updated 10/6/2004 11:31:39 AM ET 2004-10-06T15:31:39

Guest: Tony Blankley, John Dickerson, Ben Ginzberg, Hal Bruno, Terry McAuliffe, Ed Gillespie, Hal Bruno, Dee Dee Myers

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  And welcome to this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live from the site of tonight‘s big vice-presidential showdown and, as always, no passports required and only common sense allowed.  Tonight, the battle of the vice-presidential candidates.  Dick Cheney may be the seasoned politician, but John Edwards is a practiced trial attorney.  Who‘s going to come out on top? The spin machines are already in overdrive.  And looking back at the good and the bad and the confused. 

So, will the gloves come off when the veeps met? We‘re going to find out later on, and we can‘t wait. 

Welcome to Cleveland.  The weather couldn‘t be more beautiful, the setting couldn‘t be any better.  This is a special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight, it is a one-time only event. Vice President Dick Cheney and the man who wants his job, John Edwards.  In their only debate, we‘ve got a powerhouse political panel tonight.  With us from Washington, D.C., former White House secretary under Bill Clinton, Dee Dee Myers.

We also have “Washington Times” editor Tony Blankley and with me here in Cleveland, “Time” magazine‘s White House correspondent John Dickerson and we also have former counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Ben Ginsberg.  John, let me begin with you.  We always focus on these presidential debates.  That seems to be what everybody‘s excited about.  Almost from the second both parties select their man. 

Let me tell you why, despite the vice-presidential debate tonight, I think it‘s going to be a great one.  What should we expect?

JOHN DICKERSON, TIME MAGAZINE:  What we should expect is a little clean-up from the vice president of the last debate.  He is trying to say a lot of what George Bush didn‘t say in his debate with the war on terror, it put Iraq into the larger perspective, the larger global war on terror, put the current events in some context.  We‘ll expect John Edwards to basically continue what John Kerry did, which is de-link Iraq from the war on terror, and say that George Bush‘s judgment has been flawed, which is the case that the Bush team has been making against John Kerry in which the Kerry campaign seems to have been able to flip on the incumbent. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the big issue for John Edwards, obviously, gravitas.  That‘s what I know they‘ve been whispering around the campaign.  I know that‘s what most people are going to be looking at tonight, whether he has the weight that Dick Cheney does as far as—in terms of policy experience.  What do you expect John Edwards to do? You expect him to go and be on the attack, to try to keep Dick Cheney off guard or do you think he‘s going to sit back and, again, just basically parrot what John Kerry said last week?

DICKERSON:  I think he‘ll go some on the attack.  He doesn‘t want to go too far because of the gravitas question.  Too much attacking can seem almost sniping and he wants to make carefully targeted shots at the vice president.  And he‘s got a lot of room to run here.  The vice president was the farthest out in terms of the administration making the case for war in Iraq and there are a couple of things that Edwards can really push him on, without seeming overly aggressive, and he knows how to get that temperature right. 

He‘s been in front of those juries.  He knows how to get those speeds (ph) right.  And so I think we‘ll see him constantly on the attack.  And what he needs to do is just continue to make that opening larger.  But he knows and the campaign knows that in the end, people are looking at John Kerry more than they‘re looking at John Edwards. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ben Ginsberg, my Republican friends in Washington have absolutely skewered me over the past week saying that I was too tough on George W. Bush.  The polls proved me right, but they don‘t care.  I think George Bush‘s subpar performance last week makes Dick Cheney performance tonight all the more important.  And I‘ve talked to Republicans behind the scenes, on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue that agree with me.  They won‘t say it on camera, but they agree with me behind the scenes.  Do you think that Dick Cheney has more riding on this vice presidential debate than most vice presidents in his position?

BEN GINSBERG, FMR BUSH-CHENEY COUNSEL:  Well, I think you have to start from the premise that there are very few voters out there who are going to cast a ballot based on the vice presidency.  Having said that, Dick Cheney can present a very positive contrast for the ticket with John Edwards. 

His gravitas, again, versus John Edwards.  The fact that he‘s run a company versus Edwards, who‘s a trial lawyer and all those connotations.  John Edwards has been the disappearing candidate so far in this campaign.  He‘s been doing minor markets in states. They really haven‘t been able to use him much.  It‘s a big chance for him. Can he rise to the challenge?

SCARBOROUGH:  That is the big question.  I want to bring in Dee Dee Myers right now.  Dee Dee, again I was tough on the president last week.  I‘ve got the first prediction of the night though and I‘m going to say it here at about five minutes after 5:00 in Cleveland.  I think Vice President Dick Cheney, who‘s been cast as Darth Vader by the popular press over the past two years and also by Democratic opponents, I think Dick Cheney is going to do extraordinarily well tonight and I think he is going to swat away John Edwards anytime he tries to come in and land a blow.  Do you think I‘m wrong?

DEE DEE MYERS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.:  I think there is a lot of hope being placed on exactly that scenario. Certainly that was the case four years ago.  People expected Lieberman, Senator Lieberman to get the best of Cheney in the debate.  That didn‘t happen. In fact Cheney more than held his own. He decisively won this debate and so I think Dick Cheney comes into this with a lot of confidences.  The one time he has to do this time that he didn‘t have to do four years ago was defend the record. 

And I think that the Bush-Cheney team is more of a team than a lot of president-vice president combinations.  I think a lot of people who see weaknesses in the president, have looked at those weaknesses to be shored up in the judgment and experience and stability of Cheney. So I think there is a little more riding on this for that reason and I think Cheney does have a tall order to fill tonight, to kind of re-assure people, to sort of bring the equilibrium and the momentum at least back to the Bush-Cheney campaign.  So we‘ll see what happens. 

John Edwards, you know, we don‘t really know what to expect.  We‘ve never seen him in a one on one debate on nationalized television.  He doesn‘t like to be sitting down. He‘s used to standing up.  He is trying to connect with a moderator, a television camera, instead of 12 men and women of a jury, so this is sort of new territory for him and I‘ll be very curious to see how it goes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, it‘s going to be interesting.  Tony Blankley, you know, John Edwards, I remember watching back in Iowa, New Hampshire, when he was in those small rooms talking to his crowds.  I thought he was as good as anybody that I‘ve seen in national politics in some time.  But you get him on the stage at the convention in Boston, it seemed to swallow him up.  Which John Edwards do you think we‘re going to be seeing tonight?

TONY BLANKLEY, EDITOR, WASHINGTON TIMES:  Look, I think Edwards is an able guy and I assume we‘re going to see an effective Edwards. I think really the decision that Cheney has to make is how he wants to deal with the shots that I think Edwards will take.  The Halliburton shots if they come up, because anytime—even if Cheney can put those statements down, with good hard evidence, he is wasting time on the defense, when I think he‘s got to be on the offense after Kerry‘s Iraq positions and he does have to do what Bush did not completely do that night and demolish Kerry‘s arguments. 

So I don‘t think he needs to spend too much time with Cheney—with Edwards.  On the other hand, there‘s one procedural thing worth keeping in mind in the news cycle.  Bush and Cheney need to have a win tonight to break the negative news cycle that started last Thursday night and continues for Bush.  And it‘s going to keep running until next Friday if Cheney doesn‘t win this in a manner which all of us pundits and TV commentators and the public seem to be a victory.  So there is some utility in being seen to win, just to break the news cycle. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tony, that is going to be easier, isn‘t it, when you look at the expectations game.  Last week, John Kerry was seen as being on his death bed, the guy came out, did much better than expected and he‘s had a great news cycle the past three, four, five days.  Dick Cheney, again, this guy has been lampooned over the past two years. He‘s been derived as really Darth Vader‘s illegitimate son.  I‘ve got to believe that expectations are going to so low tonight for Dick Cheney that when the Dick Cheney shows up that showed up four years ago in the Lieberman debate, he is going to get praised I think from most quarters. 

BLANKLEY:  I mean any of us who know Mr. Cheney even slightly know that he is not a Darth Vader kind of personality.  He is a fairly serious guy, but he is avuncular.  He‘s a gracious man and he is not this caricature. So all he has to do is behave the way he always does and it‘s going to be a surprise to a lot of people who are tuning in for the first time tonight. 

MYERS:  But you know Joe, you can‘t say simultaneously that the question about John Edwards gravitas must be answered and then say the expectations are so low for Vice President Cheney.  All the polls I‘ve seen show it pretty evenly divided in terms of people‘s expectations about who‘s going to win tonight.  But you talk about asymmetrical warfare.  These are two politicians with vastly different skills.  Vice President Cheney is an inside player who‘s got the deep well of experience on particularly foreign policy issues, almost exclusively foreign policy issues, really, although he served in the House, obviously.

And then John Edwards who doesn‘t have very much government experience.  But his strength is, as Tony pointed out, is connecting with an audience, telling the narrative.  It will be interesting to see if he tries to put the last four years into some kind of narrative ark.  But I think the expectations are—the pressure is much greater on Dick Cheney tonight.  As Tony pointed out, he has to perform well. He has to try to stop the Kerry team‘s momentum and that is a tall order for him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, though Dee Dee, and I agree with you.  But again, I think the press has vilified Dick Cheney over the past two, three years.  I think the Democratic party has.  I think people like Michael Moore has painted him as just really a modern-day tyrant, a guy that wants to undermine democracy, an almost evil force in American politics.  That‘s what Americans have been seeing over the past two, three years and I think again tonight, when you see Dick Cheney, you‘ll see that he doesn‘t bite young children.  He doesn‘t drool, that he can speak in complete sentences without screaming “death to the unbelievers.” I think you know there are going to be a lot of people out there that are favorably impressed. 

Now yesterday at a speech to a private group, the former administration in Iraq, Paul Bremer, told an audience about mistakes that had been made in handling the situation in Iraq and this is what Bremer said.  Quote, was the U.S. hampered in Iraq.  The single most important change, the one that would have improved the situation would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout the occupation. 

His second criticism was that the U.S. didn‘t go far enough in stemming the insurrection at the beginning.  Hal Bruno, let me bring you in here.  That is taking a 180-degree turn from what we heard from the administration official, from really President Bush, from Dick Cheney and especially from Donald Rumsfeld.  How much is that going to play, these flip flops on the administration‘s part? How much is that going to play into the debate tonight? Is Hl there? Can you hear me now?

HAL BRUNO, POLITICAL ANALYST:  OK, I hear you now. What was your question there?

SCARBOROUGH:  I was just talking about how—you had a quote yesterday from Paul Bremer talking about how the administration didn‘t give Iraq enough troops right after the war.  They didn‘t move in quickly enough to put down the insurrection.  And I‘m wondering if this change—and also if you hear what Don Rumsfeld said earlier, when he said that there wasn‘t a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq.  Is that going to take a central part in tonight‘s debate?

BRUNO:  And how that is. That‘s powerful ammunition.  And you can bet that Edwards is going to use that and you can bet that Dick Cheney is prepared to defend it.  I don‘t know what the answer is, but he‘ll come up with it.  The fact that Dick Cheney is low-key does not mean that he doesn‘t have communication skills.  He‘s very, very good at it.  For Edwards, this is a whole new experience.  Dee Dee said it pretty right.  Talking to a TV camera and talking to a jury are two different things. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you what you‘re expecting tonight from the debate.  You‘ve seen quite a few of these. 

BRUNO:  Yeah. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think in the end this debate is going to have any significant impact come November 2?

BRUNO:  Vice-presidential debate does not have any impact unless—unless one of the candidates makes a terrible mistake.  1976, Bob Dole came up with the Democratic wars and that was a terrible blunder and it came a week after President Ford had talked about, you know, the Soviet—the Soviets not dominating eastern Europe.  And in a very close election, I think you can say that those debates, the combination of the two, did have an impact.  Other than that, the vice presidential debates have not had an impact.  Who won or who lost, it didn‘t matter. Sometimes their ticket won, sometimes their ticket lost.  But the V.P. debate—really the V.P. is a test only of the candidate‘s judgment.  Did he make a good selection? But don‘t vote the V.P. and they don‘t cast their vote based on what happened in the vice presidential debate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Hal.  Stay right there.  I want to ask the rest of the panel to stick around because we‘re going to have a lot more on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY after the break.  And we‘re also going to be having our all-star panel focusing on the war on the airwaves, including an issue we‘re sure to hear something about time, Halliburton.  We‘ll be right back from Cleveland in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back in Cleveland, Ohio, just a few hours from the first and only debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards.  I tell you what, we‘ve got have a great crowd here.  They‘re very polite.  They only scream on cue.  You can scream now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John, it ain‘t 1969 is it?

DICKERSON:  You just like the power (ph).

SCARBOROUGH:  I tell you what, I like a very disciplined organized crowd. That‘s enough.  Thank you so much.  We got our all-star panel back here.  And, John, it‘s easier to ramp them up than bring them down. 

DICKERSON:  They‘re not listening. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You heard Dick Cheney use—again, use a little bit of sense of humor at the convention.  You can‘t help but laugh at him because, again, he is the ultimate straight guy.  Can we expect some more jokes from Dick Cheney tonight? Is he going to try to sort of play a little bit warmer and kinder than usual?

DICKERSON:  Yes, we can expect some of that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Some. 

DICKERSON:  They‘ve been trying to—well, it‘s funny. They‘ve been trying to soften him a little bit, had his grandchildren around more, traveling with the family with the family.  But of course then you talk to Bush advisers and they laugh because there is only so much softening you can do to Dick Cheney, only so much softening he will allow.  But there will be a little bit of that tonight because they want to break down this image you were talking about, that he is this horrible man behind the screen. 

But there are some specific issues that is he‘ll have to take head on because one of the narratives they are trying to beat back is that the Bush-Cheney team doesn‘t really want to answer these questions.  They‘re in charge. They know what they‘re doing, don‘t bother us with your petty questions.  On some of these questions, even about Halliburton, which they largely dismiss, often with that back of the hand, they‘re going to have to play it straight up, not be cute, not be funny, just go right at the question in order to sort of beat back this narrative that they really just don‘t have time for the petty questions. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ben, let me throw out what John Edwards is probably going to say tonight and let‘s hear how Dick Cheney is going to respond.  Vice president, you worked at Halliburton, you made tens of millions of dollars between 1995 and 2000 off of government contracts and you‘re still making money, you‘re profiting off the war and your company is getting no-bid contracts.  That is immoral and it‘s despicable.  What‘ Dick Cheney going to say to that?

GINSBERG:  I ran a company.  We provided jobs for many thousands of people.  It was a company whose projects helped this country in innumerable ways.  When I retired from Halliburton, I got an insurance policy that I took out on my deferred compensation.  That guaranteed that I would get the money that was owed to me without having to worry about the company‘s fortunes.  Therefore, I divorced myself properly from this and the truth of the matter is is that whatever the contracts that Halliburton is getting, I didn‘t interfere in that process. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait.  Why are they getting no-bid contracts?

DICKERSON:  They‘re getting no bid contracts because, frankly, they‘re the people who are best qualified to get the job in the minds of the nonpolitical people in the Pentagon who make those decisions. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Are we going to be looking at a trial lawyer going after a CEO tonight when the issue of Halliburton comes up?

BRUNO:  And how. That‘s exactly what you‘re going to be looking at.  And part of Cheney‘s answer also is that Halliburton got plush contracts under a Democratic administration with Bill Clinton in the White House.  This is not going to be like four years ago when the combination of Cheney and Joseph Lieberman put half the country to sleep.  You said it exactly right.  You got a trial lawyer going after an incumbent vice president.  The opportunity gets once during the entire campaign and it is going to be very lively.  The thing I‘ve learned in moderating and being a panelist on these debates is watch out for the unexpected.  That is the thing that winds up making news.  That‘s the thing that people remember about this debate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the Kerry campaign released an ad claiming that Vice President Dick Cheney still has a deep financial interest in Halliburton.  That attack is not going to be unexpected tonight.  Dee Dee, I want you to take a look at this ad and respond. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven‘t had now for over three years. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The truth?  As vice president, Dick Cheney received $2 million from Halliburton.  Halliburton got billions in no-bid contracts in Iraq.  Cheney got $2 million.  What did we get?  A $200 billion bill for Iraq, lost jobs, rising health car costs.  It‘s time for a new direction.  John Kerry for president.  Stronger at home, respected in the world. 

I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Dee Dee Myers, as somebody that actually criticized the White House for giving Halliburton a no-bid contract, I look at that ad and I‘m thinking it‘s straight off of a Michael Moore movie.  Do you really think John Kerry should move in that direction as we get closer to the election?

MYERS:  Well, you know, in all honesty, Halliburton is not my favorite subject.  I think there are a lot more important issues and a lot more important issues that will move voters to discuss.  That said, it‘s a pretty powerful ad and if I was in the debate tonight, I‘d rather be playing John Edwards‘ hand on this issue than Dick Cheney‘s.  You can go through the argument as Ben did, but that leaves you thinking, gosh, I wish I had a contract or insurance policy that would allow me to maintain my millions of dollars in compensation from this company regardless of what‘s happening in the rest of the world.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, Dee Dee.  You know that Dick Cheney gave up tens of millions of dollars, stepping down from Halliburton when he did to become vice president. 

MYERS: ... future compensation? I think walking away with a $20 million package sounds pretty good to me.  Is that what you meant though in future compensation?  

SCARBOROUGH:  He walked away from more money than that. 

MYERS:  Gosh, gee.  He sacrificed a lot, Joe.  That‘s really tough on him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, maybe Tony Blankley, we should have gotten somebody who was unemployed and wasn‘t successful in private enterprise to be a vice president, then.  I mean is that what we‘ve come to, that we don‘t want people coming out of the private sector where they successfully run a major corporation to get involved in government?

BLANKLEY:  Well, I think this issue plays really just to the base Democrats who are already with Kerry.  Most people are not going to buy into this straight out lie about what Mr. Cheney‘s relationship is with Halliburton.  But Cheney‘s problem tonight is that for the undecided voters, the people who are not following issues particularly and may only know what they‘ve seen in an advertisement, he has got to both swat this away in a definitive way, but not spend too much time with it because he is playing on the other guy‘s court. 

I mean people who are going to buy into the Halliburton theme can‘t be persuaded by a minute and a half reasoned analysis as Mr.  Ginsberg gave us a few minutes ago and Cheney‘s not going to be persuasive for those people, either.  So I think he needs to get off that real quickly and go back to his primary mission, which is Kerry‘s record on Iraq because he is not going to win on Halliburton with the people who are paying attention to it now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John what do you think about and nothing personal, Ben.  I think that was overly legalistic.  If he said that, that would put some people to sleep.  What do you make of the “Wall Street Journal‘s conclusion this morning, that if John Edwards spends his time talking about Halliburton and Dick Cheney, while Dick Cheney spends his time talking about John Kerry, then actually it‘s George Bush who‘s the winner. 

DICKERSON:  Maybe.  We‘ll see.  I think one thing we haven‘t mentioned about Halliburton is that there is a chance that Edwards can turn it into this larger narrative about domestic policies, which is that the Bush team is for the wealthy, for the insiders, for those who can get these special packages and work for the regular guy.  They can sort of broaden it out into a wider area into the domestic policy debate and it becomes something more than just a tit-for-tat about what Dick Cheney did or didn‘t do with Halliburton. 

So, that will be another thing Edwards will be trying to do tonight and to turn Halliburton into something more than just one of Dick Cheney‘s peccadilloes, but as sort of a larger template for the entire domestic policy debate that the Kerry campaign has been trying to have in this election. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dee Dee Myers, you said that Halliburton wasn‘t your favorite issue.  Going to break, we‘ve got a hard break coming up, what issue would you tell John Edwards to lead with tonight against Dick Cheney?

MYERS:  I think he has to do—I think he has to sort of re-assure people again about Iraq and the foreign policy and then needs to move it back to domestic issues as quickly as he can, about jobs, about health care, about the things that are closer to people‘s lives.  That‘s where John Edwards shines and that‘s where I think Dick Cheney is a little bit at a disadvantage.  I think that‘s where John Edwards can win the debate tonight. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Dee Dee.  Thanks so much.  Now, we‘re just getting warmed up here, got a lively crowd. We‘ve got a lot more from our special guest panel with a look at a sudden change in plans for the Bush campaign.  We‘re going to be talking about that right after the break.  You‘re watching a special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY live from Cleveland.  Stick around.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re live from Cleveland, Ohio where we‘re going to be talking about tonight‘s big debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards later this hour. Now the Bush administration is fighting back and changing game plan since the last debate.  We‘re going to talk about that.  But first, let‘s hear the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk. 

CHERYL CASONE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello. I‘m Cheryl Casone with the headlines. We have two breaking stories for you.  First, the prosecution just rested its case in Scott Peterson‘s murder trial.  It follows 19 weeks of testimony.  The defense will begin presenting its case a week from today.  And the U.S. has just vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that Israel stop a major offensive in the Gaza strip.  That offensive has cost at least 68 Palestinian lives.

Also, U.S. health officials are warning of a major flu vaccine shortage after Britain abruptly suspended the license of Chiron, the drug company that makes half the U.S. flu vaccines supplies.  The decision means Chiron will provide no flu vaccine this year. British regulators cited problems with the manufacturing process at Chiron‘s plant in Liverpool, England. 

Mount St. Helens released a spectacular cloud of steam and ash today.  It rose thousands of feet above the crater and sprinkles ash on a small town about 25 miles from the volcano.  Today‘s event was the largest in the series of steam explosions over the past five days.  Scientists say more eruptions are likely.

And looks like another setback for Martha Stewart.  A government ink expert who testified at her trial has been found not guilty of perjury charges.  Stewart and her lawyers were expected to rely, in part, on that perjury claim as they appealed her conviction.  Stewart is due to report to prison in West Virginia by Friday.  And those are the latest headlines.  Now back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. We‘re live in Cleveland and in just a few hours from now, Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic V.P. nominee, Senator John Edwards go toe to toe in their first and only debate.  This after President Bush lost ground in the polls after his first debate last week against John Kerry. 

Now tonight, the Republicans look to Dick Cheney and we could see a shift in the Republican strategy in the election just four weeks away.  With me now to talk about that at the debate tonight is Terry McAuliffe.  He is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and we also have Ed Gillespie coming in. 

Let me start with you, though, Terry.  British prime minister once said in politics, a week is a lifetime.  My gosh.  You‘ve got to be feeling like your campaign has been raised from the dead in the past week.  A week ago everybody was predicting a Dukakis-like defeat.  Now it‘s John Kerry who‘s back.  You look at the “New York Times” poll. You look at the “Washington Post” poll. You look at the Gallup poll, which had Bush ahead by 11, 12, 13 points just a week ago, now it‘s pulled even.  Why?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN:  I think first and foremost, George Bush‘s embarrassing performance last week.  He looked annoyed. He looked angry. He slouched over his podium.  He did not look like a commander-in-chief.  Joe, I‘ve never seen a president praying for the lights to come on because he had nothing else to say.  This was his time to talk to America about his vision for the future and about his policies in Iraq.  He had no interest in any of the questions and there was John Kerry, steady, precise, concise answers.  He looked like the commander-in-chief, which he will be. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed Gillespie, what happened last week? It seems now that most people that looked at that debate said George W. Bush wasn‘t ready for it. He did seem tired.  He seemed agitated.  What happened?

ED GILLESPIE Well, Joe, I think if you look at the outcome of that debate, what you are seeing now is Senator Kerry on the defensive trying to explain why he believes we need a global test in order for us to act preemptively in our own national security interests, who passes or fails us in a global test? Would that be Russia, China, Germany, France? This is a real issue in this debate.  The president will not allow any other country to tell us what we can or cannot do in our national security interest. 

I think that‘s why you‘re seeing today in the “Washington Post” poll, the Pew poll, the president up five points again.  We always said this is going to be a close race.  As you know, when we were down, I said it would be close. When we were up I said it would be close.  In the end we‘re even.  I‘m saying this is going to be close at the end, but the things that the voters decide on are the issues and when it comes to who‘s going to do best in terms of winning the war on terror, who has a clear vision for how we‘re victorious in Iraq, who has got the best policies to create jobs, it is clear a majority of Americans favor the president‘s approach. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Ed, I make no secret of it, but I kind of go against the grain.  I‘m a big fan of Dick Cheney‘s.  What do you think we will see from the vice president tonight?

GILLESPIE:  Oh, I think—the vice president tonight is the vice president.  He‘s someone who has a firm command of the issues.  He‘s someone who is very substantive, one of the most substantive vice presidents in our nation‘s history.  He is a pretty low-key guy.  I think he‘ll make a case for the president‘s new agenda in a very positive manner.  I think on the other side, you have in Senator Edwards, someone who‘s made a fortune persuading jurors to awards millions to his clients and to himself.  He‘s very persuasive.  And this is tonight, is why he was put on the ticket.  And I‘m sure he‘ll make a forceful case as well and should be an informative debate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think it is going to be a great debate.  And you know what, I want to ask you this, Terry because obviously you are a student of politics. I remember commenting with Dee Dee Myers during the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, caucus primaries that we really had not seen anybody quite as effective in those smaller crowds as John Edwards.  He was a remarkable public speaker, whether you agreed with his two America‘s speech or not. 

MCAULIFFE:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And then you get to the convention in Boston and he seemed to shrink a little bit on stage.  I don‘t expect you to admit that.  But most people would say he did.  How do you think tonight‘s setting is going to play into John Edwards‘ strength and weaknesses?

MCAULIFFE:  Well, clearly John Edwards is going to connect tonight, his vision for the future of this country.  I mean, John Edwards, the son of a mill worker is going to get up there and talk about how everybody in this nation needs to move forward, not just the top 1 percent.  And then you‘ve got Dick Cheney, Mr. Special Interest, Mr.  Halliburton himself.  This is an important debate.  First and foremost, he has to mop up for George Bush‘s disastrous performance last Thursday night.  And second, as you know, it‘s actually Dick Cheney who runs this government.  I mean in essence George Bush is a puppet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A puppet!   I cannot believe I have the head of a national party calling the president of the United States a puppet.  Is this straight out of team America or something?

MCAULIFFE:  Dick Cheney...

(CROSSTALK)

MCAULIFFE:  He‘s the one that made the decisions in Iraq. You look at our energy policy, we went over $51 a barrel for oil, all because of George Bush and Dick Cheney‘s failed policy.  So, tonight‘s going to be very significant.  I mean people call him the prime minister.   He is the prime minister of this government. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Ed Gillespie, is George W.  Bush the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States, a puppet to Dick Cheney‘s evil schemes?

GILLESPIE:  Joe, what you‘re seeing here is Michael Moore has basically taken over the Democratic party.  The fact is—and they don‘t limit their attacks and insults to President Bush.  A couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq came, spoke to a joint session of Congress.  This is a man who risks his life every day, trying to move the Iraqi people toward freedom, one of our strongest and most staunch allies in winning the war on terror.  And the Kerry campaign called him a puppet, too. 

That‘s the kind of negative, personal, harsh, bitter attacks that the American people reject.  We‘re talking about policies.  I understand why Terry doesn‘t want to talk about Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards and their policies.  They are calling for higher taxes.  They‘re calling for more regulation. They call for weakening our national security at a time we need to be tougher in the war on terror,, the fact that Senator Kerry says that he would rather take us back to treating terrorist activities as law enforcement matters, doesn‘t consider it to be a war.  I understand why he‘d rather talk about all these things and make up charges about the vice president rather than address those. 

But the American people want to hear about what we‘re going to do to improve our schools, save our Social Security system, make health care more affordable, win the war on terror.  That‘s what we‘re going to talk about.  They can call the president the prime minister, anybody else they want, puppets and cheap thugs and killers and liars as they have done at their events.  The American people want substance. They want to know what you‘re doing to improve our quality of life to make us safer as a nation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me—I‘m going to give you a chance to answer on that. 

MCAULIFFE:  I know you‘re Republican, but you‘ve at least got to let me respond to that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m such a fair guy.  You know I‘m a fair guy.  In your heart, you know I‘m fair.  Before we go back to Terry, I want to ask you a couple of questions about issues.  Let‘s talk about Iraq for a second.  Obviously things aren‘t going well there, Ed and we saw Paul Bremer come out today and say that he should have been given more troops from the beginning, said that the army should have enforced this  -- stopped the rioting earlier, that they weren‘t tough enough on the insurgents early on.  This is what Democrats have been saying from the very beginning and Don Rumsfeld has been saying you‘ve got all the troops you need to put down this insurgency.  Are we seeing a flip flop now from people that have been very supportive of the Bush policy in Iraq?

GILLESPIE:  We‘re not seeing a flip flop.  In fact, Ambassador Bremer says that we have enough troops on the ground in Iraq today at the time he was talking about, you know a year ago, that was not the view of the generals.  The generals are the ones that the president listens to when it comes to our necessary troop strength.  And, Joe, look, I understand that things are hard in Iraq.  But I have to tell you, you know, the pessimists have been wrong throughout when it comes to Iraq. 

They have said that, first of all, beginning with the fall of Baghdad, you know, it took us much less time to get to Baghdad than we had anticipated.  They said it would be a quagmire in the desert.  We got to Baghdad quickly.  They said that the Iraqi people would never be able to come together and form an interim government and an Iraqi Congress.  1600 of them did—Shiia, Sunni, Kurds.  They defied that expectation.  I remember when Senator Kerry said there is no way that June 30 transfer of power to an interim government, that we could meet that deadline.  We did meet that deadline. 

They said Prime Minister Allawi, no one can ever be a legitimate interim prime minister.  Prime Minister Allawi is.  We are seeing progress in Iraq towards a free and stable and self-governing Iraq, the same in Afghanistan, which will hold their first elections, women will be voting in the Afghani elections here this month.  Look, Iraq and Afghanistan are one theater -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the president has a plan for victory. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed, you‘re being accused of filibustering. 

MCAULIFFE:  Why don‘t you turn this show over to the RNC?   

SCARBOROUGH:  You are being accused of filibustering here. 

GILLESPIE:  I‘m going to turn it back to Terry.  Go ahead.   I can hear him in his ear piece. 

SCARBOROUGH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) earpiece OK. 

GILLESPIE:  Not that he‘s saying anything worth hearing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Come on.  Let‘s be uniters, not dividers.  He was obviously talking about a lot of the good things that were happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, talking about women voting.  I want you to respond to that and what you heard before and also I think what you‘re going to be hearing tonight.  Continue stressing this global test, this global test that John Kerry talked about.  What did he mean by talking about the global test, respond to that and then respond to all you heard from Ed. 

MCAULIFFE:  Well, first of all, if you think things are going great in Iraq, then go ahead and vote for George Bush.  He‘s your man.  Clearly things aren‘t going well over in Iraq.  Today, as you know, you had Paul Bremer coming out saying that we had nowhere near the troops we needed.  You had the Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld come out this week and say there were no ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.  You had the secretary of state the other day come out and say we have a deteriorating situation in Iraq.  You have John McCain, you had Senator Chuck Hagel all coming out saying we have a disaster on our heads. 

George Bush can‘t face reality.  We‘ve lost over 1,000 troops.  We spent $200 billion and things are not getting better in Iraq; they‘re getting worse.  He lead us to war based on incorrect information.  He send our troops without a plan to win the peace.  We need a new president. We need John Kerry and then you know what Joe? Then we can get our troops out of there.  Allies will come in and help us, but they‘re not going to help us today.  I did hear Ed say that they want to talk about health care and education. 

They have had four years.  George Bush under funded education by $33 billion.  We have 45 million Americans today with no health insurance, five million more than when George Bush became president.  We‘re in Ohio here, 280,000 people have lost their jobs and George Bush says this is a good thing that we outsource our jobs.  They‘ve had four years.  They have failed on every single issue.  Why would you possibly re-elect George Bush?  He hasn‘t done anything.  He‘s ruined or foreign policy and he‘s ruined our domestic agenda. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Terry. 

MCAULIFFE:  Joe --  do you feel good now? Am I fair?

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re always fair.   I‘ve never had anybody come on my show and accuse me of not being fair. 

MCAULIFFE:  Never?  Joe, is there time to --  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when you said John Kerry won the debate.  I was proud of you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m fair all the time.  I‘m sorry Ed, can you not hear

Ed 

MCAULIFFE:  It‘s very low. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead.  I‘m going to give you 30 seconds to respond and then I‘m going to let Terry wrap up because I‘m so fair.  Go ahead, Ed. 

GILLESPIE:  Look.  Look.  When it comes to Ohio and jobs, the fact is that you couldn‘t find a senator with a record that is more fatal to jobs in Ohio than Senator Kerry‘s when it comes to coal, when it comes to the auto industry.  His policies are awful for Ohio.  In terms of education, President Bush spent more on funding for education in one term than Bill Clinton spent in two.  And then lastly, in terms of—how is John Kerry, by the way, going to get more troops on the ground from other countries when he, himself, said it is a mistake and it is a grand diversion?

This week after the debate, the president of Poland came out and said it was immoral for John Kerry to dismiss and be so disdainful and insult the troops and the sacrifice of the Polish troops on the ground.  He has done that to all 30 of the troops who are on the ground working with us in the reconstruction of Iraq.  How in the world he expects the French and the Germans to come in and replace our troops on the ground for what he considers to be a mistake and a grand diversion of wrong war, wrong place, wrong time is laughable and is a grand deception. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed?  Thanks Ed and Terry, I‘ll let you respond.  I just want to say one thing.  As somebody that has attacked George W. Bush for spending too much money on the education bureaucracy in Washington and by supporting Ted Kennedy‘s education bill, I‘d like to know, how is George W.  Bush under funded education when the education bureaucracy in D.C. has grown at record rates over the past—

MCAULIFFE:  Forget bureaucracy.  We need money out in the states.  We need to builds more schools. We need more teacher training.  Take leave no child behind.  13 states today, Joe, have pulled out of it.  Conservative legislatures like Virginia have said this is nothing but an unfunded mandate.  You have a quarter of the states in our nation have pulled out of it to say this is a mandate with no money to it.  He hasn‘t done what we need to do in education in this country.  700,000 children have lost their after school program.  As it relates to Iraq and the troops, these troops don‘t want George Bush anymore.  I guarantee we‘re going to get more people voting for John Kerry in the enlisted because they have had it with what‘s gone on in Iraq today, the rotations, they keep going there.  We got to change the course of this country.  We‘ll do it with John Kerry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good.  Thank so very much.   Ed, thank you so much. 

I greatly appreciate it. 

GILLESPIE:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And hope to talk to you again very soon.  Good luck tonight to both of you. 

MCAULIFFE:  You bet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, we‘re going to bring back our all-star panel for more on tonight‘s debate.  And I‘ll tell you what, by listening to that debate, you know it‘s going to be a hot one tonight.  You‘re watching a special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY right here on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon.  Iran we were held by a foreign government.  In Lebanon, you had a wanton terrorist action where the government opposed it. 

GERALDINE FERRARO, FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Let me just say, first of all, that I almost resent Vice President Bush your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And welcome back to this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘re just three hours away from tonight‘s vice-presidential showdown right here in Cleveland.  It‘s time to bring our panel back in.  We‘ve got former White House press secretary under Bill Clinton, Dee Dee Myers. We also have “Washington Times” editor Tony Blankley.  We‘ve got “Time” magazine‘s White House correspondent John Dickerson, the former head of ABC news political unit Hal Bruno and former counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign team, Ben Ginsberg.  I want to go back to you, Hal Bruno, are you expecting any shift in strategy tonight?  Obviously the Bush campaign is launching a new offensive tomorrow with the George W.  Bush speech.  Do you think Dick Cheney may preview that tonight?

BRUNO:  Yes, I think he will.  I think what tonight—tonight we‘re going to see the road map for the final few weeks of the campaign on both sides.  I think you‘ll see Cheney pretty much taking the line that the Bush campaign is going to take from here on in and I think you‘re going to see Edwards doing the same thing on the Democratic side.  It is going to be a very lively debate.  I think it‘s going to be very, very aggressive and they‘re going to take some pretty hard smack at each other.  But that is the kind of campaign it‘s going to be.  If you think it was rough up to this point, just wait, you ain‘t seen nothing yet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tony Blankley, Hal Bruno said earlier and he is exactly right, what usually sticks out with all these debates is the unexpected moment.  Do you have any predictions, any surprises that you think viewers may see tonight as they tune in?

BLANKLEY:  No, I don‘t have any predictions.  I would have a suggestion for Mr. Cheney.  I think he needs to go on the offense on Iraq and it‘s a wonderful piece of information here (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is that the French foreign minister has said that he won‘t, perhaps won‘t attend any summit on Iraq that doesn‘t have the insurgents represented there.  So he ought to challenge Edwards tonight. Is Kerry going to exclude France or admit the terrorists at the negotiating table?

SCARBOROUGH:  Dee Dee Myers? Try and respond to that. 

MYERS:  Well, that‘s a question that the vice president may very well

throw at Senator Edwards and I think Senator Edwards needs to use some

recently revealed facts, as you pointed out earlier, not only do you have

Paul Bremer saying that they didn‘t get the troops they needed, which was -

·         this isn‘t Monday morning quarterbacking. This is something a lot of Democrats and foreign policy experts were saying at the time.  You have the secretary of defense saying there are no—there is no evidence of links to al Qaeda and—between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  So, the rationale for going to war in Iraq leads I think the country to question the judgment of this administration and the vice president is going to have to answer for that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you think the vice president is going to focus on tonight? Is he going to focus on Iraq or is he going to focus on domestic policy?

DICKERSON:  He has to focus on Iraq because they need to gain the momentum back that the president lost to John Kerry in his debate.  This is a three-step strategy.  Cheney has to recontextualize (ph) the war in Iraq tonight.  The president needs to do it again tomorrow in his speech that they‘ve rewritten for that very purpose and then the president has to show up and do the same thing on Friday night.  Iraq is at the center of this election and they have to fix their problem on it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ben, what‘s John Edwards‘ weakness and what is Dick Cheney going to try to exploit tonight? Is it going to be trial lawyer, trial lawyer, trial lawyer?

GINSBERG:  I think it is inexperience, inexperience, inexperience.  I

think Dick Cheney talks about the war on terror. He talks about the

improving economy, looking forward to the job numbers on Friday, and he

talks about who‘s better to protect this country from threats in the future

·         us or them?

SCARBOROUGH:  John, how concerned is the White House on the jobs prospect, on the economy.  The economy was roaring the first quarter, started to slow down mid summer, got some very troubling signs.  How is the White House feeling about the jobs report coming out this week? Are they fairly confident that if this debate centers around the economy, that George W.  Bush wins?

DICKERSON:  Well, they would—they would have preferred this debate be about national security and terrorism and I think they still, in their heart, would like the campaign to be about that.  They think that people in the end will pick a decisive leader and that people will vote on that in the end.  I think they are certainly hopeful that the jobs numbers will be good and it will continue their narrative, which is essentially to say you may not feel great, but that better times are—we‘ve turned the corner and that jobs numbers, they hope will go towards that narrative. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good, thanks John. Thank you Ben.  I want to thank all of you for being with us tonight.  Hal, thank you so much.  It was great having you with us on board.  Tony, Dee Dee, greatly appreciate it.  Now if you want to get into the debate over the debate, we just—we‘ve got the thing for you.  Starting right at the conclusion of the debate tonight, you can log on and tell us who you think the winner is, Dick Cheney or John Edwards? Just go to joe.msnbc.com.  The live vote opens at 10:30 Eastern following the debate. 

We‘ll see you later on tonight.  But still ahead, we‘ve got much, much more coming your way tonight.  If it is a big night in politics, then it is a big night here at MSNBC.  Our coverage is going to take you right up to the vice-presidential debate here on MSNBC beginning at 9:00 Eastern time.  Then at mid night Eastern time, Ron Reagan joins me after hours for tonight‘s guest list, which includes Pat Buchanan, Mike Barnicle and Howard Fineman, just to name a few, to talk about the debate, who the winners are and who the losers are.  That‘s tonight at midnight right after the debate.  We‘ll see you then.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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