Guest: Ted Strickland, Ellen Johnson, Jack Burkman, John O‘Neill
PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST: The swift boat vets target the battleground states with a $5 million ad buy, but will the strategy work? We‘ll ask “Unfit For Command” author John O‘Neill.
Then, she‘s a cheeky billionaire who says exactly what she thinks.
But is America ready for Teresa Heinz Kerry? And are her gaffes hurting her husband‘s campaign?
Plus, John Kerry goes on a wild goose chase to macho up his image.
Did it backfire? We‘ll talk to one of his hunting buddies.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
BUCHANAN: Hi. I‘m Pat Buchanan, sitting in for Joe.
The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a 527 organization representing more than 250 swift boat veterans who served in Vietnam with John Kerry, aired their first ad on August 5. Arguably, these ads became the single most effective attack weapon in this year‘s election. The swift vets have just purchased $5 million of additional airtime in Florida and Ohio and will run two anti-Kerry ads.
Here‘s a look at one of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH AD)
NARRATOR: They served their country with courage and distinction. They‘re the men who served with John Kerry in Vietnam. They‘re his entire chain of command, most of the officers in Kerry‘s unit, even the gunner from his own boat, and they‘re the men who spent years in North Vietnamese prison camps, tortured for refusing to confess what John Kerry accused them of, being war criminals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: Joining me now, the author of the best-selling book “Unfit For Command” and a member of Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, John O‘Neill.
This is a very large buy, $5 million, Florida and Ohio. If you add it all up, how much money has your organization raised and does it intend to spend before Election Day November 2?
JOHN O‘NEILL, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: We have gotten, Pat, 110,000 individual contributions. It‘s one of the largest number, we believe, of individual contributions ever received, particularly for a small Web site like ours. The total amount of money we‘ve raised is approaching $22 million. We‘ll spend every single penny before Election Day. We‘ll spend them on ads. Not one of our guys has gotten a dime. Every single penny will go into these ads as well, as a mailing that we have made to 1.2 million veterans in these and other states and telephone calls that our guys are making both personally and through phone banks right now.
We hope to make two million calls to the veterans in those states.
BUCHANAN: All right, which do you think—this is a brand new ad.
Lawrence O‘Donnell, incidentally, is here with me.
This is a brand new ad, and I have not seen it. Which of the past ads that you ran from the first day appear to have been the most effective in changing minds?
O‘NEILL: I think that probably the first and second ads, Pat. The first and second ads were downloaded, although we had very little money and could buy very little time with either of them.
On the first ad, Kerry threatened to sue us, and that produced widespread free media, but the first and second ads were individually downloaded at our Web site, SwiftVets.com, each—one more than three million times, the other one more than two million times. That means people downloaded it and circulated them throughout the Internet.
BUCHANAN: All right, look, a poll that‘s been conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania testifies to the impact, John, of the swift boat ads.
The center asked veterans the question, is Bush a stronger leader than Kerry? Before the Democratic Convention, some 57 percent of veterans said Bush was a stronger leader than Kerry. Immediately after the Democratic Convention, however, Bush‘s number dropped to 43 percent. But after nearly a month of swift boat ads in August, Bush was back up to 56 percent.
Now, clearly, Kerry made gains with veterans at his convention, but it all vanished after the swift boat ads of August. Now, John, what I want to ask you is this. I‘m surprised that we have not seen Max Cleland. We did back I think in August or September. Why has his band of brothers, all but one of whom I believe served on the boat with him, or right beside him, why have they not come forward to attack your ads or to contradict them or to challenge them?
O‘NEILL: The real reason, Pat, is there‘s no way they can contradict in any substantial form the book “Unfit For Command,” and so they‘ve chosen to convert Kerry from a purported brave veteran, a deal that they can‘t sustain, into now being a goose hunter, or sometimes he‘s an altar boy.
The truth is that there are 23 million veterans, and they are a band of brothers. And they understand integrity and loyalty. And they resent very deeply Kerry‘s actions in calling us war criminals. That‘s why the veteran vote is going out to sea on Kerry.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me ask you, Lawrence O‘Donnell, clearly, Kerry has expressed anger about these ads. And he said later, I should have answered them earlier in August, and we didn‘t do it, and it clearly hurt.
But Max Cleland was very public. He went down to Crawford, Texas, to the ranch. Why has Kerry not only ignored the ads, but almost dropped all references? You know, at the convention was the controversy, John Kerry reporting for duty. Why has he dropped all of that now? Are they just trying to sweep that aside or what?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let‘s get back to the truth.
The fact of the matter is that John O‘Neill on MSNBC had to face—debate an argument with Kerry‘s bands of brothers people who served with him in Vietnam and knew him well, and plenty of the people who served on that boat with him have come on MSNBC and other networks and refuted much of what‘s in that book.
And then John O‘Neill‘s own sources, like Larry Thurlow, turned out to be nuts. He turned out to claim in John O‘Neill‘s book—and Pat Buchanan and I have both written nonfiction books, and we write them to a very high standard, not this O‘Neill standard, where he never tells you in his book that Thurlow got a Bronze Star for the same thing that Kerry got a Bronze Star for, the same encounter with the enemy. And that citation says that there was enemy fire.
And the guy, and this Thurlow, who received this Bronze Star, wants us to believe that 35 years had passed and he had never read the words on his own citation. It‘s one of the many lies that the book advances. To me, the most interesting lie, John O‘Neill, that I would submit to you that you should is, you make a lying claim that John Kerry‘s anti-war activity prolonged the amount of time that prisoners of war were held in Vietnam.
You know the truth is what got them out of Vietnam was ending the war. You know the truth is that John Kerry helped end that war sooner through the protests. And I‘d like to ask you, John O‘Neill, when you got back from Vietnam, what did you do to save a single life that you left behind in Vietnam? What did you do to get the American soldiers out of Vietnam?
BUCHANAN: Hold it. OK.
Go ahead, John O‘Neill.
O‘NEILL: I would like to respond.
First of all, Larry, I don‘t think there‘s a thing you said that wasn‘t a lie in everything you just said. To start off with, with respect to John Kerry, John Kerry‘s anti-war activities didn‘t get any POWs home. The Treaty of Paris got the POWs home.
O‘DONNELL: Ending the war, which you didn‘t do a thing to do. You didn‘t have the courage to lift a finger against it.
BUCHANAN: Look, he has got a right to respond. I was in the White House at the time. Nixon had brought half the troops home by the time Kerry made his protest.
Go ahead, John O‘Neill.
O‘NEILL: What actually happened, Kerry wanted to abandon ship and leave the POWs there. We negotiated a treaty that brought them home. That‘s why they‘re all here. If Kerry had helped them out, they wouldn‘t be in that photograph with us. Kerry‘s a guy they‘ll never forget. He wanted to leave them behind.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s a lie, John O‘Neill. Keep lying. It‘s all you do.
BUCHANAN: Hold it, John O‘Neill.
How do you justify the—how do you justify the statement you just made that Kerry wanted to leave the POWs behind?
O‘DONNELL: Lies. He doesn‘t justify anything.
BUCHANAN: Where did he do that?
O‘NEILL: On the Dick Cavett show and elsewhere, John Kerry‘s position was that we should accept the Madame Binh seven-point proposal, which called for unilateral withdrawal, setting a date after which at some future time, we‘d negotiate the return of the POWs.
So we would set a date. We would withdraw and then we would begin to discuss how to bring them home. That would have never worked. Our position was, you had to have a deal where the POWs came home. The POWs know that. This is like trying to claim—that‘s why they‘re all with us, because he would have let them rot in jails.
O‘NEILL: With respect to the rest of what you said, Larry...
O‘DONNELL: What did you do to end the war? What did you do to get them out? What did you do to end the war? You didn‘t lift a finger.
O‘NEILL: Oh, you‘re wrong. You‘re exactly wrong, Larry. First of all, I spent 12 months there. I wasn‘t a fake who spent three months, like John Kerry.
O‘DONNELL: What did you do to end the war, not what you did to fight it?
BUCHANAN: Lawrence, you‘ve asked that. You‘ve asked it six times.
O‘NEILL: Then I debated John Kerry, Larry. I debated him on television. I proved he was lying. And John Kerry went home in 1971.
O‘DONNELL: One sentence about what you did to end it.
O‘DONNELL: What did you do to end the illegal American war in Vietnam? One sentence.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me give you something, my friend.
The illegal war in Vietnam, we were taken into it by John F. Kennedy and by Lyndon Baines Johnson. When Nixon came into office, we had 535,000 people there, and John Kerry was sent there by Lyndon Johnson. If it was illegal, it was your party that did it.
O‘DONNELL: Nixon continued the illegal war for no reason. He won nothing. The peace plan he got he could have gotten on the first day of his presidency.
BUCHANAN: Let me get a specific point here.
And, John O‘Neill, the Thurlow question, now, I‘m familiar with this. This was the incident in the river. Now, Thurlow did get a Bronze Star, and the Bronze Star did say...
O‘DONNELL: Which is not in John O‘Neill‘s book, because it‘s a lie.
BUCHANAN: Hold it. It‘s all there.
Look, but he got a Bronze Star, and it did say he took fire. My understanding is, he got the Bronze Star a couple of months later, that it came to him, and it did say he took fire. Thurlow does now say that after the explosion in the river, they fired into the bank for 45 seconds or something, and when they got no return fire, no fire at all, they stopped, and they rescued that other boat.
Now, how does Thurlow answer the question Larry raises about what‘s on his Bronze Star citation?
O‘NEILL: Well, here‘s what Thurlow says.
Thurlow says that, as everyone has said and as Kerry has admitted, he left the scene. He didn‘t stick around. He left the scene and came back. The question is, when he finally came back, was there fire? There are 11 different people, including all four officers, not just Thurlow, and seven enlisted men who say there was no fire.
But, understand, when Kerry came back and picked up Rassmann, he had stayed in exactly the same place. They all did for an hour and a half. There‘s not a bullet hole in any of the boats. Nobody was wounded. This is a 75-yard-wide canal.
BUCHANAN: Tell me, John, about—did not the citation Thurlow got say that they were taking fire?
O‘NEILL: It said under fire. That‘s true. It was based upon Kerry‘s own after-action report.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s a lie. It‘s another lie. That‘s a lie.
O‘NEILL: Which said there had been 5,000 meters of fire.
O‘DONNELL: Absolutely lie.
O‘DONNELL: You lie in that book endlessly claiming that reports belonged to Kerry that don‘t have his name on it, John O‘Neill.
You lie about documents endlessly. His name is not on the reports.
You‘re just lying about it.
O‘DONNELL: And you lied about Thurlow‘s Bronze Star. You lied about it as long as you could until “The New York Times” found the wording of what was on the citation that you, as a lying writer, refused to put in your pack-of-lies book.
O‘DONNELL: Disgusting, lying book.
BUCHANAN: John, let me ask you this.
O‘NEILL: And you, Larry, are a professional liar.
O‘DONNELL: You have no standards, John O‘Neill, as an author. And you know it. It‘s a pack of lies. You are unfit to publish.
O‘NEILL: There are 254 of us, Larry. It‘s a little hard to call us all liars.
BUCHANAN: All right, John O‘Neill, let me ask you a quick question. How do you know for certain that John Kerry wrote the after-action report that said the boats were under fire?
O‘NEILL: It has been tracked down specifically in...
BUCHANAN: Oh, let him talk.
O‘DONNELL: He just lies. He just spews out lies.
O‘DONNELL: Point to his name on the report, you liar. Point to his name, you liar. These are military records. Point to a name.
O‘NEILL: I will, if you‘ll shut up, Larry. You can‘t just scream everybody down.
O‘DONNELL: There‘s no name. You just spew lies.
O‘NEILL: ... let everybody talk, isn‘t...
BUCHANAN: Look, Lawrence, take it easy. You‘ve made your point.
We‘re going to take a break. We‘re going to give John O‘Neill a chance to answer that when we come back. We‘ll continue this discussion after the break.
BUCHANAN: If you‘re near Rockefeller Center this month, swing by Democracy Plaza, NBC‘s new election headquarters. You can get your picture taken in the Oval Office, send the future president an e-mail, and see a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence. If you‘re not in New York, check it out on the Web at Democracy.MSNBC.com.
BUCHANAN: Welcome back.
We‘re talking with the author of “Unfit For Command,” John O‘Neill, and Lawrence O‘Donnell is with me here in the studio Washington.
BUCHANAN: We have an e-mail, Lawrence, that says: “Why is Mr. O‘Donnell so angry? In fact, why are Democrats so angry? If they don‘t calm themselves down, they‘re going to have a heart attack.”
O‘DONNELL: I just hate the lies of John O‘Neill.
O‘DONNELL: I hate lies.
BUCHANAN: I know. Now, you‘ve argued that these are lies, but let me suggest...
O‘DONNELL: It‘s not an argument. They‘re proven lies. Every single journalistic look at this book has ripped it apart, left it in shreds. O‘Neill is a liar. He‘s been a liar for 35 years about this. And he found other liars to...
BUCHANAN: Why cannot John Kerry‘s band of brothers and Max Cleland come on and take this...
O‘DONNELL: They have come on. They have told you. Every single person who served with John Kerry...
BUCHANAN: I‘ve gone through every single incident.
O‘DONNELL: O‘Neill never served with them, never met them until Vietnam. Everybody who was on that boat with Kerry says all of this stuff is a lie.
BUCHANAN: Why have none of them signed the sworn affidavits that admirals and others have signed?
O‘DONNELL: Those affidavits have no legal meaning. They are fraudulent.
BUCHANAN: They‘re fraudulent? Twenty people got up and lied and signed their name to it?
O‘DONNELL: Because some of those people have signed their names to reports that say John Kerry‘s conduct in Vietnam was exemplary, reports written at the time. You can‘t sign both documents. They are lying somewhere.
O‘NEILL: Can I say one thing?
BUCHANAN: John O‘Neill, go ahead, John.
O‘NEILL: Pat, Mr. O‘Donnell has certainly shown he has a good pair of lungs.
But to try and return a little bit to just basic information, you asked the question, how do we know the report was written by Kerry? The first way we know that is that the other four officers that day, all four of them, say Kerry wrote it.
The second way we know it is the journalist Tom Lipscomb tracked the report to a Coast Guard cutter and proved that the only one on the cutter to write the report was John Kerry. Third, the report is compatible with John Kerry‘s account, which as late as the Democratic Convention.
O‘DONNELL: What are the initials on the report?
BUCHANAN: Let him finish.
O‘NEILL: Mr. O‘Donnell, this is what you all did to the POWs.
O‘DONNELL: Just tell me the initials, you liar.
O‘NEILL: You‘re afraid of the American people getting the truth.
That‘s why you scream and you yell.
O‘DONNELL: Creepy liar.
BUCHANAN: Hey, listen, we don‘t need the personal insults to you.
O‘DONNELL: Does that matter to you? They‘re not his initials? Does that matter to you at all?
O‘NEILL: You‘re totally afraid of the truth. Can I speak or you‘re going to yell...
O‘DONNELL: ... liar who makes things up.
O‘DONNELL: Does it have his name or his initials on it?
BUCHANAN: It doesn‘t have it on there. You know that.
O‘DONNELL: Does it have someone else‘s initials? Yes. Did you bother to find out who wrote it? No, because you want the lie. That‘s how you make your...
BUCHANAN: Lawrence, you‘re going to have to let him talk.
Go ahead, John.
O‘NEILL: I guess, first of all, the American people have seen most clearly the choice they have.
They can have people like Mr. O‘Donnell that scream down the POWs, scream me down, or they can try and go on with the orderly administration of government. The second thing to respond directly, what Mr. Lipscomb was able to prove is that Kerry was the only one on the Coast Guard cutter. The third point was that that report is compatible with Kerry‘s story. It says there were 5,000 meters of fire, like the Battle of Gettysburg, but Kerry was the only one who ever said he left the scene and came back. That is what that report reflects.
So there‘s huge evidence that that was Kerry‘s report. He himself, although he sends surrogates out to scream me down, like Mr. O‘Donnell, Kerry himself has never, ever been willing to address directly any of these issues. He‘s remained totally mum on them, other than generalized statements and having his surrogates say, oh, they‘ve discredited. There‘s not a one that has been discredited, Pat.
BUCHANAN: OK, John O‘Neill, John O‘Neill, I‘ve got to say, we have to got take a break there. Thank you very much for joining us.
O‘NEILL: Thank you, Pat.
BUCHANAN: The days until November 2 are now dwindling down. And the campaign for president is getting, as we have seen, blazing hot.
Here to look at the very latest polls and see what they mean is pollster Frank Luntz. And still with us is mercurial MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Frank, I want you to look at the latest two polls. We did the show last night, as you saw. We talked about all the national polls except the AP poll showing the president basically pulling away into a small but significant lead. Now we have a poll from “TIME” magazine. And that one has the president leading by five, 51 to 46, while Zogby, which has shown the president even before, now has the president ahead two points, 47-45.
But I want to tell you, Frank, I went and looked again tonight at the state-by state polls, and there it is a tossup. The president is strong in Iowa and Wisconsin, which were Kerry states. But one poll has the president down in Ohio. And it is as tight as a tick in Florida.
Do you still believe that the state-by-state polls in, say, 72 hours will begin to reflect the president pulling away?
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Well, I‘m afraid to comment, because, Lawrence, who I like very much and I enjoy his company, is probably going to call me a liar five times.
LUNTZ: I have got to tell you something.
I will be very grateful 10 days from now when this election is over, because all this yelling and screaming and this intensity of hatred from one side to another is out of control. And I have got to tell you, in walking the streets of either swing states like Iowa or Ohio, or New York, L.A., people have just had it with all the yelling and all the—it‘s crap. It‘s too much.
But to focus on what you want to talk about, because...
BUCHANAN: All right, let‘s go about—go to—tell me again, because, last night, we had almost a report that the president was really pulling away. And if you look at the “TIME” magazine poll and look at Zogby, it tends to confirm.
But I looked at those state-by-states.
LUNTZ: I understand.
BUCHANAN: And you see an Ohio poll come in where Kerry is up by four. The president‘s looking good in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa. But Florida is still up for grabs.
LUNTZ: I agree with—look, what is happening is that you have in these swing states a very different campaign than what‘s going on nationwide. If you live in the New York or L.A. media market, you haven‘t seen a single ad for months, if you ever saw any at all.
If you live in Cincinnati or Cleveland or Des Moines or Madison, Wisconsin, every other ad is a political ad. You‘re seeing more politics than you are Pepsi ads or Miller beer ads. It‘s incredible. So you have got a different feel for the campaign. You‘re also seeing the president and the senator and all their surrogates coming in to town. So you are experiencing every single day what‘s going on in politics. And so that has a different opinion.
So, basically, there‘s two elections, Pat. One of them is nationwide, where you see Bush with about an average a 4.5 percent lead, when you average in all the polls.
LUNTZ: And the other are the state-by-states, where it really is dead even.
Now, you mentioned the three states that are most important. Ohio, clearly, Kerry has an opportunity there. The economy has come back a lot over the last three years, but it hasn‘t come back enough to give Ohioans a sense that things are strong.
BUCHANAN: All right, you know, Frank, what you are talking about is the real possibility that the president wins by a popular margin larger than Kerry‘s and could lose the general election.
LUNTZ: Let me walk you through this.
Let‘s say John Kerry does win Ohio, which is a possibility. I will argue that George W. Bush is going to then win Wisconsin and Iowa, which will give Bush a two-vote win. Then John Kerry has to win New Hampshire, which he is up in, which then puts him up by two electoral votes. Then if George Bush wins...
BUCHANAN: But New Mexico.
LUNTZ: Exactly, New Mexico, which Bush is up, which then puts Bush up
BUCHANAN: Which means we‘re back in Florida, aren‘t we, Frank?
LUNTZ: Not just Florida, Pat. We‘re Florida times four. There are five states out there where we could have an absolute dead-even result. It‘s truly incredible. We‘re only 10 days away, and we are so close.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me—let‘s say that today the Bush campaign released a brand new attack ad that has the Kerry campaign crying foul. Let‘s have a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America‘s intelligence operations by $6 billion, cuts so deep they would have weakened America‘s defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m George W. Bush and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: OK, that‘s like the old bear in the woods ad from 1984.
They got the wolves out there now.
Kerry running mate John Edwards, however, in Boynton Beach, Florida, said Bush had stooped so low that he was continuing to try to scare America. I guess that was a statement he made. But let me say this.
I don‘t find any problem with that ad. Do you?
O‘DONNELL: Well, it‘s misleading in that Porter Goss, the choice that Bush made out of the Republican side of the House to be the new CIA director, has also advocated cuts in the intelligence budget over the years.
The audacity of it is quite amazing, when you consider that there is only this one administration, the Bush administration, which was asleep at the switch when al Qaeda did attack the United States. Now, it‘s easy to forgive that and say, look, none of us could have imagined it. But if you then try to accuse someone else of, in the future, being guilty of what you‘ve already been guilty of, that‘s a little awkward.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me—Frank and Larry, let‘s take a look at this MoveOn.org ad that shows the president addressing the crowd at the correspondents dinner. This is one of the roughest ones I‘ve seen. And it is very powerful, I think. And let‘s take a look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.
BUSH: Nope, no weapons over there.
BROOKE CAMPBELL, SISTER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: My brother died in Baghdad on April 29. I watched President Bush make a joke looking around for weapons of mass destruction. My brother died looking for weapons of mass destruction.
NARRATOR: Over 1,000 troops like Ryan have died in Iraq. Yet there
never were any weapons. George Bush, he just doesn‘t get it
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: All right, Frank Luntz, when I saw the president do it—I wasn‘t there—I saw it on television—I said, why is he joking about this? I don‘t find this very funny. And now the MoveOn.org is using that and using this lady. That is very powerful, is it not?
LUNTZ: It is very powerful.
We are 10 days out and both campaigns are using everything at their disposal, every possible emotional weapon, to bring out a greater degree of anger, of bitterness, of divisiveness.
Pat, the one thing that we‘re not going to talk about over the next 10 days, because we‘re focused on the polls, is what kind of America is going to be left the Wednesday after the election and the Thursday? How are we going to bridge this gap? Neither candidate gets more than 51 percent of the vote. What about the other 49 percent? There will be so much hatred by half of America towards the person who won, how are you going to govern? How are you going to bring these people together?
BUCHANAN: You know, Frank, I think you make a very, very valid point.
O‘DONNELL: Well, that‘s what people thought after the last election.
But you saw...
BUCHANAN: Well, the last election was—it was a tough recount, but it wasn‘t this bitter of an electorate.
O‘DONNELL: It was 50/50. It was pretty angry. But you saw, two years later, the president had a 90 percent approval rating because events changed in the world. And he responded in a way that the country was very proud of, right through the Afghanistan war.
BUCHANAN: OK, Frank Luntz, thanks very much for joining us.
Lawrence, stick around, because, coming up, we‘re going to talk about Teresa Heinz Kerry‘s most recent gaffe, insulting the first lady and teachers and stay-at-home moms. Is she hurting her husband with the women‘s vote? We‘ll debate that next.
BUCHANAN: John Kerry‘s wife, Teresa, speaks her mind. But could she be hurting him with the women‘s vote? We‘ll talk about that next.
But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
BUCHANAN: Welcome back. I‘m Pat Buchanan, in for Joe Scarborough.
The recent controversial comments by Teresa Heinz Kerry have thrust the issue of first ladies back into the spotlight. Do Americans really care who sits across the table from the president?
Here to talk about it are Jack Burkman, Republican strategist, and Lawrence O‘Donnell, MSNBC‘s senior political analyst, until later tonight.
O‘DONNELL: That title always cracks you up, Pat.
BUCHANAN: OK, Jack, I want to ask you.
JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes.
BUCHANAN: Look, does it—look, it is very—Ms. Teresa Heinz Kerry is a very lively lady. She says a lot of things, frankly. And we conservatives used to complain about political correctness. You can‘t say anything. You go slightly off the reservation, we have got to apologize. And here‘s a woman who is, quite frankly, I use the word refreshing. Isn‘t it just refreshing what she‘s saying?
BURKMAN: No. She‘s crossed the line.
I‘m all in favor of free speech, vibrant talk. I think that‘s appropriate for a first lady or a president. But when you do what she did, what she‘s doing is telegraphing a message to young women that somehow it‘s bad to have a family, somehow, that a woman who spends her life raising two children, having a home, being a mother, that that‘s a bad thing to be.
Look, Pat, this is part and parcel of a broader Democratic attack. It‘s something brand new on the children of people on the ticket. First, it was Liz Cheney coming from Elizabeth Edwards and from John Kerry himself. Now it‘s this. This is something unprecedented. The family had been—we had never got into attacks on the family.
BUCHANAN: All right, let‘s go. Let‘s go. If we‘re talking about the attacks on the family, you‘re talking about the reference to the first lady, Laura Bush. And I think we‘ve got that on tape here, where Mrs. Kerry speaks up about that, speaks her mind. I hope we do up on tape, if we can call it up. No, we don‘t have it just yet.
BURKMAN: It says something about family values.
O‘DONNELL: So let‘s get to what she said. What she said, though, was that she didn‘t—she said, I don‘t think Laura Bush has ever had a real job. She was saying...
BUCHANAN: All right, I think—do we have it up there now? No, they don‘t have it yet.
O‘DONNELL: And then it was pointed out later that, yes, Laura Bush was a librarian and a schoolteacher. Then Mrs. Kerry issued a very polite apology.
BURKMAN: But it‘s too late, and it‘s not OK.
BUCHANAN: The apology seemed to be fulsome and gracious.
BURKMAN: I don‘t agree, Pat. The apology is not the issue. It‘s too late. It should never have been said.
What in the world has Teresa Heinz ever done? She married two senators. She‘s been chasing money her whole life. They say she‘s a philanthropist because she inherited $1 billion from the Heinz family. That‘s the only reason in the world she‘s a philanthropist.
BUCHANAN: All right, let‘s let the audience judge here. Now, Mrs. Kerry is clearly a woman who speaks her mind. Here is the comment we‘ve been talking about she made about the first lady. It was back on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN KERRY: She seems to be calm, and she seems to be—she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good.
But I don‘t know that she‘s ever had a real job, since she‘s been grown up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things. And I‘m older. And my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little bit bigger, because I‘m older and I have had different experiences. And it‘s not a criticism of her. It‘s just, you know, what life is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: OK. Not long after those remarks hit the fan, Mrs. Kerry did apologize. Then the first lady took the high road with her remarks.
Let‘s listen to Laura Bush, the first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: It doesn‘t hurt me. I mean, it didn‘t hurt my feelings. It was perfectly all right. And she apologized, but she didn‘t even really need to apologize. I know how tough it is. And actually, I, know those trick questions, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: Now, Jack, if the first lady says, look, she didn‘t have to apologize, and she did, and I understand she‘s—these things happen during campaigns, why is Jack Burkman on...
BURKMAN: Well, Laura Bush, thankfully, is much more gracious than I.
And I think she‘s doing what she has to do.
BUCHANAN: That‘s why you‘re on here, Jack.
BURKMAN: It‘s politically stupid.
Of the eight people running, basically, she is the most popular person on the ticket. It‘s political suicide to be attacking Laura Bush. Attack George Bush. Attack Dick Cheney. Frankly, attack Lynne Cheney. But to attack Laura Bush, it is politically moronic. It will hurt him with women. Kerry‘s already slipping with women.
BUCHANAN: Well, you have got a valid point. That‘s the very fact that Mrs. Kerry moved so rapidly, realizing that it was a mistake and moved so rapidly to apologize. Agree.
And, secondly, would it not have been wise for Kerry himself, when the controversy came up over the Cheney daughter—we were talking about it for six, seven days—if Kerry himself had just moved, look, if anyone‘s taken offense, I apologize; let‘s move on?
I now think the way that whole Cheney daughter thing played out, that that would have been the right line, that—suggesting surprise at the offense, but if you‘ve taken the offense, I‘m sorry.
BURKMAN: Do you think it‘s OK that they attacked Cheney‘s daughter?
O‘DONNELL: They didn‘t attack the daughter.
BURKMAN: Well, do you think what they said is OK?
BURKMAN: Is it?
O‘DONNELL: She‘s a lesbian and she has lesbian sex.
BURKMAN: But is appropriate to call attention, for a presidential candidate...
O‘DONNELL: The reason I know that is that her father told me.
O‘DONNELL: Her father and mother told me she‘s a lesbian and has lesbian sex.
BURKMAN: That‘s not the issue.
BURKMAN: That‘s not the issue.
My question is, do you think it‘s appropriate for a person seeking the highest office in the world to raise that in a presidential debate?
O‘DONNELL: Because I believe there is nothing negative about lesbianism, and I‘m very much in favor of as much lesbianism as lesbians want to create in the world, and as many of lesbian Cheney family members as they want to have is all fine by me, I see nothing negative.
BURKMAN: I‘ll tell you, Pat. Even Bill Clinton and Al Gore—Al Gore, who in the 2000 campaign use every dirty and scurrilous tactic known to man, they did not...
O‘DONNELL: Dirty, scurrilous lesbians. Dirty, scurrilous lesbians.
BURKMAN: It‘s nothing to do with that. He did not attack the children of the candidates. Even Bill Clinton and Al Gore did not do that.
BUCHANAN: Let‘s take a look at something else.
O‘DONNELL: What‘s the attack in the word lesbian?
BUCHANAN: All right, now, let‘s take a look at now—we‘ve got another—and I hope we have this Teresa Heinz—OK, now, some say, Teresa Heinz Kerry, while she is refreshingly honest and forthright, would serve her husband better if she avoided confrontations like this.
Lawrence, you especially, take a look, all right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEINZ: I didn‘t say that. I didn‘t say that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m just asking you what...
HEINZ: Why did you put those words in my mouth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said something about un-American.
HEINZ: No, I did not say that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Activist.
HEINZ: I did not say activity or un-American. You said something I didn‘t say. Now shove it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Ah, my kind of woman.
BUCHANAN: All right, I mean, do you think that—look, again, we don‘t want to get too politically correct. And I just laughed at that.
But coming out of the Democratic Convention—I‘ll ask you, Jack—the phrase, they said what was the most memorable line? Help is on the way? And no. By 5-1, they said shove it.
BURKMAN: It‘s completely different, Pat.
I am all in favor of vibrant speech and hate political correctness. And if she wants to say shove it, I have no problem with that. But there is a big difference between that and suggesting that a woman who has spent her life raising two daughters and a family, somehow, that that is not worthwhile.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s exactly what she did not say.
BURKMAN: That‘s exactly what she did say. She said she never had a job.
O‘DONNELL: No, no, no. She said she got her validation—when she thought that she hadn‘t had a real job, she said she got her validation from other things that are honorable and important, like parenthood and family life. That‘s what she actually said. Now, you can pretend she said something else, but she didn‘t. And no one‘s voting for the first ladies.
BUCHANAN: No, I think some people are affected by this.
I don‘t know that they‘re voting for it, but they do vote for the family, I think. And they do look at first ladies, kids and things like that.
BUCHANAN: Excuse me.
Back in 1992, when we said, you got Clinton and Clinton, they were saying she‘ll have no role in the White House, have no role in the White House. They knew very well it was...
BURKMAN: What I can tell you is, John Kerry is a very bright guy. And when he heard what Elizabeth Edwards said and what he heard what his wife said, he did nothing but cringe, because he‘s already doing poorly with female voters.
O‘DONNELL: He‘s winning with women. He‘s 10 points ahead with women.
BURKMAN: If Kerry were doing as well with female voters as Gore did, he would probably be five points ahead.
BUCHANAN: Jack Burkman, thanks both for joining us.
BURKMAN: Thank you, Pat.
Stay with us, Lawrence.
Coming up, 72 percent of Americans say they want someone with strong religious beliefs in the White House. So why is President Bush being attacked for saying he listens to a higher father?
We‘ll talk about that next.
BUCHANAN: In the past few weeks, Senator John Kerry has sharpened his religious message and President Bush has continued to assert and to defend his faith.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe everybody in the Middle East desires to live in freedom. I believe women in the Middle East want to live in a free society. I believe mothers and fathers want to raise their children in a free and peaceful world. I believe all these things, because freedom is not America‘s gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God‘s gift to each man and woman in this world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: Joining me now is Ellen Johnson. She‘s the executive director of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee.
I guess that‘s the actual name of it, is it not, Ellen Johnson?
ELLEN JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GODLESS AMERICANS POLITICAL ACTION
COMMITTEE: That‘s it. You got it right. We are GAMPAC.org.
Thank you for having me on.
BUCHANAN: Well, thank you for coming on.
Do you have a problem with the president‘s public expression of his faith, and increasingly John Kerry‘s expression of his faith?
JOHNSON: Well, I would prefer if our politicians didn‘t recognize Americans by their religion. I feel marginalized by that.
However, I am realistic and it is a political season. And those 72 percent—they are responding to the 72 percent who say they want more religion in government, or whatever the statistics said. The religious fundamentalists and Christians in America are very well organized. They‘re well funded, well organized. And so they have a winning strategy and they‘re getting listened to.
What this speaks to is the fact that nonreligious people like myself, atheists like myself and other godless Americans, have not yet organized into a voting bloc to be listened to. So what we‘re seeing is political expediency, politics.
BUCHANAN: Well, Ellen, let me ask you this. Atheists are—quite frankly, I think, their views and values, it seems to me, are respected. None is required to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. None is required to pray in school. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court, in response to an atheist, Madeline Murray O‘Hare, eliminated all prayer and all Bible reading and all the Ten Commandments and all Christian symbols and...
JOHNSON: Wouldn‘t it be great if that was the case? That‘s actually not the case.
All across the country in the public schools today, our children are being led in prayers. Bible study classes, Bible reading is taking place. Go to Mississippi, in Pontotoc, Mississippi.
BUCHANAN: All right. But it‘s voluntary.
JOHNSON: Well, there‘s no such thing as voluntary when it comes to our elementary school students. And that‘s the problem with the Pledge of Allegiance.
BUCHANAN: Well, why should you, a minority, be enforcing your values on a country you yourself agree is three-fourths Christian?
JOHNSON: I‘m enforcing and trying to enforce the Constitution of the United States of America, which protects the rights of the minority, as well as the majority.
BUCHANAN: But, Ellen, for about 100 and -- 200 years, almost, that Constitution coexisted with school prayer.
JOHNSON: Well, you know, just because something was historical—and who‘s to say it coexisted? You could not object. At the founding of our nation, impiety was punishable by imprisonment. People were thrown in jail for not attending church. You could be put to death for not being religious.
BUCHANAN: Other than the witches, I don‘t know who was put to death for their religious views.
JOHNSON: But I am representing the GAMPAC, the Godless Americans Political Action Committee. And the point is, we want to change this. We want to have the godless Americans start thinking as a voting bloc, start becoming single-issues voters. Go to GAMPAC.org.
JOHNSON: Go see it. We endorse Senator Kennedy, so that we will be listened to in the next election.
BUCHANAN: OK. I think it was Senator Kerry she had in mind, not Senator Kennedy.
JOHNSON: Kerry. Thank you.
BUCHANAN: But the president makes that mistake as well, Ellen.
Thanks very much for joining us.
The windsurfing John Kerry turns to shooting Canadian geese to woo votes. Will it work or will it backfire? We‘ll talk to the man who carried Kerry‘s goose back home yesterday when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
BUCHANAN: Yesterday morning, Senator Kerry went goose hunting in Ohio, donning a fashionable new camouflage jacket and cap. He set out with his shotgun and he came back with a dead goose.
Joining me now to talk about this is Congressman Ted Strickland, who got to carry the Kerry bird.
BUCHANAN: Congressman Strickland, now, tell me that—what was—did Kerry feel he would like to relax and take some time off and go out and kill a couple of Canadian geese? What was the origin of this mission?
REP. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Well, I‘d been trying to get the senator to come to my district in Ohio for several months, because I have a good record with those who support gun rights.
And I wanted Senator Kerry to be here to show the folks that he is a sportsman and a hunter and he‘s someone who will respect and protect the Second Amendment. And we had a good time. It was a lot of fun. He‘s a great shot. And I think the public has seen Senator Kerry as the man he is, a man who will really respect hunters and sportsmen and will protect the Second Amendment.
BUCHANAN: All right.
How high up in the air was that huge goose when Kerry hit him? And how close—was this fired at point-blank range or what?
STRICKLAND: Well, I don‘t know how far. It was probably 40 feet away or so. But he is a good shot.
BUCHANAN: OK, Lawrence, you had a question for the congressman.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Strickland, how do you think the new voter registration is going to effect the outcome in Ohio for your candidate?
STRICKLAND: Listen, I feel so hopeful about Ohio going for Kerry.
I‘ve known this state. I‘ve lived here all my life. There is an energy here that is absolutely outstanding. People are wanting to go to the polls. They want to vote for this man. It‘s a close contest, obviously. But I think Ohio will go for Kennedy—Kerry. And I think, quite frankly, that if Ohio goes for Kerry, Kerry will be the next president. And we‘re looking forward to November 2 here in Ohio.
BUCHANAN: Congressman, there is one poll, I think, that shows Senator Kerry up by four, which is—and it‘s a very recent poll in Ohio, but most of the polls show the president still up in Ohio. What‘s your take of what it looks like right now?
STRICKLAND: Well, I represent a very socially conservative part of Ohio. But I can tell you...
BUCHANAN: I know. I‘ve been in that district, as you know. I was campaigning for your opponent.
BUCHANAN: You beat him.
STRICKLAND: I hope you come back. I hope you come back.
I represent people who are the salt of the earth. They‘re common folk who have a lot of common sense. And I see a real movement toward Kerry in my district. I think that‘s happening throughout the rest of Ohio. And I think it‘s George Bush‘s goose that‘s going to get cooked on November the 2nd, as a matter of fact.
BUCHANAN: OK, Congressman, a lot of my cousins are in your district.
Thanks very much for joining us.
Lawrence, thanks for being here.
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