Tony Snow on Kerry's Iraq Flap, Midterms
This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," November 2, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Sen. John Kerry is staying out of sight and off the campaign trail while President Bush stumps away at a feverish pace before you head to the polls on Tuesday. Though many Democrats have spoken out against Kerry's remarks, the head of the party is still standing by him.
Instead of directing his fire at Kerry, DNC Chair Howard Dean is aiming it at President Bush instead. He says, "I think George Bush is the most incompetent president we've had in our lifetime. I think there are a lot of similarities between Nixon and Agnew and Bush and Cheney. They've both been dishonest with the American people."
Let's get reaction now live from the White House. White House press secretary Tony Snow joins me now.
Tony, thanks. Appreciate seeing you and appreciate you coming on. So what do you make of Howard Dean's latest blast?
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, boy, I think I have heard that before. Look, it's interesting, John, because here we are, we are in election season. A big issue by acclimation is the War on Terror and what's going on in Iraq.
Now when it comes to the War on Terror, the president has tried to use common sense measures all along to make us safe here at home and also to fight the enemy abroad. It starts with the Patriot Act, which would allow a CIA officer to at least let a local police chief know that there is a terror cell in his neighborhood.
In the past, that kind of information sharing was impossible. Now it's legal. Or when you come to the Terrorist Surveillance Program, a program designed to listen, to have surveillance, more precisely, on a terrorist in the United States talking to his or her terror master abroad, the president supports. Democrats oppose.
How about a program dealing with military commissions? You take something like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, possibly the mastermind of September 11, get them out of battlefield, get intelligence from him. You stop at least eight terrorist attacks that we have made public. And yet Democrats said nope, we don't like the program of detaining him, questioning him and bringing him to justice.
John Kerry in the last presidential election voted against $86 billion to keep the war going and supplying the troops. You put it all together and you think they are against everything, what are they for? And Howard Dean's answer gave you a perfect insight. The Democrats made a calculated gamble that this is going to be the year of throwing mud at George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, the president is talking about how he is trying to work toward a successful conclusion on the War on Terror, not one where we do all the fighting but where in fact we make the Iraqis capable of defending, governing and sustaining themselves and helping us out in the War on Terror.
And lo and behold, those things are becoming manifest. You have got a five-and-a-half month old government that is assuming more responsibility for security. Their economy is growing, they are reaching out to different factions within the country to try to have reconciliation. This ought to be a chance to celebrate successes, and instead Howard Dean is talking about incompetence.
How about this for incompetence? On September 11, we were in a recession, we took a trillion dollar economic hit. We have since been through wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have had the Enron corporate scandals that cost hundreds of billions, we had the costliest natural disaster in our nation's history.
The president cut taxes, pushed it through in 2002, took effect in 2003. Since then, biggest run-up in wealth in American history, you have 6.6 million new jobs, more people worked, making more money than ever before.
The middle class have pulled us out of all this by working hard and attending to the business of helping the economy. They are seeing it in their paychecks, they are seeing it in their savings accounts and Democrats say, well, we may need to raise taxes.
You put it together. I am telling you, you have got a successful president and you've got one unhappy Howard Dean.
GIBSON: You know how it works around here. I can look down here at the e-mail right now as you are speaking and there is going to be viewers saying to me, the economy is said to be so great, how has it changed my life? Nothing. They are saying Iraq is supposed to be so great, why do I see all bodies in the streets? It has been declared, people sort of accept that it's not going well. Sixty percent of the public believes it's not.
SNOW: Well, let's segregate the two. When it comes to the economy, you start taking a look at consumer confidence numbers. They have been trending pretty heavily up for the last few months. So people do feel it when you ask them if they're doing better off economically.
When it comes to war, look, it is very difficult to sustain a long war in democracy. I mean, our founders talked about this, but the fact is that think about the two competing alternatives here. Everybody in the Middle East is looking at this because they see this as a war of Islamist terror on one side and forces of democracy on other. If we leave without getting the job done, everybody is going to say bin Laden was right, the Americans aren't going to stick out the fight and countries in that region are going to have to make a calculated — they are going to have to make calculations, who do I side with?
They are going to think, well, wait a minute, looks like the bin Laden forces might be the guys to side with. Especially if you end up with a failed state in Iraq where terrorists can have a launching pad, where they have access to the second largest oil supply, oil reserves on the face of the earth. They'll have wealth. They'll have the ability to wage by weapons, they have the ability to collaborate with terrorist states. They'll be able to terrorize the neighborhood and they'll be able to wage economic warfare on us, or even pit us against the Europeans and Asians.
Do you get the picture here? There are huge stake. You have to finish the job. And that's what the president understands.
GIBSON: Tony, John Kerry obviously had his foot in his mouth the last couple of days. Let me show you our little equation we put on the screen.
Do you think it is now in the public's mind that John Kerry equals Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel and all the rest?
SNOW: I don't know. You know, the more interesting thing here is ask yourself what happens if you got Democrats in control of the House or Senate. What are they going to do to make your life better? Do they have a plan for victory in Iraq?
As I've just pointed out, their plan has been to say more negative things about the president than about Usama bin Laden. Not terribly constructive. When it comes to the economy, we haven't had any Democrats say, "I'm going to cut your taxes." We haven't heard that, have we?
So the fact that there are very clear differences in the way the two parties approach this in terms of A, being constructive and dealing with the issues and B, looking constructively toward the future. We are going to talk a lot about the differences in the next few days because I do think voters take these things seriously even if they have reservations about the war in Iraq, they want to win it and only one side is talking about that.
GIBSON: Tony Snow, White House press secretary. Tony, good to see you, thank you very much.
SNOW: Thanks, John.
Content and Programming Copyright 2006 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.