Meredith Vieira: Could Kerry Gaffe 'Backfire' on Republicans?
James Carville and radio talk show host Michael Smerconish were invited on this morning's Today show to discuss the impact of John Kerry's gaffe but when Smerconish insisted Kerry wasn't attacking the troops Vieira took that opening to ask: "Do you think it could backfire because it does, again, draw attention to Iraq?" Vieira then tossed the following softball to Carville: "So do you think this, this will have no legs whatsoever then, that's what you're saying James?"
The following is the entire segment as it occurred on the November 2nd Today show:
Meredith Vieira: "So will Senator Kerry's gaffe help the Republicans in the midterm elections? James Carville is a Democratic strategist and author of Take It Back and Michael Smerconish is a Republican radio talk show host and author of Muzzled. Good morning to both of you."
James Carville: "Good morning, Meredith."
Michael Smerconish: "Good morning, Meredith."
Vieira: "I want to start with you James. Maybe you might think that Senator Kerry should have been muzzled. A lot of comments about what, what he said. He admits it was a gaffe but in today, there is an editorial in the Boston Herald headline, 'Just Sit Down and Shut Up.' Don Imus told Senator Kerry yesterday, quote, 'Stop talking, go home, get on the bike, go, go wind-surfing, anything, stop it. You're gonna ruin this.' Has there been permanent damage done? He has apologized. He did issue an apology."
Carville: "Permanent damage to who?"
Vieira: "To the Democrats."
Vieira: "Why not?"
Carville: "Well why would there be permanent damage to the Democrats? Let me, let me read to you from the Dallas Morning News. I'm in Dallas, Texas, the most red state there is, where President Bush is ending this campaign. This is a very Republican newspaper. 'Yes Mr. Kerry botched a joke and he botched a response but let's be honest. He didn't botch the war in Iraq. American troops are not stuck in a deteriorating situation because a Massachusetts senator tripped over his tongue and his ego.' Now who in the world would be so stupid as to think because John Kerry said something inappropriate that, that's gonna count more for war that we have young men and women in. That, that's the ultimate, to me, that's the ultimate disrespect to troops to try to take a campaign gaffe and trumpet it over an inappropriately conducted war and that's what this election is gonna be about. I promise you that."
Vieira: "Well Michael, well Michael what are your listeners saying to you?"
Smerconish: "Well Meredith, James wants to quote from the Dallas Morning News. Let me show you the Philadelphia Daily News, which is John Kerry with a foot coming out of his mouth. It's not exactly the kind of a headline that you want to see five days out. And what folks are saying is that there's a complete vacuum for leadership by the Democrats and John Kerry remains the figurehead. He's the face you associate with, with the party. He said something that I don't think was deliberate. It was bone-headed but he should've more quickly apologized for that mistake."
Vieira: "But, but that's the point you just said it, you don't even believe that he, he meant what he said. I mean he's apologized but never did you think he meant that he was criticizing the troops?"
Smerconish: "No but I, I listen to it in context and to be fair to the man if you listen to it in context he was trashing the President, he was not trashing the troops. But the reality is that as bad as things may appear to be for the Republicans there's no Democratic message that's uniform and there's no Democratic leadership that's out there with an alternative."
Carville: "Let's be honest. John Kerry is not on the ballot and Mike, and, and I think that people at home are about to throw their shoe through the television because they've already run the '04 election. And, you know, I don't, this is not gonna have any effect at all. We just got out of the field with a poll last night, this morning, released it today. If anything the Democrats are stronger at the end of this week than they were at the beginning but I do-"
Vieira: "Michael do you think it could, but, Michael do you think it could backfire because it does, again, draw attention to Iraq?"
Smerconish: "I think that it already has backfired. I mean the fact of the matter is this is what we're here talking about on the most popular morning television program in the nation. It's what all the newspapers are leading with across the country. That's bad news for the D's, it's good news for the R's because if we are to re-litigate that election of two years ago John Kerry is still gonna lose the thing."
Carville: "But Michael the problem is the press wants to do that, the public is in no mood whatsoever to re-litigate '04. The, the people that don't know people in Iraq, people that are not suffering the consequences of war and think it's cool to go back to '04. The public knows what's going on today. They want an election about today. I think the public very much resents all of this brouhaha over something that John Kerry said."
Vieira: "So do you think this, this will have no legs whatsoever then, that's what you're saying James?"
Carville: "Well, but I have proof that it doesn't. I mean it just got out, we're gonna release a poll this morning late, later this morning and, and like I said if anything the, the Democratic position is slightly stronger as of this morning than it was of Tuesday morning."
Vieira: "So gentlemen, final predictions, look into your crystal balls. What happens next Tuesday? Michael, I'll start with you."
Smerconish: "I don't think it'll be a great day for the Republicans but I'm not yet willing to concede that the GOP loses control of the House. It wouldn't surprise me if we were down a dozen seats, not 15 plus and all politics, it remains local. So this is fascinating but it's gonna come down to local congressional battles."
Vieira: "And James I don't know, that's almost a smirk."
Carville: "If the Democrats, if the Democrats don't win the House back when I come to Philadelphia I'm gonna sit down and I'm gonna feed Michael the best steak in Philadelphia and I'm gonna eat a plate of crow."
Vieira: "You promise?"
Carville: "I promise."
Smerconish: "It'll be a cheesesteak."
Carville: "It'll be a cheesesteak, okay Michael."
Smerconish: "It'll be a cheesesteak."
Carville: "Always enjoy dinner with you. Thank you."
Vieira: "Alright. James Carville thank you so much. Michael Smerconish, thanks to both of you. And thanks for that plug, Michael, for the Today show, we appreciate it. We want to remind you that NBC will be reporting all the results of the midterm races on Tuesday night. Brian Williams will anchor our special Decision 2006 coverage along with Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw. And that is Tuesday night at 10/9 Central. Of course we'll have complete coverage Wednesday morning right here on Today."
Lauer: "I wonder how many people in Philadelphia are running out trying to catch a crow right now. See what happens."