White House Race Approaches Boiling Point

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", March 22, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: John Kerry is on vacation, but neither campaign is taking a break. The Kerry team unveiled a new TV ad, and Republicans are using some of the senator's own words about funding the Iraq war against him.

Joining us now from Washington, Kerry campaign senior adviser Michael Meehan and Bush campaign press secretary Terry Holt. Good to have you both with us.

Mike, let me begin with you. Please explain to the American people when he said I voted for it, the $87 billion, before I voted against it, so people understand how someone could make a statement like that.

MICHAEL MEEHAN, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Sure. When John Kerry and Joe Biden had an amendment that would say we'd paid for the $87 billion but we wouldn't do with red ink, we wouldn't do it by adding to the record deficit. We'd pay for it as we go and we'd roll back tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 to pay for it.

That didn't prevail and then they went on to vote, and John Kerry said we're not sending a red ink blank check to this president. We're going to change the policy here.

COLMES: Terry Holt, you did something clever by taking it out of context and having him on tape saying, you know, "I voted for it, before I voted against it."

But you know that there are many votes on any given bill and that he wanted an amendment that would delay the tax cut so that we could afford the $87 billion.

Wouldn't that be a fairer, fuller picture of the assessment of what was said here?

TERRY HOLT, PRESS SECRETARY, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, let me explain this to you, Alan. John Kerry said that we should tax the families of the men and women in uniform working in Iraq so that they could pay for the funding the body armor, pay raises and health care. That's fundamentally unfair.

And to mix this up is silly. John Kerry voted no on supporting the troops in Iraq. It's as simple as that.

COLMES: Would you say, Michael Meehan, that it's a fair charge, and he's being tagged with this now, voted against helping the troops? That's what they're going to keep saying about him?

MEEHAN: No. John Kerry fought in a war, and he knows what it's like when you're actually abroad and your country doesn't support what's going on. And he would never do that to the American troops. We were told...

HOLT: He did do that.

MEEHAN: There's plenty of money to fund this war. You guys just run up a mountain of debt to do that. And the truth of the matter is, Terry, the president wouldn't allow health-care for reservists to be included in the $87 billion that passed. So you can't say the health-care part anymore.

HOLT: It was all in the bill. The president's signature is on it, and John Kerry voted against it. I just don't -- I can't see a more clearer example...

MEEHAN: And there's no health care for reservists.

HOLT: I beg your pardon, but, in fact, this president has increased spending for veterans 27 percent since he's been in office.

COLMES: Terry Holt, seven V.A. hospitals. Air Force magazine reports 230,000 veterans have are waiting more than six months to be seen as an initial visit. I could go on and on about the cuts the administration has given to our veterans.

HOLT: In fact, there are no cuts. Twenty-seven percent more money going to veterans today than when this president took office. A faster increase for veterans than ever took place during the Clinton administration.

COLMES: I would challenge that. And some of those are user fees paid by the veterans themselves to use some of these facilities.

HOLT: Very generous drug benefits. More veterans are being served with more funding. I'm sorry.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Terry, let's go to the tape and show this. First of all, let's show this. First of all, this is John Kerry, who has had 400 positions on Iraq, supported the Patriot Act, is against it; supported No Child Behind, now is against it; supported gay marriage, now is against it; supported the death penalty for terrorists, now is against it.

Here's what he said, and it just characterizes what a flip-flopper he is. Watch the initial tape here.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is very important. I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.


HANNITY: This is just so John Kerry. Now, when asked on the CBS show "Face the Nation," he was asked if he would vote against the $87 billion if his amendment to fund it didn't pass? Here's what John Kerry said.


KERRY: I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That's irresponsible.


HANNITY: Terry, according to John Kerry's own words, he abandoned the troops. He recklessly left Iraq by cutting and running and by his own admission, by voting against the money he said he wouldn't vote against, he's irresponsible, right, Terry?

HOLT: Absolutely. You know, John Kerry wants this campaign to act as if the last 19 years of his Senate record didn't exist.

You know, it kind of reminded me today of an old "Seinfeld" episode. You know, I'm John Kerry. I served in Vietnam, yada yada yada, I want to be president. I don't know how we get through the next 229 days without going to the real important issues.

HANNITY: Well, let me go to -- Michael, look, I don't care which way you spin it. He was asked if he would vote for the $87 billion, even if his amendment didn't pass and he said to not support the troops was reckless.


HANNITY: I know you've got some contortion and some spin and some -- those are his words. In his own words, he said it was reckless. And then he voted anyway.

MEEHAN: I love the clip so much -- Sean, I love the clip so much you can play it again. No senator -- no senator would cut and run. No senator would cut and run. It would be reckless to do that. He's not asking the troops to come out. They're over there in Iraq. There is no plan to end it.

HANNITY: No, no. He voted against the funding, Michael. He said if any senator voted against the funding it would be reckless; it would be irresponsible to abandon our troops and that's when he did.

MEEHAN: You just added the word funding to what he said. That's not what he said. He said it would be reckless if a senator cut and run. He didn't say funding.

HANNITY: Asked if he would vote against the $87 billion if the amendment didn't pass, I don't think the United States senators are going the abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq, and that's what he did. He voted against it.

MEEHAN: Yes, he did.

HANNITY: Yes, he did.

MEEHAN: Because it wasn't paid for. What is reckless is the administration running up a mountain of debt, when it could actually make the cuts and pay for it as we go.

HANNITY: Five seconds here. Focus for one -- see if you can focus.

MEEHAN: I'm focused like a laser. Play the question, don't make up the question and put in the answer.

HANNITY: Why did he vote to abandon the troops? Isn't that what it's about?

MEEHAN: He didn't vote to abandon the troops, Sean. That's an outrageous charge on your part.

HANNITY: His words, not mine.

MEEHAN: No, they are not. He did not say he would abandon the troops. He said it would be reckless if you did.

HANNITY: I've got to remember you guys.

Michael, is it true the reports that we're seeing, did John Kerry on the slopes curse out a Secret Service agent? Is that true?

MEEHAN: I don't know. I wasn't there. Were you?

HANNITY: No, I'm asking.

MEEHAN: I don't know.

HANNITY: You haven't heard about it? You haven't read the reports about it?

MEEHAN: I probably read the same reports you did. Did he?

HANNITY: You're his adviser, I'm asking you, and that's why you're here. Would it be wrong...

MEEHAN: I wasn't there.

HANNITY: ... would it be wrong if he did?

MEEHAN: I don't know. It's a hypothetical I'm not interested in.

HANNITY: It's a report. It's not a hypothetical, and it's not just one report. It's multiple reports from multiple, including the Associated Press.

MEEHAN: Go ahead and read it, then. I don't know, Sean, I wasn't there. Were you there?

HANNITY: I'm asking, is it inappropriate for a presidential candidate if he curses at a Secret Service agent. You don't have an answer to that?

MEEHAN: It depend on if someone knocks you down. I don't know the circumstances.

HANNITY: God forbid if you get in the way of the powerful senator from Massachusetts.

I want to ask you about this. Back on May 6, 2001, there was a Fox 25 reporter in Boston, a TV station there, name is Deborah Sherman.

She had a report. They did an undercover investigation at Logan Airport. What they found was stunning. Nine out of 10 tries, and their crew with the FAA, they got knives and other weapons through security checkpoints.

The very next day she fired off a two-page letter to the senator from Massachusetts -- This is before 9/11 -- telling him and highlighting the systematic failures at Logan.

She followed up and hand-delivered a videotape to his office. Eleven weeks later, John Kerry finally responded and said, "Oh, I sent it to the department of transportation." Which her letter said, don't do that. You need to deal with this.

Is John Kerry negligent? Should he have handled that better and is it possible, in light of what happened on 9/11 and her warning, that he missed an opportunity to perhaps secure the airport there?

MEEHAN: So, let me understand this. The United States senator is responsible for the FAA and its security, is that it?


MEEHAN: Well, what John Kerry did do on September 4, 2001.

HANNITY: Go ahead.

MEEHAN: On September 4, 2001, you can check the clips, Sean, because it's reported so it must be true that John Kerry asked for additional security measures to happen at Logan Airport.

I don't know about the circumstances for this television reporter and her tape. But I can tell you that John Kerry as a senator has fought to increase airport security and actually did it just one week before September 11 at Logan Airport.

HANNITY: Terry, do you want to respond?

HOLT: No, I would just say that, you know, there are folks that have always regarded our domestic terrorism threat and the threat out there as a criminal enterprise.

And what we really need to do is think of it as really what it is. A war on terror, 3,000 people were killed on our soil and we need to go on offense.

HANNITY: Isn't the main thing here and I brought this up earlier, John Kerry only in 2003 said leaving Saddam unfettered with nuclear weapons or WMD's is unacceptable.

But then with his flip-flopping positions, Terry, isn't it the case that if he had had his way that, Saddam would still be in power? If he had his way that the world would be in greater danger? Isn't that what this campaign ought to be about?

HOLT: Well, it's tough to say. That's fundamentally what the campaign is about. We need steady leadership in times of change. We need a president who can take the political heat and not change every time the politics goes one way or the other.

Senator Kerry did oppose the war in Kuwait. What's mystifying is, really, is that at first he supported the war in Iraq before he said no to funding the troops on the ground.

COLMES: Michael Meehan, he was very clear under the circumstances, about which he would have a problem if we went to war in Iraq without our allies, without a coalition, without doing it the right way. He said that on the floor of the Senate before he cast his vote.

What I find very troubling, and let me go to Michael Meehan on this. There's really an attempt here, and really the subliminal message there is that John Kerry, you're trying to say, doesn't care about our security, doesn't care about our well being, doesn't care about our troops.

I would like to know why this White House did the cuts they did, reduced -- wanted to reduce imminent danger pay and family separation allowances until Congress stepped in to correct what the Pentagon was going to do.

Michael, it's outrageous to these accusations against John Kerry.

MEEHAN: Well, what I find particularly troubling is even after the Bush administration claims that they've had all of this money for additional flat jackets for reservists we learn today in New Jersey that there are families who have their relatives in Iraq that still need these jackets because it's just not happening in six months later. That's the problem here. There is a lot of talk.

They want to hide from the facts but the fact is our troops don't have the supplies that they need, even after the $87 billion because the real cost of this war is $200 billion more than this administration...

COLMES: Terry, Michigan police officers have donated more than 300 bulletproof vests that passed their, expiration date for troops to use in Iraq because they were complaining that they weren't getting the proper equipment that they needed. Isn't that a shortcoming here, isn't that a problem?

HOLT: Well, I wonder why we would send outdated equipment to our troops in the field. We need to have the very latest technology out there so that they can really, truly protect themselves from these high profile...

COLMES: But they're not getting it. That's the problem. That's why the department in Michigan did it, the police department.

HOLT: Alan, I understand that you're trying to defend your good friend, Michael. He's having a pretty tough interview.

COLMES: No. I'm trying to tell you the truth. That's what I'm doing.

HOLT: We need to have the highest technology available for the troops in the field and not sending them a bunch -- I do appreciate -- Let me say, I do appreciate the patriotism and the thought that goes behind that, because it shows that the American people are behind the troops on the field.

HANNITY: We've got to end it there. Thank you both, Terry, Michael. Appreciate you being on the program.

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