Guests: David Horowitz, Jerry Brown, Peter Fenn, Ed Schultz, Tamara Lipper, Jack Burkman
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline, on the eve of the first presidential debate, President Bush is ahead of John Kerry. Will Thursday‘s debates help or hurt him?
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed.
Is the first debate John Kerry‘s last chance to pull ahead in the polls? Our political panel is here to break down the latest of those polls and to give us a debate preview.
And the never-ending memo-gate. CBS‘ numbers continue to plummet in the Big Apple. And one politician calling on Dan Rather to resign. Plus, will CBS‘ mess spill over into the upcoming election?
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome to the show. We are here live from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
You know, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY goes across the country. We go to middle America. We go the swing states. And we wanted to come to Kalamazoo, Michigan. I must tell you, though, I am a Florida native. I said, let‘s do the show outside in a park, to really get a feel for middle America. It‘s cold out here. Yes, I ain‘t in Florida anymore. But at least they don‘t have hurricanes.
Now, I am going to start the show tonight by giving John Kerry some advice on how he can win the presidential debate and get a little closer to George W. Bush in the polls.
Now, John Kerry, if you are watching tonight, or James Carville or any of the Kerry staffers, listen to me. I am going to tell you how you can win this thing. First of all, the debate tomorrow night is going to be about what? It‘s going to be about foreign policy. It‘s going to be about Iraq. All right, you have got to turn your back on what the Democratic Party has been doing wrong for the past 30 years.
You have learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam. You see everything through the specter and the spectrum of Vietnam. Middle Americans don‘t. Middle Americans think that their government failed in Vietnam because they didn‘t do enough to win the war. So this is what I am going to tell you to do, and if you follow my advice, you are going to win.
Instead of being the Howard Dean candidate, instead of being anti-war, what you do is, you go after George Bush. You turn his advantage into his disadvantage. And you say, Mr. President, with all due respect, when it comes to fighting wars, you are no Ronald Reagan. Would Ronald Reagan have backed down in Tora Bora and Afghanistan in December of 2001, when he had Osama bin Laden captured, when he had him cornered, when he had him surrounded, when you had a chance, Mr. President, to kill this man who killed 3,000 Americans? Would Ronald Reagan have done that? No.
But did you do that? Yes, Mr. President. And, in so doing, you let Americans down. Now, Mr. President, let‘s talk about Iraq. You claim that you are right on Iraq and I am wrong on Iraq, that you are tough on Iraq and I am weak on Iraq. Well, Mr. President, now—Senator Kerry, stay with me here, because there are going to be a lot of people that think this is radical—but say, Mr. President, you had a chance to finish off the terrorists in Iraq. You had a chance to do that in Fallujah.
But what did you do, Mr. President? You turned Fallujah over to the terrorists. You turned Fallujah over to Saddam‘s thugs. You didn‘t have the willpower to go into Fallujah and finish them off. And because you turned them over to thugs, what have we seen? We have seen beheadings. We have seen terror attacks. We have seen one kidnapping after another. Mr. President, if I were in your position, and when I am president of the United States, this is what I am going to do.
I am going to put the terrorists and the residents of Fallujah on notice. I am going to tell them, you have got 24 hours to get out of town, all women and children. And after that, I am going to do to Fallujah what Assad did to a Syrian town in 1982 called Hama, where Islamic terrorists went and started a revolt. What Assad did then is, he knocked the city down. He bulldozed it. He salted the earth and he made sure that nothing ever grew there again, and he sent message to Islamic terrorists. You will not take over our country.
Well, John Kerry, you need to tell the president he is being weak in Fallujah, just like he was weak in Tora Bora. Turn your back on 32 years of failure. The Democratic Party has gotten it wrong. You have been called wimps for good reason, because you don‘t know how to win wars. Tomorrow night, you can forever change the dynamics of presidential politics, and you can once again make the Democratic Party the party of FDR, the party of Harry Truman, the party of strong national defense.
We‘ll see if you have got the guts to do it tomorrow night. I don‘t think you do, but if you want to win this election, that‘s the way you go, not the way of George McGovern, not the way of Howard Dean, not the way of the anti-war protesters, who will doom the Democrats to another four years in the wilderness.
Now, of course, the first presidential debate is less than 48 hours away. And it‘s going to be a hot one. I have just told the senator how he can win. I don‘t think he is going to do it, but we have got some other people who have got some suggestions too.
Got an all-star panel with us tonight. It‘s do or die for underdog John Kerry, so here with a preview of the debate is Pat Buchanan. He, of course, is an MSNBC analyst, and he is also the author of “Where the Right Went Wrong.‘ We have GOP strategist Jack Burkman. We‘ve got Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. And we‘ve got “Newsweek” White House correspondent Tamara Lipper and MSNBC contributor and author of “Tour of Duty,” Douglas Brinkley.
We appreciate all of you being here.
And I want to start with you, Pat Buchanan. What do you think John Kerry needs to do tomorrow night to turn the tide in this race?
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He has got to force a turnover, Joe.
Kerry is behind. He is slipping further and further behind. The president looks like a winner. The president is going to be up there making the case he has been making, ridiculing Kerry for having all these different positions. I agree with you that John Kerry has got to come out smoking, but he has got to force some kind of fumble on the president of the United States, and he has got to show the American people what he has failed to thus far, that he is a tough, capable, purposeful leader who can lead this country forward in the war on terror and the war in Iraq.
And, frankly, given all of his positions he has taken, flipping and flopping and flipping and flopping, his Iraq position is like a Jackson Pollock painting, he is going to have a tough time doing it.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, he is not going to do it, is he? This guy always plays it down the middle. He is also cautious. When the anti-war shtick is big in the Democratic Party, he is anti-war. When it‘s time to go pro-war, he is pro-war. Now he realizes he needs to be anti-war out of desperation. This guy doesn‘t have it in him, does he?
BUCHANAN: Now, look, here‘s what I would do. It depends on what he believes. If he believes as you do, Joe, that we should have taken down Fallujah and we ought to get tougher and flatten the place, fine.
I think he is anti-war. Now, an anti-war candidate has never won in wartime in American history, never. Now, but, if he believes that, what I were doing if I were him, I would say, Mr. President, you messed this up. We ought to do is build up as much we can the Iraqi troops, give them everything they got, help them take down Fallujah, and then turn around and get the American troops out. I will start bringing them home right after the February election, and we will be out of there within two years.
If he breaks it off and makes some kind of commitment like that, I think it‘s his last chance. It‘s high roller, high risk, but if I were him, that‘s the way I would go.
SCARBOROUGH: Doug Brinkley, Pat Buchanan just said something that is fascinating. Of course it‘s true, though. Said that an anti-war candidate has never won in a time of war. Of course, I always think about 1972, when the anti-war movement was probably at its all-time high in American history, and George McGovern lost 49 states.
What does John Kerry have to do tomorrow night, if he is the anti-war candidate, to basically change 225 or so years of American history?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, NBC ANALYST: Well, first off, back in 1912, and then, of course, that famous election, Woodrow Wilson was an anti-war candidate while World War I was being talked about in the 1916 election also. So Wilson won two elections. So there is such a thing as being able to win on staying out of war. Wilson has proved that.
SCARBOROUGH: But Wilson put us in a war, though, in 1917, right?
BRINKLEY: Right. Right. No, I am just saying back—I just wanted to correct the historic record, that there has been a anti-war president that has won.
So, also, Joe, I think your comments had a lot of validity to them, except for adding about Assad of Syria, who was in many ways a despicable dictator.
BRINKLEY: But I think that the main thing that Kerry has to do is go to the right on the war on terror, go to the right on Bush. And that‘s really what you were saying.
And he did that in his speech last week in Philadelphia, by saying that Osama bin Laden, where is he, Mr. President?
JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You see, Joe, I don‘t think he can do that, because that involves—and that‘s part of what you said. I don‘t think we agree tonight, because, to do that, Kerry is going to have to sell the message that he can basically do the war better than the Bush administration. And I don‘t think that‘s possible. I think the only shot he has is a very narrow shot.
SCARBOROUGH: Doug Brinkley. Go ahead, Doug.
BRINKLEY: There are two wars. There‘s a war on terror and the war in Iraq. I know the Bush administration links them, but I think Kerry is separating them.
I think he wants to make very clear that the troops, American troops or special forces, were directed out of Afghanistan to Iraq, and Osama bin Laden slipped through, as you said, Tora Bora, and Ronald Reagan wouldn‘t have done that. I think if he does that and then tilts to the anti-war side on Iraq, he may be able to have it both ways.
PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Let me comment on that.
SCARBOROUGH: Gentlemen, stay with me. I will tell you what. We are going to continue this.
We have got a lot more with our panel. We have only gotten to a few of them. I promise, I have given my advice to Senator Kerry. Now it‘s time for the guests to talk. And we are going to do that coming up next.
Round one of the presidential debates is Thursday night in Miami.
Stay tuned for our debate preview with our all-star panel.
And then the latest on the CBS scandal. A New Jersey politician has a TV ad calling for Dan Rather‘s resignation. And will Rather-gate have an effect on the election?
That‘s all coming up next on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY live from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
SCARBOROUGH: Coming up next, we‘ve got a preview of President Bush and John Kerry‘s first face-to-face debate. We are going to look at what‘s coming up Thursday night in the prime-time showdown.
That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns in just a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But you ought to be ashamed for yourself jumping on my wife. You are not worth being on the same platform as my wife.
JERRY BROWN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘ll tell you something, Mr. Clinton. Don‘t try to escape it. Ralph Nader called read me this afternoon. He read me the article from “The Washington Post.”
CLINTON: Does that make it true?
BROWN: I was shocked by it.
CLINTON: Jerry comes here with his family wealth and his $1,500 suit and makes a lying accusation about my wife. I am saying that I never funnel any money to my wife‘s law firm, never.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: What a contentious moment from 1992, Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown. And Jerry is going to be here in a second with us.
I want to talk, though, right now to Peter Fenn.
Peter, as you know—and, of course, I was not suggesting that your candidate become a member of the Assad party. But, at the same time, you certainly have to agree with me that Republicans since 1972 have feasted on anti-war Democrats, George McGovern in 1972, of course; 1980, Ronald Reagan made Jimmy Carter look weak. In 1988, Michael Dukakis in the helmet inside the tank.
Don‘t you think that John Kerry, if he comes across as the anti-war candidate on Thursday night, is going to be painted into a corner that spells very bad news for the Democratic Party this year?
FENN: Joe, I will tell you, the Republicans have tried their best to do that. But I will tell you, you have got someone in John Kerry who came out exactly as you suggested way back on Tora Bora. He led the fight on that. He talked about the mistakes in Tora Bora. He was very strong on Afghanistan.
The key here is, we know right now that George Bush is a great campaigner in chief, but we are not so sure he is a great commander in chief. The majority of...
SCARBOROUGH: Peter, what about Fallujah, though? Peter, I understand that John Kerry...
SCARBOROUGH: Hold it a second. John Kerry, just like John McCain and others, did criticize the president on Tora Bora. We criticized the president on Tora Bora.
Here‘s the challenge, though. We are past that. We are now in Iraq. The president has basically turned Fallujah over to terrorists, to thugs, but John Kerry is talking about bringing the troops home. Shouldn‘t John Kerry say, if I am president of the United States, I am going to flatten Fallujah, I‘m going to find Zarqawi, I‘m going to kill him, and we are going to win this war?
The basic problem is that this is not the war on terror. We are losing the war on terror. The great axis of evil, if you look at it, we are in deep trouble in Iran. Iran is about to build five nuclear weapons. We are in deep trouble in North Korea. There‘s no negotiations. They won‘t negotiate. We can‘t get a handle on that. We have spent $200 billion in Iraq, when, in fact, we have cut $1.2 billion from our Homeland Security Department to defend our borders.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, Peter, so, Peter, I am trying to get a focus on the message, then. Are you suggesting, do we leave Iraq?
FENN: No, of course not. No one is suggesting that. What we are suggesting is that you have to put the emphasis on the right syllable.
SCARBOROUGH: Where is that?
FENN: And that means that‘s on the war on terror. And we have made ourselves weaker in this country because of this adventure in Iraq. So your are absolutely right about being strong.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, Peter. So, again—and I don‘t mean to cut you off. I just want to focus you here, because I want us to focus John Kerry‘s message tonight. So, if the emphasis should be on the war on terror, and the war on terror, John Kerry and you believe, is not in Iraq, then aren‘t you suggesting that America needs to get out of Iraq and focus on what you consider to be the war on terror?
FENN: I think we have got to stabilize things in Iraq as quickly as possible. We to have the international community. We to have training. We have 5,000 trained police forces in Iraq. That‘s disgraceful.
This administration has not done its job since mission accomplished in Iraq. We still have to do that job. If it turns out our military guys on the ground say to us, go in, flatten Fallujah, well, then, my guess is that John Kerry would look at that. The real question here is how do you stabilize things, so that you can fight the real war on terror and not the sideshow that we have been doing in Iraq?
This is where Pat Buchanan and I agree.
SCARBOROUGH: And that‘s a very scary thought, by the way, that you and Pat agree.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me bring in Oakland Mayor and of course former California Governor Jerry Brown.
Jerry, great to have you here tonight. You have been through some tough debates. We just saw a clip of it. What do you suggest John Kerry‘s message be on Iraq, on Fallujah, on where the president has gone wrong and where this country needs to go over the next four years?
BROWN: Well, take a look at that clip, where Bill Clinton just kind of motored over my accusation there and just asserted what his view of the world was, however wrongheaded.
I say what Kerry has got to do, he has got to make the case that Bush has screwed up this war. Don‘t go back to how we got there. He has to convince people that John Kerry can handle the situation better than George Bush. He has got to point out some flaws, and he has to assert by his presence, by his manner, by exuding confidence that he can be a better commander in chief to resolve that war. And he has got to make the case.
SCARBOROUGH: What‘s his message? Is he an anti-war candidate?
SCARBOROUGH: Or is he a guy that says, George Bush is not fighting tough enough; let‘s take down Fallujah; let‘s chase out the terrorists; let‘s tell them, you will not have sanctuary anywhere, not in a square inch of Iraq? Which way does he go?
BROWN: Well, here‘s the problem. He can‘t out-Bush Bush.
But he has got to watch a detail like what do you do with Fallujah, although he may have to. If they push him, he will have to answer it. He has to give a plausible, I am not saying an absolutely accurate scenario, but he has to be able to present himself as the commander in chief, as the president in a more credible way than George Bush, hope that Bush looks weak or stumbles, and then add the idea that America can bring in more people in the world that Bush has alienated.
And I can‘t tell him each point of this, because if I could, I would be running myself. He has a hell of a challenge. He can‘t go dove. He has got to be more effective at being Bush, but it has to look like John Kerry and not look like an act or a flip-flop.
BROWN: So it‘s hypothetically conceivable, but I hope John Kerry has given it a lot of thought, because it‘s not going to be easy.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Hold on.
It‘s going to be tough for John Kerry to do it, because, let‘s face it, he has flip-flopped on this issue a great deal over the past year. I mean, even my closest Democratic friends tell me behind the scenes that they just can‘t figure out what his message has been. They like what they have seen the past week and a half, but I think he is dead wrong over the past week and a half. I think he is turning into an anti-war candidate, and that‘s dangerous in a general election. He ain‘t going to win votes in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that way.
Jack Burkman, I want to ask you. We have been talking the past 25 minutes about what John Kerry needs to do. Tell us what George W. Bush needs to do tomorrow night. What is his message?
BURKMAN: Well, Bush has to go on the offensive. I think one of the things you will hear, a little maybe early advance warning, I think one of the things he is going to say is that, if John Kerry had had his way, if you look back at 20 years of voting in the Senate, none of the weapons system that we have today—he voted against every major weapon system we have today.
And the U.S. Army would not be prepared to fight in Afghanistan, to fight in Iraq, to fight anywhere in the world. Given that, Senator Kerry, how can you possibly claim that you can be a commander in chief? And I think the message for the president is, the best defense is a good offense. He can‘t sit on his laurels. He has to go at Kerry. I would urge him to hammer relentlessly on Iraq, because I think, the more you do, the worse it gets.
The problem, Joe, for Kerry is that the credentials he has advanced to be commander in chief are the Vietnam credentials. They have largely been tarnished. And I don‘t know how he recovers from that, because he was the one. He chose not to put his Senate record at issue. He chose to put his Vietnam record at issue. I wouldn‘t say it‘s discredited, but it‘s largely tarnished. I don‘t know where that leaves him.
SCARBOROUGH: But you know what, Jack Burkman? You know what I found when I was running for Congress? People did not care about your biography. They did not care about the past. They didn‘t even care about the mistakes that a candidate made.
What they cared about is what that candidate brought to the table for the future, what was the candidate going to do over the next four years. That‘s what John Kerry has to answer on Thursday night. And he has got to clarify his position on Iraq. And I say, again, if he darts to the left and becomes the George McGovern of 1972, he is going to get obliterated in 2004.
Jack, stay with us.
I want our panel to stick with us. We‘re going to be back with much more. Plus, we‘re going to get an update live from Crawford, Texas, to see what the president is doing tonight as he prepares for this debate.
And we are going to go back to our political panel, including Pat Buchanan, when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: John Kerry is falling further behind in the polls. What does he have to do Thursday night to catch up with George W. Bush and win this race for the White House? We will talk about that with our all-star panel when we return.
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.
SCARBOROUGH: So, baseball comes back to the nation‘s capital. How exciting. Burn those Expos uniforms and call them the Washington Senators. Man, I know there are a lot of people that are going to be very excited tomorrow in Washington, D.C. That‘s great news from the MSNBC news break.
Now let‘s go to Crawford, Texas.
With us right now, we have Tamara Lipper. She is in Crawford.
And tell me, what is happening tonight down at the president‘s ranch, and how are debate preparations going?
TAMARA LIPPER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”: Well, Joe, it was actually a pretty quiet night down here in Texas.
The president did some informal debate prep this morning, we are told by aides, but then found some time to sort of clear his head, as he likes to call it, riding his mountain bike and doing some fishing. He is really a candidate who is confident in his record and confident in his agenda. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really, they are ready to go for the debate on Thursday.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Tamara, when I was at the Republican Convention in New York a few weeks back, I was struck by the sense of confidence that these Bush aides had, from the lowest political operative to the top of the whole political team. Do you sense a confident air down there? Do they think they have John Kerry where they want him?
LIPPER: Most definitely, Joe. I think that confidence has only increased in the last month. We have had polls this week that show the president not only ahead in the horse race, but ahead both in attributes such as being a strong leader and being trustworthy. And now even this week, we have seen some polls where he is ahead on all the issues, including the economy, which is supposed to be John Kerry and the Democrats‘ strong suit.
So they are really feeling pretty good, and they think that it‘s really John—that the tasks falls on John Kerry Thursday night to really sort of kind of mount a last stand, if you will, and show that this is still going to be a race in the month ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan, she brings up some great points about these poll numbers, especially on the issues. Look at the issue—and this is the one that keeps shocking me—on who can win the war on terror. What is it, a 65-35 break in George W. Bush‘s advantage? How in the world does John Kerry get around that in the first election since September 11?
BUCHANAN: I think what he has got to do, Joe, is this. I think Jerry Brown is correct. John Kerry has not closed the sale. He has not even made the sale. The American people have pretty much decided we are going in the wrong direction, but Bush is a better man to get us out of the mess we are in.
Kerry has to sell himself to the country as a strong, decisive, purposeful leader in terms of his answers, his appearance, and what he projects. I would not, if I were him, get down into these little detailed, wonkish arguments. And I think it is only that way can he save himself and hope that somehow Bush makes some foolish gaffe which re-raises a lot of the questions that have been raised about Bush in the past.
SCARBOROUGH: Doug Brinkley, I want to ask you the same question, because it seems to me that, really, in the end, the issue that matters to most Americans now has to do with the war on terror. I know a lot of experts, a lot of pundits have been puzzled by how Americans have tied Iraq and September 11 together. There was a “Washington Post” poll a year out, a year ago, that confounded a lot of critics.
But they have seemed to have done that over the past several years. What does John Kerry do, again, to get around the fact that 65 percent of Americans trust George W. Bush to win the war on terror, while only 35 percent trust John Kerry?
BRINKLEY: Well, that‘s his great challenge.
Of course, President Bush, we know as commander in chief. John Kerry, people are just starting to get used to. He needs to come off well. I mean, let‘s be honest here. A lot of these debates aren‘t about substance. Both of these guys I think are going to perform very well, both Bush and Kerry. But people are going to be looking for those little personality quirks. Remember how Al Gore seemed to have bad makeup or the way Richard Nixon back in 1960 had a sweaty lip.
John Kerry has to make people like him in this debate, in addition to scoring some points. But I don‘t think this is a do-or-die situation. I think if Kerry comes off well, if people say, you know what, he did a good job, and Bush does a good job, I think we have got a couple more debates coming, and there are a lot of weeks between now and November.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, though, you bring up an interesting point, and that has to do with the likability of John Kerry.
You know what I have noticed, Doug Brinkley, that, over the past several weeks, as he slipped in the polls and as this swift vet stuff has come out, the guy just seems angry. And I understand why. Here‘s a Vietnam vet whose service is being used against him. He doesn‘t look good when he is angry. It‘s hard for him to look good even when he is smiling.
Doesn‘t John Kerry really risk turning off voters if he comes across angry on Thursday night, if he goes on the attack, and if he appears to be overly negative?
BRINKLEY: Absolutely. Both Bush and Kerry have to stay calm. They have to show that they are in command of their presence. They have to have a first-class temperament.
You want to watch this. It‘s like boxing match or a sporting event. And when you get off, you want to be able to say, you know, I kind of like Kerry. He did a good job. He got a couple punches in there. He can‘t afford to come off being too shrill or pointing his finger. And, remember, we are talking about the pressure on Kerry.
Oftentimes, sitting presidents find themselves under pressure, or vice presidents. Look, after Nixon really got defeated in 1960 by Kennedy, there were no presidential debates from 1960 to 1976, because Johnson and Nixon didn‘t want them, really. They thought that they weren‘t great debaters, and there was danger. There‘s dangers for George W. Bush here. He is up in the polls. But yet he is having trouble in his foreign policy agenda, and people are wondering about it.
So he has got to watch he doesn‘t make a slip-up like Gerald Ford did in 1976, when he talked about, there is no Soviet domination over in Eastern Europe.
And one of my favorite comics from that time, a “Newsweek” comic, had two polls walking in a gulag. And one asked the other, how many Jerry Fords does it take to screw in a light bulb?
SCARBOROUGH: You just wonder what happens sometimes in these presidential debates. And these candidates just make a gaffe.
Peter Fenn, what do you want to see John Kerry accomplish first and foremost on Thursday night? What is the message he needs to bring home?
FENN: He does have to connect with people, Joe. There‘s no question about that; 21 percent of the people in this “Washington Post” poll can‘t even rate John Kerry right now. Those are voters. I mean, that‘s one out of every five voters.
Look, right now, on some of these polls, he has shown in the all-important question, who cares more about people like me, Kerry still leads in that question. The other thing is that a majority of Americans do feel that they disapprove of President Bush on the war. A majority of Americans do disapprove of his handling of the economy.
So what you have got here is an opening. It is not over yet. This is a very, very fluid electorate out there, and John Kerry has to connect with voters. He does—as everybody says, he does have to be likable. He does have to be in charge. He does have to knock down some of the (INAUDIBLE) that have been out there. My good friend Jack Burkman when he says that John Kerry voted against every weapon system, that‘s not true.
He was against the F-14, F-16, F-18, but you know what? So was Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney was even against the M-1 tank and the Osprey. And if you look at these records and his record in the Senate, it‘s a very strong record on national defense. So he will have to do some defending there, no question.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. All right, Peter, thanks a lot. We appreciate you being with us.
Also, Doug Brinkley, thanks for being with us also.
The rest of the panel, stick around.
We‘ll be right back with more of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute. And we are going to be talking about some poll numbers that are going to be facing both of these candidates as they go face to face on Thursday night live from the University of Miami.
We‘ll be right back in a second.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge: Which two candidates participated in the most televised debates? Is it, A, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, B, George Bush and Michael Dukakis, or, C, George W. Bush and Al Gore? The answer coming up.
ANNOUNCER: In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked, which two candidates participated in the most televised debates? The answer is A. Kennedy and Nixon debated four times in 1960, the most ever for two presidential candidates.
Now back to Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, we are back.
Now, you know, there are a lot of new polls out there, and let‘s look at the latest Gallup poll. Among likely voters, if the election were held today, 52 percent would vote for George Bush; 44 percent would vote for John Kerry.
Pat Buchanan, you know, a lot of people are suggesting that this race is over or it‘s do-or-die for John Kerry. But if I remember correctly, four years ago, Al Gore was enjoying a pretty good lead over George W. Bush in September, wasn‘t he?
BUCHANAN: Yes, he was. That‘s true.
But I will tell you, Joe, I think everybody in the country, they are getting the sense that the president, they have really hammered Kerry. They have made him unacceptable, and the president seems to be pulling slightly away in these numbers. Eight points is a very, very big number on October 1. And I think in the other categories of who can do the better job on Iraq and on terror, on the economy—even in relations with our allies, one poll gave Bush a 50-41 lead. The problem for Kerry is, he is becoming across as an unacceptable alternative, even though the country is looking for an alternative.
SCARBOROUGH: Why? Why?
BUCHANAN: He‘s been hammered, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: You look at these poll numbers, Pat, and the majority of Americans think this country is going on the wrong track. President Bush doesn‘t even have a 50 percent job approval rating in a lot of polls. And yet he is eight percentage points ahead.
I have never seen anything like this in presidential politics. It‘s starting to smell like Gray Davis‘ reelection bid in 1998.
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, it‘s something like McGovern. I mean, Nixon was not a 61 percent president.
What happened is this. You are right. I am one of those guys that think the country is moving in the wrong direction on a lot of issues, but Kerry was swift-boated in August. It threw a cloud over his truthfulness, his biggest asset, his war record, his credibility. The Republican Convention gutted him as flip-flopper.
And subsequent to that, you had Rather-gate and that mess with his campaign. And I think the American people took a good hard look and they said, look, this guy just is not up to being president of the United States. We can‘t take a risk with him. We‘ve got to go four more years with George Bush.
BURKMAN: Joe, part of the problem is that Kerry chose the wrong terrain. I think that the answer to your question really is, there‘s all this angst, but most of it is over the economy. Rightly or wrongly, that‘s what people are feeling.
Kerry—and I said this a year ago on your show—if he chooses the national security field, Kerry has chosen to try to beat Republicans on their home field. It‘s almost impossible to do. It takes a generation to change those kinds of perceptions. You can‘t beat Republicans on national security issues. You can over a 20-year period, if the Democratic Party little by little shows itself to be the better party on those issues.
But you can‘t do it in a one-year stand. There‘s all that angst. But to capitalize on that, to take advantage of that, Kerry would have to be running a campaign on domestic issues. He is not.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jack Burkman, Pat Buchanan, thanks for being with us.
And I will say it again. I agree with you, Jack, that sometimes it takes a long time to turn things around for a party, but I think John Kerry on Thursday night can do that if he decides that he actually wants to be the candidate that wants to be the toughest on Iraq, the toughest on Fallujah, and the toughest on terrorists.
Hey, now, coming up next, one politician is speaking out about CBS‘ Dan Rather and actually telling Rather he needs to step down from his anchor job. We are going to be talking about Rather-gate when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns live from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
We‘ll give Aaron Brown the left coast. We‘ll take Kalamazoo any day of the week.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, tomorrow night, we are going to be live in Miami with Chris Matthews with a “HARDBALL” panel, previewing the debate on Thursday night at the University of Miami.
But coming up next on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we are going to be talking about Rather-gate and how one politician is telling Dan Rather it‘s time to step down. That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns live from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
SCARBOROUGH: So, here‘s today‘s news in the world of Dan Rather. Congressman Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, has turned up the heat on CBS and said he may hold hearings. And a possible political candidate creates his own ad calling for Dan Rather to go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Dan Rather is a classic example of liberal media bias. Now he has been caught trying to influence the election. He desperately wanted to believe forged documents, worse yet, wanted us to believe them, too. It wasn‘t just sloppy journalism. It was political bias.
DOUG FORRESTER, BUSINESSMAN: A free press is essential, but news must be fair and balanced. Dan Rather failed that test and tarnished CBS.
I am Doug Forrester. Sign our petition. It‘s time for Dan Rather to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Politicians weighing in on Dan Rather. How is this going to affect the election and how is it going to affect the First Amendment?
With me now to talk about it, radio talk show host and author of the great new book “Straight Talk From the Heartland,” Ed Schultz. I‘m an Ed Head, baby. MSNBC analyst Flavia Colgan, and David Horowitz. He‘s the editor of “Front Page” magazine and an author of another great book, which I have read already, “Unholy Alliance.”
David, let me go to you first. What is your take on the Dan Rather scandal?
DAVID HOROWITZ, EDITOR, FRONTPAGEMAG.COM: Well, he is the first Democrat to go down, isn‘t he?
HOROWITZ: The news media, Dan Rather really is just one of a host of news anchors who have disgraced themselves in this election.
This election has shown that the network news is an adjunct of the Democratic Party. You had—here was a story, the National Guard story, which has been rehashed through—this is the fourth election. There‘s nothing really new in it that isn‘t forged. And CBS and the news media has carried this story.
When the Swift Boat Veterans, 260 colleagues who fought with John Kerry, attempted to bring actually a news story to light, the media acted as the Democratic spin machine. They were like Carville and Begala, attacking the swift boats. Never has the American press been so partisan, not in my lifetime, in an election for the Democratic Party.
And Rather just got his knickers got in a twist by using forged documents. He is history. This political ad that—you know, is meaningless, because Rather is over. CBS News has been dealt a near mortal blow. And I think this is going to affect the other news networks as well, and it‘s going to...
SCARBOROUGH: Ed Schultz, what do you think, Ed? What do you think about that, Ed Schultz? Is it going to impact the other networks as well?
ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It isn‘t going to impact the other networks at all, Joe, and it‘s certainly not going to impact this election.
I mean, I cannot believe the spin that is being put on all of this. Rather made a mistake. Let the market take care of it, just like all you Republicans love to talk about the free market. Let the consumers decide. Let‘s see where the ratings go. It has nothing to do with the Kerry camp or this election. I find it very interesting that, all of a sudden, we have got a Republican in the United States Congress that wants to hold hearings. You know, they want to frame the message, and they are great at doing that, and now they want to make sure they know who the messenger is. This is not America. This is dangerous.
SCARBOROUGH: Flavia Colgan, you know, I could go along with the whole, hey, gee, Dan Rather made a mistake. Even if you believe that he is left of center, everybody makes mistakes.
I will tell you what disturbs me the most about this story, though, the fact that Mary Mapes picks up the phone. She goes ahead. She places a call to Joe Lockhart, an operative for the John Kerry campaign, and says, you need to call this guy. He has got information that‘s going to move this story forward.
Every journalist that I have spoken with, every journalist, whether they‘re from the right or left or the center, all say that that‘s inappropriate and she should be fired and somebody at CBS should be held accountable. What do you think?
FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Joe, I think that I agree with Ed, and like most Americans—you saw the “USA Today” poll today. The vast majority of Americans feel that Dan Rather made an honest mistake and that he shouldn‘t be fired for it.
And I love David Horowitz‘s great lunches out there in L.A., but I have to take complete umbrage with him presenting the swift boat claims as if they were noble and lofty. They put out these claims that were contradicted by documentary evidence, by independent investigations, and even the Naval report that came up with nothing, of course, that the media basically dropped.
And, look, Dan Rather was not doing any sorts of favors for Democrats. First of all, the head of CBS, or Viacom, who owns CBS, Sumner Redstone, made an announcement last week that he was a Bush supporter. So let‘s not make and taint CBS as if they‘re this big liberal institution.
SCARBOROUGH: Flavia, I love that.
COLGAN: I mean, come on.
SCARBOROUGH: You have got to love that timing. You have got to love that timing. In the middle of this scandal, he comes out, oh, wait. Now I‘m for George Bush.
But answer about Mary Mapes. Appropriate or inappropriate?
HOROWITZ: There‘s no evidence that there was any coordination.
Look, I think that there‘s journalistic malpractice going on all over the place. And I think that it was right for Dan Rather to apologize. I think it‘s shameful that CBS is now pulling back on their story about the phony documents used for the Niger yellow cake debacle. And what kind of news organization is getting scared off by P.R. claims and saying, we can‘t go with a political story this close to election? Toughen up.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s a news organization that‘s proven itself to be biased.
Now, I‘ve got to ask you all—you have 10 seconds to answer it—will Dan Rather survive this year?
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s one second.
SCARBOROUGH: Flavia Colgan.
HOROWITZ: Why should he survive?
And, of course, both commentators—and I like Flavia a lot—sidestepped the issue. The issue was that the Swift Boat Veterans, whose case is solid—there‘s a lot of—course, Democrats don‘t agree with it. They were torpedoed by the media. The media played the role of Carville and Begala. That‘s what is wrong. We do not have a journalistic press that is reporting news. We have a partisan, Democrat advocacy...
SCHULTZ: There‘s not any advocates around...
SCARBOROUGH: David, we are out of time.
He took your time. Ed and Flavia, give us a yes or no. Is he going to survive?
SCHULTZ: Of course he is going to survive it. This is the only thing the right wing has, because they have no record to run on. So they are going to pick on Dan Rather and connect him to Kerry. What a joke.
COLGAN: Ed, when you are right, you are right, Ed.
SCHULTZ: What a joke.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, well, very good. We‘ve got to leave it there. Thanks for being with us.
We will talk to you tomorrow night live from Miami with a preview of Thursday night‘s debate. See you tomorrow night.
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