NBC's Tim Russert made a four-way play on Sunday's "Meet the Press," with the chairman of the GOP and Democratic campaign committees at the table. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the boss of the House Democratic political operation, mixed it up verbally with Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-S.C.) chief of the Senate GOP election drive. Emanuel held to his rule...(superstion, perhaps) to never predict victory. Polls show that Dems stand a good chance of picking up the House.
Russert: Will you win the House?
EMANUEL: I'd rather be us than them.
Meet the Press......:
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Now back to politics here at home, an exclusive grouping of four people charged with overseeing their party campaigns across the country: the chairs of the Senatorial Campaign Committee, Republican Elizabeth Dole, Democrat Chuck Schumer; the chairs of the House Campaign Committee, Republican Tom Reynolds, Democrat Rahm Emanuel. Welcome all.
Senator Schumer, this sentencing of Saddam Hussein to death by hanging, are you suspicious of the political timing?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Not really. I mean, look, Tim, he was a brutal, evil dictator, he's getting the punishment that he deserves. And I don't think the timing makes much of a difference. And frankly, I don't think his conviction makes much of a difference in this election, even though it's a very good thing that it happened. I think when Dick Cheney says we're staying the course this week, when the president refuses to rule out finding a new defense secretary and firing Donald Rumsfeld, that's going to have far more of an effect on the election than this. So I don't think the timing matters.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think this will have an effect on the elections, Senator Dole?
SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE (R-NC): You know, I think what this shows is that the Iraqis are putting their past behind them, the establishment of the rule of law. I feel that, you know, this, this will mean they're moving forward. Certainly, a madman who had, in his focus, the preparation of nuclear weapons, this will, I think, be received as the right thing, and you know, I don't expect that it's going to, to have that much effect one way or the other.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Reynolds?
REP. TOM REYNOLDS (R-NY): They're moving towards democracy in Iraq and Saddam Hussein is getting his justified punishment.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Emanuel?
REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D-IL): I think it's good that he's behind bars and getting his--the justice that he deserves. But I would also like to remind that about three years ago, when he was caught--and he's been in jail for three years--about 800 Americans were dead at that point. Today, there's little over 2800 Americans who've died. It won't change the facts on the ground there and it won't impact the election here. And as Chuck said, and I agree with him, we're still, you know, at that time, when he was caught, the president said we had turned the corner in Iraq. And after three years, three and a half years, $380 billion, nearly 3,000 American lives, that was a slogan then, like "Mission Accomplished," and we haven't really accomplished much in Iraq. And even our own defense says--secretary--not defense secretary, general on the ground, says we're on the brink of civil insurrection. The needle at the Pentagon points towards chaos. It means we need a new direction to our Iraq policy.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll talk a lot more about Iraq later, but let's first turn to these elections and go through some of the horse races. Three political newsletters have come out with their final projections. Here's the Cook Political Report. They say Democrats gain 20 to 35 House seats, four to six Senate seats. The Rothenberg Political Report puts it at 34 to 40 House seats for the Democratic Party; Senate gain five to seven. The Evans and Novak Political Report say Democrats gain 20 seats; in the Senate, five.
Congressman Reynolds, in all those, the Democrats with significant gains in the House, do you agree?
REP. REYNOLDS: No, actually, those numbers, I guess, kind of consistent by most of what has been up there. What I look at is there's about three dozen hotly contested races across the country. They're in the margin of error, and right now, the 72-hour efforts by the Republicans to turn their vote out will make the difference of what it looks like on Election Day.
MR. RUSSERT: Glen Bolger, Republican pollster involved in these races, says this is the worst political atmosphere for Republicans since Watergate. Why?
REP. REYNOLDS: Well, there's wind to our face in the second term, midterm election of a president, the party in power. I think we all, from the Republican side, went into the election understanding that. The reality is we are now, with about three dozens races that are very close, and the margin of error in the House, that will be determined on who comes out to vote.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Emanuel, you see those projections. Do you agree?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, here's what--I'm going to give you four quick points and snapshots around the country. The Morning Register this morning says an open Republican seat, that Democrat Braley's up by 21 points; in New Hampshire, in Charlie Bass' seat, the University of New Hampshire has consistently the Democrat up by 9. Down in Florida, Ron Klein against Clay Shaw, an incumbent, has Ron Klein up by 10. And Albuquerque Journal has Patsy Madrid against Heather Wilson in Albuquerque up by 4. One thing consistent: Democrats across the board are growing in their margins in each of these races, four contested Republican districts. There's one to two Democratic seats that I am concerned about, with about 48 Republican seats that we are contesting. And I like those margins and those numbers going in.
MR. RUSSERT: So you're confident of a Democratic takeover?
REP. EMANUEL: I'm confident that we have put--that we are playing offense across this country in every region of this country.
And let me say one other thing, Tim. You go to history, in '58, there was a big election; '66, a big election, 1974 a big election, 1982 a big election, in 1994 a big election. Every decade, the American people have a big election where they say no to the status quo and yes to a new direction. And this election is a yes to a new direction, which is what Democrats are offering.
MR. RUSSERT: And let me turn to the U.S. Senate.
Senator Schumer, two states that you must hold that currently have Democratic senators, are New Jersey and Maryland. Here is our latest poll on New Jersey: Menendez, the Democratic candidate, 48; Tom Kean Jr., 41. In Maryland, the Democrat, Ben Cardin 47; Michael Steele, the Republican, 44. How concerned are you that in those two Democratic states you may get upset?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, we think we're going to win both of those states. I think in blue states in particular, the wind is strongly at our back. Democrats, independents, even Republicans in those states want change. And when they find out, as they have, that candidates like these are going to continue a rubber-stamp Congress--both have said--both Tom Kean Jr. and Michael Steele have said "stay the course in Iraq," people of their states don't like it. Both have supported--or both are against stem cell research, the people in their states don't like it. Kean has talked about privatizing Social Security. Michael Steele is against stem cell research. They are so against what the people in the states want that I believe we're going to keep both of those states.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Dole, there are seven key battleground states for the Republicans. Let me start with Pennsylvania: Democrat Bob Casey, our latest poll, 52; Rick Santorum, 39. Ohio: Democrat Sherrod Brown, 50; Mike DeWine, Republican, 44. These are all polls out this morning. Rhode Island: Lincoln Chafee, the Republican, 46; Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat, 45. Virginia: Jim Webb, the Democrat, 46; George Allen, the Republican, 45. Missouri: Claire McCaskill, the Democrat, 46; Jim Talent, 45. Montana: Conrad Burns, 47; John Tester, 47--dead heat. In Tennessee: the Republican Bob Corker, 50; Harold Ford, the Democrat, 38. In six of those seven, the Republican is either behind or tied. And with Chafee up one.
SEN. DOLE: You know, we've got...
MR. RUSSERT: What do you think?
SEN. DOLE: We've got some internal polls that certainly differ from some of the ones that you just read.
MR. RUSSERT: So you're going to sweep them all?
SEN. DOLE: You know, let's--let me, let me talk about what is normally regarded, as you guys talk about the firewall with Virginia and Tennessee and Missouri. And we're winning in all those states. Now, I wanted to expand that firewall, because I have a much broader firewall. You look at, at, at Rhode Island, the state of Montana, these are very, very tight races. And then we've been putting money into three blue states. Chuck has had to put millions of dollars into New Jersey, into Maryland, into Michigan. You've put a lot of money into the state of Washington. That's millions that doesn't go against our incumbents. So as I look at the situation at this point, sure, this is a very tough cycle, no question.
MR. RUSSERT: Why? Why?
SEN. DOLE: When a president has been--when a president has been re-elected, you look through history, and there's no question it's a very tough cycle. But you know, we've got some X factors that really enable us to have an opportunity to break through, to weather the storm. For example, corruption in New Jersey. Tom Kean has been a real reformer on trying to get rid of pay-to-play, where you have to pay in order, in order to--pay contributions in order to get contracts. Bob Menendez, his opponent, is under federal criminal investigation. That issue is front and center. You look in Maryland and you've got a fresh leadership here in Michael Steele in terms of wanting to really shake up Washington. And his opponent, Ben Cardin, has been in government for 40 years. You know, Michael has just gotten the endorsements of some key African-American leaders in Prince Georges County, great leader. Up in Michigan, that state--here's the X factor there. The state is, is really hurting economically: 7.1 percent unemployment, three years of job losses. Debbie Stabenow's policies are not right for growing the economy there. She's...
MR. RUSSERT: But nobody in Michigan has the, has been close.
SEN. DOLE: Oh, Michael, Michael, Michael Bouchard is doing...
MR. RUSSERT: (Unintelligible)...
SEN. DOLE: ...a great job. But let me tell you, they're a late closing state.
MR. RUSSERT: OK.
SEN. DOLE: Remember John Engler was...
MR. RUSSERT: So, so, so bottom line...
SEN. DOLE: ...that was double digits--at this point, he was down double digits and won.
MR. RUSSERT: So bottom line, bottom line.
SEN. DOLE: Debbie Stabenow was down at this point, and she won.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. You've endorsed all your candidates. But bottom line, will the Republicans hold control of the Senate?
SEN. DOLE: Yes, they will. We will hold--we will hold the majority, yes.
MR. RUSSERT: She's confident. Will the Democrats take control of the Senate?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, Tim, we're right on the edge of taking back the Senate. I wouldn't open up the champagne or do the high-fives, but we are feeling very good, something we never would've said even three months ago.
Here's what's happened: This election has evolved into a national referendum on change. And when the election becomes a referendum on George Bush and the rubber-stamp Congress, the, the Republicans lose. And that's what's happened from one end of the country to the other. People are not happy with what's going on in foreign policy--not only Iraq, but North Korea, Afghanistan. The middle class is struggling here at home. Wages are flat. The overall macro numbers are good, but most of that's going to the very high end, and the average American's wages are flat, tuition costs go up, prescription drug costs go up, energy costs go up. So people want change, and that's why we are so, so close to taking back the Senate.
SEN. DOLE: I--well, I...
MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk. We--I'll come back to the Senate, I...
SEN. DOLE: There are things that need to be answered there.
MR. RUSSERT: I, I'll come back to the Senate, I promise. Let me turn to the House. Congressman Reynolds, you were considered a shoe-in for re-election. Here's the latest poll from the Buffalo News this morning. Tom Reynolds, 47; Jack Davis, Democratic opponent, 46. What happened?
REP. REYNOLDS: Well, I moved 15 points, according to the same pollster, in two weeks, when most put the obituary on the 26th district of New York. It's all about turnout, and my race is going to be the model, just like 35, 36, 37 races across the country. They're in the margin of error. It's about turnout. One thing you know about Buffalo: It isn't snowing today. There were 400 people in the streets yesterday running the operation of turn out the vote. And we'll do it today. We'll do it tomorrow. And if that's being done across the country, we're in this race to hold the House. It all gets down for Republicans turning out the vote.
MR. RUSSERT: The same poll, however, asked this question: What did they think of your role in the Foley page scandal? Thirty-one approve, 57 disapprove. And the--their concern goes back to this: In the spring of '05, you say that Congressman Rodney Alexander "brought to" your "attention the existence of the e-mails between Mark Foley and a former page of Mr. Alexander's," that you, "told the speaker of a conversation Mr. Alexander had with me." Speaker Hastert says he doesn't remember that conversation.
REP. REYNOLDS: Two things: It was the spring of '06. And second, the speaker has never denied the conversation. What he has said, he didn't recall it.
MR. RUSSERT: Why did Mr. Alexander, a congressman from Louisiana, go to you, the chairman of a campaign committee, as opposed to the page committee or the speaker--why would he be thinking politically? Why go to you?
REP. REYNOLDS: Well, I never outright asked him, but I got the impression maybe he came by to, to tell me that based on the fact that I know Rodney pretty well. I was one of those that helped bring him across to the Republican side of the aisle.
MR. RUSSERT: But was he thinking politics?
REP. REYNOLDS: I don't know; you'll have to ask him, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: A two...
REP. REYNOLDS: I spent three hours meeting with the media on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, in Buffalo, answering both national and local media. And as pundits and others made the observation that Reynolds was cooked, he was--by the same pollster, 15 down. We've moved past this. We're now back into what I call "all politics is local." The issues in western New York are jobs, taxes and Social Security. And that's what this debate's been on, and that's where we will close as it goes to the voters on Tuesday.
MR. RUSSERT: But you're in a tight race because of this issue?
REP. REYNOLDS: I'm in a tight race because some said that a guy putting $2 1/2 million on my head would make it a close race. I know Rahm was certainly pleased to recruit my opponent back for a second round of it. We'll see what it is. I can tell you, the polling says that the top issues in our district are jobs, taxes and Social Security.
MR. RUSSERT: But the concern people have is that Foley gave $1/2 million to your committee, spent $200,000 around the country for other Republican candidates, was thinking about resigning himself, not running for re-election, and that the Republican leadership were more concerned about holding the Foley seat than they were about this young page.
REP. REYNOLDS: Look, there are two instances. One was the overly friendly e-mails that were out, where two reporters from the St. Petersburg Times looked at this, didn't find anything. I understand the FBI looked at it, didn't find anything. And the Miami Herald has put an editorial out that they didn't see anything, didn't even see it newsworthy.
And then we see the second set of instant messages and the types of things that ABC released on Friday. In that, within two hours, Foley was gone from the Congress. And I think that the people in western New York, after all of the politics and all the flurry of, of my opponents and those types of things came through, and so people understood that. That had a dramatic change in western New York, once they understood two sets of e-mails, two different sets of actions.
MR. RUSSERT: Is the Foley scandal playing around the country?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, it's, as a part of a culture. What is playing, and I think, Tim, is as Tom said, the economy. People want a new direction, they want a minimum wage increase, they want direct negotiations for lower prescription drug prices--part of our agenda. And they also want a Congress that will meet the challenges facing America, both in Iraq, at home and they want to end the partisanship.
MR. RUSSERT: But, but your campaign committee and many of your candidates are emphasizing the Foley scandal, emphasizing the corruption...
REP. EMANUEL: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...emphasizing those kinds of issues.
REP. EMANUEL: Well.
MR. RUSSERT: Are they playing?
REP. EMANUEL: Well, yeah. Well, look at Patty Wetterling, who has a career in Minnesota in fighting for children, an advocate for children, is--has made this an issue because of her career. It is playing--what's playing is a Congress that is out of touch and in touch with the special interests and a Congress that, look, the Republicans came to power in 1994 to change Washington, and Washington changed them. They promised to do a balanced budget and they gave you $3 trillion in new debt. They promised you a Congress that would work and clean up the act, and what happened here is you got Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, all who have in one way--and also Curt Weldon, all in one way or another in ethical trouble. And third, they promised you a sense of a--putting "morality" back in our politics, and they've lost their way in each step of the way on fiscal issues, moral issues and a Congress that would live by the laws.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Dole, the Democrats are trying very hard to link Republican candidates with George Bush. In the local House race in Virginia, "Bush/Wolf"--he's a local congressman--in '06, as if they're running as a team. And yet, and yet your candidates seem to be distancing themselves from the president. Here's Lincoln Chafee, Republican candidate, this is a commercial he paid for. Let's watch.
(Videotape of Chafee campaign ad):
SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R-RI): All the time, people tell me, "Linc, I really like you, but I have to send Bush a message."
MR. RUSSERT: Mike McGavick in Washington state, Republican, this is what he's saying in his paid commercial.
(Videotape of McGavick campaign ad):
MR. MIKE McGAVICK: And President Bush isn't getting our frustrations. It's time to be decisive. Beat the terrorists, partition the country if we have to, and get our troops home in victory.
MR. RUSSERT: These are Republican candidates. And that, coupled with this story, "A Republican president normally would not need to come to a conservative bastion such a Montana this close to an election, nor to Nevada's 2nd District, which has never voted for a Democrat since it was created in 1982. But Bush is playing defense in red-state territory." Why are Republican senatorial candidates running away from the president? And why is he only campaigning in traditional Republican states?
SEN. DOLE: OK. Tim, once again, let me say that this is a year, a midterm, when a president has been re-elected. And you look through history, tradition has it that that's a tough, tough cycle. Now, obviously, the campaigns are going to determine where it fits best to have the president come in and where, where it's, where it's not the best idea. I mean, this is, this is just politics.
MR. RUSSERT: But why? It's just the times?
SEN. DOLE: But, but let me...
MR. RUSSERT: What--is there an issue that's driving this?
SEN. DOLE: No.
MR. RUSSERT: No issue.
SEN. DOLE: No, well, actually, what, what Chuck Schumer is trying to do is to nationalize the race.
SEN. SCHUMER: Darn tooting.
SEN. DOLE: He's trying, he's trying to make it a referendum, and what our candidates have done and what I have certainly done with the Senatorial Committee is to focus on just what Tom Reynolds has said, as Tip O'Neill used to say, "all politics is local." So, yeah, our, our candidates are comparing their records with their...
MR. RUSSERT: Does the Iraq war have anything to do with this?
SEN. DOLE: ...with--now, let me--may, may I just finish this...(unintelligible)...
MR. RUSSERT: Does the Iraq war--the Iraq war have anything to do with this?
SEN. DOLE: May I finish this sentence? Just a moment and I'll go to that. I just want to point out that it is a choice between two people. It's a comparison. Our candidates are talking about their records on important issues that matter in their states. And that's what they're focused on.
In terms of Iraq, people are concerned, you know. I'm frustrated. You know, obviously, the important thing here is to win this war. And so I want to--I want to read to you what I think is very effective. This is Mark Kennedy, an ad of Mark Kennedy's.
MR. RUSSERT: Oh, we had, we had the debate here with, with Miss Klobuchar and Mr. Kennedy, and he, and he talked about that extensively, believe me.
SEN. DOLE: Well, here's a--just quickly, though, "None of us like war, and we've made some mistakes in Iraq. We're facing an enemy that must be defeated. Leaving Iraq now will create a breeding ground for new attacks on America. That's the harsh reality. My opponent says the answer is diplomacy, but you can't negotiate with people who want to kill you. I'm Mark Kennedy. Securing the peace is a lot harder than wishing for it. I approve this message even though I know it may not be what you want to hear." Now our candidates are making their own statements in terms of their views from their heart, their conscience. And then they're moving on to other issues. So...
MR. RUSSERT: Let me, let me--I want to get to the--more to the Iraq war, but I want to focus on the uniqueness of some of these candidates. Senator Schumer, here's an article about the candidate for Senate, Democrat, in Montana. "Jon Tester ... is a genuine, big old farm boy. He opposes gay marriage, supports the death penalty, says Hillary Clinton `doesn't do much for me,' loves guns, hates illegal immigrants, and is the Democratic candidate for Montana's contested U.S. Senate seat." Now, if you're nationalizing the race, is that candidate on board with the national Democratic platform?
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, let me say this. On so many issues, Jon Tester and all of our candidates are on board, and that's because people in Montana and everywhere else want change. And he's on board with raising the minimum wage, he's on board with making middle class families able to pay the costs of college and prescription drugs. He's on board with greater oversight in terms of this administration, where it's gone astray in so many different areas.
On certain issues, of course the Democratic Party is a big tent. But yes, on the major issue, "Do you want change?" Montanans want change, people in Pennsylvania want change, people in Tennessee want change, and that is the major issue. And on a core, basic issues--some core, basic issues, the Democratic Party is united.
MR. RUSSERT: On guns?
SEN. SCHUMER: Guns, we're not united. Jon Tester's view and my view are worlds apart. And what we've learned, Tim, over the years, is this: On certain issues, it's better when the Democratic Party is a big tent. What we ought to be focusing on are two things: the meat-and-potato issues that affect average voters, where we're much more in sync with the average person across the country than the Republicans. And second, redirection in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: The tone of the campaign has been quite striking to a lot of people. The Washington Post reported, and Congressman Reynolds, you had confirmed with me that a vast amount of money from the campaign committees was going to be used on "negative advertising." I want to roll an ad from upstate New York, the 24th district, a Democratic candidate, paid for by your committee. Let's watch.
(Videotape of National Republican Congressional Committee campaign ad):
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hi, sexy. You've reached the live, one-on-on fantasy line.
AD ANNOUNCER #1: The phone number to an adult fantasy hotline appeared on Michael Arcuri's New York City hotel room bill while he was there on official business. And the call was charged to Oneida County taxpayers. Arcuri has denied it but the facts are there. Who calls a fantasy hotline and then bills taxpayers? Michael Arcuri.
WOMAN: Bad call.
AD ANNOUNCER #1: The National Republican Congressional Committee paid for and is responsible for the content of this message.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, here are the facts, and they're not disputed by anybody, from the local Utica, New York, newspaper. "What the record shows: A bill at 3:26 p.m. Jan. 28 and was billed for one minute. ... Phone records show a call made at 3:37 p.m. using his calling card to the number 518-457-8462"--the same numbers exactly are right. "That number, he said, is for the office of the New York state Department of Criminal Justice Services." An aide inadvertently dialed the wrong area code. Everyone admits it, and yet you put an ad on suggesting that this guy is calling sex hotlines. Is that fair?
REP. REYNOLDS: Well, first of all, chairman of the committee doesn't know what the IE's actually producing when it goes on, we pay for. Second, that ad is now down.
MR. RUSSERT: You said you're responsible, that's what the banner says. You can take it down if you wanted to.
REP. REYNOLDS: I paid for it. The committee paid for it, it was pulled down.
MR. RUSSERT: Is it, is it fair? Is it fair?
REP. REYNOLDS: Politics isn't always fair, Tim, as both the DCCC and the NRCC know full well, the contents of both ads, we review all those.
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah, exactly. But Congressman Emanuel, before you get in, I want to show you an ad that your committee's taking in the Minnesota sixth district. Let's watch.
(Videotape of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee campaign ad):
AD ANNOUNCER #2: Who would vote against a bill that would put repeat sex offenders behind bars for life? Michele Bachmann.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, this is how the Minnesota Star-Tribune reported that. "A highly deceptive ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee takes one vote out of context to distort congressional candidate Michele Bachmann's record on crime. The 30-second ad, which has been airing for about a week, invites voters to infer that Bachmann opposed longer sentences for repeat sex offenders when Bachmann actually voted for tougher sentences." Why do you do things like that?
REP. EMANUEL: Tim, first of all, you know what? The Annenberg School studied both committees' ads in nonpartisan groups, and they said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee--this is the Annenberg School--said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has focused on votes and records, and they first focused on personality. Nonpartisan picked and selected. The Mike Arcuri ad that they ran never aired because it was clearly false and we stopped it from going on the air. And they knew it when they did it. Those were the votes that are cast. They tried to make something out of...
MR. RUSSERT: But that's a selective interpretation, and you know it.
REP. REYNOLDS: Absolutely.
REP. EMANUEL: It's not, it's not selective, it's based on a vote record, which is what you're responsible for. And if you want to go selective on that, I got a lot more--how much more time we got to show commercials all over this country, Tim?
MR. RUSSERT: But let, let, but let me show you, let me show you...
REP. EMANUEL: I mean, you got a lot of time here...
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you, 1988...
REP. EMANUEL: OK.
MR. RUSSERT: ...when young Rahm Emanuel is the political director of the Democratic Campaign Committee, "How to Beat a Republican," Rahm Emanuel. "Going On the Attack. Now that you have succinctly spelled out your own program"...
REP. EMANUEL: Can we take down--can we take that picture down?
MR. RUSSERT: ..."you can start dredging up dirt on your opponent. ... Even if your early ventures fail to pan out, keep digging. The untainted Republican has not yet been invented." That's your political credo?
REP. EMANUEL: No, I mean, I run campaigns and as Tim had--as Tom had said repeatedly, he was going to do negative advertising. I was making sure our campaigns were fully prepared. And I'll stand by the ads we ran.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you concerned about the tone of this campaign? New Jersey, voters are saying Menendez and Kean, forget about it, both candidates' commercials are over the top.
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, but let me just say, and it reflects what Rahm said. Menendez's ads are talking about Tom Kean's record on Iraq, on stem cell research, on Social Security. Now, he may say, "Well, I've changed my view" or "I voted against the stem cell research bills in the Senate, but I'm really"--the state Senate--"but I'm really for stem cell research." The Menendez ads are, are, are--they've been decried by newspapers throughout New Jersey as just being false and personal innuendo. There are exceptions, Tim. Nobody is Simon Pure in this business. But if you look at the vast majority of Democratic ads vs. Republican ads, ours have indeed gone after the opponents, but on the stands they've taken, the issues they've voted for, while the large percentage of theirs have gone on personal issues like the one you saw.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe the voters are turned off by this negativity?
SEN. DOLE: I think that, at this point, there's a lot of, a lot of negativity out there, but nevertheless, it does carry messages. It's based on research. And I think that--you know, I think of one particular situation where--and this was a Harold Ford ad, and it was, it, it has run its course, but basically, what that ad did was to point out his views on certain issues, and that's the last thing he wanted to do was to talk about his record.
MR. RUSSERT: There was also an ad paid for by the Republican National Committee...
SEN. DOLE: Because it was an absolute...
MR. RUSSERT: ...which had a blonde, white woman winking in the camera saying "Call me, Harold," and many African-Americans, including former Republican Senator Bill Cohen, said that ad was racist.
SEN. DOLE: I did not see it as racist. I respect those who saw it otherwise. But let me tell you what that ad did: It pointed out his views on, on his record, that he is, he's on the wrong side of the abortion issues, that he's protected gay marriage, that he has an F from...
SEN. SCHUMER: He's voted against gay marriage every time.
SEN. DOLE: ...an F for the--from the National Rifle Association...
MR. RUSSERT: OK.
SEN. DOLE: ...that he's a tax increaser. This is one of the biggest political frauds in history, his trying to, to, re--redefine himself. And that ad pointed out particular matters that he didn't want to, to step up to, in terms of...
MR. RUSSERT: So that's not a negative ad?
SEN. DOLE: ...in terms of the--it, it pointed out facts there, in terms of...
MR. RUSSERT: OK, we...
SEN. DOLE: ...Harold Ford's true record. So...
MR. RUSSERT: We have to take a break.
REP. EMANUEL: Is this a filibuster body?
MR. RUSSERT: We have to take a break.
SEN. DOLE: Well, you guys have had a good shot at it, both of you.
MR. RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break and come back. Equal time for everyone, I promise. Right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: The election, two days away, we'll be right back with more from our four campaign committee chairs, after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
All week long, John Kerry's comments--an attempted joke about President Bush, he says, but it came out as an insult against the troops--played out. Did that hurt the Democrats?
SEN. SCHUMER: I don't think so. John Kerry did the right thing. He apologized, and then he said he's not going to talk about it anymore, and I don't think it's going to affect the election at all.
MR. RUSSERT: But it was the wrong thing to say.
SEN. SCHUMER: He admitted that. And he was a total gentleman, totally on his own, he said, "I'm not going to go out there and keep arguing this," even though he wanted to, and I give him a lot of credit for that.
MR. RUSSERT: Two Republicans have now put comments in Vanity Fair magazine, Senator Dole, which have caused a little bit of stir. "Ken Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002 saying, `I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.' Now he says, `I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them individually have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.'" Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Advisory Board, in the past said "if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: `I think if I had been Delphic, and had seen where we are today and people had said, `Should we go into Iraq?' I think now I probably would have said, `No, let's consider other strategies.'"
Two leading proponents of the war are now saying, forget about it. "Incompetence" and "We shouldn't have done it."
SEN. DOLE: Let me, let me talk about David Fromme, who is one of the people in the article, and his concern about the way it was publicized, the press release. David Fromme's bottom line is, the war, just as the same--the same as in 203--2003, the war was right, we need to win the war and it would be disastrous to lose. That's his bottom line. That's, that's what he's concerned about. And you know, it's almost as if the Democrats, you know, it's like they're content with losing because to pull out, to withdraw from this war is losing. No question about it. You look at...
MR. RUSSERT: The Democrats are content with losing.
SEN. DOLE: The Democrats appear to be content with losing because they're to...
REP. EMANUEL: I really...
SEN. DOLE: No, no, I, I want to finish what I'm saying here because...
REP. EMANUEL: I, I, I, no, no, you made yourself--Senator, wait a little sec, Senator...
SEN. DOLE: No, I, I'm going to finish this.
MR. RUSSERT: That's a very strong statement.
SEN. DOLE: It is a strong statement.
REP. EMANUEL: Yeah, senator, senator, you, you...
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, that's a very strong statement. I think he, he deserves a right to respond, no, no, no.
REP. EMANUEL: Senator, that is not fair.
SEN. DOLE: Yeah, it is, but I would like to finish why...
MR. RUSSERT: You--I'll let you back, but I'll tell you, when you make a statement like that...
REP. EMANUEL: Senator, senator, senator.
SEN. DOLE: ...why, why they appear to be content to lose.
MR. RUSSERT: Excuse me. When you make a comment like that, I got to give the other side a chance to respond.
SEN. DOLE: But I do need to explain what I mean by that.
REP. EMANUEL: Senator. Senator, you, you, you said something that's wrong.
SEN. DOLE: Osama bin Laden and, and, and they...
REP. EMANUEL: Democrats, Democrats have provided--wait a second, Senator. I've--I understand some. I will not sit si...
SEN. DOLE: No. Rahm, I want to finish what I said.
REP. EMANUEL: ...I will not sit idly by with an accusation that Democrats are content with losing.
SEN. DOLE: They appear to be content to lose...
REP. EMANUEL: We want to win and we want a new direction to Iraq because after three, three years--I'm--Tim...
SEN. DOLE: ...because when you pull out, this is losing. That we know that it becomes a breeding ground...
MR. RUSSERT: All right, hold on. Hold on. Time out, time out, time out.
REP. EMANUEL: Forget about it.
MR. RUSSERT: Time out. Time--time out. Time out, please.
SEN. DOLE: ...a breeding ground for terrorists. We've got Iran and Syria sitting there on each side of Iraq...
REP. EMANUEL: That, that's wrong. You should take that back, Senator. We'll have differences, but we do not disparage you like that, Senator.
MR. RUSSERT: You've made your point. You've made your point, Senator.
SEN. DOLE: ...taking, taking over a vacuum.
MR. RUSSERT: All right, let me, let me, let me, let me...
SEN. SCHUMER: If I...
MR. RUSSERT: I'll get to everybody. Let me introduce Vice President Cheney's comments. He said, "The president's made clear what his objective is. It's victory in Iraq. And it's full speed ahead on that basis. And that's exactly what we're going to do. ... It may not be popular with the public. It doesn't matter in the sense that we have to continue the mission or do what we think is right, and that's exactly what we're doing. We're not running for office. We're doing what we think is right."
Congressman Reynolds, is the vice president saying, "It's full speed ahead. The public may have their views, and now over 60 percent say the war's not worth it. And in effect, no matter what happens in this midterm election, the Bush policy in Iraq is going to go forward unchanged"?
REP. REYNOLDS: Well, first of all, I think when you look at the war on terror, which is part of what this is all about...
MR. RUSSERT: No, but I'm asking you about Iraq. Is, is that what the vice president is saying, that no matter what happens in this election, it's full speed ahead with the Bush policy in Iraq?
REP. REYNOLDS: I don't know if that's what he's saying. I've just seen what you've outlined. I think that there's no question that the Bush administration and the commander in chief wants to finish the job. And while we certainly know the Democrats don't have unanimity on the war, either, as Senator Schumer talked about other areas that there's disagreement, there's part of the Democratic Party that wants to cut and run. There's others that follow the Bush agenda, there's others that want to redirect the war. But the reality is, we are either going to finish the job or we're going to cut and run.
SEN. SCHUMER: Let me say, Tim, that is not...
SEN. DOLE: We'll only end up having to go back if...
SEN. SCHUMER: Let me say a couple of things first. First, you know, the Republican response is what my good friend Elizabeth said, it's sort of knee-capping, name-calling. It works, it has worked in the past when people are happy with the policy. Right now, the American people, as you said, not just Democrats, independents, Republicans, are very unhappy what's happening in Iraq. You spo--had Perle over there. The only people who seem to be thinking it's going well are the president and his coterie of advisers.
Now we Democrats are unified on Iraq. We had in the Senate the Reid-Levin Resolution, which calls for this: First, stop policing a civil war. Iraq has devolved into a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. That's not what we bargained for. Second, make 2007 a year of transition where we redeploy our troops, pulling a good number of them out of harm's way. Some would stay in Iraq, some would be nearby. And focus on four things.
MR. RUSSERT: Is this a Democratic...
SEN. SCHUMER: Wait, I just want to...
SEN. DOLE: (Unintelligible).
MR. RUSSERT: Is this a Democratic plan?
SEN. SCHUMER: Yes, it is, it is, it is four things: It is focus on counterterrorism, force protection, logistics and training. That is our plan, that is what we'll push to do should we get the power in the Senate. And 39 of the 44 Democrats in the Senate voted for it.
SEN. DOLE: (Unintelligible).
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Emanuel, let me ask you a question. If, in fact, the Democrats take control of the House, what will happen on Iraq? Will it be full speed ahead or will the Democrats try to cut funding off of the war?
REP. EMANUEL: No, no. There'll be demands for accountability and oversight. One of the things--let me say one thing. From that comment, which--wait...
SEN. DOLE: (Unintelligible)...said he'd cut all funds.
REP. EMANUEL: But wait, Elizabeth, Elizabeth, just wait one second. Just let me get a chance to get a word in. We've had slogans, and a long list of slogans from "mission accomplished" to "the terrorists are in the last throes" to "the fact is that we've turned the corner" to now, in fact, that we are "victorious." And the fact is, Iraq needs a new direction, and the Democrats in Congress are going to be clear that we need a policy that would be very clear, from oversight...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, but, but, that's what I'm trying to find out. What is--here's what the chairman...
REP. EMANUEL: Here, let me give you...
MR. RUSSERT: Here's what the chairman of your party said, Howard Dean, your very good friend, I know. He said, "We will promise you that if you elect a majority in the House and the Senate, we will not permit Iran to be a nuclear power, we will make a deal with China to get nuclear weapons out of North Korea, we will catch, capture Osama bin Laden or kill him." The Democrats can promise that if they take control of Congress?
REP. EMANUEL: Here, you--I'm going to focus on what you said about...
MR. RUSSERT: But I'm asking a serious question.
REP. EMANUEL: I und...
MR. RUSSERT: The party chairman said you can do all those things. Can you?
REP. EMANUEL: Here's what we're going to do: We're not going to divert our resources from focusing on capturing Osama bin Laden five years after 9/11; we are going to work with our allies on making sure that North Korea, when we issue a red line, doesn't cross it without any sense of consequences; and we are going to work also at making sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. So let me say one thing clear about the principles we're going to have. Whether Senator Biden's idea on Iraq--which I think is a strong idea--Senator Levin's program, Congressman Jack Murtha, and Congressman Ike Skelton, there are five basic principles that hold Democrats together on our approach to Iraq: First, regional cooperation; second, reconciliation among the parties; third, reconstruction of the economy; fourth, responsibility for results; and fifth is redeployment from Iraq. Those are the five principles. All Democrats say we have to change the policy. These guys have--the Republicans and the president--and I'll say this, the president's got what he needed for this war totally from Congress, except for the one thing that the Republicans have denied him, and that's oversight and accountability.
MR. RUSSERT: Would the Democrats consider cutting off funding for the war?
SEN. DOLE: (Unintelligible)...
REP. EMANUEL: No, we're not going to hurt our troops like that. We're going to make sure we have a new policy, and when the Baker...
MR. RUSSERT: OK, OK.
REP. EMANUEL: And when the Baker and Lee Hamilton approach comes, our approach will not be what the vice president said, steam--full steam ahead. We're going to listen to that approach, and work in a bipartisan fashion to solve the worst national security challenge America's faced in over two generations, senator.
SEN. DOLE: Well, if the, if the Democrats were to take over the Congress, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has said that he would cut the funding for the war. He said he would cut the funding...
MR. RUSSERT: He didn't say he would, he would consider.
SEN. DOLE: Well, that's--all right, consider.
MR. RUSSERT: And Congressman McGovern...
SEN. DOLE: He's also said he doesn't...
MR. RUSSERT: ...of Massachusetts has a...
SEN. DOLE: He's also said he doesn't...
MR. RUSSERT: ...a resolution with...(unintelligible)...
SEN. DOLE: He's also said he doesn't know a single tax cut that he would support.
MR. RUSSERT: But let me, let me ask you, let me ask you, let me ask you about a comment that President Bush made. President Bush said that both the vice president and the secretary of defense are doing "fantastic jobs," and will be there until the end of his term. Tomorrow, a joint editorial from the Army Times, the Air Force Times, the Navy Times, the Marine Corps Times, this is what they say: "All along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand. Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White house. This is a mistake. ... When the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads. ... Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt. This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth: Donald Rumsfeld must go."
During the MEET THE PRESS debates on this program, Senator Dole, Mike DeWine, Republican, Ohio, said Secretary Rumsfeld, no confidence; Michael Steele, who you were praising moments ago, Republican candidate from Maryland, said Rumsfeld must go. Would it be helpful, in order to pull the country together after these elections, that there be a change at the head of the Pentagon?
SEN. DOLE: No. First of all, let me say that our candidates all speak from their, their own views. They--we have no set of talking points for our candidates, they speak their minds. They're independent, they're not rubber-stamped. Whether it's Mike DeWine or whether it's Mike McGavick or whether it's Michael Steele or whoever else it might be. So that rubber-stamp, I want to shoot down right now because they speak...
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah, I, I never used the word. But I asked...
SEN. DOLE: No, you didn't but my friends on the Democratic side did.
MR. RUSSERT: My question was...
SEN. DOLE: I...
MR. RUSSERT: My question is, would it be helpful for the country after these elections...
SEN. DOLE: I, I stand by Donald Rumsfeld. He...
MR. RUSSERT: OK.
SEN. DOLE: And the president. He serves at the, at the pleasure of the president.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe it would be helpful for a change at the top of the Pentagon?
REP. REYNOLDS: First of all, the Army Times editorial is written by it's Gannett-owned newspaper, which is well-positioned in other editorial comment relative to the war. And so the editorial writers may be coming from Virginia vs. from the military, particularly because it's owned by Gannett.
Second, Donald Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the president. And this isn't about Donald Rumsfeld, it's about the aspect of a war on terror. And it's interesting to listen to my colleague Rahm Emanuel talk about some sort of unity in the House. They have struggled for months in order to put together a position on Iraq. They could not, and therefore they abandoned it. There's no position following Jack Murtha, there's no position following Nancy Pelosi, there's no position following Ike Skelton. There are no positions publicly by the House Democrats on the direction of Iraq.
SEN. SCHUMER: The leadership of the House endorsed the position that I just talked about, that 39 of the 44 Democrats voted for, calling 2007 a year of transition. It was signed by Nancy Pelosi...
MR. RUSSERT: You, you've talked about Iraq, but I want to raise one other issue about the Democrats, because it's on the minds of some voters, and that is what they'll do if they win. Until May, John Conyers, who would become chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had this on his Web site. He said, "Stand with Congressman Conyers. Demand an investigation of administrative abuses of power and make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment." Is that what it's going to be, the Democrats, get together, investigate...
REP. EMANUEL: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. We're going to, we're going to pass an increase in the minimum wage, direct negotiations for lower prescription drug prices, the 9/11 Commission recommendations to make America safe, redirect the $12 billion given to big oil toward energy independence.
MR. RUSSERT: No investigations into Iraq.
REP. EMANUEL: We're going to have oversight, because that's what--one of the problems with the Congress when it came to the audit of the inspector general...
SEN. DOLE: So there've been, there've been 85 hearings.
REP. EMANUEL: We're going to have hearings and oversight. It will not lead to--we will not take on impeachment. We will not do that.
MR. RUSSERT: Impeachment's off the table?
REP. EMANUEL: Will not happen. And we've said that.
SEN. SCHUMER: Totally...
SEN. DOLE: Let me just say, Tim, my...
SEN. SCHUMER: Totally off the table.
REP. EMANUEL: But Tim, let me say one other thing. The Army Times has joined the 12 generals who said Rumsfeld should go.
MR. RUSSERT: All right. OK. OK.
SEN. DOLE: Tim...
REP. EMANUEL: And I can't believe of all the people you would pick is to give Don Rumsfeld's job security.
SEN. DOLE: ...my friend has talked again and again about what--all these issues that we've not had a chance to, to address. For example, the, the facts...
MR. RUSSERT: Everybody's had equal time. Believe me. We've timed this out.
SEN. DOLE: Let me just say, the economy. You keep talking about...
MR. RUSSERT: But we, we have to--here's what we have to do. I know, but we can't. I know. Here's what we have to do, and before we go, though, in all honesty, who--and whoever is the farthest...
SEN. SCHUMER: (Unintelligible)
MR. RUSSERT: ...whoever is the most wrong--whoever's the most wrong...
SEN. DOLE: No, you had a chance to talk about minimum wage.
MR. RUSSERT: ...$100 for the Boys and Girls Club of Washington, D.C.
REP. REYNOLDS: You got it.
REP. EMANUEL: You got it.
SEN. SCHUMER: Oh, geez.
MR. RUSSERT: How many seats for the Republicans?
REP. REYNOLDS: I won't count the seats, but I believe we have a great opportunity to hold the House by turning the vote out.
MR. RUSSERT: That's your prediction.
Will you win the House?
REP. EMANUEL: I'd rather be us than them.
MR. RUSSERT: Will you win the House? For the Boys and Girls Club.
REP. EMANUEL: I'm going to help the Boys and Girls Club regardless because if you need a Democratic majority, will be there.
SEN. DOLE: We'll maintain the majority in the United State's Senate.
MR. RUSSERT: She's on the line.
Will you win?
SEN. SCHUMER: We're right on the edge of taking back the Senate. We're going to be happy Wednesday morning.
MR. RUSSERT: OK. How many seats do you have to net gain to take control of the Senate?
SEN. SCHUMER: Six.
MR. RUSSERT: Six, right?
SEN. SCHUMER: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: See how Schumer said six? Let me show you 39 years ago, the high school program, "It's Academic." Let's watch. Let's watch.
(Videotape from "It's Academic" May 13, 1967):
MODERATOR: And now, let's introduce our teams in this semi-final match. From Brooklyn, New York, James Madison High School: Janet Schwartz, captain Chuck Schumer and Barry Levine.
MR. RUSSERT: Now wait. Listen, listen...
SEN. SCHUMER: Now, do you know who the moderator was?
MR. RUSSERT: Listen to this question and this answer. Here we go.
(Videotape from "It's Academic" May 13, 1967):
MODERATOR: What number is the factorial of...
SEN. SCHUMER: Six.
SEN. SCHUMER: Six.
MODERATOR: You'll try anything, won't you?
SEN. SCHUMER: Do you know who was the moderator of that? Cokie Roberts.
MR. RUSSERT: As it should be. So you'll say "maybe." You say "definite." You say "definite," you say "maybe." The Republicans seem more confident.
SEN. SCHUMER: Oh, no, we just--you don't want to give it a jinx. And we're feeling, we're feeling good, Tim.
REP. EMANUEL: Hey, we're--Tim, Tim, Tim...
SEN. SCHUMER: Hey, Tim, I want to say one thing. If you would've told us 2005 that we're going to pick up a whole lot of seats, I would've said never. We're doing great.
REP. EMANUEL: Tim, as Sid Luckman said, the old Chicago Bear, never spike the ball on the 20-yard line.
SEN. SCHUMER: You got it.
MR. RUSSERT: We don't talk about Chicago Bears on this program.
REP. EMANUEL: Yes, we do...(unintelligible). Yes we do.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll see you Tuesday. We'll be right back. Go Bills.