Election Atmosphere Nastier Than Ever?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 27, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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PRESIDENT BUSH: Senator Kerry this week seemed shocked to learn that Iraq was a dangerous place, full of dangerous weapons. That's why we're there. Iraq was a dangerous place run by dangerous tyrant who had a lot of weapons.



JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What we're seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility. Just as they've done every step of the way in our involvement in Iraq.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: John Kerry (search) says President Bush ignored warnings about missing explosives in Iraq. The President says Kerry's jumping to conclusions. Getting ugly.

Let's kick around that and other campaign issues with former Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini (search), a Democrat, and former Tennessee Senator Bill Brock (search). He also chaired the Republican National Committee (search).

And just moments ago, during the break, I listened in as the two old friends were saying this is the meanest campaign they have ever seen.

Mr. Brock, what'd you mean by that when you told your friend that?

BILL BROCK (R), FORMER TENNESSEE SENATOR: I can't stand it. I'm so sick to death of the bitterness, the meanness. The last several years, it's not just the election, John. The Congress has been throwing bricks across the aisle at each other without speaking to each other for the last several years.

You cannot govern like that. After this election, I told some friends the winner may demand a recount, if he looks at what's going on. Otherwise, we have to sit down and reason together. There are problems that need to be solved and honorable people can solve them, but they can't do it by shouting at each other and that's what this campaign's up to.

GIBSON: Senator, is the explanation for this — I think we've all noticed it — if you look at the back and forth just today, the President's been called brain dead, incompetent, and Kerry: out to lunch. Is it because there's so much at stake that this is really important?

BROCK: I think the country's a lot less divided than the politicians are. But I do think that John Kerry is sounding a bit desperate with this latest charge. It's really irresponsible to say that the President ignored the site of this last find.

We have found over 400,000 tons of ammunitions. There are less than 400 tons Kerry is talking about. And it looks like "The New York Times" was playing the show for him by saying that they were there and not admitting that they apparently were gone before our troops even got there.

So, I'm a little perturbed at the politics of that fact.

GIBSON: Senator, what do you make of it? I guess there is an issue there: was the stuff secured or not? But nonetheless, it's been really mean rhetoric.

DENNIS DECONCINI (D), FORMER ARIZONA SENATOR: It has been mean and I agree with my friend Bill Brock. I've never seen it like this. But we got to face the reality today.

I think actually unbeknownst to us and unintended the McCain-Feingold Election Reform changed a lot of things and permitted these so-called 527, quote, "independent," which I don't believe they are on either side, to do the worst attacks on people's integrity. And their family and everything else that I've never seen before.

And I think that has set a very bad tone. As far as these weapons are concerned, to me it's one more pebble, or one more stone, on the problem that we face and the problem that President Bush won't face, and that is some severe mistakes were made.

It's too late now for him to be a Tony Blair and tell the public and the Parliament, as Tony Blair did, that, "Yes, we had misinformation. We made mistakes and we might have done something else."

GIBSON: I love those phones. Senator, I'll let you grab that.

Mr. Brock, while he's taking care of that wind chime ring...

DECONCINI: I apologize.

GIBSON: That's quite all right.

I got to make sure mine is off in a second.

DECONCINI: I thought I had it off, John.

GIBSON: Nonetheless, Mr. Brock, everything seems to be coming down to Iraq, the war on terror and terrorism. As much as both candidates would like to get away from it and talk about the economy and talk about health care, and you see they try — today Kerry tried. Nonetheless, the attacks back and forth are all about the exact same thing.

BROCK: Well, they are. And you said earlier, is the tenor there because the stakes were so high? Yes, the stakes are high. Our families are at risk. The American people have been attacked on site on the 48 for the first time in our history. And all of us are worried about our grandchildren.

I saw these two little, beautiful girls when I was driving here this afternoon. Twins, just like my granddaughters. And I said, "Lord, protect us. Because we cannot bow down to these people."

And I guess that's why I feel so strongly about the President. Because I do think he's been consistent and strong in his pursuit of the terrorists wherever they are. And I think that's why the American people are taking this election so very seriously.

GIBSON: Senator, I'll give you the last word, but you only got a couple of seconds.

DECONCINI: OK, John. I'll be real quick.

You raised before earlier about what is John Kerry going to do that Bush didn't do on the international leaders. Well, what he's going to do is he's going to do what the first George Bush did. I was there and, Brock, I believe, was chairman of the Republican Party.

The first Bush got on Air Force One, flew to Moscow, talked to Brezhnev, flew to France, talked to Mitterrand; sent his Secretary of State, got Syria to send 20,000 troops. We flew the 20,000 troops to Egypt and never were deployed. That's what this President hasn't done: he hasn't extended himself to bring a coalition. And John Kerry will do it.

Whether it'll work, I don't know. But this President Bush hasn't done it.

GIBSON: Former Arizona Senator, Dennis DeConcini and former Tennessee Senator, Bill Brock. Thanks to both of you guys. Appreciate it.

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