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Deborah Norville Tonight for Oct. 4

Read transcript to Monday's Show

Guests: Hal Bruno, Paul Kirk, Frank Fahrenkopf, Carolyn Kepcher


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  It doesn‘t get much closer than this.  It‘s now a dead-even run for the White House, as the vice presidential candidates prepare to go head to head in their first debate.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  On Tuesday night, we‘ll go beyond national security and foreign policy and also talk about what‘s happening here at home.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Part of it, I think, is this question of where we‘re going with respect to our national security strategy in the days ahead and years ahead.


NORVILLE:  And a look back.




NORVILLE:  Does the vice presidential debate sway voters?




NORVILLE:  The Donald‘s right hand.  She shares the boardroom with the tough real estate tycoon.


DONALD TRUMP, “THE APPRENTICE”:  I feel good about her.


NORVILLE:  And like the big boss, she‘s not afraid to speak her mind.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Maria just screwed up.

You just can‘t get it.  You failed, you failed, you failed.

I‘m embarrassed to be a businesswoman right now.



NORVILLE:  And now this vice president is helping other women climb the corporate ladder by the book.  Tonight, Carolyn Kepcher takes a meeting with me.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sounds personal.


ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening.  Up first tonight, President George Bush and Senator John Kerry neck and neck less than a month before the presidential election.  And tomorrow night. all eyes will be on the vice presidential nominees, as Dick Cheney and John Edwards meet in their only debate.

Senator Kerry got a huge bounce after last week‘s first presidential debate, as some new polls show him picking up several points to pull even with the president.  And record numbers of people are voting across the country.  Today was the final day for registration in 15 states, as well as the District of Columbia, and those states include a number of swing states.  There was a surge of potential voters that swamped election offices.

Tomorrow night in Cleveland, Cheney and Edwards will go at it.  And joining me tonight to look ahead to the vice presidential debate, as well as the presidential race, is political analyst Hal Bruno.  He has covered every presidential election since 1960.  He moderated the 1992 vice presidential debate, of which we saw a clip a moment ago.  Also with us is presidential historian and MSNBC analyst Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I thank you both for being with us tonight.

Let‘s get to these polls first.  I want to throw the numbers up, and then we can talk about what happened, at least according to the pollsters.  First off, there was a poll that came out from “Newsweek”—let‘s just put the numbers right up on the screen—that takes a look at the preference if the voter—the vote were held right now, 46 percent, Kerry leading now by 49 percent.  Looking at the next set of numbers that we‘ve got—let‘s throw them right up there—it‘s the CNN/Gallup/”USA Today” poll, again both candidates the case and neck, literally 49 percent.  And then late this afternoon, the Pew poll was released.  This is a poll, first off, of likely voters.  These are folks who are most likely to actually get to the polls on November 2.  President Bush leading by just a few percentage points, and then with registered voters, the president‘s lead widens 48 to 41 percent.

OK, so we‘ve seen the numbers.  Doris Kearns Goodwin, tell me, what‘s going on?  What do these numbers tell you?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, MSNBC ANALYST:  Well, you know, even more important than the numbers of the actual who‘s going to vote for whom are the internals that you see in some of those polls.  And what Kerry seems to have accomplished in that first debate, people feel more trusting on him on what to do about Iraq.  They‘re beginning to think that he may know more about what to do with the war on terror.  And he seemed more likable and more—just more secure in himself.  And those changes are not as likely to go away over time, whereas people may flip back and forth about who they want to vote for at a particular moment.

So I think that‘s the real reason why people are saying he won, not simply because he changed people‘s minds about who to vote for at this particular moment because those could change tomorrow, as we‘re seeing.

NORVILLE:  Absolutely.  Hal Bruno, should one really read a whole lot into this?  Because it‘s such a fluid situation, and the voters do seem to be turning on a dime right now.

HAL BRUNO, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Not too much.  All it tells us is what we‘ve already known, that it‘s a close election.  Also, there‘s absolutely no guarantee that the poll taken today is going to be the same thing 30 days from now, when people go to vote.  What I‘d really be interested in is seeing some of the state-by-state polls, where we see a battleground state like Ohio.  I‘d really study a poll of likely voters in that state because that‘s the kind of state that can decide the election.

NORVILLE:  And in some of these states, where, indeed, they are swing states and states where the vote is too close to call right now, we saw traffic jams outside the voter registration offices.  Hal, what does that tell you about the interest level of people in participating and actively getting to the polls instead of just talking about it, as seems to happen every four years?

BRUNO:  Well, I think it‘s a warning to the Bush campaign that if you got a whole bunch of new voters coming out this time, they don‘t usually come out to reelect an incumbent.  They come out to help a challenger.  So if I were the Bush campaign, I‘d be concerned about that.

NORVILLE:  Is that necessarily so, though, Doris, because certainly, the Bush people have been very active, out saying, you know, It‘s not a cakewalk.  Don‘t take anything for granted.  If you support the president, make sure you get out there and let your voice be heard.

GOODWIN:  Well, surely, the Republicans are doing more than they‘ve done in the past with trying to register new voters, but Hal is right.  Usually, the new people that come out who hadn‘t voted before, they want to throw the ins out because they‘re mad about something.  It‘s not because they‘re happy.  They don‘t come floating to the polls because they‘re happy.  So I think that that‘s what Kerry‘s been counting on all along, is getting more people to come out who don‘t feel happy about the situation, particularly economically and domestically, and that that will help him.  That will be a different range than the likely voters.  They‘re simply the people who voted last time.

NORVILLE:  Right.  And...

BRUNO:  And we know—Deborah, one other thing.

NORVILLE:  Yes, Hal?

BRUNO:  To cheer up the Republicans, you‘ve had a heavier than usual flow of vote by mail, early voting, this time, and in many, many states.  And when that happens, it usually favors the Republicans.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  And it made it a lot easier to be able to do that.  I went on line this afternoon and made sure I got the application to be able to download an absentee ballot, just to make sure that come election day, when I know I‘m going to be working, I‘ll be able to get there.

Let‘s look ahead to the vice presidential debate.  Everybody says no one votes for vice president, but this time around, Hal, is it not a more important debate that‘s going to happen tomorrow night in Cleveland?

BRUNO:  No, I don‘t think so, Deborah.  I think the saying that nobody votes for vice president is correct.  The only election where the vice president actually decided who the winner was going to be—and I think Doris will back me up on this—was 1960, when Lyndon Johnson carried Texas and a few Southern states, and John Kennedy would have lost without him.

A vice presidential debate can have an impact only if one of the candidates makes a terrible blunder.  In 1966 -- I was a moderator on that debate—the first—I mean, a panelist.  That was the first vice presidential debate.  Bob Dole took off about “Democrat wars” and blamed the Democrats for every war of the 20th century.  And that came a week after Gerry ford had made the mistake about Eastern Europe.  And that was a very, close election, and I think a bad performance on the part of Bob Dole in that debate did have an impact on the campaign.

NORVILLE:  On the other hand, let‘s just go back in time, as well, to the vice presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle, when Dan Quayle was reminded who he wasn‘t by Senator Bentsen.

BRUNO:  Exactly.  And still, Dan Quayle and George Bush won the election.

NORVILLE:  Yes, let‘s...

BRUNO:  So it didn‘t have that much of an impact.

NORVILLE:  Let‘s just revisit the moment because it certainly had a lot of impact on Dan Quayle at the time.  Here it is.


SEN. LLOYD BENTSEN (D-TX), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I served with Jack Kennedy.  I knew Jack Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.  Senator, you‘re no Jack Kennedy.


NORVILLE:  Doris, that was a really tense moment.  What I always think is so interesting, when I see it replayed, is that Dan Quayle never cast a glance in the direction of Lloyd Bentsen.  Voters pay attention to that stuff.

GOODWIN:  Well, the fact that he remained cool, though, was important for him because this is one place—I agree with Hal also on this—where they could hurt the ticket if a vice president seems inexperienced and one worries whether he could really be the heartbeat against the presidency, or up against the presidency, in case the presidency gets undone.  They worried about Quayle after that rocky start, and that‘s why that inexperience became the issue of that debate.  Bentsen turned it on him, but he didn‘t really get unflappable, as a result.  And as was said, Bush won the election anyway with Quayle.

Ferraro was the same thing in 1984.  She‘d only had six years in Congress, and The question Bush was trying to make at that time, the vice presidential debate, was, Let‘s show up her inexperience.  But he did it in an awkward way because he said to her in a patronizing way, Let me tell you about the difference—I think it was between Iran and Libya.  And then she turned right back to him and said, Don‘t patronize me.  And women hated the idea of being patronized.  And then later, of course, Bush was caught in that microphone off—he didn‘t think it was still on, saying, I think we kicked some ass last night in the debate.  So that somehow took away from the fact that he did win the debate.

But that‘s the challenge for Edwards.  Some people think he‘s inexperienced.  There‘ll be an attempt on the part of Cheney to say, Is he really ready to be a heartbeat away from the president?  And those are the times when it can make a difference if he were to make a major gaffe, which is not likely, but that‘s what I suspect the Republicans might be hoping for.

NORVILLE:  And yet it‘s interesting.  They‘re already trying to play the expectation game.  One of the top strategists for the Bush campaign today was calling John Edwards, quote, “an experienced debater.”  I don‘t know that John Edwards has ever participated in a debate, has he, Hal?

GOODWIN:  Well, no, he‘s had the nomination—excuse me—though.  He‘s been through the primaries, so there were debates in the primaries, and he did very well in those.

BRUNO:  Well, I think the expectation is that John Edwards is a trial lawyer and that he‘s going to play the—play to the camera the way a good lawyer would play to a jury.  Unfortunately, a camera doesn‘t react quite the same way as a jury does.


BRUNO:  But I think there a high expectations there.  I heard somebody say that John Edwards was hired as a vice presidential candidate just for this debate.  They‘d make a big mistake, though, in underrating Dick Cheney, who has proven that when it comes time to do the job, that he‘s perfectly capable of taking care of himself, even though he‘s a rather low-key person.  I‘m sure it won‘t be like the Cheney-Lieberman debate, which, you know, was guaranteed to put half the country to sleep.


NORVILLE:  Well, we‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, we‘re actually going to go back and look at the Cheney-Lieberman debate, so take your No-Doz right now during the commercial break.  When we come back, more with my guests.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  On Tuesday night, we‘ll go beyond national security and foreign policy and also talk about what‘s happening here at home—millions of people losing their health care, over a million people losing their jobs.  And the vice president will be in the place of trying to explain why that‘s happened and what they‘re going to do about it.



RICHARD CHENEY ®, VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I, too, want to join in thanking the folks here in Center (ph) College in Danville, Kentucky, for sponsoring this and making all of this possible.  And I am delighted to be here tonight with you, Joe.  And I, too, want to avoid any personal attacks.  I promise not to bring up your singing.





NORVILLE:  Continuing our preview of tomorrow night‘s vice presidential debate.  Back with political analyst Hal Bruno and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The Dick Cheney that we saw, Doris, four years ago was a genial, affable man who engaged his competitor, but did so in a way that wasn‘t going to make anybody at home feel bad.  The Dick Cheney we‘ve seen the last four years is a scrapper.  He‘s not afraid to throw a four-letter word out at a U.S. senator, if it so suits him.  Who are we going to see tomorrow night?

GOODWIN:  Well, I think, you know, had Bush had done better in the first debate, then we might have seen the more likable Dick Cheney because he wouldn‘t have felt the need to, you know, finish off what Bush didn‘t do in the first debate.  He could have afforded, I think, to be more likable and try and project and get rid of that public opinion poll where not a lot of people love this man.  But on the other hand, I think he‘s got an intensity to him.  In that debate, he did very well with Lieberman.  In fact, the campaign, the Gore campaign, I think was upset that Lieberman didn‘t attack Cheney more than he did.  And the thing was so likable that it‘s—as a debate, it probably failed as television.  I suspect there‘ll be more sparks thrown tomorrow night.

NORVILLE:  Where do you...

BRUNO:  See, I think Doris...

NORVILLE:  ... expect Dick Cheney—let me just finish up.  Where do you expect Dick Cheney, Doris, to go after Senator Edwards?  And will he be going after Senator Edwards or going after John Kerry?

GOODWIN:  Well, he may try to bring up the inexperience thing with Edwards on foreign policy, but I think more he‘s going to go after—he‘s got to finish up Iraq somehow.  I think he‘s going to take off on Iraq to try and close that door because what Edwards is able to do now tomorrow night, because Kerry did well on Iraq, he can make the transition to domestic and economic stuff, where he‘ll be much more comfortable talking about the Republicans being out of touch with ordinary Americans.  He doesn‘t have to be the attack dog, which they might have needed him to be if Kerry hadn‘t done well, and which he might not be that comfortable being the attack dog.

NORVILLE:  Hal?BRUNO:  Yes, Doris is exactly right.  I think you‘re going to see the

·         Edwards playing the role of the lawyer, the trial lawyer, and going after Cheney on Iraq, and especially on Halliburton and the ties, you know, that he‘s been accused of having.  And Cheney has to counterattack that and, I think, go after Kerry because Edwards is not the issue.

NORVILLE:  Edwards seems to be really good at staying on message.  I want to roll a clip from the primaries, when he did have the opportunity to appear in this kind of format, and see how doggedly he sticks to the story that he has come to tell.  Here‘s John Edwards.


EDWARDS:  We, the Democratic presidential candidates, we have a responsibility, I believe a moral responsibility, to do something about 35 million Americans living in poverty.  And my—the only thing I‘m suggesting, we need to spend some time, more time in this debate, talking about the issues.  Instead of talking about ourselves, why don‘t we talk about them?  Why don‘t we talk about the voters and the things that affect their lives?  That‘s what we ought to be doing.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS CHANNEL, MODERATOR:  Well, Senator, I don‘t think anybody would dispute that...


HUME:  ... that abortion remains a potent issue in our national life, and the chairman of the...

EDWARDS:  Thirty-five million Americans living in poverty is also important.

HUME:  I wouldn‘t dispute...


NORVILLE:  The question was about abortion rights.  The answer John Edwards wanted to give was not about abortion rights, and he stuck with it.

BRUNO:  Well, that‘s the true political way.  Make up your mind what you‘re going to say ahead of time, regardless of what the question is.  And he did it and he did it very effectively.  He surprised everyone by being such an effective campaigner during the primaries.

NORVILLE:  You know what?  While the surrogates are there to support the candidates, in this debate, isn‘t there a real opportunity where both John Edwards and Dick Cheney can articulate the candidates‘ positions, perhaps even more effectively than George Bush and John Kerry?  Do you think that‘s also part of the agenda tomorrow night, Doris?

GOODWIN:  Well, they‘ve also seen from the last debate where they didn‘t do as well as they might have done, each candidate.  So they‘ve got the experience of debate one behind them, so the vice president can pick up in some ways where the other guy failed, as they might see it.

There‘s also the question of momentum.  I think why this vice presidential debate is pretty important is if it were to happen that Edwards wins the debate, after it was seen that Kerry won the last one, that‘s a big momentum going forth to the second debate.  If, indeed, it goes the other way around, then it might break the momentum that Bush had lost the first one, and then Cheney won the second one.  So this is so crazy, this horse race, who wins and who loses.  The most important thing is how they project—does each one of those men, especially Edwards, I think, as a new face—does he look like he could be the president, if it were necessary that it be so.  And my guess is he knows how to do that.

BRUNO:  That‘s what you got to do.  You got to—they got to be able to pass what we call the “straight face” test.  And that is, whoever the presidential candidate is, he can keep a straight face when he says, Well, this person could serve as president, if necessary.  And I think Cheney already has served as vice president.  Edwards has got to convince people that, if necessary, he could serve as president.

Another thing I think we should talk about quickly is the idea of the format.  This is a different format.  This is—the moderator, Gwen Ifill, is going to be sitting at a table with the two candidates, as I understand it.  And I‘ve always thought that was the very best format for these debates.  Those podiums make it so artificial, so difficult to have a flow and to keep it going and to have some kind of control.

NORVILLE:  How do you feel about the rules that have been set out, Hal?  I mean, there‘s 90 seconds for this, 30-second followup.  And it appeared that Jim Lehrer wasn‘t always deciding, You get a followup, but oftentimes, it appeared the president just sort of demanded it and was given it.

BRUNO:  Yes.  Those rules are terrible, and I think they destroy any, you know, hopes for spontaneity, in a lot of cases.  And as a moderator, I‘ve found that you have to concentrate so hard on enforcing these rules that they‘ve drawn up that you—it‘s hard to follow the course of the debate, at times.  And I think it‘s a reflection of how scared these guys are, when they really shouldn‘t be.

NORVILLE:  Well, what does that say to us, as the voters, if the two people who want to be president of the United States are scared to go on live television and talk to each other?  That‘s a scary thought right there!

BRUNO:  You‘re...

GOODWIN:  I agree with you.


GOODWIN:  You know, why can‘t we go back to the old days?  I mean, think about how far back—Lincoln-Douglas debates in the 1850s, four-hour debates they would be, 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 people would come and listen from all over Illinois.  And there were six to eight of these debates, I mean, so that that‘s when they were free to really figure out what they stood for.  People could see it.  Nobody could imagine that today, but that‘s sad.  Those were the days when politics had as much impact on us as sports do now.  People were listening.

NORVILLE:  And then fast-forward to 1992.  And I just want to play when you ask that question, Mr. Bruno, of Admiral Stockdale during the debate.  Let‘s relive the magic.


BRUNO:  Admiral Stockdale, you‘re opening statement, please, sir?




NORVILLE:  What on earth was going through your mind?

BRUNO:  Those are words to curdle the blood of a moderator.


BRUNO:  I went into that with the idea that I would be—as moderator

·         that was the first time they ever used a single moderator, incidentally, in one of these debates.


BRUNO:  And my feeling was that nobody was tuning in to hear me, that I‘d be very low-profile and just let these gentlemen, you know, go at it.  And the question was the same question I had asked 16 years earlier in the Mondale-Dole debate, which is, As vice president, what would you do?  Because we...


BRUNO:  It‘s important to point out these people are vice presidential candidates, not presidential.  And Admiral Stockdale, who was a brilliant, wonderful man, a genuine hero, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, a philosopher—he was out of his element.


BRUNO:  He wasn‘t a politician.  And when he came out with that, “Who am I?  Why am I here?”—uh-oh!  And of course, 10 minutes later, I was more like the referee of a fight.


NORVILLE:  Well, that‘s what makes television debates such a treat.  And as we know, more than 60 million people watched the first one.  We‘ll wait to see how many tune in tomorrow night.

Hal Bruno, Doris Kearns Goodwin, thanks so much for being with us.

GOODWIN:  Oh, you‘re welcome.

BRUNO:  Good being with you.

NORVILLE:  More on the debates in just a moment.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: She‘s tough and takes no prisoners, and she plays a key role in the success of “The Apprentice.”


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s seven women here.  Seven women can‘t work together.  I‘m embarrassed to be a businesswoman right now.



ANNOUNCER:  We‘ll learn some secrets of the boardroom from Carolyn when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.


NORVILLE:  Before last week‘s first presidential debate, the two campaigns came to an agreement on the terms and conditions of the four debates, an agreement spelled out in a 32-page documented known as the “memo of understanding.”  Among the rules, no reaction shots of the candidates during the debate.  Well, last week, the television networks, who refused to sign that agreement, ignored the ban and showed the candidates‘ reactions.  What effect are those rules, both those that are being observed and those that aren‘t, having on the spontaneity of the debates?

Joining me now are the co-chairs of the nonpartisan debate commission, former DNC chairman Paul Kirk and former RNC chairman Frank Fahrenkopf.  Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with me.

What do you all think of the rules?  Frank, you first.

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, CO-CHAIR, PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE COMMISSION:  Well, you know, the rules were ironed out between these two candidates.  And we—

Paul and I have been at this for quite a while.  The debate the other night in Miami was the 15th presidential or vice presidential debate that we‘ve produced with the commission.  So we know that the candidates are very adverse to just coming on and having completely spontaneity.  They want rules.  They want something they can be guided by, so they‘re not going to make major mistakes.

Many of the rules, as you note, to some people, they think they‘re silly.  Some of the rules we understand.  So we do our best with those rules that we can, you know, enforce.  But we did not sign...

NORVILLE:  Do you think some of them are silly?

FAHRENKOPF:  The commission did not sign—well, you know, for us to have to approve the pens and pencils and paper that comes out on the podiums—you know, some of them go a little far, but we understand the importance of this to these campaigns and how long these men have worked to get to the position they‘re in.

NORVILLE:  Paul, why do you think it‘s such an ordeal to get agreement on how two people can just walk into a room, share their differing opinions on the issues of the day that are so important to American voters?

PAUL KIRK, CO-CHAIR, PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE COMMISSION:  Well, as Hal Bruno said in the earlier piece, the candidates are very risk-averse, Deborah.  They‘re going to do what they think is most protective of their position.  This is high stakes for them.

NORVILLE:  You bet.

KIRK:  The commission—the things that we were disappointed in—we advocated that there be direct questioning by one candidate of another and more free flow, if you will, in terms of the exchange.

But the important thing to remember is we can‘t make perfect become the enemy of the good.  At the end of the day here, the American people will have six hours of the least scripted moments in a campaign that‘s loaded with pre-packaged negative advertising.  And this is in real time, face to face, side by side, answering substantive questions, and what turned out in the first instance, and hopefully, the others, will be a civil and spirited debate from which the voters can really learn a lot and make a judgment come election day.

FAHRENKOPF:  And Deborah, I don‘t think that looking back at that first debate that there was any subject in foreign policy that, clearly, Jim Lehrer as moderator felt that wasn‘t explored fully, that the American people didn‘t get some idea as to what, you know, Senator Kerry‘s view was as opposed to the president‘s. 

So, while you don‘t have the spontaneity of them asking each other questions, as Paul has said, we have urged for a long, long time.  I thought it was an in-depth, substantive policy discussion, and I think the American people got a lot out of it. 

NORVILLE:  How did you pick who the moderators were going to be?  And did the candidates have approval or rejection ability of those individuals?

KIRK:  We chose the moderators on the basis of their professionalism, their experience, their ability to deal in television, to deal with substantive topics, both domestic and foreign. 

They were solely chosen by the commission itself, and the candidates had no input whatsoever.  But that was one thing that they had no quarrel on, because they recognized the talent of these four people. 

NORVILLE:  And frankly, isn‘t it more likely that you‘ll be able to cover a broad spectrum of topics when you‘ve got an independent thinker like a Jim Lehrer or a Gwen Ifill or a Charlie Gibson out there asking the questions?

KIRK:  It certainly proved so in the last debate.  Jim Lehrer did a superb job. 

And we also, the one recommendation that was adopted, was that the two presidential debates that are not town meetings, they be devoted pretty much to foreign policy and homeland security on the one hand and domestic and economic issues on the other.

And I think that‘s helpful for the moderator and, hopefully, more educational on an in-depth basis for the information the viewers receive. 

FAHRENKOPF:  Deborah, I think one of the things that everyone has to remember, and sometimes it‘s forgotten in this discussion about the rules, is that, you know, there‘s no reason that anyone has to debate other than public pressure. 

I mean, we‘ve had—historically, the first debates were held in 1960 in modern times when Nixon and Kennedy debated.


FAHRENKOPF:  But then we went 16 years without any presidential debates.  John F.—excuse me, Lyndon Johnson was not going to debate in 1964 because of his experience in 1960.  Richard Nixon said, “No way am I going to debate.”  And in 1976, President Ford was sort of forced into it, being an unelected president and trailing Carter. 

But then, when you got to ‘80, you did again have a president walk away from the debates.  When the first debate was scheduled in 1980, John Anderson was above 15 percent in the polls, which was the threshold to be invited.  He was thus invited by the League of Women Voters. 


FAHRENKOPF:  President Carter said, “I‘m not going to debate with the three of them.”  So I was there in Baltimore when that first debate took place in 1980, and it was between Ronald Reagan and John Anderson.  So there is no law compelling these people to debate.  I think we‘re at a point where they realize that they do have to debate. 

And we have to do the best we can to structure something to give them, you know, at least some comfort, but at the same time serving the American people. 

NORVILLE:  On the other hand, if the rules aren‘t followed, there‘s no real penalty, is there?  I mean, what‘s the moderator to do?  Stand up and wag a finger in the face of the president of the United States or the man who wants to succeed him?  I mean, there‘s really no structure for that is there?

KIRK:  No.  There are no sanctions that truly can be enforced.  I mean, the candidates hope for, or at least agree to—you mentioned earlier that no reaction shots and so forth. 

But the networks are independent organizations.  They‘re not going to be beholden to either political party, nor are the moderators, and they‘re free to do whatever they think is in the best interest of journalism and in the best interest of voter education. 

NORVILLE:  I know you both take a nonpartisan role in this and so, at risk of this sounding like a partisan question, it‘s not meant to.  Do you think that President Bush thought that there wouldn‘t have been reaction shots, hence some of the grimaces that were looped on to tapes and played out on ad infinitum on this program, as well as others?

FAHRENKOPF:  I don‘t think so.  I mean, we had reaction shots four years ago, and I think a number of networks immediately indicated when they looked at the 32-page memorandum that they were not going to comply with it.  So I think both sides knew there would probably be reaction shots.

But, you know, there is a way of penalty under the present rules, Deborah, and that is, as you know, there are lights on the podium.  When there‘s 15 seconds left, the green light goes on.  And when it gets to the end, when time is up, a red light goes on. 

Now, for the first two times that a candidate talks over the red light, nothing happens.  The light just blinks.  But the third time they go over their time, believe it or not, there‘s a buzzer, a very loud buzzer that goes off, so that everyone at home and in the audience knows that that candidate is breaking the rules. 

NORVILLE:  I was kind of waiting for the floor to open up and swallow one of the guys. 

KIRK:  That was not an idea of the commission.

FAHRENKOPF:  That wasn‘t our idea.


Finally, both of you know that more than 60 million Americans watched the debate.  I would like a short synopsis from each of you on what think that says about the level of participation that Americans are eager to have this time around?

KIRK:  Well, I think it‘s a very powerful statement, first, about the importance of debates in the atmosphere of our political climate.  The nominating process has been moved up so that the nominees are known well before the convention.  That means the convention is a very tightly scripted infomercial, if you will. 


KIRK:  Same way, $200 million being spent on both sides and by different entities on these prepackaged ads.  This is real-time exchange of the people who are going to look to the American people and ask for their help to lead this country over the next four years.  It‘s the most important voter education forum that we have, and it‘s becoming more important with each quadrennial. 

NORVILLE:  Frank Fahrenkopf?

FAHRENKOPF:  You know, we‘re lucky in this nation, unfortunately, if 50 percent of the people go out and cast a ballot for president.  That‘s one of the reasons that Paul and I got in this 17 years ago.  We thought the debates could be a voter education forum to get more people interested to watch and more importantly get out there on Election Day.  I mean, I think we‘re off to a good start in this cycle, and we hope it continues. 

NORVILLE:  Indeed we do. 

Paul Kirk, Frank Fahrenkopf, thank you both very much for being with us. 

FAHRENKOPF:  Thank you, Deborah. 

KIRK:  Thanks, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  We‘ll be right back. 


ANNOUNCER:  Up next:  She was taught the art of the deal from one of the best in the business.  Now she‘s passing on her knowledge to other enterprising women. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sounds personal.  


ANNOUNCER:  From the boardroom to the bookstore with Trump VP Carolyn Kepcher when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.



DONALD TRUMP, HOST OF “THE APPRENTICE”:  This is really easy.  You‘re fired.  You‘re fired.  You‘re fired.  You‘re fired.  You‘re fired.


NORVILLE:  Ah, they‘re words to strike fear in the hearts of aspiring moguls.

But there‘s someone else on “THE APPRENTICE” who might be even tougher than the Donald. 


CAROLYN KEPCHER, “THE APPRENTICE”:  There‘s seven women here.  Seven women can‘t work together?  I‘m embarrassed to be a business woman right now. 



NORVILLE:  That‘s Donald Trump‘s right-hand woman, Trump Executive Vice President Carolyn Kepcher, and one of his advisers on “THE APPRENTICE.”  And after nearly 10 years working for Mr. Trump, and no doubt capitalizing on her “APPRENTICE” fame, she‘s dispensing some of her own business advice in a new book called “Carolyn 101:  Business Lessons from the Apprentice‘s Straight Shooter.”]

And it‘s nice to see you again.  Welcome. 

KEPCHER:  Good to see you. 

NORVILLE:  Congratulations.  Round two seems to be just as big a hit as round one. 

KEPCHER:  If not better, I think so. 

NORVILLE:  Are you having fun with it?

KEPCHER:  I‘m having fun.  It‘s a great experience.  How could you not enjoy it?

NORVILLE:  Some people think you‘re actually the tough one on “THE APPRENTICE.”  Donald may be the one that gets to say “you‘re fired” at the end, but you‘re the one who rakes them back and forth over the coals before.  And do you think you‘re the tougher customer? 

KEPCHER:  Well, actually, I say this.  I‘m not brutal.  I‘m just brutally honest.  And I think I just state the obvious at times, or say things that people want to say, perhaps.  But I don‘t think I come up with anything so different that‘s just not in front of me. 

NORVILLE:  But I sense that your patience level this time around is maybe a little lower than it was with the first round of apprentices.  Let‘s just take a look...

KEPCHER:  I might be a little guilty. 

NORVILLE:  ... at the women at the ice cream store.  And I know you know the moment I‘m talking about.  Roll the tape.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But it turned into what I call just team havoc. 

KEPCHER:  So let‘s just pretend we‘re selling to a restaurant. 


KEPCHER:  What would be interesting for them?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Chinese pineapple cake. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Upside-down pineapple cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, lobster ice cream.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m seriously thinking batter. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Candy, cotton candy. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  :  That was great.  That was awesome. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  :  It was absolute utter chaos. 


NORVILLE:  Well, she got that part right.  It was absolute utter chaos.  Give us the business woman‘s perspective.  What happened there?  Because it sure didn‘t look like it was going right. 

KEPCHER:  Well, no, it wasn‘t going right.  And that boardroom probably lasted over three hours.  And was I frustrated?  I was absolutely frustrated. 

The women were a little exhausting, and they took this one task of creating an ice cream, and they asked every expert there is about ice cream what‘s the best—the high selling ice cream.  And they said vanilla.  Just put something in vanilla and it will sell. 

They didn‘t even pick vanilla, and they picked out a flip chart that had 500 ice cream flavors.  You saw from lobster to—they were really going to go with port ice cream as their number one flavor.  And Bloody Mary ice cream and they just—price points and they just overanalyzed and, you know, pointed a finger at everybody and after two or three hours, I—it was a little trying.  So I just...


NORVILLE:  It was a little trying, and you let them have it.  You let them have it but good, and here‘s what happened when they got into the board room. 


KEPCHER:  You had eight hours to scoop ice cream and sell it to a consumer.  Not rocket science.  If I gave this task to a 10-year-old child, a 10-year-old would say, “Let‘s go where there‘s a lot of people and scoop out a cup and sell it.”  It‘s ice cream.  That‘s it.  You failed. 


NORVILLE:  It‘s ice cream.  That‘s it.  You failed. 

You let them have it and they deserved it. 

KEPCHER:  Well, it was—bottom line, it was ice cream.  They just had to sell ice cream. 

NORVILLE:  Here‘s what‘s different, though, about “THE APPRENTICE” and real life.  You‘re the executive.  You‘re the boss.  You‘re standing there watching what goes down.  Now, in real life business, the boss is off doing boss stuff, and you may be wreaking havoc privately, but he or she doesn‘t know. 

So when you say in your book, “Always make a good presentation to the boss,” they might have had a great idea, if you think port wine ice cream is a good idea, and you wouldn‘t have known about the chaos that led up to it. 

KEPCHER:  Perhaps, and what actually I‘m surprised about, I‘ll say the women in this task.  You see them in the suite and you see them bickering.  You see them cat fighting.  And what absolutely surprised me, especially in the last episode with Jen C., they brought it to the boardroom and they basically said, “We have problems.  We can‘t work together.”

And here I‘m thinking, my god, if you have a problem—if I have a problem, am I going to run to Donald Trump and say, “I‘m not getting along with my staff.”  You fix it, and then you go into the boardroom and you act like professionals.  You at least act like you‘re working together.  And that wasn‘t there. 

NORVILLE:  You mentioned Jen C.  She was fired from the show, and looks like she might be fired in real life, too.  On the show, she described two of the restaurant patrons as older Jewish women, and the real estate firm in New York City for whom she works is now reportedly going to be letting her go because of that.  What do you think about that?

KEPCHER:  Well, I think it‘s unfortunate.  I think Jen C. was, without a doubt, stressed.  They were all working on very little sleep.  Her frustrations came out.  I‘m certainly not condoning what she did.  And, you know, what she said is what she said.  And when you go on a show like this, you‘ve got to understand that everything you say is going to be caught on tape.  I think it‘s unfortunate, and I can‘t speak for her real estate company. 


KEPCHER:  But it‘s got to be tough.  I mean, you know, losing your job, it‘s tough. 

NORVILLE:  You‘ve gotten to where you are career-wise because you got the job, you went up the ladder, you worked hard, you got the breaks, they went your way and you made them pay off for you. 

What do you think about this phenomenon today where there are close to a million people applying to be on “THE APPRENTICE” because they think that‘s their ticket to fame and success, as opposed to doing it the way you did?

KEPCHER:  Well, I must say that all the contestants who are chosen have worked very hard to even be selected.  So I think just being selected is an achievement in itself. 

When you look at 18 people out of a million applicants, they should just be happy.  I certainly would.  I think they should just be very happy that they were chosen.  That‘s such an accomplishment in itself. 

NORVILLE:  But having said that, it‘s hard work for you and the rest of the team on the other side of the board table, is it not?

KEPCHER:  It is very difficult.  It‘s difficult in the beginning, when you‘re—there‘s nine, and nine, and there‘s 18 people you‘re looking at.  And then it even gets tougher in the end when you‘re like, “oh, god, there‘s only two or three people.”  And that‘s when it kind of gets very difficult.  But it‘s very trying.  It‘s...

NORVILLE:  Why do it then?  What‘s in it for you?

KEPCHER:  It‘s a great experience, and Donald asked me to do it.  So I certainly did.  And I think, not only the contestants learned, but I think I‘ve learned.  George Ross has learned. Donald—we‘ve all taken something out of this.  Whether it be business aspects or just a little enjoyment, camaraderie.  But it‘s been great.  I would do it again. 

NORVILLE:  George Ross may have learned, but he hasn‘t earned.  And there is an article in “Broadcasting & Cable,” which is kind of an industry bible for the television business, in which he says he hasn‘t gotten paid.  Have you not gotten paid for all this work we see you do on TV?

KEPCHER:  Well, certainly I‘m on Donald Trump‘s salary anyway.  But I don‘t—I‘m like George.

NORVILLE:  But I mean, paid extra.  Donald‘s getting like 50 grand an episode and $3.2 for the next two.

KEPCHER:  I should have his job. 

NORVILLE:  Does that not—I mean, George says—he thinks that‘s equitable. 

KEPCHER:  I have never in my life—I have never in my life ever spoke about my salary.  And I‘m certainly not going to.  If he chooses to go down that path—I‘m not going to talk about it. 

NORVILLE:  OK.  We‘ll let that go.  I‘m going to come back at you, though.  We‘re going to take a break, and we‘ll think a way to get this out of Carolyn Kepcher in just a moment.  And we‘re going to learn more about her secrets for success, and lord knows she knows a little bit about it.  We‘ll be back.



TRUMP:  Who is your team leader?


TRUMP:  Every time I hear that name. 


NORVILLE:  That‘s a scene from “THE APPRENTICE.” 

Back now with Trump Organization executive vice president, and APPRENTICE adviser, Carolyn Kepcher.  She‘s also the author of a new book.  It‘s called “Carolyn 101:  Business Lessons from the Apprentice‘s Straight Shooter.” 

Why did you think you needed to do write a book?

KEPCHER:  Well, I don‘t think I felt I needed to write a book.  I had gotten numerous letters, e-mails especially, from people asking the same questions.  How do you balance your life and home?  How did you get to where you are today?  How did you become executive vice president of the Trump Organization, can you give me advice on...

NORVILLE:  “Can you help me get on the show?”

KEPCHER:  Actually, I get those too.  And there are videotapes that have been sent to me.  Stop sending me videotapes. 

And then I‘ve got a couple of people who called me who said, “Would you be interested in writing a book?”  And at first, I went, “No, I‘m not an author.  I don‘t think so.”  And then after the third publisher called I said, “Well, there might be something here.” 

NORVILLE:  Maybe there‘s a reason these people are calling. 

KEPCHER:  There might be something here, so I did.

NORVILLE:  I want to go through some of the—you call them Carolyn 101s.  They‘re sort of the tips you give people. 

The first one you say, when dealing with any boss, have a good base level of performance to fall back on.  That‘s great if you have been in the business world for a while, but if you are new starting out in your job, you don‘t have a track record to show. 

KEPCHER:  And that‘s where you have to start out from.  And I think this comes from the bad boss.  I had worked with a bad boss, and what I did was I concentrated on my field.  And I had a job to do, and I made sure my numbers were intact.  I made sure my revenues were high, my expenses were low.  And all I could do was just concentrate on what I was doing, my field, to be an expert in your field.  And if the axe was going to drop on the boss... 

NORVILLE:  Then you were fine. 

KEPCHER:  I was fine. 

NORVILLE:  And then if the axes don‘t fall on you, you had something to show to the next guy when you‘re trying to get a job. 

KEPCHER:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

NORVILLE:  Next Carolyn 101.  If you make a mistake, don‘t make excuses and don‘t be afraid to ask for job.  Now, you talked about the situation in the boardroom on the episode the other day.  Their mistake was in asking you guys for help. 

KEPCHER:  You can say that.  And as the show goes, they really can‘t ask George and I for any help at all.  We‘re basically there just to witness what‘s going on and then give our opinions in the boardroom later. 

So we bite our lip a lot when we watch them perform their tasks.  But, going back to—I mean, I still ask questions.  I call my resources, my resources in the Trump Organization, and if I don‘t know, I am not afraid to ask.  It‘s the only way you are going to move ahead. 

And one thing I am definitely not, I am not indecisive.  I make a decision.  I stick by it.  And, down the road, if it‘s a bad decision, then I can turn around and say, “I made a mistake.  And let‘s change it and move forward.”  But make a decision (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NORVILLE:  And another thing is, no matter how high up the totem pole you go, you say, take time to get to know every one of your employees.  Why is that so important, that you be able to walk down the hall and say, “Hey, Fred, how‘s it going?”

KEPCHER:  Well, one, is it has to do with respect, obviously.  But, also, there‘s no reason why a CEO can‘t walk down the hallway, see somebody who is cleaning windows doing a great job, and just turn around, shake his hand, ask him what his name is or how he is. 

It doesn‘t take a lot, but it goes so far.  And it really creates some motivation in the employees.  And it‘s not a hard thing to do, but some people just forget to do it or just don‘t care to. 

NORVILLE:  And, finally, balancing work and home is not a moral issue. 

What do you mean by that?

KEPCHER:  Well, I don‘t want to say it‘s not a moral issue.  So many people have criticized your paternity leave or—it works for you.  And what‘s worked for me has worked for me. 

I took a three-week full-time maternity leave, and then I went back full-time.  I took Connor, at the time, with me to work, and had my little play pen in the corner, and, you know, the whole staff got to know him.  And it was enjoyable for me. 

And I‘m not out to send a message in that regard.  What works for me has worked for me.  And I was happy.  My son is a wonderful, wonderful little boy, and I love him to death.  And what works for you works for you. 

NORVILLE:  And, finally, an advice question, you know, the kinds of questions in columns often.  “My boss is asking me to spend my off-time on a project that benefits him financially but I‘m not receiving extra compensation.  What should I do?”  That‘s not the right picture. 

KEPCHER:  Actually, to me that‘s easy one.  It kind of depends on where you are in your career.  If you are starting out, and you are just entering that door, you are going to do it.  If you have kind of worked your way down the road, and you know, all of a sudden, you‘ve got a family and a Saturday is very important to you, then you change your priorities, but... 

NORVILLE:  There you have it.  Carolyn 101 from Carolyn Kepcher. 

We‘ll see you on TV. 

KEPCHER:  Sounds great. 

NORVILLE:  Thanks so much.  We‘ll be back. 


NORVILLE:  That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks for watching.  I‘m Deborah Norville. 

Tomorrow night, Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards square off for their one and only debate.  Chris Matthews hosts MSNBC‘s coverage, and then, after the debate, it‘s “AFTER HOURS” with Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Coming up next, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  Thanks for watching.



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