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'Scarborough Country' for Sept. 29

Read the transcript to Thursday's 5 p.m. ET show

Guests: Tucker Eskew, Dee Dee Myers, Robert Wexler, J.D. Hayworth, Mel Martinez, Ben Ginsburg, Trent Lott; Bob Graham; Ed Rendell; George Allen

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Hey, welcome to this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY live from the site of tonight‘s first presidential debate and even here, no passports required and only common sense is allowed.  Now, since 1960, presidential debates have given Americans a chance to see candidates side by side, letting voters compare their substance and style.  And giving presidential candidates a chance to seem, well, presidential. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m not running for the presidency because I believe that I can solve the problems we discussed tonight.  I believe the people of this country can and together we can begin the world over again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In my state, when people lose their jobs, there is a good chance I‘ll know them by their names.  When a factory closes, I know the people who ran it.  When the businesses go bankrupt, I know them. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And despite intense preparations, sometimes things go terribly wrong. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think we need to put Medicare and Social Security in a lock box.  The governor will not put Medicare in a lock box. 


SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt debates have changed the landscape of presidential politics, but will they change the course of this race for the White House?  In just a few hours President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry will face off in the first of three contests.  Each hoping that something they say tonight can help sway the election their way.  We‘ll get some last-minute advice for the president and his challenger from both sides of the political aisle. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He spends more money on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There is no soviet domination of Eastern Europe. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That answer is about as clear as Boston Harbor. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to our show this afternoon live from the University of Miami.  Now before we get to the big political news here at home, we have some flash news that could have a great impact on the political situation in England and across the world. 

News just in that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has given an interview saying he has a heart problem and will be getting treatment for that heart problem tomorrow.  Our London correspondent is monitoring the situation.  And we‘ll have a live update shortly. 

Now let‘s get back to the scene here in Miami.  It‘s T-Minus four hours before the first presidential debate and despite efforts to negotiate away the spontaneity out of this event, tonight is still an extraordinarily important event.  It‘s going to be high drama and the potential for great success or great failure still lies out there. 

Now our first guests tonight no strangers to debate.  We have Tucker Eskew.  He‘s senior adviser to the Bush campaign.  And we also have Dee Dee Myers.  She, of course, was President Clinton‘s first press secretary. 

Tucker, let me begin with you.  How are you guys feeling? 


Can I take a moment and extend all Americans best wishes to the prime minister of Great Britain.  I had the privilege of serving at Number 10 Downing Street for President Bush during the war in Afghanistan and saw what a great, strong leader Tony Blair is and we are all pulling for him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What a great man.  And I‘ll tell you what.  I know all Americans‘ hearts and prayers...

ESKEW:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... go out to him.  So you all right now in most polls seem to be ahead on the issue that really seems to matter the most.  Who do Americans trust more to win the war on terror?  Your candidate is leading by 20 to 30 percentage points in most polls.  That put you guys in a pretty good situation, doesn‘t it? 


SCARBOROUGH:  So, what is the strategy tonight?  Going to sit on the lead? 

ESKEW:  Not going to sit on the lead.  The president takes nothing for granted.  He is a competitor who knows these are deadly serious issues we are talking about tonight.  You compare it to four years ago where this country has come, what we‘ve been through.  The stakes are really high. 

The president believes that he goes into this debate having begun to really shape the fall campaign throughout his summer, talking about his records, talking about his vision.  Our opponent hasn‘t done that.  He missed every opportunity to lay out what his record was in the Senate for 19 years and what his vision is and I think that‘s certainly true in foreign policy where he‘s just been really swayed by the political winds. 

As the headlines got bad, he changed his position.  This president that we have now knows where his head is.  John Kerry seems to know where the headlines are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dee Dee Myers, obviously over the past several weeks things have been going terribly wrong for John Kerry.  If you look at the big picture, if you look at the big polls, obviously some of these polls are tightening up, but still in a lot of the swing states like Missouri and Ohio, some of these other areas, things aren‘t going well.  And again on that key issue, I know you‘ve seen the numbers.  Who do Americans trust more regarding the war on terror?  George Bush winning that overwhelmingly.  What does John Kerry need to do tonight to turn things around and put him in a position where he can catch this president as he goes into late October? 

DEE DEE MYERS, FMR. CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY:  Right.  Look the national polls all seem in sync.  John Kerry is running somewhat behind the president.  He is running about where President Bush was running four years ago, which was he was five or six points behind, he wasn‘t as well known as the incumbent, in that case Vice President Al Gore. 

He was thought to not be a particularly good debater.  John Kerry, you know the Bush campaign runs around saying Kerry is the greatest debater since Cicero, but really what people are saying is he‘s too wordy, he‘s not focused enough.  So Kerry is in basically the same position Bush was four years ago and of course, President Bush was able to turn it around with a strong—a very strong debate performance. 

If I was John Kerry, I would probably, you know, throw the long bomb.  I‘d probably try to do something slightly outside the rules, taking the chance that it might you know stir things up, change the dynamic, catch the president a little bit off his guard.  He is a good debater.  As Carter said, he‘s a competitor. 

He‘s ready for these debates.  He‘s not taking anything for granted.  He‘s a great debater.  He‘s disciplined.  I saw something in the paper today said that in the last debate he took 18 lines from his stump speech and repeated them 59 times, so we know what we‘re going to hear from the president today unless John Kerry can find a way to change the dynamic. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker, the dynamic right now seemed to be this.  Regardless of what position Senator Kerry takes on the war, on taxes, on just about any issue, President Bush labels him a flip-flopper.  I find it hard to—I have been trying to put myself in the senator‘s position, come up with a couple of ideas that I might do, but for the most part, whatever John Kerry says, the president is probably just going to label him a flip-flopper, isn‘t he?

ESKEW:  Well, he gives us plenty of opportunity to do that.  You know, they have complained about us labeling him that and they have tried to claim the president is one, but you know what, it sticks if it‘s true, if the American people sense it, if it seems real.  If I can go back to something Dee Dee said, you know, that may have been true four years ago.  There may have been a dynamic, but you know what, that was four years ago. 

This country is in an entirely different place.  We are in the midst of a war on terror against people who want to slaughter innocent Americans, innocent allies of ours whether it‘s Italians, Australians, Britons, you name it.  And we cannot have that kind of vacillating style of leadership that John Kerry evinces every time he talks about this as recently as yesterday.  He couldn‘t give a straight answer.  He basically said that this was the right thing to do?  It depends. 

Well, come on.  That‘s no way to lead this country in such turbulent times.  It‘s not washing with the American people.  The president gets out there and does his job tonight right, lays out his vision and his record, we‘re going to be in a good place. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dee Dee Myers, you know, the man you worked for, Bill Clinton, so likable on TV, just like Ronald Reagan 12 years before him when he was introduced to America.  He was very likable presence, very warm.  You look at John Kerry with the volume turned off he doesn‘t seem to be so happy.  Obviously, when things have been going poorly for him, again, over the past several week, seems that he looks angry. 

Of course, a lot of people are now talking about how he also looks orange.  I‘m not exactly sure what that‘s all about.  But for John Kerry, isn‘t style tonight going to be just as important for him as substance to prove to Americans that he‘s a likable guy.  He‘s somebody that they can trust, somebody that they would want to invite into their living rooms.

MYERS:  Yes, I think that there are personal qualities that voters look for and debates are great opportunities to communicate those.  You know, you sit there and watch somebody for 90 minutes responding to questions, interacting, unfortunately, not so much with the other candidate in tonight‘s case, but you learn a lot about them.  And John Kerry is going to be painfully or at least very intensely aware of that. 

He has not come across as somebody that you feel super comfortable with.  And I don‘t think the have a beer test is a very good one.  I don‘t know if the American people want a president they can have a beer with.  As Jon Stewart said, he wants a president who‘s a designated driver and I think that is what the country is looking for.  If John Kerry...

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait.  What is John Kerry—wait—what is John Kerry‘s flaw as a person or at least as a public figure, what is there about John Kerry that just seems to turn off the majority of Americans on a personal level... 

MYERS:  Well I don‘t know if he turns off the majority of Americans on a personal level, Joe...


MYERS:  ... but I think he‘s a very reserved guy.  No, I think that‘s different than turning them off on a personal level.  He is a reserved person and that‘s not necessarily the best quality in running for public office.  Look, he‘s somewhat distant.  He‘s not somebody that people feel like they connect with emotionally.  He needs to find a way while being the serious person that he is, while being the kind of steady person that he is, that he can connect with people and show them enough of who he is that they feel comfortable with the notion he‘s going to act in my interest when the chips are down. 

And I‘m not sure the American public is there.  Look, the stakes couldn‘t be higher for John Kerry tonight.  The president‘s people have said all we need to do is debate to a draw.  We all know John Kerry needs to do better than that tonight.  He needs to find a way to get Americans to give him another look.  I don‘t think he can turn it around in one night, but if he can get people to step back and say OK, I‘m willing to give this guy another chance, then I think that‘s a big win for John Kerry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker, obviously the chips are down for John Kerry and I mean let‘s face it.  You guys set up these rules in such a way that there wasn‘t going to be a dramatic moment.  Nobody was going to be approaching anybody else.  I mean you guys were playing it safe, weren‘t you...


ESKEW:  ... he might pull out a screwdriver and try to pop those three lights off the podium, from what one of the aides said earlier today.  So we could have a little bit of drama.  I don‘t think the American people want drama though.  They really want to size up...

SCARBOROUGH:  What if he breaks the rules?  What if he approaches the president?  What if he decides to blow past the time limit?  What are you all willing to do?  What are you prepared to do? 

ESKEW:  I just think there‘s nothing that anybody can do to knock a man off stride who has led us through so much war and hard times and good times.  The president pretty much knows John Kerry is likely to be prosecutorial and could march across that stage and try a gimmick.  The rules were designed not do that.  If they break those rules, they can answer for it.  We‘ll be fine. 

MYERS:  The rules...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Tucker...

MYERS:  ... are designed to keep the candidates from actually engaging each other, which is unfortunate because I think it‘s ludicrous on both parties‘ behalf.  I mean the two candidates ought to sit down and have a thoughtful conversation about issues and not sit there and issue sound bytes at us which is, unfortunately, what I think we‘re going to see too much of tonight. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly.  Exactly.  We‘ll invite them both.

Thanks Tucker.  Appreciate you being here, as always, great to see you.  Dee Dee, thank you so much.  And...

MYERS:  You bet.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... there‘s a lot more ahead in this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY live from Miami.  We‘re going to have more on the developing story out of England.  Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s announcement that he‘s got a heart condition.  And a closer look at how the Florida hurricane disasters may factor into this year‘s election process.  We‘re going to be joined by Senate candidate Mel Martinez. 

And later, we‘re going to be getting a Democratic pulse from Ed Rendell, governor of one of the key battleground states that both candidates are going to be trying to reach out to tonight—Pennsylvania.  You‘re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY on MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will not make age an issue of this campaign.  I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.




SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, straight ahead we‘ve got much more of this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY live from the site of tonight‘s presidential showdown on the campus of the University of Miami.

And coming up, a shadowy e-mail with rumors of a return of the military draft.  We‘ll talk about that coming up next.


SCARBOROUGH:  From Florida to the battle for the White House, with me now live we‘ve got representative Robert Wexler, a real troublemaker out of Florida, and representative J.D. Hayworth from Arizona. 


REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA:  I miss you Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... I‘m down in Miami.  I miss you too.  Four years ago we were screaming at the recount.  We had Ginsburg running around.  I mean the entire vast right-wing conspiracy was down here.  We miss you.  Robert, we miss you.  Robert, we need you down here...

WEXLER:  Yes.  Well actually Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... but since you aren‘t down here...

WEXLER:  No, Joe, what happened was...


WEXLER:  ... I was screaming in disgust and you were busy charging the courthouse.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well you know what?  Time well spent, baby.  Time well spent. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Anyway, Robert, let‘s be serious about tonight for a second.  Your candidate obviously, having some problems right now.  Falling behind on what you and I know is the key issue.  You look at all of these polls, it doesn‘t matter how close they are nationally.  Key issue—who do Americans trust to lead this country in the war on terror?  John Kerry most of these polls are losing—is losing anywhere between 20 and 30 points.  Robert, you are a tough guy.  What would you do if you were in John Kerry‘s position tonight to turn that number around? 

WEXLER:  I would go out and be as candid as possible.  I would talk about my plans for Iraq for turning around what is a very dangerous and apparently losing situation in Iraq for our troops and for our country. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s your—what would that plan be?  Would it be to be tougher in Iraq, tougher in Fallujah?  Would it be to get the troops home as quickly as possible? 

WEXLER:  Well unlike the president, what I would do is tell the truth and I wouldn‘t try to snow the American people and present a rosy picture when one doesn‘t exist.  I also think Senator Kerry should engage the president in an honest discussion so the American people can see the differences between the two. 

This is how Senator Kerry wins tonight.  If at the end of the 90 minutes, Americans sit back and say, you know what?  This guy makes sense.  He‘s presidential.  He is moderate.  He is somebody we can trust.  Then Senator Kerry is a big winner.  The expectations are really quite high for President Bush because the poll numbers seem to suggest people think...


WEXLER:  ... he‘s in charge. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I tell you what.  He‘s Winston Churchill, isn‘t he, Robert?  J.D. Hayworth, what does George W. Bush have to do tonight to put away Senator John Kerry for good?

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA:  Well if John Kerry follows Robert Wexler‘s advice tonight, then President Bush will win hands down.  But I think what is going to happen is you‘re going to see the president come out and just simply talk straight to the American people.  You see in stark contrast all of this talk about falsehoods.

The problem is that Senator Kerry really needs to start listening to country music because apparently he‘s never heard that song “That‘s My Story and I‘m Sticking To It.”  When it comes to Iraq, he‘s had nine different positions.  He always says he has a better idea.  He just can‘t really quite express it.

Now I‘m sure he‘s going to be very erudite, very nuanced.  I know that he had a lot of experience, eight debates with Bill Weld and two decades of debates in the United States Senate, so he‘s going to be a pretty good debater.  But on the bottom level, on a gut check level the American people may not agree with the turn of phrase from President Bush, but they know that he speaks truth to power. 

They know that he‘s a resolute leader.  They know that he understands the threat to this nation and they know that he is clear and consistent in dealing with that threat rather than waiting for permission from Germany, France, and the United Nations to take action to defend the American people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Robert, a “TIME” magazine poll just came out and it really illustrates John Kerry‘s biggest problem right now.  About one in five voters, according to this “TIME” poll, still say they don‘t know enough about John Kerry to have an opinion about him.  That‘s 20 percent with about 40 days left. 

WEXLER:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  One perception that‘s taken root is that John Kerry is a flip-flopper.  Only 37 percent of voters in this “TIME” poll say they believe he sticks to his positions.  Eighty-four percent say that about George Bush.  Again, Robert, what does he have to do...

WEXLER:  That‘s right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... tonight to turn those numbers around?

WEXLER:  If those numbers are accurate, then what has occurred is President Bush‘s negative campaign and the Republican Convention has framed a view of Senator John Kerry in some people‘s minds.  And the man himself, John Kerry, needs to change that view tonight and I am confident that he will. 

When more Americans get an opportunity to view John Kerry as I have for many years, as many people in Florida and my district saw last week, he is both convincing.  He is passionate and he is straight as an arrow.  And with respect to country music songs, really what the president‘s song is, “This is my story, I‘m sticking to it even if it‘s dead wrong and even if I‘m presenting you a picture that bears no reality.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  J.D., a lot of people are talking about an e-mail that‘s going around that‘s warning about the draft.  You have a lot of people on this campus and other campuses around the country concerned about it.  This is what it says. 

Quote—“Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military experts and influential members of Congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld‘s prediction of a long, hard slog in Iraq and Afghanistan and permanent state of war on terrorism proves to be accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to begin the draft.”

Will there ever be in—under George W. Bush‘s leadership and while you are in Congress, will there ever be a draft re-implemented? 

HAYWORTH:  There is not going to be a draft.  In fact, what I hope we will do and I am asking the leadership to do this.  Bring up Charlie Rangel‘s bill that calls for the reinstatement of the draft.  Let‘s have that vote next week before we adjourn.  We have a busy schedule, but let‘s bring that vote up and have a vote so the American people can see that that e-mail is an urban myth just like that Bill 601P submitted by a nonexistent Representative Shell (ph) that is supposed to tax e-mail. 

There‘s just no truth to this.  It‘s an urban myth, but we ought to have the vote next week and let Charlie Rangel and those on the left who want to reinstate the draft come to the floor of the United States House and make that case.  I‘m ready to take that vote...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.

HAYWORTH:  ... and go on record today. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey J.D., thanks for being with us.  Robert, as always it‘s great to be with you.  Tell your mother...

WEXLER:  Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... I say hi.  I know she loves me. 

WEXLER:  Yes, that‘s right...


SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, my mom says hi to you, too. 


SCARBOROUGH:  All right, see you guys later.  Be safe up there. 

Now, as you know, the 2000 election was decided right here in Florida, now the site of this first presidential debate.  It‘s a state that hasn‘t had much time to think about politics lately dealing with the impact of an unprecedented hurricane sunshine.  With me now to talk about it is former Housing and Urban Development secretary under George Bush and current GOP nominee for the Florida Senate, Mel Martinez, and we also have former legal counsel to George Bush, Ben Ginsburg. 

So good to see you guys with us...




SCARBOROUGH:  ... how is this hurricane season going to have an impact on this debate tonight and on the presidential season? 

MARTINEZ:  There‘s no question that it‘s frozen the election in Florida for the past six weeks, seven weeks now and I am hoping that we now have got that season behind us even though no not officially over, no more storms will come, so over the next 34 days we can have a real campaign, discuss the issues, and have a good vote in Florida. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m going to see just how willing you are to just tell the truth, the rock solid truth on a very political question.  I have yet to talk to a politician and I was a politician from Florida, that didn‘t say they were helped by a hurricane because it gave them a chance to go out in the community, make things happen, connect people up.  I mean truth be known, despite the fact that it‘s been a great, great tragedy, in the end it‘s probably going to end up helping the incumbent, isn‘t it? 

MARTINEZ:  It probably does the incumbent and Governor Bush has done such a terrific job.  I think all Floridians are grateful for the job that he‘s done.  The president has been in this state a number of times, shown a great deal of care and concern and I think that plays well with folks at a time of tragedy.  You know from my standpoint, I‘m not campaigning in ravaged areas, although I‘m going to visit some tomorrow just to see the extent of damage, but I‘ve come up with a couple of ideas that I think are helpful. 

For instance, zero percentage loans through the SBA so that homeowners can have a loan to meet their deductible.  My concern is, Joe, that over time we‘ll have blighted areas, blighted neighborhoods if people cannot fix up their homes and there‘s a lot of homes that are damaged. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ve got a lot of friends that have lost everything, absolutely everything.  I get a new call every day from somebody that says you know what, our entire house was swept into the gulf or the bayou.  Ben Ginsburg, I‘ll tell you what, that is going to have a very real impact on the state of Florida.  You‘ve already seen again, a lot of polls, recent polls breaking in George W. Bush‘s direction.  Is there a chance that if he keeps coming to the state some people could say that he‘s using human tragedy for his own political gain? 

BEN GINSBURG, FORMER BUSH LEGAL COUNSEL:  Oh no.  Look, he‘s the leader of the country.  He‘s been excellent at providing this help to Florida and to other states where this happened.  The Federal Emergency Management Administration has been here helping constantly.  And that‘s part of being what a president is, which is why his positive numbers are so high. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m going to put on Chris Matthews‘ hat right now.  Chris was on a tear about this last night.  A lot of people are.  Chris thinks that you and the Bush team have squeezed all the life out of this debate.  That you‘re so scared that your candidate is going to embarrass himself that you set up conditions in this 32-page document and now there is no spontaneity.  Why didn‘t you want Senator Kerry to be able to ask George Bush questions and George Bush to be able to ask Senator Kerry questions? 

GINSBURG:  Well because there is a history of debates.  And this agreement is really not categorically different in that regard from so many other debate agreements over the past four election cycles.  The truth is this is the best way to not have grandstanding in a debate and to let the questions and candidates sort of respond to those questions without the grandstanding and showboating. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, how do you think your candidate is going to do tonight? 

GINSBURG:  I think he‘s going to do great.  You know he‘s got the one who‘s got an honest, clear course of how he proceeds and he‘s going to keep on doing that.  So it‘s a natural act for him.  John Kerry getting these answers into two minutes and being consistent will be fun to watch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mel Martinez, final question to you.  Does George W.  Bush carry the state of Florida, and do you help him do it by getting elected senator? 

MARTINEZ:  I think he will carry the state of Florida.  He‘s been a good president.  I think he deserves re-election and I think the Floridians are showing that by the recent polls we‘ve seen and I‘m going to help him.  I‘m campaigning awfully hard.  There‘s going to be a tremendously high turnout among Hispanic Americans of all stripes and most of all I think going to help in the I-4 Corridor as well.  It‘s going to a lot of fun. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot.  We appreciate both of you being here and I‘ll see you back here tonight. 



SCARBOROUGH:  And good luck out on the trail. 

And coming up after the break, we‘re going to have more on the big news out of Great Britain, a heart problem for Prime Minister Tony Blair.  And a lot more American politics coming up.  We‘re going to get the take from two big names in the Senate. 

Stay with us on this special edition of  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY live from the University of Miami.  Go “Canes”.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He talks about numbers.  I‘m beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.  It‘s fuzzy (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  It‘s the scaring trying to scare people in the voting booth.




GERALD FORD, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. 

AL GORE, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I will put Medicare in around iron-clad lock box. 

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  I am not going to exploit my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.


SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to be back with more of the special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY live from the Coral Gables debate site.  In just a minute we‘re going to get insight from three of Capitol Hill‘s biggest name, but first, let‘s get the latest headlines on the health scare for London‘s prime minister, Tony Blair. 

Jennifer, you there? 

That‘s right, there‘s speculation over—yes, I‘m there.  I can hear you. 

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Speculation, tonight, over Tony Blair‘s health was stirred this evening when the British prime minister announced he was experiencing atrial flutters or heart palpitations.  And, under the advice of his doctor, he will undergo a procedure tomorrow, a procedure he said his doctors called “routine.” 


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  I think they call it an “atrial flutter” that I had last year and reoccurred in August and doesn‘t stop me working, it‘s not debilitating in any shape or form at all, but this is why they get fix and I‘m going for what they call a “routine procedure” tomorrow. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And will that require you being out of action for a long time? 

BLAIR:  No, I‘ll be back at my desk on Monday. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And how do you feel? 

BLAIR:  I feel fine.  I feel great. 


ECCLESTON:  That‘s right, the 51-year-old says he feels fine, he feels great, in fact, as he said there, he‘ll be back to work on Monday after resting during the weekend.  The prime minister said the palpitations occurred in August.  He made the announcements during an interview with two British networks and dismissed rumors he would step down due to health issues saying he does not intend to leave his job and will continue to be the elected leader of the British government.  He did, however, say he would not run for office for a fourth term.  If Blair wins elections, which are expected, next spring, it would be his third term in office. 

Now, Tony Blair has been at the center of two health scares including one which required a cardio version.  This involves an injection of chemicals or electric shock therapy to stabilize the heartbeat.  That heart scare occurred in October of last year, 2003, and was followed weeks later by a further incident that led to a doctor being ferried on a motorbike to give the prime minister a health check. 

That‘s the latest from London.  Back to you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jennifer, briefly, obviously Tony Blair is going through a difficult time politically with Iraq and the worsening situation there.  Tell me, what is the climate for the prime minister as he goes in to have his—this heart procedure, politically in London, right now? 

ECCLESTON:  Well, I think it could safely be called a very stressful period for the prime minister.  This week, today actually, was the conclusion of the labor party conference where he was speaking to his party faithful, a party which is greatly divided about Britain‘s role in Iraq.  A number of labor ministers and labor supporters have been very vocal in criticizing the prime minister‘s roll in going—going into the war and back—war in Iraq and being so close to President Bush.  A lot of people saying that he lied about British intentions going into the war and that he was being dishonest, and as a result, a lot of his own supporters, many of those who were at the labor party conference have lost faith in him.  So of course, that has added stress and as you well know, heart palpitations are sometimes brought about by increased stress, so that could be one of the reasons why he is seeking medical attention. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much Jennifer Eccelstone.  We greatly appreciate it. 

Now, coming up next on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘re going to be talking to Senator Trent Lott and Florida senator, Bob Graham.  Stick around, we‘ll be right back. 


JIMMY CARTER, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  Governor Reagan, again, typically is against such a proposal.

REAGAN:  Governor, there you go again. 

You know, I wasn‘t going to say this at all, but I can‘t help it—there you go again.




SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, we‘re live in Coral Gables, Florida where President Bush and John Kerry go head-to-head in just three-and-a-half hours.  Spirited debate has always been the hallmark of the United States Senate.  And with us now to give us their own insight of tonight‘s presidential debate are Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi and, of course, we have senator Bob Graham, right here on set from Florida. 

Senator Graham let me begin with you. 

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What does John Kerry have to do tonight to erase this lead on the key issue, which is:  How is the president handling the war on terror?  He‘s behind in some polls 20, 25, 30 percent.  How does he turn it around? 

GRAHAM:  Well first, he emphasizes that there‘s not one war, there are two wars.  There‘s the war on terror and then there‘s the distraction of the war in Iraq.  First, Senator Kerry needs to point out the many ways of which this president has mishandled both wars and put us in greater jeopardy.  For instance, we should have stayed in Afghanistan and finished off al-Qaeda.  We could have crushed al-Qaeda in the spring of 2002 had we not gotten diverted.  And he needs to point out that we went into the war in Iraq, not like his father did, with a strong, meaningful international alliance with a good plan for the war and a plan of how to get out of Iraq after the war, this President Bush has none of those things.  I think he‘s extremely vulnerable on those points and that John Kerry ought to point them out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator Trent Lott, as you know, -- Trent Lott, as you know, we republicans have feasted on democratic candidates for being too soft on national defense issues.  I personally think John Kerry can go after the president tonight, saying:  You had a chance to get Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora and you backed off.  You had a chance to get al-Zarqawi in Fallujah, you backed off.  Do you think there‘s any possibility that he could go that way and say:  Mr. President, you‘re all hat, no cattle. 

GRAHAM:  Which happens to be...

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  The key there, though, is credibility.  And frankly, I just don‘t think that John Kerry has credibility in these issues.  When you look at his voting record and when you look at the various positions that he‘s taken, he‘s not one that can make that kind of charge.  It‘s kind of like being lectured by the bartender about being an alcoholic.  It won‘t work.  President Bush has been very strong, he has built up our defensive capabilities and does leave decisions in the field to military commanders.  That‘s one of the tactical things that the president has been doing and, I think, doing correctly. 

President—look, the American people know President Bush, they know he‘s strong, they know he‘s a leader, they know he‘s a man of character, even when they don‘t agree with him, they know he has principles, and I think the attack like you‘re just outling won‘t go anywhere. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, things seem to be getting worse by the day in Iraq.  This is—even though the president‘s numbers are staying high right now, if the attacks continue on a daily basis, if more Americans continue to die between now and the election day, at the rate they have been dying over the past three, four weeks, in the end that will hurting President Bush in the polls, isn‘t it? 

LOTT:  I think the American people understand that the situation in the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, is difficult, it‘s serious, and it‘s going to take time.  They understand that we are in there and you cannot pull out.  But to say that, look, it‘s tough and Iraqis are still killing people including women and children, is to be the same as saying, in the case of Israel, because of the Palestinians who have suicide bombers, that we should somehow change our support for Israel. 

This is a tough situation in Iraq.  But we‘ve got a good leader in there and the prime minister, we‘re continuing to do our job in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And we are making progress.  Are they fighting against the possibilities of having democracy and freedom of the people in Iraq?  These insurgents?  Why, of course.  Should we be doing more?  Absolutely.  And the president will say that tonight, I‘m convinced. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator Graham, you know, we had a guest on earlier that said John Kerry had nine different positions on the Iraq war.  He certainly has been going back and forth.  I know—I know you see him on the senate floor as the guy that voted against the resolution that‘s been rock solid and consistent from day one.  I know it‘s got to frustrate you.  How does he get around the charge of being a flip-flopper on the Iraq issue, tonight? 

GRAHAM:  Well, one thing I think he ought to advocate is full openness for the American people.  A couple of days ago, in the newspaper, there was a story about a contract security firm in Iraq which was keeping a count of how many attacks there were against U.S. forces, civilians, and Iraqis.  That got publicized.  You know what the administration did last night?  They told that firm no more putting out that kind of information.  They‘re trying to hide, from the American people, the reality of what‘s going on in Iraq, so the American people can‘t make an assessment:  Has this president led us into a war properly equipped with the right kind of strategy, with the right kind of international support, or as he gotten us into a quagmire which is not only going to destabilize the Middle East, but is going to make us individuals, right here in America, less safe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, do we get out of Iraq?  Should he say we need to get out of Iraq immediately or as soon as possible?

GRAHAM:  No, no, he has to have a plan of how to get out of Iraq.  For instance, we‘re not training nearly enough Iraqi police or security personnel to come close to the goal of having an adequate non-U.S. force to protect Iraq.  That ought to be project No. 1.  No. 2, is we‘ve got to protect the people.  The biggest loss of life, in Iraq, among Iraqis, has been people who are trying to sign up to be policemen.  How do you get a credible and adequate security force under those circumstances?  To my knowledge, this president has had no plan to do a better job on either of those two fronts—more Iraqi security, more security for the Iraqi security. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Senator.  Now, Senator Lott, final question, the important question:  You‘ve got a book coming out in the near future, you talk about all the years in the United States Senate.  You are kind to Senator Graham, aren‘t you? 


LOTT:  He is a friend and fraternity brother, and as a matter of fact, this is not a book about business.  I‘m going to tell the truth, but—you know, there are a lot of good leaders in the Senate and in the House.  And I‘m going to talk about the good and some of the disappointments, too.

SCARBOROUGH:  The good, bad, ugly.  And when‘s that coming out, Senator?

LOTT:  Ah, well, the publisher will have to make that call.  I hope this fall. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Well, when you find out, let us know. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Good luck, Trent.  Hey Trent, I hope you will read my book “Intelligence Matters” and I‘ll read yours. 


LOTT:  That‘s a deal.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, gentlemen.  Appreciate you being here.  Now, we still have a lot more ahead on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live from the University of Miami.  We‘re going to be talking to the governor of one of the most important states in this election—Pennsylvania.  That‘s when we return live from the University of Miami. 


SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to be back in a moment with some great debate moments from the past.  Make sure you stay with MSNBC all night for the debate coverage and don‘t miss “After Hours” tonight when the top political minds help me and Ron Reagan score the debate.  That‘s midnight until 2:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC. “After Hours” live from the University of Miami.  We‘ll be right back.


SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, it‘s a great honor to be joined now by democratic governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell and Senator George Allen, republican from Virginia, who‘s also the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

Let me begin with you, Governor Rendell.  You come from is swing state of all swing states.  What may work with liberal democratic activists on the West Coast doesn‘t work in western Pennsylvania.  What does John Kerry need to do to reach out to those swing voters in your state and win tonight‘s debate? 

GOV. EDWARD RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, tonight‘s debate on foreign policies, he‘s got to do a lot off things on domestic policy.  He‘s starting to do them well.  But, on foreign policy he‘s got to do two things:  One, give America a reality check.  Iraq is a mess and it‘s a mess, in part, because the administration had no planning and no plan for the peace or to get us out.  For example, two of Senator Allen‘s republican colleague, Senator Hagel and Senator Lugar, pointed out that we‘ve only spent five percent of the reconstruction money, $1 billion out of $18 billion a year later.  That money should have all been spent; it ought to have been spent building up Iraq and creating goodwill with the Iraqi people.  The war is a quagmire, we‘re headed towards a Vietnam struggle, we have no plan to get out. 

Secondly, he‘s got to talk about terrorism.  The administration talks tough about terrorism, but as you know, Joe, the budget for port security received a dramatic cut by the Bush administration and now only three percent of the containers that come through ports like Philadelphia are checked.  You can ship a nuclear bomb in through one of those containers and have a strong likelihood of getting it in.  And then, secondly, he‘s to shore out his own plan.  He does have a good plan for getting us out of Iraq, and it calls on the Arab nations, it call on our traditional allies to get involved, but not just get involved sharing the burden of Iraq, but to get involved and get their companies involved in sharing some of the reconstruction economic opportunities.  His plan can work.  He‘s got to chart out the plan for terrorism.  He can do it, and I think it‘s going to be a real reality check to the American people.  He‘s got a great opportunity to blow away a lot of the doubts that have been raised, very effectively, by the Bush campaign. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator Allen, it seems over the past two, three months the Bush campaign and also some groups that don‘t like John Kerry very much have been masterful in showing doubts about John Kerry, whether he‘s a flip-flopper, whether he really believes in anything.  Is that going to be George W. Bush‘s answer to every attack tonight?  Well, Senator Kerry, you may say that tonight, but that‘s not what you said last month or last year. 

SENATOR GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  Or last week.  Or yesterday.  Governor Rendell painted the best picture he could, but the reality is is John Kerry shows a great deal of self-doubt in the positions he‘s taken.  I find it interesting that all we hear from the democrats is gloom and despair and agony.  They like to point out everything that is bad.  You talk about reconstruction funds and support for the troops, well, what Governor Rendell was talking about was part of the $87 billion that John Kerry voted against.  And that was also for body armor for our troops.  The president has a very...

SCARBOROUGH:  But things are—Senator, but things are going fairly badly over there, right now. 


SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, I support the Iraq war, always have, always will, but things are going pretty darn bad over there, right now, aren‘t they? 

ALLEN:  Well, if you would pay—and granted, the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists who want him to come back into power are now resorting to killing children, 34, 35 children were killed today in an attack.  But Iraq is moving towards elections.  Is it going to be easy?  No, it‘s not going to be easy.  It‘s going to be a challenge.  But, we need to persevere, we need to adapt, we need to train as quickly as we can and we are, Iraqis, to be taking care of their own security.  President Bush is not worry about the inconsistencies and flip-flops of Senator Kerry on foreign policy from Iraq‘s, intelligence funding, to Cuba to the security threats in Israel.  He‘s going to talk about the future, where he wants to continue leading this country with resolve and with clarity.  The clarity that‘s important for the American people, for our allies, and also our enemies. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Ed Rendell, respond. 

RENDELL:  Well, Joe, first of all, last time I checked, Senator Hagel and Senator Lugar are not democrats.  They called the Bush administration‘s handling of reconstruction “incompetent.”  They are right.  The American people should understand what‘s going on in Iraq.  It is a mess, we have no way out, and people are holding John Kerry responsible for a plan to get us out of a mess that George Bush, and the people who plan this, created.  John Kerry does have a plan.  He‘s going to have a chance to articulate it tonight.  There is no question that this war is getting us in deeper and deeper trouble.  It should be laid at the president‘s doorstep.  As far as free elections, didn‘t I hear Secretary Rumsfeld say that he thinks it‘s unlikely that they can have free elections in 40 percent of the country?  Because we don‘t have control...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.

Governor, last time I checked...


SCARBOROUGH:  Gentlemen, unfortunately, I‘m going—we‘re going to—we‘re out of time, unfortunately.  Gentlemen, we‘re at the end of the show.  I want to thank you both of you for being with me.  And I also want to remind all our viewers that tonight is getting started.  We‘re going to be with Chris Matthews and the “Hardball” panel at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and, of course, MSNBC will bring you the season‘s first presidential debate in its entirety at 9:00 p.m. We‘ll see you then.




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