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CNN CROSSFIRE

Kerry In, Edwards Out

Aired March 3, 2004 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: John Edwards is out. John Kerry is in.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am here to join you to change America for the better.

ANNOUNCER: And George W. Bush is ready to fire back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know exactly where I want to lead this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Bush vs. Kerry -- today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

We are still waiting for senator John Edwards to come out and give his speech in Raleigh, North Carolina, dropping out of the presidential race. We'll go there live once he shows up.

In the meantime, after enduring months of screaming, name calling and endless conspiracy theories from the Democratic brain trust, President Bush is finally responding. The Bush-Cheney campaign's first round of TV commercials are pretty dignified by the incredibly low standards of the season, so far. Unlike the Kerry campaign, the spots don't denounce anyone as a quisling, a Benedict Arnold or even a traitor to his country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: What sees us through tough times? Freedom, faith, families and sacrifice. President Bush, steady leadership in times of change. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: And with that, the race begins.

In the CROSSFIRE are senior Kerry adviser and media consultant Mike Donilon, along with Republican strategist Charlie Black.

Welcome.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Charlie, this morning, I talked to Donilon, who does the spots for the Kerry campaign. And I said, this is what you ought to run a spot about the Bush-Cheney-Falwell administration that's been in office.

And let me tell you what I would say. I said, President Bush says we should continue in the same direction we're going. This is the direction that turned a $5.6 trillion surplus into a $6 trillion deficit. This is a direction that had 14 percent increase in health care cost and has done nothing. This is a direction that has lost three million jobs since he took office. This is a direction that has an Iraq policy in shambles. This is a direction that has trashed our environment and taken more special interest money than all other presidential candidates combined.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Does America want to change? Or does America want to stay with the disastrous economic, fiscal, health care and foreign policy of this administration? What's wrong with that spot? It's completely accurate.

CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Obviously, you could never limit a spot to 30 seconds, James. That's why you're not in

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I'm trying to chronicle the failures of this administration. Of course you can't do it in 30 seconds.

BLACK: Let me tell you -- let me tell you what's accurate.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLACK: It's that George Bush -- George Bush has provided strong, steady leadership through difficult times in this country, through 9/11, the war on terrorism. We had a recession. It was aggravated by 9/11. We now are winning the war on terrorism. We're out of the recession. Recovery is under way. We can continue to grow and restore our economy. And also we can be optimistic about the future. And that's what the president is saying in these ads.

CARVILLE: So you're saying the country doesn't want to change. They want to continue in the direction Bush has gone?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: They're satisfied with the deficit. They're satisfied with job loss. They're satisfied with health care costs and they're satisfied with Iraq?

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLACK: They want to continue the war on terrorism and win it. And they want to continue the economic recovery, not set it backwards by raising taxes like John Kerry wants to

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Mike Donilon, I'm not going to scream at you. Instead, I'm going to read you an editorial from "The Washington Post" that I think raises a point that's pretty hard to disagree with.

Here's what it says. Mr Kerry spoke of -- quote -- "completing the tasks of security and democracy in Iraq. But he hasn't yet offered a realistic plan for how he would like to do it or committed himself to the likely cost in American troop deployments and dollars. If he is to offer a credible alternative to Mr. Bush, he must explain how he would manage the real and dangerous challenges America now faces in Iraq, without the fuzzing"

I think it's an excellent point. You wouldn't disagree. How long does John Kerry think American troops ought to stay in Iraq?

MIKE DONILON, SENIOR KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: No, I would disagree.

In fact, I think Senator Kerry's been very clear that, in fact, the single biggest problem with the way this president has approached this problem in Iraq is that he's decided to go it alone. And the fact of the matter...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: My question is, how long should Americans...

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: And he is going it -- he is going it alone.

And he has refused to be straightforward and truthful with the people of the United States. Now, one thing I want to respond to...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, wait, wait, wait.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: I have a very simple question.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Hush, please. And I'd like a simple answer.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Excuse me. Please answer my question.

How long does John Kerry think American troops ought to remain in Iraq?

DONILON: Senator Kerry says we need to stay there as long as it takes to get the job done. Now, the way that we need to get the job done is to stop going it alone. And he's been very clear about that. Now, one thing I want to say about

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: ... be surprised to learn that we're there alone.

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: Excuse me. If the president is going to run on steady leadership, about the only thing that I think is steady over the last few years in this country is steady job loss, a steady increase in health care costs, an explosion in the deficit.

(APPLAUSE)

DONILON: OK? And -- and a complete failure to deal with really the everyday problems that are facing people in their lives. That is the only steady job we've had.

BLACK: We inherited a recession from James' friend Bill Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: That was aggravated by

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: It was aggravated by 9/11. We cut taxes, which has now restored us to economic growth. We want more economic growth, which will bring jobs and recovery. The American people know that, if you increase taxes, especially on small businesses, like Kerry wants to do, we'll go backwards

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

DONILON: Charles, this is what I think they know. I think they know this, that a president who begins his advertising campaign by laying out excuses, by failing to accept responsibility for the economy in this country -- the fact is this, he inherited an economy that had created 20-plus million jobs. He inherited...

BLACK: He inherited recession.

DONILON: He inherited the single biggest surplus in this nation's history.

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BARNICLE: He inherited the Clinton recession.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We're going to have to break in now. We're going to go to Raleigh, North Carolina, where now former presidential candidate Senator John Edwards is officially leaving the race. He's at the high school that both his children went to. Here he is.

(MUSIC)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Mike Donilon, we're watching John Edwards here in Raleigh. Senator Kerry said that he's thinking about a V.P. choice. How likely is he -- is he to be chosen?

DONILON: Well, I think what Senator Kerry said is, he's begun the process today. He's named Jim Johnson to lead that team to figure out who should be the best choice. And, obviously, Senator Edwards is going to be one of the people on that list.

CARLSON: Do you think he's to be -- give us a percentage chance.

DONILON: I can't give you a percentage.

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: What I can tell you is that he is -- what I can tell you is that he has -- he has done a great job in this campaign. He has earned the right to be considered. And he's going to be considered in a thorough evaluation, along with others.

(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)

CARLSON: John Edwards in Raleigh, North Carolina, leaving the presidential race, endorsing Senator John Kerry. It didn't look like he'd refuse a vice presidential offer.

We'll be right back after this commercial to talk about Mr. Edwards, his departure from the race and what it means for the general election.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CARVILLE: Welcome back.

We have just seen Senator Edwards' stunning performance to end his campaign for president. We're talking about the presidential campaign with Republican strategist Charlie Black and senior Kerry adviser, dear friend and brilliant media consultant, Michael Donilon, originally of Providence, Rhode Island.

Mike, of course, last night, I said I thought that Senator Kerry should pick Senator Edwards as his running mate, as an Edwards veep supporter, whatever that means. There's two people I hope watch that performance today. And that is Senator Kerry and my good friend, Jim Johnson, the very competent man who was put in charge of his veep selection committee, because I, frankly, thought that was an awesome performance by my candidate for vice president, John Edwards.

DONILON: Well, James, I think what we saw there obviously was someone with enormous talent, but, more importantly, someone with enormous commitment.

He's a guy who's given voice to a very powerful message over the course of this campaign, which is, there are two Americas and we need to make sure that those who are not being represented, those who are not being given a voice in this country need to be. And that's going to become and continue to be a central part of this campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Isn't it true, Charlie -- hasn't in fact Senator Edwards really hurt Senator Kerry, not only by pointing out the awesome gap in charm between them? Senator Edwards is a very charming man, but by really forcing Kerry to move away from the last reasonable position of Clintonism? And that's on free trade.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He forced Kerry into the protectionist camp.

BLACK: I think that's right.

That was a good performance. You expect that of a trial lawyer who does those kind of performances for a living. But I'll tell you right now, John Edwards is not going to be on the ticket, because Kerry still can't carry a Southern state even if Edwards were on the ticket. You guys are more likely to go to the Midwest to Dick Gephardt or Evan Bayh, who would be more effective in the swing states there.

And I hope that Jim Johnson's appointment doesn't mean Fritz Mondale is at the top of the list.

CARLSON: Mike Donilon, let me ask you a question, something that I was very confused by, interested by. John Kerry yesterday, one of the very first things he said when interviewed yesterday by the American Urban Radio Network after it was obvious he was going to be nominee, he said -- I'm quoting now -- "President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second."

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: In other words, sort of a reverse Michael Jackson process, where he became black.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: How would he do that, A?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: And when is he going to stop patronizing black people by talking that way, B?

DONILON: Well, I think, actually, Tucker, what he was saying is that it's important to have someone like President Clinton, who is looking to represent everybody in this country. And that is exactly what he's saying

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Black people hated President Clinton. They resented him so profoundly.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I think it's a great civil rights

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That is patronizing, though. "I want to become a black president."

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: I don't think it's patronizing.

CARLSON: It is.

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: I don't think it's patronizing at all.

I think that, obviously, President Clinton was an important voice for black Americans, but also all Americans. And Senator Kerry is saying, we need to continue to have that kind of representation for everybody in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: He's pandered to every group. He's run from his president.

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: He wants to be a president for black America. President Bush is the president for the top 1 percent of corporate America. Aren't you proud

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... on the way he's sucked up to corporate America, the way he's been a sycophant to every powerful interest group in Washington?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Are you really proud of your president for that?

BLACK: Corporate America, who engaged in wrongdoing, are being prosecuted, indicted this very week.

CARVILLE: OK. That's right.

BLACK: Every American that wants a job will get one if you stick with our economic policies.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Now, it turns out, Mike Donilon

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: Charlie just said that every American who wants a job is going to get one if they stick with President Bush's policies.

BLACK: If you stick with our economic policies.

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: We have stuck with it. And what we've seen is nearly three million jobs leave the country.

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: How much longer are we going to stick with it?

BLACK: The tax cuts -- the tax cuts just kicked in. Economists of all stripes tell you that they have turned around

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: So, basically, our economic program -- our economic program has two planks. One is...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Three million jobs, a $10 trillion deficit, 14 percent

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You're going to sit here with a straight face and say people want to continue this garbage?

(APPLAUSE)

BLACK: We're gaining jobs every week. But I'll tell you what will turn it around. If you raise taxes and close our borders to trade and exports, we will definitely have a recession.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I wonder, Mike Donilon, when your candidate is going to stop calling people traitors to the country by calling them Benedict Arnold. That's about as low as I've ever seen in rhetoric.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: When is he going to knock that off?

DONILON: I think what he said is that those...

CARLSON: I know what he said. He called them traitors.

DONILON: Those corporate CEOs who are turning their back on the country and are taking -- taking jobs out of here for no good reason, they out to be -- they ought to do -- those loopholes ought to be closed.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Then why does he take hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from them? Why does he have several million dollars

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: I think what Senator Kerry -- he has sent a message that's loud and clear. Those loopholes are going to be closed. And, more importantly, we're going to create awards and incentives, so that manufacturing jobs are kept here in the U.S.

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: Something which President Bush has failed to do.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: What are you going to do about the millions of people whose jobs depend on exports? If you start closing our borders to other countries, they will close their borders to ours. You can't raise taxes and close the borders and say you're going to have economic growth. You'll have a recession or even a depression. Remember Smoot-Hawley?

(APPLAUSE)

DONILON: But, Charlie, the question isn't -- the question isn't closing the borders. The question is exerting presidential leadership so jobs just don't flee the country. That's what's missing.

BLACK: He's already backed off the votes he cast for NAFTA.

(CROSSTALK)

DONILON: His own economic adviser said just a couple weeks ago that outsourcing was good for America. That is what he said.

(APPLAUSE)

BLACK: Well, the president didn't say that.

DONILON: And then we had just a week ago Alan Greenspan saying that the way we're going to deal with this deficit is to cut Social Security.

CARLSON: Mike Donilon, love to hear more, but, unfortunately, we're completely out of time.

Mike Donilon from the Kerry campaign, Charlie Black, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. And good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Have a great night.

(APPLAUSE)

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