Damage Control

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Sept. 1, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEN. ZELL MILLER, D-GA.: John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Democratic Senator Zell Miller (search) crossing party lines to tear into his colleague, John Kerry at the Republicans convention last night.  Miller says he didn't leave his party. His party left him. Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe (search) is here to talk about the convention and the big question, Terry, so did Zell Miller do any damage to the Kerry campaign Wednesday night?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DEMOCRATIC NATL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: He didn't do any damage to the Kerry campaign. He did a lot of damage to the Republican Party. Whoever booked him ought to be fired today. This was an angry man and you saw it come out. This was fear in trying to scare people. I mean, John, this was their keynote speaker. We had Barak Obama, who talked about optimism, how to be hopeful, what you can do to build yourself, move forward with John Kerry's positive vision. This man went on television. He frightened people.

GIBSON: I know. I heard that was the Democratic line this morning was the old man scaring the kids. But after you get past the joke, I mean, he was an insider with an insider's point of view about John Kerry. Why isn't that a valuable thing?

MCAULIFFE: Let's be very clear. He is not an insider. Since he's been in the Senate he's not attended any of the Democratic Senate caucus meetings, not at all. He's never been to a Democratic meeting. He has been helping Republicans from day one. Let me tell you, this is all about him selling books. If he felt this way he should have left the Democratic Party four years ago.

GIBSON: Terry, he says he's going to be a Democrat until the day he dies, until the Democratic party is back to being what...

MCAULIFFE: It's a joke. He's trying to sell books. He can't sell books if he is a Republican attacking Democrats. A Democrat attacking Democrats, sells. This is all crass materialism. He ought to show the courage, now, to leave the party and do the right thing. Agree with that?

GIBSON: You are the chairman.

MCAULIFFE: He fills out his own registration card. He ought to have some courage.

GIBSON: You can't kick him out?

MCAULIFFE: I wish he'd leave today. He's never been with us.

GIBSON: You can't fire him?

MCAULIFFE: No, I can't take his salary from the United States Senate.

GIBSON: All right. I got to ask you another question. What is going on in the Kerry's campaign? Stories circulating among Democrats of in fighting, little coups going on, somebody trying to take over the campaign, somebody trying to hold on, the candidate livid over what he thinks is slow response to Swift boat attacks. What's going on?

MCAULIFFE: All I can tell you, today if the election were held today, we would win the electoral college. We are ahead in Florida. We're ahead in Ohio today. We are bringing new people into the campaign.

GIBSON: You're ahead in Florida? I thought I saw...

MCAULIFFE:  Up 3 -- but we're doing great. Now are other people coming in? Sure they are. We have 60 days to go, all hands on deck, let's go, let's move forward together. Campaign is in great shape. Kerry campaign has done a magnificent job. Early nominee, great spring, great convention, more unified.

GIBSON: You think August was a good month for the Kerry campaign?

MCAULIFFE: I think the two weeks when John Kerry left the convention with John Edwards we had two great weeks. This is their convention. They had the lead up last week, big deal. Now you know what, tonight at midnight, John Kerry starts it off the general election starts in Ohio and we are going to keep on going. We are not turning back. He is turning that Swift boat, he's going right at him and we aren't turn around.

GIBSON: Terry, has there been too much of pictures of John Kerry on wind surfer boards and on bicycles? Is it too much Nantucket and not enough Ohio?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, the guy went away. He wasn't supposed to campaign this week. So he spent a couple days up there relaxing. George Bush has spent a third of his time as president on vacation. I mean he's sitting down there, clearing the brush or whatever he's doing. It doesn't matter.  What the voters want to know is what are you going to do to better my life? George Bush has cost us jobs. He's been a failure on education. He's been a failure on health care and this convention up here, I tell you, John, one of the most negative meanest conventions I have ever seen.

GIBSON: I don't buy that it is negative and mean as you say, but if it was, hasn't that hurt John Kerry?

MCAULIFFE: I think it has turned off every swing voter in America who hates to see this partisanship. They want answers. George Bush is going to tonight, guess what? He's going to say, I got new plans. What has he done for the last four years? I mean this is going to be like a state of the union. We are going to go to Mars.

GIBSON: Terry, what he's done for the last four year and what you've heard in this convention so far is he's protected Americans, made war on terrorists and going to keep doing some more of it.

MCAULIFFE: I mean he's created more terrorists. He's made this nation less safe than we were four years ago. We have a mess on our hands again now in Afghanistan. Iraq, look at the issues over there. He has created more issues for this country, not less. He has made us less safe, not more.  He's totally ruined the economy of this country.

GIBSON: Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Convention. Terry, thank for coming in. Appreciate it.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you.

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