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updated 12/8/2003 11:14:43 AM ET 2003-12-08T16:14:43

Sunday, November 23, 2003

GUESTS: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, (D-SD); James Carville, Democratic strategist, and Mary Matalin, Republican strategist.

MODERATOR: Tim Russert, NBC News

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MR. TIM RUSSERT: (Technical difficulties) ...another debate. With us for the Democrats, James Carville; for the Republicans, Mary Matalin. (Technical difficulties) And in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, 40 years ago yesterday, President Kennedy killed in Dallas. And nearly 44 years ago, he appeared on MEET THE PRESS as a presidential candidate and eerily spoke of his own death. But first, the leader of the Democrats in the United States Senate, Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Welcome back.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE, (D-SD): Thank you, Tim. Good to be back.

MR. RUSSERT: All across our country, debate about the war in Iraq. Do you believe the war is worthwhile?

SEN. DASCHLE: I think the war is worthwhile, Tim, but I think the president needs a plan for success, not an exit strategy. I think he needs to recognize that we’ve got to make security number one. We’ve lost 70 troops now this month alone. We need to involve the international community more, and we need to train foreign leaders to be part of it, the Iraqi leadership especially. We also, of course, need to understand that there has to be a constitutional framework. All of that has to be done simultaneously, and I think the president’s way behind the curve.

MR. RUSSERT: If we don’t find weapons of mass destruction, can we call the war in Iraq successful?

SEN. DASCHLE: I think we can, in part, if we can stabilize the country, if we can put a new regime in place, if we can ensure that democracy actually can be created in the country, if we can reduce the level of threat to the region and to the world, if we can find Saddam Hussein. All of those things I think would lead to a successful conclusion to this effort.

MR. RUSSERT: At the United Nations, if the French say no, NATO—if the French, the Germans say no, if we’re not able to bring in more international forces, should the United States continue to go it alone?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, that’s a very good question, Tim, and I think that the answer has to be we can’t allow the United States to go it alone. We have to continue the effort. We’ve got to find a way to bring about more than just a nominal commitment on the part of the international community. It is in their interest as well as ours to find a peaceful solution, to find a framework for peace and security in Iraq and in the region. So clearly, we can’t give up until we succeed. We’ve got to involve the United Nations. We’ve got to involve the international community. We have to involve our allies in Europe. That hasn’t been done to the degree we must see if we’re going to be successful.

MR. RUSSERT: Some are suggesting that Iraq is less stable now than it was under Saddam Hussein and that it has become a haven for even more terrorists and, therefore, the United States is less secure now than we were before the war. Do you subscribe to that?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I think there are new threats to the United States that probably didn’t exist before. The very thought that the terrorist activity level could be going up is very disconcerting. But clearly, I think with Saddam Hussein out of the picture, we have a different framework for threat today than we had when he was in power. I don’t think that it’s fair to say or it’s accurate to say that there’s any less threat. But I clearly believe that if we’re going to be successful, we have to find a way to ensure that security can be assured. We’re not there yet. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re not going to do it alone. It will require international involvement and it will require a lot more training on the part of the United States and others with regard to both military and security forces if we’re going to be successful.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you send more U.S. troops to secure the country if we can’t get more

international troops?

SEN. DASCHLE: I think that always ought to be an option on the table, Tim. I think the secretary said it right. We have no framework by which we can judge success today. We have no yardstick. We have no real understanding of how long it’s going to take and how many people it will take. But if we don’t see an improvement, that has to be an option. The question is from where do they come? And again, it goes back to this question: Can we involve the international community more effectively than we are today? That has to be an essential component to our success in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the war in Iraq will be a campaign issue in the election of 2004?

SEN. DASCHLE: I think it depends on how well resolved many of these questions have become. If they are unresolved, terrorism still presents the threat that it presents today, clearly, it will be an issue in the next election.

MR. RUSSERT: The Republican National Committee has purchased television time to present this ad. Let me roll a portion of it and come back and talk to you about it.

(Videotape, RNC ad):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power. Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: The chyron there, the words put on the screen, “Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists.”

SEN. DASCHLE: Tim, it’s really a repulsive and outrageous attack, once again, on those who question the direction that much of the administration has taken with regard to Iraq. It’s wrong. It’s erroneous, and I think that they ought to pull the ad.

MR. RUSSERT: Pull the ad?

SEN. DASCHLE: Pull the ad. Absolutely. We don’t need that kind of rhetoric right now. Obviously, there is room for difference. There is a fundamental difference of opinion with regard to how this war is being fought and whether it’s being fought correctly. To question whether or not these issues are resolved in a way that will bring about the result we all want—we all want to defeat terrorism. We all want to confront the terrorists in every way we can. But to say that there is a different way, and that that way ought to be considered in the debate, to have differences of opinion, to tolerate differences of opinion, is what the American Democratic experiment is all about. To chastise and to question the patriotism of

those who are in opposition to some of the president’s plans, I think, is wrong.

MR. RUSSERT: The Republicans will counter, Senator, by saying that Howard Dean, the leading candidate for the presidential nomination for your party, has been very outspoken and very harsh in his criticism of the president’s handling of the war and, therefore, they can say that he is attacking the president for attacking the terrorists because the president thinks the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror.

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, Tim, but to question the patriotism or to question the judgment of someone who does that, I think, goes—it crosses the line.

MR. RUSSERT: How are they questioning the patriotism?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I think that there is an implication here, as they’ve done throughout this debate on Iraq, that if you oppose the president, your patriotism ought to be questioned, that there is some degree of question about the degree of your commitment to the country or your commitment to the effort. That’s certainly implied once again in the ad. So I think it’s important for us to bring the debate back to the central question: How can we more effectively confront the war on terror? The president, I think, has a long way go in that regard. I’m not sure we’re that much safer today than we were six months ago or a year ago. And I think that it’s important for us to consider as many of these options as possible and do so in a way that allows for a meaningful debate, not questions about someone’s patriotism or his allegiance to the fight itself.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you comfortable with Howard Dean as the nominee of your party if he wins this nomination?

SEN. DASCHLE: Of course I am. I will—I would be happy to support him, to work with him, to campaign with him. Do whatever it takes. I will support our nominee. I’ll be enthusiastic about our nominee, whoever that may be, whether it’s Howard Dean or somebody else.

MR. RUSSERT: You don’t think his positions on the war or on taxes would be branded as extreme?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, Tim, I think it’s clear that he has resonated with a large segment of the American people, as other colleagues and candidates have. So there’s no doubt in my mind. We can stand on the Democratic principles. We’re going to be united behind our candidate, whether it’s Howard Dean or somebody else.

MR. RUSSERT: And his temperament?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I think that there are many strengths to his temperament. I mean, he is tapping in to a real frustration, a concern in the population today that I think people want to talk about. And, certainly, that’s something that will be the subject of a great deal of consideration. But there’s no doubt in my mind he’d be a strong candidate.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you endorse anyone before the primaries?

SEN. DASCHLE: I don’t think so. I think I’ll stay neutral. I don’t know that my endorsement would matter that much in this case. But I think that we’ve got great candidates and a lot of them are very good friends of mine. I don’t see myself going that way.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the debate that’s going on right now in the United States Senate, and that is Medicare. Will the Democrats filibuster that issue successfully?

SEN. DASCHLE: Tim, that’s been a subject of a great deal of discussion within our caucus. A number of our colleagues believe that we ought to focus on the flaws, and there are many, many flaws today and, therefore, will not oppose cloture. But I must say we will fight this bill as hard as we possibly can. We have a number of procedural options available to us, and we’re going to use them all.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you vote for filibuster, for cloture to stop it?

SEN. DASCHLE: I will—we don’t have the votes right now for cloture on a filibuster. But as I said, because there is a lack of consensus with regard to the process itself, we really want to focus on the other parliamentary options we have available to us. We’re going to do that, we’re going to fight this bill with all we’ve got as we have the last several days. We are going to fight it tomorrow as well, and we’ll see how it goes.

MR. RUSSERT: But there will be a straight up or down vote on Medicare this week?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, it’s hard to say. It depends on whether or not we’re successful with some of these procedural options. We may never get to the final passage because, as I say, there are ways with which to deal with this legislation short of an up or down vote and we’re pursuing those.

MR. RUSSERT: Such as?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I won’t expose the strategy itself, Tim. But I will simply say that we have a way—that we have various ways to deal with this matter in a way that will bring out the flaws, the serious problems that exist with this bill. This is not a good bill. We ought to do a lot better than this. And unless we expose the flaws and have the kind of debate we’re talking about, I don’t think the American people are going to be fully aware of the huge consequences negatively that this legislation could mean for them.

MR. RUSSERT: Aren’t there at least 10 Democrats who’ve publicly announced their support for this bill, which gives a clear majority in the Senate?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, there are a number of colleagues who have expressed support for the legislation, with a lot of misgivings and, as I say, may be prepared to support us as we try to ensure that people are made aware of these misgivings and these shortcomings in the legislation.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the energy bill. You have announced your support of President Bush’s energy bill, much to the chagrin of many in the environmental movement and some of your Democratic colleagues. John McCain, a Republican who opposes it, says it is loaded with pork. He points to one specific proposal, a green bond proposal for $150 million for a riverfront area in Shreveport, Louisiana, which would help build a Hooters restaurant. And he said this: “Yes, my friends, an Energy bill subsidizing Hooters and polluters, probably giving new meaning to the phrase ‘budget busters.’” Why would you support such a pork-barrel bill as described by John McCain?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, Tim, this is—I’ve been working on comprehensive energy policy for 25 years, and this bill was very, very important for my state. Ethanol is an important issue, not only for my state, but for the country. Just the ethanol provisions alone provide about $5 billion of additional investment, 200,000 new jobs, an increase in the price of our grain, reduced dependency upon foreign sources of oil. That alone, just in the ethanol portions of it. So it was, in my view, that—John’s absolutely right. There are some provisions in there that are huge handouts to special interests. They protect the polluters. We’re going to go after those. We’re going to do all that we can to ensure that those are—never become law or, if they are law, are taken out at some point. But I felt on balance, given the fact that South Dakota has been the real epicenter of the ethanol movement, that this bill, on balance—that the positives outweighed the negatives. And so I came to that conclusion and have no regrets about it.

MR. RUSSERT: In fact, The Wall Street Journal dubbed you “Archer Daschle Midland,” as in Archer Daniels Midland, because of your support of the ethanol project in this bill, which is good for your state. Tip O’Neill said it, “All politics is local.” And some commentators, Senator, have been observing some of your votes and that the fact you’re up for re-election next year in South Dakota. This is how Don Lambra described it in The Washington Times: “An odd thing is happening to Democrats as we near the 2004 elections: Some now support more conservative positions”—guns, abortion—”two of the” more “contentious social issues. Last month Tom Daschle of South Dakota, up for re-election next November, and nine other Democrats backed a Republican bill protecting gun manufacturers, dealers and ammunition-makers from liability lawsuits -blocking gun-control activists and trial lawyers suing the firearm industry for any deaths” or “injuries caused by guns.” He goes on: “Mr. Daschle comes from a rural state with a large population of gun owners, gets the message. More surprising than Mr. Daschle’s vote for the pending gun liability is the Senate Democrats recently voted for the partial-birth abortion ban, the number one legislative priority of pro-life community. Mr. Daschle, who had also voted for this, said had ‘a lot of misgivings about this bill,’ but after eight years of debate, ‘it was time to move on’ and send the issue to the

courts.” President’s energy bill, a ban on partial-birth abortion, a vote in favor of the gun manufacturers. You’re running hard for re-election back home, aren’t you?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, Tim, this is the same journalist and—along with many, many others—who have spent the last two years calling me an obstructionist, who said that there was virtually everything the president proposed, I opposed. So I’m not going to, you know, placate my critics. The critics will be there. I have to call each one of these issues as I see them. My consistency speaks for itself. There will be things that I support the president on, things I oppose the president on. I’ve always said that. Where I think he’s right, I’ll support him. Where I think he’s wrong, as we have on packing the judge—courts, a number of other issues, including Medicare and the awful bill that we’re now presented with, we’re going to oppose them vigorously. And that will continue.

MR. RUSSERT: In Massachusetts, the Supreme Court said that same-sex marriages should be upheld. This is what you said: “I disagree with the decision. I believe that the Defense of Marriage Act that we passed in the Congress is Constitutional. I think that will be borne out.” And this was signed by President Clinton. Why would that legislation not allow people in Massachusetts of the same sex to be married if that state allowed it?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, the Defense of Marriage Act deals with federal law. States, of course, have the right to make their own decisions with regard to how they’re going to look at marriage. I oppose gay marriage. I support the Defense of Marriage Act. But I also oppose a constitutional amendment. I think it’s not necessary.

MR. RUSSERT: Why do you oppose gay marriage? What’s wrong with stable relationships?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I think as the Defense of Marriage Act has indicated, in our culture, marriage is a sacred right between a man and a woman. That’s what marriage always has been and what it ought to continue to be.

MR. RUSSERT: Gays will say that it used to be you couldn’t marry someone from another race. Others argue, “Well, it’s for the procreation of children,” but people now marry late in life and that they’re only being excluded because of their orientation. How would you respond to that?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I don’t know that they’re being excluded. Obviously, there are civil unions that are now recognized around the country. What we’re talking about is marriage, and marriage is a sacred right between a man and a woman. And I think in our society that ought to be protected.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to your book, “Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years That Changed America Forever,” and go right to early on in the book on page 52 when George Bush, elected but not inaugurated, visited your office. “‘I just wanted to come by and tell you I hope we can have a good relationship,’ Bush said. He spoke of his fondness for the lieutenant governor of Texas, Bob Bullock, a Democrat...Bullock had been a loyal and dependable friend and ally to Bush during the years Bush served as governor of Texas. ‘We got to be very close,’ he said. He paused, then went on. ‘I’d like to see if we could do that, too.’ Another pause. ‘I hope you’ll never lie to me.’”

What was that about?

SEN. DASCHLE: I’m not sure what it was about. It took me aback when he said it. My response is, “Well, I hope you never lie to me,” and we moved on. But it was a moment of awkwardness, and to this day, I’m not sure what—I think what he was simply trying to say is that he wanted to have a truthful relationship between us and he wanted to be able to count on whatever it was I said as something that was accurate. And I indicated that that was a very important matter for me as well. He had had a good relationship with Mr. Bullock and wanted to use that as the framework within which to define our relationship.

MR. RUSSERT: Nine months after that meeting, September 11, 2001, a terrible, terrible day. A few days after that, the president came to Congress, and this famous scene after the president concluded his speech, he saw you and embraced you; a very symbolic gesture, obviously, for the nation and for the world to see. In your book, you write of that: “Here were the leaders of two sides in this long-running domestic political ‘war’ embracing each other in a warm, wordless way, with a look in each other’s eyes that said, ‘We’re in this together.’ ... First thing the next morning, the President and I talked on the phone....he asked almost sheepishly, ‘Did we get into trouble for hugging each other?’ ‘I don’t think so,’ I told

him. ‘It just seemed like the natural thing to do.’”

Actually, the first draft of your book said it was like two people who get carried away on a date and wonder if in the morning they should feel regret. But on that particular night, that was spontaneous?

SEN. DASCHLE: That was spontaneous. I was moved by what he said. I thought he gave a powerful speech. We were determined to demonstrate the kind of unity that I think our country needed and wanted so badly. This was an opportunity for us to work together in a way that we hadn’t up until then. So I think it just captured the moment, but it was spontaneous.

MR. RUSSERT: Two years later, this is the cover of Time magazine which will appear tomorrow, a picture of the president: “Love Him! Hate Him!” The caption reads: “Why George Bush Arouses Such Passion and What It Means for the Country”—a kiss on one cheek and a black eye on the other. Does the president, in your mind, arouse passionate feelings on both sides?

SEN. DASCHLE: He does, Tim. He holds very strongly articulated conservative views and I think the conservative base in this country has probably never been happier with the president. Moderates and progressives, liberals have very deep differences of opinion with him on a lot of issues, but it’s not just his position. It’s his style. It’s a very combative style in many respects. And I think that is what’s generated a great deal of emotion as well.

MR. RUSSERT: He said he was going to change the tone in Washington. Has he?

SEN. DASCHLE: He has. It’s gotten worse. It’s much more confrontational today than when he took office three years ago.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you talk to him? Does he consult with you?

SEN. DASCHLE: We talk on occasion. We used to have fairly regular breakfasts, I talk about in the book. We don’t have them quite as often. I would say we now talk maybe once a month where before we talked, in some cases, almost every day.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think Democrats are part of the blame for the poisonous atmosphere that we sometimes see in Washington?

SEN. DASCHLE: Oh, Tim, I think there’s probably blame to go around, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s raised the level, the profile here, and the confrontation has gotten a lot worse since he has taken office.

MR. RUSSERT: Aren’t all presidents political?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, they’re political but the real challenge I think for any president is whether or not you can find a way to work together. His father found that way on many occasions. Even Ronald Reagan did in some cases. This president and this administration relies a lot more on confrontation, a lot less on negotiation and that’s the difference.

MR. RUSSERT: One striking thing in your book as well on September 11th that I want to share with our viewers and have you talk about: “I’ve talked to many people who assume that senators and members of Congress—certainly the Senate’s majority leader—have some kind of hot line to all that’s occurring at a moment like—that we’re plugged into, some kind of top secret”—let me get my—”high-tech source of instant information. It’s hard to fathom...that our leaders in the upper levels of government in Washington, the people we turn to for confidence and security in times of crises, might, at just such a time, be utterly clueless as everyone else.”

That’s extraordinary.

SEN. DASCHLE: It is, Tim, and it’s a concern that I have. I know on September 11, we were all evacuated from the building, and we found ourselves standing outside—most of us. I was whisked away with no place to go. We ended up on the top floor of the police headquarters. We pulled the shades down, thinking that might make us more secure. We stood in line on one phone to try to call our families. But we have a long, long way to go, I think, to create the kind of continuity in government, the kind of reaction to crisis that I think this country and this democracy has to have.

MR. RUSSERT: Since September 11, have the evacuation, the briefing, the procedures changed so that someone like you or Senator Frist, the majority leader, are taken into protective custody by our own people, if you will, and provided a free flow of information if some disaster occurred?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, it’s not been tested. We have new plans in place. I think we need to go a lot farther in ensuring that this new plan will work. And it’s one of the many concerns that I have right now. But yes, there is a new plan in place.

MR. RUSSERT: And you’re comfortable with it?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with it. Because, as I said, it hasn’t been tested. We haven’t really worked through it. I think we probably ought to be walking through some of these procedures just to see if, under the most dire circumstances, they would work or not. We don’t know that today.

MR. RUSSERT: Your office was the subject of an anthrax attack. What’s the status of that

investigation?

SEN. DASCHLE: Unfortunately, we still don’t have a suspect named. There is an ongoing investigation. As you know, it’s been a couple of years now. I’m disappointed that we haven’t gotten farther with it. The FBI still tells me that they’re convinced they’ll find ultimately those responsible.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Tom Daschle, we thank you very much for sharing your views and sharing your book.

SEN. DASCHLE: Thanks a lot, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the political odd couple of James Carville and Mary Matalin square off on the presidency of George W. Bush and the Democratic presidential field.

Then in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, President John F. Kennedy was killed 40 years ago yesterday. Forty-four years ago, he was right here on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: Democrat James Carville, Republican Mary Matalin, they are next, after this station break.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.

Welcome both, Mary Matalin, James Carville. Mary, let me pick up with that ad from the Republican National Committee that Senator Daschle was so passionate about, and play just a small portion for you and our viewers one more time.

(Videotape, political ad):

PRES. BUSH: Our war against terror is a contest of will.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: And you’ll see there “some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists,” and the word “terrorist” goes from black to red. Senator Daschle said that the president, the Republican National Committee, are attacking the patriotism of Democrats.

MS. MARY MATALIN (Republican Strategist): They’ve been saying that from the beginning. It’s a red herring. It’s because they don’t want to address the issue. There are two ways to fight global terror. You can go after the terrorists, as the president has done since 9/11, or you can do what we did before 9/11, which is treat it as a law enforcement issue in which they would just—because they don’t have a solution, they just want an issue, they throw out that patriotism business. But that ad is—we’re putting up $100,000. The Democrats have run $10 million in spots over the last six months, attacking the president in the most negative, visceral and horrible terms. They’re unprecedented in modern American politics, the things they’ve been saying about him. So he is running a spot on the debate that’s before the country—How do we want to wage this war on global terrorism?—which hadn’t been addressed before 9/11. And the result was 9/11. It’s not about their patriotism. It’s about their not having an alternative solution, just wanting to attack the president.

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville.

MR. JAMES CARVILLE (Democratic Strategist): Well, first of all, you know they’re not going to run an ad about the deficit, about rising health-care costs, about America’s diminished role in the world, about Americans’ truthfulness. They’re not going to run an ad about the environment. The truth of the matter is, is that last night—I was watching an excellent show on CNBC with Dana Priest and I think it was Katty Kay, hosted by you, Tim. And as these two knowledgeable women were pointing out, as a result of it, we created more terrorists. We are in the terrorist-creating business and now we’re creating these terrorists

that come in these cells that are not even linked here to al-Qaeda. And I think what the president needs to do is worry less about these TV ads, he’s got $230 billion of special interest money in the bank, and get focused on the real things and that is restoring America’s image around the world, doing something about this deficits, getting these health-care costs under control. And tell the—call Ed Gillespie at the RNC and say, “Quit all that silliness.” We got—we’ve created more terrorists and we got to focus on getting them out. I mean, it’s all ridiculous.

MR. RUSSERT: This is the result of this kind of discussion across the country between the Democrats and Republicans. Again, the Time magazine cover, “Love Him!”—a kiss—”Hate Him!”—a black eye. “Why George Bush Arouses Such Passion, What It Means For The Country.” Mary Matalin, the article says that Ronald Reagan was the great communicator. George Bush has become the great polarizer. How do you respond to that?

MS. MATALIN: Well, this president said when he was running, and he’s done since he has been elected, “Now is the time to face our problems.” We have big problems. He is facing them. He faces them with conviction. He doesn’t shrink from controversy. Facing big problems requires deep convictions, bold actions, decisiveness, and staying the course. And he does that. And he’s effective and he’s results oriented. We are—have been living in a culture where that’s not the case. Corporations haven’t faced or didn’t face their problems. The church didn’t face its problems. This president is facing our problems, is doing something about it, and that rises controversies. But, you know, he’s getting things done.

We have the first improvement, modernization of Medicare since its inception, and we have, almost have, but for Congress, the first comprehensive energy plan in a generation. We have a coherent national security shift to meet the 21st century threats. So he takes—and we have a recovering economy from the recession that we inherited because of his decisive execution of fiscal policy. So he says what he’s going to do and he does what he says and that’s something that we haven’t been used no in our politicians.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Daschle suggested part of it’s his demeanor. Do you think that Democrats have an intense dislike, almost hatred for President Bush?

MS. MATALIN: You know, it’s—yes. I mean, if you judge from what it is they say about him and the way they’ve been conducting their primaries, it seems like nothing unites them but their visceral loathing of the president, and that does not comport with the American attitude. We’re optimists. They’re pessimists. We look forward. They’re going backwards. In fact, they’re returning their party to something pre-Bill Clinton. They’re for re-regulating business. They’re for protectionism. They’re for taking social issues out of the mainstream. So they don’t have anything to offer except their unified hatred of the president, and that is a losing strategy.

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville, the Democratic National Committee has taken out television advertising featuring you. Let’s watch that:

(Videotape):

MR. CARVILLE: Bush will raise $250 million to fund relentless attacks on our Democratic nominee. He’ll stop at nothing.

(End videotape)

MS. MATALIN: Oh, jeez.

MR. RUSSERT: “He’ll stop at nothing.” What does that mean?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, first of all, he’s lied about starting a war. That’s a pretty good start for something.

MS. MATALIN: Oh.

MR. CARVILLE: Let me show you, Mr. Russert. This is Saturday’s Washington Post. This is what I’m—two bills to benefit top Bush fund-raisers. They filled $250 million. Billions and billions and billions of dollars these companies stand to reap. Now, I have a message for these people. I have a message for this president and a message for this Congress. There’s a war going on. There are people dying. There are amputations going on. And you know what this is. This is war profiteering.

MS. MATALIN: Oh, boy. James, oh, you’re absurd.

MR. CARVILLE: That’s what these two bills are about. That’s what this is about. And so they’ve raised more money than anybody running for president, and my party asked me to go on TV and ask people to contribute some money to it, I’m glad to do it.

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say the president of the United States will stop at nothing...

MR. CARVILLE: Political thing. He’ll run—look what he did to John McCain in South Carolina. I mean, look what happened in New York state when they came in and ran ads. Of course they’re gonna run negative ads against us and Democrats have to be prepared to deal with that. I’m talking about stopping at nothing in terms of running negative spots.

MS. MATALIN: Tell me one negative thing this president has said about any Democrat of a personal nature in the way that he’s been attacked.

MR. CARVILLE: Look...

MS. MATALIN: This is the politics of puny. You’re just making it up. You have no substantiation for any of these charges.

MR. CARVILLE: Mary, do you know what you-all did in South Carolina? You know what you-all did in New York? I mean, look, I think the Democratic Party...

MS. MATALIN: You know, Tim, there are so many big issues before this country...

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MS. MATALIN: ...national security issues, economic issues, health-care issues, all of these things in the 21st century, new threats new problems, we have new solutions. He’s proposing them. He’s talking about South Carolina three years ago.

MR. RUSSERT: But the country is so divided. In the vote on Medicare in the House, right down to the wire, they had to keep the vote open three extra hours for the president to twist arms on the Republican side. Filibusters in the Senate over energy and Medicare. We asked in our Wall Street Journal-NBC poll about Iraq, whether it was worthwhile. Forty-six said no, 45 said yes. Seventy percent of Republicans said it was worthwhile, only 20 percent of Democrats. A 50-point difference. This country is divided, Mary Matalin, and when I asked Senator Daschle whether George Bush was successful in changing the tone, he said he’d made it worse. Who’s at fault? What happened?

MS. MATALIN: Well, the way they just say these things with no evidence is, you know, so illustrative of how that party works. The president doesn’t attack anybody. If you look at any of his speeches and go to his campaign events, he talks about what he wants to do, what he’s done and where he wants to go. Now, the country is polarized, but if you look at the growth of parties, history is on our side. In the last 12 months, we picked up four governorships that have for decades belonged to Democrats. There are 28 governorships belong to Republicans now. Over 60 percent of the people are governed by Republicans. We had historic gains in the midterm elections. We are growing our party. It is polarized, but the Republican Party is growing because it has ideas. It’s future-oriented. And they’re just stuck in a pre- Clinton era attacking the president. So they perpetuate a polarization with no solutions in sight.

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville, Zell Miller, a Democratic senator that you know very, very well, was on

MEET THE PRESS.

MR. CARVILLE: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: He was talking about the Democratic Party and the South where Mary said the Republicans have made very serious inroads. This is what Zell Miller had to say about the Democrats and the potential 2004 presidential race.

(Videotape, November 2, 2003):

SEN. ZELL MILLER, (D-GA): They are so far afield in where they’re going in this campaign. I mean, here they have adopted the worst possible features of the McGovern campaign, that is, get out at any cost, give up, come home, quit, and the worst possible feature of the Mondale campaign: raise taxes.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: How do you respond to that?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I guess Governor Blanco of Louisiana didn’t listen to what Senator Miller was saying. So we’ve written a lot of eulogies for the Democratic Party in the South. The truth of the matter is, we’ve lost places, but if you look at what happened in New Jersey, even in northern Virginia, what’s happening in Arizona, what’s happening in Colorado, what’s happening in Nevada, I think you’re seeing a policy shift here. The truth of the matter is this is a very divided country, but what America sees, Tim, is they see us in a war. It created more terrorists. They see us in a war—that the United States has lost prestige around the world. They’re seeing arrogant unilateralist foreign policy. They see health-care costs rising at 14 percent a year. They’re seeing a trashing of the environment like they’ve never seen before. They see a deficit out of control. And now they see interest groups running roughshod over this president and this Congress about putting billions and billions...

MS. MATALIN: Oh, God.

MR. CARVILLE: ...of dollars of special-interest tax breaks in legislation while we have American sons and daughters who have died and being amputated.

MS. MATALIN: Oh, boy.

MR. CARVILLE: And if the Democratic Party focuses upon those types of issues, and frames those issues within that issue box, then they’re going to have a very, very successful election.

MS. MATALIN: That is the most incredible non-sequitur I’ve ever heard. Look, before 9/11, we had a national security strategy that went after these acts of terrorism as individual law enforcement acts. We did not connect the dots, which apparently Senator Kerry is now proposing we go back to. So we didn’t connect the First World Trade bombing in 1993 to the 9/11 bombing, which the al-Qaeda was talking about in 1996. We didn’t connect the dots. Now, we’re connecting the dots, and instead of treating them as individual incidents, we are going after the terrorists. We’re not creating more terrorists. We wiped out two-thirds of the top al-Qaeda leadership. We’ve wiped out the potential for those terrorists to hook up with weapons of mass destruction, and we have a long-term view which is to wipe out the oppression and the backwardness of a region that is creating and breeding these terrorists. There’s a short-term plan. There’s a long-term plan. There’s no plan. Americans have a choice.

MR. CARVILLE: Look, there’s no plan right now. We have no plan in Iraq. Tell me what the plan is.

MS. MATALIN: We sure do.

MR. CARVILLE: Every day we turn around, there’s something new: We going to have less troops? We going to have more troops? I mean, if anybody in America can tell me what this administration’s plan was in Iraq, I’ll fall out of this chair.

MS. MATALIN: Here, I’ll tell you what it is.

MR. CARVILLE: What is it? What is it?

MS. MATALIN: If anybody in America can tell me what the Democratic position is...

MR. CARVILLE: Oh, we’ll have more troops or less troops a year from now?

MS. MATALIN: ...this is a—that’s the Democratic primary debate—more, less, go, don’t go, don’t fight, do fight. What is their solution? There’s no solution. Here’s the plan.

MR. CARVILLE: Well, what are we going to have? Honey, the Democrats don’t run the country. George W. Bush is the president that got us in the war. He don’t have no plan.

MS. MATALIN: But they want—all they do is attack President Bush. They don’t offer a solution.

MR. CARVILLE: Well, what’s the Bush solution for Iraq?

MS. MATALIN: The solution is this. We have an asymmetrical terror. We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s not conventional. They can strike anywhere, anytime, anybody at low cost to them and high, high cost to us. So what is—the plan is to go and get them, and we’ve never seen this kind of warfare like we’re seeing on the ground and we’re adjusting on the ground as those circumstances change quickly. And one of the major adjustments just made by the president was accelerating the sovereignty to the Iraqis themselves to run their own country.

MR. RUSSERT: When the Democrats say, Mary Matalin, that the threat was al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and it appears not Saddam Hussein because he didn’t have the weapons of mass destruction as we have been told—this is the Democratic argument. The president’s war on terrorism was misdirected by going after Saddam Hussein rather than focusing on al-Qaeda. What’s the response to that?

MS. MATALIN: Well, they’re wrong. It’s such a parochial, provincial, puny political view. All right? The long-term strategy and solution to eradicating terrorism from the globe and creating peace in the world is freedom, freedom in an unstable region. Free peoples have fewer conflicts. So if they’re free, we’re stable. Not only does that have a security cohesion, it has great and powerful moral clarity. They don’t have any alternative. Iraq did—and what Kay has already discovered, even in his interim report, is whether or not there were stockpiles is irrelevant to his intention to retain the capacity, which is—and he does retain the capacity, Kay discovered, to create immediately weapons of mass destruction. So if the al-Qaeda wanted to get their hands on the weapons of mass destruction, where now they’re killing thousands, they could be killing millions.

MR. RUSSERT: James Carville...

MS. MATALIN: Do you think this is funny?

MR. RUSSERT: ...if Howard Dean emerges as the Democratic nominee and goes to the country and says, “No to the war in Iraq, no to the Bush tax cut, let’s repeal,” and as he indicated to some reporters the other night, “It’s time to re-regulate America”...

MS. MATALIN: That’s a good one. That’s a good one.

MR. RUSSERT: ...how comfortable are you that that message will sell across the country, particularly in swing states in the South and Midwest?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I wouldn’t be comfortable and I don’t think he’s going to say that we need to unilaterally pull out of Iraq. I think he said—and he was quite correct—that this war was ill advised, and all it’s done is create more terrorists and more animosity to America. It’s severely damaged American credibility around the world. Now, of course, we’re not going to be able to have the Bush tax cuts. We’re at a war, Mr. Russert. We’re not going to be able to have the billions and billions of dollars of special interest tax breaks that this war-profiteering Congress is so anxious to pass. So he’s going to have to frame this a little bit different. I think this is—by everybody that knows this, this is the most protectionist president that we’ve ever had. I think that President Clinton showed that you can have an expansive view of trade and yet win elections. We’ve never elected a protectionist Democratic president. And I think that if Governor Dean gets the nomination, I think as he goes along and sees this, he’s going to be able to do a good job of holding this administration accountable for deficits that are out of control, for health-care costs that are out of control, for an overstretched military that—we’re now at greater risk than we were at any time in the last 20 years. So I think he’s going to be able to do that. He’s going to have to start focusing more, I believe, on a more general and a broader message as this thing goes forward, as do all of the other Democratic candidates.

MR. RUSSERT: The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled this week, Mary, that same-sex marriages should be legal in the state of Massachusetts. I want go back to the 2000 vice presidential debate when a man you know well and used to work for, Dick Cheney, talked about this.

“Whether or not there ought to be some kind of official sanction...of the [same-sex] relationship or if these relationships should be treated the same way a conventional marriage is, that’s a tougher problem. That’s not a slam dunk. I think the fact of the matter, of course, is that the matter is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions and that’s appropriate. I don’t think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.”

Will that be the controlling view of the Republican Party or will there be an attempt to codify, or even a constitutional amendment to ban, same-sex marriages?

MS. MATALIN: I can’t answer that. I don’t know, but I can tell you this: that there’s a divergence of views in the Republican Party, just like there is in the country. We’re a big tent. We’re inclusive. This president is not divisive. He has suggested that—not suggested. He has practiced no discrimination, and his version of Christianity is love and acceptance. And that’s Dick Cheney’s view. I happen to share that view and many in the party share that view as well. So I don’t know what the end result of this debate is going to be, but I will say that this is not going to be the debate of this campaign.

MR. RUSSERT: What will be?

MS. MATALIN: Well, it’s these global issues: peace and prosperity, as is always the case in presidential elections.

MR. RUSSERT: Iraq, the economy?

MR. CARVILLE: Absolutely. I completely agree with the vice president. I think that should be—I don’t think the American—I think the American people want to have an election about restoring American trust and credibility around the world. I think the American people want to have an election about getting these health-care costs under control. I think the American people want to have an election about what do about these deficits. I think the American people want to have an election about what to do about these lobbyists running crazy over this Congress. And I think that the vice president’s position is totally the correct position, that this ought to be a debate, let the states thrash this thing out. Let the new administration focus on the restoration of American credibility and American cooperation around the world.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, which Democrat would you love to run against?

MS. MATALIN: It doesn’t matter because I haven’t—this president has moved into the 21st century, he’s a transformational figure. He’s hopeful, he’s optimistic, he’s bold, he’s decisive. He’s coming up with solutions. He’s acting on them. I haven’t heard anything out of that field. For as large as it is, the ideas— collectively, the ideas are small. It’s the politics of puny, so it doesn’t matter. We have a strong candidacy.

MR. RUSSERT: Who’s the strongest Democrat?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, we’ve got a long way to go here. The last poll I saw among Democrats, I think, Dean was at 14, somebody said 12 or 11. I think this thing is yet to be flushed out, Tim. And I think that as we go forward from Iowa on, and somebody starts winning the election, we’ll see. We’ve got a long way to go. These guys I think need to get a little bit sharp. And I think that they will as we get in the homestretch here. But I think they need to focus on these big national issues. They need to stay away from interest-group politics within the Democratic Party. They need to broaden this playing field, and they need to narrow down the huge contrast that they have with this administration and this president. And I think when they do that, that the voters are going to reward them. If they stay too far in the weeds of Democratic interest group politics, then they’re not. And so my hope is that they do, I really do. But I’ve got to wait and see if it actually happens.

MR. RUSSERT: We’re going take a quick break and come back and talk about a miracle —it really does happen—right after this.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And if you believe in miracles, or if you think these top 10 lists have gone too far, wait till you see this one. This is People magazine. There’s the cover, Sexiest Man Alive. They picked 10 more inside. You won’t believe it. Here it is: James Carville, age 59, height 6’2”, status, married. He “suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, says he avoids ‘dull people and bad food’ but suffers ‘funny, interesting fools’ gladly.... Running three miles a day keeps him ‘sexy in black tie and hot, hot in jeans,’

says [his wife] Matalin, ‘with no pot belly.’”

MS. MATALIN: Oh, God.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, Mary Matalin, you have said that this guy looks like someone who swam too close to a nuclear reactor.

MS. MATALIN: Yes.

MR. RUSSERT: What is it about him that could any way be described as sexy?

MS. MATALIN: Well, sexy is not about sex, although that’s fine. It’s Sunday morning here. It’s about brains and, you know, he’s smart. His brains are often used for the wrong thing and misguided, but...

MR. RUSSERT: His brain’s his aphrodisiac. That’s the...

MS. MATALIN: It’s Sunday morning, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, now, wait. You two are celebrating something. This is your 10th wedding anniversary, and the chefs here at MEET THE PRESS have prepared this very special cake, which says, “50-50.” There’s the red states George Bush won in 2000, the blue states Al Gore won, and maybe a forecast of 2004. Happy 10th wedding anniversary...

MS. MATALIN: Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: ...from your friends here at MEET THE PRESS.

MS. MATALIN: Thank you, MEET THE PRESS. And if you really love me...

MR. CARVILLE: I gotta show Mr. Russert here, you have “Go Bills,” this is how we do it in Louisiana, “Geaux Tigers,” defeated Ole Miss...

MR. RUSSERT: And that is how you spell go.

MR. CARVILLE: G-E-A-U-X. Go. That’s the Cajun way.

MS. MATALIN: Oh, I take it back. He’s not brainy. Can I have all those blue states? And if you really love me, you’d give me the whole thing, to assure another 10 years.

MR. CARVILLE: Oh, sweety. You can have the red states. There we go.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you make 10 more? You certainly will if you keep coming on MEET THE PRESS.

MS. MATALIN: You know, this is the only time we fight, Tim, so...

MR. RUSSERT: Matalin and Carville.

MR. CARVILLE: Very pro-marriage.

MR. RUSSERT: We’ll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. January 3rd, 1960, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy appeared on MEET THE PRESS to talk about his campaign, and the kind of vice president he would want in the event he died in office.

(Videotape, January 3, 1960):

MR. NED BROOKS (NBC News): Welcome once again to MEET THE PRESS. Our guest is Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts, who yesterday announced his entrance into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Senator Kennedy began his career in the House of Representatives at the age of 29. He was elected to the Senate in 1952 and re-elected with the largest majority in the history of his state. He is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his book “Profiles in Courage.” Now, Senator Kennedy, if you’re ready, we’ll start the questions with Mr. Spivak.

MR. LAWRENCE SPIVAK (NBC News): Well, don’t you think, Senator, that the Republicans are sure to run on peace and prosperity, and since we are at peace and the nation is prosperous, can they be beaten on those issues?

SENATOR JOHN F. KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Yes, I think they can be beaten. I think really the problem with the Democratic Party is to attempt to bring home to the people the kind of problems that we’re going to face in the ’60s, and also to bring home to the American people that we haven’t really faced these problems in the 1950s. When Mr. Eisenhower leaves office in 1960, we’re going to be faced, the next incumbent, with overwhelming problems. We are going to be faced with a missile gap which will make the difficulties of negotiating with the Soviet Union and the Chinese in the ’60s extremely difficult. When Mr. Coolidge left the White House in 1928, he was hailed. He was an extremely popular chief executive. I don’t think he was popular in 1930.

MR. JOHN STEELE (Time-Life Inc.): You’ve defined the job of the vice president as that of breaking ties and watching the president’s health. Does that mean that if you are the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party you’ll select a throttle bottom as your vice presidential running mate?

SEN. KENNEDY: No, I’ll select the best man I could get, if my life expectancy was not what I hope it will be. But that really is not, I wouldn’t think, an enviable prospect for the second man, whose only opportunity to exert influence in the course of events would be if I should die.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: As it turned out, President Kennedy’s vice president, Lyndon Johnson, did become president November 22nd, 1963. If John Kennedy was alive today, he’d be 86 years old. We’ll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: Tomorrow on MSNBC, watch the Democratic presidential debate, moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw. That’s tomorrow live at 4 p.m. Eastern, repeated at 9:00 p.m. on MSNBC. That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week. Have a very happy Thanksgiving. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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