This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," November 14, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: In Monday's "Political Smackdown," the White House returns fire over the fight of pre-war intelligence. The president is on his way to the Far East, but in less than an hour from now he'll make a refueling stop in Alaska where he's scheduled to talk to U.S. troops and will likely blast charges that he misled Americans in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Joining me now is Sen. John Thune. The South Dakota Republican is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. So Senator, we've been hearing, "Bush lied, Bush lied, Bush lied." What is the case that he didn't?

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: That's absolutely false, John. You heard John McCain say yesterday that these allegations that are being made by the Democrats are a lie.

I think the problem we've got here is that Democrats are trying to make politics the bottom line in this critical War on Terror. That sends exactly the wrong message to the troops, it sends exactly the wrong message to the Iraqi people and it sends exactly the wrong message to the terrorists.

Everybody had the same intelligence. Members of Congress had it, 80 Democrats in the House concluded that based on the intelligence, going into Iraq was the right thing to do. A majority of Democrats in the Senate, our allies, the United Nations, the Clinton administration, the Bush administration [all had the same intelligence].

Everybody was operating off the same playbook. So now to come out and say this just smacks of crass politics, and it's unfortunate because it sends the wrong message to the people that we ought to be supporting right now.

GIBSON: Sen. Thune, is it working? I mean, is this why Bush has lost 20 points of support since the days of the war?

THUNE: I think that the president is doing the right thing, John. He has to come back on the offensive because what he's been doing is taking punches. And if you don't answer some of these charges, people begin to believe that they're true.

And what they're doing is, they're trying to attack his character, they're trying to attack his integrity, and they're using these false claims and false statements to do it. And it is absolutely nothing more, nothing less than politics.

And that's why the president, in as much as he doesn't want to get into a political fight, I think has to step forward and make the argument for why what we did was the right thing to do, and why the intelligence that we all had access to back at the time we made that decision was, frankly, just that. It was intelligence that we all had and it was a decision that we all made.

GIBSON: Senator, the president had the same information, and what we're hearing from people like John Edwards on Monday, Sen. Edwards saying, "I was wrong in supporting the war. But the president was more wrong. He had better access to information than I did," Sen. Edwards saying. And therefore, "he is more responsible for this error than the rest of us who simply went along with his position."

THUNE: Look, that's not true, John. You go back to the Clinton administration, they had access to the same intelligence and since 1998 the policy toward Iraq has been regime change.

You had senators, United States senators, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, Democrats, John Kerry, John Edwards, all coming to the same conclusion. This is simply politics and I think we've got to get past it.

Because like I said before, it sends the wrong message to our troops. It sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people who have been liberated. And it sends the wrong message to the terrorists. We've got to fight back.

GIBSON: Sen. John Thune, Republican from South Dakota. Senator, thanks very much.

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