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updated 10/12/2004 11:21:11 AM ET 2004-10-12T15:21:11

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NBC News

MEET THE PRESS  Sunday, October 10, 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)

GUESTS:  Senator JOHN EDWARDS, (D-N.C.) Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee

KEN SALAZAR, Colorado State Attorney General, Democrat

PETE COORS, Chairman, Coors Brewing Company, Republican

MODERATOR/PANELIST:  Tim Russert - NBC News


MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday, a week of feisty debates.  On Friday, Bush vs. Kerry:

(Videotape, October 8, 2004):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH:  I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA):  I would have used that force wisely.  I would have used that authority wisely, not rush to war without a plan to win the peace.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  On Tuesday, Cheney vs. Edwards:

(Videotape, October 5, 2004):

VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY:  Your rhetoric, Senator, would be a lot more credible if there was a record to back it up.  There isn't.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, (D-NC):  Mr. Vice President, you are still not being straight with the American people.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  The race for the White House, 23 days to go.  Our guests:  the Democratic nominee for vice president, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Then our MEET THE PRESS Senate Debate series continues.  All eyes on Colorado, where Democratic State Attorney General Ken Salazar is locked in a tough battle with the chairman of the Coors brewing company, Republican Pete Coors.  Control of the U.S. Senate may hang in the balance, as Salazar and Coors debate right here on MEET THE PRESS.

But, first, joining us on MEET THE PRESS for the first time as a vice presidential candidate is Senator John Edwards.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. EDWARDS:  Good morning, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT:  Senator, this morning millions of Afghans are lining up for the first time ever to vote for president of their country.  Should that be considered a major foreign policy success for President Bush?

SEN. EDWARDS:  Oh, it's a good thing that the election is taking place.  As you know, it's been postponed twice because of security concerns.  But there are lots of problems in Afghanistan, and some of those problems you and I have discussed on your show in the past.  Now, first of all, they've resumed their drug trade.  They're now producing 75 percent of the world's opium.  There are still significant parts of the country under the control of drug lords and warlords, parts of the country that are still insecure.  So there are still very serious problems in Afghanistan that continue up until today.

MR. RUSSERT:  Should there be more economic and military aid being directed towards Afghanistan?

SEN. EDWARDS:  We should be doing more than we're doing.  I mean, for example, in terms of counternarcotics, we ought to be joining with the British.  And I would say at least doubling our counternarcotics effort so that we don't continue to see this expansion of their drug trade that we've seen since the Taliban was ousted, and there does need to be an expansion of security, particularly outside the area around Kabul.  And I think NATO is--that's a role that NATO can play, and America should be involved in.

MR. RUSSERT:  More American troops if necessary?

SEN. EDWARDS:  Well, I think we can do it with NATO troops.  NATO has made a commitment.  They've had some problems, as you know, meeting their commitment, but I believe that this is something NATO can be responsible for.

MR. RUSSERT:  I want to bring you back to Tuesday night when you were talking about the war in Iraq, as compared with the war against Osama bin Laden. And let's listen:

(Videotape, October 5, 2004):

SEN. EDWARDS:  Our point in this is not complicated.  We were attacked by al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead to begin to plan for the invasion of Iraq.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Your point being that the war in Iraq was a diversion from the war on terror against Osama bin Laden?

SEN. EDWARDS:  Correct.

MR. RUSSERT:  I want to bring you back to October of 2002 to something you said then.

SEN. EDWARDS:  Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT:  "Others argue that if even our allies support us, we should not support this resolution because confronting Iraq now would undermine the long-term fight against terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.  Yet, I believe that this is not an either-or choice.  Our national requires us to do both, and we can."

So you were urging the president in October of 2002 to fight the war against terror in Afghanistan and...

SEN. EDWARDS:  Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...embark on the war in Iraq.

SEN. EDWARDS:  No, sir.

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, you're saying it's a diversion.

SEN. EDWARDS:  No, I would respectfully disagree with what you just said, Tim.  What I said was it was important to continue to wage an aggressive war against terrorism, to win the war against terrorism, and also to confront Saddam, who was a serious threat and that's why the vote on the resolution, both John Kerry and I still stand behind.  It was the right thing to do to confront Saddam Hussein, but the problem is that what happened with the administration--there are really two problems that act in combination.  One is they moved their attention away from Osama bin Laden, one of the reasons that we didn't capture or kill Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora when we had our troops on the ground, when we had the 10th Mountain across the border in Uzbekistan and we turned it over to the Afghan warlords.  That was a mistake.  We shouldn't have done that.

In addition to that, instead of planning the way we should have, bringing others into this effort and in addition to that having a plan to win the peace--and we've now seen that they didn't have a plan to win the peace, George Bush and Dick Cheney--there are enormous consequences which is Iraq is now a haven for terrorists.

So those two problems were both serious problems, serious problems that needed to be confronted, but the president needed to stay focused on the war on terrorism in addition to Saddam Hussein.  That's what I was saying then.  I think that's still right.

MR. RUSSERT:  John Kerry has said about Iraq, "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."  Do you agree with that?

SEN. EDWARDS:  I do.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you urged the president to go to war, saying you could do both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.

SEN. EDWARDS:  No, I didn't.  If you listened to what I think you just read me, I said we should confront Saddam Hussein, and if we had confronted him, if we had done it the way it should have been done, building the coalition, putting a plan in place to win the peace, if the weapons inspectors had been allowed to finish their job, they would have found what we now know, which was that there were no weapons of mass destruction and there were no ongoing, active programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

And I think it was again the right thing to do to confront Saddam Hussein. John Kerry believes the same thing, but we had to stay focused at the same time on this war on terror and on the people who actually attacked us.  Now you heard the vice president and I debating on Tuesday night this entire issue of a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein on September 11.  The vice president and president have continually suggested or at least implied there is some connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11.  There is not. There is no strong connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and the vice president continues to assert that even today, and that's not true.  And it's important for people in this country to recognize that September 11 and Saddam Hussein are not directly connected in any way.

MR. RUSSERT:  If you knew today--and you do know there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq...

SEN. EDWARDS:  Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...would you still vote to go to war with Iraq?

SEN. EDWARDS:  I would have voted for the resolution knowing what I know today, because it was the right thing to do to give the president the authority to confront Saddam Hussein.  We did not authorize this president to make the mess that he has now made in Iraq.  We did not authorize him to go into this effort without doing the hard work to build a coalition.  We did not authorize him to go to war without a plan to win the peace, and that was the responsibility of the president of the United States.

And it's now clear, from people like Paul Bremer, that they didn't have adequate forces, that they weren't prepared to put the security in place.  And we lost the initiative, is essentially what happened, and now we see what the result of that is:  Over 1,000 American troops have lost their lives.  We have Americans being kidnapped, some people being beheaded, parts of the country still under the control of insurgents.  It's become a haven for terrorists, and terrorists are flowing into Iraq from all over the world.  That is the direct consequence of the failures of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

MR. RUSSERT:  I think what confuses people, Senator, is that there seems to be a difference in rhetoric and emphasis.  Back in October of 2002, you voted to authorize the country to go to war.  In fact, you said this about Saddam: "I think Iraq is the most serious and imminent threat to our country."  "The most serious and imminent threat to our country."

And you underscored it by saying this:

(Videotape, CNN "Late Edition," February 24, 2002):

SEN. EDWARDS:  And I think Iraq and Saddam Hussein present the most serious and most imminent threat.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  "Most serious and imminent threat."  Were you just dead wrong?

SEN. EDWARDS:  No, I think Saddam Hussein was a very serious threat.  I stand by that, and that's why we stand behind our vote on the resolution.  But I don't know how many times I can say the same thing:  We did not authorize this president to make the mess that he's made.  That is the responsibility of the president of the United States.  It is the president's responsibility to put the coalition together.  It is the president's responsibility to make sure that, after our military does its job and our military has done everything they've been asked to do--it is the responsibility of the president to make sure we can be successful by having a plan in place and being--having an ability to implement that plan to win the peace.  He did neither of those things, and those failures are catastrophic, catastrophic for America and catastrophic for what's happening in Iraq right now.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you will acknowledge that Saddam was not "the most imminent threat to America" when you said that?

SEN. EDWARDS:  You mean what we now know?  We now know that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction.  We didn't know that at the time.  But we do now know that and that is a difference.  There's no question about that.

MR. RUSSERT:  I want to ask you to clear something else up.  In--back in September, you were in the presidential debate; you were asked about voting money to support our troops, and this is what you had to say:

(Videotape, Democratic Presidential Primary Debate, September 25, 2003):

SEN. EDWARDS:  We have young men and women in a shooting gallery over there right now.  It would be enormously irresponsible for any of us not to do what's necessary to support them.  I will vote for what's necessary to support the troops.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  About three weeks later, there was a chance to vote for $87 billion to support the troops and you voted no.  Why the inconsistency?

SEN. EDWARDS:  Well, the reason for the vote was it was clear at that point that what I just talked about was true, that the president had no plan, that our troops who were on the ground there needed somebody to stand up and say on their behalf that "You don't have a plan and we need a plan," both for our troops and for us to be successful there.  The second reason is that the administration insisted that that vote include about $20 billion of money out of which came billions of dollars of no-bid contracts for Halliburton.  We were not then and I am not now for no-bid contracts for Halliburton, the vice president's former company.  I think that's wrong.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you regret not having voted for that?

SEN. EDWARDS:  No, I think the right vote was--at the time was to say you don't have a plan, we need a plan, our troops deserve a plan.  Second, to say that we are not for giving no-bid contracts to Halliburton, the vice president's former company.  But I want to add to this, if I can, that remember, this is the president and vice president who sent about 40,000 American troops into this war without the kind of body armor that they needed, without the armored vehicles that they needed.  And not only that, while they were on the ground fighting, they lobbied the Congress to cut their combat pay.  So it is the height of hypocrisy for this president and vice president to be criticizing us for this when, in fact, they've taken all these steps that are absolutely against the interest of our men and women in uniform.

MR. RUSSERT:  They will counter, Senator, and this is the memorandum they sent along with support of that $87 billion, that the money in that bill that you voted against, $300 million was earmarked for life- saving body armor and $140 million to deliver the heavy armored Humvees to protect U.S. forces, and you voted against it.

SEN. EDWARDS:  But that--the problem with them not having the body armor that they needed and not having the vehicles they needed was just a planning issue. They did not do the work to make certain-- what happened was we got down through a number of tiers of our men and women in uniform who had to serve in Iraq, you know, the top tier, the second tier, they had the body armor they needed.  The problem is they went further into those tiers than they expected to go.  That was poor planning.  They weren't ready, and they rushed to war, as John Kerry has said over and over again.  And the result was we sent 40,000 young men and women into battle without what they needed to keep them safe. It was wrong.

MR. RUSSERT:  If John Kerry and John Edwards are elected, do you believe that the Germans and the French would increase military assistance to Iraq?

SEN. EDWARDS:  Here's what I believe.  I believe if we do the things that need to be done in Iraq in combination--I don't think these things operate independent of one another--I think, for example, if we speed up the training of the Iraqis to provide their own security, I mean we have less than half of the staff that are needed there now in order to get that job done and to speed up that process.  I think if, in fact, we speed up the reconstruction process by using the money that's been appropriated and allocated for the reconstruction so that the Iraqis see some tangible benefit and we get other countries involved in the reconstruction process, and we make sure these elections take place as scheduled, I mean the U.N. has 30 some-odd people on the ground in Iraq right now.  I mean, when they conducted the elections in East Timor, a much smaller country, they had over 200.  I mean, you can't conduct this election with that many U.N. personnel on the ground.  We need to provide better security for them and make sure this election takes place as scheduled.

Those things combined with a new president and a fresh start, a president who brings credibility to this effort, I think creates a real potential for getting others involved not just in the reconstruction but also in providing troops on the ground.

MR. RUSSERT:  But as recently as last week, as you know, Senator, the French and the Germans said they're not in a giving mood.  Here is what they told The Financial Times.  "French and German government officials say they will not significantly increase military assistance in Iraq even if John Kerry...is elected.  `I cannot imagine that there will be any change in our decision not to send troops, whoever becomes president.'"  And the French foreign minister went on to say that "which has tense relations with" Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq, that the French "had no plans to send troops `either now or later.'"

So what would be the difference if--having a Kerry as president as opposed to a Bush in terms of the French or the Germans?

SEN. EDWARDS:  Because success breeds joining the coalition.  If we do the things that I just talked about, you know, actually doing what this president is not doing, speeding up the training of the Iraqis to provide for their own security, speeding up the process of the reconstruction so the Iraqi people actually see some tangible benefits in terms of water and electricity, ensuring what's not being ensured now which is that these elections take place in January as scheduled, those things combined with the credibility of a new president who can reach out to these countries--this president of course has rejected them not just in the lead-up to the war but also in the reconstruction effort--creates the real potential for getting these countries involved.

MR. RUSSERT:  Senator, in terms of economic policy, The Concord Coalition has issued a report, a detailed analysis of the Kerry-Edwards economic plan and the Bush-Cheney economic plan, and they say very bluntly neither plan is credible.  Your plan would add over a trillion in debt over the next 10 years. The Bush plan would add a trillion dollars of debt.  Everyone's talking about tax cuts for the middle class.  Everyone's talking about more spending for education, more spending for the environment.  But no one is talking about the deficit.  And The Concord Coalition says your plan and the Bush plan simply don't add up.

SEN. EDWARDS:  Well, it's a fair question.  Here's what we believe.  First, if you look at what George Bush has done over the last four years, he has no credibility on this issue at all.  He took a $5 trillion projected surplus, turned it into a $3 trillion deficit.  Biggest fiscal turnaround in American history, $8 trillion.  In addition to that, newspapers are reporting he has another $3 trillion of spending and tax cuts that he has absolutely no way to pay for.  So, first of all, we know with certainty that they will do nothing about this deficit except make it worse.  They've already done it.

Now, as to us.  What independent groups have determined--for example, The Economist just had a report where they surveyed American economists, and 79 percent of those economists said we had a much more serious, credible plan to reduce the deficit than George Bush had.  Goldman Sachs, I think, essentially reached the same conclusion.  Here's what we have said:  We're going to roll back tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year; we're going to get rid of some corporate subsidies, corporate welfare, and close some corporate loopholes.

In addition to that, we're going to get rid of some bureaucracies, and we have been specific about how we think that needs to be accomplished, and we're going to put real pay-as-you-go rules into place which George Bush has, in fact, opposed.  If we have done all those things and, at the end of the day, it becomes necessary to make sure we do not raise taxes on the middle class, then we will roll back some of our ideas.  John's already said, for example, national service, which is something he's committed to, early childhood, things that we--are near and dear to us, and we think very important to the country, but, if it becomes necessary to meet that commitment, we will roll things back.

MR. RUSSERT:  Senator, before you go, do you think this race will stay nip and tuck right to the very end or that one candidate will begin to pull away?

SEN. EDWARDS:  I think it's going to be close till the end, Tim.  I think that if you look at what's happened over the last week and a half in the debates, there are such dramatic differences between us and them, the campaign has been close up until now.  I think people are going to be focused on what's happened over the last four years with jobs, with health care, what's happening on the ground in Iraq right now, whether the president is being straight with them about that, and they also want to see what our plans are in each of those areas--jobs, health care, what's happening in Iraq, and keeping the American people safe.  But I expect it will be a close election.

MR. RUSSERT:  Senator, we thank you for your views, as always.  And I hope you and your family are safe on the campaign trail.

SEN. EDWARDS:  Thank you very much, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT:  And our viewers should know we have invited Vice President Dick Cheney to join us any Sunday before the election.

Coming next, our MEET THE PRESS Senate Debate series continues.  All eyes on the state of Colorado.  Democrat Ken Salazar vs. Republican Pete Coors.  They debate next, right here on MEET THE PRESS.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Our MEET THE PRESS Senate Debate series continues, Colorado, Salazar vs. Coors to control the Senate, may be in the balance, after this station break.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  There are currently 51 Republicans in the U.S. Senate.  A change of just two seats could alter control.  We have invited the candidates from the closest Senate races across the country to debate live on MEET THE PRESS.  Today, we welcome the candidates from Colorado.  Democrat Colorado state Attorney General Ken Salazar and the chairman of Coors brewing company, Republican Pete Coors.

Gentlemen, welcome both.

MR. PETE COORS, (R-CO):  Thank you very much.

MR. KEN SALAZAR, (D-CO; Attorney General):  Thank you.

MR. COORS:  Great to be here.

MR. RUSSERT:  Iraq very much on people's minds.  Mr. Salazar, let me start with you.  This is how the Rocky Mountain News reported your position in May. "Salazar supported the war.  ...Salazar believed Iraq posed `a clear and immediate danger' to the United States..."

Do you still believe that?

MR. SALAZAR:  Look here, Tim.  The president of the United States made a very persuasive case to the American public, and my view is that if there's a gun that's pointed at one of my children, I think we ought to take action and essentially that was the presentation that was made by the president to the American people.  And, today, we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and what we ought to be doing is learning from the mistakes that have been made and also looking forward to what we ought to do in Iraq to try to stabilize the country.

I think in terms of mistakes, the most important thing we ought to be looking at is why we have such massive intelligence failures in our country.  We had massive intelligence failures before 9/11, we had massive intelligence failures before going into Iraq, and yet I haven't seen one person being held accountable.  So moving forward and creating a director of intelligence and doing all the rest of the things that we need to do in order to have the right intelligence in our country I think is imperative for us.

MR. RUSSERT:  But knowing today that there were no weapons of mass destruction, would you as a senator vote for a resolution to go to war?

MR. SALAZAR:  I would have, and I would have voted for the resolution that authorized the president, but I think the more...

MR. RUSSERT:  Even now?

MR. SALAZAR:  Even now?  With...

MR. RUSSERT:  Knowing if the president came and said, "There are no weapons of mass destruction but we still must remove Saddam Hussein," would you vote for such a resolution?

MR. SALAZAR:  I would have voted for the resolution to give him the authority to move forward, OK?  The most important question to me is we in Iraq today and how do we move forward in Iraq, and the way we've got to move forward in Iraq is with a plan that's going to bring stability to the country and allow us to accomplish the mission.  And right now I agree with Senator Lugar and I agree with Senator McCain and others who have been critical of what's happening in Iraq and we have a mess on our hands, but we need to figure out the plan on how exactly we're going to move forward and I have a plan on how we're going to do that.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Coors, if you knew that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, would you still vote to embark upon an invasion, a war to remove him from power?

MR. COORS:  Um, I think one of the problems is we are in a war on terror, and we have an enemy who is a horrific enemy.  These are barbaric people who want to destroy our civilization.  I think every time a vote is taken or the issue is brought before the United States Senate or before the president, you go with the best intelligence you have.  I don't think it's appropriate today to second-guess what decision would be made today based on the information we have.  I suspect that given what we know today, there would be a much different outcome than we had a couple of years ago.

MR. RUSSERT:  But if you knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, the president is saying very clearly, "Even though there are no weapons of mass destruction, knowing what I know today, I still made the right decision to go to war."  Do you agree with that?

MR. COORS:  This is a war on terror.  And this is a--we can say "weapons of mass destruction," "no weapons of mass destruction"; clearly, we should be more worried today, actually, about Iran and North Dakota than we are--North Korea than we are about Iraq, based on weapons of mass destruction.  But I think that the conditions change on an ongoing basis, and we must look at the facts that we have before us at the time we make a decision.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Salazar, John Kerry said "this was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time."  Do you agree with that?

MR. SALAZAR:  You know, I wouldn't have chosen those same words.  I think the reality of it is that if you look at the time before 9/11, that we knew that we were involved in dealing with the greatest threat that America has seen in modern history, and that's the whole issue of terrorism.  You look at the Hart- Rudman report that came out long before 9/11, and they said we were going to be attacked here at the homeland and that we needed to create a Department of Homeland Security, Tim.  And yet what happened?  The nation slept. Washington slept on that issue.

You know, I was in a meeting with President Bush and with Secretary Ridge some six months after 9/11 occurred, and they were still in a position that we did not need to have a Department of Homeland Security.  Now, here is the real issue:  that we have not had a Washington that has acted with the kind of urgency to deal with the issue of global terrorism in an effective way.  We need to have that.  And the difference between myself and Pete Coors is that I bring the experience to be able to deal with those kinds of issues.  He brings zero experience to the table in terms of making our homeland more secure.

MR. RUSSERT:  You say that you wouldn't use the same words that John Kerry used.  John Kerry's been to Colorado five times during his campaign, and you've never appeared with him.  Are you running away from John Kerry?

MR. SALAZAR:  I'm not running away from John Kerry.  John Kerry is a person who has done a lot for this country, who has served this country with distinction.  He is somebody who I support.  I don't mind saying that at all, because I do believe that he's going to be the next president of the United States.

MR. RUSSERT:  Will you campaign with him this cycle?

MR. SALAZAR:  I will campaign with him in Colorado when he comes, but I'm not going to change my schedule just because there happens to be a candidate that comes into the state of Colorado.  You know, this race has been a seven-month race between Pete and me.  We have a very, very heavy schedule.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Coors, you said this in your debate in September:  "I sense that Ken [Salazar] wants to return to the days of appeasement, that he would respond after we are attacked."

When were the days of appeasement?  Who were the appeasers?

MR. COORS:  Well, Tim, first of all, let me go back to--he said I have zero experience.  I'm a businessman.  I've been dealing with solving problems my entire career.  That's what we do.  I'm not a bureaucrat.  I'm not a professional politician.  So say I have zero experience, I think, is totally irrelevant to this campaign and this debate.

When I talk about appeasement, Ken, along with--as he aligns himself with Senator Kerry, has consistently said we should have had a bigger--more of an effort to get a coalition.  We should have--"We should have, we should have, we should have."  It's a campaign of hopes and wishes.  Frankly, I haven't heard yet how--Ken Salazar's plan to get people into a coalition who have been working with the enemy.  This is a very, very interesting thing to me.

And what I think we should do is have--we were attacked on 9/11.  This country was attacked; 3,000 people were incinerated.  We have an enemy that, if they could have killed 300,000 or three million, would have had no more remorse.  I think it takes strong, bold action.  I think that's what our president did, and I support that action.

MR. RUSSERT:  When you say "return to the days of appeasement," are you suggesting that John Kerry and Ken Salazar are appeasers?

MR. COORS:  I'm saying...

MR. RUSSERT:  Words are important.

MR. COORS:  I'm saying that I believe that we need to take definite, specific, direct action when this country is attacked, and not sit back and say, "Well, let's talk about this some more."  I believe--you can call that appeasement. I call it appeasement.  I think that's what it is.

MR. SALAZAR:  Tim, let me just say--I think we need to hunt down and go after terrorists around this world and we have to do it in a global way.  But the difference between myself and my opponent is that he's a rubber stamp and basically says that we ought not to question whatever President Bush has done. And I joined the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar, in saying that we do have major questions that we ought to be asking about Iraq.  And I think our nation is not well served when we don't ask those kinds of questions, because at the end of the day, if we're going to confront the war on terror and if we're going to win the war on terror, which I'm committed to winning this war on terror, it's going to require us to ask tough questions and it's going to require us to lead in this world.

MR. RUSSERT:  I want to talk about the tone of the campaign.  Mr. Salazar, you're on the air with a commercial about Mr. Coors and here's part of it.

(Videotape, Salazar '04 Senate ad):

Announcer #1:  Osama bin Laden:  Should he face the death penalty for murdering 3,000 Americans?  Pete Coors says no.  Unbelievable.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you think it's appropriate to use Osama bin Laden in a commercial against Mr. Coors?

MR. SALAZAR:  You know, I think if Osama bin Laden were to be caught, which I hope he does get caught, that he does, in fact, deserve the death penalty. And I think that's a clear, substantive distinction between myself and my opponent.  I believe we need to do a lot more on the war on terror than we are currently doing.  We've been talking about the issue at the international front, but I will tell you that when you look at what's happening here at the homeland in the United States of America, we are not safe today.  You know, the report of the 9-11 Commission, almost every newspaper around the country said that we as Americans are not safe.  And I have not seen a Washington today that is acting with the kind of fervor and urgency that we ought to be acting with what is the most solemn obligation of our national government, and that's to protect Americans and protect the homeland.

MR. RUSSERT:  But does Mr. Coors moral opposition to the death penalty make him weak on terrorism?

MR. SALAZAR:  You know, I have seen him as a--in this campaign, essentially, as being a rubber stamp on what we are doing on the whole issue of homeland security and terrorism.  I think that what Senator Lugar and Senator McCain and others have done in questioning what is happening and raising tough questions is the appropriate thing that we're going to do if, as a nation, we are going to honor that most solemn obligation that we have as national leaders and that is to protect the homeland.

MR. RUSSERT:  But what I asked you was, does his moral opposition to the death penalty make him weak on terrorism?

MR. SALAZAR:  You know, I haven't seen his plan on terrorism.  And I think that at the end of the day, if Osama bin Laden gets caught, I think that he ought to be killed.  I think that the death penalty is an appropriate sanction for cop killers and for people who terrorize Americans and who kill innocent civilian life.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Coors, why not kill Osama bin Laden?

MR. COORS:  Now, look, we're at war.  We're going to take Osama bin Laden sooner or later.  If we kill him in the process, that's just fine with me because we are at war.

MR. RUSSERT:  But if we capture him and bring him to trial, we should not execute him?

MR. COORS:  The point--let me go back to a point Ken made earlier.  He has not answered the question.  The Rocky Mountain News said that his campaign was down and dirty.  Ken Salazar pledged to have a clean campaign.  We haven't seen that.  Now, if Osama bin Laden is captured, my personal belief, he has been sending his young followers off to kill themselves--suicide murderers. And, you know, I think his attitude is he wants to go to Allah.  If he wants to go to Allah, by killing him, we would be granting his wish and perhaps even suggesting that he is a martyr.  Keeping him in a box and letting him think about when he's going to eventually end up in his heaven, I think, would be a more severe punishment than putting him to death.

MR. RUSSERT:  You mentioned negative campaign and your concern about it.  And yet here is a commercial that your campaign is running about Mr. Salazar:

(Videotape, Coors '04 Senate ad):

Announcer #2:  On terrorism, Ken Salazar stands with John Kerry supporters. Salazar and Kerry support limiting the investigative tools used by law enforcement to capture terrorists.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Which tools is Mr. Salazar in favor of which limit the ability of the law enforcement community to deal with terrorism?

MR. COORS:  That ad relates to the Patriot Act, which Mr. Salazar says needs some modifications.  I am not sure it needs modifications.  I think our law enforcement officers need the kind of tools that are provided for criminal investigations to try to find and keep this country safe.  These are terrorists--we're dealing with terrorists who want to do damage to my children, grandchildren, your children, grandchildren.  This is--we need to be sure that they have the tools that they need.  I'm not convinced that Senator Kerry or Ken Salazar believe that those tools need to be there.

MR. RUSSERT:  Which tools do they want to take away?

MR. COORS:  The Patriot Act, in my opinion, was designed to give the tools to our people in our Justice Department, who need tools to do wiretapping, do the things that they need to do to make sure that they are able to find--seek, find and take out people who are doing damage to this country.

MR. RUSSERT:  So they're opposed to taking away wiretapping?

MR. COORS:  I don't know that...

MR. RUSSERT:  But you went on the air and said that they support limiting the investigative tools.  And I'm asking you which tools?

MR. COORS:  Changing the Patriot Act, in my opinion, would change some of those tools.

MR. RUSSERT:  Any part of it?  Any part of it?

MR. COORS:  I believe so.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Salazar?

MR. SALAZAR:  You know, I support the Patriot Act because I think that we need to have the kind of ability to communicate among law enforcement agencies to make sure that we are able to deal with the issue of terrorism here in our homeland.

MR. RUSSERT:  Which changes would you make in it?

MR. SALAZAR:  The changes that relate to roving wiretaps, the changes related to the sneak and peek provisions of the Patriot Act.  Those are changes that we ought to make and there is a bipartisan coalition, Republicans and Democrats, that say that we need to have that kind of fine-tuning with the Patriot Act.

But let me go back to you--the point of your commercial, and that is the negative advertising that's going on.  You know, Pete and his friends started attacking me almost three months ago on the air with name- calling and with negative attacks.  You know, I pledged to run a positive campaign, and I always have, in my history, in two campaigns, statewide, as attorney general. OK?

MR. COORS:  This is...

MR. SALAZAR:  Pete has--Pete broke--has broken that promise time and time again.

MR. COORS:  Ken, this is just not true.  I mean, come on.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, let me show you.  This is what Mr. Coors had to say about clean campaigns.  Let's watch:

(Videotape, September 11, 2004):

MR. COORS:  I'm opposed to negative advertising.  I've always been opposed. And said I would be opposed.  We're going to do this campaign on the basis of the issues, and I will run a clean campaign.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  And, Mr. Salazar, this is what you said:  "Dear Pete, I believe Colorado deserves a different kind of campaign clean, positive devoid of negative attacks.  In that spirit, I'm calling on you to join me...in running a clean campaign, a campaign about issues ideas, without negative ads, or personal attacks and smears."  And, yet, you run an ad which links him to Osama bin Laden.  And you run an ad saying he's weak on terror.

MR. SALAZAR:  Now, Tim, that letter that you point out there is dated August the 10th.  That was the day of the primary, the evening of the primary.  OK? By the end of that month, Pete and his allies, his friends, were running attacks questioning my commitment to the environment.  My commitment to the environment in Colorado goes back to the days of spending as a farmer and a rancher on the family farm that's been there for five generations.  I've done more for the environment in Colorado with the creation of Great Outdoors Colorado and going after polluters and getting long prison sentences against polluters.  I've done a lot of work in that arena.  And so I don't appreciate those kinds of negative attacks.  And they started it way back in August.

MR. COORS:  Tim...

MR. RUSSERT:  But you countered by going negative.

MR. SALAZAR:  Well, if I get attacked, I am going to attack back.

MR. RUSSERT:  And you went negative.

MR. COORS:  Tim, look, this was a--the attack on Ken Salazar was from a 527 that I had nothing to do with.  Not allowed to have anything to with it.  I publicly stated that I wished they would not do it and that they ought to go positive, they ought to talk about my strengths instead of Ken Salazar's weaknesses.  I did not start this battle.  Ken Salazar did.  We can have a big debate all day long about who started the name-calling, and it's not going to get us anywhere.  I think what's important in this campaign is to stay positive and talk about the differences between us, and there are plenty.

MR. RUSSERT:  All right, let's do just that.  On the budget and on the economy, this is a USA Today from Tuesday, Mr. Coors.  It says, "Coors says the federal government must cut its $422 billion budget deficit and $7.4 trillion national debt and rein in soaring health care costs.  But...he offers no specifics when asked which government program he'd cut."

And this from The Washington Post.  "In his TV ads, Coors calls for more federal tax cuts and a balanced federal budget.  Asked how he would reconcile those two goals, he replied:  `That's probably a fair question, I just don't have an answer for you.'"

How can you be for increasing tax cuts, making the president's tax cuts permanent, increasing defense spending, increasing spending on terrorism, and still say you're going to balance the budget?  It doesn't add up.

MR. COORS:  There are solutions to this.  First of all, I do believe the tax cuts are stimulating the economy.  We have almost two million more jobs than we had a year ago, little over a year ago.  Where- -we have people going to work, we are--the--this is raising tax dollars.  The key difference between Ken, who believes in just simply taxing the wealthy, whatever that may be, and large--and small businesses, that that's the solution.  I believe that you drive the economy by lowering taxes and letting hard-working Americans spend the money that they've earned on goods and services that builds up the economy.

It's been demonstrated time and again through many different administrations, including John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.  I happen to believe that philosophy works, and Ken Salazar thinks the opposite works, that the government needs more money and that we tax people to make that happen.

MR. SALAZAR:  Tim, I disagree with Pete on that.  The fact of the matter is that he is the big spender in this race, and I am the conservative hawk on the deficit.  You know, when you put in his proposals, which would increase the size of our deficit by $4 trillion, just step one, and, step two, you privatize Social Security in the way that Pete wants to do, you're up to $6 trillion additionally in the deficit.  We already have a $7 trillion debt here in our country, a $465 billion annual deficit in our country.  We need to do a lot more in terms of what we are going to do to deal with this deficit.

MR. COORS:  How...

MR. SALAZAR:  And doing the kinds of giveaways that he proposed, where we basically are benefiting corporations and multimillionaires, is not the way for us to get ourselves back into a balanced federal budget.

MR. COORS:  Ken, how can the people of Colorado know how to vote in this campaign if you pull numbers out of the air with no validation and no substantiation for them?  I think they need to know the truth.

MR. SALAZAR:  Well, Pete, the truth is basically what Tim just articulated in the spots that you saw from USA Today, other people that have done a calculation of your proposals, and they show that you would take our deficit and increase it by $6 trillion.  I think that's irresponsible...

MR. COORS:  Nobody has made that--nobody has--and, Ken, the same people can say the same thing about all the programs that you're suggesting that...

MR. SALAZAR:  But the difference, Pete, is that I believe that we have to have pay-as-you-go rules.  I even support a constitutional amendment to deal with the deficit of our country and I believe that what we ought to do is we ought to move forward in a manner that avoids the fiscal recklessness that we have seen coming out of Washington, D.C., and you're going to be one of those allies of the fiscal recklessness which is taking our country down the wrong way.

MR. COORS:  We...

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, Mr. Salazar, let me ask you specifically, and our federal outlays are about $2.1 trillion.  Defense, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security account for about 60 percent of that.  You can't balance the budget without dealing with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and defense.  Would you cut those programs?

MR. SALAZAR:  You know, there are things that we can do with those programs to try to bring down the costs.  For example, when we look at Medicare, the cost of prescription drugs really is part of the overall health-care problem which is crushing America's families and American employers and we need to do something about that.  And yet we have a Medicare program that can't engage in the bulk purchasing of drugs to try to bring down the cost of drugs.  You know, I propose that one of the things we ought to do is to have the ability to bring in drugs from places like Canada, where we can cut down the cost of prescription drugs by as high as 60 percent.  Those are the kinds of things we ought to do to bring the costs down.

MR. RUSSERT:  Would you be willing to say no more tax cuts, not only for the wealthy but for anybody until we have a balanced budget?

MR. SALAZAR:  I am a supporter of tax cuts for the middle class and I have said that for those people who make...

MR. RUSSERT:  Even with a half-trillion-dollar deficit?

MR. SALAZAR:  Yeah, we can go ahead and we can move towards a balanced budget if we do a number of things, including putting in policies that stop the kind of pork-barrel spending that we are engaged in, freezing the federal travel budget, freezing what we do with federal vehicles and a whole host of other things that can help us reduce the wasteful government spending that we have today.

MR. RUSSERT:  That's not going to balance the budget and you know that.  I mean, that's mere pittance.

MR. SALAZAR:  Oh, that's one thing that we've got to do, OK?  The second thing that we have to do is we have to get our economy back.  I mean, the fact of the matter is that when you look at the number of jobs, in our small state of Colorado, we've lost 100,000 jobs just in the last several years.  Now, for someone like Pete, as he said in the Rocky Mountain News the other day, he think it's the best economy of our lifetime.  Well, you ask the people of Colorado who are now making $2,700 less a year than they were several years ago and health insurance premiums are up $2,700 more than they were several years ago, we have a problem on our hands.  We don't have the economic security for America that we ought to have and that's part of how we're going to get out of the deficit.  We need an economic policy that's going to allow our economy to grow.

MR. RUSSERT:  I want to talk about values because that's been part of the discussion in your Senate campaign.  Mr. Salazar, when you ran for attorney general in 2002, you were asked a question by the Rocky Mountain News about should same-sex couples be able to adopt children and you said no.  Why?

MR. SALAZAR:  At the time, that was my position.  This is a very difficult issue with which Americans struggle.  I see Vice President Cheney struggling with the issue of a constitutional...

MR. RUSSERT:  Have you changed your mind?

MR. SALAZAR:  ...amendment on gay marriage.  You know, my position on it is what we ought to do is do what's in the best interest of the child.  And there could be loving couples that could provide the kind of nurturing for young people growing up, and that's my position that we ought to go ahead...

MR. RUSSERT:  So gay couples should be able to adopt a child?

MR. SALAZAR:  Gay couples should be able to adopt a child if it is in the best interest of the child.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you agree?

MR. COORS:  No, I--look, I think a child needs a mother and a father.  That's how children are created to begin with.  And I've said that along through the campaign and I believe that's the way it should be.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Academy of Pediatrics, Mr. Coors, had this to say:  "A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual."

MR. COORS:  I believe in the traditional family values, traditional families, and that precludes me from saying that I think it's a good idea to have children adopted by same-sex couples.

MR. RUSSERT:  Then let me ask you about that.  You have a brochure that I've read through which you've put out and distributed around the state, and you quote this article.  "Coors...talked about how his great-grandfather emigrated to the United States and founded the Golden brewery in 1873.  `Our company's values are our family's values,' he said.  `And our family's values are Colorado's values; ...These are the values that I will bring to the United States Senate.'"

And then this on Tuesday from the Rocky Mountain News:  "Pete Coors' company will be among the sponsors of the Black & Blue 2004 Festival in Montreal, a weeklong gay benefit"--that begins tonight-- "that attracts up to 80,000 people to events such as the Leather Rail, Raunch Fetish Night and a male nude revue.  ...Coors Light is one of two free beers that will be served at the official launch cocktail party.  ...Pete Coors is a social conservative who has campaigned against gay marriage."  And yet you oppose gay marriage, you oppose gay adoption.  Why the conflict between the marketing your company does, which in effect tries to pander to the gay community, and these positions which are opposed to those taken by the gay community?

MR. COORS:  Look, I'm very proud of our company.  We've done many good things for lots of people in Colorado and around the country.  I don't--you used the word "pandering."  One of the values of our company is that we respect all of our employees and their hard work.  We respect their passion, their integrity. One of our qualities or our values include equality, and that's a company issue.  It's a company position.  I feel very strongly that that's the way it should be.  Companies ought to be able to make decisions on how they deal with these issues.

MR. RUSSERT:  You see no inconsistency between sponsoring male nude revues and fetish balls, and opposing gay adoption and gay marriage?

MR. COORS:  I don't.

MR. RUSSERT:  None whatsoever.

MR. COORS:  No.

MR. RUSSERT:  And you're comfortable sponsoring those kinds of events? That's part of traditional family values?

MR. COORS:  Look, this is a very--you know, people are going to have a lot of different ideas about what this is all about.  But it is about recognizing that everybody--everyone in this country should be valued for what they are, and I believe that's the way we recognize it at our company.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Salazar, your view of that?  Is there an inconsistency?

MR. SALAZAR:  I think it shows the two faces of Pete Coors.  It shows the face of Pete Coors as the president of Coors Brewing Company that would engage in sponsoring these kinds of events, and then Pete Coors changing and doing a 180-degree about-face now that he's running for the United States Senate.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Coors, you're quoted as saying:  "If the people of Colorado want an 18-year-old drinking age, they should have one."  Are you in favor of that?

MR. COORS:  This is a state issue.  The 21st Amendment gives the states the right to decide what the drinking ages should be and other aspects relative to alcoholic beverages, and I support that.  As a United States senator, I want to weigh in--this is not my agenda.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, you--Colorado would lose millions of dollars in highway money if they lowered the drinking age to 18.  So what would you do?

MR. COORS:  Well, I...

MR. RUSSERT:  How would you vote?

MR. COORS:  I felt that it was inappropriate for the Transportation Department to come in and tell the states what their drinking laws should be, and I still feel that way.

MR. RUSSERT:  So you would vote to lower it to 18 if you had a chance.

MR. COORS:  If it went on the ballot in Colorado, I would vote to lower the drinking age.

MR. RUSSERT:  How would you vote?

MR. SALAZAR:  I think it should be at 21 because we know the lowering of the drinking age would end up with thousands of young people being killed on our roads and our streets every year.

MR. COORS:  I don't think we do know that, because there is evidence that young people are--our company has always stood behind the legal drinking age. I personally have done commercials saying, "We'll wait for your business; 21 means 21."  But, look, we send our young people off to fight wars.  We feel they're responsible enough to vote.  Citizens ought to make this decision, not United States senators.

MR. RUSSERT:  And you'd be willing to sacrifice highway money in order to lower the drinking age?

MR. COORS:  I never said what.  It's not my agenda.  But--no, I didn't say that.  I think the state's got to make that decision.  And you asked me how I personally would vote, and I gave you my answer.

MR. SALAZAR:  I think he would sacrifice highway money, and I think also what he would do is he would sacrifice the lives of young people.

MR. RUSSERT:  Before we go, Amendment 36 is on the ballot in Colorado, which would say that the electoral votes in Colorado would be divided proportionally based on the raw vote, which would mean that Al Gore would be president of the United States, because he would have gotten a few electoral votes out of Colorado in 2000 rather than all of them going to George Bush.  Mr. Salazar, are you in favor of that Amendment 36?

MR. SALAZAR:  No, and I'm the attorney general of the state.  I believe that there's a potential for there to be litigation over it and we'll just work with it.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you oppose it.  And you oppose it?

MR. COORS:  Yes, absolutely.  But the Democrat Party in Colorado--I was talking to the chairman yesterday--said that they're neutral on it.  This is a very important issue for the people of Colorado, to split up our electoral votes.  The only--well, Nebraska and Maine being the other two, but the only state that's been gone after for--instead of nine electoral votes to go to a split vote.  And the attorney general thinks that's just fine.  I don't think so.

MR. RUSSERT:  He said he's against it.

MR. COORS:  His party is for it, and it will be interesting to see how he comes out.  He is--this is the first time he's said he's for it.  He said his mind wasn't made up until just this very minute.

MR. SALAZAR:  Not true, Pete.

MR. RUSSERT:  To be continued.  Mr. Salazar, Mr. Coors, thank you very much.  Good luck to both of you on the campaign trail.

We'll be right back.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Next week we'll continue our MEET THE PRESS Senate Debate series with South Carolina:  Democrat Inez Tenenbaum takes on Republican Congressman Jim DeMint.

If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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