Transcript: Lockhart on Kerry's 'Strength'

The following is the transcript of a conversation with Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart about the first presidential debate:

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: In Spin Alley, the Kerry campaign has been working with its candidate for several weeks, getting prepped for this.

We're out in Wisconsin with Joe Lockhart.

So, we're in Spin Alley. How'd he do?

JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Here's the spin: I think it was a really strong performance by John Kerry.

You know, one of the things that we really needed to do tonight was to show that he was a man of character, strength, judgment, and that he could be president and commander in chief. I think the American public saw that tonight.

CAMERON: It lived up to the expectations of your preparation.

Did Senator Kerry deal with the issues that President Bush has criticized him for, for instance, "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it"? He tried to address that tonight.

LOCKHART: He did. And I think he said that sometimes he talks in an inartful or inarticulate way, but it's more important to actually get the policy right than get the policy wrong.

And I think he was very clear on the idea that there are choices here, and this president led us down the wrong path, and he can change that.

CAMERON: Was there a tactical decision to focus more on the president's failures, as you called them, as opposed to Senator Kerry's proposals?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think that he did a little bit of both.

But I think this is a president who has almost instinctively shirked the responsibility for anything that's gone wrong. And he has spent four years saying, "It's not my fault."

So it's very important that we made this president live up to his record. We did this. The president didn't seem to enjoy it very much.

CAMERON: Why do you say that?

LOCKHART: Well, you know, he seemed to have an uncomfortable, annoyed look on his face through much of the debate. And I think if 2000 was about the sigh, 2004 is going to be about the smirk.

CAMERON: The president's annoyance, you mean.

LOCKHART: The president's annoyed smirk.

CAMERON: Now, the conversation turned to nuclear proliferation. I think the president made a point of saying that weapons of mass destruction in hands of terrorists were important, whereas the senator appeared to stand firm on nuclear proliferation as a separate issue.

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think if you've got loose nuclear material floating around, the terrorists are going to get it. If you can clamp down on that and the terrorists can't get it, I think it's logical that you got to go to the root of the problem.

So I think that was a point where John Kerry showed that he actually has a better understanding of these issues than the president.

CAMERON: Time and again, Mr. Bush hammered Senator Kerry for lacking what he says is the firm resolve, shifting his positions over and over again.

Is there any way that you can combat that in the next five weeks? Because clearly the president telegraphed that he's not going to stop that criticism.

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think the story of the debate is that the American public saw John Kerry is a man of resolve and consistency. He said what he was going to do. He said it over and over again. I think the attacks fell flat.

CAMERON: We soon go to the domestic agenda in the debate. There was the discussion of homeland security today. And the Kerry campaign has particularly taken offense to one of the president's remarks about it. Elaborate.

LOCKHART: Well, John Kerry gave an impassioned defense of defending the homeland, and did make the point that we've got to find the funds to do things like our bridges, our tunnels, our subways, our seaports, where we're not spending enough.

And after that impassioned defense, the president's remark was, "Boy, how are you going to pay for all those promises?"

And here's what we take from that, which is he's so unwilling to consider giving back that tax cut to the top 2 percent, the wealthiest in America, that that's more important to him than defending the homeland.

CAMERON: Joe Lockhart, senior aide to the Kerry campaign, thank you very much, sir.