Guest: Don Evans, Mickey Kantor, John Harwood, Craig Crawford, Harry Shearer
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Take a wild guess.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You all know why you‘re here.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is close to voting time.
OLBERMANN: The polls say Bush 48-Kerry 47 or Kerry 49, Bush 49 or the number of polls is 48 or 49. Could you think of a better way to use $600 million? That‘s how much the campaign spent on advertising and not a dollar on cute jingles.
Making sure your vote disappears. Two Ohio judges ban all party affiliated vote challengers from the poll sites. 80 percent of African-Americans think there will be deliberate attempts to keep them from voting. And Harry Shearer on the ridiculous campaign and putting the party back into the two-party system. Citizens nationwide hoping to turn election night into Super Bowl party jr. night. As John Belushi said to Steven First in “Animal House...”
JOHN BELUSHI, ACTOR: My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
OLBERMANN: All that and more now on COUNTDOWN to the election.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. From Democracy Plaza in New York. This is Monday, November 1, One day until the 2004 presidential elections. The civil war has come down to us in hackneyed cliche as the time when brother fought brother. The Bush-Kerry election may be remembered as the time when employer fought employee. Liberal employers versus a conservative employee no less, as Curt Schilling, the Boston Red Sox baseball player introduced President Bush at an Ohio rally today. The team‘s co-owners and general manager, the men who actually pay Schilling his $15 million salary next year, stumped for Senator Kerry. Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the night before all the campaigning ends. We hope.
High noon today in the heartland, both campaigns nearly colliding at the Milwaukee airport. The president getting ready to take off, Senator Kerry just arriving. The challenger‘s motorcade held until Air Force One had safely departed. That auspicious welcome behind him, Senator Kerry making a final appeal to Packers fans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Every presidential election since 1936, when the Redskins lose, the incumbent loses. So I want to thank the Packers and Wisconsin for helping me out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Nice to see he got that right. Yesterday the senator had said the streak dated back to 1932, meaning I did that whole piece on the Redskin roll for nothing, nothing, that tells you. Meanwhile, the president taking no vote nor sport for granted. That‘s the ballplayer Curt Schilling with him in Ohio where Schilling is disliked by the fans of two different teams. Mr. Bush embarked on a six state, seven stop, 19-hour swing across the American Midwest. This was his sixth straight day, spent at least part of it in the Buckeye state. Everybody is beginning to look like family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Sometimes I am a little too blunt. I get that from my mother.
Sometimes I mangle the English language, I get that from my father.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This election may well be remembered as the one that mangled the science of political polling. Take a moment, prepare yourself for COUNTDOWN‘s very last installment of pollapalooza. Three national polls putting President Bush in the lead among likely voters, up six in the pages of “Newsweek” 50 to 44. In the “New York Times” CBS News poll, up by three, 49-46. Pew Research, the president also at 3, 48-45. But three other national polls favoring Senator Kerry instead. American Research Group, 49-48 Kerry. The Marist college poll, the same, 49-48 Kerry, Fox News opinion dynamics, a two-point lead for Kerry, 48-46, while the final results from “U.S.A. Today” and Gallup, it‘s a tie, 49.
Last week it was a Bush lead by five. The “Washington Post,” sunset daily tracking poll has Mr. Bush up by one, 49-48 as he also is in Zogby‘s daily tracking poll for Reuters, 48-47. And in the Zogby polling of the big three battle ground states, Kerry up by one in Florida, up by three in Pennsylvania, the president taking a four-point lead in Ohio.
There‘s now not much else the campaigns can do except getting their voters out to the polls and appearing on newscasts like this one. In a moment, John Harwood of the “Wall Street Journal” will join us to try to assess where we are at this hour and we‘ll talk to Mickey Kantor of the Kerry campaign. First we start with the incumbent. Don Evans is President Bush‘s secretary of commerce, fresh back from the trail himself and joining us tonight from Washington. Secretary Evans, good evening.
DON EVANS, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Thank you Keith. Good evening.
Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: What is your polling telling you about what‘s going to happen tomorrow, especially about whether or not what happens tomorrow is going to be challenged for many tomorrows there after?
EVANS: Keith, let me say, I‘m certainly a lot more confident tonight than I was four years ago and the main reason is is because I think when the American people go into the polling booth tomorrow, they‘re going to think about one thing and they‘re going to think about the security for their children and their grandchildren and the security and safety of this country, not only the national security but the economic security as well.
But in addition to that Keith, I would say to you, that the Republican Party in this campaign had the get out the vote effort, never, like never seen before in the history of a party. And I think it‘s going to be remarkable, when you see the hundreds of thousand of volunteers going out on the streets, knocking on doors, making phone calls and I really think that is going to make the difference. I think that we‘re going to see a victory tomorrow night. It‘s going to be a clean victory both in the Electoral College, as well as in the popular vote.
OLBERMANN: Both candidates have made bipartisan remarks about the bin Laden tape but it‘s not really any use pretending that it is not a political issue. What did the re-election committee want its political impact to be once the thing happened and what do you think that impact was?
EVANS: Well, I‘m not sure it has any impact at all Keith. Listen. I think what will have an impact is when the voters go into the booth, who do you trust? Who do you trust to make the tough decisions in the oval office? They‘re based on the simple decision of what‘s in the best long term interests for the general well being of the American people.
The American people know that this president means what he says and says what he means. And I think the American people are going to continue to have trouble with the vote that Senator Kerry made in the fall of 2003, when in September, he said, it would be irresponsible to vote against supplies, equipment, munitions for those men and women in harm‘s way. And then one month later, for his own self-political interests, voted against the funding of supplies and equipment and munitions for the young men and women who have put their lives in harm‘s way to protect this country, to expand freedom.
I think that said everything about the character of Senator Kerry that anyone needs to know. And so I think when they go in the polls tomorrow and they think, who do we trust? Who has the character to make the toughest decisions one has to make in the oval office, the answer will be very clear. It will be President George W. Bush.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, sir, a big picture and it‘s actually nonpartisan, I think. I‘ll be asking Mr. Kantor the same one. If the alternatives tomorrow turned out to be two things, seeing your opponent win this election or having the country go through a repeat of the electoral nightmare of 2000 or maybe worse than that, which would you prefer of those two?
EVANS: I think it will be a very clean victory tomorrow, Keith. I don‘t have any doubt in my mind at all about that. The president‘s going to win the Electoral College. He‘s going to win the popular vote. But let me say this to you. Four years ago, when it extended beyond Election Day, there was all this concern about a constitutional crisis and what are we going to do and can we get through it? Of course we can. We did four years ago. We would be able to get through it again, but I don‘t think that‘s an issue. As I read the polls and I see the momentum, as I really feel that when Americans go into the polls, who do I trust? Who has the character to make the toughest decisions in the oval office that he has to make, they‘re going to decide on President George W. Bush.
OLBERMANN: The secretary of commerce in the Bush administration, Don Evans. Many thanks for your time tonight.
EVANS: Thank you Keith. Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: As promised, the other side of the fence, Mickey Canter was also secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration. He joins us now from Kerry head—actually from Washington, D.C. Mr. Kantor, good evening to you.
MICKEY KANTOR, CLINTON COMMERCE SECRETARY: Hey, Keith, how are you?
OLBERMANN: My questions to you basically the same as they were to Secretary Evans. Considering the margin of error, all the external polls seem to be completely undecided at this point. Are your own internal polls telling you? Are they telling you as the senator said this morning and as we just heard Secretary Evans say, that this will be resolved say by Wednesday morning?
KANTOR: It will be resolved. It‘ll be in Kerry‘s favor. It is moving to Kerry as we speak. Look, Americans know we‘re not as well off as we were four years ago economically. We‘re not as safe as we were four years ago. America is not as respected abroad as we were four years ago. The fact is Keith that America is going in the wrong direction and they‘re going to vote for change tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: About the politicizing of the Osama bin laden tape which I just asked Secretary Evans about, what did your campaign—once this happened, what did your campaign want its political impact to be and what do you think it turned out to be?
KANTOR: It turned out to be none and no one wanted it to be none. Both sides, I think the—both the president and Senator Kerry acted responsibly. Osama bin Laden shouldn‘t determine what‘s going to happen in our election and he won‘t. I think the polls indicate that there‘s been no reaction from it. Look, people are looking at, am I better off, as well off as I was four years ago and the answer is no. We‘ve got median income that is down $1535. We have four million more poor people, five million more people without health insurance in the country and we‘re in a war in Iraq that we didn‘t plan for, that we don‘t know what to do. We can‘t extricate ourselves and we‘re losing our kids and Iraqis every day.
OLBERMANN: My last question, I tried it with Secretary Evans. I don‘t know that I really got the response that I was hoping for in terms of detail, although he seemed to think that if we had some sort of constitutional issue again this year, that we could survive it. If the alternatives tomorrow turn out to be President Bush is reelected or the country has to go through a repeat of the nightmare of 2000, a month longer, whatever, which would you prefer?
KANTOR: Well, I prefer not to go through it and I think John Kerry will keep us from going through it by winning both an electoral victory and of course a popular vote victory. I don‘t believe either side should act in a way that would carry on a fight beyond what happened last time. I hope it doesn‘t happen again. I don‘t think it will. It looks to me in the polls Keith as you look at the trend, the trend, as you said it coming into this show, five points last week. Now it‘s dead even. It is moving fairly quickly toward Senator Kerry.
OLBERMANN: Mickey Kantor, former secretary of Commerce, now adviser to the Kerry Edwards campaign. Thank you sir and good night.
KANTOR: Thanks Keith. Appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, our unofficial adviser joins us yet again.
John Harwood is the national political editor of the “Wall Street Journal.”
John, good evening once more.
JOHN HARWOOD, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Hey, Keith, after listening to those two guys, is it crystal clear what‘s going to happen?
OLBERMANN: Absolutely. At least we‘re going to get home early tomorrow night, comparatively speaking. Back check me on those two things. Was there anything egregiously wrong or slanted in either of the Commerce secretaries‘ remarks just now?
HARWOOD: Oh, I don‘t think anything egregiously wrong. I think if you‘re thinking about Secretary Evans, he‘d better be right about that turnout operation being the most sophisticated and effective in political party history, because the president‘s position before this election is in fact weaker than it was before the 2000 election. He had a bigger lead in the polls than he does going into this one. That doesn‘t mean he can‘t win the election, but they definitely need that turnout operation to perform at a high level.
And with respect to Secretary Kantor, I think it is quite interesting the way he kept trying to turn the issues to the economic issues, talking about whether people are better off than they were four years ago. There are a lot of people in the party who think that John Kerry hasn‘t taken sufficient advantage of his edge on health care and the economy in the home stretch of the election.
OLBERMANN: Is he right about what he said about the polls and the numbers beginning to move toward Kerry, moving as he just said, as we speak. We just ran through those polls and sense the tenor of the campaign, which certainly is not like Ronald Reagan in 1980, one of the models that we were talking about last week, where the numbers suddenly broke against the incumbent, the numbers didn‘t break against the challenger, either. It‘s the same question that I asked you last night, not necessarily, who‘s going to win, but who is in front right now?
HARWOOD: Well, it is clear there‘s no big and decisive break toward anybody. However, it is pretty clear from the interviewing, Keith, from the last couple days, that these national polls are sliding a little bit toward John Kerry. We see a tightening, the CBS News poll for example went from three-point advantage to Bush to one-point advantage today. Gallup has ended up in a tie. Our poll shows a one-point edge, ABC “Washington Post” a one-point edge. So John Kerry is clearly within the range. But both polls show President Bush ahead than John Kerry.
The question is, when we see the undecideds break and fill out those numbers, you get a 48-48 tie. That leaves four people still out there, 49-48. That leaves 3 percent of the people still out there. Where do those break? Do they stay home? President Bush‘s campaign wants a lot of those people to stay home because they think a slight edge in those undecided voters would go to Kerry. We‘ll find out tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: Kerry says it‘ll be decided tomorrow night. Bush says it‘ll be decided tomorrow night. We just heard their surrogates say it‘ll be decided tomorrow night. Do you think that‘s realistic?
HARWOOD: I‘m with them, Keith. I think all these voters out there who are going to absorb the same information before going into the voting booth, I do think they‘re going to fall one way or the other. The key is, of course those battleground states. What happens in Florida? What happens in Ohio? What happens in Wisconsin?
OLBERMANN: Got a prediction or do you want to hold that to yourself?
HARWOOD: I really can‘t call this race. I talked to strategists on both sides, both of whom think the odds slightly favor their candidate. I don‘t hear too many privately talking about being absolutely confident the way Secretary Evans was. There are a lot of nervous strategists in both parties who are just waiting to see what is the weather? What is the turnout and what is the composition of the electorate?
OLBERMANN: It looks like 1960. John Harwood, national political editor of the “Wall Street Journal.” Always a pleasure sir. We‘ll talk to you when it is over.
HARWOOD: OK. See you soon.
OLBERMANN: The events in the real world that may yet shape some of that vote tomorrow are far from over. They touch on bin Laden, who the secretary of State thinks is actually winning in Iraq and the continuing insurgency there itself. It has taken more hostages in Baghdad, one of them an American today in a late afternoon shootout in the upscale, comparatively safe Monsur (ph) section of the city. At least 20 men stormed a heavily protected two-story house and kidnapped an unidentified American man and an individual from Nepal and four Iraqi guards. Another guard and one of the attackers were killed. The American is the 12th to be abducted or to have gone missing in Iraq. At least three of them have been killed.
And those wondering note merely about our prosecution of the war in Iraq, but our very presence there got a jolt today. Buried deep inside a “Newsweek” magazine story on how poorly the rollout of Iraqi troops and security forces is actually going. In at, the magazine reports that Secretary of State Colin Powell believes privately, that the insurgents are winning. “Newsweek” does not quote Powell directly, saying only that the magazine has learned that he has quote, acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks. Some hint as to who those friends might be could be gleaned from the description of Powell as a quote, former general who stays in touch with the joint chiefs. “Newsweek” also quotes an unnamed senior Iraqi official in the government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi who says, things are getting really bad. The initiative is in the insurgents‘ hands right now.
And believe it or not, so is the translation of the Osama bin Laden tape three days after it was broadcast by the Arabic network al-Jazeera. One newspaper reported that when bin Laden said that any state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security, he didn‘t mean state as in country but state as in Mississippi or Wyoming, implying that he would be watching state by state returns in tomorrow‘s elections. The “New York Post” quoting the Middle East Media Research Institute is claiming that the Arabic word that bin Laden used wilia (ph), translates as state or country. That bin Laden would have used dala (ph), a word meaning only country if he had meant an individual state in our country—if he had not meant an individual state in our country rather.
Our NBC translators point out that bin Laden only uses what is called fine Arabic, in which wilia means only country and not just a part of a country. Confusing the matter still further, the actual bin Laden tape came from the first time with al Qaeda supplied English subtitles. And that its translation was, every state that doesn‘t play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security.
Lost in translation, lost in the caves. How many votes will be lost here tomorrow? How many voters excluded? The lawyers are already at work in Ohio and so are the judges telling some of the lawyers to get lost.
And was this the moment when we started going from Frank Sinatra singing about JFK in TV ads to the Swift boats? How our politicians spent $600 million on presidential commercials without really telling us anything. That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN from Democracy Plaza on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Since every vote counts, there is a concerted effort to make sure some votes are never counted or even cast. Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, making your vote disappear. As the last “New York Times” poll indicates, eight out of 10 African-Americans believe that some states will make a deliberate effort to keep them from voting tomorrow. Two unexpected ballots today for partisan free zones outside the ballot boxes. Two Ohio judges have barred Republican or Democratic vote challengers from the polling places tomorrow there. In Cincinnati, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ruled that the, applying Ohio statute permitting partisan voter challengers to be on the scene tomorrow was unconstitutional and would place an undue burden on voters.
Meanwhile in Akron, another district judge with the extremely presidential name of John Adams said that poll workers should be the only ones empowered to determine who‘s allowed to vote and who isn‘t. Republican attorneys against whom the ruling was principally directed filed an appeal in late afternoon. That has not been adjudicated yet. What‘s going to happen outside the voting booths has never come as close to rivaling the voting itself as the top topic on Election Day as it will tomorrow. Joining me atop the fire ranger station here at Democracy on ice to look for trouble is MSNBC analyst and “Congressional Quarterly” columnist Craig Crawford.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST: This must be what it felt like just before the Kansas land grab as all the horses and buggies lined up.
OLBERMANN: Or in Oklahoma.
CRAWFORD: There are over 30 federal court decisions in the last few days around the country. It‘s unbelievable.
OLBERMANN: But now in a state like Ohio, which is at last report, a narrow lead for George Bush and could conceivably lock up an election for John Kerry, were it to go the other way, how influential were those two judges‘ decisions, if they‘re not overturned at 4:00 in the morning.
CRAWFORD: It could be very influential if the Republicans are right and of course, the reason they want to put challengers at voting places is they think that a lot of people are going to vote who aren‘t supposed to vote, illegitimate votes. If they‘re right about that and they‘re not able to challenge those votes, then it could make a difference. The Democrats, though, would argue the real purpose of this is to intimidate voters into not voting by having lots of people that are hassling them.
OLBERMANN: But they always supposedly, the rap against the Democrats is they always do that everywhere, A and B, occasionally they have reasons. Occasionally they don‘t. Is there a way of judging what‘s going on in Ohio?
CRAWFORD: I don‘t think so. I think these two parties duel to a draw. If you ask me when it comes to how ever many votes the Republicans suppress, the Democrats probably do vote a few people who shouldn‘t be voting. It is a PR problem though for the Republican party because it puts them in the position of being the people who don‘t want people to vote and the Democrats want everybody to vote, even if they‘re dead.
OLBERMANN: Having voted already or living in two states at the same time. That‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in two different states at the same time. How is the early voting going in Florida? Have we had any improvement from last week where those touch screen systems were allowing the grand total of six people an hour to vote?
CRAWFORD: I think it got a little better but I think voters have learned, they just have to plan to spend a lot of time. It‘s not like going to a fast food restaurant. You got to plan your day around early voting. We also have learned, gotten some numbers on how that early voting is going. The pollsters in both Florida and Iowa, most recently we‘ve seen, show a pretty significant Democratic Kerry advantage among early voters.
OLBERMANN: Does that surprise you?
CRAWFORD: In a way because I thought the Republicans were doing about as much as the Democrats were in getting those early votes out. But it may show the Democrats do have the legendary strength they always do in these organizational efforts because they got the labor unions, a lot of these new independent groups that are just—really have a lot of experience at this stuff.
OLBERMANN: Lastly and quickly, we‘re talking about everything that could go wrong in challenges and disputes and all the rest. What if everything goes right tomorrow and we have five million more voters in 2000 or 10 or 20, how are we going to accommodate all of them? Is voting going to close with people still in line?
CRAWFORD: I think people have to understand, going to vote tomorrow in many places is not going to be easy. You just got to commit the time to it. Take the initiative and make sure you‘re voting in the right place. And don‘t assume that somebody else is taking care of it. You‘ve got to be more aggressive than that. It is not like going to a restaurant and ordering a meal. It is more like the cafeteria at college. You‘ve really got to fight for every scrap of food as a voter.
OLBERMANN: Are you hungry? That‘s the second food analogy.
CRAWFORD: Actually am I.
OLBERMANN: Remember, vote early and often.
CRAWFORD: I‘m going to get one of those black and white cookies you taught me about the last time I was here. I love those things.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly,” Also the food critic of “Congressional Quarterly” as always sir, our great thanks.
No opportunity for political game left unturned. Even a Halloween
costume presenting a chance to lampoon the competition. Speaking of
competition, new plans to put the party back in party politics but for one
night only. This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin from you Democracy Plaza in New York and we
pause the COUNTDOWN now for our nightly segment of weird news and strange video which tonight is almost indistinguishable from the rest of the show. Let play “Oddball.”
It‘s Halloween time on Air Force one and today, Bush aide Scott McClellan, Karen Hughes, Dan Bartlett and Karl Rove got into the spirit by dressing up in hunting outfits, camo, a none too subtle slight at John Kerry‘s get up last week during his goose shooting expedition slash, I‘m a regular guy photo op. No truth to rumors that they found these outfits at the same costume shop where they found President Bush‘s flight suit for the big mission accomplished landing.
Politics obviously the major theme of most costume parties around the country the weekend, most notably, the 31th annual Greenwich Village Halloween parade here in New York City. Over a million spectators gathering in this the bluest neighborhood in the very bluest state, New York, so most of the costumes were decidedly anti-Bush, but there were no shortage shots of Senator Kerry either. Overall, oddballs ranked supreme and many saw this as their last opportunity to make serious political statements about serious political issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, with all the potassium issues going on in the world right now, we have to get it out there. I figure we got to put it out there, potassium. You need it. You (UNINTELLIGIBLE) without it. I‘m trying to spread the word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Potassium. Back on this planet, would you ever expect to hear John Kerry say he is a conservative on some issues? You will in his interview with Tom Brokaw. And 40,000 television commercials. And that‘s just on the stations in Toledo. Not one of them had a happy little jingle, either. How do we go from “I like Ike” to everybody else hates everybody else? These stories ahead. Now here are COUNTDOWN top three news makers of this day.
The cartoon network is planning a little counter programming for tomorrow night. One new half-hour episode of “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.” And they‘re going to run it 24 times in a row. The point, we assume, is that there are more important things to watch tomorrow night than cartoons or it is just a really, really good episode.
Number two, the legislature of Brazil, in case you thought we had some strange propositions on the ballot. A proposed law would there make it illegal to give your pet, your pet a name that sounds like a human name. One legislator proposing the law claiming that many people get depressed to hear that they share the same name as an animal. And that legislator‘s name is Benji. And number one, George and John, the two baby marmosets born at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, named for our two presidential candidates, obviously. The tiny twin monkeys were born eight weeks ago and they‘ve been living in their same cage ever since, eating leaves, insects, and running tiny little attack ads against each other.
OLBERMANN: Whether we get them tomorrow night or next fourth of July, the most surprising part of the election results may simply be that after this longest and most wearying of presidential campaigns, did anybody actually manage to stop shaking their heads in disbelief long enough to go vote for either of these guys?
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, last night, Tom Brokaw interviewed President Bush, who didn‘t really answer any of his questions. It was like so many of the president‘s public appearances, a desperate struggle to get in his talking points. Before you howl in political protest, tonight it is John Kerry‘s turn to struggle to get in his talking points and not really answer any of Tom‘s questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: The conventional wisdom in both parties at the moment is, got to have two trifectas. You got to win two of the big three, Pennsylvania, Ohio or Florida. And you‘ve got to win two of the smaller three, Iowa, Minnesota, or Wisconsin. Do you buy that?
KERRY: Tom, I leave all of that to other people. I really do. I‘m campaigning on what makes a difference to the lives of Americans all over the country. And it will sort out Tuesday night. What‘s important is that I think America can do better than we‘re doing today. That‘s what‘s important.
BROKAW: What‘s also important to the American people is the integrity of the election system and there are lots of anticipation of things going wrong, votes not getting counted right, people being rejected from the polls in both parties. Are you confident that this can be solved on Tuesday? Or do you think it will have to be settled in the courts?
KERRY: Oh, I don‘t think it‘s going to be settled in the courts. I‘ve got 10,000 lawyers. We‘re going to be out there in America on Election Day, working to protect people‘s constitutional rights.
BROKAW: A short time later, I sat down with the Democratic nominee for an extended interview. In the final analysis, isn‘t this election really a referendum on terror in Iraq?
KERRY: No, not exclusively. No. Not exclusively.
BROKAW: But primarily?
KERRY: No. Americans want to know that I will make the country safe. And I‘ve shown each step of the way how I can do a better job than George Bush. For instance, George Bush went to war without the number of troops necessary. George Bush rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. He‘s pushed our allies away from us and made it more expensive for the American people. Then you get to the other issues, health care, education, jobs, paying people a decent wage, making America fair again. And I think people will understand I have a better agenda than George Bush.
BROKAW: Are you committed to the idea of elections in Iraq and if you‘re president, will you send in more American troops to make sure they can be done in a secure fashion?
KERRY: I don‘t think we need more American troops, and yes, I am committed to elections. Yes, I am committed to success. No one has talked about cutting or running.
BROKAW: The president says that liberty is not a gift of the American people, but that liberty is a gift of God almighty to every man and woman. Do you agree with his statement?
KERRY: I think everything is a gift from God almighty, liberty, our life itself. All of the blessings of this country are a gift from God. But that doesn‘t mean that you can automatically make other people accept what you want them to accept. You have to bring them to the table in a thoughtful way. That‘s been all of history‘s truth.
BROKAW: Let me ask but social and domestic issues. Your colleague from Massachusetts, Senator Ted Kennedy, said that he is proud to be a liberal. Are you proud to be a liberal?
KERRY: It depends on what the issue is, Tom. I‘m an ex-prosecutor. I‘ve sent people to jail for the rest of their life. What does that make me? I voted for welfare reform. I believe in the Second Amendment. I‘m a hunter.
BROKAW: But you don‘t deny your liberal credentials?
KERRY: On certain issues, I‘m a liberal, Tom. On certain issues, I‘m a conservative. I think what people need to do is look you in the eye and you look you in the gut and see what you‘re going to do to make their lives better. We need leadership that unites America.
BROKAW: Someone has analyzed the president‘s military aptitude tests and yours and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do.
KERRY: That‘s great. More power. I don‘t know how they‘ve done it.
BROKAW: You think too many people in your party underestimate him?
KERRY: I think people have always underestimated President Bush, but I‘m proud that in those debates, I didn‘t underestimate him. I like the president. I just disagree with his choices. He chose not to give health care to Americans when he could have. He chose to block people importing drugs from Canada when he could have done otherwise. He chose to create the biggest deficit in American history, so wealthy Americans could get a tax cut. I disagree with that value system. That to me represents the wrong choices for our country.
BROKAW: Vice President Cheney says it‘s going to be 52-47 for their ticket. What do you say?
KERRY: That‘s bravado. Here‘s what I‘ll say about Tuesday. I hope America comes out and votes in record numbers, because this is the most important election of our lifetime. And I believe America can do better. We can go to work. We can be stronger at home. We can regain our respect in the world and I hope Americans will give me the chance to make them proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Democrats spent a quarter of a billion dollars getting out Kerry‘s message. The Republicans were not far behind. That explains why the ads are a little slicker than they were in this one in 1952 but not why the message remains the same. And there‘s one way to guarantee you‘ll enjoy our election night coverage here on MSNBC. Poll the party and then get all liquored up. That‘s ahead.
OLBERMANN: Have you noticed any of the campaign ads? If not, we welcome you back from your coma. In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the record assault of political TV commercials, $600 million worth is actually the fruit of a mistake made 70 years ago when the government asserted its authority over radio. The communication act of 1934 included a provision that broadcasters did not have to sell time to quacks, charlatans or (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They could refuse all deceptive advertising except for political commercials. Oops!
COUNTDOWN‘S Monica Novotny joins me here with how the genie got out of the bottle. Monica, good evening.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. The first campaign ads on television more than 50 years ago were for the most part, based on earlier presidential advertising dating back to Andrew Jackson‘s time. The focus, more on songs and catchy slogans, less on issues. It was a kinder, gentler campaign style that didn‘t last long.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): From cartoons to controversy. Television campaign ads have morphed from child‘s play to serious business. It started in 1952. Republican Dwight Eisenhower battling Democrat Adlai Stevenson who did not like the idea of turning television into a campaign tactic. But with 20 million Americans already tuned in, Stevenson was overruled and outvoted.
DAVID SCHWARTZ: It‘s just mandatory now that you have to be good on TV to be elected.
NOVOTNY: David Schwartz is the curator of an online collection of political ads going back more than 50 years.
SCHWARTZ: The Eisenhower campaign realized that a really effective way to reach a lot of people was to do a short TV commercial and put it at the end of a popular show like “I love Lucy.”
NOVOTNY: Over the years, cartoons disappear. But otherwise, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Today‘s flip-flop, an old favorite. Walking the party line, a classic for the GOP.
POLITICAL AD: The McGovern defense plan. He would cut interceptor planes by one half, the Navy fleet by one half.
POLITICAL AD: John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror, Bradley fighting vehicles, patriot missiles, B-2 stealth bombers, F-18 fighter jets.
NOVOTNY: And the Democrats.
POLITICAL AD: Even his running mate, William Miller admits that Barry Goldwater‘s voluntary plan would wreck your Social Security.
POLITICAL AD: Now Bush has a plan that cuts Social Security benefits
by 30 to 45 percent.
NOVOTNY: In 1964, the blueprint for today‘s attack ads, drawn by the Johnson campaign with a child, a flower—the mushroom cloud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, it said if you vote for Barry Goldwater, the world could come to an end.
NOVOTNY: The clip ran only once as a paid ad but ushered in a new lesson. Controversial commercials can hijack the news cycle.
SCHWARTZ: The ads become a tactical weapon to try to control what issues are being discussed.
NOVOTNY: A lesson reinforced in 1988 with an ad by an independent group featuring convicted murder Willie Horton working against then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. This time around, independent groups, the 527‘s brought on the summer of Swift boat veterans.
SCHWARTZ: The entire month of August, really, was devoted to that Swift boat story and it was amazing how that became such a major news story and so defining.
NOVOTNY: But the attacks disappeared in the final days of the campaign in time for the direct address, a last attempt to look through the lens and connect.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is what I see. Eight million people, every one of them out of work.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know only too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong.
NOVOTNY: And this year‘s contenders.
BUSH: I‘ve learned firsthand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right.
KERRY: As president, I‘ll bring a fresh start to protect our troops and our nation.
NOVOTNY: Although Eisenhower‘s opponent may have had it right all along.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adlai Stevenson warned about 40 years ago that TV ads had the danger of reducing politics to products. In a way, the discourse in ads really has diminished American politics. It puts an emphasis on personality, on superficiality. But what Eisenhower knew and what everybody learns right away, was that there‘s no way around it.
NOVOTNY: Reports today that of the $600 million spent on ads this campaign season, about 10 percent, $60 million, spent in this final week. If you would like to take a look at some of the campaign ads for the last five decades, go to our Web site at firstname.lastname@example.org for a link to the archive.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, great, thanks for showing us still more campaign ads. Because of course, you cannot get—
NOVOTNY: You can never get enough.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
One thing that many Americans will be able to get enough of tomorrow night, chips, dips and booze. Plans underway in homes across the country for Super Bowl-style get-togethers on election night. We‘ll ask comedian Harry Shearer to assess this kind of political party next here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It is a very old and very American tradition, watch or listen to an event, speech, broadcast, ball game and every time a certain thing happens or is mentioned, you take a drink. We are not encouraging the consumption of alcohol here, just reporting the facts. Super Bowl parties for instance are notorious for everybody imbibing whenever the term first down is used on the telecast.
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, election night parties. The thoughts of Harry Shearer on this phenomenon and other matters electoral in a moment.
First may we suggest as your shot cue the term too close to call? There are to be organized all night election parties among our expatriate friends in Europe and conveniently the election happens also to coincide with the Dia de Los Muertos (ph), the always happy Day of the Dead in the Hispanic community, so the annual revelries there will in many cases take on a political tone and if that not hilariously ironic, I don‘t know what could be. It is an odd preface for our next guest, comedian, commentator, political satirist, voice artiste and most interestingly, guest on this show just two weeks ago and yet he decided to come back anywhere, Harry Shearer. Hi Harry.
HARRY SHEARER, SATIRIST, ACTOR: Hi Keith. How are you? I‘m proud to be here in demagoguery plaza in Los Angeles. Not as big.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with trying to make a Super Bowl party out of election night. Does it sound like a good idea? Will the process be more enjoyable if we just sit there and start drinking heavily tomorrow night?
SHEARER: I think we should have started drinking heavily about three months ago frankly. I think that was our big mistake. This is, I guess, for that subset of the population for whom the Super Bowl and the Oscars don‘t last long enough. But I think it is a great idea because otherwise you are left to watch the stuff and drink alone. Not that I‘m against the solo drinkers. I think they are an underserved constituency.
OLBERMANN: That is also called the swing vote.
SHEARER: Do you know what they are called in Britain, the floating voters for the same reason.
OLBERMANN: Excellent. Would a Republican election night party vary do you think from a Democratic election night party and if so how?
SHEARER: Might be better furnished. I don‘t know. I think the real distinction is between the bloggers and blog readers on the one hand and the rest of us. The bloggers and blog readers tomorrow night or whenever this comes out will be saying it was stolen. The rest of us will be say when does “American Idol” come on? But I have a recipe for how we could all enjoy our parties tomorrow night more, make the process more enjoyable. You may not be able to influence the election but you can influence what you watch tomorrow night by when you leave the polls, don‘t talk to a pollster. Then just watch Dan Rather say—we go to big board. We got no numbers but we got a board bigger than the Pecos River valley. Let‘s watch it together. I think that‘s my recipe for fun.
OLBERMANN: I think Chris Matthews is going to come and hit you in the shoulder hard for saying that. You wrote a piece yesterday on the election for the British newspaper “The Observer” and I don‘t want to steal the bunch line from you. What was it headlined and why did you call it that?
SHEARER: Well, of course, as you know, we don‘t write our own headlines but the headline writers stole my end note, which is only one of them can be punished. My point in the summary paragraph was that Bush has run disastrous war, Kerry has run a feckless campaign. On Tuesday the American public can only punish one of them.
OLBERMANN: Harry, Robin Williams said recently that he is totally conflicted about this election, because he personally favors Kerry, but George Bush has provided him, let me read the quote, so many great gifts of comedy. Is the entire political satire field in a state of anxiety tonight? I have only heard one good impression of John Kerry yet. It was in that Jib-Jab thing and everybody else just seems to be foundering out there.
SHEARER: I‘m going to say in all due modesty, Keith, come over to harryshearer.com, listen to a couple of recent radio broadcasts of mine before you make judgment final. But I think it is just a matter of we replace making fun of a guy of few words and many of them ill chosen or ill formed and replace that with making fun of a guy with all the right words but about five times too many of them. It is just a, if you pardon the expression, a flip-flop.
OLBERMANN: So, ultimately would you say this election is the choice of the lesser of two weevils?
SHEARER: Only down south. Listen, I think anybody beyond the age of 23 knows that as long as you‘re voting for human beings, it‘s always a choice between—either used to say in Hollywood of two lesser or the lesser of two evils. You‘re never going for saints unless you‘re choosing football teams in New Orleans.
OLBERMANN: Secret truth, would you rather than this thing go on for a month and a half, six weeks, whatever, or would you like to have it all resolved tomorrow night?
SHEARER: Well, I don‘t normally get what I want but I‘m going to predict that the next big media cliche we‘re going to be all tired of is I think the American people deserve to know who their next president is before they unwrap their Christmas presents tomorrow morning.
OLBERMANN: We will find out. Harry Shearer, the season premium of “The Simpsons” is next Sunday on Fox and thank goodness for that and it‘s right after the third update of the recount. Thank you Harry. Good night.
SHEARER: Thanks, Keith. Good night.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it from here in Democracy Plaza and/or demagoguery plaza. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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