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‘America’s Voices’

Click here to watch the premiere episode
/ Source: msnbc.com

Guests: Darrell Issa, Alan Zweibel

FRANK LUNTZ, HOST: Wesley Clark throws his hat in the presidential ring. Does he have what it takes to unite a divided Democratic Party and ride that wave all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Also, the man behind the California recall, Darrell Issa, multiple Emmy-award winner Alan Zweibel, and this week’s take on who’s hot and who’s not. I’m Frank Luntz and these are AMERICA’S VOICES.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see some vision. I want to see not just bashing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are losing the war for the future of the Middle East.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to invest in children; they’re our future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s all about the economy, stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we not be rebuilding Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are so many people in this country that are suffering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are so politically insane.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LUNTZ: Welcome to AMERICA’S VOICES, a new twist on talk shows. On this show, you the American people, are front and center. You will be asking the questions and challenging the newsmakers head on. No media elite, no special interests, no political jargon, and no sugar-coating, just straight talk. And your voices will be heard. So let’s get started. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My name is Wes Clark. I am from Little Rock, Arkansas. And I’m here to announce that I intend to seek the presidency of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: OK, you just saw General Clark. Give me a word or phrase to describe him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Presumptuous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a tool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spoiler.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Recycled Little Rock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interesting and articulate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Presidential.

LUNTZ: Get back to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A proven liar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Military (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Insecure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Statesman-like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Late comer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shortsighted whistle-blower.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dynamic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dean-lite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m not political.

LUNTZ: Of all the comments here, yours is the one that would frighten him the most, vice-presidential like. You mean, he is not presidential?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not proven.

LUNTZ: But he is a general. He has done more than anybody. He has actually led people into battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what?

LUNTZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Into a 77-day war that was completely unsuccessful in most of its aims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After which he got fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was relieved of duty by President Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, because he ordered his troops to attack the Russians and almost started World War III. He is dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There’s a difference between ordering and leading, too.

LUNTZ: And you don’t feel that he is a leader?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He-very well, he is much more on the order side; you get the impression.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

LUNTZ: So, so you are saying to me that just because he has been a general doesn’t qualify him to be president?

STUDIO AUDIENCE: Not at all, no.

LUNTZ: But it’s a different qualification! So we’ve had politicians that haven’t succeeded, we’ve had lawyers that haven’t succeeded. What’s wrong with trying a general?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, historically the only generals who win were ones who win major wars, like Grant and Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Eisenhower.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn’t mention all of them, but yes. I mean...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have the same job that he did. I mean the notion that he is unproven because he only happened to be the supreme NATO commander to me just ludicrous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if you...

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: Hold on. I want you to react to a specific bite here and what General Clark says about Osama bin Laden. Just take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: If “Time” magazine and “Newsweek” can pinpoint Osama Bin Laden’s location in western Pakistan, in Waziristan, I don’t know why we can’t go get him in there, and that should be the first priority of our armed forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: What’s your reaction? Does he seem to have what it takes? Do you approve of his positions with bin Laden or not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have the most military might in the country -

” in the world, and we can’t find a guy in a cave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’ve got news for you. I’ve got news for you.

Bin laden has been dead since the bombing of Tora Bora. He is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So how do you explain the video...

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: Let’s just put it to a vote. How many of you believe-how many of you believe, by a show of hands, that Osama bin Laden is dead? Raise your hand if you actually think he is dead. Who thinks he is still alive? Is this the guy to find him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I’m not sure. Evidently, we can’t find him now. We could not find Osama, so we went after somebody else who we still have not found. So I am not sure (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Take your mind off the guy you can’t find in the first place and I can’t find the second guy.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does Clark actually think that we are not looking for him? What about North Korea? What about the nukes there?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, the question was, do you think Clark can find him, was the question and I’m not sure-I don’t know who can find him...

LUNTZ: OK, so let me expand this discussion to foreign policy. General Clark has some very interesting comments to basically put forth his point of view on what should happen. Again, let’s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: I think the strategy is no longer just deterrence as in the Cold War. I don’t think the strategy is preemption. We have always had an American-every American president has always had not only the right, but the duty to preempt an attacker that was about to attack us. I think what you need is a strategy of engagement with the world, in which we do support those who share our values, reinforce our friends, build strong alliances. We have to understand that our fundamental linkage should be transatlantic.

We can help shape events in the rest of the world, shape diplomacy to guide peaceful and secure evolution events. So we need to work with others; that’s sort of one of the fundamental principles behind the strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: Does Wesley Clark have what it takes to manage foreign policy in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like he is saying, can’t we all just get along? I mean, he says it’s not preemption, it’s not fighting; it’s not defensive. He says, we just need to go to the international community. We tried that with the U.N.

LUNTZ: You don’t agree?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds to me like what he is saying is that we have to take foreign policy action in consultation with our allies and not just go it alone...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... like we did in Iraq.

LUNTZ: What’s wrong with that approach? What’s wrong with that approach?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t know. I think it is too early. I think, you know, we really need to hear some of his issues out and get to know him on these issues a little better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I think that’s going to be a major difference now in the presidential race. You’ve got Bush who did it alone, or the perception of doing it alone; and you’ve got the Democrats all saying it should have been more of a collaborative effort.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: Based-Vickie, very quickly, based on what you have seen so far, does he have what it takes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think time will tell. But I think he has the ability to add a great dynamic to the race.

LUNTZ: Instead of just focusing on foreign policy, let’s take this for one second, I want to take this to tax policy. Let’s focus on domestic issues and what he has to say. Please, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: I don’t think it is fair that people who have so much money get back most of that money. If you want to have efficient and fair tax cuts, you give them-you give the money back to the people who need it the most, not to the people who need it the least.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: Does Wesley Clark and his position on taxes turn you on to him or turn you off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think-basically what he is trying to do is come out with his guns blazing attacking taxes and bin Laden security.

LUNTZ: Is that good for you or bad for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don’t believe it right now. I look at him, I see an ex-general, I don’t see anyone who is really wooing the Dean supporters. I mean, Dean has proven that he has got a lot of people behind him.

LUNTZ: Agree or disagree?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don’t like the way he says, take from the rich, give it to the poor? What is he, a communist?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... idealist...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Income redistribution.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is just trying to grab onto it and ride it.

LUNTZ: Jeff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is just bringing the class warfare.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...that’s not adding anything new.

LUNTZ: Vickie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s fallacious. He seems merely addressing issues...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...as all the others are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign policy is the number one issue right now.

Let’s not forget about.

LUNTZ: No, but it’s not. Actually, it’s not. The economic issue...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... the economic.

LUNTZ: ...more Americans are concerned about the economy right now than foreign policy, but continue your point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That may be so, but remember, there was a lot of fanfare and excitement over Colin Powell, and I think we always have this love affair-love affair with generals in our country, and he is being able to symbolize all of what is this great about this country.

LUNTZ: OK, then I’ve got a good question for you. If Colin Powell is among the least partisan people, if the election were Colin Powell and Wesley Clark, who would want Powell, raise your hands?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don’t know enough about him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don’t know...

LUNTZ: And who would want Clark?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are we talking about a battle of uniforms?

LUNTZ: So that if you could ask Wesley Clark one question, by the way, I’ve got a question, actually, for Wesley Clark, which is why you are already changing your name? You know, now that he is calling himself Wes Clark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: So, but we went through this in 1988. Pierre Dupont became Pete Dupont, which is kind of strange to me. If you could ask the general one question, what would you ask him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you doing it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What’s his vision for improving the economy, specifics?

LUNTZ: So you want to know more about economic issues than foreign policy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I got to give him time, we want specific.

LUNTZ: Do you agree with that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In addition to that, I want to hear his views on civil rights. I want to hear his views on improving the life of people in our cities.

LUNTZ: What do you want to hear from him? Rather than talking to Allen, what do you want to hear from Clark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is upset-she is upset.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don’t want to hear anything from him.

LUNTZ: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don’t like him.

LUNTZ: You’ve already closed your mind to him.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... all the other Democrats.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... all the other Democrats economically, his policies are the same as all the other nine. And as a guy who is general, one of the leading generals in our country, it is amazing how he could be so ignorant when it comes to geopolitical issues.

LUNTZ: We’ve got to give Afria (ph) a chance to respond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As an initial matter, the notion that he is ignorant of geopolitical issues is completely belied by the facts. You know, the idea that what he wants to do is build international consensus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he is not talking that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tried that.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: OK, obviously, there’s a lot of emotion involved, but we’ve got to go to break. When we come back, Congressman Darrell Issa and the California recall. You are watching AMERICA’S VOICES.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: March election-that will be much cheaper, because the election is being conducted anyway. And even though the people who put this recall on the ballot should pay the taxpayers the $30, 40 or 50 million it’s already cost. I mean, they are the ones who put California through the financial ringer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: Welcome back to AMERICA’S VOICES or, should I say, anger management. Congressman, you saw what the governor had to say. Do you have your checkbook on you? Perhaps you should write a check to the voters of California for $70 million.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, SPEARHEADED RECALL EFFORT: Well, I certainly-let me see here. My wife doesn’t actually give me the checkbook, but I do have a check. Let’s see-there were 2.1 million signatures, so my share would be $33, right? Got it. Got a pen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

ISSA: Actually, I might.

LUNTZ: Let me ask you, Allen. Do you think that the congressman should be held accountable for this mess that California is now in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that this man is a hero, I think he is a great American and I think that he should be traveling up to Sacramento.

LUNTZ: You don’t agree?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to reevaluate...

LUNTZ: You don’t agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean by...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I think he’s already paid. He spent what-

$1.8 million or something, so that you could start a grassroot movement? I think you really do deserve the people-to pay the people of the state of California for this mess. I really do. I mean, I respect...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for the 38 billion, that we are already...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

ISSA: You know, the one lovely thing about California is we have a set of rules. I play by the rules. The rule said, if you can get just 897,000 signatures, then you have the opportunity to have this election. We got more than twice that amount. And we didn’t get it hard. You can look at the people here. There were people standing 30 deep in line wanting to sign this, because they felt that they had been betrayed by the governor’s inability to solve a problem he created.

LUNTZ: Did anyone in this room sign that petition?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

LUNTZ: Why did you sign it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did I sign it? Because the governor has made a mess of our economy, and...

LUNTZ: Why did you sign it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same reason.

LUNTZ: Why did you sign it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same reason-a mess of the economy; screwing up on the illegals.

LUNTZ: Why did you not sign?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no basis for recalling him.

LUNTZ: Why did you not sign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the recall should be limited to corruption.

LUNTZ: Linda, why did you not sign?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because this is the-this is part of the economy, part of a lot of things and it’s extra money that we don’t have to spend.

LUNTZ: So what do you say to the people in this room that did not sign?

ISSA: Have any of you that didn’t sign the recall, have you signed an initiative in the past ever?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

ISSA: Well, isn’t it the legislature’s job to pass laws?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

ISSA: Well, if it is a legislature’s job to pass laws, but you are taking advantage of a constitutional initiative that was put on the ballot by a governor in 1911 that calls for the referendum to recall and the initiative, it’s OK to have an initiative to change the constitution, but it is not OK to use the same basic set of laws for the same purpose, which is to take control as a people?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The underlying philosophy behind the whole recall provision was to get rid of corrupt politicians.

ISSA: Actually, actually, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gray Davis...

ISSA: Richard, Richard, Richard, it is not about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not corrupt.

ISSA: Just so you understand. When this was put on — was put on the ballot in 1911, when the governor put it on, he was concerned about people being bought off by special interests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

ISSA: Gray Davis is a poster child for people being bought off by special interests.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: OK, but it goes-but it’s-up to a point. Brandon, you are a Democrat. Brandon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LUNTZ: You are a Democrat. And I know that you support this governor. But won’t you at least acknowledge that he is a pawn of special interests?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, absolutely not. Because I think what member Issa is falling out is the system. And if you look at the systemic-if you really want to talk about member Issa, let’s talk about campaign finance reform, let’s talk about...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the way that the structure, that the parties are set up, that we can elevate people that we may not ideologically believe in, but we think are electable. Let’s talk about crisis of leadership. Those are the things I know, member Issa, you were trying to address.

LUNTZ: So you don’t think that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you really addressed them through this recall?

LUNTZ: Brandon, so you don’t think that this is a crisis of leadership? You don’t think that there’s a crisis of leadership in California now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, there is a crisis of leadership, but it is not because of the Governor Gray Davis. It is something that is systemic to the system, and I know that member Issa and I can both agree that this is not the way to do it, because this is where the system is flawed.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: Hold on, hold on. But you’ve got to acknowledge...

ISSA: I will tell you my view of money and politics, because that’s the question you are asking, it is a good one. Money in politics is about how do we make sure there’s enough money for everyone who has ideas and the likelihood of any chance of being elected. Now, we have 134 candidates. We all know that a 120 some-there’s not enough money to get them elected.

But there are a group of people who could be elected. Having enough money for those people who have the basic resumes to be elected is what campaign politics should be about. Now, you know how much money was spent on the recall to advertise it? How much? There was never an ad. You all know that. Because you think about it. You’ve never seen a campaign-an ad for the recall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see people with-with those-those petitions, and they get paid 75 cents a name.

ISSA: And you know...

(CROSSTALK)

ISSA: And when we legalized-when we legalized medical marijuana in this state, they were paid $2 to gather them, and they were paid by out-of-state people brought in and in-state people. The amazing thing is what people are forgetting is — it’s not the fact that you paid a person $2 an hour or $2 a signature to sit at Safeway or any other place. What we paid people to do is be present so others could stand 30 deep.

LUNTZ: But you paid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

LUNTZ: I’ve got to acknowledge that I worked for Rescue California. I was one of these people who was involved in the process. However, if you were not there, I think that this recall never would have existed, if they never would have actually gotten on the ballot because of the finances that you put in. Is that good for democracy or bad for democracy?

ISS: I wonder-I wonder how many presidents wouldn’t have been president if somebody that had money didn’t put up money to give them the opportunity to be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we are talking about special...

ISSA: No, no, I’m talking about the money given to other people. We are not talking about the money I gave for myself. We are talking about the money I gave to an organization that sent out petitions.

LUNTZ: Tanya.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the issue-if the issue is the special interests, I’d like to understand why Gray Davis’ harms and why his devotion to special interest is any worse than George Bush’s or Dick Cheney’s? Why don’t we know who is visiting Dick Cheney and George Bush in the White House?

ISS: Actually, you do-you do-you actually do have the list, but that’s not the point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, I’m sorry, Dick Cheney, this administration spent a whole lot of money trying to prevent access to its books.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who has been bought off by special interests?

ISSA: OK, if we are talking, when we are talking Sacramento, you understand, it cost you $50,000 to get an appointment with the governor. And this is-no, it does. You can talk to the California Medical Association, talk to any group. This has been amazing; $78 million was raised because of it.

But that’s not why Gray is being recalled. Gray is being recalled because he said we shouldn’t spend the money we spent, then he signed the bills that allowed that money to be spent. And then, when it became obvious that we had a tremendous deficit he didn’t produce a plan to get us out.

LUNTZ: And that’s we have to....

ISSA: It’s the failure of leadership.

LUNTZ: We have to-we have to stop right there. When we come back, they said what? You are watching AMERICA’S VOICES.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUNTZ: Welcome back to AMERICA’S VOICES. It happens all the time. Somebody in the public eye with cameras rolling says or does something so completely unintelligible that when you see it your first reaction is, they said what? Here is my pick for this week’s clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’ll tell you why I connect with African-American audiences. I’m the only white politician who ever talks about race in front of white audiences. Black folks have heard lectures from white politicians for a long time, we always talk about race. White folks need to talk to white people in America about race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: John, explain that to me. What’s your reaction to Howard Dean saying that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you explain something that is as silly as that? I mean, that is all the Democrats always-all the candidates talk about race and class and rich against poor and that’s, you know-and to him-for him to come up and say, I’m the only one that talks about race to the white people, it also sounds condescending to the black people.

LUNTZ: Does this? Is that condescending to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I don’t know that it is condescending. I think it is a poor choice of words and it is not something Wesley Clark would have said, by the way. But in any event, all right, in any event I think that the point he is trying to make, which is a valid one, which is that white people often don’t talk honestly about race, because they don’t have to. Now, I think he could have said it a little better. But I think that race is an important thing to discuss, as much as some people may be tired of hearing about it. For many folks it is a reality, and it’s not something we can walk away from.

LUNTZ: Do you feel-do you talk honestly about race?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. All the time. Don’t we-isn’t there a constant dialogue in this country at the political level, at every level we are always talking about race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, we are not. No, we are not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What benefits-what benefits...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we don’t run in the same circles.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who benefits when we say that whites are this way and blacks are this way, Hispanics are this way? Who gets the benefit of that? The people don’t get the benefit. The individuals who are playing to a certain racial card get the benefit.

LUNTZ: Well, do you think these candidates are playing to a race card?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don’t think that the Democratic candidates are doing that at all. Now, if you want to talk about trotting out people and playing the race card, I would look at this Republican Party. But I don’t think that the Democrats are doing that at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

LUNTZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LUNTZ: When a candidate talks about race, do you pay attention, is that something that you are focused on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all.

LUNTZ: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I think they are just pandering. I think they just want to get that section of the voters. They want to win that block of voters.

LUNTZ: Is there a problem with race in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There still is.

LUNTZ: So, why can’t you take about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t believe the talk. I mean, I think you can talk about it; I just don’t believe it.

LUNTZ: Do we still have a race problem in America?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably. I don’t know.

LUNTZ: So, why not talk about it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could talk, but I’d rather do things, you know. Just be a nice person to each other.

LUNTZ: Howard Dean’s congressman?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, first of all, I didn’t understand what he was trying to say and I think, again, he was pandering. He just wanted to bring it, you know, to try to divide the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you say race is a pandering? Race is a real issue for a lot of Americans. Why is it pandering?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...pandering is pandering, and the fact that you are pandering about a legitimate issue that needs to be talked about sometimes as an adult matter is one thing, but doesn’t change the fact that this was pandering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the classification of pandering? I mean, I remember President Clinton made an off-color comment again Sister Solja (ph), and he is considered to be the most black president we have ever had.

LUNTZ: And we will ask-and we...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is-What did he actually do-What one piece of legislation can you point to in the Clinton administration that makes Bill Clinton the first...

LUNTZ: And that’s the final point. We’ve got to go, we’ve got to go to break. When we come back, Alan Zweibel, award-winning writer of “Saturday Night Live,” Gary Shandling (ph), and we are going to be talking about Hollywood and American politics. You are watching AMERICA’S VOICES.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want, oh I’m on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you are? Hello, America. We are working on building a bipartisan bridge so that America may prosper.

Did I do that well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, yeah, that was great, now will you please let me finish this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That decision is very prudent, Dick. Your name is Dick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUNTZ: That was Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond on “Saturday Night Live,” which has always been home to outstanding political humor. My guest has been responsible for many of the most memorable sketches on “Saturday Night Live,” political and otherwise. He was one of the original writers on the show and we are about to find out why Americans like to laugh at their leaders. Alan Zweibel, welcome to AMERICA’S VOICES. What is it about Americans that we like to make fun of the people that we vote for?

ALAN ZWEIBEL, FMR. “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” WRITER: I think that it is sort of fun to exalt somebody and then find a little piece of like a Sesame seed in between their teeth. There’s something fun about your father falling, you know, there is something fun about somebody who is supposed to be — take care of us, they think, and finding a flaw.

LUNTZ: So you were writing in the early days of “Saturday Night Live” when Chevy Chase was playing...

ZWEIBEL: Right.

LUNTZ: That, people say, actually changed the outcome of American politics. Is that what you are supposed to be doing, making fun of leaders and actually undermining their reelection hopes?

ZWEIBEL: Well, well, I never heard it put quite like that. But, look, I think you make fun, if you do it with intelligence and you do it with a point of view, people laugh, and then if there’s another message there or something sinking in, then they take it. And if it changes how they feel, terrific, you know.

LUNTZ: Emmet (ph), are we laughing at our elected officials or are we laughing with our elected officials?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we are kind of laughing at them. It is just like their mannerisms and so are overblown and so sort of silly.

LUNTZ: Is this good for American democracy that we can take-that we can kind of chew them out, spit them up and they come back at it again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It levels them. It means that they are no better than we are. We have the right to laugh at them, to mock them, and to hold them accountable in that sense. You are no better than we are. You are no better than our brothers and our sisters and our family members who we make fun of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did not have shows like this in Iraq. You won’t get away with this, that’s what I am saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely-absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That’s what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Soviet Union.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You’ve got to admit that our leaders, that some of our leaders give us a lot of ammunition.

LUNTZ: A lot of people said that the death of comedy was the end of the Clinton administration, but I think this current president has been...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of....

LUNTZ: Absolutely. But is it-at some point do you start to undermine the public’s confidence in their leaders? Is it possible for humor to go too far?

ZWEIBEL: Oh, God, I don’t think so. I think that people-you know, if you have the right number of chromosomes, you watch TV, and you go, that is funny and oh, gee, I agree with it up to a point. I don’t agree with it. I don’t think that it seeps into your consciousness that much that it’s going to undermine somebody’s career or anything like that. And by the way...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. It’s going to be balanced.

LUNTZ: Is it balanced? Is the humor balanced?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I think it is getting a little more balanced these days. But if you constantly see one side being put down, then people start to believe it. If it’s balanced, it’s funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every sitting president is the butt of jokes.

Everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: “Saturday Night Live”...

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: John McCain has been on “Saturday Night Live,” Al Gore has been on “Saturday Night Live”, Jesse Jackson, Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch. It seems like a pretty good balance. But there are some people that actually, I know from my own polling, 10, 15 percent of Americans actually get their political news from Letterman, Leno and “Saturday Night Live.”

ZWEIBEL: I’m surprised it is that low, quite frankly. I’m shocked-

I’m shocked that people actually read newspapers as much as they once did. I’m shocked that people actually get hard copy of anything if they don’t get it-you know, it’s-everything is fair game, and it’s stuff that is not intelligent, things that are not-you know, people are smart. People who watch TV are smart people, who go to the movies, are smart, and they are going to take the humor for what it is. And it is-all this-my God, go back to Mark Twain, you know, there would-look at Bob Hope, look at the 70s, look at what was going on during Watergate. David Steinberg, David Frei (ph) and other people whose names weren’t David, you know, making fun of stuff and then people. And it’s what we do.

LUNTZ: Ariel (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t have a problem with entertainment going to the news. What I do have a problem with is news going into entertainment.

LUNTZ: Such as?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that-such as-look and turn on CNN, turn on MSNBC, a lot of times, turn on FOX. You don’t get serious debates in this country. Oftentimes you don’t have serious news. What you do have-what you do have is entertainment, pandering to ratings, and seeking of the lowest common denominator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then what you do have is “Access Hollywood” and “Entertainment Tonight” telling you about what Arnold is doing on the campaign trail.

LUNTZ: Because you are covering Arnold. At least someone is covering the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Unintelligible).

LUNTZ: There is a crossover between Hollywood and politics. When you have Fred Grandy (ph), Gofer on the “Love Boat,” as a member of Congress, when you’ve got a football hero, Tom Osborne (ph), as a member of Congress, Steve Largers (ph), J.C. Watts, Sony Bono, is people like that and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Is it good for people from Hollywood to be in politics? Is that good for the system?

ZWEIBEL: I think it is good-I think it’s good if the system evaluates them and decides whether they want them in politics or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They might not be good.

ZWEIBEL: You know, I think that, you know, this is supposedly a free country and we can all run for anything we want.

LUNTZ: So if Arnold wins...

ZWEIBEL: ... that doesn’t mean that people are going to elect us.

LUNTZ: So if Arnold wins, you’ll give him the thumbs up?

ZWEIBEL: I might have to, because he is stronger than me, you know. I’m not an idiot, you know. But we have choices. We have choices. And I don’t think that people are browbeaten by humor or any sort of bully pulpit, I just don’t believe that they are. Because I think the bottom line is when you go into a voting booth and you have a curtain closed behind you, you can do whatever you want. You can say one thing at parties and you can do whatever you want when you are there in there by yourself.

LUNTZ: Let’s get a wide shot of everyone here. Show of hands, how many of you watched “The West Wing?” About half of you. Now, here is the problem. There are some Americans who actually think that Martin Sheen is the president.

(CROSSTALK)

ZWEIBEL: Well, first of all, if they actually think that, my condolences to their families. OK? If they think that that’s the president. “West Wing” is great because Aaron Sorkin is a great writer, and Tommy Shlumm (ph) is a great director and producer. And it is well acted and it is terrific. And people turn it on because they like the characters, they like the intrigue of the stories, or they don’t.

LUNTZ: But there is another (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We’ve got “K Street” on right now. Did anybody see “K Street”?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about the fact that Rob Lowe...

LUNTZ: Who’s seen this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Schwarzenegger’s adviser?

LUNTZ: But he is really not. I mean, really not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does that mean?

LUNTZ: But you’ve got “K Street”, where you’ve got actual political consultants giving actual advice to someone on HBO that he used, that Howard Dean used in the presidential debate. That is the ultimate-that’s almost incestuous. Hillary, is that a good thing or bad thing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think as long as candidates who are-who are former actors or were current actors are assessed the same way as non-media types. I don’t think they should get-like Schwarzenegger, who does not think he has to say anything to the public.

As long as they are given the same question and answer, the same rigomorol that everyone else has, then it’s fine.

LUNTZ: So as a way to come out of this, what advice do you give to political candidates who want to have that Hollywood look, that Hollywood feel?

ZWEIBEL: Dress and wear your hair like I do. It’s been very successful for me and I am sure will be for them, too.

LUNTZ: And on that note, when we come back on AMERICA VOICES, who is hot and who is not? We are going to be telling you who is up and who is down in American politics. We will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUNTZ: Welcome back to AMERICA’S VOICES. Every week, it’s certain that someone’s shooting sky high, and just as surely the sky is falling on someone else. Let’s go to my picks for this week. And then we’ll ask America, are they hots or not.

First, the California recall may be delayed until March, and that’s really great news for Governor Gray Davis. A March vote means a lot of Democrats who might otherwise have stayed home will be voting in a Democratic presidential primary, and quite possibly for the governor, too. And I think that makes Gray Davis the hot man for the week. You tell me.

OK. Is he hot or not to you? Tanya.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he is hotter than some of the alternatives.

But he’s not hot enough.

LUNTZ: He is not hot enough for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is hot enough.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that-This week alone all these presidential contenders have come by, Bob Graham, John Kerry, you know, now Vice President Gore.

LUNTZ: Can you explain one thing to me? Why does John Kerry never smile? I mean, I understand-probably, with the two of them, Kerry...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a veteran, you know, just like Gray Davis.

LUNTZ: Kerry and Davis, the two of them. There was not a smile between them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Gray has been improving quite a bit in a last week or so. Not only had we seen much more life coming from him. He is making more outreach.

LUNTZ: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Much more outgoing. People, you know, you don’t have to like him, guys, but I am telling you the man is improving.

LUNTZ: Rex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think the pied piper of California, that’s just what I think. It is a nursery rhyme.

LUNTZ: So he is not hot to you at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

LUNTZ: Hillary?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is getting better, but it is hard to say Gray Davis is hot.

LUNTZ: Would anyone here say that right now he is the hot guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he is going to survive the recall.

Unfortunately. Unfortunately, I think he is going to survive the recall.

LUNTZ: Then let’s see if I do any better with my other choice. Even though he is one of my personal favorites, the attack on Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld are actually reaching fever pitch in Washington. Even pro-defense conservatives, Democrats, have started to ask a lot of questions that Rummy-Rummy can’t seem to answer. So this week, I say Donald Rumsfeld is not. Any reaction to Don Rumsfeld as heading downward? You are giving me these dirty looks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things are actually going fairly well in Iraq.

LUNTZ: Are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The news media wants you to believe they are not.

But first-firsthand...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell that to the people who are dying there.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Let’s — Right.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let’s ignore the people that were dying before because we don’t care about the Iraqis’ rights?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People in the military uniform that are out there fighting for you and me, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... thousands of people that are killed over there. Are we going to ignore them?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... about Don Rumsfeld. That’s shameful to say that people, hundreds of thousands can die before the war. You can have a legitimate disagreement about the war, but the reality is there is tons of mass graves all around (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That’s not going to...

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: Hold on. Janina (ph). Rumsfeld. Is he heading up or is he heading down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Up.

LUNTZ: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he knows what he is doing. He knows that the enemy is out there. And Americans are just hiding behind, I don’t know what.

LUNTZ: Do you agree with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not. He has made terrible decisions over many administrations, so the fact that he continues to make bad decisions in a vacuum without any input or letting the American people know what he’s doing continues to make him less...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And even more importantly. On the domestic front, for him to criticize Democratic lawmakers who take issue with this administration’s politics and suggest that they are treasonous is...

LUNTZ But also, but one could make the same claim that the Democrats are trying to play politics with the Republicans. You don’t see Democrats ever endorsing anything the Republicans do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s not true.

LUNTZ: You see them always trying to polarize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s not true.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before, before, before, we went —- before we went into Iraq, there were a number of Democrats, myself included, who said I want to believe this president...

LUNTZ: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... when he says that there are weapons and Colin Powell goes on TV and says that there are weapons of mass destruction, I for that small moment in time put behind my — put my partisanship aside and said I’m going to believe him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you believe what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in 1998, when they also did exactly...

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: Absolutely. Very quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, in any event, now when it seems that that’s not really quite been the case so much, I think that there’s a good reason, there is a solid basis for people to take issue with whether or not they knew what they were doing in the first place.

LUNTZ: OK, very quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is-there is a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to partisanship. This has been one of the most ideological administrations in recent memory that we’ve ever had, and I’ve been through many Democrat and Republican administrations in my lifetime. And this administration, from declaring that they are going to be a governance-a uniter instead of divider, has been anything but uniting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t think-I don’t think Rumsfeld is up or down on this. I think this is the silly politics that you get especially with Howard Dean leading the pack, and everybody else trying to prove that they can be an even bigger buffoon than Dean, so that people would vote for them. Rumsfeld doesn’t care about that, it just doesn’t affect him at all.

LUNTZ: So, basically, what you have all told me, is I’m wrong on both cases. We will try to be more effective in the next time that we do this.

One of the great aspects of this show is going to be input from the public. And so, for those of you at home, we are going to be encouraging you from week to week to respond to our special polling question. Go on the Web, voices@msnbc.com, and you will get a chance to react to the question of the day. We will be reporting on those results in the following episode.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUNTZ: This is my favorite segment of the show. I call it word association. I am going to throw out a name of an individual in the news and I want you to give me a word or phrase to describe them. Christopher. Dick Grasso, the head-or should I say the former head of the New York Stock Exchange.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chi-ching.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wonder if he got a membership to Augusta and they must be running out of them by now.

LUNTZ: What a phrase, that is an interesting approach. Richard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greedy and outrageous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It’s a tough job. Somebody has got to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How he got away with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amazing parachute, I think, was the whole battalion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big settlement, but not criminal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me the money.

LUNTZ: Over here, Frank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and rich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice work if you can get it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Refreshing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very smart, wealthy man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Example of what’s wrong with CEO compensation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poor judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Live to die another day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, buddy, can you spare a million?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very smart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He’s done.

LUNTZ: Do you think that he should have, in leaving, it seems like a lot of people felt that he should have given back more money than he actually did. But you understand that this is deferred payment, that this is part of money that he had coming to him in the past. Maybe it is just a bad-an example of bad politics, of bad communication?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the head of the New York Stock Exchange to do such bad financial planning certainly shows poor judgment.

LUNTZ: Except that this was not his-this is the board of the New York Stock Exchange...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So?

LUNTZ: Who gave this money to him. If someone offered you $100 million, would you turn them down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It depends on what has to be done-I mean you have a conscience, there is-there is a sense of morality. I am sorry; money isn’t everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be involved in the negotiations of that somewhere along the way. So he was a party to it somehow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came through anyway.

LUNTZ: Is this an example of corporate greed in America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is. But it happens all the time sometimes. But it doesn’t mean that all businesses are very greedy. It just means that a particular person may be greedy.

LUNTZ: Does this mean that no longer can a CEO make $30, 50, 100 million? Is this the end of wealth in America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t think so, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course not. This is just one example, but we are looking at one individual. What about the New York Stock Exchange and the board that entered into this contract with him? That is where the responsibility lies.

LUNTZ: Should they resign? By show of hands, how many of you think the entire board of the New York Stock Exchange should resign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not all.

LUNTZ: Only two of you. So there are a bunch of Democrats who don’t...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don’t know the particulars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much money did the NYSE made during his term? Was it trillions-or how much money did they-was it justified, that money?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don’t we have this issue over (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who makes three times as much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: OK, Marc.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the problem is a lot of people that see this are associating with what happened with, for example, Enron. And it is not the same thing. It’s not criminal what he is doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not criminal. It is greedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Possibly.

LUNTZ: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not the same. It’s not the same. And I think, and again since the board voted to do this it is kind of like I like you very much, I want to compensate you, but somebody now objects that compensation so either give me the money back or leave. I mean, I’m getting such mixed messages that it doesn’t make sense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not required to object to the fact that the board agreed to pay him an outrageous amount of money. I don’t-I mean, I blame the board far more than I blame him.

LUNTZ: Is there anything wrong with him taking it? Anything wrong with him taking it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything wrong? It was not proper. It was improper. He should not have taken it.

LUNTZ: OK, what happens if they set it at $80 million, 70 million?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think, we have indication for...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) go in Russia.

(CROSSTALK)

LUNTZ: So, so what does this mean, one last question for you all.

What does this mean about corporate CEO’s? What does this mean? Matt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn’t mean anything. The corporate CEO brings-if the corporate CEO brings the shareholders billions of dollars of wealth and he takes 100 million back for himself, he earned that 100 million, he should get it.

LUNTZ: How many of you think he earned that hundred million? Raise your hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he did, yes.

LUNTZ: OK. We are going to have plenty of opportunity to be talking about this. What is unique about this show is that it is going to have the opportunity to hear from even people who won’t stop speaking-this is life. This is the way Americans feel. And there is anger and there is frustration. But there is also hope and looking toward the future.

This is going to focus on the voices of the American people. Sure, we are going to hear from the politicians and pundits. But you are going to get a chance to challenge them, and you are going to get a chance to take them on. And you can’t find that anywhere else on your television dial. This is Frank Luntz, and you’ve been watching AMERICA’S VOICES. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

END

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