Democrats on the Attack

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 19, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It's attack of the Democrats. Presidential candidates are plotting strategy for campaign 2004 and it looks like it's going to get rough. Candidate John Kerry has come out with a blistering attack on President Bush, questioning the war in Iraq, saying [the president] misled every one of us, saying [he] will not let him off the hook throughout this campaign with respect to America's credibility, because if [the president] lied, he lied to [him] personally. Today, Kerry criticized the state of the president's economy.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 2.5 million jobs lost in the last two years, unemployment rate climbing. We turned a surplus of $5.6 trillion into a deficit of almost $2 trillion as far as the eye can see.


GIBSON: And today Republicans are cracking back on the Dems for creating a cartoon that pretty much calls the president a madman over his court nominees.

With more on all this, Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe joins us now from St. Paul, Minn/ and, Terry, that's today's big question: Is Bush-bashing the way to win the presidency?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It's not really Bush-bashing. All we're dealing with are the facts. It has been George Bush who has been a disaster for this country economically. We're just laying the facts out. They think it's Bush-bashing. Unfortunately, the facts are close to three million people, John, have lost their job in this country. The stock market has been in the tank. A lot of money has been lost in 401-ks for the American public. And we've had enough.

GIBSON: Terry, come on, today I saw John Kerry giving a speech and he hit the president over the same thing, the surplus-to-deficit. He never once mentioned 9/11, the war on Afghanistan, the war on terror, the homeland security, replacing every single airport security person, bailing out the airlines, the war in Iraq, the reconstruction. It's a rather large fact that's missing. And when you talk about the jobs, don't you ascribe that to the bubble that burst?

MCAULIFFE: I would not ascribe 22 million new jobs created between 1992 and 2000, when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were in the stewardship over our economy. A lot of people were very excited, you saw more people move out of poverty… You also saw more millionaires and billionaires created. Everybody benefited, John. And that's what this election is all about. I'm glad John Kerry is out there doing it. I'm glad there are other eight candidates. That's what this election is all about, as much as George Bush wants to do photo ops and so forth. It's going to come down to those issues…

GIBSON: But you're not saying you want to reconstruct a bubble that will pop and leave everybody in the same position. We're talk about a solid economy. When you look back — and not casting any aspersions — when you look back at the end of the Clinton years, we now recognize that as a kind of phony Internet bubble that was going on in this country.

MCAULIFFE: There were millions of jobs, John, created outside of the Internet bubble that you referred to, millions of jobs. We did move from record surpluses to record deficits. One of big reasons, which we're not talking about is the 2001 tax cut that went to the wealthiest Americans. Also the tax cut that he just did, supposedly $350 billion, which is a charade. This thing has more gimmicks… As you know, that's the major reason you've seen the surplus go. But there is no economic engine going on in the country today.

George Bush came to Minnesota today. He went out to a factory where practically the man just laid off about 40 percent of his work force. 100,000 people in this state have lost their job since George Bush became president and these weren't Internet jobs out here. In his tax cut, 45 percent of the state here of the taxpayers will get less than $100 back. So, George Bush, it's all phony. It's all photo ops. There's no reality to it. That's what we're talking about, John. You can call it Bush-bashing, I call it fact reality check.

GIBSON: Take a look at this number, though. This is the latest re-elect number on President Bush and whatever Democrat. He's now got a 51 percent re-elect Bush number, just in April. Last time I think you appeared with me, it was at 47 percent. For the Democrats, it's at about 30 percent. He looks like he is in a pretty good position.

MCAULIFFE: John, we are 18 months away from election day. We will have a nominee, I believe, by March 10 of 2004. The primaries will determine who our nominee will be and we're going to head into our primary season now. Once we have a nominee, we then have eight months to go one-on-one with our message against George Bush and his disastrous record. I remind everybody, as you know, Bill Clinton didn't even get in the race until October of 1991. We went into our convention in July of 1992 in third place. We came roaring out of that convention. We have plenty of time. The issues are on our side, both economically and as it relates to overseas and foreign affairs. There were a lot of questions he has to answer, John. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Where is Usama bin Laden? Where is Saddam Hussein? Are you safer today?

GIBSON: There's 18 months. They could turn up.

MCAULIFFE: He might. But they're not there today.

GIBSON: Terry, look, you've got two problems as I see it. You don't have one Democratic message. You've got nine candidates, you as the DNC chair have to behave yourself and favor them all equally. But that's got to hurt. You can't tell Americans where the Democratic Party stands now because there are nine positions and, two is money. So, what are you doing about those two problems?

MCAULIFFE: You're right. I wish I had one consistent message today, but I know I will by March 10, the primary voters will determine whose message works the best and who will be our nominee, and there is nothing I can do about that. We treat all nine the same. The primaries will determine that. It will be over by March 10. The second, money. That is a big issue. Obviously, George Bush says he is going to raise $250 million. Listen, he can't pile the cash high enough, John, to hide his record. And he is going to have a problem. He is going to have to face the American public.

I know that we need to be competitive. The DNC, the operation I'm in charge of, we're debt-free for the first time in 100 years. Our direct-mail list, we have millions of dollars in the bank today for our nominee. We are in the best financial shape that we have ever been in. However, I know that we'll be outspent probably seven-to-eight-to-one. I remind you in the 2000 presidential election, John, they outspent us $150 million more than we did. Al Gore still won that election. He got half a million more votes than George Bush. So no matter how much money they have this time, we're going to beat them, but we're going to do it decisively so the United States Supreme Court doesn't have to do what they did last time.

GIBSON: Keep your eye on that electoral college. It's a little tricky thing. Now, Terry, one last thing before I let you go.

MCAULIFFE: Yes, sir.

GIBSON: Bush is going to outspend you not seven or eight-to-one, but nine-to-one. Every time one of your candidates pipes up, maybe add you, he has got to spend some money to counter whatever is being said about him. Don't you expect that? Don't you expect him to need to raise that kind of money and conduct this campaign, because he is going to have a virtual choir yelling at him?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, I'm not going to bemoan George Bush for going out and raising money and I'm not worried about what George Bush is going to raise, because I know we'll have the issues on our side. Our nine candidates, John, in the primaries, if you add them all together with the party, did $25 million the first quarter. We are going to be competitive. But George Bush, listen, they are going back to everybody, the energy companies wrote the energy bills. You've seen the pharmaceutical companies write the Medicare bill and so forth. He is going back collecting from them, getting his IOUs back. But it can't offset bad policy.

George Bush has to answer to the American public. Why have three million people lost their jobs? Why has he blown the surplus in our country? Forty million people without health care. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? I think we will find them, but where are they today? Where is Usama bin Laden? There are so many issues, John, that this election is going to be fought about. I am excited. We are going to beat George Bush, just the way we beat his father, who actually was 15 points higher in the polls than his son is right now. And his father had a better economy than what this president is presiding over. I almost feel bad for him.

GIBSON: Terry, I have got to let you go. But on the way out, you're going to have to invent a Ross Perot. Remember that.

MCAULIFFE: I'm with you. Thank you.

GIBSON: Terry McAuliffe, thanks very much.

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