updated 10/27/2004 10:33:11 AM ET 2004-10-27T14:33:11

Guest: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Robert Reich, Bob Jensen, Bob Zelnick, Ann Coulter

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  Only one week left until Election Day and the president is ahead in almost—almost—every national poll.  But the big battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida are just too close to call. 

Then, 380 tons of powerful explosives appear to have been looted from a bunker near Baghdad 18 months ago.  John Kerry calls this an example of Bush‘s incompetence as commander in chief.  Questions are being raised about just who planted this story and why it‘s being blazoned in headline on the eve of an election. 

Bush and Kerry are both saying the other guy is fiscally irresponsible.  And voters say the economy is the most important issue.  But who do they believe? 

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 to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Pat Buchanan, sitting in for Joe.

We‘re now down to the final seven days in a long, bitter and a very close campaign.  Between now and November 2, all eyes will be on the polls.  And that‘s where we begin tonight. 

Here to help us sort out the numbers are Joe Scarborough, who is on the phone from his home in Pensacola, and pollster Frank Luntz. 

OK, Frank, let‘s get right to the latest polls, starting with today‘s.  ABC News/”Washington Post” poll just out this afternoon has—that poll has Senator Kerry leading the president now by two points, 50 to 48.  And here‘s the very latest from the CNN/”USA Today”/Gallup poll.  It puts the president out in front by five, 51 to 46.  The Reuters/Zogby poll shows President Bush leading Senator Kerry by three, 49 to 46. 

Meanwhile, “The Los Angeles Times” has the race dead even, tie, at 48 to 48.  But, then if we look at the TIPP poll, Bush has a big edge, six points, 49 to 43. 

Frank, we see the polls moving slightly in one direction one day, another direction the other day and they‘re moving in conflict with each other.  So quickly sort it out for us. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  It doesn‘t matter.  Three words, it doesn‘t matter. 

We‘ve now reached the point where the national polls actually don‘t matter and what really matters is what‘s happening in the state-by-state numbers.  Look, we learned from 2000 that it is president to win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College and I wouldn‘t be surprised if that happens here yet again four years later. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let‘s go do this now.  There are a couple of polls out today, the ARG poll.  What is that, American Research Group.

LUNTZ:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, has Bush down in Ohio, Bush down in Florida, Bush down in Pennsylvania.  Now, what‘s your take on that? 

LUNTZ:  I have looked at some of these state polls, and there are still as many polls that show Bush up in Ohio if you take it over the last 10 days and more polls that show Bush up in Florida. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

LUNTZ:  Either way, you‘ve got some very close races in a number of states.  This campaign is only happening in about 12 states.  And it really isn‘t happening in the other 38. 

And what you need to do is look at the demographics, what they call the internals.  Bush is doing better among women than most Republicans do at this point.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

LUNTZ:  That gives his side a sense of comfort.  But they are very nervous about the fact that, in more polls, the trend is actually moving in Kerry‘s favor overall. 

BUCHANAN:  Joe Scarborough, we were pretty bullish—Joe, we were pretty bullish the other night on the national polls, which seemed to show the president three points ahead, five points ahead, eight points ahead.  We talked about that and I think Frank did as well, that in 92 hours, 96 hours, this would start reflecting itself in the state polls in the battleground states.  It ain‘t happened. 

The national polls are moving back the other way and Kerry is now, at least in some polls, up in Florida and up in Ohio, as well as Pennsylvania and Michigan.  Your take? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  God bless you, Pat.  Here I am sitting on my back and I‘m worried.  I am worried that Pat is not going to be able to keep the people watching and here you are spinning this back the other way, saying—you are a full-blown Washington insider trying to keep this race close. 

Let me tell you something, Pat.  I believe that we‘re going to see voters break.  And I think it‘s mainly going to be women.  It‘s going to be the security moms.  You‘re going to see them breaking George Bush‘s way, like Frank Luntz said, the final three days of this race. 

Look at these polls now.  I mean, the CNN/”USA Today”/Gallup poll in Florida comes out yesterday, George Bush up eight points.  Zogby today, he‘s up four points in Florida.  I think Florida is moving comfortably in George Bush‘s direction. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, but, look, they have got this new ARG poll.  Now, that‘s what I was asking Frank about, American Research Group.  I don‘t know how—you know, this is the first time I‘ve seen it, but suddenly they show—and they go all the way through the 25th of October. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, of course they do.  I don‘t know who‘s paying for it.  I suspect it‘s Terry McAuliffe. 

But you look at this ARG poll, it‘s a full seven points off of Zogby and it‘s a full 11 points off the CNN poll.  Look at Ohio, what‘s going on in Ohio.  John Zogby—again, Zogby has always trended Democratic.  He did in 2000.  He has in 2004.  Zogby by has Bush up by three points in Ohio.  Rasmussen has Bush up by four points in Ohio.

BUCHANAN:  I know that.  I know that.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m seeing nothing but a George Bush trend here. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Well, Frank and I are sitting up here in Washington, and we‘re nervous. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course. 

BUCHANAN:  We‘re less confident than we were.  Down there in the Redneck Riviera, it‘s all over.  I understand that down there at the Naval base. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You two guys are Washington insiders.  That‘s the problem. 

I mean, here I am in middle America—look, seriously, there‘s a trend, again, I believe, with women, security moms.  You look on the internals of these polls, you‘re going to see two things.  You‘re going to see George Bush continues to move forward when the issue comes to the war on terror, first of all.  And, secondly, you‘re seeing women breaking towards George W. Bush.  That will continue and George Bush will win. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  OK, Frank, now, what I do think the president has done brilliant, he‘s not only put Iowa and Wisconsin and New Mexico in play.  He‘s leading in those three blue states. 

The only one red state which he appears to be almost out the margin of error is New Hampshire right now.  So the president is forcing Kerry to go back and defend his base.  And then he‘s coming in to lock up Florida, which he‘s got to have.  But he has got himself in a position, the president has, where he can lose Ohio and win this election, hasn‘t he? 

LUNTZ:  But it‘s not just about states.  It‘s also about issues in those states and what the public is paying attention to. 

And you said earlier that the issue, the most important issue nationally has shifted from national security to the economy.  That‘s also not good news for the president.  And the right direction/wrong track numbers are not good news for the president.  More Americans think that the country is going in the wrong direction. 

The key for the Bush campaign right now is not to get Americans to make a judgment on where we stand today.  It‘s to get Americans to make a judgment about where we will be a year from now.  We are very optimistic about the next year, even if we don‘t feel that comfortable about right now. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Frank, you have got an interesting take on the razor-thin nature of this election.  Take us through your theory of how this thing will be won or lost, beginning with the results of the 2000 election. 

LUNTZ:  Well, it was obviously a very close election.  Bush won with 271 electoral votes, only one more than the absolute minimum. 

If you take the way redistricting operated, Bush gets an extra seven electoral votes. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, he‘s 278 now if he gets the red states.

LUNTZ:  Exactly the same states he won in 2000, if he wins them in 2004, he‘s up to 278.  That‘s an advantage for him.  I think that Ohio may go against the president.  I think that the economic concerns there, the anxiety, the job loss and particularly companies actually leaving...

BUCHANAN:  He can lose Ohio, though, can‘t he? 

LUNTZ:  He can lose Ohio, and that knocks off 20 votes from Bush‘s column. 

BUCHANAN:  So he‘s 258. 

LUNTZ:  And that puts Kerry in the lead. 

So what does Bush then have to do? 

BUCHANAN:  Wisconsin?

LUNTZ:  Wisconsin is the state I think Bush is next most likely to win. 

BUCHANAN:  How many does he get there? 

LUNTZ:  He will get 10 electoral votes there.  And he‘ll also get seven electoral votes in Iowa.  And what makes Wisconsin and Iowa fascinating is that they are states with small cities and small businesses.  This is not corporate America there. 

BUCHANAN:  The president himself mentioned this fact, that take a look at these Upper Midwestern states.  This is a different ball game. 

LUNTZ:  Exactly. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s got that. 

But that means—if he loses New Hampshire, he‘s got to get New Mexico to compensate.  Does he hold Colorado? 

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ:  The answer is yes, but don‘t jump it, because New Hampshire is important.  New Hampshire would be a Bush loss, along with Ohio.  But the combination of Ohio and New Hampshire is still less than Wisconsin and Iowa, plus the seven.  So that means that John Kerry has to take another state out of the Bush column. 

Most people think it would be West Virginia or Colorado.  I actually think it may be Arkansas.  Arkansas is one of the most Democrat of the Southern states.  Bill Clinton is back campaigning.  The race has been closing in Arkansas.  And if Kerry is successful there, then New Mexico comes into play. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me ask you really one that‘s really far out. 

LUNTZ:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  Hawaii. 

Hawaii is a red state in the last two polls I‘ve seen. 

LUNTZ:  Correct.

BUCHANAN:  It is a Bush state as of now.  It‘s a blue state that is leaning toward Bush. 

LUNTZ:  Well, what Hawaiians do, there are two pressures that are going against each other. 

Hawaii tends to vote for the incumbent.  Hawaii almost always votes to reelect the candidate who‘s running.  But Hawaii has a got very strong Democratic operation.  And even though a Republican was elected governor there, it‘s very strong Democratic state and they tend to turn out Democrats on Election Day.  So you have Bush surging in Hawaii, but the organization may be enough to bring it back into Kerry‘s column. 

BUCHANAN:  I‘ve heard the Kerry people are sending ads out into Hawaii. 

LUNTZ:  Both Kerry and Bush.

BUCHANAN:  What do you think of all this?  What do you think of the , our confident friend down in there in Pensacola?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Pat, I‘ve got to tell you, if you had told a Democratic operative six months ago in the final week they would be behind in Wisconsin, they would be behind in Iowa, they would be neck and neck in Minnesota, they would be neck and neck in Hawaii, they would be scared to death. 

It seems to me right now that John Kerry, the entire linchpin of John Kerry‘s campaign plan and all those that are hoping that Kerry wins all comes down to Ohio.  We keep hearing, oh, well, if he takes Ohio out of the Bush column.  Listen, that‘s a lot easier said than done.  I believe, you know, we may be staying up late to find out what happens in Ohio, but I‘m telling you right now, the polls are trending George W. Bush‘s way. 

And, again, the fact that he‘s ahead of Wisconsin, ahead in Iowa, tied in Minnesota, I mean, doing very well in some of these states.

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And let me tell you something.  If a Massachusetts senator, the most liberal senator in the United States Congress, ends up winning Arkansas, my gosh, I mean, I will eat—well, I better not say what I‘ll eat on national TV. 

BUCHANAN:  Why don‘t you let me go to Frank on that point, all right? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I just don‘t see it happening. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A Massachusetts liberal like John Kerry will not win in Arkansas.  He is culturally wrong for that state. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, now, two questions.  One, can Clinton help him in Arkansas?  And, secondly, if the president and Cheney can go in Pennsylvania and take Pennsylvania, it is over, isn‘t it? 

LUNTZ:  If Bush wins in either Ohio or Pennsylvania, it is absolutely over. 

BUCHANAN:  Unless he loses Florida.

LUNTZ:  Unless he loses—but I don‘t believe he‘s going to lose Florida.  The Jewish vote in Florida has moved over to the president. 

I actually think that he could get as much as 40 percent of the Jewish vote in Florida.  And that‘s enough to counterbalance whatever turnout surge Kerry has.  But Bush has to win Ohio or these other states come into play.  And I hope that viewers wrote this down, because it‘s almost like a domino effect. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

LUNTZ:  And it doesn‘t come into play until after midnight on election night.  I don‘t think that we‘re going to have a declaration of a winner until, quite frankly, until 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. the next day. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But you don‘t think Bush can carry Pennsylvania, then?  You just don‘t think so?

LUNTZ:  I don‘t see...

BUCHANAN:  If he does, it‘s over. 

LUNTZ:  If he does, it‘s over.  But I don‘t see any evidence of it.

And, remember, back in 2000, Bush was doing very well in Pennsylvania until Election Day then he lost it by about 5 or 6 percent. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Pat Buchanan.  I‘m going make a prediction.

And, of course, if I‘m wrong, I‘m going blame it on my back medication. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  You can go ahead and make reservations for dinner at 10:00 p.m. on election night, because this election is going to be over. 

I used to say that you could always figure out who was going to be elected president by the guy that you were more comfortable with, who you would want to spend a weekend with at a hunting camp.  The question that I‘ve been asking people on the phone since I‘ve been stuck on my back for over the past week or two has been this.  If your children were alone in a cabin in the middle Arkansas and you needed to select one man to sit on the front porch and protect them with a shotgun in their lap, would it be George W. Bush or would it be John Kerry? 

And I don‘t want the fathers answering that question.  I want the moms answering that question. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I have yet to talk to a female voter that has said John Kerry.  The security mom is going to come forward this final weekend and say, I may not like everything George W. Bush supports, but he‘s going to protect my kids.  He‘s going to protect my family.  I‘m going to vote for him. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Frank Luntz, thanks for joining us, Frank.  It‘s always a pleasure having you back. 

Joe, stay with us, because, coming up next, we‘re going to be talking about those 380 tons of explosives that appear to have been looted from a weapons facility near Baghdad.  Why did this story suddenly explode just a week before Election Day? 

Don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  You‘re looking at NBC‘s new state-of-the-art election facility.  It‘s called Democracy Plaza.  And it‘s got exhibits and events that are open to the public.  Find out more at Democracy.MSNBC.com. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Yesterday, “The New York Times” ran a front-page lead story titled “Huge Cache of Explosives Vanish from Site in Iraq.”

It began—and I quote—“The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons are missing from one of Iraq‘s most sensitive former military installations.”

Meanwhile, CBS News, working with “The Times,” says they had planned to air this story on “60 Minutes” on October 31, the eve of the election.  And yesterday and today, John Kerry was all over the issue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This president failed to guard those stockpiles where nearly 380 tons of highly explosive weapons were kept.  This is one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of this administration.  And the incredible incompetence of this president and this administration has put our troops at risk and put this country at greater risk than we ought to be. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Today, “The New York Times” said pretty much the same thing, declaring in an editorial that their big story was proof of Bush‘s failure in Iraq—quote—“President Bush‘s misbegotten invasion appears to have achieved what Saddam Hussein did not, putting dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists and creating an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq.  Iraqi and American officials cannot explain how some 760,000 pounds of explosives were spirited away from a well-known site just 30 miles from Baghdad.”

But questions have arisen, not only about this story, but about its source and about its timing. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST:  Yesterday, the Democratic Party and “The New York Times” and with CBS‘ “60 Minutes” in close hot pursuit launched an October surprise or an attempted October surprise, a sneak attack on our democracy designed to turn the election, to throw a sitting president out of office, to remove a commander in chief in a time of war with a totally misleading front-page story. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Now, we still have Joe Scarborough with us via phone.  And we are joined by Ann Coulter, author of “How to Talk to a Liberal, If You Must,” Bob Zelnick from ABC News, formally with ABC News, and now chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, and Bob Jensen, journalism professor at the University of Texas.

Joe, do you want to give us your take on this from down there in Pensacola with reading and observing and listening? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I must say, of all the things, of all the journalistic missteps I‘ve seen in this campaign, this is by far the most stunning. 

Here you have “The New York Times” and CBS News forwarding an Iraqi explosive story that‘s nothing more than a fraud.  They made this sound like an October surprise that would prove, like the editorial page said, that George Bush was too incompetent to be commander in chief.  But there‘s one problem.  It‘s a lie and an old lie at that. 

As you know, Pat Buchanan, NBC reporters who were embedded with the 101st Airborne reported on April 10, 2003.  Now, remember, that was the day after we took over Baghdad, that these weapons that “The New York Times” and John Kerry claim to be stolen under George Bush‘s nose were already gone back in 2003.  John Kerry knows that. 

The fact that “The New York Times” knew that and ran the story, not just the first day, but ran it again today, after having knowledge that NBC News reported on April the 10th, 2003, that they went through this weapons site and the weapons in question were already gone.  The fact that they would run the story is despicable and speaks to their character and the character of John Kerry. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, Bob Zelnick, now, there‘s no doubt about it that, look, these weapons had gone missing for 18 months.  There‘s a real question as to whether they were even there when the Americans arrived, as Joe indicated.  And it‘s been known they‘ve been gone for 18 months. 

And to take this story, as it were, based on a leak, and they didn‘t tell us the nature of the leak.  Was it an enemy of Bush?  And to put it on the front page and for CBS‘ “60 Minutes” to drop that two days before the election, is this not the use of the big media as an attack arm of the Kerry campaign? 

BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I have some great questions with “The New York Times” report. 

I do think this story is newsworthy.  I think “The Times” explained it that the reason they got on to it was because the government of Iraq notified the IAEA that the material was missing.  And they then confirmed it with the senior officials in the Iraqi government. 

The point is that I cannot imagine giving this kind of story so much play when, as you correctly say, we don‘t know when the material disappeared.  It might have been taken away before the war started.  It might have been taken away during the advance towards Baghdad, before there was any sense of occupation.  We don‘t know that there‘s any shortage of plastic bombs in the area.  We don‘t know that these materials have been used against Americans or anybody else. 

There are so many gaps in this story.  There‘s so much that we don‘t know.  There‘s so much that makes it less important that meets the eye that I think “The Times” is guilty of egregious over-reporting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ann Coulter?  Ann Coulter? 

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “HOW TO TALK TO A LIBERAL IF YOU MUST”:  Yes, I think this would explain why Democrats are so hysterical. 

Their October surprise was undone by the Internet.  Drudge flashed this up with a siren at 1:00 a.m. that the weapons had been reported to be gone before we even took Baghdad, though I‘m curious about “The New York Times”‘ theory on this.  When they thought the weapons appeared after the Americans took control, “The Times” thought they were very dangerous weapons, a threat to the United States, that al Qaeda could get their hands on them.

But if they disappeared before America invaded, then Saddam was no threat whatsoever. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Ann, you know, this brings up one other very important point.  John Kerry is now attacking George W. Bush for not having these arms under control by April the 10th, 2003, which means John Kerry is actually angry at George W. Bush for not invading Iraq earlier. 

COULTER:  Right.  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Bob Jensen, what are your thoughts on it. 

DR. BOB JENSEN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS:  Well, first of all, Joe is misrepresenting the facts.  The embedded reporter from NBC did not say that there were no weapons.  They weren‘t looking for weapons.  The troops weren‘t looking for weapons.  No one knows what is going on.

I find it interesting.  I‘ve been a critic of “The New York Times” and CBS News ever since the run-up to the war, but for the obvious reasons that they failed to hold the Bush administration accountable when it mattered, when the Bush administration was spinning a series of half-truths and lies and distortions about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  I find it interesting that a newsworthy story, which the CBS News and “New York Times” has been reporting, that‘s important for people to understand going into an election is somehow proof of their conspiracy to defeat Bush, when they were lapdogs to the Bush administration before the war. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me go to Bob Zelnick quickly here. 

Bob Zelnick, look, it seems to me implausible that after the American airborne—or the American troops went through that, checked out part of that facility, those bunkers, went through there, moved on, that somehow after that, 40 trucks would have gone in there, unloaded all these supplies with us having all the aerial surveillance and satellite surveillance and driven off with it. 

The likelihood, it seems to me, is that these were either destroyed or removed before the Americans ever got there. 

ZELNICK:  I think the likelihood, Pat, is that they were removed before the Americans ever got there because the initial report said that the soldiers saw evidence of looting at the site at the time they arrived. 

I think that‘s more likely what happened.  Now, there is a broader issue running across here.  And that is whether enough forces were deployed in Iraq early enough to prevent this kind of thing all over the country.  But to take this one example and this one story, when we don‘t even know that these weapons have been used in any of the attacks against Americans or Iraqis, I think is bad journalism.  And my colleague from Texas doesn‘t recognize it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.

Pat Buchanan, Bob Jensen said I was misrepresenting the story.  I am shocked that a journalism professor doesn‘t watch all the major networks before he comes on, did not see Jim Miklaszewski‘s report, when Mik came on said specifically that on April 10 of last year, that they went through there.  The embedded NBC reporter found absolutely no evidence of these materials.

JENSEN:  They weren‘t looking for weapons, Joe.  Oh, come on.  That reporter has said they weren‘t looking.  That complex has anywhere from 100 to 1,000 buildings. 

And you had soldiers and an embedded recorder going through.  They weren‘t trained to search for weapons and they weren‘t looking for weapons.  And some of the soldiers have said, it was a pit stop, they said.  you‘re making—you know, at least let‘s deal with the facts. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They found absolutely—no, no, no, that‘s not what the report said. 

JENSEN:  Well, I just read the transcript of it.  That‘s what the reporter said. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Joe, I know you need to get some rest.  Thanks for being with us.

We‘ve got to take a quick break, but let me ask the rest of you to stick around. 

We‘ll have much more on this when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  John Kerry is blaming the president for losing 380 tons of powerful explosives near Baghdad.  But does he have all facts?  We‘ll be talking more about that in a minute.

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

(NEWS BREAK)

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

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Pat Buchanan, in for Joe. 

Just to clarify, the NBC News report said that while inspectors didn‘t find the explosives at the Al-Kahuna (sic) compound, Al-Kah—they weren‘t actually looking for them. 

Our panel is still here, Ann Coulter, Bob Zelnick and Bob Jensen.

I want all three of you to listen because the vice president, Mr.  Cheney, has really come back and hit Mr. Kerry hard, and we now have this as very much a political conflict.  Here‘s what Cheney had to say about that weapons story. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  For the last couple of days, Senator Kerry has been saying that American forces did not do enough to protect a weapons facility near Baghdad, with the result of 380 tons of the explosive HMX and RDX disappeared.  But it is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad. 

John Kerry doesn‘t mention that, nor does he mention the 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that our troops have captured and are destroying.  If our troops had not gone into Iraq, as John Kerry apparently thinks they should not have, that is 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that would be in the hands of Saddam Hussein who would still be sitting in his palace, instead of jail. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me go to you, Ann Coulter.

Does this story, the fact that “The Times” says—look, these weapons

·         these munitions went missing 18 months ago, could very probably have gone missing before the Americans ever arrived there.  And Kerry has leapt all over this, and Cheney seems to be indicating that they think Kerry is out on a limb, as is “The New York Times” and maybe CBS News, which was going to explode this underneath Mr. Bush‘s campaign two days before the election.  Do you think this has the potential of a Dan Rather-National Guard story, of blowing up in the face of the Kerry campaign and the big media? 

COULTER:  Maybe not, only because it was disproved so quickly.

And, I mean, the standard of proof here is something I‘ve never heard of before.  The evidence that the weapons were gone before the troops arrived are eyewitnesses, an NBC report the next day, satellite photos.  And the evidence that the weapons were there after we took the country is a series of anonymous sources in “The New York Times” and with CBS News right before a national election. 

Why is the burden of proof when it comes to whether American troops screwed up so incredibly high, but when the question of evidence is whether Saddam Hussein has such weapons, well, you never meet that standard, never, ever, ever, ever. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me—Bob Zelnick, let me ask you, is there a possibility in your judgment of this thing blowing up to a degree under “The New York Times” and the CBS for the reason that first, the stuff has been missing for 18 months; secondly, there is no hard conclusive evidence that the Americans presided over its loss, and, third, Kerry has leapt on it so fast and gotten so far out in front?

ZELNICK:  I think Kerry and “The New York Times” looked less than lustrous in this episode.  I don‘t think it‘s going to blow up in the same sense, though, as the previous CBS report, because I do think, in all candor, that there is a legitimate issue here as to whether enough troops were on the ground in Iraq to prevent the looting, not only of the weapons depots, but of many other things as well. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

ZELNICK:  I think that is a legitimate continuing question.  This particular story was bad.  This particular story was exaggerated.  This particular story got much too much play and much too much political rhetoric.

BUCHANAN:  All right, Bob Jensen, let me ask you. 

Look, whether it is factual or not, the fact that “The New York Times” is unenthusiastic about Mr. Bush and Dan Rather is unenthusiastic and “60 Minutes” is and of course John Kerry is, the fact—and also that there appears to be a U.N. source here, maybe from the individuals in the IAEA, whose chief, Mr. Baradei, is being denied a third term by Mr. Bush, should we have been given more indication by “The Times” not as to who the leaker was, but as to what his motives were and where he was coming from as part of the story?

JENSEN:  If you‘re going to criticize the media for using anonymous sources or leaks, then...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  No, I‘m not.  I‘m saying, look.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me just ask the question again.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  There‘s nothing wrong with anonymous, but say sources hostile to or opposed to the Bush administration have given us this information.

JENSEN:  Well, listen, the international agencies like the IAEA have a much better track record on the questions of weapons like this than the Bush administration.

And one thing is being overlooked here, I might add.  If the Bush administration knew those weapons were gone and they had been under seal from the IAEA, why did they not report it to the IAEA?  There‘s a lot of questions that are not being investigated as well. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead.

JENSEN:  No, but they were under IAEA seal.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

JENSEN:  And the Bush administration knew that.  Now, why would they keep that secret?  Well, there‘s any number of reasons. 

But these are the kinds of things that should be investigated.  And, again, I must repeat, given that the mainstream media, CBS, all the networks, the major newspapers, gave the Bush administration a pass, when Dick Cheney was saying definitively, without question, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was amassing even nuclear weapons, nobody contested that.

The press gave Bush administration a free ride when it mattered most, when it was whipping up support for a propaganda campaign to take this country into an illegal war. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

JENSEN:  Now, that‘s where the critique of the news media should be, at their complicity in war crimes and why is that not the subject. 

BUCHANAN:  But that‘s not what we‘re talking about right now. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  No, but it‘s the fact that you‘re not talking about that it is relevant. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  We‘re talking about the story of the day, which is what we tend to do. 

Ann, last word. 

COULTER:  I like the theory that Saddam Hussein didn‘t have weapons of mass destruction until after we invaded. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Ann Coulter, Bob Zelnick, Bob Jensen, thank you all for being here tonight. 

Coming up, we‘re talking about the most important issue to American voters, the economy.  Who will voters trust with their money? 

That‘s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Pat Buchanan, sitting in for Joe. 

How will the economy impact this election? 

Joining me to discuss that, Robert Reich, secretary of labor under President Clinton.  He‘s also the author of “Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle For America.”  We also have Lawrence Kudlow, host of CNBC‘s “KUDLOW & CRAMER,” who doesn‘t believe liberals will win the battle for America. 

Both gentlemen, thanks for joining us. 

And I want you to take a look at a poll. 

And I‘m going to throw the first question to you, Larry Kudlow, because the poll doesn‘t look good for your man.  According to “USA Today”‘s daily tracking poll, when asked which candidate voters trust on the issues, Kerry leads Bush on who‘s better to handle the economy by an eight-point margin.  But Bush has a decisive lead on Iraq, the war on terror and taxes. 

Larry Kudlow, if we got as good an economy as Larry Kudlow tells us, why does the country prefer by almost 10 points to have John Kerry running it?

LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CO-HOST, “KUDLOW & CRAMER”:  Well, of course, that tax lead is very important, because that‘s the way out for the economy. 

But, you know, it‘s an interesting question.  And I don‘t really think President Bush has put his best foot forward on defending his economic achievements, particularly in light of the continuous rise in gross domestic product, in personal incomes, in business investment, in housing, and so forth.  He really hasn‘t put his best foot forward. 

And although the Kerryites have slammed him repeatedly about non-farm payroll jobs, there‘s another job survey that shows 3.5 million new jobs have been created since the end of the recession.  I would have preferred, if you want to know the truth, that the president be more aggressive because I think the economy is quite strong. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Robert Reich, if the economy is bad—we hear all about Hoover‘s time and no new jobs, first time since Hoover—if it‘s that bad, why isn‘t John Kerry winning? 

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY:  Pat, well, first of all, we know today—the consumer confidence survey came out for October, and consumer confidence again is down, the third month in a row.  Consumers are very concerned, obviously, about the economy. 

Now, George Bush has emphasized not the economy, but he has emphasized Iraq.  He has emphasized terrorism.  And he has used that really basically as his whole entire campaign platform.  If I were running for president on his record, his economic record, I would do exactly the same thing.  I would avoid the economy, because his economic record, most Americans know, is very bad. 

Now, who‘s ahead?  Look, frankly, you‘ve talked about the polls on this show.  I‘ve looked at the polls.  The polls are very, very indeterminate right now.  It‘s very, very difficult to tell who‘s ahead.  My own prediction is that John Kerry is going to win the election next week. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask Lawrence Kudlow.

Lawrence, I mean, you follow the market closer than just about anybody in America.  The Dow yesterday, I believe it was, was at an all-time low for this year.  And the Dow is a good lead indicator.  You see the price of gold going up about 60 percent under Mr. Bush.  The dollar has lost a third of its value to the euro.  You‘ve got a trade deficit of $600 billion a year and a budget deficit of $400 billion a year. 

I mean, as an old deficit hawk, maybe one of the last, that didn‘t use to be good conservative economics. 

KUDLOW:  Well, if you inherit a recession, the deficit is 3.5 percent of GDP, Pat.  It‘s really not a big number at all. 

The dollar has fallen, but it was way too high.  Really, the high dollar was one of the causes of the Clinton recession that Mr. Bush inherited.  So I don‘t fret about any of that stuff.  I wouldn‘t shortchange, by the way, Bush‘s very strong support on tax cuts, because that‘s a wedge issue, Pat.  That‘s a values issue, as well as an economic issue. 

And in terms of the statistics on the polls, here‘s a thought for you.  If you look at Zogby, if you look at Gallup, if you look at TechnoMetrica, TIPP, what you see is, Bush is leading by about 20 percentage points among investors, who, in the last two elections, have voted two out of three.  They‘re the highest participation rate among voters.  About half of American families are investors.  That‘s a very significant number. 

Bush has been gaining on that group because they know Kerry is going to raise taxes and really damage the market.  And, by the way, on the market, the market was up over 100 points today. 

BUCHANAN:  I know.

KUDLOW:  It‘s bouncing around.  You know what people are worried about in the market right now?  They‘re worried that we‘re going to have a litigious election that won‘t be settled for months.  It‘s created a big freeze on the market.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Bob Reich.

REICH:  Pat, if I could just...

BUCHANAN:  All right, I may a pessimist, Bob, and I think I sort of am.  Do you see real problems ahead in this economy, with a current account deficit of 6 percent? 

REICH:  Of course I do.  Not only do you have a huge budget deficit, a current account deficit.  The dollar cannot maintain itself this way.  The only reason the dollar has stayed up is because the Japanese Central Bank, the Chinese Central Bank are pouring a lot of money into the United States, because they want exports. 

But you know as well as I do, Pat—in fact, you have run on this issue—the United States cannot continue to be a huge debtor nation.  We are on borrowed time with regard to this.  And, again, if I could say something with regard to jobs and wages and health care, these are the things that most Americans care about.  Most Americans are not watching the Dow Jones industrial average. 

Now, it is true that over half of Americans have some shares of stock now.  But, basically, they live on the basis of wages and jobs and health care costs, and they are in bad shape. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Why is Kerry not emphasizing that, Bob? 

KUDLOW:  I don‘t think they‘re in bad shape.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH:  If you look at production workers—this is production, nonsupervisory workers—Larry, you know as well as I do, production, nonsupervisory workers over the past year have seen their real wages, that is, wages adjusted for inflation, going down.  If you add in benefits, they‘ve gone down even faster. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, Larry Kudlow.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH:  ... a healthy economy?  This is a lousy economy.

BUCHANAN:  Larry Kudlow.

KUDLOW:  I don‘t agree with those data, with all respect to my friend Bob Reich, who I do respect very much and enjoy our debates down through the years. 

Real median wages are up 3.5 percent over the last 12 months.  Average hourly earnings have moved from less than 1 percent in the middle of last year to almost 4 percent this year. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

KUDLOW:  Things are not—you know, these—personal income, which is the broadest measure, is up 5 percent, for heaven‘s sake.  The inflation rate is very, very low. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  Interest rates are low.  You know what? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Happy days are here again.  OK.

KUDLOW:  You‘re going to get a GDP number Friday that could be 5 percent. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Larry Kudlow, Robert Reich, thanks, both of you, for being here. 

Up next, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is here to tell us what he and Meg Ryan were doing in Florida today. 

Stick around

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Robert Kennedy Jr. is no stranger to campaigning.  But now he is stumping for the environment, today, with Meg Ryan.  He‘s the author of a book, “Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy.”

Bobby, that‘s certainly a subtle subtitle there. 

But, tell me, what has the administration done exactly to harm the environment? 

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL:  Pat, this is the worst environmental president we have had in American history. 

And I have to say this, that I have been disciplined over 20 years as an environmental advocate about being nonpartisan and bipartisan in my approach to this issue.  I don‘t think there‘s any such thing as Republican or Democratic children.  I have supported both Republicans and Democrats who are good on this issue.

But you can‘t talk honestly about the environment today in any context without speaking critically about this president.  If you go to NRDC‘s Web site, you will see over 400 major environmental rollbacks that have been promoted by this administration over the last three and a half years as part of a deliberate, concerted effort to eviscerate 30 years of environmental law. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Bobby, let me ask you this, though.  Look, let‘s take Florida, where you were today.  Florida is a red state.  The Gulf states, environmentally sensitive, they are red states.  The mountain states, environmentally sensitive.

KENNEDY:  Did you say Florida is a red... 

BUCHANAN:  Florida is a red state.  It‘s a red state.  It‘s a Bush state.  And Alaska is an environmentally sensitive state up there.  I have been up in Alaska.  Those people up there who live there, they want to do cutting timber in the Tongass.  They want to open up the ANWR.  The people that live in these states tend to support Bush.  Why, if their environment is threatened by Bush? 

KENNEDY:  Well, first of all, I don‘t think Florida is really a red

state.  I think it‘s disputed, and I think, even last time, that it was won

by 537 votes by Bush.  So I think it‘s a disputed state.

But I will tell you something, Pat.  The people of Florida care about their water and air.  The problem is that they really don‘t know.  They don‘t make the connection between Bush‘s policy and the diminution in quality of life that people in the state are suffering today.  Two weeks ago, the EPA announced that, in 19 states, including Florida...

BUCHANAN:  OK.

KENNEDY:  Including Florida, it is now unsafe to eat any freshwater fish in the state because of mercury. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Robert—Robert, thank you very much.  I am sorry the time was so short.  Thanks for being on the show tonight. 

And thanks to everyone else for watching.  Good night. 

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

END   

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