Presidential Election Cycle Approaches

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, October 1, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-H0ST: Alan tonight reporting from Philadelphia.

I'm going to get right to our top story, our first guest. Joining us from Washington, Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla.

Congresswoman, how are you? Welcome back. It's always good to see you.

REP. KATHERINE HARRIS, R-Fla.: Thank you, Sean. It's wonderful to be back with you and Alan.

HANNITY: She's like my adopted congresswoman, because I don't have any representation in New York. I don't have any senatorial representation. I have no congressional representation.

So we always appreciate that you'll take my call on the serious issues affecting my life, Congresswoman.

HARRIS: With that question, and you are my favorite adopted constituent.

HANNITY: Thank you.

But the only thing I want in Florida is the fact that there's no income tax in the entire…state income tax in the whole state, which is just a great idea and a tribute to the good politicians and the good governor down there.

Can you believe we're at this point that we're at another election? And I think by every objective measure, the country was very divided in 2000. You are living right in the heart of this. And here we are now heading into a new election cycle.

And it seems that the level of antipathy and animosity towards this president is as high as I've seen it. And the discourse, frankly, is worse than I've ever heard it. You know, the president's a gang leader, a miserable failure, a liar. I mean, this isn't about policy discourse. This isn't about disagreement. This is about personally attacking Bush.

What are your thoughts on it?

HARRIS: Well, I think if you look back, even in 1983 with President Reagan (search), when was at a low point as well, right after the Marines were murdered in Beirut and the economy, it was just beginning to recover. And then we all know what happened in November of 1984.

I think we're going to see remarkably the same kind of thing with President Bush. But he's making the very, very tough decisions to restore our economy and have it grow and create new and better jobs and also to protect our shores and our homeland from the terrorists. I think you're going to see a remarkable difference.

HANNITY: Do you think these attacks, these very personal attacks against him, this name calling against him, the questioning of his integrity and his honesty and voracity as it relates to Iraq, do you think it's having any impact on lowering the poll numbers, as we've been witnessing? And should he be concerned about it? And if he should, what should he do?

HARRIS: I think when you have so many people campaigning for president, and all they can do is basically name call instead of reiterate facts that are true, then of course, you're going to have some fallout.

But I believe that people in this country, just like in the last election, are going to sense what is really going on. And if you care about having the economy recover and men and women safe in Iraq and free in Iraq, because the way Iraq goes, so will the Middle East (search).

If you understand those things, you can see that President Bush is making the very difficult decisions, not the politically correct decisions.

Actually, in my book I wrote in one of chapters what's called, if you want to be popular, do nothing. Contrarily, he's doing so much and so many critical things.

HANNITY: You know, you raise a good point there. And it was a great book, by the way. And I enjoyed it.

But here we have a situation…Dick Morris brought this up earlier this week on his program. You know, Iran is building nuclear weapons. We have every belief that that is happening now.

And the president took risks and he took great political risks in all that he did in Iraq and he did it…I believe he did from it a principled position that after 9-11 we cannot afford to stand by and let these guys build these weapons of mass destruction.

Now in light of what has happened, in spite of the successful military effort we've had there, politically to him back home, politically to Tony Blair (search). How do they lead the cause to go into Iran if that is necessary and get the backing of even the Democrats or the rest of the country, considering they've been…their integrity has been questioned at every level?

HARRIS: Actually, Sean, I think you're going to see a change. And that is because 17 congressmen that were appropriators have just returned. Democrats and Republicans, and very liberal Democrats. And to the person, they all said that they thought we should have been in Iraq after having seen it.

What the people in this country aren't seeing firsthand is that the media that's there are, and about 90 percent of the embedded journalists are back, have been told that they can only have reports of wounded soldiers who have been harmed. Consequently, you're going to hear a different story.

And it's really vital that that story be told about the fertile lands, the opportunities that Iraq has.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Congresswoman...

HARRIS: What wasn't destroyed.

COLMES: Congresswoman...

HARRIS: Hi, Alan.

COLMES: ... it's your favorite liberal non-constituent.

HARRIS: Indeed.

COLMES: It's good to have you with us.

HARRIS: Thank you Alan. The difference between you and others is I always enjoy talking to you, and I enjoy the debate. Because you come up with facts, and it's not about name calling.

COLMES: Well, I appreciate that.

But in terms of the name calling, look, it is the Democrat candidates, most of the American public is not yet paying attention to the presidential race. We political junkies are, cable news watchers, talk radio fans.

So I can't say that the president's poll ratings are because of these candidates. I don't think most of America is yet is paying attention to that. I think his polls are being hurt because there is a perception that we may have been misled, that we have been told information that may or may not be true. But the justification for the war in Iraq has not yet come to fruition.

Can you sense that there might be some truth to that, that the American public might be responding to that?

HARRIS: I think that the American public is responding to what's been reported, but I'm not sure that that's altogether accurate. Part of our biggest problem is we didn't have the kind of intelligence that we so desperately needed on the ground, in Iraq and other locations in the last administration because much of that had been gutted.

Consequently, we couldn't make the connections from A to B. And indeed, maybe some of those were stretches. We don't know yet, and of course that's coming out.

COLMES: But do we send men and women to war on poor intelligence, on stretched intelligence? I mean, we sent men and women into harm's way where Americans are still being killed on what you claim was faulty intelligence. That's not a good reason to send people to war.

HARRIS: I believe some of the points that were made by the intelligence committee. Then there's differing opinions, that it might have been more of a stretch. But we didn't send men and women to war because of faulty intelligence.

We sent men and women to war because we had the sound intelligence that Saddam Hussein (search) is saying we did have weapons of mass destruction, was murdering his own people with biological warfare. And those were facts. It still remains that we have to find them and we will. But we didn't go to war based on false...

COLMES: I thought you said it was faulty intelligence that led to us making a decision, because we didn't have the right intelligence to make that decision.

HARRIS: No, I said that in the letter that just came from the intelligence committee and there were differing opinions, was that there were larger stretches that were necessary because of the absence of intelligence, due to the 10 years of a lack of investment on human intelligence.

COLMES: I want to talk about your bill, where you want to do housing and create housing for the less fortunate. I commend you for that.

You're talking about $200 million in grants available to 40,000 low- income families. Welcome to the liberal side. This sounds like something…How are we going to pay for this? Is this conservative big spending. Is this, like, part of the laundry list of spending that President Bush had in his State of the Union address. This is liberalism.

HARRIS: Actually, it's quite different but I knew you would love it. What happens is that we're taking people out of section 8 housing and they're going to actually own their own home.

So we're taking them off the taxpayer dole and they're going to own their own homes. They're going to pay taxes instead of throwing their money away in rent that's going to increase annually. They're going to own a home and pay a mortgage where the assets go into increase.

COLMES: That's great.

HARRIS: Leave it to their children.

COLMES: You talk about a $200 million government grant to get to that point. Where is the money going to come from at a time of war, a time of…where you want to lower taxes, less money coming into the treasury, bigger deficits. So how are we going to pay for it?

HARRIS: I'm so glad you asked; thank you. President Bush has envisioned 5.5 million new low-income homeowners by the end of the decade. With that is a $256 billion economic impact for our country. So a $256 billion infusion. Now, that's exciting.

Every 1,000 homes that are built creates 2,500 new jobs, $80 million in wages and $42 million in revenues for federal, state and local government. It's an exciting win-win situation for all.

On top of that, children who live in these homes, their academic standards soar, whether it's math, comprehension or reading about 13 percent. The studies show they attend at least half a year more in terms of education. It's an exciting bill.

COLMES: Have you found, Congress to be what you expected it to be? Is there a lot of fighting back and forth? Have you made some more liberal friends? Is this everything you've expected?

HARRIS: It's far more than I ever dreamed. It's an enormous responsibility and an incredible honor. And we fight things out on the floor in terms of ideologies, but after the lights are out and the cameras off, I found that everybody is actually pretty gracious to one another and you have a chance to discuss things in a less contentious way without the cameras rolling, to grand stand.

So everybody's been more than kind to me since I got to Washington.

COLMES: What do you…That's what Tip O'Neill (search) said, it all ends, you know, after 6 p.m.

What do you make of what's going on now with the effort, the debate about whether there should be an independent counsel to look into allegations that the White House leaked information that could have been fatal to an undercover CIA operative and her sources?

HARRIS: Well, the president is going to pursue that vigorously, I'm sure. I just find it rather ironic that the people that were calling for the demise, for the sunset of that independent counsel are now asking for there to be an independent...

COLMES: I never liked that law, but that doesn't mean on case-by-case basis there couldn't be. But do you find it ironic the Bush's own Justice Department, Bush's own Justice Department, is now being asked to look into this.

You wouldn't have been that relaxed if Janet Reno were looking into allegations against something that Bill Clinton or his White House might have done.

HARRIS: Again, I just want to say about sun setting the independent counsel that it's the same people who wanted to do that are now calling for one. So I guess what goes around sort of comes around.

COLMES: So you would be against independent counsel?

You think it's appropriate that the Justice Department, the Ashcroft Justice Department, Bush Justice Department look into allegations against this White House?

HARRIS: At this point I'm very comfortable with Ashcroft looking into the case.

COLMES: Do you think it's possible that a leak occurred? That something was done to possibly damage somebody's reputation because Joe Wilson, the ambassador in question, spoke out forcefully against something the president said, implicated that he was a liar. Is there retribution? Do you think that is a likely scenario.

HARRIS: Alan, I really couldn't speak to the likely scenario. I would just be speculating and guessing. I know about as much about it if you do from reading the newspapers. I wouldn't want to try to guess on that.

HANNITY: We know that Bob Novak, the reporter in the case, said no, that's not the case but nobody wants to listen because they have a political agenda to attack the administration anyway they can.

Is there any chance at all at this point you would get into that Senate race?

HARRIS: I don't think so. We've been talking about that, Sean, for months and I said that I would never say never, but that it's simply not on my radar screen.

And honest to goodness, I've never been so busy in my life. There's so many important issues that we face to face. I mean, I'm enjoying my time in the House immensely. The leadership has been terrific. We've accomplished such a very aggressive agenda already.


HARRIS: And I kind of like the House. It seems like we get a lot done.

HANNITY: And you've got this new bill of yours passed, making the American dream of homeownership a reality bill. This is not a liberal bill. And I think...

HARRIS: No, it's not.

HANNITY: And I think the great part of it is, you're talking about people that have been dependent and creating independence. A permanent state of independence of freedom and its just government assisting in that way, considering they're already assisting in another capacity, correct?

HARRIS: And it more than pays off because they're participating, they're paying taxes, they're off the public dole. It's about the economic empowerment, the dignity and stability of home ownership. It's the American dream.

It's better for the children. It's better for the families and it's better for our economy. Again, President Bush wants to have $256 billion…All right, President Bush wants to have 5.5 million new homeowners, and that will be a $256 billion economic impact.

And by the way, Sean.


HARRIS: I want to say if you rent a home, your net worth is only about $900, but once you own that home, it skyrockets to $70,000. So that's true economic empowerment and freedom.

HANNITY: If I had my way, I would take all the public housing in the country and turn it over to the present occupants and say it's yours. But you've got to take care of it.

HARRIS: I mentioned that on the floor tonight to several people, as your idea.

HANNITY: I think it's a great idea. Because it's been a failure. And once people own something, they take greater pride in it and they'll maintain it and there'll be an incentive there for them. And I think in many, many ways, government dependency is taking away people's dignity.

HARRIS: I couldn't agree more. And you don't want to keep them subjugated in that kind of horrific situation. For example, in my hometown, I went into one of these projects and there was raw sewage where children played and black mold on the walls rodent and insect infestation in the homes. It's just unconscionable at a time when your nation his experienced a level of wealth and comfort that's unprecedented in human history, so it's time to...

COLMES: Congresswoman, I know a lot of Democrats who've signed onto this bill, as well. We'll have…we'll welcome you into the party any time you want to come over to this side.

HANNITY: Never happen, Allen.

COLMES: Thanks for being with us. Good to see you. Thanks for being here tonight.

HARRIS: Thank you.

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