updated 10/21/2004 10:33:50 AM ET 2004-10-21T14:33:50

Guest: Debra DeShong, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, Mark Simone, Mort Zuckerman

RON REAGAN, CO-HOST:  Hi.  Welcome to this special edition of AFTER HOURS: “Decision 2004.”

With the election less than two weeks away, Governor Schwarzenegger heads to the battleground to stump for the president.  And former President Clinton is doing the same for his guy, John Kerry.  Will these star power strategies work? 

RON SILVER, GUEST CO-HOST:  And are we doomed to repeat the recount of 2000?  Put the kids to bed, because we are going to give you some nightmare scenarios for November. 

REAGAN:  Oh, it‘s scary.

Plus, Teresa Heinz Kerry, well, she sort of dissed Laura Bush by saying she is not sure the first lady has ever had a real job.  Tonight, both campaigns are here to weigh in on the snafu. 

I‘m Ron Reagan. 

SILVER:  I‘m Ron Silver.  It‘s time for the best party on TV, AFTER

HOURS. 

Let‘s get right to it.

Celebrities stumping in the battleground states, will it be effective?  According to knew MSNBC/Knight Ridder polls, George Bush continues to lead in five battleground states he won in 2000.  He leads by a slim margin in Colorado, Missouri, New Hampshire, and West Virginia.  Yet, in Ohio, there is a virtual tie, where the president holds a one-point lead over Senator Kerry.

Next week, former President Clinton will stump for the senator in Pennsylvania.  Then GOP uber-star Arnold Schwarzenegger will pump up voters in Ohio.  Will if affect the vote in the battleground states?

Joining us now to discuss this, Lawrence Kudlow, host of CNBC‘s “Kudlow & Cramer,” and WABC radio talk show host Mark Simone, and by remote, editor in chief of “U.S. News & World Report,” Mort Zuckerman. 

Welcome to you all. 

Does any of this celebrity stuff matter, do you suppose, Mark? 

SILVER:  I am taking this personally. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I should mention as well that Ron Silver, a famous actor in his own right, will be in Florida stumping for George Bush. 

But a lot of people, I think, think, ah, who cares? 

LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CO-HOST, “KUDLOW & CRAMER”:  I‘m blown away by this.  I didn‘t hear this.  This must have happened this afternoon that Teresa is saying that Mrs. Bush never held a real job?  What, teaching school? 

SILVER:  Lawrence, we have a whole segment devoted to all

(CROSSTALK) 

(LAUGHTER)

KUDLOW:  Being a librarian, teaching kids to read, that‘s not a real job?

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  I can‘t wait for that one. 

REAGAN:  Well, hang on for a moment. 

SILVER:  You‘re going to have to wait for that.

Battleground states. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Are we within the margin of litigation?

MARK SIMONE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Being a celebrity is not a real job. 

However, look what happened at the convention.  You had Giuliani out there.  You had Schwarzenegger out there.  And Bush gets like almost a 10-point bounce out of that.  Obviously, this stuff makes a difference.  And guys like Giuliani, they have such credibility around the country, as does Schwarzenegger. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Mort Zuckerman, if I am looking at this situation, I am less worried about Leonardo DiCaprio making a speech somewhere than I am about, if I am a Democrat, I‘m a little worried about Arnold Schwarzenegger going to Ohio.  The guy is not only an actor.  He‘s the governor of California.

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Look, if you want to talk about bench strength, Republicans are blessed with having four of the most popular public personalities, Laura Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

If you want to talk about the Clintons, they have as many negatives as they have positives, which is one of the reasons why their appeal is so limited.  So I do think that this helps, but it‘s not decisive.  And, certainly, as far as the—quote, unquote—Hollywood community, I have to tell you that a large part of the country sees that community as something they want to stay away from.  They don‘t identify with those people.  And it‘s not really a net help, in my judgment, to the Democrats. 

REAGAN:  Does Schwarzenegger sort of straddle that line?  Obviously, he is a big Hollywood star, but he is also the governor of California now. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Yes. 

He is the governor of California and he‘s had a heck of a good run as the governor of California.  So, in a sense, his appeal has been broadened.  And I think he is a very effective campaigner for the Republicans, as are the others that I have mentioned.  And the Democrats do not have a single political personality who can match any one of those four in terms of their approval rating vs. their disapproval rating. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Mark, what do you think? 

SIMONE:  Well, you‘re also forgetting another big name, John McCain. 

Boy, he‘s got a lot of credibility with people.

ZUCKERMAN:  No, I mentioned John McCain, yes.

SIMONE:  And, also, we‘ve got to break this into two categories.  These are beloved political figures, respected.  But then you have got celebrities, who mean absolutely nothing.  Springsteen, Streisand don‘t sway votes. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Well, you‘re talking about two different kinds of celebrities.  I would argue that Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are as big as celebrities, and Bill Clinton.  Even though they‘re former government officials and the president, they‘re celebrities.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And we won‘t ask you how you feel about Ron Silver in Florida. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Yes, we‘re not going to talk about that.

KUDLOW:  Actually, although I am a great admirer, I am not even sure about Governor Schwarzenegger, because he is a rookie.  And it‘s a glamour thing.  He‘s a movie star.

Yes, he‘s done well as governor, but I am not sure that impacts Ohio.  The guy I think really does help is Rudy.  And I‘ll tell you why.  His 9/11-ness really carries clout, because, obviously, homeland security, terrorism and so forth is a huge issue, perhaps the No. 1 issue.  And Rudy was there at the very beginning at ground zero.  So that one, I think, is absolutely a winner. 

REAGAN:  Mort, do you think any of this, though, is really going to make the difference?  Haven‘t most people by now made up their mind and aren‘t most people unlikely to be swayed just because somebody drags a famous person out on to the trail to stump for them? 

ZUCKERMAN:  You know, I think a lot of people have made up their mind. 

But there are still a lot of persuadables.

In the 2000 election, 18 percent made up their mind in the last two weeks, 5 percent in the last day, on the voting day.  So I don‘t think this election is over by a long shot given how close it is in all the polls.  And a lot that can happen over the next two weeks could be absolutely decisive in the outcome of the election. 

SILVER:  Mort, let me follow up with a question.  We can talk about horse races and polls.  And, Larry, I‘d love you to jump in, and Mark as well.

But let‘s talk about the message here.  Matt Bye (ph) in “The New York Times” wrote an article the other day where he said there is a big philosophical divide.  When John Kerry said it‘s a nuisance, he expressed some sort of nostalgia for going back to pre-9/11, 9/10, and saying we have to get back where it‘s not the focus of our lives, where the president said it‘s a war and it‘s taken up all his focus and energy and time. 

And Matt Bye (ph) in the article said, almost like an orange gauntlet was thrown down, there are two different philosophical sides in this election.  How do you feel about that? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I think there is something to that.  But however you wanted to define the difference between these two candidates, there is no doubt but that on this issue, on the issue of fighting the war against terrorism and being strong and being decisive and really committed in this war, there‘s no doubt that every poll has indicated that Bush is way ahead of Kerry. 

Kerry is still not trusted by the country to leader this country in this war against terrorism.  Even though there are many reservations about the way Bush has handled the war in Iraq, still, in all, he has a huge advantage.  And if the election is going to be fought on that one issue, there is no doubt but that Bush is going to have a much better chance to win. 

KUDLOW:  I agree with Mort.  I absolutely agree on the foreign policy.

What is interesting to me is that, since the third debate, and you have a big clash of ideas on domestic policy, taxes, the economy, health care, retirement, Social Security, education, Bush did so well that, if you look inside a bunch of polls—and I tend to follow the Gallup poll—he narrowed the gap.  Traditionally, those are Democratic issues, not taxes, but retirement and health care in particular.  And Bush really narrowed the gap, because Bush is saying, I want ownership.  I want investors.  I want consumers to be in the driver‘s seat. 

And Mr. Kerry is the sort of old-time liberal religion.  I want government to be in the driver‘s seat.  And I don‘t think that is resonating.  And I think that‘s why on the campaign trail Bush is maintaining the pressure.  He actually has Kerry on the defensive on domestic issues. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  You bring up a great point.

Mark, jump in here.  You talk to people every day, they‘re coming—and a lot of people seem to have felt that John Kerry bested the president in three debates, yet the numbers now are trending to the president.  Do we need to redefine what we mean by who won a debate or does it matter who wins a debate? 

SIMONE:  Well, I‘ll tell you exactly what happened.

John Kerry, everybody forgot, is a professional debater.  That‘s all he‘s done for 40 years.  In the Senate, that‘s all he does.  He debates every day, back to his early days on “The Dick Cavett Show.”  That is what he did, every day, just debates.  No one can beat him in a debate.  And he was so powerful, so forceful.  When he said something, it had impact.

When Bush spoke, he just mumbled and fumbled and couldn‘t get it out.  But a day later, a week later, it started to hit you what he said.  And all those things start to have impact, a tax-and-spend liberal.  How is he going to pay for all this stuff?  And I can remember him saying that Social Security controlled by the government.  It didn‘t hit me at the time.  It‘s hitting me now.

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  I‘ve got one on Social Security. 

This is so interesting to me.  Traditionally, the Democrats wait until the last 72 hours before they start pounding away that the Republican is going to destroy your Social Security benefits.  This time, they started over two weeks ahead of time.  A, that tells me they believe they are in some trouble.  But, B, Kerry is on the campaign stump saying they are going to lower your benefits 35 to 40 percent. 

All kinds of Internet Web sites are rebutting this.  This is a new information age.  And the rules have changed.  And the Bush message gets out.  So I think this is another point of weakness for Mr. Kerry. 

REAGAN:  Are the Internet Web sites also rebutting some of the things that Mr. Bush is saying about Kerry‘s Medicare plan, which have been rebutted by the CBO, the $1 trillion hole that is going to eventually end up in Social Security and also the stuff that‘s going on with Medicare?  There‘s been a lot of fast and loose played on both sides, I think. 

KUDLOW:  Yes, I‘ve seen this Medicare discussion. 

The problem is, Kerry is going to double government spending on Medicare.  That‘s part of his plan.  He is also, in truth, going to provide a lot of tax subsidies for businesses.  But here is the issue.  And Bush laid this out very well in the third debate.  It‘s these third-party payers, government, businesses and insurance companies, that provide the sense it‘s a free lunch. 

So I would go in, every hangnail I have and knock it off for free.  Bush is saying, wait a minute.  I want to give it right to the consumer of health care.  And you‘re going to pay for it.  He‘s actually giving a big credit for it, which is a good thing.  That is the part that‘s not been scored properly.  But I am OK with that because it will be cheaper in the long run for the government to give 40 million uninsured each $4,000.  That will be the cheapest plan out there. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  That is cheap all right.  A $10,000 policy and $4,000...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  ... if you‘re living on minimum wage.  I‘ll tell you that.

KUDLOW:  Well, but he‘ll give it to them.  And he should give—then they will own it.  Then they can invest what they don‘t use.  They can...

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Listen, everybody, stick around, because, coming up, we‘re going to tell you about—calm down, Larry—Teresa Heinz Kerry‘s comments today, where she managed to insult teachers, stay-at-home moms and the first lady at the same time. 

And, right now, you‘re looking at Democracy Plaza.  It‘s election central for MSNBC‘s coverage of the battle for the White House, complete with an Oval Office, Air Force One.  We even turned the famous skating rink, where I grew up and skated, into an electoral map for election night.  And it‘s all open to the public.  Check it out.

And we‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  You‘re looking at a live shot of NBC‘s Democracy Plaza at Rockefeller Center.  For more information, a great slide slow, and a list of events and exhibits, log on to Democracy.MSNBC.com.

More AFTER HOURS just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)  

SILVER:  Welcome back to AFTER HOURS. 

You‘re looking at a live shot of Rockefeller Plaza in New York City and NBC‘s brand-new state-of-the-art election venue, Democracy Plaza, a celebration of America‘s political system featuring a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence and mockups of Air Force One and the Oval Office.  It‘s open to the public, so you should go check it out.

I‘m Ron Silver, along with Ron Reagan. 

Once again, once again today, the wives of the presidential candidates got into the act when Teresa Heinz Kerry said this about first lady Laura Bush: “But I don‘t know that she‘s ever had a real job, I mean, since she‘s been grown up.  So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things.”

After a lot of outrage over that comment, not just from Larry...

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  ... Mrs. Heinz Kerry released this statement: “I had forgotten that Mrs. Bush has worked”—Larry.

REAGAN:  Larry, easy.

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  “I had forgotten that Mrs. Bush has worked as a schoolteacher and librarian.  And there couldn‘t be a more important job than teaching our children.  I am sincerely sorry I had not remembered her important work in the past.”

Joining us to talk about that, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, an adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and Debra DeShong, a senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign. 

REAGAN:  Oh, Mindy, now, did you—were you just licking your chops when you heard Teresa say that? 

MINDY TUCKER FLETCHER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I honestly couldn‘t believe it.  I sort of had to look twice and read the quote over again to make sure I had read it properly. 

And then, of course, came the apology.  And then I had to read that again to make sure I still understood that she considered teaching and being a librarian a job, but still not staying home with your kids and being a busy mom. 

REAGAN:  Well, I think she sort of took that from—remember, she is a mom, too.  So, I think she just sort of accepted that.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And I think, if you read her first statement, she was talking about sort of their different life experiences.  And she simply forgot that, for a little while in her life, in her early life, that Laura Bush was a librarian and a schoolteacher. 

FLETCHER:  But I think a lot of moms who stay home with their kids will tell you that is quite a life experience.  And I don‘t think it should be shorted.

REAGAN:  Well, as a mom who has kids, I think Teresa probably agrees with that, don‘t you? 

SIMONE:  I don‘t think it should be shorted, though.  And I think there definitely is, as has been pointed out today, there is a culture in America that says you‘re either out of the home in a job or you really don‘t work. 

REAGAN:  Do you actually think that Teresa Heinz Kerry disrespects motherhood? 

SIMONE:  I didn‘t say that.  I just said I think there are a lot of people in America who think that, unless you are out of the home in a job, it‘s not really work.  It‘s not really hard work and it doesn‘t give you the life experience that you would have outside the home in a job. 

And that‘s what they called it today, a real job.  I think it reflected what some women do think and I think what she really thinks about it.  And it‘s unfortunate, because there are a lot of people who stay home with their kids, take care of them and do a lot of great things in their communities and for their families.  And a lot of times, we don‘t give it enough credit and say that it is a hard, tough job. 

REAGAN:  It certainly is. 

Debra, is this the Teresa sort of nightmare or is this really just a lot of nonsense distraction that sort of picks up where the whole Mary Cheney nonsense distraction left off? 

DEBRA DESHONG, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER:  You know, it‘s a whole lot of nonsense. 

The Bush campaign will do anything to not have to talk about the issues.  Teresa felt very badly about her comments after she was reminded that Laura Bush did in fact work as a librarian and as a teacher.  That is why Mrs. Heinz-Kerry called the White House today to apologize.  And the message that came back was, don‘t worry.  We understand.  We accept your apology.  Thanks very much. 

Teresa and Laura Bush bonded.  Every time they saw each other after the debates, they embraced.  They hugged at the end.  They both shared the relief that it was over.  You know, these are two classy women who get along.  And it‘s a whole lot ado about nothing.

You know, Teresa Heinz-Kerry absolutely values motherhood and absolutely values raising your children as a mother.  If you talk to her, she talks to you about that‘s one of the best experiences she has had in her life.  Of course she values that.  That is not what this is about. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Lawrence, are you ready to... 

SILVER:  We promised Larry...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I know.  I know.

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  I think Debra‘s position is extremely well-spun, and my hat‘s off to her. 

But I think, last I heard from various press accounts, Teresa was put in the witness protection program for the last couple of weeks of the campaign.  Clearly, she got out, went to the drugstore and saw a reporter and said this.  And now it‘s blowing up everywhere.  That‘s too bad. 

But here is the thing.  As a schoolteacher, as a schoolteacher, Laura Bush had terrific service.  Now, we have been reading in the newspapers regarding Ms. Heinz—and this is a substantive point, not a personal point I‘m going to make—but off of a nearly $1 billion fortune she inherited from her ex-husband and roughly $8 million that she earned in the last year, she paid a tax rate of 12.5 percent. 

REAGAN:  Well, the Bush administration should love that sort of thing. 

They want to cut taxes for rich people.

KUDLOW:  I don‘t think so. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And are you suggesting that that was illegal, what she did? 

KUDLOW:  I am suggesting that not all Americans have the kind of lawyerly and accounting help to dodge the tax laws.  And the other point you made, Ron...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Like, say, George W. Bush and Cheney also have. 

KUDLOW:  Well, but you know what?  They are both paying 30 percent tax rates.  So that‘s almost three times. 

REAGAN:  Well, now they are.  Now they are.

KUDLOW:  They always did when they earned the money.

REAGAN:  I don‘t know about that. 

KUDLOW:  And the point is, we have learned—another report you might be interested in.  The IRS just put this out yesterday.  Those that make the highest incomes by far pay the vast proportion of the taxes in this country.  Did you know that the top...

REAGAN:  Well, that would make sense, wouldn‘t it? 

KUDLOW:  The top 20 percent pay 83 percent of the income tax. 

REAGAN:  And how much of the income do they have? 

KUDLOW:  They have about 14 percent of the income. 

REAGAN:  Oh, I am not so sure about that. 

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  And that is something you can look up. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I will be looking that one...

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  This is a learning experience for you, Ron. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I‘m learning.  I‘m learning.  Oh, yes.

KUDLOW:  Teresa Heinz, a 12.5 percent marginal tax rate off $1 billion in wealth and I guess $7 or $8 million in income, that is really... 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  It‘s a good thing you‘re not married to somebody running for president.

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  I think we want to talk about the tax code for another two, three hours, if we could.

But would you like to say anything? 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  Oh, absolutely. 

But let me add one thing to this hypocrisy.  In Massachusetts, you have to check off a box if you want to take the Bush tax cut.  Kerry checked off the box and took the Bush tax cut, when he didn‘t have to.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Well, wouldn‘t you? 

SIMONE:  Yes, but he‘s being hypocritical about it. 

REAGAN:  Well, I don‘t know about that. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Welcome, everyone, to the Bush-Cheney network. 

REAGAN:  Really?

(LAUGHTER)

SIMONE:  Let‘s go back to Leona Helmsley Heinz. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  This is like cheap shot central here.

SILVER:  That was almost as accidental as Mary Cheney is a lesbian was accidental. 

SIMONE:  I don‘t think everybody has focused on how really low that comment was.

Forget whether you‘re insulting teachers, mothers.  To just look at a

·         no, wait a minute—think about what I‘m saying here.  To just look at a person and say—and you don‘t look anything about them—you don‘t look like you could have ever had a real job. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  She did not say you don‘t look like somebody who could have ever had a real job. 

SIMONE:  She assumed from looking at this woman, from studying this woman, that she couldn‘t have ever had a real job. 

REAGAN:  She didn‘t know that she had—briefly had a job as a librarian years ago. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  No, no.  Wait, Larry.  I‘m going to let Mort get in here. 

Then we‘re going to let Debra respond.

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  I‘m sure you want to weigh in on this one, Mort, don‘t you?

REAGAN:  Go ahead.

ZUCKERMAN:  I do want to weigh in, if I may just say something to Larry Kudlow. 

DESHONG:  I have lost track in this debate. 

(LAUGHTER)

ZUCKERMAN:  I can only say that the great benefit of the Bush tax cuts during his administration did go to the upper 20 percent of the income spectrum.  It‘s hard for me to believe that the upper 20 percent of the income spectrum, as you describe it, as I understand it, only earned 14 percent of the income. 

KUDLOW:  That is correct, Mort.  Look it up tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN:  I will tell you that you can‘t be the upper 20 percent if you only earned 14 percent.  I will just make that small point.  I‘ve looked it up many times.  And I don‘t want to get into an argument with you about this, because I want to go to the other point.

SILVER:  Please do. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Which is, what about Teresa Heinz Kerry? 

What, in fact, her comment goes to is a problem that the Democratic Party has, which is that as the party so-called of the working and middle classes, they now sort of look at many of the Democrats as if they are an elitist group of the technology elite, the education elite, the entertainment elite.  And what her comment reinforces, alas, is the fact that both John Kerry and she do not seem to be easily identifying with the working and middle classes of America, for whom they wish to speak. 

And this is always a political problem for the Democrats.  This goes under the rubric of family values and moral issues.  And this is about 15 percent to 18 percent of the American public who vote on this issue.  And Bush gets 70 percent of that vote and Kerry only gets 18 percent of the vote, the rest of it being undecideds.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Wait a minute. 

Debra DeShong, I have to get back to you.  Fairness requires that I give you a chance to respond to the broadsides that your charge has withstood here. 

DESHONG:  Yes, which one? 

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Pick one.

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  The tax rate.

REAGAN:  Taxes, dissing mothers, whatever. 

(CROSSTALK)

DESHONG:  You cannot talk about family values if you don‘t value families. 

Under George Bush, the tax burden has significantly shifted to the

middle class.  Five million of Americans have lost their health care; 1.6

million private sector jobs have been lost.  These are families that are

hurting.  And, again, you can‘t have family values if you don‘t value

families.  No matter what the mother does inside or outside of the home, we

·         John Kerry is fighting to make sure we have jobs and health care.

That‘s how you have strong family values.  That‘s how you have strong families.  And, you know, again, about Teresa Heinz Kerry, she is a very dedicated mother. 

(CROSSTALK)

DESHONG:  And she will tell you that motherhood is a very valuable profession.  Any woman who stays home, of course we value that as a party. 

KUDLOW:  I just want to give her credit.  I am going to come back on the other side now, fair and balanced. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

KUDLOW:  I want to give her credit, Ms. Heinz, for apologizing. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Of course she apologized. 

KUDLOW:  I think that is extremely important.  And that itself shows great character.  And I want to...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  Of course, the apology doesn‘t sound like her, though.

KUDLOW:  Mort Zuckerman, Mort Zuckerman, let me read the numbers to you. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Let‘s not get into that. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  We don‘t want...

(CROSSTALK) 

KUDLOW:  I made a mistake.

REAGAN:  Yes, 1 percent makes 14, 1 percent.

KUDLOW:  The top one percent makes 14 percent and pays a third of the taxes.  The top 20 percent makes half the income and pays four-fifths of the taxes. 

REAGAN:  Better.

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  That is still a highly progressive code, Mort.

SIMONE:  So you were only off by 19 percent.

REAGAN:  Mindy, Lawrence Kudlow is prepared to accept Teresa Heinz‘s...

KUDLOW:  Mea culpa. 

REAGAN:  Mea culpa.

KUDLOW:  Mea culpa.

REAGAN:  Prepared to accept Teresa Heinz Kerry‘s rather graceful and immediate apology.  But you don‘t seem to be ready to accept her apology.  Why that is? 

FLETCHER:  I just think, if you look at the totality of her comments, she did apologize.  I think she still sort of left something out in the apology.  We could argue that all night long. 

But if you look at the totality of her comments, she talked about her experience being larger than other women that didn‘t have the kind of jobs that she had had.  And I just think there was a real air about it that I think will probably rub a lot of voters the wrong way, if they have a chance to look at the interview and read that part of it, on top of just the mistakes she made about Laura Bush. 

And going back to that, we could argue the tax numbers all night long.

REAGAN:  Let‘s not, though. 

(CROSSTALK)

FLETCHER:  I don‘t want to.  They say one thing.  We say the other. 

And everybody just sort of sits there staring in confusion. 

But what I can tell you is, you go talk to the single mom or one of the families who got money back in their pocket to spend on their kids, to spend on their family as part of the Bush tax cut, and they probably don‘t care about your numbers that you want to throw back and forth.  While important, to them, it‘s all about what it means to them on a daily basis in their daily lives.  And I think really George Bush has impacted positively families in America in just that way and many others. 

(CROSSTALK)

DESHONG:  Oh, he has impacted families, all right.  Five million families are now without health care under George Bush.  I don‘t disagree that he‘s impacted families.

FLETCHER:  Yes, and we can argue those numbers, too.  And I know you guys will.  But the bottom line is, we have prescription drugs and Medicare now. 

(CROSSTALK)

DESHONG:  Yes.  And if you ask senior citizens if they feel like...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And if you talk over one another, nobody gets to hear either one of you. 

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Let me bring this back. 

Lawrence, hang on a sec.

Let me bring this back to where we started, which was with the first ladies.  Can I get both of you to weigh in on the simple question, do you think both of these women have been good mothers, since that motherhood seems to be at issue here? 

Mindy, go ahead. 

(CROSSTALK)

FLETCHER:  You know, that‘s not something I can talk to for Teresa Heinz Kerry, because I don‘t know her.  I am sure she has been a fine mother.  I am sure there are other people that could talk to it better than I could.

I know Laura Bush and I know what she‘s been as a mother.  And I think she‘s been a terrific mom.  But, really, that is not what this is about.  It‘s about who is going to lead the country in the future. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Well, you brought up motherhood, Mindy.  And that is why I posed the question.

FLETCHER:  No, she brought up motherhood today in her comments. 

REAGAN:  Well, you certainly brought it up here tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Debra, what are your thoughts...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Well, there you go talking at the same time again.  Nobody can hear you. 

Debra, what do you think about the two as mothers, just since that is how this started?

DESHONG:  Well, like I said, I am going to be a little bit more gracious than Mindy and I‘m going to say that, of course, both women were good mothers.  They have raised great children.  They have raised...

(CROSSTALK)

DESHONG:  And America is proud of them.

REAGAN:  OK, thank you very much. 

SILVER:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  For that information.

SILVER:  That was an interesting conversation.

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  But, Mindy, Debra, thank you for joining us. 

We have got to take a quick break. 

But, coming up, the campaigns are gearing up for another legal battle, a la election 2000.  Could the courts play a role again? 

You‘re watching AFTER HOURS on MSNBC.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  If you thought the aftermath of the 2000 election was bad, wait until you hear what could go wrong this year.  That‘s coming up.

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

(NEWS BREAK)

REAGAN:  Welcome back to AFTER HOURS.  I‘m Ron Reagan, here with Ron Silver. 

Two weeks from today, the battle for the White House will be decided, but both campaigns are preparing for a long battle after Election Day.  “The Washington Post” writes: “The ballots have yet to be counted, much less recounted. But attorneys for President Bush and John F. Kerry are already engaged in an intense legal battle for the presidency that could once again give the courts a say in who is declared the winner.”

Are they gearing up for a replay of the 2000 election? 

We are back with our panel, Lawrence Kudlow, Mark Simone, and Mort Zuckerman. 

Now...

SILVER:  OK, here we go again. 

REAGAN:  Is it 2000 redux? 

SIMONE:  No.  I don‘t think it is going to be that close.  I think there will be a five-point difference here.

But the idea—and it‘s just for show—sending 1,000 lawyers down to a state, that‘s worse than locusts hitting the state.  Bill O‘Reilly doesn‘t have 1,000 lawyers.  It‘s just—it‘s ridiculous.

REAGAN:  He might. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  He may soon have 1,000 lawyers. 

(LAUGHTER)

SIMONE:  But they keep making these charges of voter intimidation, this, that, without a shred of evidence.  If you have got some evidence, present it now. 

REAGAN:  I think the evidence was the 2000 election, that they disenfranchised, massive disenfranchisement...

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Hold on a second.  Is anybody on this panel familiar with the Colorado Election Day manual that the Democratic National Committee is sending out? 

Would you tell us about it, Mark? 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  Exactly. 

You have got a Democratic telling, actually telling people in writing, go out and claim voter intimidation.  If it‘s not there, act like it‘s there.  Start these phony charges.  This is in—if that‘s in writing in the manual, imagine...

SILVER:  It is in writing.  In fact, it‘s called a preemptive...

SIMONE:  Yes.  But if that‘s what they put in writing, imagine what they didn‘t put in writing. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  The next thing you know, they will be sending congressional aides down to Florida or somewhere to stage little mini-riots outside of recounts. 

KUDLOW:  Some people believe that the Democratic Party is now using this as almost a permanent tactic, so that the election is like a primary, and that the legal battles after the election are the real election. 

I don‘t know if that‘s true or not.  I will say this.  If this thing were to look like 2000, if we have to go through what we went through, not only on the recounts, but going in the state court and then the Supreme Court, I think that the country will not win.  It would be very debilitating. 

SILVER:  I agree. 

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  I think the financial markets, I think the economy, I think business, I don‘t think anybody is going to be happy with that kind of outcome. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Let me get Mort in on this for a second. 

Mort, let me ask you a question.  If there are six to 10 what are called battleground states now and they are all within the margin of litigation, what are we looking forward to? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I mean, you may be looking forward to exactly what you are talking about.  There are thousands of lawyers.  I understand there are 4,000 lawyers representing Democratic Party in every county in Florida.

And I think you are going to see this across the country, and I think the slightest pretext will trigger off this huge legal battle.  My hope is that this is not going to be relevant in some way, but that there will be enough of a margin of victory that the whole process of pursuing it in the courts will fade away, because it will have no practical consequence, because it is terrible for this country to go through what we went through for the year 2000. 

And I just hope it‘s unnecessary.  But you can see it coming.  If there‘s any possibility that the election could shift on the basis of what may or may not be decided in the courts, you are going to see this thing thrown into every court that every lawyer can get into it.  And I think it will be a disgrace for the country and a tragedy for the country. 

I am not worried about the financial Markets.  Larry Kudlow always takes care of those.  But I am basically concerned for what it‘s going to do for the confidence that this country is going to have in its own electoral system. 

SILVER:  But, Mort, your remarks raise another concern.  If we went through what we went through 36 days after Florida four years ago, what has happened in the four years since then?  It seems to have gotten worse. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Oh, there‘s no doubt about it, because everybody—a lot of people weren‘t prepared for what happened in the year 2000. 

You didn‘t have large battalions of lawyers in every state checking everything out.  There were a lot of states that were very, very close, and they did not go into the court system.  But this may be different, particularly because there are all kinds of new registrations and new regulations to apply to people who are moving from one location to another, etcetera, etcetera.

So you have a situation once again that is rife for legal intervention and lawyerly intervention.  And I think that is going to be very, very dangerous.  So I hope that there is a margin of victory that‘s enough to deter people from going after the election results in the court. 

KUDLOW:  I would not underestimate on this—it‘s a technical point, legal point, the frivolity of these lawsuits. 

The election officials have been working hard.  Let‘s give them some credit.  They‘re Democrats and Republicans.  County by county, precinct by precinct, trying to get the right machines in there.  There‘s a whole debate in this country about the most efficient technology for these machines.  But they are working at it.  So that‘s a good thing. 

I‘m sorry Mort is not worried about the markets and business, particularly his own.  But I will say this.  The worst fallout from the repeat potential of 2000 will be the war.  That will be the worst fallout. 

REAGAN:  How so?  Explain. 

KUDLOW:  Because I think it will undermine confidence in the United States at exactly the time when I believe we will be closing in on Iraqi elections.

And I think for the U.S. military, which will conduct its operations, if the civilians behind it, the decision-makers behind it in either party or both are embroiled in this massive electoral dispute, it cannot be a good thing.  And that is what troubles me. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  We also have another problem, Mark, don‘t we?  In Colorado, there‘s an initiative on the ballot that will change the way they award their electoral votes. 

REAGAN:  Proportional.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  Proportional, which a lot of people think should be the case anyway.  That way, it‘s a much fairer system.

But we are also forgetting one of the things that made Florida ugly and made it such a horrible thing for the Democrats, the president‘s brother was in control of the state.  And that was a big thing.

REAGAN:  And he still is. 

SIMONE:  Well, but, if the problem this time is Pennsylvania, Democrats love, they trust Ed Rendell, the governor there.  It would be a different matter. 

REAGAN:  And let‘s be clear that both sides have lawyered up.  You guys of course are talking about the Democrats.

SIMONE:  Yes.

REAGAN:  In 30,000 counties in America, the Republicans have lawyers. 

SIMONE:  But in Florida, it‘s ridiculous.  If you are an old person and you fall on the sidewalk in the next two weeks, you are not going to be able to get a lawyer anywhere in Florida. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Everybody has a lawyer in America.  There‘s more lawyers than Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  I think Ron is 100 percent right.

The most fun in this thing may not be Florida.  I don‘t know if it will be Pennsylvania.  But the new Chicago, right, go back to the...

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  The new Chicago in this country is New Jersey. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Cook County. 

KUDLOW:  New Jersey.

SILVER:  Cook County. 

KUDLOW:  Stuff happens in New Jersey that is absolutely beyond the pale.  And when Bush went into New Jersey this week, because some polls have him running neck and neck, I just said, oh, isn‘t this something?  My lord.  Because the Democrats in New Jersey will never, never admit that Bush could carry their state. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  The 2004 Tony Soprano election. 

KUDLOW:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.  That‘s exactly right. 

SILVER:  Looking forward to it. 

We‘ll back with more AFTER HOURS.  But as we go to break, take a look at NBC‘s new election headquarters, Democracy Plaza.  We were both down there earlier today. 

REAGAN:  Yes, we were.

SILVER:  Ron, it is incredible. 

REAGAN:  It is.

SILVER:  Lots of exhibits open to the public on the Constitution, the Oval Office, the Declaration of Independence and there are events all this week.  They all celebrate democracy, and they are all open to the public, so go to Rockefeller Plaza and check it out. 

REAGAN:  You can skate right across the battleground states. 

SILVER:  Skate right across.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRIUMPH, THE INSULT COMIC DOG:  Ron Silver. 

SILVER:  How do you do? 

TRIUMPH:  Really, you are a Republican now?  I remember—you still look like a 60-year-old hippy.  I don‘t get it.  I don‘t get it.  What, you are into politics?  Is this a Janeane Garofalo move?  It‘s either this or “Hollywood Squares?”

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Oh, my. 

TRIUMPH:  I kid.  I kid.

SILVER:  I know you kid.  I kid back. 

TRIUMPH:  Because I love, I kid. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  I am really glad you showed that clip.  It made my career. 

Welcome back to the Kudlow-Zuckerman slam-down. 

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  Comedians and insult comic dogs—my life—they thrive on politics, but should we take their commentary seriously? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CROSSFIRE”) 

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  ... your help.  Right now, you‘re helping the politicians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central‘s “Daily Show,” started a blog and cable war when he compared CNN‘s “Crossfire” to pro wrestling and called the show hosts partisan hacks who are hurting America. 

“The New York Times” television critic writes about the incident—quote—“Real anger is rare on television.  It‘s as rare on television as real discussion.  Presidential candidates no longer address each other directly in debates.”

We‘re back with our all-star panel. 

Well, guys, what did you think of Ron Silver and the comic insult dog? 

SILVER:  And the comic insult dog.

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  It‘s nice when you have film on it.  So it‘s memorialized forever. 

KUDLOW:  I will just say, I met Ron Silver a couple of years ago at a dinner party.  There‘s a circle in New York City that meets.

And, really, between then and now, he has been dead consistent on the foreign policy issues which have driven you into the Bush camp.

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  And I said so on “Kudlow & Cramer,” when you came on our show. 

SILVER:  That‘s right. 

KUDLOW:  And I remembered it because, yes, I was a bit surprised to hear you say what you said that evening.  I don‘t remember if Mort Zuckerman was there or not, but you have been dead consistent.  And I think you get a lot of credit for that. 

SILVER:  Well, thank you very much. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Mark, would you like to say something nice about me? 

SIMONE:  You‘re very, very articulate.  You make some excellent points.  And you have got a lot to say.  And I compare that to Streisand, who, when she opens her mouth about politics, you just think of Laura Ingraham, “Just Shut Up and Sing.”

SILVER:  Ron, you want to take some notes?

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  No.  I was just going to say that, just so you know, that, on social issues, the environment, etcetera, he is still over on my side.  It‘s just this whole Iraq thing.

SIMONE:  Well, let‘s remember, on the environment, on the environment, the single biggest polluter personally is John Kerry, five mansions, Gulfstream jet, all those yachts, SUVs.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  And Bush, you know that truck he drives around. 

REAGAN:  I will sick Ron Silver on you about that.  Don‘t go there. 

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  Triumph the insult dog. 

REAGAN:  Triumph the insult dog. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  George Bush‘s ranch, that house is solar-powered.  That truck runs on propane fuel, doesn‘t use any gas.

REAGAN:  Oh, well, isn‘t he green?  Isn‘t he green?

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Mr. clear skies, healthy forests. 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  You‘re upset about that Arctic drilling stuff. 

REAGAN:  You bet I am.

(LAUGHTER)

KUDLOW:  Can I ask Mort Zuckerman a question about this subject? 

REAGAN:  Sure, you can.  Go ahead. 

SILVER:  It‘s your show.  Go right ahead

KUDLOW:  It‘s not my show. 

(LAUGHTER)

KUDLOW:  I am grateful to be a guest on this show.

But, Mort Zuckerman, don‘t you think Mr. Kerry will rehabilitate Kyoto global warming, revise it, but he will use it as a tactic to curry favor with France and Germany and other foreign countries, so that our actions can meet the so-called global test?  And these kinds of rigid standards would really do damage to the U.S. economy, probably cut production back by 5 to 10 percent. 

SILVER:  Mort, it‘s 3:00 in the morning.  If you could make your answer real short, real chippy, little bit of a bite.  So everybody...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KUDLOW:  Come on, Mort.  This is “K&C” style.  Let‘s rock.

ZUCKERMAN:  I have really thought about your question.  The answer is no. 

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  Thank you, Mort. 

SIMONE:  But you know what that brings up?  There was a great flip-flop in the debate.  Nobody picked up on this.  You remember, Kerry kept saying that this is coalition of the bribed and the coerced. 

REAGAN:  I don‘t think he kept saying that during the debate. 

SIMONE:  For months, he said...

REAGAN:  I think Bush kept saying that during the debate. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  No. 

For months, Kerry kept saying the coalition was just a bunch of bribed and coerced countries. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 

SIMONE:  In the middle of the debate, when he was pinned down on what will you actually do to get allies in there, he said, I will sit down with allies and I‘ll say, what will it take?  What do you want to join the coalition? 

REAGAN:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Mark, I have a question for my co-host. 

REAGAN:  Oh, boy.  Oh, good.  Yes?

SILVER:  I‘ve been dying to ask you for a long.

And, Mort, anybody jump in. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Oh, yes, pile on. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I‘m a lone guy out here in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

SILVER:  I still have heard an adequate answer to why Senator Kerry voted against the ‘91 Gulf War. 

REAGAN:  Right. 

SILVER:  The U.N. said go in.  Hussein invaded another country, Kuwait, poised to take over the Persian Gulf oil.  He had rocketed Saudi Arabia, rocketed Israel, NATO.  The Arabs and Muslims had troops with us.  Kerry voted no. 

(CROSSTALK)  

SILVER:  Explain to me why he voted no? 

REAGAN:  Do I look like a spokesman for the Kerry campaign?  I am not. 

SILVER:  It met his global test.  We had a coalition. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  I can tell you what he said at the time. 

REAGAN:  Well, you can go ahead. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE:  If you actually go back and look at the speeches, he said, this is not a real coalition.  He didn‘t feel the coalition was real. 

REAGAN:  Yes.  I think what he was saying—I think—and I am not a spokesman.  Unlike you, I am not out campaigning for one of the candidates here.  And I don‘t belong to a political party.

SILVER:  You have done more political campaigning in your life, Ron, than I will ever do. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  No, actually, I haven‘t.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  I don‘t even get a chance to answer the question that‘s asked of me. 

I think that he was dissatisfied with the coalition as it stood at that point. 

KUDLOW:  France.  Germany.

(CROSSTALK) 

KUDLOW:  Arabs. 

SILVER:  Arabs.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  He wanted more military help. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And so that we wouldn‘t be carrying the ball entirely. 

That‘s my impression, by the way.  This was 15 years ago. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And I am not a spokesman for Kerry. 

KUDLOW:  Ron, I understand you are not a spokesman for Kerry.

REAGAN:  Yes.

KUDLOW:  You‘re kind of a secondary spokesman for Kerry. 

REAGAN:  No, I am not at all a spokesman for Kerry, unlike some people who are a spokesman for Bush. 

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  That tells you that Mr. Kerry is not capable of making decisive actions for war. 

REAGAN:  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  He will always find, you know what?  None of these things...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Let me interrupt. 

I am going to do my host prerogative here and interrupt you here to remind people, just a historical point here, that George H.W. Bush initially wasn‘t for the first Gulf War.  It took Margaret Thatcher coming in saying, don‘t be wobbly, George, to turn him around. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  We gave Saddam Hussein permission to invade Kuwait. 

KUDLOW:  No, we didn‘t, never, never. 

REAGAN:  Yes, we did. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Our ambassador...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  ... said, we regard this as an Arab matter.  Hands off.  And George Bush...

KUDLOW:  That is just simply...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Oh, it is absolutely true.

SILVER:  I don‘t mean to make light of this, but can we hear your Margaret Thatcher one more time, because... 

REAGAN:  Don‘t go wobbly on me, George. 

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  And we have got to take a quick back. 

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  But we‘ll be right back with Margaret Thatcher, final thoughts from our panel.

REAGAN:  And we won‘t go wobbly.  We won‘t be going wobbly at all. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  You are looking at a live shot of NBC‘s amazing new election facility, Democracy Plaza, located at Rockefeller Center.  For more information, a great slide show, and a list of events, log on to Democracy.MSNBC.com.

More AFTER HOURS just ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REAGAN:  All right, we are back with just a few seconds left in AFTER

HOURS.And, Mort, any final thoughts what is coming up here the next 13 days? 

(CROSSTALK)

SILVER:  Mort, before your final thoughts, we heard you do a great Harold Macmillan. 

KUDLOW:  Yes.  Well, I do think that I would fear for this nation if the New York Yankees don‘t win the seventh game against the Red Sox in the series.  Other than that, I am totally relaxed about the next 13 days. 

SILVER:  Thank you, Mort. 

REAGAN:  Thank you, Mort. 

Mark, any final observations, witticisms or...

SIMONE:  Final observations.  I am just getting warmed up.  I have got more to say. 

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  You can stay. 

SIMONE:  And Teresa thinks sitting on the head of foundation is a real job? 

(LAUGHTER)

SILVER:  Lawrence, anything about the tax code that you haven‘t talked about?

KUDLOW:  George Bush, George W. Bush is on message.  He has been on message ever since that debate.  He is picking up.  And I think he is going to win. 

SILVER:  Well, I‘ll tell you, he means what he says.  And I am afraid that Kerry‘s base is hoping and praying he doesn‘t mean what he says. 

REAGAN:  All right, a special thanks to our panel for tonight, Larry Kudlow, Mark Simone, Mort Zuckerman.  We appreciate you being here. 

Thanks for watching, everybody.  Good night. 

SILVER:  Good night, Ron. 

REAGAN:  Good night.

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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