Dem’s Criticisms Call for Scrutiny

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, September, 10 2003 that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The nine Democratic candidates put on a feisty debate last night, but are they hurting their own campaigns by spending so much time criticizing President Bush?


REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not run around trying to be the world's bully, and I would not act like a gang leader like George Bush did, saying, "Let's get it on."

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT, D-MO., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a saying these days, like father, like son, four years and he's done. We're going to get rid of George Bush.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM, D-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president knew or should have known that there was no relationship between 9/11, there was no relationship between Usama been forgotten and Saddam Hussein.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, this no child left behind. This president is leaving millions of kids behind every single day.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we can open firehouses in Baghdad, we can keep them open of the United States of America.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're all Democrats. We need to beat George Bush so we can have peace in the Middle East.


HANNITY: Joining us now from Washington, former Oklahoma congressman, our good friend J.C. Watts. Another good friend, former Arizona Senator Dennis Deconcini.

Senator Deconcini, on top of being called a gang leader, he was also called multiple times a miserable failure. It was stated that he intentionally lied to the American people last night.

You're a pretty thoughtful Democrat. Do you find yourself cringing at these vicious personal attacks that took place last night?

DENNIS DECONCINI, FORMER ARIZONA SENATOR: Well, Sean, no, no worse than I did when the Republicans went after Bill Clinton in the manner that they did.

HANNITY: Is there any presidential candidate that attacked him that you could name? I understand conservative pundits did and congressmen did.

DECONCINI: Oh, no, no, no.

HANNITY: But I can't think of a presidential candidate that used this kind of language in the past.

DECONCINI: Sure they did.


DECONCINI: They called them everything they could think of.


DECONCINI: Well, you know...

HANNITY: George Bush didn't.

DECONCINI: His opponent the last time. Bob Dole did, and you know...

HANNITY: What did he say?

DECONCINI: ... that's part of the game.

Well, I don't have it in front of me. But you can look it up better than I can. The point here is...

HANNITY: A gang leader.

DECONCINI: The point here is, hear me out. I'll be short because I know the congressman has something he wants to add here.

But the point is this is the political high season. And that's what you have to do in order to get…look what John McCain did to George Bush during the campaign. And now have you the Democrats trying to eke out a position...

HANNITY: You're comfortable with it, then?

DECONCINI: ... that will be favorable to the Democratic constituency so they can get the nomination.

HANNITY: All right, you're comfortable with it. I found this level of discourse, for a presidential candidate. Look, I admit pundits go over the line sometimes and hosts, perhaps, occasionally.

DECONCINI: Well, never you. Never you, Sean.

HANNITY: J.C., I don't think they have what it takes to win. They were not very impressive last night. I don't think the strategy…if they can't convince the American people, you know second anniversary of 9/11. If they can't convince the American people they're tough on terrorism issues, security issues, I don't think they deserve to be president.

J.C. WATTS, FORMER OKLAHOMA CONGRESSMAN: Sean, I would hate to have to run a campaign that, you know, if I was running against Senator Deconcini, I'd hate to have to rough a campaign where I had to tear him down to make myself look good.

You have Republicans, Democrats…I remember Bob Dole in 1996 when he ran for president against President Clinton. I don't think you could find that he used the type of language that we heard last night or that we heard in these...

HANNITY: He certainly wasn't called a gang leader.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: J.C., let me show you what...

WATTS: But, Alan, let me finish.

You know, I'd hate to be involved in a campaign where I was praying every day that the economy wouldn't continue to energize, that I was praying every day that we didn't have any success over in Iraq. And that just seems to me...

COLMES: Congressman, nobody wants lack of success in Iraq. That's a cheap shot at the Democratic Party. We don't want to fail there. We don't want to fail there.

WATTS: It seems that that is the mood of most of the Democrat candidates, and that's unfortunate.

DECONCINI: Come on. Come on, congressman, please. Congressman, you know that isn't true. You know those Democrats in the House and most of the ones in the Senate voted for the president.

What they're criticizing now is the fact that he didn't have good intelligence. Maybe it wasn't his fault, but he was the number one guy. No. 2, he had no plan for after the war. And that part of it is failure.

And I'm a Democrat that came out that said, yes, George Bush is absolutely right to go take out Saddam Hussein. But he's absolutely wrong here and deserves the criticism, and if he'd humble himself as he tried to do the other night, I must say, and say, "Look, this is a serious thing. It's going to cost a lot of money, a lot more than we thought. It's dangerous. We've got to sacrifice." That's the first time I'd heard any of that.

COLMES: It is legitimate…Let me just get a question in there, Congressman. If I can ask you a question.

Isn't it legitimate to go after the president on policy and say the policy has failed, to say that he has not properly planned? Even Paul Wolfowitz acknowledged they didn't plan well for phase four, the phase we're in now.

They're own…Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has said they didn't plan well for this, called it a miserable failure, a Republican. So only when Democrats do it, is it wrong? When they make that kind of...

WATTS: You're highlighting phase four. What about phase one through three?

You know, you can't say that because we hadn't found Usama bin Laden or because Saddam Hussein hadn't been found, that there hasn't been success over in Iraq.

I think most Americans believe that we've had tremendous success in Iraq. We've had tremendous success against the terrorists. Can't you…Why aren't you guys willing to admit that?

You don't want to be caught saying that this president was successful in tearing down the al Qaeda network. He's gotten…He has those guys on the run. He was successful in defeating the wicked, evil regime of Saddam Hussein. We've had tremendous success there.

HANNITY: Hang on, congressman.

WATTS: Otherwise, I think it would be disingenuous.

DECONCINI: You know... I have to agree. There have been successes.


DECONCINI: But there's also been failures.

HANNITY: But there's mostly been successes. And I haven't heard a Democrat say a nice thing.

DECONCINI: Well, I'm not sure I'd say that. I'd be glad to balance them on a scale.

COLMES: Senator Deconcini, when Bill Clinton waged war in Bosnia, Tom DeLay took to the floor of the House and he said for us to call this a victory and to commend the president of the United States as commander in chief showing great leadership is a farce, he said.

Senator Richard Lugar said this is President Clinton's war; when he falls flat on his face, that's his problem.

That doesn't even begin to compare to the rhetoric that I've heard Democrats use about President Bush.

DECONCINI: Well, you know, Alan, I agree with you. I don't think any of that is well served and a problem.

But the real issue here is that I don't know why the Republicans are so upset that Democrats who supported the president going out, going to war against many of their constituents but then object and criticize him for a failure.

I just came back from Europe for a month on vacation and business there, and I didn't go to countries that were against us in the war. I went to countries that were with us. And the press and the intellectual and government leaders, they don't know where the American leadership is. What happened? Why all the arrogance? Why can't we have a little humility and a little leadership?

COLMES: Congressman, let me tell you something that George W. Bush said during one of the presidential debates on February 15 of the year 2000. I'll put it up.

He said, "Well, morally, any of us at this table can perform better than William Jefferson Clinton. Any of us will bring honor to the office."

WATTS: That's true.

COLMES: If that's not a personal attack on the morality of the then president by the now current president, using the same tactics you're accusing Democrats of using, I don't know what is. I mean, you can dish it out but you can't seem to be able to take it.

WATTS: Well, you know, Alan, I'll tell you what. I think people around the world, they do have respect for us again. They are proud of the fact that we are standing up to the bullies around the world.

COLMES: That's not what I said.

WATTS: And…Well, I do believe that President Clinton continued to kick that can down the road and never would deal with it, and I think George Bush is dealing with it. And I think it makes many people sick that this guy is having the success that he's had over in Iraq, over in Afghanistan.

WATTS: So it's unfortunate, again, that anybody…Alan, it doesn't make it right if Republicans or Democrats to do it. But I think it is a sad commentary on the political process when we see the Democrats candidates having to tear down President Bush...

COLMES: Just like they did to Clinton.

WATTS: ... to try to make themselves look good. That's what they're doing.

HANNITY: Let me go to Senator Deconcini.

Senator, let me respectfully disagree with you. This idea that George Bush questioned or mentioned he'd bring honor and integrity back to the Oval Office is a far cry from he's a gang leader; he intentionally lied to the American people. He's a miserable failure. These are all the comments we heard last night.

I just want to say one thing here. This president has not done…when you listen to these nine candidates, in the minds of these guys, you're trying to be reasonable here. He's done nothing right. They have criticized everything that he has done. They couldn't even say a good word after Uday and Qusay were killed. They blamed him for landing on an aircraft carrier.

They've never given him credit for one little aspect of this, because if they did...their criticism would be more open to it if it wasn't a partisan...

DECONCINI: Sean, that's not accurate. You look at the members that are running.


DECONCINI: How many of them are running...


DECONCINI: Gephardt, Lieberman, Graham, Kerry, all voted to support George Bush during the war in Iraq.

HANNITY: No, no, no. No, no.

DECONCINI: Yes, they did. They voted for it.

HANNITY: Kerry voted to threaten the use of force. Just ask him.

DECONCINI: No, no. The point is, there was no question about what that vote was, no matter how you want to explain it.

HANNITY: Tell that to him.

DECONCINI: That vote authorized it. It passed overwhelmingly through Democratic support.

Now, after the war was successful, and I agree with the congressman, there is success there. I give the president credit for those successes.

HANNITY: You do; they don't.

DECONCINI: But that's a fact, we have real problems.

HANNITY: You'd be a better candidate. I'll vote for you over them.

DECONCINI: We've got real problems in Iraq that this president has not addressed.

HANNITY: You know something? I am going to concur with you.

DECONCINI: And it doesn't help to have Secretary Rumsfeld go over there and bolster about how strong and courageous we are. You need a little humility and diplomacy.

HANNITY: Hang on a second. Hang on a second. I'm going to concede a point with you, Senator.

Here's my point. I will concede that we probably didn't think about stage four as much as we should. But you know what...

DECONCINI: Well, thank you for conceding that.

HANNITY: ... they were thinking about? They were thinking about and orchestrating one of the greatest military victories in the history of this country and for that they get no credit from those guys.

J.C., you get the final word.

DECONCINI: I give them credit...


DECONCINI: ... and the Congress voted that gave them credit and voted for the money for that.

WATTS: Sean, thank you. I was starting to think...Right. But the fact is you had some members, some Democratic candidates that voted for…some Democratic candidates running for president that voted for the war.

But now they're getting beat. They're being beaten on; they're getting kicked around. So now they're coming out being against it. So you can't have it both ways to say, when it's time to vote for it, we're for it. But when we're running for president, because we're trying to get the Democratic nomination, we've got to be against it. Again, that's disingenuous to do that.

COLMES: You were for the war. They saw what's happened since the war. That has not gone well.

WATTS: They've seen the political consequences in their party.

COLMES: We've seen the consequences, that's right, in Iraq.

We thank you...

DECONCINI: Alan, you're right. They've seen the consequences and they know big mistakes have been made.

COLMES: Thank you both very much, J.C. and Dennis. Thank you both very much.

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