at the border, so they're more competitive with our products. We can literally bring hundreds of billions of dollars every year of stranded capital back to this country, plus the cost of $250 billion a year that you and I and every taxpayer, every worker who pays taxes in this country, pays just to conform to the IRS.  Let me--one point...

MR. RUSSERT:  But, Mr. Speaker, if you had...

REP. HASTERT:  The little guy, you can rebate the cost on food and clothing for his family and come out even.

MR. RUSSERT:  A flat tax, would you allow for mortgage deductions?

REP. HASTERT:  On a flat tax, I'm not a real supporter, but I said we have to open up everything and look at it.

MR. RUSSERT:  The people who wrote the original book on the flat tax, Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka, said this.  "Now for some bad news ... it is an obvious mathematical law that lower taxes on the successful will have to be made up by higher taxes on average people."

REP. HASTERT:  Right.  Lookit, there's Avalorum taxes, VAT taxes, there's consumption taxes, there's sales taxes.  We have to look at a way that makes this country more competitive.  People talk about sourcing out of jobs, you know?  We don't lose jobs in this country because our salaries are higher, because our salaries are commensurate with the Italians, with the Germans and the Japanese and the Dutch or whoever.  This problem is because with litigation costs, taxation costs and regulation costs. A big part that of is taxation costs.  We can be a more vibrant country.  I'm looking into the future, the next 10 or 15 years.  We can double our economy.  If we double our economy, all the deficits we have today, all those mountains become molehills.

MR. RUSSERT:  In your book, you write this about President Bush:  "You have to get through a little Texas cocky, but other than that we have a good relationship."  What does that mean, "a little Texas cocky."

REP. HASTERT:  Yeah, I think there's something about Texas.  I mean, they have a pride in their state and Texas sometimes comes through.  I have a great relationship with Tom DeLay, but I think he's a little Texas cocky once in a while, too.

MR. RUSSERT:  You think the president's too cocky?

REP. HASTERT:  No.  I said a little Texas cocky, you just need to get through it.

MR. RUSSERT:  Is he a little too cocky?


MR. RUSSERT:  You say that John Kerry is always a little bit pontifical. What does that mean?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, I think he talks about a lot of things that he hasn't had a lot of action in.  You know, I remember working on health care, and I had to do battle with Ted Kennedy.  He was involved. He understood what the issues were.  He was an advocate for his issues.  I didn't agree with him, but he was a player.  When we did education, again we involved and engaged with senators like Ted Kennedy again who had an agenda.  They knew what they wanted to do, but, you know, Kerry was never there.  Kerry was never a player in the process.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, what does pontifical mean?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, he gets up and talks about the things--what he should have done or would have done or could have done, but he's never done it.

MR. RUSSERT:  You, in your book, also bemoan the lack of bipartisanship in Washington.  You say in the Illinois General Assembly where you served for six years, "You could walk across the aisle and have drinks or dinner with someone."  Nancy Pelosi said the other day that she very much wanted to have a trusting conversation with you but that has never happened.  Asked if it would, "I would love for it to happen, but it has never happened."  Have you ever thought about picking up the phone and saying, "Hey, Nancy, let's the two of us just go to dinner and work things out"?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, I haven't invited her to dinner, but I've picked up the phone a lot of times to talk to her.  I've asked her about issues, talked about issues.  Trust is a two-way street.  You have to build trust in this business as you well know.  You served on the Hill.  And if every time that you allow or talk about something it ends up being in a press conference before it becomes a policy, you have a problem.  I'm willing to sit down and talk.  And I said in my first speech that I'm willing to go more than halfway, but that has to be a two-way street.

MR. RUSSERT:  You don't trust her right now?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, I think that needs to be developed.

MR. RUSSERT:  Alan Keyes of Maryland is going to be the Republican candidate for the Senate from Illinois.  Why should, why did the Republican Party of Illinois say, "We can't find any Republicans in our state to run for the Senate.  We had to go to Maryland to find somebody"?

REP. HASTERT:  Well, it's kind of like New York going to Arkansas, I guess, to find a U.S. senator, but anyway, let's--look, look, look.

MR. RUSSERT:  But it's interesting you said that because Alan Keyes...

REP. HASTERT:  Well, let me...

MR. RUSSERT:  ...was asked to run for the Senate in New York the same year Hillary Clinton ran in 2000 and this is what Alan Keyes had to say.  "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there.  So I certainly wouldn't imitate it."  If it was the destruction of federalism for Hillary Clinton to do it, why is it not the destruction of federalism for Alan Keyes of Maryland to run in Illinois?

REP. HASTERT:  You know, I reminded Alan when I talked to him for the first time the other day about that statement, and I said, "You know, I guess we all regret things we've said in the past."  And I think he probably will, too. But, you know, the fact is Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate in New York, and now she's talked about being a potential U.S. presidential candidate in the future.  So it really hasn't hurt her too much or New York, from what I see.  The point is:  How do we get there?

You know, I liken it as an old coaching philosophy, I guess.  Here's a story. As a head coach, you know, you put together your football team, and you got your starting quarterback and your best running back and your line and your defense.  You're all ready to go.  Season starts, and your running back has an infraction with the law and does something wrong, and he's gone from the team. And then you got to go down to the second and third and fourth levels.  I spent five weeks trying to find good people, everywhere from a good state senator that we had by the name of Steve Rauschenberger, who I thought he could have...

MR. RUSSERT:  But you're drafting someone from another state.

REP. HASTERT:  But wait.  Wait.  Well, let me go down through the process. And, you know, he didn't have enough money.  I talked to Mike Ditka, and I decided maybe he made a good decision.  I talked to a guy name Gary Fenzig, who was a great star, Harvard-Yale, star for the Chicago Bears.  He couldn't. And the problem in Illinois, you've got to have $10 million to run; $6 million or $7 million of that has to be done for name I.D.  I got down last week to interviewing a 70-year-old guy, who was a great farm broadcaster in Illinois. He decided since his health problems--he couldn't do it.  You know, we were down--we needed to find somebody to run, somebody who wanted to run.  And, you know, Alan Keyes wants to run, and I hope he's a good candidate.

MR. RUSSERT:  Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, is a very strong candidate.

REP. HASTERT:  Well, you know, in our state, this guy has become a rock star, partly because of the Democrats and the media, but he's not been on unopposed. When you look at his record in the Illinois Senate, it is so far to the left. I mean, the things that I care about, I've been fighting drugs in this country for--drug use in this country probably for six or seven years--you know that--before I became speaker. And we lose 40,000 kids in our inner cities, in affluent suburbs every year.  He voted against penalties increased--he didn't vote against.  He didn't support increased penalties for drug dealers that resulted in death; drug dealers in situations that resulted in bodily injury.  But he has also voted against--the only guy in the Illinois state Senate who voted against was these first responders, ambulances and firemen that go in and tough penalties for people who shot at them and killed them. And he voted against it.  Who's he representing?

MR. RUSSERT:  He has obviously a much different view on those issues.  But it gives the impression that Barack Obama, a black state senator from Illinois, Democrat, you went to Maryland to find a black to run against the Democratic black.

REP. HASTERT:  Well, I tell you what, I was out of town when that happened. That--sure.  But I went five levels.  I've been working for five weeks trying to find a candidate.  Here we are.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Speaker, we thank you for joining us and sharing your book, "Speaker:  Lessons from 40 Years in Coaching and Politics"--with us.

REP. HASTERT:  Tim, thanks a lot.  Nice to be with you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Next up, "Bushworld:  Enter at Your Own Risk," Maureen Dowd's new book.  And she'll be joined by her fellow New York Times columnist, William Safire.  They are both coming up, Maureen Dowd, William Safire of The New York Times, together.  Our political roundtable is next.


MR. RUSSERT:  And we are back.  Mr. Safire, Ms. Dowd, welcome.

MS. MAUREEN DOWD:  Thank you, Tim.


MR. RUSSERT:  Let me start with Maureen Dowd's book, "Bushworld:  Enter at Your Own Risk." And this is one of the ways you frame the discussion in the book:  "OEDIPAL LOOP-DE-LOOP."  What is that?

MS. DOWD:  Well, I guess the simplest way to explain it is:  What are the odds that one Republican president, who goes to war with an Iraqi dictator, wouldn't call the last Republican president who went to war with the same Iraqi dictator to ask his advice or check in with him?  And how weird is that if it's also your father?

I mean, I think we are watching the most amazing father-son drama in American politics.  And you have a tight bond with your son; you know that the father-son drama in myth and literature and Star Wars, I mean, it's an amazing thing once it gets going.

MR. RUSSERT:  You write this:  "W. had gambled huge, risking his own legacy while undercutting his dad's.  It was an intense and historic family drama, all the more remarkable because the father and son who hate being put `on the couch' were now involved in a Freudian tango that was rocking the world... W. avenged his dad, replaced his dad, made his dad proud and rebelled against his dad, all with the same war."

MS. DOWD:  Well, when the president gave an interview to The Washington Times in May and he said, "We will not cut and run in Iraq like they did in '91," that was his dad he was talking about.  He was saying his dad cut and run, and that seemed pretty harsh.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Safire, does Bush 43 have a different world view than Bush 41?

MR. SAFIRE:  Well, when I was covering what Maureen was talking about, it was:  Did John Quincy Adams really carry forward the ideas of John Adams, his father?  No.  I don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that George W. Bush disagrees with the approach in foreign affairs, particularly in the Middle East, that his father had because, frankly, that did not lead to the end of the war on terror, and so he learned from his previous generation.  And the people who are in are not the same people around George H.W. Bush, and I think that's a good thing.

MR. RUSSERT:  Maureen Dowd, the president gives people nicknames.  Did he give you one?

MS. DOWD:  Yes, "the cobra."  I know I've been called worse.  It's not too bad.

MR. RUSSERT:  Cobra.  Let me go back to your book again.  This is about Vice President Cheney: "W. felt he could especially trust Cheney because Cheney didn't want to run for president.  43 seemed totally under the sway of this Darth Vader Dark Father, who was steering him back in time, with fixations on Star Wars and rewriting the end of Desert Storm."

MS. DOWD:  Right.  No, I tried to figure out a way to say this in a way that Safire might appreciate. So I would sum it up by saying that the neocons wanted a utopia in Iraq.  But because of their myopia, we've ended up with a distopea in the Middle East.

MR. SAFIRE:  Now, that's a good play on words, let's face it.  You know, distopea and the utopia and--Mo and I and Tom Friedman all occupy a corridor at The Times bureau.  Some people who remember the old baseball phrase call it "murderers' row."  We disagree.  We like each other, and we admire the way each other writes--one another writes.

MS. DOWD:  And we share a bathroom, and sometimes he lets me use his hair spray.

MR. SAFIRE:  God, I need it again.

MR. RUSSERT:  We're going to keep moving it along on this program, sticking to the books at hand. Here's another excerpt from "Bushworld":  "Politicians can tell you they won't ever raise taxes – read their lips - or won't ever nation-build, but sometimes, because of their basic natures, needy egos and whispering lagos, they find their way to believing or acting in glaring contradiction to their original promises.  When the nation has been scarred by crises like Watergate and Vietnam, it has been because presidents have let their demons overcome experience and common sense."

Does George Bush have a demon?

MS. DOWD:  Well, I do think we're watching the biggest teen-age rebellion in political history.  I mean, it's as though he borrowed the family station wagon from his dad and crashed it into the globe.  I mean, his grandfather and his father--the most important thing to them in politics was protecting internationalism and the Atlantic alliance.  And he has upended that.  He's torn that apart.

MR. RUSSERT:  What do you think?

MR. SAFIRE:  I think he is definitely an internationalist, but much more unilateral than his father because, quite frankly, France and Germany and Russia are not our allies in this war against terror.  And we've got to recognize that and try to assemble as many other allies as we can.  And I think he's done a good job of it.

MS. DOWD:  But you're a war person.  I mean, Bob Kerrey and Richard Clarke say that you can't have a war against terror, that terror is a tactic.

MR. SAFIRE:  Terror is a tactic rather than a pervasive worldwide semiconspiracy?

MS. DOWD:  Yeah, that we need--you know, we should have gone after Osama, that we should have gone after the people who attacked us, and not generalized it out to a tactic, a war on terror.

MR. SAFIRE:  I disagree.  I think one of the most important things that the Bush administration has done in the last three and a half years is to go after terror where it counts, away from the United States. And...

MS. DOWD:  Well, that's what Bush said, that if...

MR. SAFIRE:  First in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.

MS. DOWD:  Right, but he said if we attacked them there we wouldn't have to deal with them here. But now, according to this week's Newsweek, they're coming after us before November 2...

MR. SAFIRE:  But where...

MS. DOWD:  ...with a plot bigger than 9/11.

MR. SAFIRE:  But where are we finding this?  We're finding this in Pakistan and in London.  And we're combating it before it hits us.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn to another development in the campaign and that has been the discussion and debate over John Kerry's military record.  John Kerry had run an ad throughout this campaign of members of his swift boat extolling his virtues as a commander.  The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have now come out with an ad which, I should say, is funded in part by some Texas Republicans.  Let me roll parts of each of those ads and come back and talk about it:

(Videotape, Kerry for president ad):

MR. DEL SANDUSKY:  The decisions that he made saved our lives.

MR. JIM RASSMANN:  When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.

Announcer:  In combat, he earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

(End videotape)

(Videotape, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad):

MR. LOUIS LETSON:  I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart, because I treated him for that injury.

MR. VAN ODELL:  John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star.  I know.  I was there. I saw what happened.

MR. JACK CHENOWETH:  His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Safire, what do you think of that?

MR. SAFIRE:  I certainly wouldn't go after John Kerry on his war record.  I think that's a mistake. And I think the Republicans and the Bush campaign are staying a mile away from that and they are not doing that.  As far as the veterans who disagree with him and take issue with him, well, when you get up in front of the country and throw a salute and have your whole acceptance speech based on your war record and not your 20 years in the United States Senate, then you invite criticism.  And he's going to get it from these guys. But I would hope that the Bush people continue to disassociate themselves from it.

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, John McCain, who supports President Bush, said this in the Associated Press, that it was:  "...`dishonest and dishonorable' and urged the White House to condemn it as well.  The White House declined.  `It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me,' McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, comparing the anti-Kerry ad to tactics in his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush."

MR. SAFIRE:  And there you see McCain campaigning side by side with George W. Bush and unreservedly coming out for him for president.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you think the president should condemn the ad?

MR. SAFIRE:  No, I don't think you condemn people for speaking out for what they believe and testify to.

MR. RUSSERT:  What's your sense?

MS. DOWD:  Well, you know, it reminds me a little of what happened to Bush's father, where some Democrats said that Bush's father's record as a hero maybe should be looked at.  I mean, was there really a fire in the plane?  Did those other two guys with him need to die?  And that turned my stomach.  I thought that was really disgusting.  And now the Republicans are doing it to Kerry. And, you know, it's very much--in South Carolina with McCain and Willie Horton, they get these third parties to do it, do their wet work.  And McCain is obviously disgusted.  And he may be campaigning with Bush next week, but his heart is with Kerry on this.

MR. RUSSERT:  Another development in the campaign was Teresa Heinz Kerry. The wife of Senator John Kerry was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and some Bush partisans were chanting, "Four more years, four more years, four more years," and this is how she responded:

(Videotape, Monday):

MRS. TERESA HEINZ KERRY:  They want four more years of hell.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Maureen Dowd?

MS. DOWD:  I love Teresa.  She's a gift from the journalism gods.  She's fantastic.  John Kerry keeps following her around after she makes one of these remarks, trying to act as though she's very refreshing. But I think the Bush campaign is delighted that she keeps competing with him for the spotlight.

MR. RUSSERT:  How do you think American voters, undecided voters, respond to something like that?

MS. DOWD:  Well, you know, I think voters' response to women who would be first ladies are always very complicated.  Some people are going to love her and see her as they did Hillary as a feminist icon who's, you know, opinions are being suppressed and debated, and other people will just think she's, you know, flaky.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you think most Americans think the last four years have been hell or is that strictly to the Democratic base or what's your sense of it?

MR. SAFIRE:  That's certainly excessive.  I think at the convention when she made her scatological imperative that was covered all over the place about what she had said, Rush Limbaugh, of all the commentators, put his finger on the real problem with Teresa Heinz Kerry and that is not what she said or a word that she used but another word that she had said.  She'd used the word "un-American" to describe attacks on her and her husband.  And when the reporter said, "Did you say un-American?  What do you mean by that?"  She denied having said it at all.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, she--the reporter said--that's an editorial writer for Richard Mellon Scaife, a conservative, who had been criticizing her family for some time, "She said un-American activities."  She said she said "un-American traits."

MR. SAFIRE:  Well...

MR. RUSSERT:  And there's a strong distinction in her mind.

MR. SAFIRE:  Well, in her mind perhaps, but un-American was what she said she denied having said it.  And that's--she's going to have to learn in the course of the campaign that when you say something and you're caught on it, you don't deny it.  You say, "I misspoke," or, "What I meant was," but you don't say, "It didn't happen."

MR. RUSSERT:  How do you think people are responding to this?  In her speech at the convention, she said, "You know, I want to live in a world where women are opinionated means for a man knowledgeable and well-informed."

MS. DOWD:  Right.  Well, I don't think when women make missteps they should hide behind the idea that society can't accept opinionated women, although from my standpoint, society does have some problem with that, but you can't blame society for that if you have made the mistake, as Hillary Clinton did with health care or Teresa did with "shoving it."  But my favorite part in this un-American thing was she also said that Republicans were using un-Pennsylvanian traits because what is an un-Pennsylvanian trait, that you're rooting for the Cleveland Browns against the Steelers or using Swiss cheese on your cheese steaks instead of Cheez Whiz.  I mean, it was just--she says a lot of funny, wacky, fantastic things for us, so...

MR. RUSSERT:  Thirty seconds left.  How do you see the race playing out?

MR. SAFIRE:  I see it swinging backwards and forwards.  Forget the polls. We're going to decide this race, I think, in the debates in October.  And the economy will go up and down.  Fortunes in Iraq will go up and down.  But when it comes down to the race itself, I think Bush will pull it out.

MR. RUSSERT:  And you think he'll debate three times?

MR. SAFIRE:  I hope so.

MR. RUSSERT:  How do you see it?

MS. DOWD:  Tim, I think you're going to need your little slate.  Ohio, Ohio, Ohio.

MR. SAFIRE:  No, I don't think it's going to be close.  I think it's going to go one way or the other. It's not going to be a tiny victory.

MR. RUSSERT:  Maureen Dowd, "Bushworld:  Enter at Your Own Risk" and I'm sure your mom, Peggy, is watching this morning.  And don't forget, William Safire, "The Right Word and The Right Place at the Right Time."  William Safire, your 28th book?

MR. SAFIRE:  Twenty-eighth and 29th.

MR. RUSSERT:  But who's counting?

Bill Safire and Maureen Dowd, come back again.

We'll be right back.


MR. RUSSERT:  Start your day tomorrow on "Today" with Katie and Matt, then the "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw.

That's all for today.  We'll be back next week.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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