Can Clinton Help Kerry Win?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 20, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Bill Clinton (search) and I were talking, and he said, "You know, when the other guy wants you to stop thinking and is trying to scare you into not thinking, and you want Americans to think about their future, it's pretty clear who you ought to be voting for."


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Yes, I guess it's clear. John Kerry (search) may be talking to former President Clinton a lot more in the days leading up to the election. President Clinton going from heart attack patient back to politician. He's lining up with Senator Kerry next week.

Heather Nauert is here with more on the Clinton factor.

HEATHER NAUERT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. President Clinton has one appearance scheduled so far in Pennsylvania, but he may stump in other important states if he feels up to it.

I'm joined by Lanny Davis (search), former White House Counsel for President Clinton. Lanny, that's the question today: how much can Bill Clinton do for John Kerry in the next two weeks?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, I think Karl Rove is pretty worried about that. But I have to say the greatest politician alive today is about to be side by side with John Kerry, and my understanding is that he is feeling healthy and energetic and is about to hit the campaign trails, which we all hope is the case.

NAUERT: Where do you expect him to go? As we said, he's expected in Pennsylvania on Monday. That's one appearance so far. Do you think he's going to go other places, and if so, where?

DAVIS: Well, I wouldn't be surprised if we see him in Florida and I wouldn't be surprised if we see him in Ohio, and I certainly wouldn't be surprised if we see him in the Midwest. Certainly Wisconsin and possibly Minnesota and Michigan.

But, you know, the President has to pace himself. He had a pretty tough operation. But I know that he's on the telephone. I haven't talked to him recently but I know that he's on the telephone.

I know that he's very, very strongly for John Kerry, and I think that the Republicans do have something to fear once President Clinton gets out there because he is such a powerful and effective politician.

NAUERT: So how much can he really do? Is he going to go after the swing voters or is he simply going to be trying to shore up the Democratic base to get out the vote?

DAVIS: Look, I've never been a believer in transferability. So what Bill Clinton is going to be about is not saying, "Vote for John Kerry because you like me." He's going to be saying vote for John Kerry on the issues, which John Kerry himself has been stressing.

And those issues are about the economy, about the war in Iraq being mismanaged with no end in sight, and especially about hope for the future on health care and education.

NAUERT: Is he going to focus primarily on domestic issues? That's something that Clinton was certainly known very well for.

DAVIS: I think he's going to do both because both the economy and Iraq are on people's minds. I think President Clinton, at his acceptance - - not acceptance speech, there's a Freudian slip — at his speech at the Democratic Convention, pointed out that John Kerry is a candidate for change.

He's a candidate for the middle class and I think those will be Bill Clinton's themes when he talks about John Kerry.

NAUERT: So, it sounds like he'll stay away then from the issue of terrorism and national security.

DAVIS: No, I think terrorism and national security are what are on everybody's minds. I think the war in Iraq is a diversion from the fight against terrorism. You heard your prior guest, Rick Lazio: lost to Hillary Clinton for a good reason.

He's not talking about Usama Bin Laden. He's trying to connect Al Qaeda to Iraq, which even the CIA and the Bush administration admit is no connection.

NAUERT: Hold on, hold on one second.

DAVIS: The war on terrorism is not about the war in Iraq, that's a diversion from the war on terrorism and Bill Clinton will point that out.

NAUERT: OK. Well, does Bill Clinton have the credibility to talk about terrorism because the 9/11 plot was certainly planned under his administration, not to mention some of the attacks on American interests overseas, from the Cole bombing to the '98 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

So does Clinton even have the credibility to talk about spoiling terrorist plots?

DAVIS: Well, I think both President Bush and President Clinton and everybody in the '90s missed the threat of Al Qaeda and Usama Bin Laden in terms of expecting 9/11.

But Bill Clinton did have national security warnings, plans and, in fact, attacked Usama Bin Laden with cruise missiles and almost got him in Afghanistan. So Monday morning quarterbacking is pretty easy. But of course he has credibility on the war on terrorism, and I believe that everybody agrees that the war in Iraq is a diversion from the war on terrorism.

NAUERT: OK. That's the Democrats' position. So I don't think it's fair to say that everyone agrees. So let's just make that clear.

DAVIS: Well, the CIA and the 9/11 Commission agree with that, not just the Democrats.

NAUERT: Lanny, let's move along to something else because there are other topics I want to address with you before we run out of time.

One of Kerry's big strategies now is to not do what Al Gore did in 2000 and not repeat Al Gore's mistakes. Is this another step by Kerry to not repeat Al Gore's mistakes in terms of embracing Clinton?

DAVIS: Yes. I think that Al Gore made a serious political misjudgment not using President Clinton to campaign for him. He'd be President of the United States today had he made the correct judgment.

NAUERT: And just one last comment on my part here. This has got to put Clinton in sort of an awkward position if Hillary wants to run for the White House in 2008. She's going to be hard to go home to if John Kerry wins.

DAVIS: I know that conspiracy theories say that. I've seen and heard Senator Clinton campaign for John Kerry. What represents Bill Clinton's greatest legacy would be the election of John Kerry as President, and we'll have a President Hillary Clinton someday in the future. But we want John Kerry now as our next President.

NAUERT: OK. So you're saying it's going to happen. All right, Lanny Davis, thanks a lot.



GIBSON: All right, Heather, Lanny. No connection to Al Qaeda and Usama. Gee. Repeat that often enough.

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