This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Oct. 1, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: First, our top story and the top story all across America is the fallout from Thursday night's duel in Miami.
Joining us now is the host of "Morning in America" and Washington fellow at the Claremont Institute (search). Bill Bennett is with us.
Bill, welcome aboard.
BILL BENNETT, HOST, "MORNING IN AMERICA": You forgot I was on the under card yesterday, as we say in boxing. I debated Howard Dean at lunchtime in Maine.
HANNITY: That's the under card all right. Boy. I don't know — I don't know how to assess that. But that might have been worth — worth the pay for admission. All right. Just give me your general thoughts first, and then I've got some specific questions to ask you.
BENNETT: I think that Kerry won the debate and Bush won the argument. I know Kerry did a very good performance, the best I've seen him engage in.
And he was on offense and you know my rule; you're on offense or you're on defense. He was on offense the whole night, kind of relentlessly on offense.
He was well briefed. He was well prepared and he went on attack. He sounded good; he looked pretty good. And he made it seem as if he was winning the points.
The problem is there's a short run and there's a long run. He created some issues for himself which I think are going to be very harmful.
HANNITY: Yes, I do as well.
Look, I think what John Kerry did effectively — and I guess this is, you know, when you learn how to debate in debating school in Yale (search), they teach you to debate both sides.
As a matter of fact, usually they'll flip you on a dime. You're debating the legalization of drugs and you debate the other side five minutes later.
He seems to have settled on a position on Iraq 10 days ago. He took a script. He stuck to it. He was confident in that position.
But the problem is it conflicts with all of his prior positions. The president pointed out that out effectively, but I think maybe those people that aren't aware of those prior positions, they may not quite understand it as much as — as much as those of us who follow it regularly.
BENNETT: I think he's got a double problem.
One, I think there is still incoherence in his position on Iraq, and I think the president really nailed him on that. And the president said, I thought very effectively, rhetorically, he said how do we invite other nations to join a "grand diversion," you know?
How do we invite other nations to send their boys into battle for the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time?
BENNETT: The other thing is where he is coherent and understandable he is everything that I have to say the right has tried to caricature him as: an internationalist who believes in the supremacy of the international veto ever the interests of the United States. And that's what he gave rise to last night, which I think is problematic.
HANNITY: The only thing that bothers me about the president's performance, if there's one thing, is we went through the whole debate and Kerry's 20-year record, Kerry supporting the nuclear freeze, Kerry not supporting the death penalty for terrorists, Kerry's lack of support for defense and intelligence spending didn't come up.
But one of the most fascinating things I saw in this is when you look at the internal poll numbers, even the polls that show that Kerry won the debate, they say it was Bush that agreed more with them on the issues they cared about.
BENNETT: Yes. Yes.
HANNITY: It was equally — It was Bush who was more likable, Bush who was more believable.
HANNITY: And on the most important question, demonstrated he's tough enough for the job, he won 54-37.
BENNETT: That's right.
HANNITY: That was an amazing.
BENNETT: I looked at that at 5:55 this morning in "USA Today" before we started our show.
BENNETT: I think that's a very impressive, very interesting poll. That tracks my views exactly.
The American people are able to make a distinction. They think Kerry made his case better than Bush did last night. They think he scored more debater's points.
Who do you want to be president? George Bush. Who's more likable? George Bush. Who's more credible? George Bush.
BENNETT: And so on that, I think Bush scored solidly.
There was one other thing. Kerry was a little nasty. You know, that one question where Lehrer said colossal errors, you know, he said, "Where should I begin?"
Bush was a gentleman all the way through. He was a good guy. He was a decent guy. He threw lots of compliments Kerry's way. Kerry threw no compliments to President Bush.
There was one time he said to President Bush, you know, you have done some things really well. The country has been safe under your watch.
And you know, Bush has a real job, unlike Kerry.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Bill, you know, Bush has a real job unlike Kerry. That's — do you want to take a shot at someone? I don't think that is a nice thing to say.
COLMES: Being a senator is not an, you know, it's not an absentee job.
BENNETT: It depends.
COLMES: George W. Bush ran for president. He wasn't hanging around Texas doing his function as governor. So you know, I don't think it's called for to talk like that.
BENNETT: It's relative, Alan, and maybe that's too harsh in general. But there's a reason that governors get elected often and senators don't. It's because they have got jobs. They've got to take out the garbage and educate the kids, build the highways.
The Senate is mostly a debating society. People can take it seriously and do well, people like — let me name two, Richard Lugar, a Republican, or Joe Biden, a Democrat.
Kerry did not take his work very seriously in the Senate. Otherwise you and every other Democrat could tell us what he stands for. I challenged Howard Dean yesterday.
COLMES: I can tell you what he stands for.
BENNETT: What does he stand for? After 20 years, what's the mark?
COLMES: I can tell you what he stands for. The problem is his record has been so often misrepresented. We'll get into that, probably, in the next debate, because it will be on domestic issues.
But I want to talk about last night's debate. And you said on arguments that Bush won. I see — I see you stretching to try to find a way to spin this positively for President Bush.
BENNETT: No way.
COLMES: And if you think Bush won an argument that's probably because you agreed with President Bush. But in terms of who won the debate, most people, most news organizations, most flash polling, most editorials even from conservative papers say it was John Kerry, clearly walked away with it.
BENNETT: He was the better debater but Bush won the argument, because Kerry left things hanging out which require answers.
With Bush — you know, Conor Cruise O'Brien, the biographer of Edmund Burke said he has the gift of always being himself. And so does George Bush.
And you know, one sometimes wishes he was a little more like the professor, you know, to articulate the case, go one, two, three. But he is who he is.
But his position was consistent. It was the same last night as it's always been.
John Kerry, we had these things coming out last night. Let's just be specific. The global test. He has just contradicted the notion of preemption. You decide whether the United States should practice preemption, that it should be able to act against other nations in the world if we think our interests is at stake.
John Kerry said it is subject to a global test. Quote, "We have to prove to other nations that our justification is right." That's an impossible standard. There's gong to be more on that.
COLMES: In terms of preemption, do you have any doubt that if we were attacked that he would respond without going to the U.N.? Do you have any doubt that if another, God forbid, September 11 happened, and we had to go to a place like Afghanistan, he would do so?
It wasn't that part of the war on terror that we object to. It's going into Iraq, a country that was not, as he stated, an imminent threat to the United States.
BENNETT: Alan, that is — that is to change the issue. The question is preemptive action. If you are attacked, it's no longer a question of preemption.
The question is are you justified in acting preemptively? Then it's before someone attacks you when you think the threat is gathering or imminent or any of those adjectives we've been throwing around.
George Bush has said, yes, it is justifiable, and we will decide when it's justifiable. It will not be subject to the international court or to world opinion.
COLMES: When before has the United States gone into a war of preemption and gone into a country and done regime change as we've done in Iraq? When has that happened before?
BENNETT: Well, we did something like it in Kosovo, because we didn't like what was going on. They certainly weren't threatening us. There was certainly nothing compared to Iraq.
COLMES: I was against that, by the way. I was against what Bill Clinton did that.
BENNETT: Well, I wasn't. I thought he did exactly the right thing, and you know, it may come up again.
And I'm glad Lehrer asked the question last night, Alan, about the Sudan and whether he would have to go to the United Nations to get permission in order to stop the slaughter — the slaughter, catastrophe of 800,000 people.
HANNITY: Hang on. We've got to take a break. We'll have more with Dr. Bennett in just a few moments from now.
COLMES: And there are 32 days left until Americans go to the polls and vote to — in great numbers to elect John Kerry the next president of the United States.
We now continue with the host of "Morning in America," Bill Bennett.
Bill, first of all, in Kosovo (search), which I objected to — many liberals didn't and one could make the argument if you like the president, you're going to support them in whatever they do. I didn't support that idea.
But it wasn't the same thing as Iraq. We didn't talk about an endless war. We had an exit strategy. We didn't lose 1,000 Americans. So I don't know if that really is a great analogy.
I had some problems last night where I thought President Bush didn't always — I thought that he said some misleading things. For example, he said a number of times to John Kerry that John Kerry saw the same intelligence that he saw.
And Bob Graham came on the show and said that's not true. The president sees intelligence that senators don't see. The president had information that people in the legislative branch did not have.
BENNETT: Well, I'm sure that's true in some cases. But the main thing, of course, is that the intelligence the president had on Iraq was the same intelligence that the Brits had, the Germans had, the U.N. had and everybody had.
You're right, Kosovo and Iraq are disanalogous in some ways, but they are analogous in other ways. They're disanalogous in that this is a real fighting war where these people would like to destroy us.
By the way, John Kerry said last night, and I'm very curious about this. No one's commented on it. He said Iraq is nowhere near the center of the war on terror.
Where is the center of the war on terror?
COLMES: We made it the center of the war on terror. It wasn't the center of the war on terror prior to us going in there. Well, according to Paul Wolfowitz (search) it's the center of the war on terror.
BENNETT: OK, if it wasn't, where was the center of the war on terror? He said it is nowhere near. Then he says later on in the talk terrorists are pouring in from Syria like crazy. Well, I mean, did they have to travel that far? Is it that far from the center of the war?
COLMES: The point is we created — we opened up a front in the war on terror, and I think this is key. This is key to the election.
BENNETT: We didn't open this up, Alan. You can't say that.
COLMES: We opened — we opened up a front where United States soldiers are dying every single day. That's something we created.
BENNETT: We didn't — are you serious that we created that? You don't think Saddam Hussein created that? You don't think he created that situation?
COLMES: We put American soldiers in harm's way, and they die every single day. And it was not an imminent threat.
BENNETT: We are fighting an international war on terror.
COLMES: And we started another front.
BENNETT: We are fighting on many fronts, as the president said. It's a multi-front war. It's got to be.
And where are they now? Where's the center of activity now? And do you think it was that far a reach for them to get there? Do you think it was that far from the center of activity? The notion, again I had this with Dean yesterday, no connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Read pages 315 to 338 in the Senate intelligence report. The three Abus, Abu Nadal, Abu Abbas, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they were there. They were there long before 9/11.
HANNITY: Bill, there's more than that, though. If that's the case now we shouldn't have been there.
And he used the term colossal misjudgment. How come, you know, just eight months ago, he said, "I supported the fact we disarmed Saddam"?
How does he lay out the case that "if you don't think he's a threat with nuclear weapons, don't vote for me?
I mean, this is actually — you used the word incoherent earlier, but it is. You know, he's taken the position with Diane Sawyer the other day, was it worth it. Well, it depends on the outcome.
BENNETT: I know. Ridiculous.
HANNITY: Which is just — which is absurd.
BENNETT: Two things quickly. He said the most dangerous problem in the world was nuclear proliferation. And then he said that he would stop our development of new nuclear weapons unilaterally.
What is that all about? Why are we freezing unilaterally?
HANNITY: That's what he did. That's what he supported when Reagan was president.
BENNETT: Well, and there again he says how serious the threat is. He acknowledges we're in the world of terrorism. They have access to nuclear weapons, and he's going to stop.
And the other thing, real quick. Australian thing is very important. His sister is there in Australia telling the Australians that they are now much more in risk of nuclear — terrorist attacks because they're now an ally of the United States.
If that is alliance building, if that's the way to get more nations to join you, you know, how — that is unbelievable.
HANNITY: How is it possible in it debate and I thought the president was effective in pointing out the flip-flops but how is it possible in the entire debate that not once did we examine this weak record of John Kerry over 20 years on intelligence matters, defense matters, defense spending, intelligence spending? How is that possible?
BENNETT: Well, I mean, maybe you could say there's a short answer, because there's not much to say except, you know, it's a pretty — it's a pretty empty category.
HANNITY: Why didn't it come up?
BENNETT: I don't know.
HANNITY: Why didn't it point out that he wanted a nuclear freeze? He'd been on the wrong side of history?
BENNETT: I don't know. But, you know, what is the mark? Twenty years in the Senate. What is the mark? What is the thing the guys's known for? What's the bill? What's the piece of legislation? What's the speech?
No fingerprint in the snow here. George Bush has certainly left fingerprints and footprints. He knows what he stands for. He knows what he doesn't stand for.
HANNITY: I agree with that.
COLMES: All right, Mr. Bennett, thank you for being with us. Always fun mixing it up with you. Thanks for being with us tonight.
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