Rating the Last Debate

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Oct. 13, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Welcome to a special edition of HANNITY & COLMES. We are live Wednesday night from the site of the presidential debate at Arizona State University in Tempe. I’m Sean Hannity. How are you? You all doing ok? Tonight we are going to be joined by DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, also Commerce Secretary Don Evans and former presidential candidate, Wesley Clark will be here, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and also former Clinton advisor Dick Morris. It’s all coming up tonight. But joining us first is the White House communications director, our good friend Dan Bartlett. Good to see you, Dan.


HANNITY: It is clear the President got stronger and stronger every debate, every minute. This was a home run tonight.

BARTLETT: Very clearly was. President Bush showed that he is a strong finisher in this campaign when it comes to the debate season. We are going to take the momentum from this debate where President Bush clearly talked about with passion and energy about his vision for the next four years, talked about why his policies are helping make America better. And clearly pointing out that Senator Kerry’s record, which is really the only way you could judge him, because what he says can’t be trusted from day to day because it changes, what happens is we saw a clear difference here.  We saw a liberal Massachusetts senator - his record was exposed.

HANNITY: I thought Kerry — the wind was knocked out of him, when he used the line about Kennedy being the conservative senator from Massachusetts. There’s one thing that’s really disturbed a lot of people, as I was coming over here, the fact that for whatever reason John Kerry wanted to attack and bring up Dick Cheney’s daughter, I was stunned that he did that. Were you as surprised as I was?

BARTLETT: Well, Sean, when President Bush, when this issue came to the forefront and it did really when the court started acting the way they did in an activist manner. President Bush said we need to act and have a debate that is civil and is a strong discourse, and which respects people’s rights. I don’t think it was appropriate to bring in the private lives of the person, Vice President Cheney and his daughter into this debate at all. I thought it was inappropriate. And I don’t think people like that type of personal politics being brought into the campaign this late in the game.

HANNITY: One of the things you just mentioned it earlier, I like the fact - and I think if there was anything missing from the first debate it was a missed opportunity.  And that was John Kerry’s weak record on defense, and he has a 20-year record, he had no accomplishments, 300 bills proposed, in spite of what he said, he’s only passed, what, five with his name on it. Is that correct?

BARTLETT: That’s correct and he was absolutely wrong when he claimed he had signed — he slipped into Senate-speak.

HANNITY: That was not true?

BARTLETT: Absolutely not true. The last time Senator Kerry talked about his record is when he went before the Democrat convention, he said, judge me by my record. That is the last time we heard about it.

HANNITY: But that is the weakness of Kerry, he is one of — the number one liberal in the country. He is more liberal than Ted Kennedy (search). If Ted Kennedy were running, I think most Americans would view him out of the mainstream. The President rightly so pointed that out tonight. He has one level of consistency in his life, and that is raising taxes on the American people. The President pointed that out time and again. 109 million Americans - I guess he calls us all rich - got tax relief under George Bush.

BARTLETT: It was one of the clear differences in this debate, where President Bush clearly, not only on taxes, but demonstrated when it comes to healthcare, which is a critical issue facing the American people, Bob Schieffer asked a very basic question. How do you pay for it? And he couldn’t explain it. He couldn’t understand it.

HANNITY: But isn’t that the difference? One of the things that really amazes me. We did see distinctions tonight, and have seen that Kerry sort of mumbled and fumbled through a lot of answers. But every answer dealt with more government. Government for healthcare, government for Social Security (search ). No privatization, no faith in the American people. We must tax them, and when the President started laying out litany of the cost, $5 trillion for health care, $2.3 trillion on other spending. And Kerry never answered. How do you pay for it?

BARTLETT: Well, that has been the Achilles’ heel of this campaign for Senator Kerry all along, he goes on the campaign trail making promises and claiming these things.  As they say down in Texas, actions speak louder than words. The actions demonstrate where he is coming from. His actions in the United States Senate, has been a 20-year record, as the President pointed out, 89 votes against - to raise taxes.

HANNITY: 98 votes.

BARTLETT: 98 votes.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: That is not true. First of all, you know this is unfair, Dan. You know that you can extrapolate — first of all, thank you for doing our show. But look. You can extrapolate anybody’s vote. John Kerry also voted 640 times to lower taxes. There are all kinds of omnibus bills. You know that you can take anybody’s record and you can extrapolate it and look at it in a vacuum.  And totally ignore the other side of things.

BARTLETT: Senator Kerry can rationalize his votes any way he wants. The "National Journal" looked at it. Others have looked at it. You don’t get the liberal ranking, the most liberal member of the United States Senate, without voting the way he did.

COLMES: The "National Journal," by the way, in August came out and said that it is wrong to say John Kerry is the most liberal person in the Senate, that they selectively have gone in and chosen votes selectively to call him that. If you want to quote the "National Journal," they themselves say that is not an accurate representation.

BARTLETT: They are not the only publication. Look, a senator from Massachusetts, the protege, of Michael Dukakis, he was his lieutenant governor. When Ted Kennedy is the conservative senator from Massachusetts which he has a history voting against defense systems we need to protect our country. He has a history of voting or higher taxes.

COLMES: First of all, it’s not true. But Dan, it is the same — you guys know, and by the way calling somebody liberal, liberal, liberal, that went out with Arthur Finklestein and those campaign ads when they kept going "liberal, liberal, liberal." You know? I thought that stuff went out. If all you got is he is that he’s a liberal, first of all you know he voted against some of the same weapons systems that Dick Cheney voted against. And — let let’s be intellectually honest here.

BARTLETT: We can be intellectually honest.  Senator Kerry voted against those weapons systems when we were still fighting the Cold War (search ). What Dick Cheney wanted to do as Secretary of Defense is after we won the Cold War is redesign weapons capabilities.

COLMES: You know what he talked about? He talked about a sleeker military, just like Donald Rumsfeld, he had some ideas Rumsfeld had, a sleeker, more mobile military and on the same page as Rumsfeld about that.

BARTLETT: As the President said last Friday night, "He can run but he can’t hide from his liberal record.

COLMES: Look - also the President said tonight that he never said he was — not worried about bin Laden. He is actually on record on March 13, 2002, at a news conference at the White House, saying, "I’m not that concerned about him." So he literally contradicted himself. He said today something he didn’t - he misrepresented what he said.

BARTLETT: If you read what he says, we are not concerned about him because we have him isolated in a cave somewhere on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

COLMES: But tonight he said "I never was I wasn’t concerned about him." So he contradicted what he said at that news conference.

BARTLETT: Of course he is. Do you think anybody in America will think President Bush is not concerned about Usama bin Laden? It doesn’t pass the credibility test.

COLMES: Why did he say on March 13 ‘02 at a news conference at the White House, he said, "I don’t know where he is, I’m not that concerned about him"? Those were his words.

BARTLETT: Because we have Usama bin Laden isolated in a cave, in northern Pakistan, off of the border of Afghanistan.

COLMES: Tonight he said he never said that, though. Tonight he said he never said it.

BARTLETT: He made it clear that it’s a priority.

HANNITY: Just remember this. If John Kerry were president, Saddam Hussein would still be filling the mass graves.

COLMES: First of all, we don’t know that.

HANNITY: That’s the point. He would still be in Kuwait. We wouldn’t have an intelligence community.

COLMES: Let’s be honest about the fact that those mass graves were 10 years ago, because we left Iraq after we said we would stay and help the Iraqis back in 1991.

HANNITY: We’ve got to break now. Up next, my battle with the chairman of the Democratic Party Terry McAuliffe is coming up straight ahead, and also, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will join us straight ahead.

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