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Sen. John Kerry's Campaign Tactics

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, November 11, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I'm Sean Hannity, reporting from Washington tonight.

Joining us now is the co-director of Empower America, the new Washington fellow for the Claremont Institute, our good friend, Bill Bennett. It's Tuesdays. Tuesdays with Bennett.

BILL BENNETT, EMPOWER AMERICA: In person.

HANNITY: In person.

BENNETT: In Washington.

HANNITY: I'm getting out of here right after the show.

BENNETT: I understand. We'll protect you.

HANNITY: Let me run the Kerry ad and get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Who can take on George Bush and change the direction of the nation? John Kerry. A leader on national security. A decorated combat veteran, served on the intelligence committee, the foreign relations committee. John Kerry.

He's fighting for you against the Bush tax giveaways for corporations and the wealthy and his health care plan covers the uninsured and holds down costs.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm John Kerry, and I approved this message because it's time to do what's right for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: He authorized the use of force, then Howard Dean gets traction. "No, no, no, I only authorized the use of threat of force."

BENNETT: Yes. He's in trouble. And so he's pressing and doing what he can.

Howard Dean (search) was driving the Democrats. It may be Dennis Kucinich (search) who drives them next, you know, to the left extreme.

He's in trouble. The candidacy's in trouble. He's in trouble in Iowa. He's in trouble in New England. And remember, New Hampshire borders just as much as on Massachusetts as it does on Vermont.

HANNITY: Absolutely.

BENNETT: But Dean is cleaning his clock there, so he made his announcement in South Carolina. He's looking for a place to go.

But he's been not a very good candidate. He's been evasive. He's been inconsistent. People don't get a clear sense or signal from him. He's in trouble.

HANNITY: No core values. Isn't that the problem?

BENNETT: Well, I think that is the problem. Look, he is a veteran. It's Veterans Day (search). We thank him for the service to his country. But exactly what do you stand for, Senator Kerry, that the others don't?

HANNITY: Let me talk about, we saw Al Gore (search) out there denouncing the president over the, "the issue of civil liberties." It was a vicious speech.

BENNETT: Yes.

HANNITY: This has been going on daily. Now we've got 26 House Democrats looking for Donald Rumsfeld's head on a platter.

BENNETT: Right.

HANNITY: They want him fired; they want him out.

BENNETT: Right.

HANNITY: We have the intelligence memo that we discussed last week, which is still generating a lot of news.

BENNETT: It's vicious. You bet. It's the vicious season, and it started earlier than usual.

But look, I'll tell you. This intelligence committee thing is extraordinary, even by Washington's standards, as I said in this show.

Gore, you know, this claim about the Patriot Act (search) is unbelievable, because you had Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein say last week on the floor that they cannot find any violations of the Patriot Act. They asked the ACLU to produce evidence. And there was no evidence.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Dr. Bennett...

BENNETT: The screaming continues. The intensity. I will give the Democrats this; they have the intensity. They are screaming at Bush, and we need to be as intense but controlled, I think, in response.

COLMES: Dr. Bennett, it's Alan in New York. Good to see you.

BENNETT: How are you?

COLMES: Let's talk about something else that John Kerry has used in his ad, which is the -- Bush on the deck of the U.S.S. Eisenhower, the flight suit.

BENNETT: Right.

COLMES: And now it seems there was some talk about, you know, whether or not this would help the Democrats, and it looks like it's helping them more than it's helping Bush at this point.

Was it a mistake for the president to do that? Was that grandstanding on his part?

BENNETT: Alan, you know me. I tell the truth. I don't believe in presidency by P.R. And P.R. is a big part of the presidency these days. I remember the grand events by Reagan and...

COLMES: It was the Lincoln, just to correct myself.

BENNETT: What's that?

COLMES: It was the Lincoln, and I said the Eisenhower. Just wanted to correct myself.

BENNETT: Yes, well, Lincoln was the guy I was going to bring up, who was not a terrific P.R. guy. They didn't do a lot of great P.R. events with Lincoln, but he managed to stumble through as a great president.

Look, I think in the end they tried to create a lasting image and they did, and it's now being used by the Democrats.

I think it's unfair to say that, you know, the message was not true. The army of Iraq was destroyed; the head of the Iraq was destroyed. We are now in a terrorist operation.

But, you know, P.R. is the modern way that you conduct politics. I wish we did less of it.

COLMES: But was it right, then, for the president to try to use this as a P.R. piece, then claim that the "mission accomplished" sign was not something that the White House did but that the Navy did? It seemed like he tried to distance himself from that.

And here's a guy who had -- you know, there's some questions about his own military background. To put on a flight suit at a time like that seemed, you know, a little dicey, don't you think?

BENNETT: Well, I don't think really very costing the president, because the people know who the president is. But I think the president should follow his own sense, his own instincts and not listen to the P.R. guys. P.R. guys run too much in this town, and that's a shame.

At the same time, John Kerry on Veterans Day can have a little more respect for his commander in chief, you know, and not follow the lead of the Democrats who are campaigning with him and against him.

You know, he's hit a hollow note throughout this campaign, and it's not very impressive. Just exactly where does he stand? He voted for this resolution, and now he's trying to back away from it because of the strength of Dean and Kucinich.

HANNITY: Dr. Bennett, it's always good to see you. Our Tuesday with Bill Bennett segment.

BENNETT: We'll provide security whenever you're here. Any time.

HANNITY: I'm out of here fast.

BENNETT: I understand. Go to your whatever.

HANNITY: There you go. Good to see you, buddy. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

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