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CNN Crossfire - Transcript

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HEADLINE: John Edwards Headlines Democratic National Convention Day Three

GUESTS: Mark Pryor, Mitch McConnell

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer, James Carville, Robert Novak

Can the senator from North Carolina top the speech by the would-be senator from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention?

CARVILLE: Well, welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Both members of the Democratic ticket are finally here in Boston. Senator John Kerry attended a rally today after taking a ride up the Charles River. Along with him were crewmates in the patrol boat he commanded during the Vietnam War. Tonight, Senator Kerry's running mate, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, will give his big speech to the convention.

Two of their fellow senators are in the Congress, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky.

NOVAK: Senator Pryor, on July 6, two days after Senator Edwards was announced, the very plainspoken Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, the former national chairman of the Democratic Party made a statement.

Do we have that on tape?


GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The word that the experts would use is gravitas. Did he look like he was ready to be president? I think when people look at John Edwards, they say, boy, he's a terrific, bright young senator. He's going to be something some day. But I don't think they consider the day being now.


NOVAK: Is that good enough to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, when, on the Republican side, you have a tested, experienced man in Dick Cheney?


I think that John Edwards has been a good pick. I think, basically, most people in this country vote for the presidential candidate, not the vice presidential. I (INAUDIBLE) vice presidential candidate is (INAUDIBLE) to reinforce and bolster the presidential ticket. And I think that's what John Edwards does.

NOVAK: Now, Senator Pryor, you're a very smart guy. (INAUDIBLE) who is a very smart guy. Maybe you can explain something to me.

On June 17, Senator Kerry stepson and strong supporter Chris Heinz said, "I was very pro-Edwards in the spring, but now I think we need someone with stronger credentials on foreign policy." What happened between June 17? Did he go up to Harvard or someplace and get a crash course in foreign policy?

PRYOR: Well, I don't know about-I don't think he did that, but he is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Mitch can testify to, takes an enormous amount of time for senators to get in there and...

NOVAK: But he hasn't been-he hasn't been going to the meetings. He's been campaigning, hasn't he?

PRYOR: Well, but he's been going for the last few years. And people in the Senate respect him on those issues.

CARVILLE: Senator McConnell, today, we had Dick Cheney, who got five draft deferments. Of course, we know about President Bush not showing up at National Guard meetings. But we saw 12 retired generals and admirals endorse the Democratic ticket.

I've never, in everywhere I go, never seen military support for a Democrat like this. It must break your heart-and I'm sure you're a good national defense Republican-to see a courageous, patriotic American like John Kerry being endorsed left and right by these military people. And the Republican Party, the military feeling abandoned by the Republican Party. What are you all going to do to get these people back in your fold between now on Election Day?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, KENTUCKY: Well, James, I remember you saying during the Clinton years that what happened back during the Vietnam period was irrelevant.

Now they're spending a good part of this convention trying to parade the Democratic nominee for president's military credentials, which were quite good and commendable.

CARVILLE: Just like you all did with Senator Dole.



MCCONNELL: But what's really relevant is what's going on now. And you know that we're going to sweep the military vote, both those who are active in the military, the reservists in the military.

In fact, government employees who wear the uniform are the most likely to Republicans of any government employees.

CARVILLE: But that's changing. You have 12 retired flag and general officers.

MCCONNELL: Well, there are always a few dissident generals you can find.


MCCONNELL: We can even find a few Hollywood people who are for us.


CARVILLE: Senator Pryor, a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll came out. And it's really got some incredible internal news which is bad news for the Democrats. It surprised me. It shows, for example, on the question of who's doing a better job of handling the campaign on terror, Bush has gone from 52 percent to 55 percent, way ahead of Kerry, in one month.

But here's the interesting one. Who would do a better job of handling taxes? In June, it was Kerry 53 percent to 40 for Bush. Now it's Bush 49 percent to 43 for Kerry. They like the Bush tax cut that you voted against. Isn't that right?

PRYOR: No, I wasn't in the Senate.

CARVILLE: He doesn't know that.

PRYOR: But nice try.

MCCONNELL: But John Kerry voted against them, all of them.

CARVILLE: Thank God.

PRYOR: I just want to say this. I want to be honest with you. I don't know who's going to win this race. I think it is going to be very tight. I think there are a lot of battleground states and I think there are some, maybe just 10 percent of the voters, that have not made up their mind.

But, nonetheless, they're going to be watching this convention closely. They're going to be watching your convention very closely. And I think what John Kerry and John Edwards have to do tonight is, they have to come out of this convention and convince America that these two are ready to take the leadership and ready to take this country in a direction this country is comfortable with. And I think they will do that.

NOVAK: How do you explain-how do you explain these polls going in the wrong direction, when everybody thought, with Edwards coming on the ticket and kind of Bush undercover, that nothing would happen?

PRYOR: I would just say this. I think the polls are going to be somewhat of a roller coaster this entire fall. And I also think and my prediction is that John Kerry will not get a very big bump coming out of this convention, because I think the electorate is more dug in this year than they have been in years past.

CARVILLE: Senator, you were the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee, weren't you? Your party just nominated a man in Oklahoma-and I want to be sure I'm right on this-that criticized "Schindler's List"," because he said-I'm serious-this is a nutty guy-that they had nudity because they were actually depicting what happened in the Holocaust.

And then we have your party trying to stop funding of stem cells. Don't you really believe that this kind of loony stuff is really not where most Republicans are?

MCCONNELL: You know, James, what's really interesting, Mark Pryor is one of the few southern Democrats who even dared to show up here.


MCCONNELL: All the Democratic candidate that are in competitive Senate races in the South and in the West are not here.

CARVILLE: Right. Right.


MCCONNELL: They're running away from this ticket because they know that John Kerry and John Edwards...

CARVILLE: But they'll go see "Schindler's List."


MCCONNELL: John Kerry and John Edwards are to the left, man.


MCCONNELL: They're the most liberal and the fourth most liberal members of the Senate. I have no idea what the record of the nominee in Oklahoma is.

CARVILLE: Well, he's a guy by the name of Tom Coburn. And he's like the most right-wing guy. And he actually criticized "Schindler's List." Now, this is nutty. Just like being against this stem cell research, this is kind of-this is like this creationism. It's nuts.


NOVAK: I want to say something. The best-the only good happiness I had this week was Tom Coburn winning the Oklahoma primary without a runoff. He is against pork barrel spending. He is for a free America. I think he's one of the great Americans.


NOVAK: And I'm just delighted to see him running for the Senate.

CARVILLE: Are you against "Schindler's List"?

NOVAK: I don't give a damn about "Schindler's List" or the movies



PRYOR: Let me just say one thing, too.

In all due respect to Mitch, I think all the Southern Democratic senators are here except for Zell Miller, I think.


PRYOR: So people are really not running away from this ticket.


NOVAK: It looks like we have got to take a break, Mitch.

Next, in "Rapid Fire," I'll ask if John Edwards can match the inestimable, the famous Barack Obama.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Coming up at the top of the hour, John Kerry officially becomes the Democratic presidential nominee tonight. John Edwards will address the convention tonight. We'll have a preview.

Bill Richardson was once discussed as a possible vice presidential candidate. Now he'll work for the ticket. I'll talk with him live.

And a bloody day in Iraq, including a car bomb attack that killed 68 people outside a police station.

Those stories, much more, coming up only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions even faster than the Bush administration blew the circuit.

Our guests are the great Democratic senator from the state of Arkansas, Mark Pryor, and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

NOVAK: Senator Pryor, do you think, tonight, Senator Edwards can come close to matching the incandescent performance by Barack Obama as the keynote speaker?

PRYOR: That's a tall order, because Barack Obama is truly a rising star in American politics. And one great thing about Barack Obama is, it shows the depth of the Democratic Party and the diversity of the party, but the answer is yes. I think John Kerry (sic) will do an excellent job tonight. He's a very good speaker.

CARVILLE: Senator McConnell, would you give Senator Obama a letter grade last night as a speaker, not-I understand you may disagree on content, but as a speaker. As a speech, how did you think it was? Give him a letter grade.

MCCONNELL: Yes, I thought he did a good job. He's obviously a rising star in the Democratic Party. And at the moment, the Republicans don't even have an opponent. So he looks like he's in good shape for the fall.

NOVAK: Senator Pryor, you're a moderate, just about in the middle of the Senate ideologically. Your ticket is the most liberal member of the Senate, Kerry, the fourth most liberal, Edwards. Do you check your principles at the door when you support a ticket like that?

PRYOR: Oh, no, absolutely not.

I still think this ticket is better for Arkansas than the Republican ticket, because, in our state, we've lost 32,000 manufacturing jobs in the last three and a half years. I think that when John Kerry and John Edwards come into office, they're going to focus on this economy. They're going to focus on issues abroad. I think, long term, they're better for Arkansas.

CARVILLE: Senator McConnell, is there any consternation in the Republican Party, which controls both houses of Congress, and the president that we'll be facing $450 billion surplus this year? Or that doesn't bother you guys at all?

MCCONNELL: You know, James, every time you Democrats start getting worried about the deficit, it means you're about ready to advocate a tax increase.

CARVILLE: Right. So you're not worried about it?

MCCONNELL: John Kerry voted against all of the tax cuts in '01 and '03.

CARVILLE: Right. Right.

MCCONNELL: Voted to raise taxes under the Clinton administration.

CARVILLE: Got it. Right.

MCCONNELL: When Democrats start worrying about deficits, you know what they're really worried about.


MCCONNELL: They want to raise taxes.


NOVAK: Senator Pryor, what do you think of a platform of your party that just doesn't say anything about global warming, nothing about capital punishment, nothing about most issues, it's just a vanilla platform? Is that a good idea?

PRYOR: Well, I guess we're taking a page out of the Republican playbook from four years ago, didn't we, James? Because that's kind of how...

CARVILLE: But you know what they're not going to do, Senator? They are not going to mention a $450 billion deficit or a weak military. They're all ashamed all it. They're running from it.

NOVAK: Senator Pryor, thank you for being with us.

PRYOR: Hey, thank you.

NOVAK: Senate Majority Whip McConnell, thank you for being with us.

MCCONNELL: Good to see you, Bob.

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