This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", March 12, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Oliver North sitting in for Sean tonight. Ollie, good to see you. Welcome.
OLIVER NORTH, GUEST CO-HOST: Thanks, Alan.
COLMES: The Bush campaign already unveiled their ads attacking Senator John Kerry, and now the Kerry campaign is fighting back with their own ad of accusing George Bush of misleading America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush is misleading America.
John Kerry has never called for a $900 billion increase. He wants to cut taxes for the middle class.
Doesn't America deserve more from its president than misleading negative ads?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: Can we expect a lot more attack ads before November?
Joining us from Washington is former California Congressman Jim Rogan and Democratic strategist Bob Beckel.
Bob, who fired the first salvo, in terms of negative ads here in this campaign?
BOB BECKEL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, clearly Bush did and it's unusual. The first time -- this is the earliest a sitting president has ever attacked an opponent. His father waited until June to do it against Clinton in '92, so -- and Clinton waited until July on Bob Dole.
So clearly, Bush did it first because he had to do it because he was slipping in the polls. But I'll tell you, if these guys keep this up for eight months, Sominex sales are going to plummet in America.
COLMES: Jim Rogan, what about that? I mean, this is starting early. It's getting ugly early, and this is just the beginning.
JIM ROGAN, FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think Bob is right, that this is going to put people to sleep if it continues for the eight months.
But the only way Bob can say that Bush is the first one to do this is that he just woke up, because for the last six months John Kerry has been beating the tar out of the president. And finally, the president has responded.
COLMES: He's responding in such a way that -- there's some questions about the things he's saying.
For example, the ad that comes out yesterday, and the question is where does the Bush team come up with accusing Kerry of wanting to raise taxes $900 billion?
And it doesn't tell the whole story, because Kerry was very clear he's going to lower taxes on more Americans, those making under $200,000 a year. That's about, what, 90 percent to 95 percent of Americans. That's ignored by the Bush ad.
So is that -- is the Bush ad being honest?
ROGAN: Alan, you know I love you, but your...
COLMES: I didn't know that. Thanks for telling me.
ROGAN: Your argument isn't with George W. Bush. Your argument is with Howard Dean and John Edwards and it's with a former Clinton adviser, now an Emory Law professor, Emory economist that came up with the $900 billion figure.
COLMES: So you're putting this in the ad, the Bush people are. They better take responsibility for it. Where does -- Where has John Kerry ever said he's raising taxes $900 billion?
ROGAN: John Kerry said that he would raise taxes on the top one percent of America, which turns out to be 75 percent of small business owners. And that's about $230 billion, and the balance has to be made up somewhere.
And as Howard Dean and John Edwards both said, that's going to come from tax increases. It's going to leave big deficits, and you're not going to be able to close that without a tax increase.
COLMES: Bob Beckel, rolling back to the Clinton years, and now it's $300-some-odd billion. That's a third of the $900 billion they're putting in the ad. So Bob, I don't know where the rest of the money they're accusing Kerry of raising taxes is coming from.
BECKEL: You know, George Bush has never really had a problem with using numbers the wrong way.
I mean, this is the same guy -- let's remember now. He campaigned on, let me see, no nation building. That was, by my count, three nations ago.
He was going to be sure we had a balanced budget, no deficit spending. Clinton gave him $10 trillion to do that with. We're in the highest deficits ever.
He says he's going to have a strong environmental program, and look what happens. He's giving up federal lands for his boys in the oil industry to drill.
Look, George Bush has never played straight with numbers. And Karl Rove doesn't know numbers. Anything that works for these guys works.
And what I said before, Jim, was this is the first time a sitting president has attacked his opponent. And these guys raised issues about Bush. Bush -- as if he's the imperial knight. You can't say anything against the guy? The guy's a lousy president. So you say it.
COLMES: Jim, look, I mean, I keep hearing the phrase "Bush bashing." It's fair to lay out Bush's record, just like it's fair to lay out Kerry's record and let those records be laid out next to each other.
And something to say, I don't agree with the direction of this company. I don't agree with what the president has done economically. We can look at the lost jobs, is not Bush bashing. It's an honest debate about the direction we feel this country should go in.
ROGAN: Alan, that is an honest debate. And I think that that's fair game. The problem from Senator Kerry isn't that -- the problem with Senator Kerry is that's not the direction his campaign has been going.
He's compared President Bush to Saddam Hussein. He's compared him to Jefferson Davis. You know what he said two days ago. He said all the Republicans are a bunch of liars and crooks.
That goes beyond Bush bashing. That certainly goes beyond fair debate. That is negative campaigning at its worst, and I would like to see that changed. And I think most Americans would, so we can have a debate on the issues.
NORTH: Bob Beckel, let's take on some of those issues. Answer the question, yes or no, if you would, please, Bob. Is John Kerry, if he got elected, going to raise taxes? Yes or no?
BECKEL: You know, Ollie, I've been in this business too long to fall for even you giving me that line.
NORTH: It's a simple yes or no answer.
BECKEL: The answer is yes and no.
NORTH: He's going to raise taxes.
BECKEL: Yes on those over $200,000; no on people making under $200,000. How's that?
NORTH: He's going to raise taxes. Bottom line is, he's going to raise taxes.
BECKEL: No, no.
NORTH: He's not going to take the no new taxes pledge.
BECKEL: ... Ronald Reagan, as you well know.
And John Kerry is not going to raise taxes on people making under $200,000. No. The answer to that, if you wanted, Ollie, because you're a kind of a guy like George Bush, either my way or the highway. No.
NORTH: I think what we ought to have is an honest debate, as Jim Rogan just said. And since Alan wants to talk about records, let's talk about the record.
How did John Kerry vote on the M-1 tank when it first came up as to whether we ought to get it or not?
BECKEL: You know, Ollie, I'm glad you asked that question. The same that then President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney said. They did not want additional M-1's in the '91 appropriations.
In '92, George Bush went before the Congress in the State of the Union and said, "We're going to have a $300 billion cut in the defense budget, and I'm proud of that over the next seven years."
NORTH: Wait, wait, wait. I don't want you to confuse the audience here, Bob. I'm talking about when the M-1 tank was first proposed by the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, the tank that won the Gulf War both times, Bob ... Kerry voted against it, didn't he?
BECKEL: He did not.
NORTH: That's just not true. He voted against it. Did he not also vote against the F-18? Did he also not vote against the Tomahawk? Did he also not vote to modernize America's submarine fleet? He did all those things, didn't he?
BECKEL: Far be it for me --- Me arguing weapons systems with you is like you arguing politics with me. We ought to ...
NORTH: I'm just arguing votes. I'm looking for truthful answers on votes.
BECKEL: The fact of the matter is he has voted consistently for every one of those weapons systems except one time, and classic of the Bush guys who are people who don't tell the truth, they said they took one vote in 1991 where they wanted to add additional F-14's, M-1 tanks. And that, by the way, is gone. I know this stuff.
NORTH: Actually, I'm not sure you're not trying to mislead us.
But let's go back to when Jim Rogan was in the Congress of the United States and military pay raises were being voted upon by the House and the Senate.
And in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jim Rogan, could you count on somebody like John Kerry in the Senate to vote for a military pay raise?
ROGAN: I think you just answered my question a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, you couldn't.
And I think it's that that's a real disappointment to veterans, that John Kerry, who's used them as backdrop throughout this campaign, never was there for him on his votes in the Congress for 18 years.
BECKEL: Jim, can I ask you a question? Why is it George Bush's budget is cutting veteran benefits this year? George Bush is cutting veterans' benefits and V.A. hospital money. Why?
NORTH: Let me answer the question for you. Let me answer the question for you, Jim.
In fact, I was at the VFW, which as you well remember back in 1992 endorsed Bill Clinton against this president's dad. And this time, the VFW has looked very carefully.
I was there with Secretary Principi, and they gave him a standing ovation because of the modernization that's going to save money in the Veterans' Administration, which as you know, Bob Beckel, is the second largest administration, the second largest department in our government.
BECKEL: So he's cutting it because it's getting better? OK.
NORTH: As a matter of fact -- as a matter of fact, most veterans will agree with you that under this president, veterans' care has improved dramatically.
BECKEL: You want to bet $100 on that?
NORTH: There are only 235 days left until America decides whether to elect a new commander in chief for four years. We now continue with Bob Beckel and Jim Rogan.
Bob Beckel, just give me a sense for where your friend Kerry comes down on this. If the United States, God forbid, is ever attacked again like we were on 9/11 or as Spain was just yesterday, does John Kerry think we ought to go to the United Nations and ask for permission to defend America?
BECKEL: You know, if the truth be told, first of all, Ollie, I know it's a mistake but it's John Kerry. Bob's not around any more.
But the answer is that if he probably would go to the U.N. And George Bush -- and let me go this far to say.
NORTH: I want to make sure I understand what you just said...
BECKEL: If we had not diverted our attention and our troops into Iraq and you were there, there were no al Qaeda there. The question is would al Qaeda have been in the position to do what they did to Spain if we had put as much resources on them as we were supposed to, instead of going off after phony weapons of mass destruction.
Let's get real here.
NORTH: I want to just make sure I understood exactly what you just said. So you're saying that the next commander in chief ought to, and if it's John Kerry, he will go to the United Nations first before he decides to respond to an attack like 9/11. That's what...
BECKEL: Just like George Bush's father did, just like Ronald Reagan did, just like every other president did. You know, George Bush's problem is it's my way or the highway. And the problem is that his way...
NORTH: Bob Beckel, as a matter of fact, having worked for Ronald Reagan and having been there when George Herbert Walker Bush was vice president of the United States, this nation has never been attacked, even at Pearl Harbor, like we were on 9/11.
And after Pearl Harbor, we didn't go and beg somebody else for permission to defense ourselves. We simply declared war. Just for the record.
BECKEL: That's right.
ROGAN: By the way, I have to take issue with Bob's statement there about phony weapons of mass destruction.
Bill Clinton said that he had weapons of mass destruction. Go over and ask the Iranians. Go over and ask the Kurds whether they think that the weapons that were used against them were phony. The United Nations said that he had weapons of mass destruction.
COLMES: David Kay says he hasn't found them; U.N. report says they haven't been found. There's been no evidence that they were anywhere to be found since 1994, according to a U.N. report that came out last week.
Congressman Rogan, I want to ask you about this issue that I keep hearing and it came up in the last segment, about John Kerry and all the weapons systems he voted against.
In George Herbert Walker Bush's last State of the Union address in 1992, he said they were ceasing production of warheads for sea-based missiles. They were no longer supporting the B-2 bomber, stopping production of the M.X. Peacekeeper. And he went through a whole list of weapons systems the administration was no longer supporting, to save $15 billion as a peace dividend.
The Bushes don't get criticized for that. You go back and you cherry pick votes that he did as a senator when he was consistent with many other Republicans, including then President Bush at the time.
ROGAN: Alan, the reason that the Republicans don't get criticized by the military for some of those cuts is because those were weapons systems that were either obsolete or were being replaced by upgraded weapons system.
The reason John Kerry -- Bob -- John Kerry gets criticized is because he goes beyond that. He then votes to not fund important weapons systems that the military says are key to our defense.
COLMES: You know there are many votes on any system, some of them were part of appropriation bills and they were not specific to those systems.
And here's another issue. He also gets accused of not voting to fund intelligence.
Let me put up on the screen what the "Washington Post" reports today that President Bush appears to be wrong "when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about one percent of the overall intelligence budget for three years -- would have 'gutted' intelligence.
In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year" -- we're talking about '95 when he was accused of this, earlier this week -- " that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting."
So again, why do we hold John Kerry to the same standards as his Republican counterparts?
ROGAN: Because if you look at the record, Alan, what you see is that -- you're just talking about cuts in a vacuum. You have look at the programs that are being cut.
And John Kerry has had a consistent record, actually going back to 1971, of showing hostility to the intelligence community, doing everything he could in 18 years...
COLMES: That's ridiculous.
ROGAN: ... to try to gut the intelligence community, particularly the CIA.
BECKEL: Jim, can I say one thing?
First of all, that very vote, the CIA asked for a satellites they never you'd used. If I'm not mistaken, my friend, you voted to get that money back from the CIA.
NORTH: Bob Beckel...
BECKEL: The CIA has not done a good job. And John Kerry has never, never attacked an intelligence agency beyond the glut and the bloat of the CIA, who blew it on weapons of mass destruction.
NORTH: On that word, we'll give you the last word, Bob Beckel. Jim, thank you very much, both of you.
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