Opportunity's Knocking

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," September 30, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: In our Political Smackdown segment, support for the Iraq war is declining, gas prices are on the rise, House Majority Leader DeLay is indicted — opportunity's knocking for the Democrats. But are they in any shape to take advantage of these Republican losses ahead of 2006 and 2008? Joining us now is former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe. And add to that list, Bill Bennett's troubles for making a remark that I am sure that he regrets. Are you one of those, Terry, that is jumping all over Bill Bennett? There is a long line of Democrats.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, clearly, John, I think it is shameful what he said. The point he was trying to make, I guess, he said, you know, if you were to go out there and kill the black babies, the crime would go down. I mean, it is just outrageous that he would make that statement.

But this comes on top of Tom DeLay (search) being indicted, Bill Frist having a questionable stock sale, the White House head of procurement just being arrested in his home in Virginia, and then the total collapse of the federal government and FEMA (search) to deal with the catastrophe after Katrina.

It does give tremendous opportunity to the Democratic Party. We need to seize this opportunity. We need to lay out our positive agenda, what we do, like move FEMA back to being an independent agency. There are a lot of things that the Democrats are promoting out there, so it does give us tremendous opportunity.

GIBSON: Well, Terry, the Democrats have gotten in trouble before, complaining about what George Bush was doing without making suggestions about what they would do instead. Now, is this another instance where you're just going to point out these Republican missteps or administration missteps or conservative gaps and hope for the best because the other side looks bad?

MCAULIFFE: No. We've got to come out with our positive agenda. We've got to lay that out for the voters.

GIBSON: What is it?

MCAULIFFE: Well, as I say, as it relates to disaster relief, we need to make sure that we're redoing this bankruptcy law, which the Republicans just pushed through, to make sure all these people down in those Gulf States are taken care of. We need to make sure that FEMA is an independent agency because Michael Brown (search) went on television the other day and said that Homeland Security did a brain drain, took their best people, cut their finances.

We can't allow that to happen, we need a Marshall plan for the Gulf Coast. That is what the Democrats are talking about. George Bush has now presided over the greatest debt our nation has ever seen. We have a mess in Iraq.

GIBSON: Whoa, Terry, you are talking about debt. He's talking about spending $200 billion down there in those Gulf states. That sounds like a maxi-Marshall plan. Are you criticizing his plan or praising it?

MCAULIFFE: I would like to see George Bush lay out to the American public why he has built up the debt that he has built up. When he became president, as you know, John, foreigners owned $1 trillion of our debt. Today, it is over $2 trillion, owed by Japan and China and other countries. This is very damaging to the situation of our workforce here in America.

If we're going to do things down in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, how are we going to pay for it? I agree with leader Pelosi and leader Reid, who have said maybe we ought to cut the pork out of this gigantic transportation bill, where we are building bridges to nowhere. Maybe we should eliminate those and let's put the money where the people really need it. But let's make sure we're paying for it and make sure those expenses are done in a manner that is consistent to keep this economy growing.

GIBSON: You'd cut Democrat pork as well?

MCAULIFFE: We'd cut all pork, absolutely.

GIBSON: Terry McAuliffe, former DNC Chair. Terry, thanks very much.

MCAULIFFE: I almost wish I were chairman again, with all these issues.

GIBSON: Well, you could get your chance.

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