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updated 3/8/2004 11:33:34 AM ET 2004-03-08T16:33:34

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NBC News

MEET THE PRESS

Sunday, March 7, 2004

This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS(202)885-4598 (Sundays: (202)885-4200)

Meet the Press (NBC News) - Sunday, March 7, 2004

TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: It's Kerry vs. Bush, now, and for the next 240 days. The president's use of September 11 in this political ad draws criticism. Senator Kerry's positions on the issues, heavily scrutinized. Our guests: the former Republican mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, exclusively, on MEET THE PRESS. Then our political roundtable. For the Democrats, James Carville; for the Republicans, Mary Matalin. The political odd couple squares off. And in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, 44 years ago, another JFK from Massachusetts. He won his party's presidential nomination, and appeared on MEET THE PRESS to talk about the selection of a vice president:

(Videotape): SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY, (D-MA): And I don't recall a single case where a vice presidential candidate contributed an electoral vote. (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: But first we are joined by the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani; welcome back. As you well know, the president has used images of September 11 in his campaign commercials, and received criticism for it. Let's take a look at what the president has put on the air:

(Videotape of Bush Re-Election Ad): PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm George W. Bush and I approved this message. I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear. (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: And that picture, Mr. Mayor, particularly using the flag-draped coffin-- Mindy Kleinberg, who lost her husband, Alan, in the Trade Center, said this to the Daily News, that "she was offended...because of the sight of remains being lifted out of Ground Zero in one of the spots. `How heinous is that?'" she asked. "`That's somebody's [loved one}.'" Are the families correct in their criticism of the president?

FORMER MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, (R-NYC): The families who lost, you know, loved ones on September 11, 2001, have, you know, a number of different very, very emotional reactions, as I do, to the whole subject. I'm not sure I could ever be objective about it. I've been asked about what I think should be there, and I always realize that there's kind of a--almost a distortion that comes out of having lost so many people that I loved, saw maybe 20 minutes before they died. So the families have very conflicted feelings about this. Some feel, as that woman did, someone like Jenny Farrell who lost a brother there, feels it's a perfectly appropriate political ad, that the president led the country at that period of time, it's part of his history, and did a very good job. So I think, you know, if you go to the families, you're going to get a very, very emotional response.

I think if you asked a question, "Is September 11, 2001, a legitimate area for the president to point out?" He was facing challenges. You got to go back to the ad. The ad is challenges facing George W. Bush. Well, if you left out September 11, 2001, I think people would be asking, "Why is he leaving it out?" That was probably the biggest challenge that he's faced. Those of us who support him think he did a terrific job in getting the country through it. You know, other people on the other side have taken shots at him for not doing as good a job. So it's kind of unrealistic to think you're not going to have that as part of the political debate.

MR. RUSSERT: Some Democrats said this week that the Bush administration policy is not to show the coffins coming back from Iraq out of respect and reverence for the deceased and the families. So why would you show the coffins on September 11?

MR. GIULIANI: Well, it wasn't coffins. It was one flag-draped coffin, as well as the backdrop of September 11, 2001. I suspect any image of September 11, 2001, would have provoked the same reaction. I think the coffin is one. The backdrop of the charred remains of September 11 is another. If you had shown the Pentagon or whatever, people would say, oh, either you're exploiting it, or the president is using it appropriately. And I believe he is. I mean, I think that--if you said September 11, 2001 was out of bounds, then the president couldn't use it, and his opponents couldn't be allowed to attack the way in which he's handled it, which they seem very, very free to do. So I think it's a very appropriate area. And it's part of his history. You know, 50 years from now, 100 years from now, George W. Bush is going to be judged far more by how historians believe he handled this worst attack in the history of this country than probably anything else we're talking about. And so you have to make it part of a political debate. You--it would be unrealistic if it wasn't.

MR. RUSSERT: Here's another snapshot of that ad and you'll see on our screen there are firefighters there with their red helmets on with the president. The head of the firefighters association, who has endorse John Kerry, issued this statement: "I'm disappointed but not surprised that the president would try to trade on heroism of those fire fighters in the September 11 attacks. The use of September 11 images are hypocrisy at its worse. Here's a president that initially opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and now uses its first anniversary as cause to promote his re-election. Here's a president that proposed two budgets with no funding for the FIRE Act grants and still plays on the image of America's bravest. His advertisements are disgraceful." That's the head of the firefighters. MR.

GIULIANI: Well, the head of the firefighters who's usually on John Kerry's side I think in every single primary. So we have to be kind of realistic about that. I think I've seen him next to John Kerry more often than anybody else. So some of that charged language is, you know, politically inspired language. I mean, the fact is, President Bush was there. I was there when he was there. He was there on September 14, 2001. He came there, particularly to ground zero, against the advice of the Secret Service. He remained there an extraordinary length of time. And it was dangerous for him to be there 'cause there were fires of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit under the ground and there was no place to put him that would be absolutely safe. And he inspired the men and women who worked there by remaining there so long. They could see the Secret Service coming, trying to take him out, you know, touching his arm to say, "OK, Mr. President, it's time to leave." The president wouldn't leave. He made a connection with those men and women that's real. It happened at that time. He was there when it was dangerous. He was there when the action was going on. And some of that helped rebuild the morale of this country. If you would asked me on September 11, 12, 13, 2001, how things were going to come out--'cause I think the terrorists attacked us to break our will and to destroy our morale. I think you might remember in the weeks after that, this country was more united than maybe we've ever been. You know, people were then all wearing American flag lapel pins and they were waving flags, and a lot of that the president, you know, led. That's part of what he did. That's part of being a good leader. So to leave it out of a political campaign when you're running for re-election cuts out half your leadership. I mean, it would make no sense. And then all you'd be is attacked as the president was for the last three or four months. The Democrats weren't terribly sensitive about what they attacked the president about in the last three or four months. And John Kerry isn't particularly shy about using, you know, Vietnam and the whole backdrop of Vietnam. It was kind of like the core of his campaign. So I think this is a--they want to run their campaign and then they want to run our campaign and take out of our campaign the things that may be the most favorable about the president.

MR. RUSSERT: Stephen Push, whose wife died in a plane that crashed in the Pentagon, was also upset, but he had a different take on it. It was about the September 11 Commission. And this is what he said: "The Bush administration will not cooperate fully with the 9/11 commission and at the same time they're trying to invoke and own 9/11 and use it for his reelection." President Clinton and former President Gore are going to testify before the full commission looking into September 11 for a lengthy period. The president has said he will only testify for one hour and only before the committee chairman and co-chairman. Should the president not give more fulsome testimony before the full commission?

MR. GIULIANI: Well, first of all, Tim, just to clarify, no one owns September 11, 2001. None of us do. Whether you were involved directly or you weren't, it's something that happened to this entire country and it's part of our history. I mean, it's part of America. So, you know, it's not--no one has ownership of it. All of us have tremendous emotions about it but none of us have ownership of it. And the president isn't asserting that. All the president is asserting is, "This is my record. This is one of the things I had to handle. This is a challenge I had to handle. And judge me on it." And there are people who are going to judge him well and people probably will disagree. So I don't think that that's what's going on here. Second, the president is going to cooperate. And this is an issue that comes up with all presidents. You can go back 50 years, when investigations go on and there are a lot of issues about confidentiality, about the ability of people to advise a president. I can't think of a president in the last four or five that hasn't had an issue like this when an investigation starts. And people often misunderstand it, but a president can't be open to, you know, hours and hours and hours and hours of questioning the way us lawyers do when we have depositions. So to put some kind of a limit on it is OK. I imagine if they go through the inquiry and there are some very relevant questions that need more answering, I'm sure the president will give them more time if it isn't just a kind of fishing expedition. You give a lawyer an hour, we can get all the questions done in an hour. You give us two hours? It'll take two hours. You give us five days? We can take five days since we charge by the hour.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, why not before the full commission and why not for more than an hour if they have questions relevant to what happened on September 11?

MR. GIULIANI: Well, why don't we wait and see? Kind of an offer of proof. Let's see. If they can get it done in an hour, isn't that better use of their time, a better us of the president's time? If they really require more than an hour for relevant questions that really get to the core of what's going on, I'm sure there'll be flexibility to work that out.

MR. RUSSERT: And before the full commission rather than just the chair and co-chair? 

MR. GIULIANI: I would imagine. But it would seem to me that why not start with an hour and see if it can't get done? I got to tell you one thing about President Bush, he's on time. Every time I've had a meeting with him. If it's 9:45, if you're one minute late, he's there at 9:45, and if it's 9:45 to 10:30, it's over at 10:30. It's a good discipline. I used to teach trial practice for a while, and if you get those questions in one hour, you can probably have a much better inquiry.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, raised some eyebrows when he offered this comment: "I promise you this, if George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election, it's that simple. It will be interpreted that way by enemies of the United States around the world." You agree with that?

MR. GIULIANI: You know, this sort of happens on both sides. You know, Michael Moore's comments and those things about AWOL and deserter, and you sort of get them on both sides. Maybe that was a little bit of partisan excessive zeal.

MR. RUSSERT: I mean, a vote for John Kerry is not a vote for Osama bin Laden.

MR. GIULIANI: A vote for John Kerry is not a vote for Osama bin Laden. It's a vote for the most liberal member of the United States Senate. That would be a better way for them to put it. If you want to vote for the most liberal member of the United States Senate, the most liberal voting record, somebody who's going to raise your taxes, vote for John Kerry. An appeal like that actually has the opposite effect. It probably turns more votes against us than it does for us.

MR. RUSSERT: Would a vote for John Kerry, in your mind, jeopardize the war on terrorism?

MR. GIULIANI: I think that the way it's currently being conducted, I think would materially change, because I honestly don't know what Senator Kerry's approach is to the war on terrorism. He voted against the Persian Gulf War in the early '90s. He voted for the Iraq war. He voted against sufficient funding for the Iraq war after that, and he seems to be in honest confusion about what his position is. I mean, the best take I can have on it, listening to the debates during the Democratic primary is that Senator Kerry doesn't have a real position on the war on terror. It changes, and I think I could probably outline about five positions he's taken in the last six months. So it seems to me that what would be missing is that steady, very consistent approach which President Bush has had from September 20, 2001, when he said we're going to declare war on terrorism and we're going to confront terrorism. We're going to change the policy of maybe more accommodation and more appeasement that was going on with terrorism. We're going to confront them. We're going to try to end world terrorism. We're going to have a steady, determined approach. The president has stuck with that, when it was popular, when it was unpopular, and I really admire that in a leader. I admire that kind of consistent purpose.

MR. RUSSERT: Appeasement by whom? President Clinton?

MR. GIULIANI: No, I think more--I'm talking about more Europe, the way Europe dealt with terrorism, you know, going back to the Munich Olympics when the Israeli team was attacked. The case that I know best one is probably Leon Klinghoffer in the mid-'80s, you know. Leon Klinghoffer's captors, some of them were actually seized by the Italian government and they were held for four hours and then they were let go. And there's a whole European approach, not all of Europe, but you can look at a lot of the terrorist acts in the '70s and the '80s and the '90s, and two things were very prominent about them. The terrorists were let free by the European government that could have caught them or had them, sometimes in a deal, because they didn't want domestic problems. And then after that, the cause of the terrorists would be taken very, very seriously. That was sort of the--let's call it at least a European approach to how to deal with terrorism. I think President Bush on September 20, 2001, abruptly changed that policy. He said, "We're going to confront it. They've done this terrible damage to us. They've attacked us worse than anyone's ever attacked us before. We're going to confront terrorism, and we're going to take an approach that's very different than what had been at least a prevailing approach in Europe up until then." So I think that's really where the--I think the opportunity to do that really didn't come until September 11, 2001. So it would be unfair to charge that to President Clinton or even earlier in the Bush administration.

MR. RUSSERT: As you mentioned, the country was united after September 11 and so did the world. Even the French newspapers said, "Today we are all Americans." Now, however, in March of 2004, it's a very divided world and a very divided country. In your home state of New York, we asked people leaving the voting booth on Democratic primary day--and these are Democrats and some Independents but largely Democrats--whether they were angry or dissatisfied with President Bush. And look at these numbers. In the state of New York, it's 88 percent. City of New York, it's 87 percent. Those are extraordinarily high numbers. One of the reasons that people cite, obviously, are disagreement with the war in Iraq, the deficit, but also the constitutional amendment the president invoked to ban gay marriage. You disagree with the president on that, don't you?

MR. GIULIANI: Well, I don't think it's right for decision at this point. I think this should play itself out in more states. I certainly wouldn't support it at this time, but I don't think this is one of the critical issues. And I think what you see in New York is more of a reflection of two things. First of all, you have a state that's essentially a Democratic state. I think it voted for Al Gore by maybe over a million votes, 1.5 million, 1.6 million, something like that. Bill Clinton, each time by 1.4 million, 1.5 million. So it's essentially a Democratic state. We have some exceptions but it's essentially Democratic. And I think you're seeing the end result of Democratic primary season. It's been five or six months of tee-off on the president, million and millions of dollars in negative ads, so you have that whole issue that's been really explored dramatically now and the electorate's been educated in that direction. So it's going to take a little while to readjust to a more balanced view which is absolutely going to happen.

MR. RUSSERT: Vice President Cheney joked at the Gridiron Dinner in Washington here last night, that you would like to replace him on the ticket with George Bush, would you?

MR. GIULIANI: I'm very, very happy where I am now and I'm very happy with Vice President Cheney. I think Vice President Cheney has been a great vice president. He's a critical part of this administration. And he's a very, very important part of one of the things that I think is not only important for our country but important for my party. That is, that we can show stability. We can show we're going to keep this team together. We've won some very, very significant victories against terrorism. And if we hope to continue along that road, we should keep the team together for the next four years. So I'm a big, big supporter of the vice president, both externally and also to whatever extent my voice has any meaning within the party.

MR. RUSSERT: But if he had a health problem or he made a decision that, politically, he was not helpful to the president and he asked to be taken off the ticket, would you be interested in replacing him?

MR. GIULIANI: I'm very happy doing what I'm doing now.

MR. RUSSERT: But you couldn't say no to the president. An offer I couldn't refuse.

MR. GIULIANI: An offer I couldn't refuse, right? I don't know. I mean, you know, if they ask me, what would I say, Tim? I don't know. You know, that's something that you don't face unless you face it. And my fervent wish is that it remains the way it is. And I belive Vice President Cheney's in good health, and I think he's been a great vice president.

MR. RUSSERT: If, in fact, George Bush is re-elected or not re-elected, would Rudy Giuliani like to run for president in 2008?

MR. GIULIANI: That's so far away. I mean, I don't think there's any possible way to answer a question like that now. You know, whatever focus on 2008 exists is going to happen after we get the president and vice president re-elected and then I'll think about my own future.

MR. RUSSERT: How about 2006? This is not far away. And this is how Stu Rothenberg wrote about it in Roll Call newspaper: "If the former mayor of New York wants to improve his chances for '08, he ought to consider challenging Hillary Clinton when she comes up for re-election in 2006. This, of course, would be a risky option but would offer Giuliani the greatest possible payoff. Indeed, it's probably the only way he can get to the White House without an invitation from President Bush. ...political insiders believe that a race against Clinton would bring with it unique advantages for the former mayor and they're right. They note that Giuliani's first problem in any effort to get to the White House be would winning the GOP nomination... For all his assets and accomplishments, he's a moderate-to-liberal Republican in a party dominated by conservatives. He's a New Yorker in a party anchored in the South and Midwest. He can't win the GOP nomination. But running against and defeating Clinton would make Giuliani a superstar of unmatched magnitude to Republicans and conservatives. It's a credential he could use in great effect in Iowa and New Hampshire." Do you agree with that?

MR. GIULIANI: Well, that certainly saved any political committee I have an awful lot of money to pay for that advice. I mean, that was very good analysis. I don't know that I agree with it. And, I mean, who knows what's going to happen in 2006? I don't know yet, Tim. After going through September 11, 2001, going through prostate cancer that happened, you know, during the time that I was considering running and getting ready to run for the Senate, I've kind of become much more kind of long-term in my view. You know, you can't make these decisions now. After the 2004 election, I'm going to sit down and think very seriously about what do I want to do? I'm very, very happy with what I'm doing right now. I have a business with the former police commissioner, Bernie Kerik. We do a lot of interesting things. We're getting involved now in trying to stop a lot of this spreading importation of illegal medicines where people think they're getting real medicines and they're getting animal medicines and other things. We do so many other--we work in Mexico City, we work all over the world. I'm very active. I enjoy it. And then, at some point, I'm going to probably want to get revolved in government, but I don't know yet when and it isn't on the table right now.

MR. RUSSERT: But you'd probably like to run for office again.

MR. GIULIANI: I probably would. But it's really down the road. It's not something that is mostly on my mind. The things that we're doing with illegal drugs and the things we're doing in Mexico City and some of the other things we're doing internationally are the things that are getting me involved now. And I am very, very passionate about the campaign. I developed a very, very strong bond with President Bush on and after September 11, 2001. I can't tell you personally how much support he gave me. There is a picture that I keep, you know, in my home of his putting his arm around me, and George Pataki is right next to us.

MR. RUSSERT: The governor of New York.

MR. GIULIANI: And I--it would be impossible for me to describe in words the amount of support that that gave me when my world was falling apart. You know, New York and some of the people like Mychal Judge, who would have been my support, were gone. I had no one, you know, to really lean on. And the president gave me tremendous support, tremendous help. Gave New York everything that it needed. And I feel an obligation to him. And I think he's been a great president.

MR. RUSSERT: But absent becoming a hero to the conservatives across the country by taking on Hillary Clinton, do you believe that conservatives in the Republican Party could accept you as a national party nominee with your position in favor of abortion rights, in favor of gay rights, in favor of gun control? Aren't you out of sync with the conservatives and Republicans?

MR. GIULIANI: I've been out of sync all my life. That's how I became an effective mayor of New York City, I think. I reformed it, I changed it, I had a very different viewpoint than the prevailing viewpoint. I think it made me a better mayor. I don't know. I don't know. I believe our party--if you're talking about the Republican Party, and people who have the views that I have, which very much reflect the views of people like George Pataki, on the East Coast, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the West Coast. I think my political philosophy is probably very similar to theirs. There's a lot of us who have that view within the Republican Party. And it is--not to beat an old phrase, and one I used last night, you know, a big tent. The Republican Party is a much bigger tent than people give it credit for. We have a lot of what I guess you all call moderate Republicans. That's a very legitimate viewpoint within the party. And it doesn't mean we agree on everything. I worked for Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan is probably my biggest political hero. I wrote about it in my book, I talk about it in my speeches. And the reason I respected Ronald Reagan was his consistent leadership, even though I didn't agree with all of his positions.

MR. RUSSERT: Joe Torre's going to sign a two-year contract to manage the Yankees. So that job...

MR. GIULIANI: Right. That blows the one I really want.

MR. RUSSERT: ...is out altogether.

MR. GIULIANI: At least for a couple of years. You know? I still have hopes for that in 2006, 2007. Who knows?

MR. RUSSERT: And you bought A-Rod, the best team money can buy. And "The Sopranos" come back tonight.

MR. GIULIANI: Oh, I'm a happy man, let me tell you. We'll see Tony tonight. It'll be nice. The part I like about that best is, you know, when he drives to New Jersey, yeah, you know, that works out nice for us in New York.

MR. RUSSERT: Mayor Rudy Giuliani, thank you very much for everything, impersonations, the whole bit.

MR. GIULIANI: Thank you. MR. RUSSERT: Kerry vs. Bush in the eyes of Carville and Matalin. James and Mary look at John Kerry and George Bush. Then our MEET THE PRESS Minute, with a Democratic nominee named JFK from Massachusetts 44 years ago. All coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: For the Democrats, James Carville, for the Republicans, Mary Matalin, after this brief station break.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Mr. Carville, Ms. Matalin, here we go. Two hundred and forty days till election.

MS. MARY MATALIN: Mark them down. MR. RUSSERT: ...and we are... MR. JAMES CARVILLE: Mark them down.

MR. RUSSERT: ...engaged. Here's the latest poll from the Associated Press: George W. Bush, 46; John F. Kerry, 45; Ralph Nader, 6 percent, James Carville. MR. CARVILLE: Well, let me tell you it was good news for the Republican Party when Ralph Nader announced that he was getting in the race. There's no doubt about that. And every Democrat should be cognizant of that. Every person thinking about Ralph Nader should be very cognizant of that, that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. A signature on a petition to allow him to run is in essence a vote for Bush. So I think that we all need to be really cognizant of that because this is going to be a close election and it is very possible that he could mean the difference in it.

MR. RUSSERT: He was on this program two weeks ago to announce his candidacy...

MR. CARVILLE: Right. MR. RUSSERT: ...and this is what he had to say about liberal Democrats like yourself.

MR. CARVILLE: Right. Right. (Videotape, February 22, 2004):

MR. RALPH NADER (Presidential Candidate): So I think the liberal intelligentsia you've got to ask yourself a tough question, Tim. For 25 years, they have let their party run away from them. For 25 years, they've let their party become a captive of corporate interests. And now they want to block the American people from having more choice and voices, especially young people, who are looking for idealism, who are looking for a clean campaign, who are looking for the real issues in this country instead of the sham and the rhetoric that masquerades for political campaigning. (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, do you love having Ralph Nader out there? MS. MATALIN: No, to quote my husband, he's, like, last year's calendar. He's not going to get 6 percent. He's not going to have any effect in this race. More interesting are those polls, though, that Kerry at a virtual tie with President Bush after the best five weeks he's going to have coming out of this primary unassaulted, basically. So, to be unassaulted, coming out of the primary and all the Bush-bashing that they did in the course of that primary, to be tied with the president at this point, says something about this race.

MR. CARVILLE: Let the record show, this first time in history that I've ever been associated with any intelligentsia...

MS. MATALIN: Intelligentsia.

MR. CARVILLE: ...you know, be it liberal, conservative or moderate. You know, I want...

MS. MATALIN: I--you know, I sort of jolted, too, the political intelligentsia.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. ADD here.

MR. CARVILLE: I know.

MS. MATALIN: I know, ADHD--HD.

MR. CARVILLE: I don't deny it. I'm liberal. I do deny that I'm intelligent.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, this is the front page of The Washington Times, a conservative paper here in Washington: "Jobs Slump Puts Bush in Bad Light; Kerry Blames President for Mediocre Recovery." The president is on his way to becoming the first incumbent president to have a net job creation loss since Herbert Hoover. How tough is it going to be to run on that record?

MS. MATALIN: Let's put this in bigger context. Look at that little chart there, and what it shows is job growth for a consecutive six months. What the Democrats don't tell you and don't put in context, and we need to do for this race and need the American people the truth, here, is that 75 percent of the jobs lost in the last year were lost in 2001. Forty percent of the jobs lost were in the first 90 days after 9/11, including our restaurant, OK? The effects of 9/11 were very, very dramatic on this economy. The second cause of job loss is a--is good news for the economy. It's all-time high productivity, which means cheaper goods for consumers. So we have to address what are causing these job losses. They're not, as Senator Kerry says and the political intelligentsia, Bush policies. It was Bush policies that took us out of the recession, that dealt with the corporate scandals that began in the watch preceding ours and that dealt with the dot-com crash. Those are the causes that made a recession shorter and shallower and has now resulted in record growth, 20-year low inflation rates, 20-year low interest rates, all-time high home ownership, all-time high productivity. Manufacturing and industry are coming out of their slump. So let's get this into perspective, talk about why the jobs are being lost so we can talk about how to bring them back, for which the president has many forward-looking policies, contrary to to his opponent.

MR. CARVILLE: Right. Right. Right.

MR. RUSSERT: When the president proposed his first tax cut he said it would create a million jobs. He proposed a second tax cut, said it would create a million jobs. The White House economic adviser said just a few weeks ago 2.6 million jobs coming our way. They're not showing up.

MS. MATALIN: He's creating jobs. Six consecutive months there has been job growth. What is Kerry's plan? Kerry wants to cut--this is his whole economic plan--he wants to cut taxes on the rich. I have news for Senator Kerry. We don't have an idle rich class. I know because he has five homes that are worth $30 million...

MR. RUSSERT: Raise taxes on the rich.

MS. MATALIN: Raise taxes on the rich, which would, you know, get about $200 billion. These "rich people" are job creators. Two thirds of them are small-business owners. They create jobs. They invest in the economy. They grow the economy. This is not an economic policy prescription that he has. How would he bring back these jobs? They're going to come back by the kinds of policies that Bush is working to put in place and has put in place, and it's going to take time.

MR. RUSSERT: Will raising taxes bring jobs back? MR. CARVILLE: Well, first of all, Vice President Cheney said that we wouldn't have the job growth we've got if it wouldn't be for Bush's taxes. I don't know how to tell the vice president this, but there are no jobs that have been created. In fact, they've lost jobs in this administration. They actually think that they're creating jobs. The main thing here is, Tim, is they're not going to change their policies. They're convinced that high deficits are the key to job growth. The truth of the matter is, it's a failed policy, and the only way that you're going to change the economic policy in this country, the same way you're going to change the policy with reference to health care, to foreign policy, to environmental policy and anything else, is voter change in November, because these guys are actually convinced that the economy is working under them. They're actually convinced that jobs are growing out there. The vice president himself said that. The president went to a plant in California and praised the guy because he said he might add two jobs to his plant. I mean, I can't--there's no--they're so out of touch with the reality of what's going on in America, they're so out of touch with the reality of what people feel. And I would say this. I would give them high--they're not going to change a thing. They are convinced to the nth degree that this policy of high deficits is actually working and it's not. It's failing.

MR. RUSSERT: But other than being angry at George W. Bush, what alternative have the Democrats put forward?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, there are many different things that we've talked about. We talked about, you know, increasing infrastructure. They can do things to make it more productive. The main thing you can do to grow jobs is to get health-care costs down. You're looking at an increase of 14 percent a year in health-care costs. It's making it enormously difficult for American manufacturers or employers to compete. Senator Kerry's offered a plan early in the primary to try to help get these health-care costs down. You can retrain people, which this administration has done a very sad job of. You can get these deficits down, because I'm going to tell you, these markets are going to respond, you're going to see a growth in interest rates, you're going to see a lot of things that's going to stifle this. So there are many different things that can be done to change this. But the main thing here is, if you vote for George W. Bush, you're voting for a continuation of high deficits. You're voting for a continuation of the same job policy that has been in place. They're not going to change a thing because they're all convinced that what they're doing is working and I think the American people want some real different direction when it comes to economic policy and job growth.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, you're a conservative Republican. Your deficits are $500 billion. That's being left to your two daughters. And you take the number of people on Social Security and double them, in 15 years we'll be drowning in debt, far more than anyone could ever imagine. How can a conservative Republican defend that?

MS. MATALIN: Because it's not going to happen in 15 years. The deficit, as a raw number, is irrelevant. The deficit number as a percentage of GDP is what is relevant. And at 5.5 percent, this is a deficit that, relative to previous recessionary deficits, is totally manageable and below, in fact, the deficits of previous recessionary periods. We have to grow the economy. The economy is growing, let me address these points. I don't know how the political intelligentsia on the other side could say that this is not a growing economy. The last two quarters have grown at 6.1 percent. We haven't seen growth like that in 20 years. We have never seen this kind of home ownership, we're never seen interest rates as low, inflation as low, productivity as high, manufacturing and industry coming out of its slump. That is growth. Jobs are always a lagging indicator out of a recession. Jobs have been growing for six consecutive months, not at the rate that the president would like. But the president does have in place, contrary to this--yet another fallacious statement over here, a job-transition policy, has it in place. There's billions of dollars, $7 billion, to be precise. Anybody that is displaced by foreign trade can get job assistance, can get training assistance, health-care assistance, relocation assistance. This is a great program which millions of Americans are taking advantage of. So, you know, we have real policies. They have a lot of rhetoric. And, yes, yes, let's go to the fundamental issue here: change. This president has put in place, in this turbulent times, rapidly changing times, so fast we can't even keep up with these changing times, steady, practical policies that are working, that are just beginning to bear fruit. They want to change just for change's sake. We want to stay steadfast with the positive trajectory the president has put us on.

MR. CARVILLE: If you want--you know, five, six months ago they promised a manufacturing czar. Of course, they're not really going to appoint one; it was just a hollow thing. If this country believes we can finance three wars with three tax cuts, this is your crowd. If this country believes that job growth is a place that needs to be, this is your crowd. If this country believes that health-care costs are fine, this is your crowd. If this country is satisfied with the direction this country has taken in foreign policy, this is your crowd. And, again, I come back to my central thing, the only way that you're going to have different policies is vote for a change in November because they are hell-bent--and I give Mary enormous credit for this. She actually thinks what they're doing is working on the economy, is working in health-care costs, is working for the foreign policy and I think that's a big distinction that we have in this election.

MS. MATALIN: I think it's working because there's evidence. You know, Republicans and conservatives base their opinions on evidence and data, not sentiment and rhetoric.

MR. CARVILLE: OK. MR. RUSSERT: Let me move on to the whole use of September 11th in the political commercials. The president addressed that issue from his farm in Crawford--ranch in Crawford, Texas, yesterday. Let's watch:

(Videotape): PRES. BUSH: How this administration handled that day, as well as the war on terror, is worthy of discussion. And I look forward to discussing that with the American people. And I look forward to the debate about who best to lead this country in the war on terror. (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Does that settle the issue for you?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, what it is, it's kind of sad because this is the only thing they can run. And I would be the first person to say the president did a fine job after September 11th. I also find it interesting--and I did some preliminary research on this, more needs to be done. I don't think President Roosevelt ever used Pearl Harbor in the '44 campaign. I know President Clinton did not use the Oklahoma City bombings in the 1996 campaign. I think what you have here is the question of the president's got nowhere else to go. So you're going to see more and more of this. I think we ought to just stipulate, Mr. President, you did a fine job in the wake of September 11th. We've got other things we need to talk about right now, you know, the direction of your foreign policy and the many other things that we talked about here. So, you know, this is a new injection. They used this event for a fundraising letter in May of 2002, as you might remember, Mr. Russert. They were selling photos of the president on Air Force One on September 11th. So there is a history of using this for politics and some of these families, I think, are understandably upset about this. It certainly has been a less than stellar launch of their campaign because it's mired in controversy, but I don't see how they can change because it's the only place they can go. It's the only accomplishment they've got.

MR. RUSSERT: Should they pull these ads?

MR. CARVILLE: You know, if I was them and I'd gotten the criticism they have from the firefighters and the families, I'd probably think of some other way to change some of the things in there. As was pointed out, and I think you did, this flag-draped coffin of this fireman and they show the coffins of these soldiers coming back to Dover, Delaware. I don't know if they need to pull the ad. I mean, he certainly is entitled to do this, but there probably could be--you know, a couple edits would probably make it more satisfactory. But I think that's all they're going to run. They can't run on jobs, they can't run on health care, they can't run on foreign policy.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, this morning Senator John McCain, a Republican, said the president probably should not have used the flag-draped coffins in the ad. Do you agree with that?

MS. MATALIN: No, I don't agree with that. And he didn't use a bevy of flag-draped coffins. What those ads were about was the opening of a dialogue to remind this country in these turbulent changing times during which the president's been steady and we should remain steadfast instead of changing just for the sake of changing. Through all of this, this is what the country's gone through. Where do we need to go next, and what are we going to do about it? It was a fleeting image. And I'd like to echo what the mayor said. 9/11 belongs to this country. 9/11 also belongs to the families who are providing the ultimate sacrifice, as well, fighting the war on terror. So this is a non-issue. We've now spent--and I, you know, travel all over the place; so do you. I work to go to a lot of campaigns and a lot of events and speak. And people really want to focus on the issues. They want to--on the economy, on the bigger issue of national security. And for the president's leadership, steady leadership in the face of these national security threats, treating them as what they are, an act of war, in a changing economy, the global economy, is what people want to talk about, not an ad campaign.

MR. RUSSERT: Steady leadership, you heard that refrain over and over again from the Republicans, James Carville. Here it is, only March, but the president has directly engaged his rival. Here was the president on Wednesday:

(Videotape, Wednesday): PRES. BUSH: Last night I placed a call to Senator Kerry. I told him I was looking forward to a spirited campaign. I congratulated him on his victory. This should be an interesting debate on the issues. He spent two decades in Congress. He's built up quite a record. In fact, Senator Kerry's been in Washington long enough to take both sides on just about every issue. (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: The whole idea of hypocrisy and consistency. The Republican National Committee on their Web video...

MR. CARVILLE: Right. MR. RUSSERT: ...now has this appearing: Kerry vs. Kerry. And there is on the Iraq war, for and against. MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: And then we can see it eliminating the marriage penalty tax. And we can see it on the Patriot Act. And we can see it on the first Gulf War. Then we can see it on gay marriage. And it goes on and on and on with the two positions of John Kerry. How difficult is it for someone who has been a senator for as long as Senator Kerry has been, who in fact has rather, shall we say, nuanced positions on a lot of issues...

MR. CARVILLE: Right, right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...that appear to many people to be inconsistent?

MR. CARVILLE: Well, when John Kerry was in the United States Senate exposing the BCCI scandal and exposing drug running in Central America, George W. Bush was running Harken Energy into the ground and engaging in what may be some shady insider trading himself. But that's not the question here.

MS. MATALIN: Oh, jeez.

MR. CARVILLE: The question is: Here's a man that promised to balance a budget, to not raid the Social Security Trust Fund, to not engage in nation-building, to appoint a manufacturing czar, to do something about health care, and the truth of the matter is he's taken contradictory positions on each one of those. And if this race is going to be about who's more inflexible, who's more doctrinaire, then President Bush is going to win that because he's not going to change any of the policies that he has in place because they're all convinced that their policy on job growth and health care and foreign policy is working. And I think that you got--yeah, sure, you're going to get, as President Bush 41 said, that "the bowels of the DNC," they have some green eye shade guy going through that. Well, they got these kids in the RNC going through, trying to, you know, get everything like this. If you want to go and take a career, and I can--you know, President Bush started out as a prochoice candidate for the Congress and then changed his position. And so if we want to go and have it about that, I think that's a more or less irrelevant debate. The question is: Are the policies of this administration working or do we need new and different policies to address the problems we face around the world and at home? I think the American people want new and different policies. I think that's what Senator Kerry's campaign is about. If you want to go and find something in 1985 and say this is what he said then, and this is what he did now, I don't think it's going to carry the debate here.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, it's recent. Voting for the Iraq War, and then voting against it.

MR. CARVILLE: He voted to authorize the use of force; he didn't vote for the war. I think a lot of people that thought--that voted to authorize the use of force were absolutely stunned that we kicked U.N. inspectors out that were in there for 30 days that were sitting there, that we'd given them the coordinates where they were supposed to have these weapons and they didn't find them. I think a lot of people who voted to authorize the use of this had no idea this president was going to go off on this unilateral binge they had, that they had no planning for after the war, that the 3rd Infantry Division report said they had no idea what the hell to do once they got into Baghdad. So I know--I was not one of them--a lot of my friends that supported this war that were aghast at the unilateralism, and the lack of planning that went into its aftermath. And I'm sure that Senator Kerry is one of those.

MR. RUSSERT: But if Senator Kerry had not voted for that resolution, and it didn't pass, the president could not have gone to war.

MR. CARVILLE: You know, I disagreed with his vote on the resolution. But I can see why he did and again a lot of people that I consider good Democrats made a mistake. They actually believed this president. I don't think anybody's going to do that again. I would--you know, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, let me show you the way John Kerry has been describing George Bush and then give you a chance to respond to what Mr. Carville said and now here's Senator Kerry:

(Videotape, February 25, 2004): SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA): George Bush is the first president to lose jobs since Herbert Hoover. (End videotape)

(Videotape, August 28, 2003): SEN. KERRY: George Bush has brought back the days of deficits, debt and doubt. (End videotape)

(Videotape, March 1, 2004): SEN. KERRY: If George Bush wants national security to be the central issue of this campaign, I do have three words for him that I know he understands: "Bring it on!" (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: How do you see the race?

MS. MATALIN: Well, it's pretty tame for him. He's called Bush or his party's called the president everything from a liar to a miscreant to a felon. So that was pretty calm. Yet, he has not offered--what this race is about is offering alternatives. They don't want more of the same that is working, progress, peace, posterity. They just want change for change sake. Just let me go back to Senator Kerry. It's not that he's nuanced and he's grown over time, as many politicians did on that choice issue, for instance. He flips (snaps fingers) like that. On double taxation, he was for it five weeks before the president supported it and then he switched. It's not just that he flip-flops; it's the way in which he flip-flops. He was for No Child Left Behind, said it was groundbreaking. He was for--and then he flipped on that. He voted for every single free-trade arrangement and now he's against it. He voted for the Patriot Act, saying it's just what we needed. Now, he says that John Ashcroft is abusing it. Yet, they cannot cite one single civil liberties violation. He's not a flip-flopper; he's like a political Zelig. He becomes whatever he is wherever he is. When he's with the Arab Americans, he says that the fence is a barrier to peace. When he's with Jewish Americans, he says it's a legitimate act of defense. When he's in Massachusetts on gay marriage, he's against the Constitution to ban them. When he's in a Southern primary, he's against gay marriage. Who is he? He would rather--I don't know. You just can't get a sense of this guy. He'd rather switch then fight. He's a political zealot. Will the real John Kerry come down? We don't need that kind of person at the helm in these changing times. We need what we have, steady and steadfast.

MR. RUSSERT: One of the big decisions John Kerry will have to make, James Carville, is a vice president, here are photographs of people who've been discussed publicly: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana; Senator John Edwards, North Carolina; Senator Bob Graham of Florida; Bill Nelson of Florida; Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico; and Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri. Any of those people you think should be picked?

MR. CARVILLE: That shows that we've got a pretty deep stable there. I said this. I think Senator Edwards is--I'm just marveled at his political skills and the kind of candidate he is and how bright he is. And I think he'd be, you know, an excellent choice, as with all the other people on that list. I mean--and, you know, I've got a feeling that Senator Kerry, as it has been reported in the paper today, he really goes through things. He's going to give it a whole lot of thought. And in the end, I don't think my opinion is going to matter very much, but it's going to be an interesting process. But I'll tell you, I think Senator Edwards would be a good choice. I was very, very impressed with him as a campaigner, very impressed with his voting. MR. RUSSERT: Who would be the strongest Democrat, Mary?

MS. MATALIN: I think the best model for picking a vice president really has been President Bush's when picked Vice President Cheney to help him govern. He certainly didn't pick him for his three Wyoming votes which is kind of the traditional way or some geographical or some electability...

MR. RUSSERT: That means that Jim Johnson, the head of the vetting screening panel...

MS. MATALIN: There you go. There you go.

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...will be Vice President Cheney oversaw the panel.

MS. MATALIN: There you go.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about your former boss, Vice President Cheney. Here's the latest poll from the University of Pennsylvania and Annenberg: favorable, 33; unfavorable, 36. Is the vice president's position on the ticket in jeopardy?

MS. MATALIN: Heck, no. Absolutely, positively not. He has been, I mean, just an incredible asset to this president. He's going to be an incredible asset in the campaign. His numbers are with the president's numbers, and unlike--he is not Mr. Rapid Response when he's attacked. He doesn't care. He doesn't care about his public relations. He cares about his public service. So things hang out there. All these false, egregious, lying charges that the Democrats have thrown at Vice President Cheney stick if they're not addressed, and he's too busy working rather than addressing them.

MR. RUSSERT: All right. The election is eight months from today, James Carville.

MR. CARVILLE: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: Give me your percentage prediction, Kerry, Bush, Nader.

MR. CARVILLE: I think that Kerry's going to get 52 percent. Democrats and...

MR. RUSSERT: And Bush what? MR. CARVILLE: Fifty-two--47 percent.

MR. RUSSERT: And one for Nader?

MR. CARVILLE: One for Nader.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin.

MS. MATALIN: Oh, we're going to win and we're going to win for the right reasons.

MR. RUSSERT: Give me a percent. MS. MATALIN: I'm not giving you a percent. We're going to win a majority of the electoral votes and it's...

MR. RUSSERT: Who's going to carry Florida?

MS. MATALIN: We are, just like we did last time, by 1,665 votes.

MR. RUSSERT: Who's going to carry Ohio?

MS. MATALIN: We are.

MR. RUSSERT: James?

MR. CARVILLE: Oh, boy, St. Petersburg poll I saw today had Senator Kerry some 49, 43 in Florida. And I was just at Michigan State, and a lot of people, I think, and a lot of Republicans think that Senator Kerry is going to carry Ohio. I've heard that again and again.

MS. MATALIN: Well, we'll see. MR. RUSSERT: Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. MS. MATALIN: I'm not betting you but I'll bet him. You're going to lose. You're going to lose. Loser.

MR. RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, James Carville, we'll be right back. Next up, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy talks about the selection of a vice presidential running mate 44 years ago right here on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Senator John F. Kerry has begun his search for a running mate. Forty-four years ago, another JFK from Massachusetts discussed the impact of a vice presidential selection:

(Videotape, January 3, 1960): SEN. KENNEDY: Looking at the history of the last 60 years, I don't recall a single case where a vice presidential candidate contributed an electoral vote. I think Dewey lost California in 1948 with Mr. Warren at the height of his popularity of vice president. I know Wendell Wilkie lost Oregon in 1940 with Charles McNary, the most popular political figure in the history of Oregon. A vice presidential candidate does not contribute. People vote for the presidential candidates on both sides. That's what's going to happen in 1960. They presume that the presidential candidate is going to have a normal life expectancy. They don't say, "We don't like the presidential candidate but we'll vote for the vice presidential candidate."

(End videotape) MR. RUSSERT: In fact, John Kennedy selected Lyndon Johnson. LBJ helped JFK carry Texas and win the presidency. And as we remember all too well, Johnson himself became the 36th president of the United States on November 22, 1963. We'll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT: That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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