McLaughlin: Maybe Kerry's 'telling the truth'

Ron Brynaert
Published: Monday November 6, 2006

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On this weekend's McLaughlin Report, host John McLaughlin defended Democratic Senator John Kerry by suggesting that he was "telling the truth" on Iraq.

McLaughlin also wondered if it was laughable to think that words could lower the morale of US troops who already "recognize themselves to be in" a quagmire in Iraq.

The former advisor to President Richard Nixon predicted that a "Democratic takeover of next Tuesday's election will be a referendum on George W. Bush and on his handling of the Iraq war." He said that the verdict was clear that it would be "a bust for Bush."

"With hours to go, the electoral ocean is heaving," McLaughlin said. "Tsunami energy is within and restless for release. Its first signals are clear: A political earthquake is on the way, like 1994 and 1938 and 1894."

McLaughlin said that the "House of Representatives will be lost by the Republicans," and that "the Senate could also edge into the Democratic column."

While discussing the Senate race in Pennsylvania, which all five panelists agreed would probably be won by the Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr., Tony Blankley, the conservative editorial page editor for The Washington Times, claimed that Casey's "defending of John Kerry's slander of the American troops" has given Republican Senator Rick Santorum "one last issue to fight with this weekend."

Senator Kerry apologized last week for his "gaffe" during a speech, where he told a joke intended to mock President Bush's intelligence which was interpreted by many Republicans as referring to US troops.

Cornered by McLaughlin, Blankley admitted that there weren't any polls which showed gains by Santorum on this, but that it was a "great issue" since "Pennsylvania is a great military state."

"Well, Tony, hedge your bets on that one," McLaughlin said.

"Santorum is going to suffer a well-deserved humiliating defeat," the Democratic-leaning MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell chimed in.

Later in the show, McLaughlin asked if Kerry's "gaffe" would be "a tactical boon to the GOP in the closing days before next Tuesday's vote."

Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, O'Donnell, Newsweek's liberal-leaning Eleanor Clift and the host didn't believe so, but Blankley said that the decorated Vietnam veteran "has a long history of slandering American troops," and insisted that the "attack" is "going to have a price."

"Do you think what Kerry said had a bad effect on the morale of the troops in Iraq, or do you think that the repeated deployments of those troops and the quagmire that they recognize themselves to be in, that anything that Kerry said is laughable -- that it's laughable for anyone to think that he could lower the morale of those troops?" asked McLaughlin.

Buchanan said he didn't think the troops would elect Kerry president even if the election were held today.

"Come on, now," McLaughlin said. "Do you think they want Bush?"

"Bush in a second," Buchanan said. "Bush in a second."

After Blankley brought up the photograph of US troops in Iraq mocking Kerry's comments, McLaughlin asked him "who do you think pulled that together?" and suggested it was orchestrated by the Bush Administration.

When Blankley said the soldier did it themselves, McLaughlin replied, "Oh, come, come, come. How do you know that? How do you know that?"

Clift said that it was produced by the "same folks that engineered the 'Mission Accomplished' sign."

"We saw the way the White House is able to produce six soldiers sitting in those bleachers," McLaughlin said. "Remember that?"

Near the end of the show, McLaughlin said that while Kerry had a "tough" and "terrible week," it "doesn't mean he's guilty because of this."

"He's apologized," Buchanan noted.

"Maybe he's telling the truth," McLaughlin suggested. "Maybe it's a slip of the tongue."

Excerpts from transcript of this weekend's McLaughlin Report:

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Perfect Storm.

With hours to go, the electoral ocean is heaving. Tsunami energy is within and restless for release. Its first signals are clear: A political earthquake is on the way, like 1994 and 1938 and 1894. The House of Representatives will be lost by the Republicans. The Senate could also edge into the Democratic column.

This Democratic takeover of next Tuesday's election will be a referendum on George W. Bush and on his handling of the Iraq war. The election has been nationalized, and the verdict is clear -- a bust for Bush. The winning coalition put together by Reagan and Gingrich and lasting for a 12-year Republican cycle will be wiped out.

Question: Is that opinion dominantly true or dominantly false?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think that the Republican Party, I believe, is going to lose the House. The question is by how much. I do think nationally, if this were a referendum on the Republican Party and President Bush, he would be a 65-35 race or 60-40. I think it would be a wipeout.

But I'm not sure the Senate is going to be lost to the Republicans. I think a lot of Republicans have built independent constituencies that they can weather this storm. But it's going to be a storm. The question, is it Category 1 or Category 4?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is it going to be a referendum on Bush?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it's going to be a referendum --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dominantly?

MR. BUCHANAN: Dominantly a referendum on Bush and Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The war is the galvanizing, overriding issue. And, yes, the election has been nationalized. But when you do look at the House races, the Republicans, during their period of dominance, have erected some structural barriers that do make it harder for the Democrats to take over than it might have in the past.

But this has the makings of one of those wave elections. They happen about once a decade; happened in' 94; happened in 1980. We're about due for one. And I think the country is basically ready for a primal scream against the party in government. It's about Iraq, but it's about a lot of other things -- incompetence and corruption from top to bottom.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's largely about Iraq, but I think the congressional Republicans also have contributed to whatever is happening by their seeming to be spending too much, for not dealing with the border, other conservative issues, that have made it harder for Republicans to get their voters to the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they haven't dealt with the border.

MR. BLANKLEY: They did at the end, but unfortunately not as completely as a lot of the members would have liked -- a lot of the voters would have liked.

As far as your metaphor of the storm, I would say we're like watching this hurricane form off the Gulf of Mexico, and it's an imperfect eye. And depending on how the winds adjust when it hits land, we'll either have a big storm or a moderate one. And I'm not prepared -- I don't think it's possible to predict whether you've got your perfect storm or not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Senate tsunami.

....

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McLaughlin says Brown. Group votes five to zero, Brown. Ohio goes Democratic.

Okay, Pennsylvania: Republican incumbent Rick Santorum versus Democrat Bob Casey Jr. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Santorum, I think, is a terrific conservative. He's a courageous guy. I like him. But he is still holding in at around 40 percent. An incumbent senator has got to do better than that in the polls, John. It goes Democratic to Casey.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, it goes to Casey, who is a pro-life Democrat and an example of the big-tent Democrats that you see running this time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Casey going to win because it's an anti- Santorum vote?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, there are a lot of problems. Santorum had a problem with his base because he supported Arlen Specter in the primary, a lot of reasons. I've got to say that although, obviously, it's very likely that Santorum is going to lose, Casey's defending of John Kerry's slander of the American troops has given Santorum one last issue to fight with this weekend.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it showing that way?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, there's no polls on that yet. But it's a great issue. Pennsylvania is a great military state. Their National Guards go back to before the republic. There are a lot of military families. But I have to think that he won't make it all the way and that Santorum loses.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Tony, hedge your bets on that one.

Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Santorum is going to suffer a well-deserved humiliating defeat. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McLaughlin says Casey. Group votes five to zero, Casey. But we're not quite sure of Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, I'm not predicting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Pennsylvania goes Democratic.

....

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: "My Bad."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "My poorly stated joke at a rally was not about and never intended to refer to any troops. I personally apologize to any service member, family member or American who was offended."

Senator Kerry's offending words were intended to ridicule President Bush's lack of planning and research on the Middle East that has led to the U.S. troops being, quote-unquote, "stuck" in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) Yesterday I was in the state of Texas. As you all know, President Bush used to live there. Now he lives in a state of denial, a state of deception. I'm glad to be here with you. I really am. Thank you for the privilege of coming here.

We're here to talk about education, but I want to say something before -- you know, education, if you make the most of it and you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush immediately seized on the Kerry statement.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful. The members of the United States military are plenty smart and they are plenty brave. And the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Kerry returned Bush's fire.

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.) If anyone owes our troops in the field an apology, it is the president and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp, rubber stamp, policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Kerry's gaffe a tactical boon to the GOP in the closing days before next Tuesday's vote? I ask you, Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: It hasn't turned out to be, because it's been overtaken by other things, including the New York Times revelation that the Republican Congress insisted on putting out on the Web information taken out of Iraq on how to build, oh, a nuclear bomb, which they then immediately had to take down.

So this party that's been running on national security and homeland security, it turns out, has been distributing how to make a nuclear bomb on the Web for many, many months. And so that's overtaken this Kerry stuff, which has disappeared.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, broken policy.

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.) This policy is broken. And this president and his administration didn't do their homework. They didn't study what would happen in Iraq. They didn't study and listen to the people who were the experts and who would have told them. And they know that's what I was talking about yesterday.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The latest New York Times/CBS survey -- 29 percent have confidence in Bush's management; 70 percent think he has no plan to end it; 80 percent think his shift in rhetoric is a language game.

So when Kerry calls the policy broken, is he echoing the views of the American voter? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he can't get off the hook by attacking Bush on Iraq. Everybody knows the position on Iraq. In fact, he has a long history of slandering American troops. He did it in '71 when he came back. He did it a couple of years when he called them terrorists. And, in fact, he should know better. And he's the dumb guy, because studies done show the average soldier has a higher educational level and a higher socioeconomic level than their compatriots who are not soldiers.

MS. CLIFT: This was --

MR. BLANKLEY: And it is outrageous and it is going to have a price.

MS. CLIFT: This was not a slip of the tongue that revealed some inner disdain for the troops. I mean, this is, after all, somebody who served, unlike everybody who's criticizing him who did not serve. It cost the Democrats a couple of news cycles, but it does not change the underlying disgust and dissatisfaction with the war and with this president.

MR. BUCHANAN: It may be a lack of confidence in Bush, but I'll tell you, there is zero confidence in John Kerry right now. He was not only attacked by the president and everybody else; he was repudiated and attacked by Hillary Rodham Clinton, by all these Democrats, saying, "Get out of my district; don't show up here."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are you --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's a goner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you exhibiting Hillary as witness A in favor of the war?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, John McCain, his friend, put a knife right in his back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Kerry on the offensive.

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.

) I'm not going to be lectured by a White House or by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who's taking a day off from mimicking and attacking Michael J. Fox, who's now going to try to attack me and lie about me and distort me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Kerry please you with that statement?

MR. O'DONNELL: Look, The New York Times had the good grace to print what Kerry's prepared text actually was, which was, "If you don't do your homework, you don't study, you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush." That's what the guy meant to say.

For the press and for other politicians to try to make this into a big thing --

MR. BUCHANAN: Then why did Kerry vote for the war? If Bush got us over there, why did Kerry vote for it?

MR. O'DONNELL: It hasn't gotten traction -- it doesn't have any traction through the weekend into Election Day. It won't have any effect.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think what Kerry said had a bad effect on the morale of the troops in Iraq, or do you think that the repeated deployments of those troops and the quagmire that they recognize themselves to be in, that anything that Kerry said is laughable -- that it's laughable for anyone to think that he could lower the morale of those troops?

MR. O'DONNELL: Exactly. I agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do agree with that?

MR. O'DONNELL: I agree that --

MS. CLIFT: I absolutely agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. Do you think they want Kerry as commander in chief? Come on.

MS. CLIFT: The only thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Come on, now. Do you think they want Bush? Who would they select if they had to select between Bush --

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush in a second. Bush in a second.

MR. BLANKLEY: The media has not gone to ask the soldiers because they know the answer. By the way, a unit from Minnesota that was there put up a sign mocking John Kerry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, who do you think pulled that together?

MR. BLANKLEY: The soldiers in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come. How do you know that? How do you know that?

MS. CLIFT: The same folks that engineered the "Mission Accomplished" sign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We saw the way the White House is able to produce six soldiers sitting in those bleachers. Remember that?

MR. BLANKLEY: They didn't produce it. We know the names --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Remember when we did that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I remember when we did that, John. Look, if you think Kerry had a good week --

MS. CLIFT: It's a cheap trick to --

MR. BUCHANAN: If you think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who said Kerry had a good week? I think Kerry had a tough week, a terrible week.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's gone, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that doesn't mean he's guilty because of this.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's apologized.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe he's telling the truth.

MR. BUCHANAN: He apologized.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe it's a slip of the tongue.

MR. BUCHANAN: He apologized to the soldiers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the week, the Republicans, including, of course, President Bush, or the Democrats? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Or the Democrats and Kerry? Even, dead even.

MS. CLIFT: The Democrats win. The voters know manufactured outrage when they see it.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Republicans won the week, but may not more than that.

MR. O'DONNELL: The Republicans are losing every week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A draw. Bye-bye.

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