updated 10/28/2004 11:09:00 AM ET 2004-10-28T15:09:00

Guest: Tucker Eskew, Bob Kohn, Paul Levinson

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  With the election a less than a week away, it seems like we are being inundated with poll numbers.  Never fear.  We have got the experts to make sense of them all. 

Then, a new study reveals the mainstream media favor—guess who? --

John Kerry.  Could media bias decide next week‘s election? 

Plus, tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown.  Bill Clinton stumping for John Kerry to help improve his share of the African-American vote at least up to Al Gore‘s level.  But will it work?  Both campaigns weigh in. 

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

BUCHANAN:  I‘m Pat Buchanan, sitting in for Joe.

Once again tonight, we start with the polls. 

Joe Scarborough is joining us on the phone again to help analyze the numbers.  Also with us, Howard Fineman of “Newsweek.” 

Gentlemen, let‘s go right to the latest numbers, beginning with the ABC/”The Washington Post” poll just out this evening.  And it has Kerry still leading by one point, 49-48.  Turning to CNN/”USA Today”/Gallup poll, Bush leads by 51 to 46 percent, five points up.  The TIPP poll has it at 48 Bush to 44 for Kerry.  But that closes the gap of eight points that the president enjoyed just 24 hours ago.  And, finally, Reuters/Zogby has Bush leading by just one point, 48-47 percent.

Now, Howard, that‘s a lot of information for you to digest.  What do you make of it? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I make a tie out of it, is what I make, basically, at least in terms of the national popular vote.  These numbers have been swinging or creeping point by point up and down.  I think overall in the last week or so, there‘s been a moderate trend towards John Kerry. 

And I think in some polls, it still continues.  But, basically, in terms of the national popular vote, it looks like a tie. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, it looks to me like it was creeping a bit toward Kerry.  The president had a pretty strong lead, I think, about four or five, as of last Friday or so.  But it looks like it was creeping towards Kerry, but the movement to have been arrested. 

But, anyhow, what do you think, Joe? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  I agree with Howard.

You look at the national stage, it looks like it‘s a very close race.  Obviously, it has been creeping towards John Kerry over the past couple days, especially if you look at the ABC/”Washington Post” tracking poll.  But, you know, obviously, “TIME,” “Newsweek,” the CNN/Gallup, they have all had Bush ahead for a while.  He‘s been up two, three, four, five points. 

I think most people that have been following this race closely all say the same thing right now.  They say that George Bush is probably ahead one or two points and it probably doesn‘t make a difference at all, because, again, this year, we may actually have George Bush winning the popular vote and quite possibly losing the electoral vote, or, again, we could have the same thing we had in 2000, where the Democrats win the national vote and lose the Electoral College. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask you, Howard Fineman, the hot story of the last three days, ever since “The New York Times” burst with that headline on Monday about the 380 tons of explosives that—quote—“went missing” 18 months ago, this has been the hot story.  Kerry has been on the offensive, certainly for the first 48 hours. 

But the president is starting to hit back today.  The vice president did yesterday and again today.  But so, too, did the president.  Is this issue beginning to bite and to hurt?  And do you know if the strategy of the White House was to try to ignore it or they just let it go too long? 

FINEMAN:  Yes, I know that the White House strategy was to ignore it.  That was obvious on its face, but also from talking to people there I know, they thought it was just another kind of one of the charges a day or charge every news cycle from John Kerry. 

But what began to worry them, I think, is Kerry‘s effort to make it emblematic of George Bush‘s approach to Iraq, the notion that he had too few troops sent in there, that he didn‘t have a plan to win the peace, that he didn‘t have a plan to secure things there and that they had to fight back and that the White House saw its opportunity as the story shifted somewhat and became rather uncertain as to exactly when those explosives disappeared.

And they saw a chance to challenge Kerry on factual grounds and counterattack on the notion that, if John Kerry had been in charge, not only would those explosives be unaccounted for, but so would thousands of other tons that Saddam Hussein still would have had under his control.  That‘s a fairly reasonable counterattack by the president. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me—I think it is, but it is debated a bit, is it not, Joe? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  And let me ask you, Joe, do you think that the issue of the media stepping in to it—we are going to talk about that later—CBS waiting to drop this bomb on the president two days before the election.  It went off on Monday, of course. 

And, secondly, the president now in effect charging Mr. Kerry with something like demagoguery for not knowing the facts and making a lot of accusations.  Do you think it is going to work or do you think Kerry still has the offensive on the issue? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I really don‘t think—at this point, I just don‘t think it is that big of an issue anymore. 

John Kerry was hoping the issue was going to explode, that this is what people would be talking about the last four or five days.  I think what you saw is the White House coming out today and using it as one more example of how John Kerry exaggerates, how John Kerry says that he‘s at game six of the 1986 World Series, seeing Bill Buckner bobble a ball, when he‘s actually somewhere else, where he says he talked to all of the members of the international Security Council at the U.N., when actually he doesn‘t do that, when John Kerry comes out and makes outrageous claims about these weapons and when in fact he doesn‘t have his facts lined up. 

So I think the White House has been fairly effective in turning it around.  I think this issue is a wash at best right now.  And, again, when you look at what really matters in this race, it is the state polls.  It‘s what‘s happening in Pennsylvania, in Michigan and in these individual states. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me pick up on that, Joe.  And let‘s go to some of those state polls. 

And, listen, folks and watch, because the picture changes constantly.  There‘s a number of polls in different states.  We are taking the best ones we think we have got.  Let‘s move to the battleground states. 

This beginning with Florida.  According to Zogby, it is the president leading by four points, 49-45.  The CNN/”USA Today”/Gallup group has Bush up by a full eight points in the Sunshine states, 51-43.  Strong, good lead to strong in Florida.  In Ohio, the Rasmussen poll gives the president a four-point edge, 50-46.  Moving over to Pennsylvania, Kerry enjoys a four-point lead, 49-45.  In Wisconsin, it‘s Bush in one poll by six points, 50-44.  Meanwhile, still in Wisconsin, the Zogby poll has Kerry leading by two points, 48-66.

And now on to Iowa.  Kerry was out there today.  But Bush is up by four points, 50-45.  That‘s another state, like Wisconsin, carried by Al Gore.  Here‘s another one carried by Gore.  In Minnesota, Rasmussen reports that the president is in front of Senator Kerry by two points, 48-46.  Moving on to Michigan, a very critical state, now, here is a poll that is out of the ordinary in Michigan, but it is fairly respected.  “The Detroit News” has Kerry up by just one point.

In other words, Michigan, which has been pretty much a four- or five-point state for Kerry, now appears to be in the toss-up category again.  Out to the Wild West or Southwest, where, in New Mexico, Mr. Bush maintains a five-point advantage over Kerry.  Kerry is at 43.  The president is at 48.  Now, again, this is a Gore state.

Moving into Colorado, it‘s Bush by a very large six points, 51-45.  He leads in almost poll in Colorado, except for one.  Now we shift back to New England and the site of the first primary every four years, my beloved state, the great Granite State of New Hampshire, where Kerry is up by two, 49-47.

Taking a look out at Arizona, it is a 11-point margin for Mr. Bush at 54-43, although I don‘t think anyone thinks that Kerry has a chance now in Colorado.  We have dropped Nevada from the list, folks, because Mr. Bush leads in every poll there and from everything we can see, Kerry is not actively contesting it right now. 

Now, here‘s a very interesting development.  The great state of New Jersey, which has generally been conceded to Kerry, a new Quinnipiac poll just out today, has this traditionally Democratic state in a dead heat at 46 apiece.  And, finally, to the state where we all wish we could be voting, Hawaii.  “The Honolulu Advertiser” gives Bush a one-point edge, 43-42.

Howard, now that you have analyzed all of this and run it through your computer, let me tell what you what I think it says to me pretty simply is that Kerry seems to have more brushfires he‘s got to put out in blue states and places he‘s got to visit to nail the state down than Bush does in peril.  New Hampshire is in trouble for Bush and, of course, Ohio, Florida, the big states.  But it looks like everywhere else, Kerry is running into blue state trouble, where he‘s one point behind or tied or barely ahead.  Your thoughts. 

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

Well, I know Joe and I were thinking of spending at least a week in Hawaii investigating the situation out there. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  Because that could be crucial.  We will be flying out there momentarily. 

But, in the meantime, yes, you‘re right.  Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico that you mentioned, let alone New Jersey and even Pennsylvania, where it‘s still a battle, these are all blue states.  They‘re all Al Gore states.  They‘re all states where George Bush has a shot. 

If you look at the other side of the ledger, John Kerry has a chance for a take-away, so to speak, in New Hampshire.  He‘s got a good chance there, and in Ohio, and, of course, Florida‘s a jump ball, was a jump ball, looks like it‘s settling into the Bush camp. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  So, yes, George Bush is on the Electoral College offense here.  And John Kerry is playing defense pretty much all the way across the board. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Joe, go ahead.  But, Joe, it looks like the president does have, as you were saying last night, he looks very strong in Florida.  But it does seem in other polls that have been coming in touch and go in Ohio and the president‘s got that insurance policy in the Upper Midwest. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Pat, there‘s another poll that just came out, an “L.A. Times” poll that came out, that also went into Florida, has George W. Bush eight points ahead in Florida. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, that is the second poll—second respected poll that now has the president up eight points ahead of John Kerry.  That‘s devastating for the Kerry camp if they are hoping to reach into a red state that really matters. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, but what does that poll, “L.A. Times” poll say about Ohio? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, “The L.A. Times” poll says about Ohio that, actually, there‘s I believe it‘s like a five-, six-point lead for John Kerry.  So what does that mean? 

If you‘re John Kerry, you have got to start focusing on Ohio.  Listen, the bottom line is this.  Look where these guys were campaigning today.  George Bush was in a blue state, Pennsylvania.  He was also in Michigan. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You look and see where he‘s going to be.  They are saying, we are going to be in Iowa, we are going to be in Wisconsin, we are going to be in Minnesota and we are going to win those blue states. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  You know, Joe, more importantly, Kerry was in Iowa and Minnesota today trying to nail down what should have been nailed down. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and that was going to be my next point. 

John Kerry started his day in Sioux City, Iowa.  Then he had to fly to Rochester, Minnesota.  Then he had to fly back to the other side of the state of Iowa in Cedar Rapids to try to nail down states that Al Gore won four years ago.  At the same time, you have George W. Bush in Pennsylvania, in Michigan.  And you have daily tracking polls that seem to be slipping badly against Kerry in Florida. 

And, again, you look at the fact that this guy a point down in Hawaii

·         I‘m talking about John Kerry.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tied to New Jersey and only leading George Bush in the state of Michigan by one point based on this “Detroit News” poll, right now, you would have to say that it is John Kerry on the defensive and what he‘s got to do to win, what John Kerry must do is nail down Ohio.  And he has got to go in and claim Wisconsin and Minnesota and Iowa as his own, and right now, I don‘t think he can do it.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  OK.  We need to take a quick break. 

But I want you both to stick around, because up next, we will ask the question, will John Kerry‘s latest explosives charge against the president stick or blow up in his face? 

And, as we go to break, take a look at Democracy Plaza.  It‘s open to the public in New York City and it‘s where we‘ll be bringing you the latest news from the campaign trail right through the election.  Find out more at Democracy.MSNBC.com. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  If you‘re having trouble voting on Election Day or before, you can get help by dialing the NBC News voter alert line.  The number is 1-866-MYVOTE-1.

Stay tuned for more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

We resume our discussion with Joe Scarborough on the phone from Pensacola, Florida, and Howard Fineman of “Newsweek.” 

All right, Howard, tell us what each candidate has got to do in the critical battleground states to swing the election his way in the last six days. 

FINEMAN:  I think John Kerry, having watched him out in Ohio last week and watched him in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia earlier this week, still has to somehow make himself more connected to the voters he‘s trying to catch, not just the ones already in his camp, but reach across to undecided voters, make some kind of personal connection with them that he still hasn‘t done. 

I don‘t know how the guy can do it.  Maybe it‘s too late for him to succeed.  But I think he‘s got to try.  And I‘m not entirely sure that harping on the explosives issue, even if all the facts were on his side, are necessarily the way to go.  He‘s decided that he is going to fight this commander in chief thing down to the end.  But I‘m not sure that‘s the right ground for him to be on in the last days. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Howard, let‘s take a look at the map up there and look at what the man has got to do, all right, the map we just showed.  We will show it again. 

And I‘m looking at it right now.  He‘s got—the three Pacific Coast states are in the bag.  He does not have Colorado.  He does not have New Mexico.  He does not have Minnesota.  He does not have Wisconsin.  He does not have Iowa yet.  And he doesn‘t have Ohio yet.  He‘s good in New Hampshire.  But he‘s got to run the board. 

(CROSSTALK) 

FINEMAN:  Yes, he does.  He has got a difficult Electoral College map. 

And looking at that, as I said earlier, he‘s only got two or three possible heists.  And, as you said, Colorado may be slipping out of his hands.  That‘s why he is going to be in Ohio three more times between now and the weekend. 

BUCHANAN:  So, you don‘t think he ought to be talking about missing explosives 30 miles south of Baghdad? 

FINEMAN:  I‘m not sure in Ohio that that‘s his winning ground. 

I know that John Kerry is a combative guy.  And he really believes that on the commander in chief issue he should be the one.  But the polls still show that on the issue of the war on terrorism and in terms of strength of leadership and sort of things related to the role of commander in chief, George Bush is ahead of him by 15 to 20 points.  Kerry can‘t resist it.  Kerry can‘t resist it, though. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, Joe, let me take that directly to you.  And we should mention, that “L.A. Times” poll that you and I were talking about, the one that‘s just coming out, has it dead even in Pennsylvania.  And looking at that map, Howard‘s map, if you will, up there, what Kerry‘s got to do, that is really a mountain to climb.  He‘s got all these states that are in dispute, in many, if not most of which, Bush is ahead, he‘s got to roll those around in the next six days and, as Howard says, connect with the American people in a way he has not connected in 10 months. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

You know, Pat, of course, you and I know and Howard certainly knows as well as anybody that anything that can happen the final weekend.  We all remember hearing the story about how Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter were campaigning around and they found out on the weekend before the election with Ronald Reagan that the numbers came in.  They had no idea that they were—that they were going to be beaten. 

And they went to the back of Air Force One and embraced each other and started crying.  And so you never know what the voters are going to do the last weekend. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But, you know, Joe, that was as a result—because I was with Reagan down there on that debate preparation.  That was the result of Ronald Reagan suddenly re-ensuring the country when the race was very close that he was an acceptable alternative. 

Kerry has had three debates.  And, by all accounts, he wiped up the floor with the first one and did passably well in the second and third, if he didn‘t win all three.  He‘s got the benefit of that.  What do you see now could happen conceivably in the terms of an event that could dramatically tip, say, three or four points nationally and bring Kerry to where he ought to be? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I think, actually, I don‘t see an event like Madrid playing in John Kerry‘s direction. 

We Americans are much different than Europeans, obviously.  I think if we were hit by an attack like Madrid, I think Americans would go the opposite direction.  They would rally around their president.  I mean, we are—we are, after all, a country that got two buildings knocked down and we basically took over two countries because of it. 

FINEMAN:  Can I just...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Yes, let me bring you in on that, Howard. 

What would be your take?  Well, make your point, but also give me your take on what would happen if, God forbid, in six days, these—you know, the al Qaeda types had really had something working and they pulled off a number of really ugly attacks in various points around the country, a Madrid.

FINEMAN:  I think, this close to the election, it would help the president, because I think there would be a natural rally-around-the-flag emotion, as there was after 9/11. 

This close to the election, this close to the election, it would seem to be an intrusion on, an attack upon America‘s system of government itself, and I think it would—people would rise up and defend the president, because they would be defending the American system, is what I think would happen. 

The only other point I wanted to make, when I was out in Ohio, Mike McCurry, who is a spin doctor for John Kerry now, was saying that Kerry has got to reach out and bring these people across.  And he was describing to me a last week of the campaign in which Kerry, who I felt and saw in Pennsylvania and Ohio I thought was on the edge of being able to close the deal, Kerry speaking directly to the camera, Kerry buying time on TV, Kerry sitting down with people and saying, look, you can trust me.  Bush has done a terrible job, but you can trust me. 

Instead of that, John Kerry in the last two days, because of this explosives story, has gone on the attack, is the prosecutor all over again, isn‘t saying anything about himself, doesn‘t have Teresa at his side. 

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  And, interestingly, George Bush—every picture you see of George W. Bush now has Laura Bush at his side.  That‘s a family photo. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I think, Howard, you have got an excellent point.  I saw, incidentally—I was in the makeup room earlier they on an earlier show, and I saw the closing ad of George Bush. 

I will tell you, it almost—he talks about, you know, look, sending people into battle.  And it was very moving.  And not only was it presidential.  It was Reaganesque.  And I agree with you.  I think Kerry getting back out there and Cheney‘s ministry of disinformation and stuff, I don‘t think brings him up to the point where he can climb over the top. 

What do you think, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I was just going to agree with Howard.  I think he hit the nail on the head. 

John Kerry has been abused over the past two months by these swift boat—these swift vet ads.  He‘s been attacked.  His credibility as a war hero has been attacked, his credibility as a public servant.  And John Kerry, like the rest of us, like normal human beings, has gotten very angry. 

When John Kerry gets angry, like I would have gotten angry if somebody challenged my war record and if I had John Kerry‘s type of war record, he doesn‘t come across well on TV.  He looks like the angry prosecutor, just like Howard was saying, and it hurts him with voters.  You know, the John Kerry I saw, I saw a glimpse of him that I said, wow, that guy is an attractive candidate.  He‘s electable. 

It was during I think the second debate when he complimented the president.  He flashed that smile.  It was a natural smile.  And I said, that‘s the John Kerry that could win.  I think, at this point, though, it‘s getting too late for him to close the deal nationally.  I think he‘s going to have to pick a state.  If I‘m John Kerry, I set up shop in Wisconsin and Ohio and I send Bill Clinton to Arkansas. 

And I say, Bubba, do whatever you can do.  That‘s my only chance south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Win Arkansas for me and somehow let‘s cobble together enough electoral votes to get me over 270. 

BUCHANAN:  OK. 

Joe, we hope you‘re feeling better down there.  And, Howard Fineman, thanks, as always, for the insights. 

And coming up, the Iraq munitions mystery, is this another case of media bias? 

We‘ll talk about it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Up next, are the media favoring John Kerry, and will that impact next week‘s elections?  We‘ll talk about that in a minute.

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

(NEWS BREAK)

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

BUCHANAN:  Six days left until the election and we are on day three of the missing explosives story.  And some are charging that the presentation of the story represents foul play by big media.  We will get to that in a moment. 

But, first, a new study concludes that, in the first two weeks of October, the critical weeks during the period of the presidential debates, the mainstream media was far more favorable to Kerry than to President Bush.  The nonpartisan Project For Excellence in Journalism sampled 817 stories from four major newspapers, two cable news networks and the four leading broadcast networks. 

The Project that found three in five Bush stories were negative on the president, while only one-fourth of all Kerry stories were negative on John Kerry.  Stories about Kerry were positive a third of the time, while stories of Bush were positive only one-seventh of the time. 

Joining us now, Paul Levinson, the director of media studies at Fordham University, and Bob Kohn, the author of “Journalistic Fraud.”

Welcome, gentlemen. 

Paul, let me start with you. 

Are you surprised by these numbers, that the stories are negative on the president predominantly and predominantly positive on John Kerry? 

PAUL LEVINSON, DIRECTOR OF MEDIA STUDIES, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY:  I‘m not surprised at all.  I think there‘s more negative to report about Bush. 

He, after all, is the sitting president.  The country is in a difficult overseas situation in Iraq.  There are all kinds of domestic problems.  The worst you can say about Kerry is perhaps his Senate record isn‘t as good as it could have been.  But fair reporting would be much tougher on Bush than Kerry. 

BUCHANAN:  So you think it‘s a natural product of the very fact that the president is the incumbent, the challenger holds up his failures and the media‘s job is to report the failures? 

LEVINSON:  That‘s precisely what the media‘s job is, especially in an election period in which we are considering whether or not this president should be elected. 

BUCHANAN:  We are also considering whether or not he should be replaced by John Kerry, are we not, Bob Kohn? 

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”:  That‘s right. 

You know, when I first saw this story, Pat, my reaction was, well, duh.  I mean, there‘s quantitative bias and there‘s qualitative bias.  And this is another example on the qualitative side how much the press, just by sheer numbers of articles, are biased against Bush. 

But it‘s the qualitative side that‘s even more important, because this study doesn‘t take into account the front page of “The New York Times.”  You saw what they did with that bogus front-page banner headline.  You didn‘t see a banner headline about the swift boats.  You did not see “The Times” cover that at all for several weeks. 

(CROSSTALK)

LEVINSON:  Of course not.

BUCHANAN:  Let me take that to Paul. 

Paul, let me ask you this.

LEVINSON:  Sure.

BUCHANAN:  Look, I have got to agree 100 percent with that.  Look, they dropped this on the president.  It‘s an 18-month-old event.  They dropped it in a two-column headline, major, all-out story.  The “60 Minutes”—CBS‘ “60 Minutes,” which decided that the National Guard story of 30 years ago was so important, they devoted a major story to it, and they got caught with all these bogus, falsified, forged documents. 

“60 Minutes” was going to drop this 48 hours before the election.  Now, is that not using your media power to try to bring about the defeat of a candidate? 

LEVINSON:  It‘s using the media precisely as Thomas Jefferson intended.  The media is supposed to report news events. 

“The New York Times” didn‘t make this up.  This is something that in fact has happened in Iraq.  Surely, Bob doesn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  How long ago, Paul, did it happen?

LEVINSON:  Let me answer. 

Surely, Bob doesn‘t think that “The New York Times” made up the fact that the munitions are missing.  It happened 18 months ago.  “The New York Times” was not sitting on this story for 18 months.  We don‘t know exactly why it took so long for the story to come out.  In fact, what I heard is that Allawi was the one who basically broke the story. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, I heard that it was the IAEA and ElBaradei. 

LEVINSON:  So is that “The New York Times”‘ fault?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But that makes a good point, Bob.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Aren‘t we entitled to know who is dropping the dime here and whether the story, frankly, has any merit?  Because I don‘t believe for a second that, after the 101st Airborne came through there, a bunch of Iraqis, a couple hundred of them, went in there with 40 trucks and hauled that junk out over roads which were occupied completely by Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Humvees. 

KOHN:  Right.  We don‘t know who the anonymous source is who dropped this letter in “The New York Times”‘ lap.  The speculation is, it is the head of a nuclear agency at the U.N., who is going to lose his job. 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s ElBaradei. 

KOHN:  Right.  He is going to lose his job.  He doesn‘t want Bush to win.

So “The New York Times” has a responsibility and CBS has a responsibility to be very skeptical about this bomb being dropped in their lap at this point in time.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  To respond to what has been said, and it is very important, because “The New York Times” did make something up, because “The New York Times” did not know.  It wasn‘t evident from the letter or anything else that whether the munitions, whether the explosives were evacuated before the troops got there. 

“The New York Times” led the public to believe that this was looted after the U.S. troops got there.  And that is something that we do not know today.  And that is where they did the slant. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  OK, let me ask you, Paul.  Now, look, let‘s say the National Guard story was legitimate, this is legitimate.  Doesn‘t “The Times” also have a duty to say—at least tell you the source is coming from somebody that may want to torpedo the president, that it‘s 18 months ago, that it is highly unlikely that somebody went in there after the Americans were there, in other words, put this in context, rather than print it as some kind of attack ad on page one?

LEVINSON:  The important thing was to print it in a way that got everyone‘s attention.  Obviously, it got your attention.  You now seem to have a theory as to what happened. 

BUCHANAN:  It has got the president‘s attention. 

LEVINSON:  Well, good.  That‘s precisely what “The New York Times” should be doing. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Suppose it turns out...

LEVINSON:  If it turns out that it is not true? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

LEVINSON:  If it turns out that it is not true, then “The Times” was still acting exactly as it should have. 

BUCHANAN:  Uh-huh.  And Kerry is elected and that‘s a good thing.

LEVINSON:  “The Times” is not an arbiter of ultimate truth. 

KOHN:  Not when they slant it.

LEVINSON:  What a reporter has to do is report information that he or she receives.  Of course they shouldn‘t make up stories. 

I was one of the first to condemn “The Times” when Jayson Blair came out with his absurd forgeries, and it took “The Times” way too long to admit it.  And Bob Kohn wrote a good book about that.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  Thank you. 

LEVINSON:  But this is a completely different situation.  We have an election, a close election, and the people deserve to know the truth. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, but, Paul, suppose we had not discovered the forgeries in the National Guard story and it cost the president the election. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  What I‘m not hearing from you is any sense that the media are responsible for anything when they are on the very eve of a very tight election. 

LEVINSON:  That is because you have not heard what I was saying.  “The New York Times” is not the only newspaper.  There are other media.  And, in fact, in the CBS case, bloggers and Fox News and MSNBC all jumped on CBS. 

BUCHANAN:  Thank goodness.

OK, Paul, Bob, thanks for joining us tonight. 

Coming up, tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s showdown.  Are black voters swinging toward Bush this year?  We‘ll talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Earlier today, I asked Bush campaign adviser Tucker Eskew and former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers if “The New York Times”‘ decision to run the munitions story was politically motivated. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER ESKEW, BUSH CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER:  They will have to speak to their motives, Pat, but we have certainly seen a pattern where some of the mainstream media have chosen in this election year to play up the very worst.  And, certainly, our opponents have chosen to rip headlines.  If it suggests bad news, John Kerry‘s all over it. 

Misery loves Kerry might be the motto at their headquarters.  They don‘t really have much of a message, so they don‘t really have a vision for the future.  They don‘t really have a consistent thread with a candidate who has been all over the map on national security issues, particularly whether or not he would support our troops.  So of course they are going to jump on something perceived as bad news. 

And I think the worst sign of it today and the thing you will be hearing us talk about is this new TV ad from John Kerry where he says, we will always support our troops, this coming from a man who is now leading with his chin, having voted against the $87 billion that provided combat pay and so much more for our troops.  He‘s given lie to those words. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask you, Dee Dee, I know John Kerry jumped on this issue.  He hit it yesterday.  He hit it today.  He is hitting it very hard.

Do you think—and, clearly, it was working for John Kerry, it seems to me, the first day out.  Do you think it is an issue of diminishing returns and that the president is on the offensive right now? 

DEE DEE MYERS, NBC ANALYST:  Well, I don‘t think the president‘s on the offensive.  I think he‘s on the defensive.

And the Bush campaign wants to say, we shouldn‘t talk about what is in the news.  We shouldn‘t talk about what is actually happening on the ground in Iraq.  Don‘t believe what you read in the papers or hearing on the news, folks.  Believe us.  Everything‘s great. 

The truth is, everything is not great on the ground in Iraq; 360 tons of munitions are missing.  The administration can‘t answer the question, what happened to them?  Why didn‘t we secure those ammo dumps?  We knew they were there.  We were warned in advance.  What in the world is going on?  They don‘t want to talk about that, of course.  So they attack John Kerry and say that he doesn‘t stand up for the troops. 

He put his life on the line for this country as a young man.  He‘ll continue to fight for the troops and for this country as president of the United States.  I think it‘s a shame that the Bush campaign would say that John Kerry doesn‘t stand up for the troops.  He was one of the troops.  He was in combat and in harm‘s way. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask Dee Dee—let me follow up with a question about Bill Clinton, your former boss. 

MYERS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  Comeback kid from quadruple bypass surgery.  I think every American is delighted he‘s back out and he‘s healthy. 

Now, he campaigned in Philadelphia.  He went in there.  He is probably responsible for that gigantic crowd Kerry that never got.  He is going to go into Arkansas now. 

MYERS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And Arkansas, the latest poll I have seen, it‘s a survey, “USA Today” poll, has the president five up in Arkansas.  Do you think John -- I mean, excuse me—the former president of the United States can turn Arkansas around? 

MYERS:  Well, nobody knows Arkansas any better than Bill Clinton.  That‘s certainly been my experience.  He‘s been urging Kerry to spend more time and more resources there in recent weeks.  He is going to go there himself in the next few days. 

I think that he would not spend his time there, when there‘s a lot of other places he knows he can help the ticket, if he didn‘t think that he could do some real good there.  He thinks Kerry has a good shot at carrying Arkansas.  I don‘t know, but I tend to trust Bill Clinton when it comes to Arkansas.  And I will say this.  He certainly has energized the Democratic base.  Americans of all stripes are happy to see him recovering so well from the surgery. 

There was a huge crowd in Philadelphia, huge crowds in Florida.  And I think he will have a real impact. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Tucker Eskew, has the Kerry campaign written off Arkansas?  In other words, how much emphasis are they going in there?  How many times are they visiting it?  How many ads are in there?  Have they written on Arkansas?  And is the former president their last hope to carry it? 

ESKEW:  Well, we agree that we are glad President Clinton is feeling better and we‘d encourage him to feel better about spending a lot of time in Arkansas.  We really encourage them to run all of the ads and send all the surrogates they want to that state. 

We feel extremely good about President Bush‘s victory in this coming next Tuesday in Arkansas and across the country. 

And, if you look at the map, Pat, and if you want to get into it, it‘s just striking. 

BUCHANAN:  We will get into it later, right. 

ESKEW:  OK.  It is just striking where this campaign is going from here and how we are on offense.  They are playing defense in states that Gore won.  I would love to go through that list. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, I am going to do that in a minute. 

But, right now, Tucker, let me start with—I will start with you on this one and Dee Dee can respond to it.  And it‘s about the African-American vote.  Now, Al Gore—and we got the numbers up there from the Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies.  Al Gore did very well with the African-American community, 90 percent of the black vote, compared to President Bush‘s 9 percent. 

Four years later, however, Bush is getting as much support from the African-American community, 18 percent, while Kerry is getting only 69 percent.  Is that what your polls are showing?

ESKEW:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  That the president can double his vote in the African-American community? 

ESKEW:  Well, we are seeing real progress. 

And it‘s a result of policy.  You know, all the hype, all the talk, and all the bad news the Kerry campaign wants to talk about can obscure the fact that this president said the soft bigotry of low expectations just wasn‘t good enough for him and it‘s not good enough for African-American and other low-income minority people in this country and their children. 

So that‘s having a major effect, as is his faith-based initiative, which has reached out to communities of faith and said, the government shouldn‘t be biased against you. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

ESKEW:  And those are just two examples of policy that‘s made a difference, just as that‘s the case another among another core constituency.  Jewish-Americans are taking a real strong look at this president.  And we look for progress on that front, too. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

Let me get—Dee Dee, let me go into this.  There‘s no doubt that Bill Clinton and Hubert Humphrey, for example, electrified the black community.  But there are certain Northern Democrats, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, simply did not do it.  And Kerry seems to be in this category. 

Is the reason that he tends to be a cold fish, Massachusetts liberal, doesn‘t have that rapport with the black community?  And, secondarily, these issues of gay marriage, for example, you take a look at polls in the African-American community, they are as opposed to civil unions and gay marriages as the rest of the country. 

Is this hurting Kerry with the black community? 

MYERS:  I think that, on Election Day, John Kerry will do very well with African-American voters.  I think he will do better than that poll you have up suggests. 

And I think the reason is because what African-Americans and a lot of Americans are concerned about is whether or not they have good-paying jobs, whether or not the minimum wage is going to go up, whether or not there are five million more people without health insurance.  I think Democrats have traditionally done well among African-Americans and other people struggling in the middle class or to get into the middle class, it‘s because Democrats speak to these issues. 

Now, this campaign has focused a lot on other issues.  And it is not to say that all Americans are not concerned about the war on terror—they are—they‘re concerned about the war in Iraq.  They are.  But I think that the focus in the final days of this campaign on those bread-and-butter domestic issues is going to bring home the African-American voters. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

MYERS:  And, Pat, if you look at who‘s voting in the early voting in a lot of places like Florida, huge turnout among African-Americans.  And I think that tends very well for Senator Kerry. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, I said I would bring up—told Tucker Eskew I would bring it up, Dee Dee, and both of you.

Look at Florida and Ohio, the president is up in the state-by-state polls, very tight.  However, you look.  The president is up in Iowa, New Mexico and Hawaii, all blue states.  And the only red state that seems to have gone missing right now is New Hampshire. 

Aren‘t you playing—Dee Dee, aren‘t you all playing defense out there trying to defend your base in the last week of this election? 

MYERS:  No. 

I think if you look—I think it comes down to six states, Pat, as you said, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and New Mexico.  Three of those were won by President Bush four years ago and three of those were won by Al Gore four years ago.  Both candidates are defending three states that they won and trying to pick up among states that they didn‘t win. 

And I think the polls in Ohio are neck and neck, maybe Kerry slightly ahead.  The polls in Florida are way too tight to make the Bush campaign comfortable.  I don‘t care what they say.  And that‘s true of all six of those states. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

MYERS:  So if you look at that, this is a really tight election.  And both candidates are having to defend states that they won and they‘re trying to pick up states that they lost. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

I think Dee Dee did not mention Hawaii and Iowa, Tucker.

MYERS:  We‘re going to win Hawaii.  And I don‘t know about Iowa.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  Iowa is the seventh. 

ESKEW:  I‘ll tell you what.  Iowa is moving strong our way, Pat and Dee Dee. 

And not only that.  The Democrats have pulled out of Colorado.  So that‘s another pickup they had hoped for. 

MYERS:  That‘s not a pickup, though, Tucker.  You guys won that one four years ago. 

(CROSSTALK)

ESKEW:  No, no, no.  That was a hoped-for pickup for your side. 

We have calculated—it‘s pretty easy, although a couple interns had to work on it for 30 or 40 minutes, Pat.  But the Kerry campaign has spent $42 million in states they have now pulled out of.  So they really had eyes bigger than their stomach or bigger than anyone else‘s stomach or appetite for John Kerry.  And they‘re having to defend Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa across the board. 

For the real junkies out there in your audience, the president going forward will spend two-thirds of his team in states that Al Gore won, while John Kerry is spending at least the majority of his time in states that Al Gore won.  We‘re on offense.  The president‘s message is connecting.  We have got a wind at our backs and feel really great about next Tuesday.  And...

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

We are going to have to let it go right there. 

ESKEW:  Thank you. 

BUCHANAN:  Tucker Eskew, Dee Dee Myers, thank you very much for all the time.  Good luck to both of you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  Thanks, Pat.

ESKEW:  Thank you.   

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCHANAN:  Stay tuned for more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY right ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Breaking news:  Bill Gertz of “The Washington Times” is reporting that Russian special forces moved many of Saddam‘s weapons out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the U.S. invasion. 

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John A. Shaw says he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence—quote—“almost certainly”—unquote—removed the high-explosive material that went missing from weapons facility in Iraq. 

We will be talking more about that tomorrow night. 

Good night from SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

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.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,