This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 27, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Teresa Heinz Kerry (search) got herself into a bit of trouble telling a reporter to, quote, "Shove it." Senator Kerry's wife is about to step into the spotlight tonight as the main speaker at the convention and some of her past remarks are coming back to haunt the campaign.
Joining us now Democratic Strategist Bob Beckel and former Oklahoma Congressman and GOP Conference Chair J.C. Watts.
Congressman Watts, you first. So, Teresa Heinz Kerry, I mean a lot of Republicans took heart when Dick Cheney sort of told Pat Leahy to do whatever that was he told him. Do you think Democrats sort of take heart watching Teresa Heinz Kerry tell off a reporter?
J.C. WATTS, FORMER OKLAHOMA CONGRESSMAN: Well, John, I suspect there's a whole lot of folks out there that probably was thinking that Vice President Cheney said probably what they wanted to say. I think Mrs. Heinz Kerry probably said some things that a lot of people wanted to say. So, what she said yesterday in telling this reporter, you know, to shove it or whatever she said, that really didn't hurt my feelings.
GIBSON: OK, Congressman, but what about the other stuff?
WATTS: What other stuff?
GIBSON: Well, there are these old comments she made...
GIBSON: ...and they go back to 1976 about Ted Kennedy.
Let me show you one. She said, "If Ted Kennedy holds on to that marriage — with Joan Kennedy — just for the Catholic vote, I think he's a perfect..." well, you see the word there.
There's another one about the Democratic machine in this country. Oh, yeah, "Ted Kennedy I don't trust like I don't trust Nixon."
So, anyway, they're dragging these things out again just to sort of, embarrass her. What do you make of it?
WATTS: Well, it's quite interesting. I would like to be a fly on the wall when Senator Kerry and Senator Kennedy when they met for the first time today. That'll be quite an interesting conversation, I bet.
GIBSON: Hey, Bob Beckel, maybe she's going to tell somebody else to shove it for dragging up those quotes again.
BOB BECKEL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, and John, I hate to say this; it may be you.
BECKEL: It's great you said, "And now they're dragging it out" and you put it on your screen. Only John Gibson could do that.
GIBSON: Well, I mean I want people to know what she said.
BECKEL: I know, John, and it's newsworthy.
But I want to say, first of all, it's nice to be on with J.C. Watts who was not reading off of the GOP talking points like Norm Coleman. Can I point out to Mr. Coleman that the 30 cuts he's talking about include Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Qatar and the other ones are leaving in droves.
GIBSON: Yes, but Bob, if you're going to go there, sorry, I got to ask you, do you honestly think that John Kerry is going to get those Europeans to come with us?
BECKEL: Yes. Absolutely.
GIBSON: Bob Beckel, I'll bet you the steak dinner on it and you're going to pay. You think the French will go along with John Kerry?
BECKEL: No, I'm not going to pay.
Of course I think they'll go along. Do you think they'll go along with George Bush? Look, George Bush has squandered in a very short period of time the great prestige of this country. That's a sad. Last night I sat with undecided voters in Northern Virginia to see how they viewed it. I didn't say anything about it.
They watched it. They loved what Clinton had to say, by the way. And usually that $5,000 tax increase, I mean, his own tax increase was brilliant. But more than that, what worried them is that Bush may have the strength, but when the wisdom to go to war is your CIA director standing up and saying, "It's a slam dunk, baby!" That isn't wisdom. That's idiocy.
GIBSON: Wait a minute. Beckel, J.C. Watts, your take on it. You're the president of the United States; your own CIA director says WMD's a slam dunk. Do you think John Kerry is going to sit around on his thumbs? Do you think George Bush could have?
WATTS: Well, I think, first of all, Bob talked about the prestige that we've had around the world. I was in Congress for eight years — served six years under President Clinton — we had no prestige around the world. We have gotten some respect back because people know if they come into the United States and they take on the American citizens, we've got a president that's going to defend this country. That is a good thing.
The weapons of mass destruction. I think the question that Senator Kerry's going to have to answer: Does he think that Saddam Hussein should still be in power? That's the question. It was a good thing. We got rid of the largest weapon of mass destruction in getting rid of Saddam Hussein.
That was not a bad thing. So, you know, that's the question that Senator Kerry's going to have to answer.
GIBSON: Bob Beckel, would you answer it for him?
BECKEL: I'd be more than happy to answer for it and you know me, John, I don't pull my punches. And normally, neither does J.C. I might remind you, J.C., that NATO participated in the Balkan War under Clinton. They won't even take people to train them at this point under Bush.
Leaving that aside, the answer is...
WATTS: But Bob, you had the French and the Germans and the Russia both doing business with Saddam Hussein. They didn't want to see Saddam Hussein come down. So, they're not going to be any different under a different administration.
BECKEL: You just called this guy in a hole the greatest weapon of mass destruction in the world. The answer to your question, John, is as we approach 1,000 United States service people dead and 12,000 wounded and $200 billion to fight a war that never should, the answer is, "No."
GIBSON: Oh, come on. Beckel, your candidate voted for it.
BECKEL: Knowing what we know.
GIBSON: Both of your candidates voted for it, looking at the same information the president saw.
BECKEL: I was for it, John. I was for it because I believed when my president said to me that this guy had weapons of mass destruction and they were ready to unleash them quickly and he was backed up by the British. That turned out not to be true. Would you trade those 1,000 dead American kids for Saddam Hussein?
GIBSON: Oh, come on, Beckel. What about the 3,000 dead in Lower Manhattan? We're going to start talking dead here, let me drag out the ones that were killed in New York!.
BECKEL: Would you answer me the question? Would you answer me the question, John, please, I'm begging you. I'm begging you.
GIBSON: No, no, that is the question.
BECKEL: The question is: if you had to do it over again and you knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, would all those kids, would you let them die and would you let them all be wounded?
GIBSON: J.C. answer that.
BECKEL: What's your answer, yes or no?
WATTS: John and Bob, John Kerry and John Edwards saw the same intelligence that President Bush saw. And for them to now try and distance themselves from that — and they could have called any general in, any person in the Secretary of State's shop, including the Secretary of State himself — they could have called Donald Rumsfeld into their office, being senators and asked him any question they wanted to ask.
They saw the same intelligence that President Bush saw and now they're running for president and vice president and they want to distance themselves from it. That's exactly why their numbers are going down because the American people are saying they're trying to have it both ways. You know, when it's convenient for them to be for the war, they want to be for it; when it's convenient for them to be against it, they want to be against it. Bob, you can't have it both ways.
BECKEL: J.C., you and I are very good friends. I used to carry that intelligence to the Hill when I was at the White House. It is not the same intelligence that the president sees, number one. But number two...
WATTS: Even if it wasn't, they could have gotten it.
BECKEL: ... I don't believe George Bush thought that there wasn't weapons of mass destruction; I don't believe the conspiracy theories. I think he made a bad judgment call. That call cost a lot of lives. I ask you both again, either J.C. or John, knowing what we know now, would we spend the money and have these kids dead or have Hussein still in power?
Yes or no?
GIBSON: Bob Beckel, J.C. Watts, got to leave that rhetorical question up in the air.
BECKEL: Please. I'm begging you.
WATTS: Do you think we're better off with Saddam Hussein being gone?
BECKEL: Not at the cost of 1,000 American lives, no.
GIBSON: All right. At that point, I've got it cut it off.
We'll let that hang there. Beckel, thanks, J.C. Watts. Thanks to both of you.
WATTS: Thank you.
BECKEL: I love you, John.