updated 10/20/2004 10:55:10 AM ET 2004-10-20T14:55:10

Guest: Chely Wright, Kennedy, Jehmu Greene, Paul Kengor, Ann Coulter, Jon Meacham, Ed Rollins

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST:  Last night, Joe Scarborough predicted that the election was over for John Kerry.  But not everyone agrees.  Being the fair-minded guy that he is, Joe gave me a temporary visa into SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight to give you the flip side of the coin. 

Americans on the left and the right do agree that John Kerry‘s comments about Dick Cheney‘s gay daughter crossed the line in the debates.  It was inappropriate.  But is it enough to cost Kerry the White House? 

And George Bush says his foreign policy is based, in part, on his faith.  Should presidents stick to the Constitution when making decisions that affect Americans? 

Plus, rumors continue to circulate that the president could institute a military draft, but many groups, including MTV‘s Rock the Vote, say those aren‘t just rumors.  We will ask the president of Rock the Vote why. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Joe Scarborough, coming to you from the left coast tonight out here in Burbank. 

We begin tonight with the fateful remarks of John Kerry during the final presidential debate.  Did mentioning Mary Cheney‘s sexual preference do irreparable damage to the senator‘s campaign? 

Joining me to talk about it is an all-star political panel, Republican Strategist Ed Rollins, who is a former adviser to President Reagan, Jon Meacham, managing editor of “Newsweek” magazine, and the one and only Ann Coulter, author of many books, too many to mention, but most recently, “How To Talk To A Liberal If You Must.

Ann Coulter, welcome to the show. 

Talk to this former liberal.  I used to be a liberal, but now I am an independent news man, so I don‘t shade it one way or the other, but explain to this lesbian-loving liberal, to the liberal who believes that the word lesbian is not a negative word, what is this flap all about?  Dick Cheney had identified his daughter as gay publicly a long time ago. 

John Kerry just said what Dick Cheney said, and the Cheneys say you are not allowed to say what we say. 

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “HOW TO TALK TO A LIBERAL IF YOU MUST”:  Because he was talking about another man‘s daughter.  Is my mike working? 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.

But, Ann, does it turn on the notion that lesbian is a bad word? 

COULTER:  No, it turns on the notion that he is talking about another man‘s daughter.  What does that have to with anything?  Why is he bringing this up in a political debate? 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, let‘s go back to the debate.  Let‘s go back to the comment that started it all on October 13, in Tempe, Arizona. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney‘s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she‘s being who she was, she‘s being who she was born as. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Ed Rollins, what do you think?  First of all, there‘s the question of, was it planned?  Was it off the cuff?  How did that play to you, planned or off the cuff?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think it was off the cuff.  And I don‘t think he meant to be insensitive, but it came off as insensitive.

And more fundamental is, when something becomes a distraction, which this clearly has, to the whole last debate, and takes him off his message and gives the Bush team, who are very, very good on being on message, another issue to go pound you on, you have got to cut losses.  And the truth of the matter is, a day or two after this thing, Kerry could have put it behind him and said:  The remarks were inappropriate.  I didn‘t mean any offense to Cheneys, and I apologize for it, and move on. 

He has refused to do that.  His campaign manager said she is fair game.  They amplified it to a point where they lost three or four days of momentum in which he didn‘t have a good a debate as he had the first one, but certainly it took away from his performance. 

O‘DONNELL:  But, Ed, give me a damage assessment on both sides.  First of all, there‘s the notion that this was somehow intended to be damaging to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and the Bush-Cheney campaign reacted as if there was some damage being done to them by saying the vice president‘s daughter is a lesbian. 

Tell me, if there is damage on that side of the campaign, apparently probably in the religious fundamentalists who might not have been aware of it, and then tell me what the damage is to the Kerry campaign, what the net effect of a majority of Americans in polls saying the comment was inappropriate.  First of all, was there damage to the Bush-Cheney campaign at all? 

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS:  No, absolutely not.  First of all, people don‘t vote for vice presidents.  They don‘t vote for members of your Cabinet.  They don‘t vote for campaign managers.  They vote for the president and the president‘s policies or the challenger‘s policies. 

In this particular case, as I said, it didn‘t do anything to the Bush side.  It clearly took the Kerry team off its message, whatever that message of the day may have been, and I think became a very big distraction to them.  And I think a lot of people have now—think it‘s far more offensive and was meant deliberately as offensive, when I don‘t think it was.  I think it was an inappropriate remark, but I think it was not meant to be an inappropriate remark. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  Then why didn‘t he apologize? 

ROLLINS:  He should have.  That‘s what I said.  That‘s what I said. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Jon Meacham, when you are planning coverage for something as big as—Ann, we will come back in a second. 

When you‘re planning coverage for something as big as a presidential debate, something like this slips into the debate, voluntarily or accidentally, how do you decide where that belongs in “Newsweek”? 

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, you have to see what‘s going on in the echo chamber and how much the remark itself, how much life it has. 

So SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tells you where that goes in “Newsweek,” right? 

MEACHAM:  Always.  Always.

(LAUGHTER)

MEACHAM:  But politics, as Ed will tell you, politics at this point in particular is largely perception, and so if something like this takes on a life of its own, then you have to talk about it. 

My personal view is that, interestingly, by interjecting Ms. Cheney into the debate, it marred what I thought were two very interesting answers to a very interesting question from Bob Schieffer, which was, do you believe homosexuality is a choice or not?  President Bush gave what was clearly an honest answer to him, and Senator Kerry gave an interesting answer that he clearly believed, which gave you two different sides of an interesting question. 

I found the injection of Ms. Cheney to be startling and to be largely a distraction.  I think that—I suspect in the search engine that is John Kerry‘s brain, he saw—he had gay, partisan, Cheney, hypocrisy, and it all came out with the daughter paying the price to some extent.  I don‘t think that the voter suppression argument works very well because it has been discussed so much that anyone who is paying any attention knows that Ms. Cheney is homosexual, which is obviously not a—should not be a political issue in any way. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK. 

John Kerry has since said that he considered his comments to be constructive.  Lynne Cheney, mother of the woman in question, did not find it that way.  This was her reaction, and maybe Ann Coulter‘s reaction, minutes after the debate in Arizona. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY:  This is not a good man.  This is not a good man.  And, of course, I am speaking as a mom and a pretty indignant mom.  This is not a good man.  What a cheap and tawdry political trick. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Coulter, cheap and tawdry for John Kerry to say exactly what Lynne Cheney had already said. 

COULTER:  I don‘t know what you are talking about Lynne Cheney saying, but it‘s her daughter. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  She‘s talking about her family. 

Like I said, I don‘t think you talk about another man‘s daughter, so I don‘t think it particularly matters whether it was off the cuff or a specific political hit, but I think there‘s no question that it was a specific political hit.  The gay marriage issue is killing the Democrats.  Just the weekend before, Jesse Jackson had to go to a black church with Kerry at his side and tell the parishioners, no matter what you think of gay marriage, don‘t vote for George Bush. 

It is absolutely killing the Democrats.  John Edwards happened to slip in that Dick Cheney has a gay daughter as well.  And how does John Kerry presume to know what Mary Cheney thinks about anything?  Has he talked to her about it?  Why doesn‘t he cite Barney Frank?  While not Jim McGreevey?  Well, I guess he did cite Jim McGreevey in the rest of his answer. 

He raises Dick Cheney‘s daughter.  It‘s completely out of bounds.  It‘s completely outrageous to be talking about another man‘s daughter.  She is not political.  And specifically to be talking about what kind of sex she prefers, it was despicable. 

O‘DONNELL:  But she has revealed what kind of sex she prefers. 

COULTER:  Look, the Bush daughters have revealed that they like to drink beer even when they were underage.  It is despicable to bring the candidates‘ daughters into this.  It was a vicious thing to do. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s move back to what Jon found interesting, what I do, too, which is the basic question itself.  Is homosexuality a choice?

The president said,I don‘t know.  John Kerry said he doesn‘t think it is a choice. 

Ann Coulter, which one of those answers did you think was better? 

COULTER:  Actually, that is not what John Kerry said.  John Kerry ducks the question and presumes to tell the world what Mary Cheney thinks. 

O‘DONNELL:  He said it‘s not a choice. 

COULTER:  He said he thinks he knows what Mary Cheney thinks.  He is gay profiling. 

He also went on to talk about spouses he knows who have broken up families.  The difference in those two answers was absolutely startling.  George Bush gives a completely honest and Christian and tolerant answer, saying he doesn‘t know, but, you know, we have to be tolerant.  You are left with warm feelings toward gay people. 

Kerry starts talking about people who break up families because they are gay and starts gay profiling and bringing the vice president‘s daughter into it.  You not only feel creepy about gays, but creepy about John Kerry.  It was just despicable.  The whole answer, it was very revealing of his personality. 

MEACHAM:  Well, as I recall. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ed Rollins. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM:  As I recall, Senator Kerry made—at some point in the answer, said, we are all God‘s children.  We are all created a certain way and I think did side with the rather large school of thought that this is not a choice, but is part of who people are, and that they are, therefore, living out their soul‘s journey, to use an Augustinian image, as they are who they are. 

And President Bush gave a very honest answer from his point of view, that he didn‘t know.  And I guess one of the things I regret about this is it‘s such an important question to so many people, it plays such an important role in so many institutions, whether it‘s families or marriage or schools, that I think what Senator Kerry has done, perhaps inadvertently, is, by raising Ms. Cheney, he has turned the issue into something that people are hollering about, when we should be thinking and talking very tolerantly and very—in a nuanced way, to use a Kerry word. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Jon, we are going to have to hold it right because I—go ahead.

I have no choice.  We need to go to a quick break.  And I am going to ask my panel to stick around, because we are going to talk next about the lots and lots of polls that keep pouring out and telling us where this race is.

Stick around when we come back on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, John Kerry seems to be lagging slightly behind Bush in the polls.  Is it too late for John Kerry to catch up? 

That and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  With the presidential election exactly two weeks away, Joe Scarborough last night on this show had seen enough polls and decided he could now pick a winner, says the election is over. 

Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  The end is near for John Kerry, not because of George W. Bush‘s gifted policies or debate skills, but because of John Kerry‘s uneven, confusing and bizarre campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Pollster Frank Luntz joins us now. 

Frank, Joe Scarborough thinks it‘s all over.  He thinks Bush has pulled away.  The Gallup poll that showed an eight-point gap really impressed Joe.  Then we have an NBC poll that comes out today that has them dead tied, 48-48. 

Frank, where is the momentum right now? 

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  The momentum is with the president.

And I got to admit that after the debates and what I saw from the post-debate polling, I expected John Kerry to have scored a few more points.  In fact, at this point, a week after the debates, I assumed Kerry would be two or three points ahead.  I think that the president is ahead by a couple of points.  And the way that I tell viewers at home who are following this very closely, take the five or six national polls that are done by national media outlets, throw out the one that‘s most pro-Kerry, throw out the one that‘s most pro-Bush, and then take the average of the remainder. 

And if you take a look at the Fox poll that just came out today, at the ABC tracking that came out today, at Gallup that was yesterday, as well as NBC‘s and “The Wall Street Journal” today, you have George Bush about 3.5 or a 4 percentage point lead.  Now, that‘s a little bit misleading because we want to focus on the electoral votes in the key swing states. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK, Frank, let me just take—we will take a look at those polls as you are talking about them.  We want to get them on the screen here. 

LUNTZ:  OK. 

O‘DONNELL:  We are going to get today‘s “Washington Post” daily tracking poll.  As you said, it‘s got Bush at five ahead, Fox News at seven.  And there‘s our own bought-and-paid-for NBC poll at a dead tie, 48-48. 

Go ahead, Frank. 

LUNTZ:  So what you do now is, you take a look—and there are a few more others that aren‘t even up there. 

O‘DONNELL:  A lot more that aren‘t up there. 

LUNTZ:  If you average all of them and remove the outliers, you have Bush at about a 3.5-4 percent lead. 

Point No. 2 for our viewers that again are following this very closely, what matters most is what‘s happening in the swing states, because, in the end, the actual popular vote doesn‘t matter.  Al Gore beat George Bush in 2000, but Bush was the president because he won more electoral votes.  So what‘s really important is to follow what‘s going on in three particular states, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa.  I think those three states will determine the election. 

Next, there‘s been a surge in number of people who have registered to vote, and quite often they don‘t participate.  In this election cycle, I actually think we are going to have the highest turnout in the last 20 years.  That‘s probably half-a-point advantage to Kerry.  Plus, the undecideds, what I call uncommitteds, because most people now have made up their minds, those people tend to break to the challenger by two or three to one. 

So here‘s my prediction, the president will need to have three-point lead on Election Day, on average, in the national polls, to win this campaign, to be able to win enough votes in those swing states. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  All right, now, Frank, Frank, let me just boil this down. 

LUNTZ:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  If I am listening to you correctly, you have officially declared Joe Scarborough‘s prediction to be premature.  Don‘t worry.  He is watching the Red Sox game.  He is not even watching us tonight.

LUNTZ:  Oh, no, I can assure you, he is watching you tonight, and I am not going to jump him.  I‘m not going to...

O‘DONNELL:  OK.

LUNTZ:  But what he‘s saying—hold on.

But what he is saying is that the president does have momentum on his side, and I think most of the people on this panel would agree with that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Coulter, you don‘t agree with that, do you?  Come on, Ann. 

(LAUGHTER)

COULTER:  I think, since September 1, a snapshot of all the polls at any one moment has had Bush either ahead by a few points or eight, 10, 12 points.  I wouldn‘t be very comfortable right now if I were a Kerry supporter. 

O‘DONNELL:  So do you feel this is a predictable win for the president at this point? 

COULTER:  I don‘t like making predictions, because you never know what will happen, and no one ever remembers your wrong predictions—or your right predictions.  They only remember the wrong predictions. 

But I haven‘t changed my mind since I saw whom the Democrats had chosen as their candidate. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  So you don‘t want to make a faith-based prediction at this point?  Can I possibly squeeze one out of you, Ann?  Come on.

COULTER:  Yes, I‘ve thought since they chose Kerry that Bush is going to win.  And I don‘t think it‘s going to be close. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, Ed Rollins, let‘s look deeper.  Let‘s look at some of the battleground states. 

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey released today shows both Senator Kerry and President Bush earning 47 percent of the vote in Minnesota.  “The Rocky Mountain News” shows the president with a five-point lead over Kerry in Colorado.  Again, the latest Rasmussen shows Bush beating Kerry by three points in Florida.  “The Atlanta Journal Constitution” shows Bush beating Kerry by 10 in Georgia.  That looks like it‘s actually outside of the margin of error.  And, in New Jersey, where Gore beat Bush by 16 points, big margin, in 2000, Bush and Kerry are now tied at 46 apiece. 

Ed Rollins, you have worked in campaigns in New Jersey.  Do you think there‘s a real chance for the Republicans in New Jersey at this point? 

ROLLINS:  you know, I think there‘s a shot, but it has more to do with a lot of disaffection and unhappiness with McGreevey and the Democrats.  Obviously, until recently, the president hasn‘t competed there, and he bought no New York media.  So the only media that‘s getting into New Jersey is from Philadelphia, which is a very expensive market. 

The bottom line, and I have been in this business 40 years—and Frank Luntz is a very dear friend of mine and a guy I respect him a great deal.  I think the bottom line is that no one knows what‘s going to happen in the next two weeks.  We have spent, the two parties, all the affiliate groups, will have spent $1 billion in advertising, and have literally not taken any significant advantage one way or the other. 

We have had three national debates with a tremendous number of people.  Neither side has taken an advantage.  We have had two expensive conventions, and each has a little bit of momentum.  We are going into this thing, this closing two weeks, with almost a dead-even race.  I think Bush has the momentum.  I don‘t think Kerry has made the case sufficiently. 

The more important thing is, I think Bush has his base solidified.  He‘s getting 93, 94 percent of Republicans.  Kerry doesn‘t have all the women that traditionally vote for a Democratic candidate.  Unless he does better among married women in the next two weeks, he is going to lose and lose by three or four points. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jon Meacham, what are you and your correspondents finding from inside the campaign?  For example, each campaign has numbers to worry about. 

In today‘s NBC poll, the right-track/wrong-track polling, which has always been considered very important in presidential elections, right track, 39 percent.  That is, the country is on the right track, 39 percent say it‘s on the right track; 48 percent say it‘s on the wrong track. 

MEACHAM:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, do you hear inside the Bush campaign worry about those kinds of internals, even in polls where they might otherwise look pretty good? 

MEACHAM:  I think history-minded observers are all worried about—on the Republican side—are worried about all these indicators. 

Now, all these political rules are rules made to be broken.  Ed Rollins will remember better than I will, but Ronald Reagan used to always say, he always asked President Dewey about which polls he wanted to believe, particularly on Election Day.  So I do think we are in a very volatile period.  I think both sides are so driven.  The radicalization of Florida 2000 is something that we don‘t talk about very much, but I think it‘s absolutely crucial. 

Everyone is paranoid, is ready for a fight.  This is the full employment act for lawyers for both parties.  I think both sides are—I think the real feeling inside both sides‘ campaign is, how do we make sure our interests are represented through the night on November 2 and into the 3rd and maybe into the 4th or the 5th, if it‘s as close as these polls show in these states?

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Coulter, you are a lawyer.  What do you think the legal teams are going to do once those polls close in the battleground states?  Both sides have amassed real fighting, litigating election law lawyers there.  Are we going to see demands for recounts legally filed instantly in these battleground states? 

COULTER:  No.  I think they are all going to go home lonely, realizing they are not going to get much face time on TV.

Whatever—whoever has the momentum at one point in time or another, we were attacked on 9/11, and I do not believe this country is France yet.  They are not going to vote for the appeasement party, the pacifist party.  You have got gay marriage hanging over all of this.  That is an enormous issue.  The demographic groups most opposed to gay marriage are blacks, Hispanics, and old people.  Those are the pillars of the Democratic Party. 

You have John Kerry now campaigning in black churches, as usual, Democrats running to the blacks whenever they are in trouble.  If he is still trying to get blacks to vote for him a few weeks before the election, he is in trouble.  And I would also say the assumption that people who haven‘t voted before, newly registered voters, are going to break to Kerry I think may be too soon to be calling that one.  It‘s not going to be all Deaniacs and young MTV listeners.  You have evangelicals motivated like they have never been motivated before. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK, Ann, we‘ve got to hold it right there. 

Ed Rollins, Frank Luntz, thanks for joining us tonight. 

Everyone else has to stick around, because there‘s a lot more coming up. 

Presidents have used religion to make their case.  What role should religion play in this election?

We‘re back in a moment to talk about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  With God‘s help, and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. 

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I intend to seize those opportunities and meet those challenges with all the energy and ability and strength God has given me.  That is simply all I can do. 

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America is in the midst of a spiritual awakening and a moral renewal.  And with your biblical keynote, I say today, yes, let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Is it wrong for President Bush to base American foreign policy on his religious faith?  That debate is next. 

But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I believe that God wants everybody to be free.  That‘s what I believe. 

And that‘s been part of my foreign policy.  In Afghanistan, I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Joe Scarborough. 

In the book “Plan of Attack,” Bob Woodward asks President Bush if he consulted his father before invading Iraq.  Here‘s what President Bush said: “He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength.  There is a higher father that I appeal to.”

Back for more discussion on this is Paul Kengor, author of “God and George W. Bush: A Spiritual Life,” as well as Jon Meacham of “Newsweek” and Ann Coulter, author of “How to Talk To a Liberal If You Have To.”

Ann, have we put up the cover of your book enough to sell some

tonight?  Let‘s get

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  No, I don‘t think so. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right, we are going to try to make sure we get it up there. 

Ann Coulter, I have a problem with this.  He is saying, in what he said in the debate, that he considers faith to be linked to his policy, that this notion of bringing freedom to the Middle East comes from his religious faith. 

COULTER:  Right.  I find it unexceptional. 

I do find exceptional Kerry‘s response signaling to believers everywhere that John Kerry does not believe in God.  Kerry‘s answer, you may recall, he tried to out-God George Bush and said, after George Bush said freedom is a gift from God, Kerry said, everything is a gift from God. 

Well, no, it isn‘t.  No one thinks slavery is a gift from God, oppression is a gift from God.  Only someone who does not believe in God could have said that.  But, by the way, if you don‘t like presidents mentioning God, you should be even more offended by what Kerry said, since he was trying to out-God Bush.

And I would also say, turning to someone liberals do accept as God, FDR, I would recommend that your viewers go look up FDR‘s D-Day speech.  It was far more religion-based, God-based.  FDR basically said, our boys are fighting with God on their side, far more explicitly than anything George Bush has said. 

MEACHAM:  Well, it wasn‘t really a speech.  It was actually a prayer he wrote. 

COULTER:  Right. 

MEACHAM:  Using the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. 

I think this is largely much ado about nothing as well.  And if we have a problem with this, we have to go back to the fact that the founding document of the country says that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  So Bush is not inventing anything new here.  To use the Old Testament, there‘s nothing new under the sun.

And the urtext of modern liberalism is President Kennedy‘s 1961 inaugural, which is one of the great speeches in American history, of which the last line is, “On Earth, God‘s work must truly be our own.”  So I would argue that President Bush is coming from a longtime Protestant tradition, Senator Kerry is coming from a long and noble Catholic tradition, and that both men have belief systems that clearly inform who they are and what their policies would be.

And to try to draw a bright line in their hearts or in their souls is a pointless exercise.  It is true that there are issues of church and state that should be respected.  If you are a believer, I think you should understand that crusades are for the weak and literalism is for the insecure, and you should have the confidence of your convictions to move forward as best you can. 

But I think to act as though George Bush invented God in the Oval Office is a fundamental misreading of history.  I would also disagree with anyone criticizing Kerry on this score, because I think he on several occasions has spoken very movingly about what his own faith means to him. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK. 

In the “60 Minutes” interview that Bob Woodward did, he described a moment with President Bush.  In the book, it says in the indeed he said:

“After the second interview with him on December 11, I got up and walked

over to one of the doors.  There are all of these doors in the Oval Office

that lead outside.  And he had his hands in his pocket, and I just asked,

‘Well, how is history likely to judge your Iraq war?‘  And he said,

‘History?‘  And then he took his hands out of his pocket and kind of

shrugged and extended his hands as if this was way off.  And then he said,

‘History, we don‘t know.  We‘ll all be dead.‘”

That, by the way, is my reading the Teleprompter, where not all the words are.  But what is going on here? 

There‘s a concern that if the president isn‘t worried about how he is going to look in history and only worried about how he is going to look in the eyes of God, that he doesn‘t have any balance available to him in the world to set his policies, that he can only find his route to policy through some divine communication. 

Ann Coulter. 

COULTER:  Well, like John Kerry, you are revealing a very secular world view. 

If what you do is right or wrong and it doesn‘t matter, I think as Abraham Lincoln said, if all the angels swear that what you did was right.  What do you do right or wrong.  It doesn‘t matter what other people have to say about it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Paul Kengor, one thing I have noticed is, in the liberal world, in the liberal world, for example, there was always a presumption that every time Bill Clinton cited God, he just didn‘t mean it.  And their comfort came from, well, he doesn‘t mean any of that stuff. 

PAUL KENGOR, AUTHOR, “GOD AND RONALD REAGAN”:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  And in the liberal world today, the fear is that George Bush actually means it when he says, freedom in Afghanistan is a gift from the almighty. 

KENGOR:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  And the almighty decided only now, or only in the year 2003, 2004, that freedom was worth giving to the Afghanis because he was able to give it through George W. Bush. 

That‘s the kind of notion that has liberals very scared of what the president‘s relationship to God might be. 

Who is right, do you think?  Do you think they were right in dismissing every Clinton reference as phony and right in thinking that President Bush is overattached to his notion of divine guidance? 

KENGOR:  No.

Well, and let me say,too, that the idea that God wants people to be free, I would be more worried about a president who said, I believe that God doesn‘t want people to be free.  That would be unusual. 

Yes, I get e-mails all the time from—I did—in my book, I went through and counted the number of times that George Bush and Bill Clinton mention Jesus Christ.  And Bush did it 14 times in his first three years, and Bill Clinton did it 41 times.  And even if you average that out over eight years, it‘s more per year by Clinton. 

I got a bunch of e-mails, Larry, from people saying, well, it wasn‘t a big deal when Clinton did it because he didn‘t mean it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Right. 

KENGOR:  I mean, I don‘t know that.  I don‘t know if he meant it or not. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  Oh, I do.  I do. 

(LAUGHTER)

KENGOR:  Well, at the very least, Bill Clinton is a liberal Christian, no doubt about that.  Bush is certainly a more conservative Christian. 

But I‘ve got to come back to the main point that Bush‘s faith is not unusual.  Praying on the eve of war, for example, that is something as traditional in this country as George Washington in the snow of Valley Forge on the eve of battle.  All presidents have done it.  And I recently read—not too long ago, Arthur Schlesinger wrote a piece in “The Los Angeles Times” calling John Ashcroft a religious fanatic, after he had just praised John Quincy Adams. 

John Quincy Adams who would make John Ashcroft look like a secular humanist.  These guys, these founders were very devout.  Woodrow Wilson—

I mean, Woodrow Wilson thought he was doing God‘s work in creating the League of Nations, the predecessor to the U.N.

So, really, we are making a big deal about what is largely nothing. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Coulter. 

COULTER:  Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead. 

COULTER:  You can‘t talk about the decadent buffoon without letting me in on this. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, no, please, Ann.  That was for you.  Come on.  That was a big opening for you. 

(LAUGHTER)

COULTER:  This is very charming that Paul was trying to be very bipartisan about this, but as long as we are talking about praying going into wartime, when Bill Clinton was on the phone discussing troops—sending troops into Bosnia with a congressman...

O‘DONNELL:  Be careful how you phrase this, Ann. 

(LAUGHTER)

COULTER:  ... he was being fellated by Monica Lewinsky. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ah, OK.

COULTER:  On Easter Sunday, when he came back from church after carrying that phony five-pound Bible of his, that was the day of the cigar incident, right after church. 

KENGOR:  She is right.  She is right. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  ... the Oval Office with Monica. 

So if there is—it is preposterous.  He is a fraud.  And I think that was more calming to liberals than it was to conservatives. 

MEACHAM:  Well...

O‘DONNELL:  Jon Meacham.  Go ahead, Jon.  Go ahead.

MEACHAM:  Well, I just think that we should all be careful about questioning other people‘s faith or whether they mean it or not. 

If one is a Christian, one is called to love our neighbors as ourselves and to forgive people.  And one of the things that liberals got wrong, I think, about Ronald Reagan is, when the president called Soviet Union evil, sometimes, things are evil.  And we should say that. 

When people got upset when President Bush, this President Bush, used the term evildoer after September 11, well, Winston Churchill used that—it‘s a phrase from the Psalms—in his V.E. Day address in 1945.  But it‘s also true that when—if you are going to accept that, you also have to follow through with the Christian‘s duty to forgive people who seek forgiveness, and President Clinton did that. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  ... without being a gullible idiot. 

O‘DONNELL:  Hold it, Ann. 

Jon Meacham gets the final word on that one. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  We are going to have to break it right there. 

Jon Meacham, Paul Kengor, thanks very much for being with us. 

Ann Coulter, stay, because I insist that you stay. 

We‘ll be right back with MTV‘s Rock the Vote right after this. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  Who was the first U.S. president to issue a draft?  Was it, A, James Monroe, B, Abraham Lincoln, or, C, Franklin Delano Roosevelt?  The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked:  Who was the first U.S. president to issue a draft?  The answer is B.  When Lincoln imposed the first draft in 1863, it was so controversial, riots broke out across the country. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I hear there‘s rumors on the Internets that we are going to have a draft.  We are not going to have a draft, period. 

KERRY:  Our Guard and Reserves have been turned into almost active duty.  You got people doing two and three rotations.  You got stop-loss policies, so people can‘t get out when they were supposed to.  You have got a back-door draft right now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  MTV says its Rock the Vote movement is designed to energize young voters, but is the network really trying to scare voters with a rumor about reinstating the draft? 

Joining me now, Jehmu Greene, president of Rock the Vote, former MTV veejay Kennedy, and country western music star Chely Wright.  And hanging in there with me all the way through is Ann Coulter.  She is the author of “How to Talk to a Liberal If You Must.”  She has been doing a very fine job of it here tonight. 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  Now, “The New York Times” has very much raised the profile of this story today.  “The New York Times”‘ Paul Krugman today says that the United States military is overextended and a second Bush term would require them to institute a draft.  He says, “The only way that it makes sense”—let‘s see.  I can‘t read. 

“The only way this makes sense is if Mr. Bush is prepared to seek a much larger Army.  And that means reviving the draft.”

Jehmu, you guys see this the way “The New York Times” sees this, apparently.  You are taking the draft rumors very seriously.

JEHMU GREENE, PRESIDENT, ROCK THE VOTE:  Well, we definitely aren‘t looking at these as rumors.  We are taking this issue very seriously.  We have been calling on Congress, calling on the candidates to take this issue seriously and to have informed and educated debate about this issue that young people are very much concerned about and really actually need to be given straight answers, need to be able to see an honest debate, and need to see the people who are running for elected office address how we are going to meet our military troop requirements. 

This is an absolutely serious issue for this generation.  It‘s not a rumor.  It‘s not a hoax.  It is a reality.  And in this very serious presidential election, it is time for the candidates to address this generation that could be called to serve. 

O‘DONNELL:  Chely, is it just a phony rumor, or is it something on which you should consider basing your vote if you are of possible draft age? 

CHELY WRIGHT, RECORDING ARTIST:  I think it‘s a bit of a rumor.  The president said today in Florida there will not be a draft under his administration. 

In fact, I think John Kerry is perpetuating it.  He told “The Des Moines Register‘ last week, if President Bush is reelected, there will be a draft.  And I think it‘s quite interesting that, in October of this year, in the House of Representatives, a piece of legislation was put through for a vote, 163, HR-163, and voted down 402-2.  So I think people should not be getting their good journalistic information from MTV‘s Rock the Vote. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREENE:  I think that‘s the exact point.  I think that is the exact problem, that Congress took this vote, 402-2, and they talked about this vote as being a phony vote, as not being real.

And this is an issue that is very serious to this generation.  And for

those members of Congress to say, we are going to pull this out of

committee, we‘re not going to give it an honest debate, that is what we are

calling 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Let me get Kennedy in here. 

Kennedy, the Krugman rationale is, President Bush has said things and then broken his promise on that.  For example, he said he would preserve the surplus.  He wouldn‘t put the country into deficit.  The country is in the biggest deficit it‘s ever had.  He uses arguments like that to say you can‘t trust his promise.  And he is making an extremely clear campaign promise, that there will be no draft, but Krugman is saying, he has made promises in other areas in the last campaign and over the last four years that he has broken.

Are you confident in the president‘s promise that there will be no draft in the next four years if he is president? 

KENNEDY, FORMER MTV DEEJAY:  I am confident in the president‘s promise about the draft.

But what I will say, if you are looking for reasons not to vote for George W. Bush, there are plenty of them.  The draft issue is not one of them.  A presidential election is not like a TV show.  When it gets canceled, the characters and the scripts just dissolve.  The problems in Iraq will continue even if John Kerry is elected.

And here‘s a guy who is, from where he stands now, committing more troops in Iraq.  So if the United States military is overextended now, how is it going to be less overextended when there‘s a new administration?  So if the problem of the draft is overextension of the military, that‘s not going to change if John Kerry is in office.  And these are clear scare tactics.  Liberals are trying to scare young people and old people alike, young people with the draft, old people with Social Security.

And people want facts.  They want issues that are not just fear-based. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Ann Coulter, Ann Coulter, settle this for us.  Be the referee. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Will there be a draft?  Will John Kerry initiate a draft, if he is president? 

COULTER:  Well, that, I think, is at least a more plausible question. 

(LAUGHTER)

COULTER:  There‘s sort of a surreal nature to this whole discussion. 

Republicans are the party who are against the draft.  Democrats are the ones who have pushed for a draft, said we needed a draft.  It was Charles Rangel who was arguing for a draft.  Just a few years ago, I was going on TV, along with other conservatives, arguing against a draft.  Rumsfeld, you may remember this, created a bit of a kerfuffle when he said something about how the all-volunteer armies are much better, fight better, don‘t need to be trained, and that draftees are not as good fighters. 

And Democrats turned around and said, you are attacking the generation

·         the World War II generation. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Ann, we‘ve got to wrap it.  It looks like it‘s 3-1 no draft. 

I‘m going to ask everyone to stick around.  We‘re going to be right back on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Eat your heart out, Joe Scarborough.  You let me host this show, this is what every panel is going to look like. 

OK, we are going to do a quick wrap-up on what we think the young voters should be concentrating on, the No. 1 issue for the young voter in this election.

Kennedy, quickly.

KENNEDY:  The most important issue for young voters is privatizing Social Security.  It won‘t be there when you are old unless you privatize it now. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jehmu, what‘s the most important issue for the young voter? 

GREENE:  I think it‘s a set of issues.

It‘s absolutely the possibility of a military draft.  It‘s the fact that this generation is financially stressed.  They can‘t pay for college with the rates rising as high as they have.  They are graduating with an extreme amount of debt.  They are engaged in this election and will turn out to vote based on these issues.  They need health care.  They want jobs with benefits.  And they are concerned about what is going to happen with the overextension of our troops and if there is going to be a military draft.  We need this debate. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  Chely, what‘s the most important issue for the young voter? 

WRIGHT:  Especially in particular for the young voters, I think it‘s important to get a lot of information from a lot of different sources.  If you are going to be a voting constituent, don‘t get all of your news in one place. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK.

Ann Coulter, your final shot.  The most important issues for the kids. 

COULTER:  These are good ones, but I think the most important issue

for all Americans is which leader will

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  OK, there‘s the music.  We got to go.  We‘ve got it, Ann.

Kennedy, Jehmu, Ann, Chely, thank you all for coming tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  And, Joe, thanks for letting me sit in. 

And, everybody out there, you know what I‘m going to say.  Go, Red Sox.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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