updated 10/12/2004 11:00:58 AM ET 2004-10-12T15:00:58

Guests: Melinda Hennenberger, Ben Ginsberg, Ron Silver

RON REAGAN, CO-HOST:  Welcome back to MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the second presidential debate AFTER HOURS.  We‘re live from Washington University here in St. Louis, Missouri.  I‘m Ron Reagan.

PAT BUCHANAN, CO-HOST:  And I‘m Pat Buchanan.  Joe‘s under the weather tonight.  We wish him a speedy recovery.  And he‘ll be back next week.

We all knew the president was mounting on the president tonight and Bush came out swinging. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I‘ve got to answer this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Exactly.  And with reservists being held on duty. 

BUSH:  Let me answer just what he just said about...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I wanted to get into the issue...

BUSH:  You tell Tony Blair we‘re going alone.  Tell Tony Blair we‘re going alone.  Tell Silvio Berlusconi we‘re going alone.  Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland we‘re going alone.  We‘ve got 30 countries there.  It denigrates an alliance to say we‘re going alone to discount their sacrifices.  You cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you‘re going alone.  And people listen.  They‘re sacrificing with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s go to our panel, Melinda Hennenberger of “Newsweek” and Bush supporter Ron Silver, actor as well and Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg.  Thank you all for joining us. 

Ron Silver...

RON SILVER, ACTOR:  Pat, Melinda from “Newsweek”, an attorney, the Bush supporter.  I have a job, too. 

BUCHANAN:  I was holding it back to ask you the question.  Now you saw the president of the United States, Charlie was—I want to follow up—get out of here Charlie I‘m going to take this opportunity to answer that.  How do—I mean, if somebody‘s been on the stage and screen, how do you think what the president did there, was obviously acting on his own initiative, going after Charlie, who brushed him aside, how do you think that plays?

SILVER:  I don‘t know how it plays in the country, but I‘ve got to tell you something.  Being an actor to see some real emotion...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

SILVER:  ...that is not scripted, the president was ticked.  And I have a good sense of this man when he gets ticked.  And what he got ticked about today was that the press has been giving John Kerry a free ride on his 20 years in the Senate, his inconsistencies.  And when John Kerry gets up and says, go-it-alone, go-it-alone, the president was ticked and said, come on, there are 30 countries.  Stop it.  And he was annoyed. 

REAGAN:  Can you name 20 of them?

SILVER:  Sure, I can.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

SILVER:  And let me tell you something.  Look, I‘ll tell you why he got really ticked.  And he missed an opportunity last week, I think again tonight too, when John Kerry mentions the ‘91 Gulf War, John Kerry met his global test in that war.  Saddam Hussein invaded another country.  The U.N.  endorsed action, the Senate voted for it...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

SILVER:  ...George 41 had all the allies in the world.  And John Kerry voted no.  On January 12, ‘91, now can you or anybody else explain that no vote to me?

BUCHANAN:  All right let me...

REAGAN:  I could, yes. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, I tend to agree with Ron, just in terms of the action taken by the president.  To me it looks like the guy, look, a little impatient, had enough of this.  Let‘s stop the nonsense. We‘re going to get this truth out.  It looked good to me.

Now how do you think women would look at it?  And how do you think the swing voters would see an action like that?  Does it look like he‘s sort of bulling Charlie out of the play or what?

MELINDA HENNENBERGER, NEWSWEEK:  It reminded me very much of the debate moment in 2000, when Gore started to charge Bush and nobody knew what was going to happen next.  You know, I just thought, oh, my God, what is he going to do to Charlie?  You know... 

BUCHANAN:  Well, you saw what he did.

HENNENBERGER:  You know, to me, it was part of—I thought he had two different debates.  I thought the first half was really weak.  I thought he was shrill and... 

BUCHANAN:  Bush was weak?

HENNENBERGER:  Sarcastic.  And then he had a great finish.  I really thought...

BUCHANAN:  You know, I‘ll tell you my reaction was—you know, I thought he had a good finish, but I thought he came out,  when Kerry got that unfortunate opening question, that wishy washy question, and I don‘t think he handled it too well.  And then the president really started hammering him the way he didn‘t in Miami.  But I thought—I agree with Ron, the first 15 minutes... 

HENNENBERGER:  It seemed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to me.

REAGAN:  I found him angry, too.  And I think, you know, there were a couple of moments there, for instance, when he claimed that the Duelfer record supported the convention that...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

REAGAN:  ...inspections didn‘t work.

HENNENBERGER:  Right.

REAGAN:  And in fact, it said exactly the opposite that inspections had worked.  There were no weapons anymore. 

HENNENBERGER:  And it was a very strong moment for Kerry, I though, when right after that, he said sanctions didn‘t work, it did not remove Saddam.  And Kerry said, excuse me, removing Saddam was not the point, removing WMDs was.  So I thought that was one of his early mistakes which I think he recovered from. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

BEN GINSBERG, ATTORNEY:  Thank you.  You‘ve got her representing women.  You got him representing actors.  I‘m going to speak for bald middle-aged guys, I could.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

GINSBERG:  I thought the president was strong in drawing contrasts all night.  What came right after that little interchange was the way that sort of Kerry hesitated and fudged over the real meaning of the war on terror and how you go after people.  The president also took advantage of the opportunities all night long to draw a contrast between the Kerry 20-year Senate record and the things he‘s saying now as president and the gulf between them.  And it goes to the flip-flopping.  And it goes to can you really trust this man to lead us into a dangerous world in the future?

REAGAN:  We‘ve got a bit of a tape here.  President Bush said the Patriot Act was essential to win the war on terror.  Let‘s have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

BUSH:  The Patriot Act is necessary, for example, because parts of the FBI couldn‘t talk to each other.  Intelligence gathering and the law enforcement, the arms of the FBI just couldn‘t share intelligence under the old law.  And that didn‘t make any sense.  Our law enforcement must have every tool necessary to find and disrupt terrorists at home and abroad before they hurt us again.  That‘s the task of the 21st century. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Senator Kerry responded by saying that he supported the Patriot Act with a few changes. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  A whole bunch of folks in America are concerned about the way the Patriot Act has been applied.  In fact, the inspector general of the Justice Department found that John Ashcroft had twice applied it in ways that were inappropriate.

People‘s rights have been abused.  I met a man who spent eight months in prison, wasn‘t even allowed to call his lawyer, wasn‘t allowed to—finally Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois intervened and was able to get him out.  This is in our country, folks, the United States of America.

They‘ve got sneak and peek searches that are allowed.  They‘ve got people allowed to go into churches now and political meetings without any showing of potential criminal activity or otherwise.

Now I voted for the Patriot Act, 99 United States senators voted for it.  And the president has been very busy running around the country using what I just described to you as a reason to say I‘m wishy washy, that I‘m a flip-flopper.

Now that‘s not a flip-flop.  I believe in the Patriot Act.  We need the things in it that coordinate the FBI and the CIA.  We need to be stronger on terrorism.  But you know what we also need to do as Americans is never let the terrorists change the constitution of the United States in a way that disadvantages our rights. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Ron Silver, what do you think about the Patriot Act?

SILVER:  Well, what I think about it is this.  I‘d like to ask you a question now. 

REAGAN:  Sure. 

BUCHANAN:  Was he in favor of the Patriot Act or not?  I listened to it the third time. 

REAGAN:  Not as it‘s written now.  No, I think he‘s disturbed about some of the...

SILVER:  As it‘s written now is what he voted on. 

BUCHANAN:  He voted for it. 

REAGAN:  Well, he‘s saying now that he...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  ...because he doesn‘t want people coming into people‘s houses without a judge saying—you know, going, sneaking into your house, and looking at your stuff, and not telling you. 

SILVER:  First of all, he did not read, number one, the national intelligence estimate.  He got a briefing from Tenet.  And that‘s why he voted in favor of the war last time.

Also with this, he did not read the Patriot Act because what he was complaining about has remedies built in.  You cannot arrest anyone.  You need a warrant.  I‘ll defer to a lawyer here, but there are remedies built into the Patriot Act.   You just listen to... 

BUCHANAN:  Let me—I want to ask you this. 

HENNENBERGER:  I think he seems to be saying that he disagrees with the application of it by Ashcroft, not necessarily...

BUCHANAN:  You know, this is...

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  That not what he said—saying.

Do you see the problem?  Even with people that support Kerry, this is how they start off.  I think what he meant, he seems to be saying...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

SILVER:  The lack of clarity is stunning. 

BUCHANAN:  I want to ask you this.  It seems clear to me the president in this case has assertive.  I‘m for it.  We needed it.  It‘s a good thing.  It‘s a vital thing.  And Kerry, well I voted it, but I don‘t like the way it‘s been applied here.

Who comes—I mean, they‘re clearly appealing to different constituencies...

HENNENBERGER:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ...but it seemed to me Kerry comes off as, you know, thinking and worried about this aspect.  And the president comes off very assertive, clear, direct, affirmative. 

HENNENBERGR:  To me, Kerry nailed the flip-flop better than I‘ve ever seen him do it.  And I thought he did it pretty well last week when he said I was for the Patriot act, don‘t like the application.  I was for no child left behind, why didn‘t they fund it properly?

BUCHANAN:  I was for the $87 billion before I voted against it. 

GINSBERG:  Here‘s the reality of the Kerry record.  What he said tonight was what he said tonight on December 1, 2003, at Iowa State University, when confronted with the surging Howard Dean, he goes on a tirade against John Ashcroft and says we ought to throw out the entire Patriot Act.  Precisely different from what he said tonight.  That‘s his problem.  That‘s what the president drove home. 

BUCHANAN:  But Melinda, do you think he was very—see, I think it‘s clearly a difference in perception.

HENNENBERGER:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  See, I see the president strong and forceful and Kerry trying to explain it.  And he looks like he‘s maneuvering around it, trying to get his footing. 

HENNENBERGR:  And I see...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

HENNENBERGER:  ...Bush making a mistake in refusing to acknowledge mistakes and changes.  I thought one of his weakest moments of the night, probably the weakest moment of the night, was when asked to name three mistakes.  He said essentially, he would acknowledge them after he was dead.  He said historians will look back and see some strategic tactical mistakes. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me...

REAGAN:  Is it good to be certain when you‘re wrong.

BUCHANAN:  I‘ve got to tell a quick story on that, Ron.  You‘ll appreciate.  Henry Kissinger was asked what was the greatest success you had as Secretary of State and what was your greatest failure?  And he said I don‘t understand the second part of your question. 

REAGAN:  Well, he did say...

SILVER:  That sounds right. 

REAGAN:  Bush suggests that history would decide what mistake—what tactical errors he myself made. 

BUCHANAN:  You know what he should have said?  He should have said, you know, I‘ve got to stop making faces at the wrong time.  Let my face give my feelings that I did last week.

SILVER:  I‘ll tell you something.  In fairness, in terms of that remark, looking at history or long term, FDR had better intelligence.  And they had the code.  And he didn‘t avoid Pearl Harbor.  The Cassyrian (ph) march in Tunisia, 6,800 people died.  There were mistakes that were made in the North Atlantic.  You could look back on that, but at the end of the war, I think we appreciate FDR for the long term and how he fought the whole war, but there were lots of mistakes those first six months. 

REAGAN:  I think we can all pretty much agree that we should have gone to war in World War II.  And of course, there‘s a fundamental agreement about the war in Iraq. 

HENNENBERGER:  Right.

SILVER:  But guess what?  Michael Moore and the neo-reactionaries today don‘t think we should have gone to war. 

REAGAN:  Neo-reactionaries?  Well, I don‘t think we should have gone to war in Iraq either.  I‘m not a neo-reactionary.

BUCHANAN:  Don‘t use the term neo-reactionary around me.  All right.

REAGAN:  We‘re touchy about that. 

SILVER:  That‘s where it comes out.

BUCHANAN:  We‘ve got to take another break, but we want to here from you.  More of your calls and e-mails later in the show.  And we want you to vote on who you thought won tonight‘s debate in our unscientific online poll.  Just log on to tv.MSNBC.com.  We‘ll update you on the results.

It was a heated debate tonight between Kerry and Bush.  Let us know who you think won the fight.  We‘ll take your calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back to AFTER HOURS.  Let‘s go back to our panel.  Melinda Hennenberger of “Newsweek”, actor and political activist, Ron Silver, and Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg.

Let me ask you, Melinda, tonight there were really two definitive statements that, you know, the—where the president and Mr. Kerry made statements which really are going to set the tone if they get elected.

One is, the president of the United States says there‘s not going to be a draft in the next four years.  That locks him in.  John Kerry said read my lips.  No new taxes other than the top 2 percent.  I realize in a debate format they‘ve got to say that.  Maybe in a campaign, you got to say that.  What do you think the—but isn‘t—doesn‘t that sort of tie them down, their presidencies?

HENNENBERGER:  Obviously.  I loved the no new taxes line because it was such a goofy moment where he almost was climbing into the camera.  It was very...

BUCHANAN:  In front of the camera.

REAGAN:  That was a little, but...

BUCHANAN:  No, that‘s mean.  I mean, frankly, he doesn‘t—I mean the president may have overdone...

HENNENBERGER:  Well, he tries from both ends.

BUCHANAN:  ...the president may have overdone his spending proposal, $2.2 trillion, you know.  And—but you—if you spend and say half of that, and there‘s not going to be any new taxes, but Ron Silver‘s going to handle this whole thing, you know, the top 2 percent. 

SILVER:  Yes.  I don‘t think so.  Not if I keep doing this every night. 

BUCHANAN:  But what do you think of the politics of that?

SILVER:  Well, first of all, I think it‘s almost meaningless.  And I‘ll tell you why I think it‘s meaningless.  Because you have a campaign now.  And you have the Democratic candidate right now, who is running on a platform that says reasonable people can reasonably disagree about this war.  And they went to Kerry as a default candidate because they wanted to win.

95 percent of that party is anti-war.  95 percent of that party is Howard Dean-Michael Moore.  It is not Joe Lieberman or Joe Biden.  So we‘re not seeing a representative of how this party is going to govern when they‘re in power. 

BUCHANAN:  Now I think—let me say, Ben, I think that that‘s exactly right.  I think if Kerry is elected, and you‘re on that side of the fence, if Kerry‘s elected, he immediately is sitting on top of a party which is not only anti-Bush, but a militantly anti-war party.  What happens if General Abuzaid says look, Mr. President-elect, we‘ve got these election coming up.  I‘m going to need 75,000 more troops to hold the line for the next year.  How does his—let me get Ben in here first. 

GINSBERG:  Well, what you‘ll end up seeing is the creation of a third party because all those Deaniacs will sort of take the Pat Buchanan playbook and try and make it work for themselves in 2008.

But it goes to what are the core values of the Democratic party today.  And while everyone is wild to beat President Bush, the problem in creating the coalition that makes that work is really, really tough for him.

Look at his standings, for example, right now in the African-American community...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

GINSBERG:  ...where strong support of him is below 50 percent.  With women, where he‘s fighting to get a majority of the women‘s vote, that‘s real problems for the Democratic base.  And now he‘s sort of pushing himself into different positions. 

BUCHANAN:  Right, but let me ask Ron that, because you‘re part of that.  I mean, I think you‘re part of that base that was, you know, anti-war, liberal.  What happens if John Kerry and the generals say, look, we need 75,000 troops.  And he goes up to Congress...

REAGAN:  To support the elections or?

BUCHANAN:  No, no, to carry through for the next year, otherwise, we‘re going to lose the war.  What would you say?

REAGAN:  Well, I would be inclined to say that if we‘re going to start losing more people over there, in other words, if the troops are endangered because we‘re understaffed, as it were in Iraq...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

REAGAN:  ...then you‘d have to put more troops on the ground to keep the troops that are there safe.

On the other hand, you know, if I were John Kerry, I‘d be asking myself do I really want to win this thing because I‘m going to inherit a huge mess in Iraq.  I mean, this is something that nobody is going to want to have. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, see, this is what we ought to be talking about.  I think, you know, because we have done to death the fact, whether you agreed about going in.  But I think the next president could face something like this.  I mean, this situation is very rough over there right now. 

REAGAN:  Right, it‘s a Catch-22. 

HENNENBERGER:  But I really don‘t think the Democratic party is an anti-war party.  I mean, in the sense that they‘re not going to ignore the war on terror.  I don‘t think anybody thinks we can do that. 

BUCHANAN:  You saw the convention.  I was up there.  I mean, Howard Dean got up there and gave a, you know, dismal speech.  The whole place was exploding with, cheering him.  Al Sharpton was cheering him. 

HENNENBERGER:  Well...

REAGAN:  They‘re certainly anti this war. 

HENNENBERGER:  Sure.  They‘re anti this war.

REAGAN:  You were anti this war.

BUCHANAN:  What I mean is just...

HENNENBERGER:  That doesn‘t mean anti-war.  I think they think we‘ve got to be tough.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let me correct it.

HENNENBERGER:  They think this is the wrong war.  It‘s just a question of how we salvage a disaster. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, if you think it‘s the wrong war, and Kerry is told to send 70 -- or 50,000 more troops into the wrong war, will his party, which is anti this war, support it?  I don‘t think it will. 

SILVER:  You know, Lyndon Johnson had a problem with his party, too.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s what I‘m talking about.

SILVER:  And you around then.  That‘s exactly right.

But somebody asked a question tonight about Iran.  Now what‘s he going to do?  The EU goes in and says, boy, we have no power over them if they‘re not on the payroll of the movers.  Let‘s assume that they‘re honest on this one, OK?  What does he do with Iran if he can‘t get the U.N. to sanction Iran and they know Iran is going nuclear.  Does he say, OK, Israel take it out?  What does Kerry do then?

BUCHANAN:  He did say...

REAGAN:  What does Bush do with an Iran that starts lobbing missiles at Israel, and we‘ve got to go into Iran somehow to defend Israel, but we don‘t have enough troops.  They‘re all tied down in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Does it draft people?

SILVER:  But my answer to you it‘s pretty clear what Bush would do.  It‘s clear to everybody—supporters or people who don‘t like him because there‘s clarity in Bush‘s position. 

You know what he‘d do.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I don‘t.  No, tell me.  What would he do?

BUCHANAN:  In fairness to Kerry, at the end of his remarks on Iran, he did say in effect, in the last analysis, we will be tough, or we—I got the sense that he left the door open.  I don‘t think anybody‘s going to invade Iran, left the door open to air strikes on the nuclear facilities.  Do you see that Ben, too?

GINSBERG:  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, I think that in the presidential position, it‘s really, you‘ve got to do what you‘ve got to do to deal with the war on terror.  I don‘t think there‘s any ambiguity about what he‘d do if Iraq started lobbing missiles into Israel.

The strong America means a strong American.  Now the technological breakthroughs may take care of some of the problems that you‘ve got potentially with the draft.  That was also part of what he was saying tonight. 

REAGAN:  Isn‘t it a little silly for both of these guys to say no taxes, no draft, because you just don‘t know what is going to happen? 

BUCHANAN:  I mean, they‘re caught.  I mean, you‘re caught.  You‘re in front of 50 million people.  And you know, the president‘s not going to be hedging around, well, we don‘t have any plans at present for a draft.  Boom. 

HENNENBERGER:  Well, some people would just say they never said it. 

REAGAN:  That‘s true.  I‘m fascinated by a dynamic here.  Here‘s Pat Buchanan...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

REAGAN:  ...a social conservative, but against the war in Iraq.  And there is—over there is Ron Silver, a social liberal but a hawk on Iraq.  I‘m waiting for you guys to go at it on the war in Iraq in a very interesting way. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  It‘s a complimentary situation. 

REAGAN:  It‘s true.  Do you think the whole draft thing isn‘t a red herring, though?  I mean, it‘s being thrown out there?

SILVER:  Yes, they call Charley Rangel‘s bluff.  They voted 402 to 2. 

Rangel voted against it. 

REAGAN:  Rangel didn‘t vote for that.  He was raising the issue is what he was doing.

BUCHANAN:  But look, OK, 402 votes to two in the House.  They‘re not going to vote for it, but let me tell you, there‘s no way you can go into North Korea or Iran without a lot larger army than we‘ve got now.  That army we‘ve got is extended as it can be.  And it‘s overextended.

And I‘ll tell you, it‘s the Bush doctrine that‘s at stake here because, you know, Bush says the North Koreans and the Iranians aren‘t going to get nuclear weapons.  And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on their way. 

SILVER:  Yes, but the Bush doctrine, to the extent that I understand it from their national security strategy, does not involve massive troops, boots on the ground and land wars.  And that‘s what Ben was referring to about technology taking care of a lot of this. 

REAGAN:  Well, we‘ve got boots on the ground in Iraq.  And I‘ll tell you, yes, what we have found out in Afghanistan is you can‘t win a war only with air power.  You can‘t just bomb somebody and win a war.  You‘ve got to put boots on the ground. 

SILVER:  We did OK with Milosevic.  87 days.

REAGAN:  Well, we need...

SILVER:  In Kosovo we did OK. 

REAGAN:  That‘s was a—that‘s a postage stamp of a country, too. 

You know.

SILVER:  True.  That‘s true.

REAGAN:  Anyway, stick around.  We‘ve got more continuing coverage of tonight‘s showdown between President Bush and John Kerry live from Washington University in St. Louis, you‘re watching the debate AFTER HOURS on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  You‘re watching AFTER HOURS, live from St. Louis, Missouri.  Get out your vote and log on to tv.MSNBC.com.  Let us know who you think won the debate.  We‘ll bring you the results at the end of the show.  But first, the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk. 

CHERYL CASONE, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hello, I‘m Cheryl Casone with the headlines.  Federal agents in Nashville, Tennessee arrested an Iraqi-born Nashville man who bought machine guns, ammunition, and hand grenades from an undercover agent posing as a weapons dealer.  Authorities say the sting operation was set up after the 33-year old man allegedly made threats about “going jihad” and attacking Jewish targets in the Nashville area.

A video sent to Arab television shows British hostage Ken Bigley being beheaded by his Iraqi captors.  Meantime, the Associated Press quotes a U.S. official as saying there are credible reports Bigley was killed after he tried to escape with the help of one of his captors.  He was kidnapped last month, along with two Americans who were beheaded several weeks ago.

And tropical storm Matthew formed in the Western Gulf of Mexico.  Forecasters say it rolls out heavy rain this weekend on the U.S. Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida.  It‘s expected to make landfall late Sunday or Monday at less than hurricane strength.

Those are your headlines.  Now back to the debate AFTER HOURS. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  Well, Pat and I are back at the rope line.  A guy—a fellow with a big W sign, and I‘m sure that that means you‘re for Bush or Cheney, yes...

BUCHANAN:  This is a tiny minority here at Washington University.

(CHEERS)

BUCHANAN:  All right.  How did—how did—how did your man do tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think my man did very well tonight. I think Kerry‘s main weakness point is he promised all of these plans about Iraq...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But he had no specific—he didn‘t mention anything how he‘s going to implement these plans and we just are led with false promises for how he‘s going to face the rest of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

REAGAN:  And what would your guy‘s specific plan for Iraq be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just continue what he‘s been doing and keep going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Victory!

REAGAN:  Victory.  When will that happen, do you suppose?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I don‘t think anybody has an exact timeline on it. But the point is, when you bring in democracy and you bring in stability, I think victory will become apparent when you have a truly free Iraq.

REAGAN:  So stability, democracy—in other words, free and fair elections, I‘m assuming.  And an end to most of the violence at least -- 90 percent of the violence, let‘s say.  It doesn‘t look like we‘re hiding in that direction right now, though, does it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well I—you know, as Bush has said so often, I think it‘s tough work. But, you know...

REAGAN:  He says that often, doesn‘t he?

BUCHANAN:  Hard work.

REAGAN:  Hard work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But it‘s not an understatement. I mean, we‘ve gone

·         when you go from a tyrannical dictatorship to something like this—I mean, one of the things that Kerry tends to ignore is that there‘s been over 300 mass graves found and how many might have  -- how much would that number increase if Saddam had stayed in power?

BUCHANAN:  OK, let me—let‘s get to this young lady right here. 

You‘re Bush-Cheney, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  Now you think the president did better—do you think the president did better tonight than he did in Miami? Were you nervous when it started that he might not do quite as well as he did this evening?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was definitely nervous from time to time. I think that—I try to keep an open mind about both candidates and I try to hear both sides of the story.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  What do you think his most attractive about the president of the United States as a candidate and a leader?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As a candidate and leader, I do like the fact that he sticks to a decision. I like the fact that he is committed to a cause and he follows through with it. And I just like his style a little bit better. I don‘t like a lot of the—the show and the...

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you, do you think he did the right thing when he pushed Charlie—when he pushed Charlie Gibson out of the way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely. He‘s the president.

BUCHANAN:  All right.

REAGAN:  How did that sit with you, when he just sort of, you know, busted through Charlie Gibson there?  Did you—did you like that or did you think that it was just maybe a little rude even?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I like that because I think he needs to be strong and show that he has strength and that he‘s really going to be confident.

REAGAN:  Yes. So it was kind of a manly thing there, huh?  Kind of a red-state, manly sort of thing to do?  To just say, Charlie, get out of the way.   I‘m answering this question. Whatever you say.

All right.  We‘re going to go to Brian Williams now with “The Truth Squad.” He‘s back with “The Truth Squad.” Go, Brian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  we‘re at it again tonight. We watched the debate while surrounded by our own experts on all the issues and we begin here with the issue of jobs.

As you know, as was discussed, new job figures came out today and it‘s against that backdrop that we heard the following here tonight. Now, listen to these two competing claims on jobs from Senator Kerry and then President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  The president has presided over the economy where we‘ve lost 1.6 million jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  We‘ve just got a report that said over the past 13 months we‘ve created 1.9 million new jobs. We‘re growing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Now, for the heavy lifting. Those figures are both correct but only partly so.

You heard the figure from Senator Kerry, 1.6 million jobs. That applies to private-sector jobs only. That‘s just one category.

The 1.9 million new jobs the president mentions were created, he says, over the past 13 months. A lot to take in. The latest and best job figures show that since President Bush took office in January 2001, that despite those 1.9 million new jobs, there has still been a net loss—over and above that in other words—a net loss of 821,000 jobs. That‘s expected to shrink, to go down. The 821 is expected to be revised downward closer to 600,000 in the end.

This next charge came about 11 minutes into tonight‘s debate. It came during a critique of the Bush administration by Senator Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  He can‘t come here and tell you that he‘s left no child left behind because he didn‘t fund No Child Left Behind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Now, that charge, that the president didn‘t fund No Child Left Behind—and at another time Senator Kerry also charged that he was underfunded. Wrong. The truth is that education funding has increased dramatically in the Bush administration, though it is not lived up to the levels that the No Child Left Behind legislation called for.

We also heard quite an argument on the topic of taxes tonight. As you may know, Senator Kerry‘s plan calls for rolling back tax cuts for the top 100 -- 1 percent of income earners, those who make $20,000 per year or more. Now you saw President Bush immediately counter, that doing that would negatively affect 900,000 small businesses.

In truth --  now, according to a reputable think tank, the Tax Policy Center, that 900,000 small-business number is inflated. Mr. Bush, in fact, has doubled it. This group says it would negatively affect about 470,000 small businesses.

Now, you heard both men joke about timber, the timber business and a piece of wood. Well, all of that came out of the fact that President Bush once owned a small share of a timber business. According to the Web site factcheck.org, he reported $84 of business income from that in 2001. The reason they were joking about it, that $84 would have qualified him as a small-business owner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  $84.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Our panel is still here and miraculously they‘re still awake.

Let‘s talk about some of the social issues. Abortion came up. Stem-cell research came up.

Melinda, what did you think? Who came out on top?

HENNEBERGER:  I just thought the end of the debate was really interesting because Kerry had mostly a very consistent debate. Came off, I thought, with some grace throughout most of it, and I thought had a rocky ending. Whereas I thought Bush had a really strong finish. Because those are the issues—the social issues that they ended on, are the really familiar, comfortable turf for him.

I thought that Kerry‘s worst answer of the evening was on partial-birth abortion. Especially not—I mean, he gave his answer in its fullness, but he neglected to say, they could have had the bill years ago if they had had willingness to do something on exception for life of the woman. And where, you know, the president really does show what‘s in his heart on those issues. He really, I think, came across so strong, and then he had the gift from heaven of that angelic-looking woman with tears in her eyes talking about abortion.  So I thought that gave him a really strong finish.

BUCHANAN:  You know, and—in—of course, in a place like California, a right-to-life is not a winning issue, I think.  But in Missouri it‘s a very strong issue. And in some of these swing states like western Pennsylvania and in Ohio, where the—and clearly, the fact that the president seemed to be so outspoken and firm and emphatic on it, and Kerry seemed to be moving suggests that this is one on which he‘s a little concerned about the ground he‘s on politically, I think, whether you agree or disagree with the issue.

REAGAN:  Unlike stem-cell research, where I think Kerry feels much more confident...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And Bush, frankly, is morally incoherent.

HENNEBERGER:  Right.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  He is. I mean, he‘s just incoherent.

HENNEBERGER:  No, that was the opposite. That was the opposite case, where I thought that Kerry was much stronger on that.

BUCHANAN:  Well, and I think in—politically, that‘s pretty good—a pretty good read on it, didn‘t you?

SILVER:  Yes, I do too.

Also, it‘s pretty interesting.  It was almost—not quite—but a Dukakis moment. If your wife was raped and then you get a very competent answer, devoid of any emotion.  I thought Kerry at the end there, was giving very scientific, smart, sociological responses, pragmatic answers to a problem where you saw Bush‘s involvement, talking about ethical principles about a conviction, a core belief, a man of faith. You saw the human being and an emotion and a real person grappling with these issues as opposed to a competently...

REAGAN:  How does that sit with you?  Because, I mean, you are in more in my country in the social issues, I think?

SILVER:  I‘m very much.

Well, I tell you, I have an interesting problem. Now, you tell me this: I‘ve been very outspoken about pro-choice. I made—I made my mark, really, being adamantly, theatrically, pro-choice, talking to big rallies and this and that. After KC, I get a call from NARAL and they say, Well, we have a problem now, Ron. I said, what‘s the problem? They say, Roe v.  Wade‘s in trouble. I said, How? They said, Well, parental notification and partial birth. I said, What does that have to do with Roe v. Wade? They said, Well, it‘s a slippery slope. I said, I‘m a parent. I don‘t think every parent abuses their child. I don‘t mind parental notification. Also, I don‘t like partial birth. A hero of mine, Pat Moynihan, called it infanticide. I‘m not with you on the fringe issues, but I‘m there for Roe v. Wade, pro-choice. And that was the last call that I got. I was written out of the movie.

(CROSSTALK)

GINSBERG: ... of why Kerry seemed ambivalent on those social issues, because the base of the party is in one place, where Kerry needs to be to appeal to the voters that are still up for grabs, in this country is someplace far different.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  The NARAL voters are with him 100 percent; he‘s got them. I think Kerry does, solidly.  But I think when you get into the middle of the spectrum...

HENNEBERGER:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  There are—most people feel limitations of some kind.  And, of course, I think Bush probably has all the pro-life—solid pro-life, 100 pro-lifers with him.  But again, the fact that Bush is running under the radar, I understand, in places like Ohio, they‘re running pro-life ads.

GINSBERG:  But the way campaigns advertise today is that very much you can target pockets of voters with particular messages, using phones, using mail, using the Internet.   And that‘s really changed the face of campaigning, just as a tactical matter.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

REAGAN:  Well, let‘s check on our online poll. Remember, this is way unscientific.

Who do you think won tonight‘s debate, though, needless to say? Sixty-eight percent of you say John Kerry; 32 percent of you said President Bush...

BUCHANAN:  He‘s gaining.  He‘s gaining.

REAGAN:  A little bit of movement there. A little bit of (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  ...MCNBC.com.

We‘ll be right back with more AFTER HOURS live from Washington University, in St. Louis, Missouri.

BUCHANAN:  Somebody‘s working it for Bush (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  We‘re with the after-hour all stars: Melinda Henneberger of “Newsweek”; actor and activist Ron Silver; and Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg are with us.

Let me ask about this—well, let‘s just go—we‘ve already done the draft, haven‘t we, Ron?  Yes.

REAGAN:  I‘m kind of interested in where we go from here.  I mean, what—we‘ve got one more debate left. The polls seem to indicate a—kind of a tie for this one. Clearly, the first presidential debate...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Melinda thinks it‘s a 2-0.  I think it‘s a 1-1 right now.

REAGAN:  Yes, I do too.  I vote for 1-1 right now.

BUCHANAN:  How about you?

HENNEBERGER:  It might be one and a half.

BUCHANAN:  All right, well how did you...

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER:  I mean, one and a half and a half.

BUCHANAN:  But the bull alligator took care of John Edwards the other night, didn‘t he?

REAGAN:  Not according to the polls. I think that was a wash, too.

BUCHANAN:  You think you‘re 0-3?  You think the Republicans are 0-3?

HENNEBERGER:  I gave Bush a half for tonight.

BUCHANAN:  A two and a half to a half, huh?.

GINSBERG:  Oh, look...

BUCHANAN:  You‘re like a chess match, right.

GINSBERG:  Putting aside all the counting, what the Cheney debate and this debate did was really switch around declining momentum to the extent that occurred.  But the Kerry folks were certainly pushing it a lot.

And so then you go into Tempe next week with a lot riding on that debate., probably more than usual on a third debate in a chain.  So the president has to draw his contrasts with Kerry;  Kerry has to convince people he‘s the commander in chef and not a flip-flopper. It gets pretty interesting.  It‘s almost where we started.

REAGAN:  And we‘re back behind the podiums again, which doesn‘t help Mr. Bush perhaps. What do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:   We‘re going domestic...

SILVER:  I‘ll tell you—you know, we—you were asking me about where we go from here. What I‘m really interested in, is all these new voters, all this registration. Who‘s registering whom?  Who‘s actually going to get out to the polls? Is Karl Rove getting the evangelicals, those 4 million that he wants.  Are the new voters coming?  All the money the Democrats have in Ohio this year?  It‘s going to be very interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  If I were a Republican, I would be nervous about the new voter thing. Because it‘s usually, if people getting very excited and interesting, they‘re agitated about something, and Kerry‘s not somebody who‘s agitating.  Bush is.

GINSBERG:  This has been very—this has been very different the way they‘ve been recruited to vote. The Republicans have used a party mechanism with volunteers going door-to-door. The Democrats gave over their whole registration and get-out-the-vote system to soft-dollar outside groups, the 527 groups. They‘ve paid people to go door-to-door. It‘s not been a volunteer operation. If some guy is knocking on your door, wants you to register to vote, chances are you sign the form to get rid of the person who‘s there on your doorstep.

Do those people turn out? That‘s the open question. I don‘t think we‘re going to know the answer until November 2.

REAGAN:  Does it come down to turnout operations then, day of?

GINSBERG:  It comes down to turnout operations day of.

But the other new phenomenon is all the early voting and absentee laws that have been opened up much more.  And so Election Day has already started in a number of states.  And if you‘re worried about turning out people on Election Day, you do try and push people out through absentees and early voting. And I think you‘re going to see those numbers be much higher.

REAGAN:  Now, as luck would have it—Oh, Melinda, did you want to jump in and say something?

HENNEBERGER:  I just wanted to say, in terms of swing voters—I‘ve talked to people who say, you know, I hope that this evening I get more information on their stand so that I can make a good decision. And those people can‘t possibly come out to vote if they haven‘t, to me, made a decision by this time.

SILVER:  They shouldn‘t be allowed to vote.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  We have somebody on the phone now, and they may be a voter.

We‘re going to see. This is Ramsin in Chicago, Illinois.

Who do you think won the debate?

CALLER:  I think John Kerry won the debate tonight.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

REAGAN:  We had—we had a caller earlier who thought Bush won, so now we‘ve—we‘re, you know, redressing the balance there.

Why did you think he won?

CALLER:  Well, I think the media kind of underestimates what Americans want. You know, their problem, being a policy wonk—being policy wonkish. 

And I think that‘s what they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear details

people‘s policies. They wanted to hear—and the mudslinging, you get some

real details and facts. And I think Kerry was better on the facts. He kept

·         he kept his cool and he talked numbers and he talked about the future.

REAGAN:  Did I pronounce your name correctly, by the way?  Say your name.

CALLER:  Yes.  It‘s an Assyrian name.  My family‘s from the north of Iraq, actually.  And even I‘m kind of sick of hearing about...

BUCHANAN:  You‘re an Assyrian, right?

CALLER:  That‘s right.

BUCHANAN:  An Assyrian.  What did you think of—all right.  Let me ask you:  What did you about the president‘s—the president—did you think the president was stronger, much stronger this week?  And what don‘t you like about the president‘s performance?

CALLER:  He was better this week, but what I didn‘t—he overdid it a little bit with the whole bulldog approach, I think.  I think he was a little too aggressive, and instead of—instead of talking about his own policies and initiatives, he kind of talked about why we can‘t vote for Kerry, what‘s wrong with Kerry. This guy is not fit to be command us.

BUCHANAN:  OK.

REAGAN:  All right. Well, Pat. Take it away here. You‘ve got—get your—come on.

BUCHANAN:  Get my glasses on here.

REAGAN:  Those are like...

BUCHANAN:  The debate after the debate continues on AFTER HOURS right after this.

REAGAN:  Those are like the bottoms of Coke glasses.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  The block.  The blockette.

Oh, we‘re—we‘re back. Hey, we‘re back with AFTER HOURS.

Minute and a half left to go.  So we got the panel here and we‘re going to ask: predictions for Tempe.

Ben, what do you think?  What‘s going to happen?

GINSBERG:   I think George Bush turns in a stellar performance and marches on to victory in November.

REAGAN:  Oh, you would say that.  Ron—they‘re booing him—Ron, what do you think?  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and do you have some...

SILVER:  No, no, no.  I think if they‘re both smart, they‘ll both show up.

REAGAN:  That‘s a good start.

Melinda?

HENNEBERGER:  I pass on predicting. I hope to be surprised.

REAGAN:  Pat, I know you have a...

BUCHANAN:  No, I predict a tie. I think the president clearly won tonight. He lost the last one. I think they‘re both going to be on their game and going sort of all out. And so I predict and a pretty even match and people going away with it basically, that‘s it.

REAGAN:  I think you may be right. I think this thing may have been—is sort of frozen now. The president lost the first one.

BUCHANAN:  These canceled each other.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Yes, the other two, I think, really are a tossup as far as the public is concerned.

BUCHANAN:  There‘s no doubt in my mind...

REAGAN:  And I think the third one will be, too.

BUCHANAN:  Miami put Kerry back into the race. If the president had won last week, rather than this week, nobody would be here.

GINSBERG:  Yes, but no recounts, guys.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  All right.  Melinda Henneberger, Ron Silver, Ben Ginsberg, thank you all for being with us. I appreciate it very much.

That‘s it for us tonight here on AFTER HOURS, but make sure you tune in to MSNBC on Wednesday for the third and the last presidential debate at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Then stick around for AFTER HOURS at midnight.

Good night.

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

END   

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