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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Coverage of the Republican National Convention

Aired September 2, 2004 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Welcome back to the Republican National Convention on its closing night, and this is a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, with two editions tonight, one now and one again at midnight.
What an honor to have three generations of Bushes as our special guests in our CNN booth. And going from right to left, Pierce Bush is George H.W. Bush's grandson, George W. Bush's nephew, his dad is Neil Bush. His oldest sister Lauren is a well-known model, and he just begun his career at Georgetown University. He's proudly wearing his Georgetown tie.

Next to him is his uncle, Marvin Bush, who's George H.W. Bush's son, and George W. Bush's brother. And, of course, the former president of the United States, our good friend, 80 years young, the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush.

We're kind of saluting Pierce tonight. We just want to show you when we met Pierce four years ago in Philadelphia, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You want to be a politician, right, don't you, Pierce?

PIERCE BUSH, GEORGE W. BUSH'S NEPHEW: I don't know. It's a long way away. I'm only 14. I'll give you a call, though.

KING: How about grandpa?

P. BUSH: Grandpa? He is the best president living. Soon there might be a little controversy once (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Say good night.

P. BUSH: Good night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There he is. He's lost some weight.

P. BUSH: Yeah.

KING: He looks great. How do you feel?

P. BUSH: I feel great. Times have definitely changed. I've lost my -- my pre-growth spurt chubbiness. But I'm feeling great to be here. It's really exciting to be here at the Republican Convention. Just started out at a great school, Georgetown University. Very excited about that.

KING: Marvin, what kind of nephew is he?

MARVIN BUSH, GEORGE W. BUSH'S BROTHER: Pierce has been a pretty decent nephew. He came and stayed at my guest house, Larry. He was supposed to stay for the two- to three-day limit. Two, three months later, he was still there.

KING: Still there.

M. BUSH: The good thing about Pierce is he wore the same shirt every day to work for a month. It broke a family record.

P. BUSH: Keep it simple. Keep it simple.

KING: Mr. President, are you aware of the impact he made four years ago, Pierce?

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yeah, I am. I remember Barbara put the hook on the guy after he...

(CROSSTALK)

G.H.W. BUSH: He peaked a little early. No, it was good.

KING: What's this like -- what's this like for you tonight?

G.H.W. BUSH: Very emotional. I except Marvin feels the same way. And maybe Pierce, too. But you know, it's his brother, my oldest son, and very moving for us. I think the convention's gone well. We have unlimited pride in George, and I can't wait to hear this speech. It's going to be an important speech, but he'll do well.

KING: As moving as it was four years ago, Marvin?

M. BUSH: Four years ago? I think this is an even more important speech, in my eyes, in that I think George has an opportunity in an unfiltered way to tell America what he's accomplished over the last four years, and what Americans can expect for the next four years. So I think the opportunity is greater. He's grown a lot. And he's really excited for tonight.

KING: Pierce, how do you feel?

P. BUSH: I feel that George W.'s done a great job the past four years. He's kept his word. And he's really fulfilled what he said he was going to do. And I think coming from a youthful man, like myself, I think kids my age respect that. And I think there's a growing movement to support George W. Bush from the younger -- younger -- younger aged kids and stuff. And I'm excited to cast my first vote for uncle George.

KING: Will you be voting? P. BUSH: I will be voting. I'll be voting in Texas. I'm pretty sure we got that baby locked up. Still, it's going to be a huge honor to cast my first vote for my uncle George.

KING: What do you expect of Pierce in the future, Mr. President?

G.H.W. BUSH: I just want him to find the library at Georgetown, get back in those stacks and study. He'll do well in life. But he'll get a good education. And he's a hard-working kid. And he'll do well. And he does have, more so than all the other grandkids, with the possible exception of George P., a vital interest in politics, knowledge of issues. And knowledge of a lot of political people. So I'd like to see him some day get into public service, after he finds a library at Georgetown.

KING: Marvin, you're not interested in politics?

M. BUSH: You know, I'm really not. I'm interested in policy. I'm interested in a couple of politicians. Really interested in a couple of politicians. So I've just -- I believe that it's either runs very deep in your veins, or you shouldn't be involved.

G.H.W. BUSH: I'll tell you, Marvin is very, very close to the president. And he's given him great brotherly comfort. And George would be up at Camp David, and he'll call Marvin. Marvin may have other plans. Marv, you've got to get up here. And they just, the two of them, like a couple of little kids bonding. And this is very important to our family. And very important to the president. And I think Marv loves it.

KING: Does he seek your input, too?

M. BUSH: Not really on political stuff. I think it's like my dad said, my brother's comforted by friends and family. Particularly during these difficult times. And so my sister, Doro, who lives in Maryland, I live in Virginia, we both have the opportunity to spend time with George and Laura and their friends, and the rest of our extended family. And that's really important to him.

KING: What's special, Mr. President, about the Bushes? There's something about the Bushes. It must have stemmed from your dad.

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, I don't know. I think that -- I think all of them do have a sense of service to others, whether it's politics or being a point of light in a community. But I think it's just the love of a family. A binding love. Stand by your brother. Stand by your sister. If times are rough, you're in there.

KING: Family comes first?

G.H.W. BUSH: It does for me now. But I think it does to them.

KING: Does it for you, Pierce?

P. BUSH: Yes, sir, it does. Looking at my grandfather's example, I think us Bush grandchildren have a good idea of what it means to serve others. And that doesn't necessarily mean just in the political arena. For example, my sister Lauren is doing something with the World Food Program through the U.N. And I think that's a great way to go out and serve the nation and serve the world community. And I'm very impressed with her. I think kids -- kids in our family understand that sense through my grandfather's example.

KING: An amazing man, Pierce.

Let's get to some issues. What is more nervous, when you had to address this crowd, as you did twice -- twice as vice president, twice running as president, and watching your son?

G.H.W. BUSH: More nerve-racking?

KING: Tonight?

G.H.W. BUSH: The first time, and now tonight. No question about it. It's like criticism. Nobody likes to be criticized, and I get hammered, but it hurts far more when your son is criticized. That's not even close call, Larry.

KING: You can't agree with everything. No father agrees with everything his son does. When those times come up, how do you deal with that emotionally? We know publicly you don't disagree.

G.H.W. BUSH: Never a problem. Because my paramount interest is for our son. Of course, I have interests to our country. And of course I'm proud to serve the country, but all of that pales in comparison to the love of a father for his son. And if I had a difference, I wouldn't mention it, because then the press would rush down and say to him, hey, look what your crazy father just said. What do you want? Well, we don't do that in our family.

KING: And you?

M. BUSH: There's certainly some issues where I don't fully agree with my brother. But he's the kind of guy that may be interested in hearing from me. Sometimes he's not, Larry. Hey, I'm his little brother, after all.

KING: Do you get, Pierce, do you get caught up in this like -- are you caught up in the campaign?

P. BUSH: I can't -- I can't hear real well.

(CROSSTALK)

P. BUSH: What?

M. BUSH: Are you caught up in the campaign?

P. BUSH: Yeah, I'm caught up. I'm caught up in the campaign. I try to stay focused on it. There's some technical difficulties. I'm hearing a whole different conversation here. But I try to keep up with the campaign. There's a large political culture at Georgetown, which I'm very excited about jumping into. KING: It doesn't agree with your politics, though.

P. BUSH: Yeah, it doesn't. I mean, I've realized that in my first like five days there. I'm going to have to stick up for the -- stick up for the Bush family and uncle George a lot. But you know what? I'm proud to do it. And I think I've got the facts to be able to do it, too. So I'm happy to take on the challenge.

KING: To get to some issues, Mr. President, what do you make of this swift boat controversy?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, I think it's moved on past the original issue. And the president has expressed his confidence in Senator Kerry's service. But this last problem for John Kerry is when you have these people playing back words he actually said, broad scale, about the veterans. And that troubles me. Because I -- I felt very strongly that the Vietnam veteran was never properly served, is criticized, castigated, came home to being spit upon, and I didn't -- I thought those quotes, from what he said back then, are just horrible.

Now, he may have apologized. I don't think so. But I think he should. And they're pretty strong, Larry.

KING: Should he have, if he felt them, not said them?

G.H.W. BUSH: Say them, or pay the price. Say them or live with them. But you can't have it both ways. You can't say they shouldn't do this, these other guys couldn't have their free speech. They shouldn't be able to say you can't stand up for what you believe to be a bunch of honorable veterans.

KING: Is it a viable issue? How do you look at it...

G.H.W. BUSH: Let the voters decide. I mean, with me it's a gut issue. I was shot down 60 years ago from this very day. And I feel very strongly about service to country. And I feel very strongly about the veterans in this country. So I'm -- I admit to being emotional about it. And I admit to being maybe you'd say on one side of that issue.

KING: Sixty years ago today?

G.H.W. BUSH: Very day. September 2, 1944.

KING: I guess you don't forget things like that.

G.H.W. BUSH: I don't. Everybody else does and they should. We don't discuss it in our family.

KING: I know. Not classy, right?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well.

KING: We'll be right back with more of the three generations of Bushes on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with the Bushes. I must ask this of you because it just came in. John Kerry's going to speak tonight at midnight, following the convention. And one of his remarks will be, he will call your son unfit to lead the nation. And then he says this, "we all saw the anger and distortion of the Republican convention. For the past week they attacked my patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander-in-chief. Here's my answer, I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have, and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq." How would you respond?

G.H.W. BUSH: I'd let the American people decide all that. That's what an election is all about. I hope he addresses himself to what I just said about what he said about the people he was serving with. But I don't know who he's talking about who refused to serve. And so let him define it. That's what great freedom is all about.

KING: Is he implying, I guess, Marvin, that it's President Bush and Vice President Cheney?

M. BUSH: I think he's probably implying that it's Vice President Cheney because President Bush hasn't spoken yet tonight. So we'll see...

KING: We've got an -- advance remarks. He's speaking at midnight.

M. BUSH: I understand that those are advance remarks.

G.H.W. BUSH: He may want to change...

M. BUSH: He may want to change after he hears this speech.

KING: Do you get mad when you hear your uncle attacked?

P. BUSH: When I hear him get attacked? I mean, I know that it's part of the game. I mean, it doesn't make me happy. I don't think it makes anybody happy up here. But you've just got to take it in stride. I guess it comes with the practice of politics. And it's an unfortunate part of it and I don't think it's right. I think if you want to clean up the system then you can take that out. And that would be great if they did.

KING: Does it turn you off?

P. BUSH: I mean, it turns me off slightly. But at the same time, I think I've realized that it's just part of what happens. And I don't like to hear -- I don't like to hear them attack personal family members. I don't think anybody likes that. Nobody likes that.

KING: Mr. President, last night Zell Miller, and I saw you applauding loudly when he spoke. Do you like that speech?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, I liked it. I didn't like his speech in '92. KING: That's what I want to bring up.

Twelve years ago at Clinton, he was Clinton's keynote speaker in this same hall. He blasted you and the Republicans.

G.H.W. BUSH: Now he's seen the light. I think it's a wonderful transformation. And he's speaking from his heart then and he's speaking from his heart now. And I don't think he was particularly happy what he saw in the Clinton president, and presidency. And he's an elected United States senator. And suddenly the Democrats are all turning on him. I didn't like what he said back then. I liked very much what he said yesterday. And I liked the way he said it.

KING: You did? You didn't think the manner was ill -- not...

G.H.W. BUSH: Over the top kind of?

KING: Yes.

G.H.W. BUSH: I keep hearing that from the elitists today. Over the top. What the hell does that mean? The man said what he felt. And he told the truth. And if they don't like it, Senator Kerry can come on tonight at midnight and tell the American people his side of it. That's what's all great.

KING: How do you feel, Marvin?

M. BUSH: I feel the same way. I think he has the right to speak his mind. People have the right to change their mind, too, Larry. I mean, I think his perspective on politics has changed over the last twelve years.

KING: Were you here for Senator Miller's speech last night?

P. BUSH: I was. I was. I thought it was very good. I thought it was very well put. I liked the tone of it, too. I agree with (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I thought he had a nice...

G.H.W. BUSH: I think what's important, Larry is there's a theme. You get John McCain. Nobody programs what he says. You have a wonderful speech by Rudy Giuliani. You have a powerful speech by Zell Miller. You have a strong speech by the president. And this idea of leadership is what they're talking about. And I don't know who John Kerry's referring to when he said they questioned his patriotism. But if they're questioning his ability to lead, I think that's fair game. Just as much as he's attacked our son, he's attacked the president. Long before this convention, before he got the nomination he was challenging.

KING: In the heat of a race I asked your son this a couple weeks ago, you were in Greece for the opening of the Olympics when he guested with us that night.

G.H. W. BUSH: That's right.

KING: And I asked him if he, it's a strong word, hates John Kerry. And he said not at all. You don't hate.

G.H.W. BUSH: No.

KING: But it seems to get that way to the viewer.

G.H.W. BUSH: Not from George Bush to John Kerry. I think he's been rather restrained what he really thinks. And I think he should. It's fitting for a president to do that. I've always wondered whether I should have been a little more combative back in 1992.

KING: Is it a thin line, combative and dislike?

G.H.W. BUSH: Not necessarily. You can be combative because you do dislike. I don't think that's the president's case with Senator Kerry. I don't think there's -- certainly not a hatred.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dislike John Kerry?

M. BUSH: I don't dislike him at all. I dislike some of the tactics of his campaign. I find it very amusing that John Kerry's coming out tonight and he's got a very thin skin this guy. My brother's been pummeled by all these Democratic candidates throughout the primary process, and all of the soft money stuff, over and over and over again. And he's still standing. And tonight people are going to see a leader. So it doesn't -- I don't dislike the guy.

KING: Has it changed, Mr. President, or are we more vituperative as a society?

G.H. W. BUSH: Remember the Goldwater convention in 1964? Remember my own election in terms of anger and James Carville, who I happen to like, but he got after me. I don't think this is something new at all. I know it's not new from our side. The guy feels things coming our way, he's rising up, and you might say fighting. Just so he does it as fairly as these guys are. He can be as strong as he wants but he's got to address himself to the facts. These people have pointed out inconsistencies in what he's done. That's fair game.

KING: Are you going to campaign?

G.H.W. BUSH: If I can help I am. I've already done some. And I'm going to do more, yes.

KING: The president leaves right away tonight for Pennsylvania. He'll speak there tomorrow morning. They're taking off tonight. Are you going to campaign?

M. BUSH: I'm going to campaign. Everybody in our family is going to spend whatever time they can.

G.H.W. BUSH: We've unleashed a miracle in Doro. She pretends to cry if she had to say something now she's out there on the cutting edge.

KING: You've got to go to school, though P. BUSH: I know, I know. I wish I could help, maybe do some youth movement. I don't know if I'm going to have time. I think they'd run me pretty hard there.

KING: You want him to get into politics?

G.H.W. BUSH: I'd love it if any of them did, absolutely. But I don't think it's a must. And I don't think they should feel that their grandparents would love to see that happen. I mean, I think they should make up their own minds, after making a living, after making a record in life that's helping others. Or making some money or something like that. But of course I'd like it.

KING: You know, leadership is such a -- your other son is going to have a rough night tonight and a rough day tomorrow. That hurricane, there's nothing blocking it. Have you talked to him?

G.H.W. BUSH: I didn't -- I haven't talked to him in the last two or three days. Let me tell you something about him. Two years ago, he was singled out as the number one target in the country by Terry McAuliffe, number one...

KING: To be defeated.

G.H.W. BUSH: ... governor, senator -- yeah, to be defeated. And he just put his head down, they kept plowing all these surrogates in there, they kept saying nasty things about him, because of an election that he conducted fairly on his side of it. He didn't -- he wasn't guilty of all these charges. These were Democrat precinct judges (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

They attacked our son, and he just stayed strong, stayed on the issues, and he won by 14 points.

KING: Marvin, have you spoken to him since this hurricane thing?

M. BUSH: I haven't talked to him. I talked to him just after Hurricane Andrew, and I can tell you that his heart was going out to all the Floridians out there. He, before this next hurricane came along, committed himself to being back with the citizens of Florida. Jeb is a fantastic governor. He's got a huge heart. And this is a really tough time for the citizens of Florida.

KING: Have you seen an advance of the speech?

G.H.W. BUSH: No. I've not. As I say, I talked to him this -- noon, we were together at a church service. And he felt good about it. He liked the text of the speech, but I have not seen it, nor asked to see it.

KING: Pierce, I thank you very much for coming. I like the tie. Show the tie, Pierce. The Georgetown tie. Pierce is a Hoya.

Marvin, thank you so much.

M. BUSH: Great to be you with, Larry. Thank you. Have a good night.

KING: Mr. President, it was an honor to emcee your 80th birthday party. It was a great night in Houston.

G.H.W. BUSH: I'm just sorry your doctors, understandably, wouldn't let you go.

KING: Wouldn't let me jump.

M. BUSH: Larry, I just want to thank you for being the first guy not to mention that mental midget, Michael Moore, or whatever his name is.

KING: Oh, yeah.

M. BUSH: First interview we've had without anybody mentioning that guy.

KING: Well, you mentioned him. I didn't even think of it.

M. BUSH: You deserve a necktie.

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, I'll tell you one thing...

(CROSSTALK)

G.H.W. BUSH: ... he was in the box with Jimmy Carter, but he ain't going to be in the box with me at this convention.

KING: Thank you all. Three generations of Bushes.

There will be more. Pierce is going to have children. Oh, boy. We'll be right back with more of LARRY KING LIVE at the Republican National Convention.

Still to come, the president's speech and the introduction by Governor Pataki. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Beautiful day in New York. Not so beautiful in Florida and along the East Coast. There will be major coverage of that starting all day tomorrow on CNN. Starting late tonight, we'll do live shows. And everyone associated with this network will be on top of it.

Shortly, George Pataki will introduce the president. He'll be arriving shortly. I'm sure we'll see the motorcade pull in.

Let's meet our panel. On the floor is Jacque Reid, anchor of "BET Nightly News." Up in our booth upstairs is David Gergen, the White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. Professor of public service at Harvard's JFK School. Editor at large, "U.S. News and World Report." And Tucker Carlson, the co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." He's a political analyst, of course, for this network. And host of PBS' "Tucker Carlson Unfiltered." Joining me -- next to me is Wolf Blitzer, anchoring our coverage. Wolf and I will be taking you to George Pataki together. And I'll also bring him into this discussion. We'll start with David. What did you think of the remarks by former President Bush here tonight?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, I think that he presents a very attractive figure today in American politics, because he's very supportive of his son, but he doesn't reach in. Hasn't read the speech. He wants to defend him. And he joined the attack against Kerry about his post-Vietnam experience when he came back from the war. I think they're landing more punches on that area. And from my point of view, it is fair game, to question what he said when he came back. But it's up to him to defend himself.

I do think that one thing they're -- they're arguing that Kerry went after the -- the enlisted guys, the guys in the field. That was not the point of his argument. The point is, the leaders, the civilian leaders put them into situations, as he found himself, that he questioned.

But if you go back to the overall Bush family, it's a very attractive family. We all know that. I think it's one of the -- that's why so many of them have been elected.

KING: Do you have a comment on Kerry's statement, which he'll make at midnight tonight? "I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have."

GERGEN: Well, it's very clear, as you read the text, at least the excerpt we have, that by that phrase he's going after Vice President Cheney. And making -- I think he's clearly angry. I mean, here he put his life on the line. He volunteered not only to serve his country, but to die for his country. And the vice president, who did have student deferments, five deferments, you know, John Kerry's got his back up.

You know, frankly, I would rather not see them get into this kind of personal politics. I hate this kind of politics. But I do believe if John Kerry hopes to win the presidency, he better mount an offensive, especially after this rough convention. They've roughed him up a lot. They've found a lot of things in his record to go after him on. They've been much tougher than the Democrats were in Boston on President Bush. And he better go back on the offensive. He's doing that tonight. I'd rather see him stay out of this personalized kind of politics.

KING: Tucker, fair game for what John Kerry's saying later?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Yeah. Well, let me just say first, I mean, no matter what else happens today, my day was made by hearing Marvin Bush describe Michael Moore as a mental midget. Really, it was just absolutely wonderful. Good for him. Totally true observation, by the way.

Yeah, I mean look, I don't know what the Kerry campaign believes it's going to get out of continuing to talk about Kerry's service in Vietnam. I mean, sure, great, but you know, get over it. There's a war going on now. It doesn't strike me as a particularly compelling rationale to vote for John Kerry. You know, Dick Cheney didn't want to go to Vietnam, so he didn't go. OK. I mean, he shares that in common with many other people who have gone on to serve honorably in public life.

It just doesn't seem like a vote-getter to me. It seems like a distraction, and it makes you wonder who's in charge of the Kerry campaign, and could it really be that Kerry's personal peak is driving it. He's grumpy by the way he was treated last night here. So he's responding in that way. If that's true, I don't know, that's just not a smart way to run a campaign, it seems to me.

KING: I'll ask Wolf's thoughts, but first Jacque Reid down on the floor. What do you think?

JACQUE REID, BET NIGHTLY NEWS: Well, you know, some advisers close to the Democratic Party told me earlier that this is just what the Kerry campaign needs to do. They need to step it up. They have been laying low, according to these advisers, for much too long, as the Republicans have been coming out very strong, with simple, clear, strong criticisms against John Kerry. And they're saying that if John Kerry wants to win this election, he really needs to step it up, especially after this week, where Republicans all week long, despite a number of themes night after night, the main theme has been, you know, President Bush's reinforcing his image as commander in chief and really pushing that, and making the connections, connecting the dots, if you will, between the war in Iraq and the focus on terrorism, that, you know, the majority of Americans in this country are concerned about terrorism. That's a top concern for them. So that's something that the president will take to the stage and push for tonight.

KING: Wolf, I asked the President Bush about campaigns being more vituperative and he said no, they've always been like this. You've covered a lot of them.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They usually get pretty rough, especially as things get going. Especially if they're very, very close. I think what the Kerry people have learned is what Bill Clinton learned earlier in '92 and '96, when attacked, you got to attack right back.

Dukakis made a huge mistake, as you remember in '88, he didn't do that. He paid a very big price. He might not have won in any case, but by refusing to get in to the battle, if you will, he showed weakness. Bill Clinton never showed that. That's why he beat Republicans in '92 and '96.

KING: What do you think of Kerry referring to Cheney's refusing to serve? He didn't say him by name, but that's obviously who he's referring to.

BLITZER: Five deferments on the part of Dick Cheney who was a student and he was getting married. They were all legitimate. There was nothing illegal that Dick Cheney did. A lot of young men in the '50s and '60s were doing that. They were getting deferments, and you remember those days quite well.

Look, he could have volunteered. He could have enlisted. He could have been drafted. He could have gone in. He made a conscientious decision not to do it. Bill Clinton made the same decision. He turned out to be elected and then re-elected.

And the Democrats have always said you shouldn't necessarily have to use that as a litmus test whether or not you're going to be a strong president or not a strong president.

KING: David Gergen, do we have danger here of getting off point?

GERGEN: I think we are. Certainly we're going to get off point, as Tucker says, with both sides if we go back and refight and refight the Vietnam War.

But I do think this. I think that John Kerry, who has had his patriotism questioned here in this convention, who has had his commitment to defend the country questioned here, very seriously, in fact has been attacked very seriously, he damn well better answer back on that. He's got to -- he ought to be coming out of the trenches on that, you know, with his guns loaded.

I just think he ought to avoid going back to Vietnam. As Tucker says, I think he ought to avoid personalizing it. He ought to go on the issues about where he wants to take the country and why he thinks there's a distinction between defending a homeland and he thinks we ought to do that, versus the mistakes he think the president made in going into Iraq. He has to be very clear about those things.

KING: And by the way, President Bush, we are told, is in the building. We thought we'd see the motorcade, but apparently they had such detail that they just got him here. But he is in the building and he'll be speaking within the half hour. He'll be introduced by George Pataki.

Tucker you want to comment on what David said?

CARLSON: I don't know. Maybe I've missed something. I didn't take a short nap today. But I haven't heard anyone question anyone's patriotism, what the Republicans are saying is Kerry won't keep the country safe. You know, he's going about protecting America in the wrong way. No one is saying he doesn't love his country, though.

BLITZER: Well, Tucker, Tucker, let me interrupt you.

CARLSON: Wolf, Wolf, Wolf.

BLITZER: Zell Miller certainly implied that if he didn't say it directly in his speech last night.

CARLSON: I missed that. I didn't hear that at all. I heard him say John Kerry may be a bad guy. Maybe he doesn't protect America vigorously enough. Maybe again...

BLITZER: He said by questioning the commander in chief, and I'm paraphrasing now, U.S. troops were being undermined the entire mission.

CARLSON: Exactly.

BLITZER: That got pretty close to questioning his patriotism.

CARLSON: As far as I understand he's saying the effect of what Kerry's doing hurts America. But I don't think anybody has said, well point blank said, he's unpatriotic or doesn't love his country. They're two quite different allegations. Maybe, they're equally offensive, but they are different, I think.

KING: Jacque Reid I know that B.E.T. plays largely to a primarily black audience. Are they responding to this war thing?

REID: Not really, Larry. According to our polls, and the feedback that we get on our Web site, BET.com, most African-Americans are unhappy with the fact that Bush has taken time to go into Iraq. They're concerned about the cost of spending on that war, when most of those funds could have been spent on domestic issues and concerns they have, specifically jobs and education and other economic problems.

KING: What do you expect tonight, Wolf?

BLITZER: I think we've -- I've got to tell our viewers, I've got to be honest. We've gotten the advanced text.

KING: You've seen the speech?

BLITZER: We've had a chance to a look at...

KING: You media people, boy, you're always ahead of the game.

BLITZER: We can't report what we've seen, because it's embargoed until delivery. But in general terms, Pataki has a beautiful written speech, it's a well crafted speech. We're told Peggy Noonan, the well-known speechwriter, as a lot of our viewers remember, had a direct hand in that. That's been widely reported in the press.

And you can see some of that flavor going through that speech. And the president's speech, by all accounts, and we've seen excerpts that we can report, will be specific in going after some of the initiatives he would like to achieve over the next four years, initiatives he has not achieved during these first four years.

KING: David, doesn't that fit a state of the union rather than acceptance speech?

GERGEN: It does. I've actually read the president's speech now. We just received it a few minutes ago, Larry, and without breaking embargo I think it's fair to say that it's very presidential in tone. It's in quite different tone from what we've seen here in the hall in the last three nights.

KING: Is there an attack on Senator Kerry?

GERGEN: I think Senator Kerry is woven through the speech in ways that will not fit the description he uses. He doesn't go after his patriotism, or say he's unfit to serve. But he does have some very targeted things, attacks on lines in his speech.

KING: Tucker Carlson, have you seen it?

CARLSON: I have, indeed, read the whole thing, yes.

KING: And?

CARLSON: Well, you know, it's a speech. Seems a little long, I have to say. But it seems to me this whole election is about Iraq. No one else -- other people don't agree. But that's my view of it anyway. That that's the subject that people may not tell pollsters say they're most concerned about. But it's the subtext of everything. In the extent the speech can convince going to Iraq was a good idea, it's effective.

KING: Jacque you talk about social issues, health and the like. What about Tucker's statement that basically this is about Iraq, yea or nay?

REID: I agree, or according to analysts who I've spoken with, they're saying that mainly to appeal to this base, the base of this party, that what the president needs to do tonight is come out and reinforce his image as a strong commander in chief. And to talk about the war on Iraq. That he really doesn't need to get deeply into domestic issues.

But if he wants to appeal beyond the base, and appeal as a compassionate, and reasonable candidate, then he does need to get into some of those issues and reach out to those independent voters.

KING: We'll be seeing you later, Jacque Reid, David Gergen and Tucker Carlson. We'll hold Wolf right here. And I guess Governor Pataki will be introducing the president shortly.

Is this his stage for 2008?

BLITZER: It's possible. You know, he's been ten years in the governor of New York State, a Republican governor of a state you and I know quite well. It's a pretty Democratic state. He's been elected several times. And the fact that he's been elected. He's coming in right now, he's about to be introduced and the crowd will be enthusiastic, Larry, as you well know.

KING: There you see the new podium and they're about -- there he is. The governor of New York, George Pataki, who will now introduce the president of the United States on the final night of the Republican Convention.

I'll see you again at midnight. Wolf Blitzer and the gang will be on following the speech. Stay right with us. There's Governor Pataki.

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