updated 10/6/2004 4:47:43 PM ET 2004-10-06T20:47:43

Guest: Mike Barnicle, Howard Fineman, Liz Marlantes, Ben Ginsberg, Steve Lubot, Brian Barritt

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  If it‘s cc, jazz music that means it must be AFTER HOURS. 

RON REAGAN, MSNBC HOST:  AFTER HOURS.

SCARBOROUGH:  I said cc. 

All right.  Welcome to more of MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the vice presidential debate, AFTER HOURS in the Midwest capitol of rock ‘n roll, Cleveland, Ohio. 

Tonight, a long time rocker himself, vice president Dick Cheney...

REAGAN:  Oh, yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... went toe-to-toe with Senator John Edwards. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What the vice president has just said is just a complete distortion. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Your rhetoric, Senator, would be a lot more credible if there was a record to back it up. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m Joe Scarborough. 

REAGAN:  And I‘m Ron Reagan.  We will have all the highlights and low points, such as they were, from tonight‘s debate, analysis and commentary from our all-star panel. 

Let us know who you think was the winner.  We‘ve got lots of ways for you to get your voice heard, tonight.  Be part of our online vote at JOE.MSNBC.com.  Send your emails to JOE@MSNBC.com

Or if you want to call us...

SCARBOROUGH:  I have been lobbying, Ron, by the way...

REAGAN:  I know.  I know.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... for a RON@MSNBC.com

REAGAN:  It‘s OK.  I don‘t mind, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  This is very...

REAGAN:  I don‘t mind. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... I, you know, I‘m a uniter, not a divider.

REAGAN:  Not a divider—that‘s true.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, tell them they can call us, too. 

REAGAN:  Call us at 1-888...

SCARBOROUGH:  And it ain‘t Joe.

REAGAN:  ... no - MSNBC-USA.  All that coming up AFTER HOURS. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But first, let‘s go straight to our all-star panel. 

We have Liz Marlantes from the “Christian Science Monitor”; “Newsweek” magazine‘s Howard Fineman; Mike Barnicle from the “Boston Herald”; and we‘re also going to be having Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg with us to talk about who won the debate. 

Let‘s start at the end of the table. 

Mike Barnicle, I thought the presidential debate, much to the consternation of my conservative friends, was clearly a John Kerry victory. 

MIKE BARNICLE, “THE BOSTON HERALD”:  And you‘re a fair guy and you said that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m a fair guy.  I‘m a fair guy—I‘m going to say tonight also I think Dick Cheney clearly had the upper hand tonight. 

What do you think?

BARNICLE:  I am only surprised, Joe and Ron, Liz, Howard, that at the end of that debate, at the end of 90 minutes, Dick Cheney did not turn to John Edwards and said, by the way, give me the car keys, too. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Dick Cheney, in those cut away shots, looked at John Edwards and at Gwen Ifill the way I look at my wife when our 18 or 19-year-old son starts giving me a story.  You know, like, please.  I mean, I was amused by it. 

I thought that Cheney came incredibly well prepared, very substantive.  The research that he had done, the opposition research, was clearly top shelf.  And he has, for that format, an amazingly, an amazingly familiar way about him. 

It was as if he were there with Dr. Phil being interviewed.  He was—he was—he was, for a guy whose reputation is so dark, so brooding, he was very comfortable, I think, to the American television audience. 

REAGAN:  Mugging, Howard?  Did Edwards get mugged tonight?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, I don‘t think...

REAGAN:  Carjacked?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think he got—I don‘t think he got mugged, but he, on foreign policy and defense, he got outclassed by Dick Cheney.  And the reason is, agree with it or not, Dick Cheney clearly has a comprehensive theory and philosophy that he shares with the president about how to fight the war. 

If the topic is war, this guy knows what he‘s talking about, whereas John Edwards occasionally made a critique of the prosecution of the war in Iraq, but didn‘t offer any kind of convincing or coherent alternative vision.  And that‘s, on the substantive basis, is the reason why Cheney won so decisively on defense and foreign policy. 

On domestic policy, Edwards got a few good jabs in.  But the main issue, here, was Iraq. 

REAGAN:  We‘ve got to go—we‘ve got to go—there is a clip that we want to run, here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

REAGAN:  Tonight‘s debate started with a brawl over national defense.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  It‘s awfully hard to convey a sense of credibility to allies when you voted for the war, and then you declared wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. 

I mean, you voted for the war and then you voted against supporting the troops when they needed the equipment, the fuel, the spare parts and the ammunition and the body armor. 

You‘re not credible on Iraq because of the enormous inconsistencies that John Kerry and you have cited time after time after time during the course of the campaign. 

Whatever the political pressures at the moment requires, that‘s where you‘re at.  But you have not been consistent, and there is no indication at all that John Kerry has a conviction to successfully carry through on the war on terror.  And I respond with it.

GWEN IFILL, DEBATE MODERATOR, PBS “THE NEWSHOUR” AND “WASHINGTON WEEK”:  Senator Edwards, you have 30 seconds. 

EDWARDS:  What the vice president has just said is just a complete distortion.  The American people saw John Kerry on Thursday night.  They don‘t need the vice president or the president to tell them what they saw. 

They saw a man who was strong, who had conviction, who is resolute, who made it very clear that he will do everything that has to be done to find terrorists, to keep the American people safe. 

He laid out his plan for success in Iraq, made it clear that we were committed to success in Iraq.  We have to be because we have troops on the ground there and because they have created a haven for terrorists. 

IFILL:  Mr. Vice President, you have 30 seconds?

CHENEY:  Your rhetoric, Senator, would be a lot more credible if there was a record to back it up.  There isn‘t. 

And you cannot use talk tough during the course of a 90-minute debate in a presidential campaign to obscure a 30-year record in the United States Senate and prior to that by John Kerry, who has consistently come down on the wrong side of all the major defense issues that he‘s faced as a public official. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Tough words by Cheney.  Liz, who won the war over the war in Iraq? 

LIZ MARLANTES, “CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”:  Well, I do think that, that was probably—I think Cheney was probably stronger in some ways than Edwards was.  But I would not necessarily say that, that means that Cheney won the debate because I actually thought Edwards had a very strong night. 

I thought one of the things that he did was he brought domestic issues back into the whole sphere of discussion for the campaign, which is where the Kerry campaign wants the focus to be going into Friday.  And I thought Edwards did that quite effectively. 

The contrast between their closing statements was very, very interesting.  Edwards gave a very emotional appeal talking about watching his father learn math from the television and how he wants to bring back that sense of the American dream for the middle class. 

That is absolutely an argument that the Kerry campaign wants to be foremost in people‘s minds going into Friday‘s debate.  And I do think Edwards did that very successfully. 

I also think that he had a good night on style.  One of the things I was watching, having watched Edwards through the primaries, occasionally to me, Edwards can come across as a little bit glib.  And I thought tonight he didn‘t do that at all. 

I think he came across as very sincere, and I would imagine connected on an emotional level with a lot of viewers.  So I thought Edwards had a very good night, actually. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Liz, congratulations.  As a contrarian from way back, I want to award you the contrary award tonight.  I thought...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I thought somebody was going to say it, and you just did.  I thought that he actually—what I—

This is what I thought was interesting, Howard Fineman, that actually when they turned to domestic policy, I thought at that point, Edwards was going to do very well. 

But it seems that whether they were talking about taxes, where John Edwards said we‘re for middle class tax cuts.  Dick Cheney came back and said, yes, why weren‘t you in the Senate to vote for them this week.

Or when it went to gay marriage, John Edwards talked about gay marriage for about five or six minutes, then he said, well, we really shouldn‘t be talking about gay marriage.  Dick Cheney talked about it for five or six seconds. 

And then you go on to other issues.  Tort reform, they stayed on tort reform way too long.  I just thought Dick Cheney controlled the ebb and flow of this debate, whether it was foreign policy or domestic issues. 

FINEMAN:  I think for the most part you‘re right.  John Edwards hit him a good lick when he recited Dick Cheney‘s voting record in the House against...

SCARBOROUGH:  Martin Luther King and...

FINEMAN:  Martin Luther King. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  But that was an emotion in search of an argument.  That wasn‘t really what the debate was about. 

So, while that might have felt good for Edwards and his supporters, it really didn‘t advance the case a whole—a whole lot. 

And I think on stylistic grounds, I disagree with Liz because I think 60 minutes of John Edwards was good, or acceptable; 90 minutes of John Edwards was not because you began to get the sense that this was a guy who was playing out the rehearsed, canned speeches from his campaign and not always answering the questions and, by the way, not always—not always following the rules.

He was answering the previous question, not the current one.  And whether you agree or disagree with Dick Cheney, he came across as a guy who was trying to answer the questions from the heart or, indeed, not answer them when he doesn‘t want to answer them like about his daughter, which I thought was a very effective moment. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it‘s interesting.  You said that Edwards started, after 60 minutes, started sounding like he was reciting from campaign speeches. 

FINEMAN:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s sort of how I felt about George Bush.  After the first 30 minutes, I was going to say after the first...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... But after the first 30 minutes, you started thinking, going you know what? These guys sound like they are going back to the campaign trail.  They were repeating themselves. 

But anyway, I want to play a clip.  I thought, Mike Barnacle, this was one of the weaker moments of Dick Cheney‘s evening.  Maybe one of the few weak moments. 

REAGAN:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  This is Dick Cheney denying that he ever suggested—

I can‘t even say it with a straight face.

REAGAN:  That Iraq and al Qaeda were partners in terror.

SCARBOROUGH:  That Iraq and al Qaeda were partners in terror.  This is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there is clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror. 

And the point is, that that‘s the place where you‘re most likely to see the terrorists come together with weapons of mass destruction and the deadly technologies that Saddam Hussein had developed and used over the years. 

The fact of the matter is, the big difference here, Gwen is that they are not prepared to deal with states that sponsor terror. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?  They love Dick Cheney so much here in Ohio.  He‘s just whipping them into a frenzy, here. 

(CHEERING)

SCARBOROUGH:  I thought, Mike Barnicle, that there were a few moments tonight that were sort of Joe Isuzu moments.  Do you remember Joe Isuzu ...

BARNICLE:  Sure.  Yes.  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... from the 1980‘s?

The first Joe Isuzu minute was when Dick Cheney said, “connection?  I never said there was a connection.”

REAGAN:  Who me?

SCARBOROUGH:  The second one had to be when John Edwards said, “lawsuits impacting medical costs?  What are you talking about?”

BARNICLE:  Well.

SCARBOROUGH:  But this one really jumped out at everybody early on. 

REAGAN:  I think we‘re going to have these spit (ph) counts...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

REAGAN:  ... here on the set.

BARNICLE:  Unlike the Joe Isuzu ads, MSNBC couldn‘t put the kyron (ph) beneath Dick Cheney saying, he‘s lying.  That would have cleared the issue up altogether. 

But, you know, the whole thing about Cheney this evening, and I must tell you—you know me—you know I‘m light as ashes.  You know I‘m as malleable as anything. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s your blood, baby.

REAGAN:  Come on...

BARNICLE:  I make swing voters look like they have their feet set in cement, I go back and forth watching these things, and I could not get away, this evening, from just the visual impact that Cheney had on me sitting next to John Edwards, who is a terrific guy.  He‘s very articulate.  He‘s got a fine record in the United States Senate. 

I just kept getting the impression that it was like a guy going to pick up his son after the freshman year at college.  And he‘s got him in the station wagon, and the kid has not done well. 

And every time he starts saying, well, you know, the biology course, dad, was tough.

No, you‘re wrong.  You know?  And on the way home, and he gets it for 90 minutes about how he should have done better. 

FINEMAN:  It‘s just a fundamental—yes, go ahead.

REAGAN:  Oh, I was just going to say, we‘ve got to take a break.  But I wanted to deal with the gravitas cap a little more when we get back. 

We‘re going to come back and—Oh, there we are.  And we‘ll learn, what we learned tonight about the character of vice president Dick Cheney and his challenger, Senator John Edwards.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, don‘t forget you can weigh in on this question today, who won the debate. You can cast your ballot in our very, very unscientific poll—and we like it that way—by logging on to JOE.MSNBC.com. 

Or call AFTER HOURS at 888-MSNBC-USA.  We‘ll see you back in a second. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Howard Dean was making major progress in the democratic primaries, running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record.  So, they in effect had decided they would cast an anti-war vote, and they voted against the troops. 

Now, if they couldn‘t stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to al Qaeda?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And we‘re here live from Cleveland, Ohio.  We‘re talking about the vice presidential debate.  When we come back, we‘re going to be talking about who won and why and, you know, most importantly, what kind of impact, if any, it‘s going to have on this presidential race. 

That‘s when AFTER HOURS with Ron Reagan and a guy named Joe returns.  We‘ll be back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back to “Scarborough Country.”  We‘re continuing tonight segment, battle of the veeps.

I can tell you, Ron, by looking around this crowd out tonight proves what I‘ve known all along.  At about 9:00-10:00, Republicans go home.  It‘s like drink—

(CHEERING)

SCARBOROUGH:  They drink their warm milk, cookies. 

Hey! Hey! Hey!

Hey! Hey! Hey!

Not that there is anything wrong with that, not that there is anything wrong with that.

REAGAN:  I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with it, myself.

SCARBOROUGH:  But yes, no doubt about it, the late night crowd.  We‘ve got the Republicans stuck over here.  There are a few.  But this is a strong Kerry-Edwards crowd late night.

(CHEERING)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I want to go to you, first.  This is great, OK.  Let‘s go with you.  You look like you just made this thing and you‘re overruling the panel.  What‘s your name?

RYAN PEEPLES (PH), CROWD:  My name is Ryan Peeples (ph). 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  And tell me, you think Edwards won the debate tonight?

PEEPLES (PH):  No, this is actually overruled, and Cheney ruled over Edwards. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you‘re saying.  OK.  Hold on.  Here‘s my problem, OK, everybody?

You know what, here‘s my problem, Ron.  I‘m a Republican.  I‘m actually up passed 10:00.  I‘m a little slow on the uptake because of it. 

So you think—who do you think won?

PEEPLES (PH):  Well, in all fairness, I think Cheney ruled on the foreign policy part.  And then, I think, you know, in all fairness—in all fairness, I think Edwards pulled out his ace in the hole when it came to Cheney‘s voting record back when he was in Congress. 

But overall, I think it was kind of a push, but I‘d give the edge to Cheney, honestly.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Ron, I want to pass this over to you.  It‘s a very honest opinion.  You know what, this is what I love about America.  We respect everybody‘s right to speak, so let‘s listen to everybody. 

Ron, I want to pass it over to you, and I want to ask you before you ask somebody.  We‘ve talked about, what do you think the long-term impact of this debate tonight is going to be?  Do you think it‘s going to be anything at all?

REAGAN:  Well, I don‘t know.  I think by Friday, we‘re all going to forget about this.  In fact, by Thursday, looking ahead to Friday, we‘ll forget all about this. 

So, no, I don‘t think there is going to be a long-term impact.  In fact, did anybody—was anybody‘s mind changed tonight?  Did anybody come in for one guy or the other and then, and now they say, well, I‘m flipping over? 

Any show—no.  No.  Basically nothing. 

I commend you for actually being, you know, a very nuanced sort of appraisal of this thing.  You know?

PEEPLES (PH):  Thank you.

REAGAN:  I mean, judging by the buttons, I would think you would be, you know, Cheney all the way, but you are...

PEEPLES (PH):  I‘m more of a moderate.

REAGAN:  But that was pretty honest, and I think that‘s...

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron, we‘ve got a survivor from New York, here.

REAGAN:  That‘s true. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He survived attacks from Mr. Gatlin.

REAGAN:  A guy who Larry Gatlin nearly beat the stuffing out of. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Not physically.

REAGAN:  No.  But well, there was a threat there.  There was an implied threat of stuffing beaten. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he challenged me to a duel. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, he did.  Literally, he challenged me to a duel because Zell Miller challenged Chris Matthews to a duel.  And Larry Gatlin was standing right in front of me—you were interviewing him.

And I didn‘t even say anything, and he turns around and he starts yelling at me.  And he says, I worked 40 years to get to where I‘m at to voice my opinion because he was like was doing the whole celebrity thing like his voice was more important than mine. 

REAGAN:  He was inspired by Zell Miller, I think.  He had seen Zell with Chris, the whole duel thing and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Inspired by the bigotry. 

REAGAN:  Are you like following us around here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I am.  I‘m stalking...

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s a Ron groupie, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I‘m a Ron Reagan groupie. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Aren‘t we all?

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m actually a moderate, and I‘m an independent.  And I voted for John McCain in the primaries back in 2000.  And I will concede, for this young gentlemen, that Cheney did win on foreign policy, but I thought the trump card for Edwards was outsourcing of jobs. 

In Ohio, we lost over 200,000 jobs under the Bush administration.  And the Bush administration thinks that, you know, outsourcing jobs is healthy for our country, and it‘s true.  And it‘s not. 

I mean, a lot of—my father was a steel worker.  And he fears that his job could be exported overseas.  And Bush‘s response is, he wants to consider McDonald‘s a manufacturing job.  Can you believe that?

REAGAN:  Well, you manufacture those French fries.  It‘s a lot of...

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me just say, as a big fan of McDonald‘s, I‘m glad they manufacture Big Macs.  I don‘t know if that‘s exactly what the president was thinking. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (OFF MIKE).

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, have a heart attack.  I can—what are you, a vegetarian or something?  Come on.  This is middle America. 

Exactly. 

Now, listen, when the subject turned to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the vice president quickly turned the subject to Senator Edwards record in the Senate.  For his part, Senator Edwards reached back into history to attack Dick Cheney‘s record when he was in Congress. 

This is how the exchange went. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  The reason they keep trying to attack Halliburton is because they want to obscure their own record.  And Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that‘s not very distinguished. 

You‘ve missed 33 out of 36 in the judiciary committee, almost 70 percent of the meetings of the intelligence committee.   You‘ve missed a lot of key votes on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform. 

Your hometown newspaper has taking to calling you “Senator Gone.”  You‘ve got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate. 

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of the Senate and the presiding officer.  I‘m up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they are in session. 

The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight. 

With respect to Israel and Palestine, Gwen, the suicide bombers in part were generated by Saddam Hussein, who paid $25,00 to the families of suicide bombers. 

I personally think one of the reasons that we don‘t have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we had in the past is because Saddam is no longer in business. 

We‘ve been strong supporters of Israel.  The president stepped forward and put in place a policy, basically, that said we will support the establishment of two states, the first president ever to say we‘ll establish and support a Palestinian state next door to Israelis. 

But first, there has to be an interlocutor you can trust to deal with.  And we won‘t have that, and we don‘t have it now under Yasser Arafat.  There has to be reform in the Palestinian system. 

IFILL:  Senator Edwards, it‘s your turn to use 30 seconds for a complicated response.

EDWARDS:  That was a complete distortion of my record.  I know it really comes as a shock. 

The vice president, I‘m surprised to hear him talk about records.  When he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against head start, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors. 

He voted against the department of education.  He voted against funding for meals-on-wheels for seniors.  He voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King.  He voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Now, let‘s go back to our all-star panel.  Liz Marlantes, Howard Fineman, Mike Barnicle and now joining us, Ben Ginsberg. 

Ben, welcome. 

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION ATTORNNEY:  Thank you.

REAGAN:  Did you feel like you had a very good night, tonight?

GINSBERG:  I did.  Yes, it was a great night for the ticket.  The vice president did a great job. 

REAGAN:  Did anything surprise you about what took place?

GINSBERG:  I think what surprised me the most about it was sort of the demeanors of the two candidates.  I think you compare the vice president into the sort of seasoned approach to things with John Edwards, and I think the feeling is that people are not sure that Edwards is ready to step into that job from tonight‘s performance. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Barnicle, you want to se something funny?  Look at Ben for a second.  Just take a look at Ben. 

Hey, Ben, who did a better job debating?  The vice president tonight or...

(LAUGHTER)

GINSBERG:  I think Mike Barnicle, in his seasoned way has the right answer for this question.  It‘s a tie, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, I want you and Howard to tackle this one.  You guys have obviously been following the president this year.  You‘ve been seeing what‘s been going on. 

How does the president respond to how well his vice president—obviously, he overshadowed him tonight.  Can the president do anything between now and later this week...

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... to actually improve upon his performance from last week?  Is it in him?

BARNICLE:  Yes, it is.  He can pick up the phone and say, Dick, what are you doing Friday night?

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Is that allowed under the rules?

FINEMAN:  You can nominate a sub.

SCARBOROUGH:  Section 7, sub-part D.  Yes, I was going to say...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  One of the things he‘s going to do is that the president is giving a big speech tomorrow in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in which he‘s going to go through all the arguments that Dick Cheney laid out for him tonight by way of attacking John Kerry.

So George Bush is going to try to internalize the lines of attack that he didn‘t have down for the first debate, practice them on the stump tomorrow and then have them going into Friday. 

That‘s a big part of what he‘s going to do.

SCARBOROUGH:  Isn‘t it ironic, Liz, that the White House over the past couple of years has been—you know, everybody has sort of been spinning it.  You know, the vice president is not running things, it‘s the president that runs the White House and operates—and he does.  Of course, he does.

But didn‘t tonight‘s performance and the president‘s performance last week feed into the impression that Dick Cheney is sort of the man with the gravitas at the White House running things?

MARLANTES:  Yes, I think so.  To me, one of the most striking things about tonight was how few times Cheney actually mentioned Bush.  Bush almost never came up...

FINEMAN:  That‘s true.

REAGAN:  Yes.

MARLANTES:  ... in the course of the debate.  Edwards talked about Kerry all the time.  He was defending Kerry throughout the debate.  Cheney mentioned Bush, I think I could count on one hand the number of times that Cheney mentioned Bush. 

FINEMAN:  He remembered him in his final statement.  Oh, by the way.  By the way.

SCARBOROUGH:  And also, when he disagreed with him on gay marriage.

REAGAN:  Gay marriage.  He‘s a gay basher. 

MARLANTES:  Right.

REAGAN:  Yes, that‘s right. 

MARLANTES:  But really, the president was almost a nonfactor.  And often, when Edwards was attacking, he was attacking Cheney more than he was attacking Bush.   And I do think that feeds that perception that Cheney really is the one who represents the administration. 

FINEMAN:  Well, with good reason.  he was attacking with good reason because Cheney is the architect of the policy that the administration is pursuing. 

And I thought that Cheney did a good job of defending that policy against Edwards‘ relentless attack on the point that there was no relationship between 9/11 and Iraq.  Edwards hammered and hammered and hammered at that.  That was the point that Kerry-Edwards wanted to get across tonight. 

They got that point across, but they didn‘t have an alternative vision for what they wanted to do because their only answer now is to keep on keeping on what we‘re doing in Iraq.  So it didn‘t make logical sense. 

BARNICLE:  In terms of the politics of it though, Howard, and you‘ve been out there a lot more than I have, doesn‘t tonight‘s performance by Cheney give the Republicans the opportunity that they lost a bit last week, to get back on track with the theme that, don‘t take a chance?

FINEMAN:  Sure. 

BARNICLE:  Terror is out there, don‘t take a chance.  Look at this guy.  Listen to this guy, what he said tonight.  There is the alternative, John Edwards.  Don‘t take a chance. 

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s exactly it.  And talking to one of the top Bush people in the spin room a while ago, they said, now we‘re free to really attack John Kerry for the next 29 days. 

That‘s basically what they said they are going to do.  They now have the upper hand.  They feel they‘ve now got traction again, and they are going to spend all of their time attacking John Kerry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And because they have yet to attack John Kerry over the past six months. 

FINEMAN:  Well, by their views, I think they haven‘t.

SCARBOROUGH:  Other than all the commercials that they‘ve put out...

FINEMAN:  Right.  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... there and the third party ones. 

Anyway, it‘s time to check into our very unscientific, online poll. 

REAGAN:  There it is.

SCARBOROUGH:  Who won the debate?  So far, 30 percent of you saying it was the vice president.  Oh, the audience is going to love this, 68 percent said it was Senator Edwards. 

(CHEERING)

SCARBOROUGH:  To vote...

REAGAN:  Wow.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... just go to JOE. MSNBC.com and maybe you‘ll be drinking the same kind of vodka that 68 percent of our viewers have been drinking when they went on the internet and cast their vote. 

We‘ll be back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Hey, the party is just getting started here in Cleveland AFTER HOURS.  We‘ve got a lot more live from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the site of the one and the only—thank God—vice presidential debate of this election season.

But first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.

(NEWSBREAK)

RON REGAN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  We‘re back at Case Western Reserve University where we have a large number of supporters from both camps. 

Now let‘s get some VP debate feedback from Brian Barritt, president of Case University Republicans, and Steve Lumont—I hope I have that right—Lubot—OK  -- Case University Democrats. 

Gentlemen, what did you see from your man tonight?

STEVE LUBOT, CASE WESTERN COLLEGE DEMOCRATS:  Well, I was actually in the debate hall at the time, and we saw in the first ten minutes over and over again the issue of Iraq was brought up, and Vice President Cheney did not answer the issues that L. Paul Bremer brought up today, as well as the fact that continuously he has distorted the connection between 9/11, al Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein.

It was really amazing to see that, every time, Edwards got him on those distortions.

REAGAN:  I have a feeling you‘re going to see things slightly different, our Republican counterpart here.

BRIAN BARRITT, CASE WESTERN COLLEGE REPUBLICANS:  Right, saw things a little differently.  One thing I did notice time and time again, given the first debate, and this vice presidential debate, is that Senators Kerry and Edwards constantly talk about how their administration is going to bring more support in the war, yet time and time again they—you know—they say bad things about our allies.

For instance, you know, always forgetting which allies contributed, overlooking their contributions.  And today we saw where Edwards overlooked all of the contributions of the Iraqi soldiers in Iraq and saying that they didn‘t give a good bit to the cause.

REAGAN:  Do you concede that 90 percent of the coalition casualties—excluding Iraq—are actually Americans?

BARRITT:  Well, I mean, if you include your coalition to only mean foreign troops in Iraq—but in my mind, I think we need to say that if the coalition is only fighting for one thing and that‘s the freedom of Iraq, and the Iraqi soldiers are fighting for the same thing.  So as far as the coalition is concerned, that means everyone and those soldiers are certainly fighting and dying alongside.

REAGAN:  Now I thought one of the more effective lines of Cheney‘s is this idea that you can‘t be slamming the allies and then trying to encourage them to come in and join them in what you‘re calling a quagmire in Iraq.

LUBOT:  Well, actually, I would say that we are not as much slamming them as the fact that we have good countries that are supporting us strongly and are using their soldiers bravely, but we also need more troops in there from other countries so that our troops are safe. 

You want to talk about percentages.  Ninety percent or 50 percent—it‘s still 1,050+ American soldiers that have died and 7,100 that have been injured—that‘s repulsive, personally.

REAGAN:  Now Dick Cheney also claimed that he‘d never made a connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein which came as a surprise to me since I‘ve been hearing him say that for about a year now.

BARRITT:  Right, yes, I will concede that there was a little bit back and forth as far as 9/11 versus al Qaeda connections, but I do think that Cheney did hit the mark when he did point out the fact that whether or not specifically 9/11 attacks were backed by Saddam Hussein, obviously that government has supported terrorism throughout the Middle East. 

That‘s a fact, that‘s definitely—he pointed out as far as the Middle East, Israel is concerned, Hamas, Saddam Hussein backing those regimes as well.  So it can‘t be denied they definitely support terrorism.

REAGAN:  OK, I want to give you both a chance to—your best moment, the best Cheney moment tonight?

BARRITT:  I think the best Cheney moment was, you know, the nice slow pause and then, gee, I just don‘t know where to begin on you.  I loved it.  I liked it.  Scarborough pointed that out as well. 

It‘s almost as if he was trying to say, you know, I‘ve got this experience; I don‘t know where to begin on you and I think it had to—it gave a real good impression of his experience.

REAGAN:  OK, and now the best Edwards moment?

LUBOT:  I think when Cheney mentioned that Senator Kerry had not—had turned down or voted against nearly—was it 80 different armament systems and that he brought up the point that he had actually come out in front of the—one of the councils and said that he also had come out against those missile systems and defense systems as well.  I thought Senator Edwards did a fabulous job pointing out again the Vice President is distorting the facts.

REAGAN:  Well, two pretty good picks there.  Thank you guys for coming by.  Really appreciate it. 

And now a critical exchange in tonight‘s battle took place when John Edwards compared this Bush administrations record of building an alliance for Iraq against the president‘s father‘s record in the Gulf War.  That triggered a harsh response from Vice President Cheney.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You demean the sacrifice of our allies and you say it‘s wrong war, wrong place, wrong time and oh, by the way send troops.  Makes no sense at all.  It‘s totally inconsistent.  There isn‘t a plan there.  Our most important ally in the war on terror in Iraq specifically is Prime Minister Allawi. 

He came recently and addressed a joint session of Congress that I presided over with the Speaker of the House and John Kerry rushed out immediately after his speech was over with where he came and he thanked America for our contributions and our sacrifice and pledged to hold those elections in January.  Went out and demeaned him, criticized him, challenged his credibility.

That is not the way to win friends and allies.  You‘re never going to add to the coalition with that kind of attitude.

GWEN IFILL, MODERATOR:  Senator Edwards, 30 seconds.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you.  The vice president suggests that we have the same number of countries involved now that we had in the first Gulf War.  First Gulf War cost the American people $5 billion.

And regardless of what the Vice President says, we‘re at $200 billion and counting.  Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties are American casualties.  Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being born by American taxpayers.  It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.

INFILL:  Mr. Vice President.

CHENEY:  Classic example.  He won‘t count the sacrifice and the contribution of our Iraqi allies.  It‘s their country, they‘re in the fight, they‘re increasingly the ones out their putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left.  They‘re doing a superb job and for you to demean their sacrifice it strikes me as...

EDWARDS:  Oh I‘m not demeaning...

CHENEY:  It is indeed—you suggest that somehow it shouldn‘t count because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice.  You cannot succeed in this effort if you‘re not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.

We‘ll win when they take on responsibility for governance which they‘re doing and when they take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle who got the better end of that exchange?

MIKE BARNICLE, THE BOSTON HERALD:  I think the Vice President.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why is that?

BARNICLE:  I just think people look at him no matter whether they like him or not, no matter whether they think he‘s so filled with doom and gloom most of the time that, you know, he‘s a serious fellow and—not that John Edwards isn‘t a serious fellow—but the contrast between the two, I think, goes to the Vice President.

SCARBOROUGH:  How—you know, I always said, you know, that Bill Clinton could have never gotten elected in 1988 when there was a Soviet Union in 1992 -- all of a sudden; he was acceptable to the American people. 

Are we looking at people like Dick Cheney in 2001, you know, after September 11, 2001 saying you know what, he may not be the smoothest guy in the world, he may scare little kids and puppy dogs—at the same time we‘re in a war, we want somebody tough and competent like that?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK:  We want somebody who scares people but the other point is that if the Kerry-Edwards theory doesn‘t hold up because their not saying they want to get out of Iraq.

They‘re saying the war was wrongly begun but they want to finish it.  They needed to have said good things about Allawi if they‘re being honest about what they believe because Allawi is trying, we have to think, to install some kind of more democratic government there.

The problem with Kerry-Edwards is that they‘re not speaking up for freedom around the world, which they need to do to try to get to high ground in the debate. 

If they don‘t do that then Dick Cheney is going to say, look, it‘s messy—yes we made some mistakes but we‘re still on basically the right course and it‘s that fundamental part of that that Kerry-Edwards can‘t challenge because they‘re basically saying we want to say—heck they‘re saying we want to go into Fallujah.

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to stay there but we‘re not necessarily going to support the Iraqi prime minister when he comes over and speaks to a joint session of Congress.

FINEMAN:  That doesn‘t make any sense.  That doesn‘t make any sense unless you‘re going to dismiss that whole thing as a corrupt exercise over there, which they‘re not—the Democrats are not quite willing to do.

BARNICLE:  And the other odd element of it and you‘re right it makes no sense.  What makes no sense also is that I think most people understand that we are taking 90 percent of the casualties; we are bearing 90 percent of the casualties and that fact I think that‘s in the public psyche, in the public‘s mind that Kerry-Edwards can‘t sell it yet?  And had difficulty selling it tonight I think with the vice presidential...

FINEMAN:  Oh, they can sell it...

LIZ MARLANTES, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:  I think they can sell it and actually I was going to say what I think the one thing that I think does work for Kerry and Edwards and that I think did work tonight particularly with Edwards—Edwards is trying to sell the idea of a fresh start.

And it may not be different in specifics in terms of what they do in Iraq or they have some differences but you can quibble about whether they would work or how different it would be but he‘s trying to sell the overall notion of a fresh start.  And in that sense I think he was effective.  He sort of embodies that freshness especially in contrast to Cheney.

FINEMAN:  Kerry can do that; the problem is that Edwards doesn‘t seem to be in the same ballpark.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know, Ron, that‘s what we were talking about before—before we came on the air here and that is that it seems that you have Kerry and Edwards who were sort of in the middle.  Are they for the war?  Are they against it?  They should of gotten somebody that was totally anti-war or somebody that was totally pro-war as a VP because there‘s—it‘s just too muddled.

REAGAN:  It‘s been their biggest problem all along and we‘ll talk more about this after a short break.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s do that, Ron.

REAGAN:  You‘re watching AFTER HOURS live from Case Western Reserve University in the great city of Cleveland, Ohio.  Got much more for you including your questions and comments right after this short break.

That number is 888-MSNBC-USA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS:  There is no connection between the attacks of September 11 and Saddam Hussein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEDY CENTRAL “THE DAILY SHOW,” JON STEWART:  It was all going very, very boringly and then Dick Cheney unhinged his jaw and swallowed and slowly began digesting John Edwards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  That‘s one way of putting it.

SCARBOROUGH:  And welcome back to AFTER HOURS now.  Dick Cheney said the only reason John Kerry and John Edwards became anti-war candidates was because Howard Dean was beating the heck out of both of them in their primaries.  Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Howard Dean was making major progress in the Democratic primaries.  Running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record.  So they in effect decided they would cast an anti-war vote and they voted against the troops.  Now if they couldn‘t stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to al Qaeda?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Great line.  Great line by the Vice President.

SCARBOROUGH:  That is.  I‘ve got a feeling we‘re going to hear that line again.

REAGAN:  I think we will.  Well, we started talking before the break about the Kerry-Edwards ticket problem with Iraq and their inability to sort of settle on a theme, let‘s say, around Iraq.

Isn‘t that really the biggest problem for the Kerry-Edwards ticket going into this thing?  Iraq is such a ripe issue for them but they keep kind of, I don‘t know, fumbling it away somehow.

MARLANTES:  It has been.  It‘s been a huge problem for them but at the same time I still think they have opportunities on it as well.  If you look at the polls, the public is not thrilled with Iraq.  They‘re not happy with the way things are going over there.  And that‘s why I think the notion of presenting them as offering a fresh start—Edwards‘ whole idea that a fresh start is what‘s needed I think might appeal to some people.

You know he made certain comments I thought you know talking about people at home looking across the table at an empty chair.  I think those are appeals that are going to be emotional and have an impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Edwards is Mr. Fresh Start of this ticket and the problem tonight was that he tried to make the fresh start argument and it sort of faded away in an aura of lightness and Cheney just demolished it with that line we saw.  And you‘ll be hearing a lot more from that as we go along through the next 28 days.

BARNICLE:  Well, in addition that line we‘ll be hearing that line over the next three or four days.  And we can sit here and talk all we want about you know oh that was a good point and yes he probably won there but you know Saturday morning, Sunday morning as that line is looped through the weekend shows and people hear it on their car radios tomorrow and lines like that—that has an impact.

REAGAN:  Well here‘s another problem though.  Saturday morning we‘re not going to be talking about this at all.  Because we will have had Friday night.   Doesn‘t all this just get eclipsed by what happens Friday night?

BARNICLE:  It does.  The Red Sox play Friday night. 

FINEMAN:  What that does in terms of the psychology of the campaign is it gets the Republicans back and their blood pumping and Bush will give the speech tomorrow and it will give them a reason to fill up the—heading into Friday.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘m sure he‘s going to go—he‘s going to study this debate performance tonight of his vice president.  I don‘t say that disrespectfully Ben.  I just think he‘s going to do it.  There were some great lines and he needs to emulate.

FINEMAN:  He‘ll be saying, “As Mr. Vice President said.”

SCARBOROUGH:  There are a couple of polls out there other than the ones that you all drinking vodka at home have been doing.  CBS polled 178 uncommitted voters but since it‘s CBS we‘re not going to give you the results. 

ABC did the same thing.  Dick Cheney won by about 5 percentage points, but it‘s a tight break.  The chattering classes giving this to Dick Cheney in a landslide?  You all seem to disagree.

We still are interested in what you have to say so you can vote at joe.msnbc.com.  We‘ll be right back from Cleveland when AFTER HOURS continues.

REAGAN:  I don‘t know about landslide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  All right, we‘re back with AFTER HOURS.  We‘ve just got a few seconds left with two of our panelists.  Howard and Liz, what can Dick Cheney teach George Bush for the Friday debate?  What can Bush learn from Cheney?  Howard?

FINEMAN:  Study, study, study.  Because if the whole point is that John Kerry is unsuited for—because of his record—to be President of the United States, you‘ve got to know the record and you‘ve got to take it apart.  That‘s what George Bush needs to do.

MARLANTES:  I agree with that totally.  In fact one of the things I thought was interesting—I‘ve been noticing that the flip-flop attack which has worked very effectively throughout this campaign there‘s sort of a lifespan to attacks, sometimes, and after a while you have to find a new one and find a new way of getting at it.

And one of the things Cheney did was he really took apart Kerry‘s record on issues, saying he was too liberal and that sort of thing and I think we‘ll see more of that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you all get inside, stay warm.  The rest of us will be right back when AFTER HOURS returns live from the North Pole.  See you in a second.

(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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