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O'Reilly: Debates Will Be Like Kennedy-Nixon

Reported by Marie Therese - August 31, 2004 -

On August 30, 2004 after two segments in which Bill O'Reilly patronized ineffective Democratic apologist Lanny Davis and had a cordial, respectful discussion with Republican strategist Mary Matalin, he interviewed the former Massachusetts Governor, William Weld. Weld, if you remember, debated Kerry during his unsuccessful bidin 1996 to unseat Kerry as the junior Senator from Massachusetts. .

O'Reilly questioned the common wisdom that Kerry "runs best when he's behind" to which Weld responded:

"We had quite a race back in '95-'96. It was even for about eleven months and three weeks and then, the last week, Senator Kerry opened up a big lead because the race got kind of nationalized in focusing on Newt Gingrich and Jesse Helms, who were not all that popular in Massachusetts... He [Kerry] got a big boost when Bob Schrum joined his campaign....He ran the race that had to be won....I landed some pretty good punches on him and he came right back, so he can take a punch and well as dishing it out, and he'll be terrific in those debates. I've been re-reading the transcripts of those debates..."

O'REILLY: "...And that means a lot this year."

WELD: "It's painful reading for me...he's good...he's really good."

O'REILLY: If I were President Bush, I'd call you in to advise Bush on the debating ..."

Weld admits that he has "talked to some of those guys about that." When asked what advice he would give Bush, Weld responds: "My advice is not to try to twist the tiger's tail and take on John Kerry in a policy wonk debating format. You're gonna lose that race every time."

O'REILLY: "'Cause he's so intense about it?"

WELD: "...He knows the issues absolutely cold and he's so articulate. He's gonna be perceived as the winner on points, no matter what....and what the President has to do and what I am sure is his natural inclination is to be himself."

O'REILLY: "So, do the Kennedy-Nixon contrast - that Bush is the regular guy and Kerry is the Patrician?"

WELD: "Well, I don't think George W. Bush would have to act to try to underline that contrast."

O'REILLY: "The debates are going to be everything...."

WELD (later): "...I think it's possible John Kerry could win these debates on points and lose the election."

O'REILLY: "It's not a matter of points. It's matter of who they like...."

WELD: "He's fine. He's not 'move to Canada' material, if he wins....(later) He really does have a nuanced record."

When asked about the effect of the Swift Boat ad, Weld said: "It could come back around...we'll just have to wait and see...." Then, prompted by O'Reilly about whether he himself would have "sanctioned" the ad, Weld is unequivocal: "Absolutely not. Are you kidding me? I think the more discussion about Vietnam, the better for John Kerry."

Comment: The Republicans have begun the next phase in the debate scenario. Lower expectations for Bush and raise them for Kerry so their guy looks better.