This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", May 3, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) began a $25 million media blitz today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In combat he earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Then he came home determined to end that war.
For more than 30 years, John Kerry has served America. As a tough prosecutor, he fought for victims' rights. In the Senate he was a leader in the fight for health-care for children.
COLMES: Will the ads help Senator Kerry win over undecided voters?
Joining us from Washington is Kerry campaign senior adviser Marla Romash and Bush campaign press secretary Terry Holt.
Good to see you both with us.
TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks, Alan.
COLMES: This is an attempt for John Kerry to define himself. The Republicans, they did a pretty good job trying to define him before he could do it. These are necessary for him to do, aren't they?
HOLT: And eight weeks late. The general election started on the night of March 2, when he wrapped up the nomination.
MARLA ROMASH, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Terry.
HOLT: With the primary. Come on, Marla. Come on. The president called him and congratulated him. And eight weeks later after falling down the ski slope...
COLMES: There you go.
HOLT: And taking a vacation.
ROMASH: Negative Bush advertising isn't going to get your guy anywhere, Terry.
COLMES: Marla, let me ask you a question. Marla, this is Alan.
Did John Kerry make a mistake by going on vacation right after he became the nominee apparent, or should he have come out fighting right then?
ROMASH: Listen, we're at a place right now where George Bush (search) has got more than a few headaches. In the last poll...
COLMES: All right ... My question was -- Please answer my question.
ROMASH: No, not at all.
COLMES: I'm a Kerry supporter, but did he make a mistake going on vacation?
ROMASH: No, no.
COLMES: Why not?
ROMASH: Our campaign is on schedule. First of all, George Bush spent $60 million, and we're still in a dead heat. And in fact, John Kerry is leading in many of the battleground states.
These ads do what we planned all along. They present to the American people a man with a life sometime of service and strength to his nation, who offers this country a totally different direction, who is going to get our economy back on track, create jobs, make health-care...
COLMES: Look, I know the drill. But I am someone who likes John Kerry. I want to see him define himself very clearly to the American people.
Does he have the right message out at this point, Marla, because you know, there has been some consternation and lots of press, people who are both pro and anti-Kerry, saying he hadn't gotten the message out properly yet?
ROMASH: I think he's done a great job. And I think these ads continue that. I love the ads, No. 1. But I think the ads should say what John Kerry's been saying all along which is he offers America a different kind of leadership. He offers America a lifetime of strength and service and a record that really can't be matched.
COLMES: Terry, at least, here's the situation where John Kerry's, for the most part, have talked about John Kerry. George W. Bush's ads have for the most part talked about John Kerry.
ROMASH: That's exactly right.
COLMES: And Terry -- this is for Terry. President Bush has gone negative tried to define Kerry, misrepresented his record and put up a false idea about who John Kerry is out there.
HOLT: Well, it's not a false idea, really. He voted for higher taxes 350 times, he's voted --
COLMES: And voted for lower taxes more than 300 times as well.
HOLT: Come on.
COLMES: Yes, let's be honest.
HOLT: I'll tell you, Alan, there's a fascinating factoid in one of those spots. He takes credit for creating 20 million new jobs in 1990. But he himself wrote a letter to President Clinton, saying that he supported the 1993 tax bill with great ambivalence and then...
ROMASH: We're looking for a guy who has lost more jobs than any president since Hoover. I'm not sure I'd go in that direction.
HOLT: Well, I'm obviously not going to talk during your time, Marla. I try to be polite during the interviews.
But I'll tell you this. That same bill that Kerry voted for also raised taxes on seniors, and also did a lot of other things....
COLMES: And really helped the economy.
HOLT: Balancing the budget helped the economy, Alan.
COLMES: Terry, I keep hearing about Kerry and this has, like, become a mantra from Republicans, raise taxes 350 times. You're including times when he supported an alternate Democratic bill as opposed to the Republican bill that was out there, so it's unfair and it's inaccurate to say he voted to raise taxes 350 times. At least be honest when you represent his record.
HOLT: Well, the record is absolutely clear. And if you'd like to sit down, I'll walk through every single record, every single vote, all 350 of them. I'd love to come up and visit with you.
COLMES: And we'd love to have you. I'd love to do it. It would be a very long lunch, Marla, to go over the bills. Let's be fair here, Marla, and let's talk about...
ROMASH: It would be a short lunch, I think.
COLMES: Let's talk about some of those votes, Marla. We know that John Kerry, there are a number of votes in any one bill. To say you voted more than one way on any bill, you could say that about any senator, any congressman of any party?
ROMASH: That's exactly right. And I think what Terry is doing is what George Bush has done throughout this campaign. George Bush doesn't have anything to offer the American people so what he's doing is going after John Kerry.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Let me -- let me step in here, Marla.
ROMASH: And that's really, truly where George Bush wants to go.
HANNITY: Terry, I actually got a copy of the votes, and I did check the record. And in fact, you are correct. You are accurate. The only issue he has been consistent on throughout his career is to vote to raise taxes and it is accurate. They don't dispute the fact, 350 times he voted to raise them.
Now, I want to ask you a question, Marla. I find this amazing. And maybe you can get indicate me here.
Here's a guy that was Michael Dukakis's lieutenant governor. Here's a guy that's has been in the Senate for 19 years. And how is it after 19 years, what you guys have set out to do here is define him, to tell us who he is. Doesn't his voting record tell us that?
ROMASH: Listen, I think for most Americans, they judge candidates on a number of different things. They want to know who you are. They want to know where you come from.
HANNITY: We don't know who he is after 19 years?
ROMASH: I've got to tell you, for most Americans outside the state of Massachusetts, which John Kerry has represented, they don't know who he is, because most Americans don't pay attention to anybody. They barely know who their own senator is.
HANNITY: Nineteen years is a long time.
Terry, let me go to you, because I find this amazing. And I think Democrats, the Kerry campaign, the New York Times has a headline, "Kerry struggling to find a theme," as they did in this Sunday edition top fold of Sunday's edition.
Well, we know who John Kerry is. When Reagan was winning the Cold War (search) John Kerry wanted a nuclear freeze. When there was a bill to give the death penalty to terrorists who kill Americans, he voted against it. When John Kerry had multiple opportunities to lead on Iraq, he's taken at least nine different positions that I can count of, culminating with "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
ROMASH: Oh, man.
HANNITY: I think we have a pretty good idea who he is. He's a weak on defense, weak on intelligence senator, who now wants to run away from his record.
ROMASH: I've got to get in there.
HANNITY: Marla, that's Terry.
ROMASH: I understand.
HOLT: I just think it's troubling that John Kerry would try to reinvent himself for the presidential election.
HOLT: Why he would be so uncomfortable in his skin, not to run on that record, if that's his philosophy, put it out there. There are people out there that would support his...
Guys, what --
HANNITY: We're not talking about the ads. Here's the point, how is it that this guy, in February of this year, Marla, maybe you can explain this to our audience.
He goes to Detroit. He's looking for votes from the auto industry and he brags about all the SUV's he has, including a Chevy Suburban.
Then on Earth Day (search), when he's asked about the same issue, John Kerry says, no, I don't know those -- let me finish...
ROMASH: If you want to match up environmental records, I'm happy to match up John Kerry's environment record against Bush's.
HANNITY: Marla -- Marla, please listen to the question and then you can answer.
ROMASH: I'm hearing where you're going.
HANNITY: So here's what I'm saying. So then he says to the Earth Day people: "I don't own SUV's. My family owns them."
Well, people take that as a guy that's politically pandering. Why can't he be straight with the American people and say the same thing on any given day?
ROMASH: I'm not going to accept the premise of your question because I think John Kerry is straight with the American people.
HANNITY: Why did he give two different answers, then, on the SUV? He says one thing to Detroit, and he says one thing on Earth Day. Why?
ROMASH: You can take the question whichever you want. I'm going to answer it the way I want. And that's to say that John Kerry has been straight with the American people from the very beginning of this campaign, from the very beginning of an extraordinary career.
HANNITY: Marla -- Marla, wait a minute. Wait a minute.
ROMASH: No, I'm not going to...
HANNITY: Marla -- wait, Marla. Marla, for the benefit of our audience, he said in Detroit, he bragged about the SUV's he owns. On Earth Day he denied owning them and said his family owns them.
Why would he take two different positions like that?
ROMASH: I'm not going to play your game. I'm going to talk -- I'm going to use this opportunity to talk to the people...
HOLT: Running for president is not a game.
ROMASH: ... who are listening to your show about who John Kerry is and what he represents.
HANNITY: It's not game. It's a matter of truth telling and consistency.
ROMASH: No, it's a game. For you guys it's a game and I'm not going to play.
HANNITY: Terry, she doesn't want to play, because there's no answer to it. It's a problem for her.
ROMASH: No, there is, because you guys -- let me talk about a different subject, because something that...
HANNITY: A subject because you don't want to answer a real question.
ROMASH: No. Let me make this point because it's something Republicans ought to be ashamed of.
You guys are questioning John Kerry's record on a range of different places, and it's just -- let's talk about where we want to take the country. Let's talk about where George Bush has taken America, which is...
HANNITY: Terry, let me go to you. The -- I find it amazing. Last couple of polls that have come out show the president up by about five or six after, I would say, five of the toughest weeks of his presidency, without any doubt.
And when you look at the internals of these polls, by an eight-point margin, President Bush is picked over John Kerry as somebody friendly and likable, caring and compassionate. And seven points says "somebody who shares my values and beliefs."
Some of the polls from CBS and elsewhere. Why is John Kerry not that likable, in your view, to, at least, according to those ...
HOLT: I guess I'm more focused on the president's leadership qualities when we're at war. And when there are people in harm's way, that, as you've heard us say before, it's steady leadership. It's a determination that the American people obviously feel about this war on terror and about getting the economy going again.
I think John Kerry is -- is feeling the heat under the spotlight.
HOLT: To change his positions on the various issues. You know, to tell a group of Jewish American that he supported the security fence and a group of Arab Americans that he opposed it.
HANNITY: Hang on a second. Marla, I've got a question for you. Hang on a second. Marla, let me ask you this.
Donna Brazile (search) was quoted in this article in "The New York Times" that Kerry was struggling to find a theme. And she said basically that George Bush had three of the toughest months of his presidency, and you guys are stuck.
We know the "Village Voice" columnist, James Rideway, says prominent Democrats ought to, "Sit down the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike."
There's a feeling among Democrats that I'm talking to, that are becoming more and more vocal. They seem now buyer's remorse over John Kerry.
Hang on a second. What do you say to these Democrats that are critical of John Kerry?
ROMASH: Let me make two points. The first is on the Bush numbers, because I think there was also a Democracy Poll that came out that showed nearly 60 percent of Americans think we're going in the wrong direction.
And listen to my words here. Fifty-three percent want to significantly -- let me finish. Significantly different direction. Another 53 percent of Americans think George Bush is...
HANNITY: Marla, if you don't answer our question when you come on the program, there's no point in having you.
ROMASH: You asked me a question about Kerry. I wanted to get good Bush numbers out there. The question about Kerry is that I'm not sure you're talking to the right Democrats.
I know Donna. She's a good friend, I respect her judgment. But I think a lot of Democrats are seeing with these ads and are seeing with our campaign the kind of energy and enthusiasm that we haven't seen in a really long time. This is a campaign that's going to win, and they know it.
COLMES: Other than James Ridgeway, I haven't heard any other Democrats say we should dump Kerry. I'm actually going to talk with James on the radio about it tomorrow.
I haven't heard anybody else say that. I don't know if you feel this is a movement or not. No Democrat I have talked to besides Ridgeway feels that way.
ROMASH: That's right.
COLMES: Let me ask you about this. Some of the ads that are coming out there, we started talking about ads in the last segment, Terry.
And you know, you've gone after Kerry on his record on intelligence when he's voted to increase intelligence since 1998 by half.
You've gone after him on defense. He's been called weak on defense. When he voted against the same systems that Dick Cheney, when he was defense secretary, said we should eliminate or reduce.
Isn't it a little hypocritical to blame him for reducing some of the same systems Dick Cheney favored reducing when he was defense secretary?
HOLT: It's all about timing, Alan.
COLMES: It was the same time.
HOLT: Well, just let me lay that out. In 1984, John Kerry ran for the United States Senate on a nuclear freeze platform to gut the entire...
COLMES: And we had SALT II by Reagan, which was the same thing.
HOLT: And -- But the whole idea that in the Cold War, we would dismantle our national security structure is ridiculous.
COLMES: Marla, that's not what he was talking about. He wasn't talking about dismantling our national security structure. We had Ronald Reagan. We had SALT II.
Let me just get Marla a chance to respond. Some of the same systems, the Apache, the B-1, the B-2, that I hear night after night Kerry was against, Republicans, including Cheney were against at the time?
ROMASH: I don't think there is an issue here. I think the Republicans are trying to raise a bunch of red flags about a whole range of issues. They're trying to make people believe John Kerry is who they want him to be and not who he really is.
People -- Senator John McCain came out and said that Senator Kerry's record on defense is beyond reproach. So there's not an issue. If somebody like John McCain can stand up for John Kerry, that's good enough for me.
HANNITY: All right. Thank you, guys. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate your time.
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