updated 10/14/2004 10:58:28 AM ET 2004-10-14T14:58:28

Guest: Melinda Henneberger, Mike Barnicle, Ben Ginsberg, John Oates, Daryl Hall, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

 

RON REAGAN, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome back to AFTER HOURS at the third and final presidential debate.  It was classic Western showdown, the final chance for each candidate to get in his jabs, and boy, did they!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN KERRY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Being lectured by the President on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I believe that God wants everybody to be free.  That‘s what I believe, and that is part of my foreign policy in Afghanistan.  I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the almighty.  And I can‘t tell you how encouraged I am to see freedom on the march.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  I am still Ron Reagan.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC HOST:  And I‘m Pat Buchanan.  We have got another great hour lined up for you, including your phone calls.

REAGAN:  Joe, you down there?

JOE SCARBROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  Pat Buchanan?  Yeah, yeah, Pat, I sure am.  And Pat, I want to go back to—you just played a clip of George W. Bush talking about God and freedom.  I want to go back to what you and Barnicle were talking about as two frustrated parochial Catholic school kids in the 1950s.  You know, what this God talk is all about, and let me tell you, I‘ve talked to George Bush for quite some time.  I know he has a deep personal faith.  But let‘s talk about politics here.  Let‘s talk about as Chris Matthews would say, HARDBALL politics, immediately after they lost the popular vote in 2000, Pat and Ron Reagan, you know what the first thing Karl Rove said was, we have got to drive up the amount of evangelical voters out there in 2004.  I am telling you, the day Karl Rove checked into his office in the White House, they immediately began talking about how they could drive evangelical voters to the polls.

That‘s what George W. Bush—of course, George Bush is speaking from his heart, but Karl Rove and his team is also telling him, talk about god.  Talk about your religious faith.  Talk about why it‘s so important to you, and of course, Howard Fineman, I heard Howard, I heard you talking several weeks ago about one of the great divides in American politics, being religion.  If you go to church, if you go to a synagogue, if you believe in a higher being, you are much more likely to vote for George W. Bush.  I think John Kerry, again, as a Southern Baptist, a guy that at one time maybe could have been defined as an evangelical; I think John Kerry actually made some inroads tonight talking about the golden rule, quoting scripture, talking about his faith.  I thought it was fascinating, and, again, it‘s all about turnout on November 2, don‘t you agree, Howard?

REAGAN:  Howard is not here anymore.  Pat will clue you into who is.

BUCHANAN:  I want to introduce our all star panel, “Newsweek‘s” Melinda Henneberger, Mike Barnicle of the “Boston Herald” is back with us, so is Republican election attorney, Ben Ginsberg.  Thanks for being here.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, then, Pat.  Don‘t you agree with me, then, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  Listen, I do 100 percent.  I think while Mike and I were talking, this was very spontaneous.  Howard was saying the President was talking out of his heart, and he was authentic, politically.  That was hammering home, I think in rural America, in the border states and all that Christian and evangelical community, as they said in the campaign, Rove had said it, they fell four million votes short of maximizing evangelical Christian vote.  I think the President‘s answer there was one of the best I have seen him give, ever since that time, I guess it was debate in 2000, where he was asked, who is philosopher that most influenced your life, and he comes out and says Jesus Christ, you know, and stopped it cold.  Go ahead.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Except that when asked whether he would overturn Roe v. Wade, he didn‘t answer the question.  He said, “I won‘t have a litmus test.”  And I am not sure the base is there with him, but that was a really, really surprising moment, I thought.

MIKE BARNICLE, “BOSTON HERALD”:  Well, I don‘t think it was that surprising of a moment.  I would have been surprised if he had come out with a...

HENNEBERGER:  But if he needs to energize the base further, as much as he can tonight, does he think that people who would vote for him, swing voters?

BARNICLE:  If he gives one answer, he loses more women.  Kerry was clearly, clearly heading towards the sort of gender vote tonight.

HENNEBERGER:  This was all about women tonight, for Kerry.

REAGAN:  The evangelical base, though, are they convinced George Bush, if he had an opportunity to appoint somebody who would go against Roe v. Wade, that he would do so?  Is that what people feel about him?

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLIC ATTORNEY:  I think what he said tonight was perfectly consistent with what he said before, which is no matter what his own beliefs are, the country is not ready to outlaw abortion.  That‘s consistent with no litmus test, that‘s consistent with the answer he gave tonight.  It‘s what he‘s been saying all the way...

REAGAN:  Do they believe him on that, or are they thinking that he‘s playing it smart?

BUCHANAN:  The base is worried about who he is going to appoint.  They think he is going to appoint somebody who can get through, and no one clearly pro-life can get through.

HENNEBERGER:  If they are both saying they are not going to impose their own personal faith on the country, how is that different?

BUCHANAN:  Let me get to Mike, and how will the cardinals - you have seen these ads in the paper...

BARNICLE:  They won.  They beat Houston.

BUCHANAN:  The Catholic cardinals.  These ads in the paper, which are on Catholics, how it‘s wrong to vote for someone.  Kerry came down 100 percent saying, I will not appoint a justice who would challenge or overturn Roe v. Wade.  That is cold.  I think many of these Catholic cardinals and bishops are going to be under pressure.

BARNICLE:  I think they already are, under pressure, Pat, but they are unfortunately for them, part of institution where the people who form basis of the institution, the foundation, the people who go to church every day have lost such respect for them as authority figures, because of the sex scandal.  If I could ask you, all of you, and Joe, something about what Joe said to start off this hour, that at the beginning of the Bush administration, Karl Rove sat down at his desk on Inauguration Day and said he had to figure out a way to involve the fundamentalists more in the election, because of the popular vote in 2000.  I am not naive.  I find that scary.  I find an element of that scary.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  Yeah.

BUCHANAN:  To maximize that vote?

BARNICLE:  Yeah.  That that would be the first thing he would think of...

GINSBERG:  That‘s not what happened.  It wasn‘t the first thing he thought of, but as you look out on social agenda, and what your President believes in his heart, you are going to have a certain group of people that you appeal to, that was broader than evangelicals or fundamentalists, but there were four million people who didn‘t show up to vote for the President, who were identified as supporters.  That‘s a noticeable fact.  It doesn‘t mean the first priority.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mike Barnicle, first of all, Mike Barnicle, I send my condolences to Red Sox Nation, as a guy that mourned the loss tonight, but this is the same thing that Democrats do.  If a Democratic president had gotten elected and he found out that he, for instance, was four million votes short in African American churches, that usually voted Democratic, that‘s the first thing they would sit down and try to figure out, the political wing would say, what did we do wrong, where did we get our messages crossed, where did we get them mixed, and next time, how do we make sure we get those three, four, five million African American church voters to get out and pull the lever for the Democratic ticket?

Now, I wanted to say one other thing regarding abortion and these evangelicals.  George W. Bush did not answer the question tonight, regarding Roe v. Wade, but then again, he didn‘t have to because John Kerry was the guy that came out tonight and said, the only guy that came out tonight and said, yes, I have a litmus test, and it doesn‘t mater whether you are a practicing Catholic and you believe that abortion is immoral, if you do not support Roe v. Wade, then I am not going to appoint you to the United States Supreme Court.  That message came through loudly and clearly to evangelical Christians, to practicing Catholics and to many other people who are pro-life.  I think the pro-life groups are going to take that clip, and they are going to hammer it home over the next three weeks, and they are going to bring out a lot of pro-life voters to the polls, just based on Kerry‘s litmus test answer tonight.

REAGAN:  Most Catholics are pro-choice, but here‘s Senator Kerry‘s comments tonight on abortion.  Here they are.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (video clip):  I am a Catholic.  And I grew up learning how to respect those views, but I disagree with them, as do many.  I believe that I can‘t legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith, what is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn‘t share that article of faith.  I believe that choice is a woman‘s choice, between a woman, God, and her doctor.  And that‘s why I support that.  Now, I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.

REAGAN:  Mike, Joe‘s point, I think introducing African Americans or cod fishermen, or people who are hunters or gun buffs, misses the point.  I think what you are saying is he is introducing sacred into secular, into the secular realm.

BARNICLE:  Yeah, that was part of it.  Boy, I got to tell you, watching that, the politics of TV clips is very powerful.  You just saw Kerry right there by himself.  That was very—I found that to be a powerful statement, separated from the debate.  That‘s the things that people will see tomorrow morning on the news shows, on the Today Show and other shows.

BUCHANAN:  That is a real split.  He is going right there for the women‘s vote, feminist vote.  He is coming right down.  I am giving you—we are giving you 100 percent, and he is saying, in effect, no judge who would think of overturning Roe v. Wade is going to wind up on that Supreme Court.  Now, Cardinal McCarrick a lot of these Catholic bishops are deciding, should they tell folks how to vote on this issue, they are going to be on the spot tomorrow, I will tell you, and I do agree with Joe, the very fact that Kerry did this gave Bush a certain amount of room to fudge.  I thought Bush‘s answer was much weaker, in terms of clear-cut cold answer.

HENNEBERGER:  But the bishops are not supposed to tell Catholics, and I am Catholic, how to vote.  They can inform on the conscience.  They can teach.  But they are not...

BUCHANAN:  Well, on some issues they certainly can, in my judgment.

HENNEBERGER:  The certainly can (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

GINSBERG:  The broader audience saw John Kerry saying, I am imposing a litmus test, and George Bush saying, no litmus test.  And so to the broader audience that may not be into the doctrinal teachings of the church, you saw one guy with perhaps a broader point of view, which is no litmus test...

BARNICLE:  I mean, Kerry‘s answer was aimed at far more than Catholic women.  I mean, that answer that we just heard was a coast to coast universal answer.  Basically saying I am not going to inflict my views on you, and I am not going to ask any judge to overturn anything that has impacted in any way your life.

GINSBERG:  People won‘t just see that clip.  They will see the back and forth.  And, again...

BARNICLE:  I think most people are against abortion.  I don‘t know anyone who is pro-abortion.  I know of women who have had to have abortions.  But I don‘t know anyone who is pro-abortion.  I think that‘s where it gets confused in the politics...

REAGAN:  Or anti-life for that matter.  Joe, I think you wanted to jump in here.  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yeah, Ron, I want to ask you a question, but I understand we are coming up on a hard break.  So when we come back, you brought up faith and John Kerry not wanting to apply his private faith publicly.  I want to ask you about the remarkable speech you gave at your father‘s funeral, and also talk about how your father may have used faith in his political career, and of course, we can do that when we come back  We‘ll be back in a second with more AFTER HOURS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back.  MSNBC‘s AFTER HOURS coverage of the third presidential debate.  Ron and I are here in Tempe, Arizona, and Joe Scarborough is down there in Florida.  Tonight, fresh from live performance here in Arizona, the best selling pop duo of all time ladies and gentlemen, Hall & Oates.  Daryl, John, thanks for joining us.

REAGAN:  You guys missed the debate.

JOHN OATES:  We did.

DARYL HALL:  We just came from where we are playing, yes.

REAGAN:  Now, I‘m asking you, what did you think about Springsteen, all those guys, Vote for Change concerts?  I am asking because you are musicians, of course.

HALL:  It‘s great, more people come out and vote, it‘s obviously a great thing.  I will be very curious to see what effect it actually has on the percentage of voters.  I certainly hope it‘s going to make an effect.

REAGAN:  Do you ever weave political message into concerts at all?

OATES:  I think we do a lot of personal politics.  And we try to make the universal personal.  I don‘t think we are very overtly political in our music, but it‘s the style that we do.

HALL:  And when we—On this tour, I don‘t think we have talked at all about, other than, yeah, go out and vote, but we are not pushing one side or the other, although we have our personal opinions.

BUCHANAN:  You‘ve got strong personal opinions?

HALL:  Yes.

BUCHANAN: But you keep them out of your music, keep them out of your performance and everything?

HALL:  Yeah.  I don‘t really necessarily think that‘s the proper place for expressing your views.

BUCHANAN:  They come to see you guys.

HALL:  We are entertainers.:  We‘re soul singers, dealing with the spirit.  And that transcends politics.

REAGAN:  New album, “Our Kind of Soul,” are you guys getting into soul music?

HALL:  We‘ve always been in soul music.  That‘s what we are.

OATES:  Would we be flogging our new product...

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  Rather inappropriate.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  I am not all that conversant with the work you fellows do.  How long have you been together and how long have you been doing this?

OATES:  Over 30 years.

HALL:  Yeah.

BUCHANAN:  Over 30 years together, huh?  Did you go to school together?

HALL:  Yeah.  We went to Temple University.

OATES:  Temple University.

BUCHANAN:  Good for you, and still on the road after 30 years.

OATES:  Yep.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s terrific.

BARNICLE:  Didn‘t you have a radio or - Hall & Oates!  They are huge.  The other night, in Washington, the last Springsteen concert, the last collection, REM, John Mellancamp, they are all there, one of our children, our oldest son, went to the concert.  The thing that struck him, in addition to the spectacular show was that they only mentioned politics of it, at least what he heard, one time.

HALL:  Good.

BARNICLE:  I was wondering of what you two guys just said, what do you think would happen to your crowd which I assume would be not that much different from the crowd that was in Washington tonight, if you did start talking about politics, would you lose them?

HALL:  I don‘t think we would lose them.  It‘s hard to say.  Our crowd, we have all ages, shapes, sizes, our demographic is all over the place, so i don‘t know.  I am sure Bush supporters there, there‘s Kerry supporters there.  We happen to be Kerry supporters but I wouldn‘t be surprised at all if we have a lot of Bush supporters.

REAGAN:  Did you guys see the other debates, by the way?

HALL:  Oh, the first two?

REAGAN:  The first two.

HALL:  I saw both.

REAGAN:  What did you think?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  Ron Reagan?

HALL:  I thought what everybody thought.  I thought that George Bush was uncomfortable in the first debate.  I thought Kerry won them both, really.  I don‘t know.  I heard tonight he did quite well.

OATES:  I was particularly—you know, I think the entire process the debate format that has been created over the years, I saw a very interesting show with League of Women Voters, and how the women were very disappointed and alienated from being taken out of the debate process, when the debate process, I guess it‘s been kind of distilled into this sound bite.  It‘s really basically a performance, where each candidate is getting to basically say what they want to say, and there‘s really no dialogue involved.

REAGAN:  As we are not enough here.  We have Joe Scarborough waiting in Florida.

OATES:  I would like them to interact.  I would like to hear them argue.

REAGAN:  Joe Scarborough.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I want to interact, because you know, you just had Daryl and John saying they were sure they had Republicans in demographics too.  I want them to know, I am a Republican, I have been a big fan of theirs for a long time.  I was one of of those geeks that would always lock myself up in my room in the 1970s, and listen to top 40.  I remember the first time I heard “She‘s Gone,” I think it was like in 1975 or 1976.  I said, I don‘t know who these guys are, but they are extraordinary song writers.  I went out, started buying everything they put out.  You guys really, you are great performers, but I think what has always set you apart is the fact that as a duo, I can‘t think of any duo other than Simon and Garfunkel that have been able to put together as many great songs as you guys have done through the years.  It‘s a real honor to have you here on the show tonight.  Even if you support John Kerry.

HALL:  Thank you.

REAGAN:  Joe plays guitar.  If you ever, you know, need a guitarist.  I think Joe...

OATES:  We need a Republican guitarist.  We should call.

REAGAN:  Call Joe.

BUCHANAN:  Exactly what every good band needs.  A Republican guitarist.  Are there any?

REAGAN:  Anything else you want to ask your idols here?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, no.  I have already kissed up to them.  Now I want to ask you a tough question.  You know Ron, we were talking about religion before, and of course, everybody thought that your speech that you gave out in California at your father‘s passing, talking about how your father never held his religion on the sleeve, and he didn‘t, obviously.  A lot of people respected that.  But at the same time, when you read Ronald Reagan‘s writings, when you talked to people that worked closely with him, he saw the liberation of Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union in very religious terms, starkly religious terms, just as Abraham Lincoln saw the liberation of slaves in 1860‘s also as religious movement.  I won‘t say a crusade.  Do you think that George W. Bush said tonight made you feel uncomfortable, maybe talked a little bit too much about religion, and was trying to push his faith on voters, or do you think that it was in line with what your father did during the 1980s, when he saw the Soviet Union as an Evil Empire, that need to be liberated, from the types of Stalin and Khrushchev, etc., etc., etc.?

REAGAN:  No, I don‘t think George Bush was out of line at all tonight.  He was asked a specific question about his faith, and he answered it.  As you pointed out, and I pointed out in the eulogy I gave my father, he was deeply and unabashedly religious man.  Those were the words that I used.  He simply didn‘t wear it on his sleeve for political purposes.  It was a rather private thing to him.  But it was, as I said, very deep.  Now, I never referenced George W. Bush, by the way, although some people thought somehow I was.  I thought that was curious and rather telling thing, but there you go.  No, I didn‘t think Bush was out of line.

BUCHANAN:  When you see a president, and leaders up there speaking about their faith, and in effect, professing themselves, do you think they are crossing the line when they do that, or do you think we are crossing a lot of lines in politics, all these folks referencing beliefs and faiths, is it something you think ought to be out of politics?

OATES: Separation of church and state is integral part of the American democratic experience.  It‘s part of the fabric of our constitution.  We as Americans, I think, have integrated faith—I think we have crossed the line in a lot of ways.

HALL:  Something uniquely American about the fact that we do put religion and politics so much together in America.  In Europe, they don‘t do that.

BUCHANAN:  Is it wrong for someone—we have been talking about this issue of abortion.  Someone to act in his public life out of his moral beliefs, which are rooted in his religion he believes all unborn children are human beings, they ought to be defended, and so he stands up for that position?  Kerry seemed to be saying there was something, I think, sort of wrong with that, that that would be imposing values on people, but we do that when we outlaw drugs, we outlaw prostitution and things.

OATES:  In the end, you have to be guided by your deepest beliefs.  And if your deepest beliefs cause you to lean a certain direction on these very complex issues, then you have to stand by those beliefs.

BUCHANAN:  Even if those are religiously rooted?

OATES:  Everyone - can only be guided by what‘s in your heart.

BARNICLE:  Let me ask you guys a very substantive question.  And it is this.  If both of these guys—let‘s say it‘s a given both of these guys were musically proficient, Kerry and Bush.  Which one of these guys could you envision yourselves jamming with up on stage?

OATES:  Well, I am used to working with tall guys, so I would have to lean toward Kerry, I guess.

BUCHANAN:  Kerry?

OATES:  Very comfortable standing next to a really tall guy, so I would go with him, I guess.

HALL:  I think Bush is more like southern preacher, so probably more like a soul singer.  I am not sure.

BUCHANAN:  I think you are probably right on that one.

REAGAN:  Daryl Hall and Joan Oates, thanks for joining us.

We want to hear your questions and comments.  Who do you think won tonight?  Gives us a call at 1-888-MSNBC-USA, and we‘ll be right back.  Thanks, you guys.  Appreciate it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RON REAGAN, CO-HOST:  You‘re watching MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the third presidential debate AFTER HOURS.  We‘ve got much more ahead, but first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.      

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, his rhetoric doesn‘t match his record.  He‘s been a senator for 20 years.  He voted to increase taxes 98 times.  When they tried to reduce taxes, he voted against that 127 times.

He talks about being a fiscal conservative or fiscally sound, but he vote over—he voted 277 times to waive the budget caps, which would have cost—would have cost the taxpayers $4.2 trillion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Welcome back to AFTER HOURS.  And on our special AFTER HOURS debate panel, “Newsweek‘s” Melinda Henneberger, Mike Barnicle of the “Boston Herald,” and Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg.  Thanks for joining us here everybody. 

OK, so we have had all these debates now.  And Kerry‘s gained a little bit of momentum.  I don‘t think anything that happened tonight is going to change that.  So what happens next, Melinda?

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think that the thing that was important about tonight is the last impression that a lot of people will take with them into election day. 

And I think that overall, in the three debates, you really have to say that Kerry came across as more commanding, and that the president, not so much tonight, but especially in the first two, somewhat tonight did not always even seem in command of himself. 

You know, with the faces, and the smirking and the winking, I just thought that he—that Kerry undercut the idea of him as inconsistent by presenting himself as very consistent. 

REAGAN:  But what—where does that leave us now?  What happens for the next three weeks?

HENNEBERGER:  Well, judging by the last three weeks, I don‘t think we have any idea.  I think it‘s going to be a really dirty, wild fight all the way. 

But I think that tonight Bush did himself some real harm.  I just think when he—he just seemed so perpetually surprised: “What?  I said I wasn‘t worried about Osama bin Laden?  I never said that.  What, I cut Pell grants?  I never cut Pell grants.” 

You know, it really undercut his credibility, I think, when you know, tomorrow or even tonight we‘ll see the clips of, you know, things happening. 

REAGAN:  Ben?

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION ATTORNEY:  I have a slightly different take on the way they came across in the debate. 

REAGAN:  I mean, really?  Good lord. 

GINSBERG:  I think that‘s wrong. 

But looking to the future, this was John Kerry‘s last time for the next 19 days to have control, to really be able to have the focus on him.  I think he utterly failed to achieve the breakthrough that he needs to, to be able to take advantage of that. 

What does he do for the next 19 days?  His base is weakening.  We‘re playing more in Gore states than Bush states from 2000.  And what‘s likely to happen is I think that makes it down and dirty, because you‘re going to see all sorts of—sort of reckless charges. 

The president can be the president and show how to govern and basically deal with the problems of the world and country. 

REAGAN:  Joe, how do you see the future here, the next three weeks?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  Well, first of all, I certainly didn‘t see—I certainly didn‘t see tonight like Melinda.  I love having Melinda on, because I think she‘s the only person I have talked to still that believes that Dick Cheney lost the last debate.  She thinks George Bush did horribly tonight.  I thought it was a wash tonight. 

But I wanted to ask Pat Buchanan a question.  And this has to do about politics.  Every time I have somebody come to me and they say, “Hey, I‘m going to give a political speech, I‘m going to announce my candidacy for Congress or the Senate or some other thing,” I say, “Always take your camera.  Always take a video camera.  You want the five-second, six-second, seven-second shot that you‘re going to use in the closing days of the campaign.” 

Pat Buchanan, if you don‘t mind, put on your political hat tonight, and tell me, what is the sound clip out of these three debates, not just tonight, but the three debates that you‘re going to see John Kerry using on his 30-second ads in the final weekend?

And what‘s the 5-, 10-second clip that you‘re going to see George W. Bush use against John Kerry in the final weeks?

Because in the end, I think that‘s what the importance of these debates are going to be, a certain sound clip or a certain faux pas that came out of debates, whether it‘s global test or whether it‘s George W. Bush smirking, or some other faux pas.  What do you think, Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think—I think the—I think Bush will go to the global test.  If you had to take two words out of the debate, global test, I think that‘s the greatest problem that Kerry will have, the way the Republicans will spin it, because it goes right to the undermining of Kerry, which I agree with you, Kerry came back in a sense.  But I think that‘s where they go. 

I‘m not sure exactly where Kerry would go on the president, Joe.  The guys behind me are saying Kerry won.  They‘re Melinda supporters here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Pat Buchanan, why don‘t we have everybody come to me?  If the control room will come to me for one second right now, come to me, and cut off that background.  Control room, come to me and cut off that background.  OK.  Cut off the background so actually our viewers can hear what we‘re saying. 

Pat Buchanan, if I were John Kerry, I would go back to that first debate.  I would show pictures of George Bush grimacing.  I would show pictures of him fidgeting.  I would show pictures of him looking unpresidential.  In the end, I think that‘s their silver bullet.  I would run those over and over and over again, and raise doubt about the character of the guy who‘s in the White House, and just forget these last two debates. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Joe, the problem there, Joe—the problem with that, Joe, is I agree with you if you‘ve got a 527, ought to do that. 

But when you‘ve got Kerry‘s got to get up there, and says, “Look, I‘m John Kerry, and I paid for this ad” or “I supported this ad, I approved of this ad,” you can‘t have him doing that. 

HENNEBERGER:  Right.  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And have this hit on the president.  I agree with you.  Those are the toughest things you could do to the president, but Kerry himself can‘t do them. 

HENNEBERGER:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And you need your ax man to do that. 

REAGAN:  I think the Osama comment tonight was where I‘d go, too.  And I just wanted to ask Mike, because we asked everybody else, where do you see this going in the next three weeks?

MIKE BARNICLE, “THE BOSTON HERALD”:  Well, unfortunately, I see it as a double trash can effort.  You know, Republicans dumping their trash on Kerry and Kerry trying to dump his trash on the president. 

Unfortunately, I think for the country, and I wouldn‘t know how to read a poll if you taught me, Pat.  You know, I wouldn‘t know how.  The internals, I think it‘s like something out of medical school. 

But if—if you just do your own grocery shopping in this country, there is such a hunger out there for optimism and positive, positive feelings out of our politics, that no one is getting. 

BUCHANAN:  Where—where was the vision?  And that‘s one thing that‘s missing.  Tonight, I mean, Kerry, he was overstuffed with numbers.  There were going on and on and on.  Where was the vision there, you know, of somebody taking you up...?

REAGAN:  You know what...

HENNEBERGER:  I thought he landed more blows than he was optimistic. 

BARNICLE:  Both guys, I thought...

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, though, Pat Buchanan, if I can just say, though, you look at George W. Bush, and the clip that we were showing.  He talks about John Kerry‘s 20 years of voting, his 98 votes for taxes, his 100 -- I mean, all these numbers.  That doesn‘t connect. 

You know what Ronald Reagan would always say?  He would see Democrats se every day as April 15, tax day.  And everybody would laugh. 

Neither one of these guys ever seemed to figure out how to do what Ronald Reagan would do, where he would take all these facts and figures, and he would cram them down into one sentence that would connect immediately with the American people.

And, yes, John Kerry talked like a senator, but George W. Bush was rattling off those numbers in the same way that I‘ll guarantee you made people‘s eyes—eyes roll in Waterloo, Iowa. 

REAGAN:  OK.  So neither of these guys are quite as talented as my father was. 

Time to practice for election day by voting in our unscientific online poll.  Who won tonight‘s debate?  So far, 71 percent say it was John Kerry.  Twenty-nine percent say Bush.  Log on to Joe.MSNBC.com. 

We‘ll be right back with more AFTER HOURS live from Tempe, Arizona.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  Welcome back to AFTER HOURS.  Pat and I are live from Tempe, Arizona.  Joe Scarborough is down in Florida, and Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, is in the house. 

TRIUMPH, THE INSULT COMIC DOG:  How are you doing?

REAGAN:  If this is any indication...

TRIUMPH:  How is it going?  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.  Thank you. 

REAGAN:  Triumph. 

TRIUMPH:  Thank you. 

REAGAN:  What did you have—What did you think about tonight‘s debate, Triumph?

TRIUMPH:  First of all, I think the real winner is Hall and Oates.  I didn‘t realize they were still in show business.  Are they still in show business?  Yes, right, and I‘m still in a French bulldog I humped last night. 

BARNICLE:  Whoa!

TRIUMPH:  I kid, I kid.  Hall and Oates are great.  They were recently inducted into the Rock ‘N‘ Roll Hall of Suck. 

REAGAN:  Good thing they‘re not here. 

TRIUMPH:  No.  You know, I‘m a little disoriented, you know, because we live in this time where Pat Buchanan is voice of reason. 

Pat Buchanan is a conservative who‘s against the war, all of a sudden.  We are so screwed.  What happened to the world? 

Pat and I are old friends, though, right, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  Right, we are. 

TRIUMPH:  Let‘s go out to dinner, and for dessert, we can alert the INS about the kitchen staff. 

REAGAN:  You‘re speaking, of course, of the immigration issue. 

TRIUMPH:  This can‘t be worse than Hall and Oates talking about politics.  I mean, seriously, asking—asking them about politics is like asking me about the missionary position.  I have no idea, and neither do they. 

REAGAN:  You‘ve got quite a collection of cigars, Triumph. 

BARNICLE:  Yes.               

TRIUMPH:  Thank you very much.  Yes, well, you know, if they‘re props, they‘re props. 

But seriously, it was a great night.  John Kerry, I thought he did well.  You know, he‘s fighting this flip-flopper thing. 

What do you think, Pat, has he put the flip-flopper thing to rest?

BUCHANAN:  I‘m not sure, one way or the other.  I don‘t know. 

TRIUMPH:  I mean, he says—he says he‘s consistent on Iraq, but come on, I mean, the guy has tried more odd positions than a Great Dane trying to bang a Chihuahua. 

REAGAN:  Uh-huh. 

TRIUMPH:  I like John Kerry. 

BUCHANAN:  Barnicle, can you discipline that fellow?  We need some help here.

BARNICLE:  How have you been, buddy?

TRIUMPH:  I am good. 

BARNICLE:  Chased any cats lately?

TRIUMPH:  No, no, no, no.  Cats, I stay away from the cats. 

BARNICLE:  What were you thinking when Hall and Oates was up here, that you‘d like to have the electric fence in effect or get them out?

TRIUMPH:  Yes.  How am I going to follow that?  No, you know what?  You‘re from Massachusetts. 

BARNICLE:  I am, yes. 

TRIUMPH:  Could you tell them to have Kerry stop bike riding in his shorts? 

BARNICLE:  Well, I...

TRIUMPH:  I mean, he‘s already won the gay vote. 

BARNICLE:  This is very harsh tonight, Triumph.  What got into your puppy chow?  I don‘t know.  What‘s the deal?

TRIUMPH:  Sorry. 

You know, I‘m a little mad, being in that spin room, it‘s terrifying. 

BARNICLE:  Tell me about that. 

TRIUMPH:  Three hundred guys with no dignity at all, no shame, say anything. 

BARNICLE:  Who?

TRIUMPH:  You know, there was this thing about the Black Caucus.  You know, they tried to get Bush.  Kerry, he said Bush didn‘t meet with the Black Caucus. 

And then Jesse Jackson saying, “Well, no, he didn‘t.” 

I mean, it‘s crazy.  I mean, let‘s be honest.  The last time Bush reached out to a black voter, he was handing her dirty gym socks.

BARNICLE:  Whoa!

REAGAN:  Ben Ginsberg has worked closely—oh, sure.  Oh, no.

TRIUMPH:  Come on, it‘s like I told Pat Buchanan, this can‘t be lower than “The McLaughlin Group.” 

REAGAN:  Ben actually works for the Bush—or used to work for the Bush campaign. 

TRIUMPH:  I know.  I could tell by his face.  Somehow I could tell by his face.

REAGAN:  You could tell that? 

GINSBERG:  Bald spot, it fools people all the time. 

TRIUMPH:  Yes.  No, no.  Bush was good.  He toned it down tonight, you know, for the women.  He wasn‘t—on Friday, thought he was a little to macho, you know.  A few times, it got into Rosie O‘Donnell territory.  But you know what I‘d like to do...

BUCHANAN:  Lot of cigars there, Triumph. 

TRIUMPH:  I want to—I‘d like to perform my spin on the spinners tonight.  You know?

REAGAN:  OK. 

TRIUMPH:  Because I mean, some of these guys are so impressive.  I mean, Tucker Eskew, I mean, you couldn‘t—if his head were any further up Bush‘s butt, he‘d be a colonoscope. 

I thought Tucker Eskew did a great job tonight, of being a total whore.  You know, after the second debate, I sensed some doubt.  I sensed a shred of dignity.  But he worked on it, and tonight he hit it out of the ballpark.  Tonight he was 100 percent shameless in the spin room. 

REAGAN:  That‘s key, isn‘t it?

TRIUMPH:  Yes.  And Bob Shrum, though, he disappointed me, you know.  He had a little bit—he didn‘t say that Kerry won on every point.  I didn‘t believe he had no conscience tonight.  Just didn‘t buy it. 

These spin doctors, they‘ve got to be ready for anything, you know. 

BARNICLE:  That‘s true. 

TRIUMPH:  I mean, if Kerry—if Kerry were to take a poop on the stage, they have to be right there, you know, “Kerry—I think Kerry looked comfortable on stage.  He was able to express himself.  He had a little something for everybody.  You know, corn, nuts.”

REAGAN:  Triumph, any last words on this debate before we go to break?

TRIUMPH:  Yes, I think spin doctoring is the lowest form of humanity, and I want to be one. 

Let me show you, the audience, that I can deliver.  This is the Conan O‘Brien viewership.  Look here.  We‘ve got losers.  We‘ve got chronic masturbators down here.  Over here, we‘ve got the senile.  They‘re big voters, absentee.  Here we‘ve got upscale losers, losers who have some money.  And here we have nimrods, which was a very high grade of nerd.  Night—horny night watchmen, and of course, Conan O‘Brien is a very influential and powerful man.  And he is 1/12 of the audience. 

REAGAN:  Triumph, thank you for coming—coming over.  We appreciate it.  And we‘re going to be right back. 

TRIUMPH:  Oh, yes!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  Hey, Joe, we hope you are feeling better.  We missed you out here, buddy.  Melinda, Mike, Ben, all of our guests, thanks for being here. 

Real quick, Joe, on a scale of one to 10, how nasty is it going to get in the next three weeks?

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I would say 10.  I think it‘s going to be tough.  It‘s about five, six states.  And we‘ll be following it.  But, hey, I enjoyed it.  Thanks for having me.  Good night. 

REAGAN:  You bet. 

BUCHANAN:  You got it.

REAGAN:  Thanks, Pat.  Thanks for sitting in, and keeping the chair warm for Joe. 

BUCHANAN:  Glad to.

REAGAN:  We‘ll see you all next time.  Thank you. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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