Will Attacking Bush Backfire on the Dems?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 14, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: While questions about his own National Guard service remain unanswered, President Bush addressed the National Guard convention in Las Vegas today.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nineteen individuals have served both in the Guard and as president of the United States, and I'm proud to be one of them.


COLMES: Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee launched a new offensive today targeting the president's service and highlighted by this new video called "Fortunate Son."


AD ANNOUNCER: Just before losing his student deferment, George Bush was accepted in the National Guard.

George Bush leapfrogged a long waiting list, the son of privilege, this fortunate son.

More than 150 young men were waiting to get in the Guard when George Bush was inducted. Their families didn't have any special influence.


COLMES: Will this strategy backfire?

Joining us now is Texas Democratic Congressman Jim Turner and California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter. Good to see you both once again.

Congressman Hunter, let me begin with you.

You know, all this stuff about "Memogate," I think it's important to find out the truth and if CBS retains or loses credibility here.

But doesn't that obfuscate the real issue about what George Bush did or did not do and they're ignoring other memos, some of which were released by a Freedom of Information Act request by The Boston Globe, one showing that he was assigned a responsibility to be with another guard unit in Boston — something he didn't do.

Another, a statement of understanding about how many days he would serve and he did not live up to that commitment.

Isn't that the real issue here that's being obscured by all this "Memogate" stuff?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF.: Actually, I think that Dan Rather has made the memo the issue because that was the centerpiece of this press revelation that he made.

And clearly, the ball is in CBS's corner, in Dan Rather's court. So at this point, they've made that memo the issue. They're going to have to work this thing.

But let's go to the president. He is addressing the National Guard. It's absolutely appropriate, because about 43 percent of the troops who are serving in Iraq today are guardsmen and reservists. So we have an enormous support element now, an enormous participation by the National Guard and the Reserve in the operation not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan.

And I think it's appropriate that the president is inspiring those folks. That he's...

COLMES: No one is questioning that. Congressman...

HUNTER: He's doing the right thing by them in the budget.

COLMES: Nobody is questioning whether he should absolutely as commander-in-chief address the National Guard. I don't think that's the question.

Congressman Turner, there are other documents, as I just mentioned, two in particular that have been released that are at variance with what Bush's spokespeople have said.

That is what the media, I think, should focus on. I think "Memogate" is a smoke screen because it's not addressing the real issue here. Do you concur?

REP. JIM TURNER D-TEXAS: Well, I frankly think that we all understand the history of President Bush's service in the National Guard and we understand that he was in a unit that was a unit that was not likely to go to Vietnam.

We know John Kerry, on the other hand, served honorably and had combat in Vietnam.

I'm not sure the American people are all that interested in all the details of what's in the files and what's in the memo. I think they get the total picture.

And I think the important thing is to get back and start talking about the war that we're in today, not the one that we fought 35 years ago. The truth of the matter is, we're in a terrible mess in Iraq. What we need to hear from the presidential candidates is their vision for getting us to a position where we can see stability there.

The problem I think we face today is that, if we keep going down the road that we're going, we're going to repeat the mistakes of 35 years ago. And that's what we have to worry most about.

COLMES: Congressman Hunter, one of the things we're not talking about, issues like Colin Powell speaking yesterday to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee saying when he made the case to the United Nations last year much of what he said was wrong.

He later found out that the intelligence was wrong; nobody vetted it. Nobody told him before the speech. He gave wrong information, by his own admission, that then led us to go to war.

That's a significant development that I think should be focused upon that I don't think helps the president's case for war in Iraq.

HUNTER: Let me tell you what John Kerry should focus on and all members of Congress.

I had three briefings in which I brought in the agencies CIA, DIA and invited every single member of Congress to come in before those votes in which we voted to take military force in Iraq.

And I let every member of Congress come in and ask all the questions they wanted to, straight from the CIA, straight from the DIA.

And the idea that Congress is going to shrug this off and say, "We somehow relied on the president informing us," is just not accurate.

Every member of Congress has got the right to bring people in from the intelligence community and ask them all the questions they want to and make an informed vote.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Congressman Turner, welcome to the program. Thank you for being with us.

TURNER: Thank you.

HANNITY: Same to you, Congressman Hunter. Good to see you both.

Did the president and vice president — now, they've both gone on the record repeatedly, saying that John Kerry served honorably. The president even went as far as to say he was more courageous than he was.

And the president and the vice president both repeatedly said all these 527 ads should stop. By the way I disagree with them about that. But they both have said that.

HUNTER: I do, too.

HANNITY: So, you agree with that.

Did they do the right thing by saying that about John Kerry? Mr. Turner, that's for you. Did the president do the right thing by showing leadership in defending John Kerry's honor?

TURNER: Well, I think he told the truth. I mean, the truth of the matter is John Kerry did serve with honor in Vietnam.

HANNITY: All right. Here's my question. We got that. That's on the record.

But here Terry McAuliffe accuses the president of being AWOL without any evidence, proof or substantiation. Here we have Tom Harkin on John Kerry's behalf calling the president a liar.

Here we have John Kerry repeatedly saying that the president can't even prove that he showed up for duty in the National Guard. And now we've got the DNC trashing the president's National Guard record, relying in the ad on a lot of this evidence that is now in question from CBS.

Why can't you and John Kerry have the decency and honor that the president and vice president has had and say that the president's service was honorable? Why don't you lead the way tonight and show John Kerry how to do it?

TURNER: I don't think John Kerry has ever said that service in the National Guard isn't honorable. I think the...

HANNITY: But he questioned — wait a minute — he questioned the president's service and he won't say what the president said about him, that he served honorably. Why don't you say that the president served honorably?

TURNER: I think that the president was honorably discharged. I think the questions about his service in the guard are questions that have been around for at least four years now.

HANNITY: Do you doubt he served honorably?

TURNER: I don't know all of the details of his service. The truth of the matter is, he was honorably discharged. He's repeated that several times.

The questions about his service, whether he showed up when he should have in Alabama, all of those questions have been around a long time.

HANNITY: If that's the case...

TURNER: And I go back to what I said earlier. What we need today is to go back and start talking about the real issues of this campaign.

HANNITY: You say that — you take your shot. What you're doing here...

TURNER: ... to talk about what we can do about Iraq.

HANNITY: Congressman, not here.

TURNER: Those are the issues of import...

HANNITY: What you're doing here...

TURNER: ... not all these things from 35 years ago.

HANNITY: ... is you're doing a hit-and-run. You say Kerry is honorable, the president's not honorable. But we've got to move.

TURNER: I didn't say the president was not honorable. I did not say that.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. What you ought to do here, because I can bring up questions.

John Kerry admitted he committed atrocities in Vietnam. John Kerry admitted he burned down villages in Vietnam. Is that honorable in your view?

TURNER: I think again you're trying to go back and go through a very difficult period of our history. You're going back when we all know we fought a war where many things happened that we're not very proud of.

The truth of the matter is everybody that served in that conflict served with honor, but there were mistakes made. We know that, and we know ultimately that we lost that war.

Now the truth of the matter is, what we ought to be focusing in on, is about Iraq.

HANNITY: But you take a cheap shot at the president and you give Kerry a pass.

TURNER: So we don't repeat those mistakes again and we don't make the mistakes of Vietnam again in Iraq.

COLMES: Congressman Turner, Congressman Hunter, we thank you both very much for being with us.

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