This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 1, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Our top story tonight. Joining us from the White House, presidential spokesman Tony Snow.
All right, John Kerry issued a statement late today. "I sincerely regret my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform. I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended. Clearly the Republican party," --that's you, Tony-- "would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don't want my verbal slip up to be a diversion for the real issues. I will continue to fight for change." Blah, blah, blah, blah.
First of all, the apology, is that good enough?
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, the apology's good enough. And frankly, we're perfectly happy to talk about security policy with Democrats, who like Senator Kerry have decided this year that what they're going to do is load up a bunch of mud balls and throw them at the president, and try to make the president unpopular, rather than ponying up and giving us their own plans for victory in Iraq or in the broader war on terror. So that's the debate we're perfectly happy to have.
On this one, I think you're absolutely right, Bill. It's a lot of it's a self-inflicted wound. You and I and anybody else in public life, we've have all said things we didn't mean to say or didn't sound the way we wanted it to come off. And the natural thing to do is to say, "I'm sorry" to the people you offended. --It took a while, but he did the right thing.
O'REILLY: OK, but this is a big win for the Republicans here, because it just takes a lot of the Iraq stuff off the table for a little while. And I think the GOP's going to run with this. And you guys behind closed doors, you're probably not going to tell me what you're doing, but you're probably going to fashion a lot of your comments to say, see, we told you so. There's John Kerry, standing there, a Democrat, he doesn't like the military, and they're not behind the military, on and on and on. Correct?
SNOW: Well, no. I don't think you play it quite that way. Instead, you play it straight, which is what the president's been doing in a series of speeches.
He's pointed out that every time he's tried to do something in the War on Terror, starting with the Patriot Act that allowed somebody from the CIA to tell the local police chief hey, you know what, there's a terror cell in your neighborhood, that was illegal before, the Democrats said no, we don't like that.
O'REILLY: Oh, I know he's been doing that, Tony.
O'REILLY: But he's also said yesterday in his shirt sleeves that this was a disgrace, what Kerry said, and he should apologize. And he was pretty strong on it.
Now let me ask you this. You're an honest guy. (And Snow is. I've known Snow for a long time. He's honest.) You got to answer this honestly now.
O'REILLY: Do you think Kerry intentionally wanted to besmirch the U.S. military?
SNOW: No, I don't think so. I don't think he said that. He said OK, I'm going to write out a speech here. And I'm going to besmirch the military.
What popped out, popped out. And as you know, Bill, you can't take it back. What you have to do is to acknowledge what you said.
Instead, he made a mistake. He reverted to the form that a lot of people have used this year, which is rather than dealing with the realities of the issue, he decided to point fingers at the president. Didn't much hurt my feelings that he called me a "stuffed suit, White House mouth piece."
O'REILLY: That's outrageous. That's an -- he did? I didn't know that. That is an outrage. Say that again. What did he call you again?
SNOW: "Stuffed suit, White House mouth piece."
O'REILLY: All right. So you don't think he -- you don't think that Kerry did it on purpose? OK.
I had a lot of calls on the radio today that said look, maybe he didn't do it on purpose. But subconsciously, a la Mel Gibson, he's got an anti-military animus. The Vietnam situation, he made some remarks about Iraq behavior, alleged atrocities. And this is the real John Kerry that just came out in a moment when he wasn't paying attention. Do you believe that?
SNOW: Well, I think a lot of people drew that conclusion. Look, I'm not going to try to read his mind. But yes, I mean, people do remember the "winner soldier" stuff in the 1970's. And they remember him going before the Senate and talking about atrocities in Vietnam. And then last winter, he was talking about going after kids and children in Iraq. And that's the kind of stuff that doesn't wear very well with the military.
You know, what fighting men and women need to know is that we're behind them. And we want them to succeed in their mission.
And there has been a mixed message coming out of Washington in this political year. And the one thing they deserve to know is that we're 100 percent behind them. And not simply saying, yes, we're with you, we like you, but that you need to be able to conclude the mission successfully with the support of the American people.
O'REILLY: OK, but if...
SNOW: And that will be a critical issue, Bill.
O'REILLY: It is a critical issue. I asked Letterman and Rosie O'Donnell, and you probably know this, I don't know either of them, if you watch the show, but you heard about it. Both of them, I asked, do you want the USA to win in Iraq? And both would not answer the question.
O'REILLY: And the reason they wouldn't answer the question is because a victory or anything in the next five days before the election that goes well in Iraq helps Republicans. And they don't like Bush. And they don't like Republicans. So they're caught. They're caught. How big a problem is that for the Democrats?
SNOW: Well, I think it's a big problem, because in addition to not having a message, they do appear to have an anger management problem, which is this constant sort of seething about the president.
You know, at a time like this, we really ought to be saying, OK, we got a global enemy that wants to kill us, that understands that the whole world's watching in Iraq. If we leave Iraq before the job's done, they're going to claim victory. And they're going to make life miserable around the world. We don't want that to happen. Let's fall in behind and work with the president to get the job done. And if you got some better ideas, let's hear them. Let's have a plan.
O'REILLY: All right. I might have a better idea I want to tell you about when we take a break. All right?
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