Yesterday I posted my review of Congressman Ford and Bob Corker's appearance on CNBC's Kudlow and Company.
Below is a full transcript of their appearance:
LARRY KUDLOW, host:
All right. Welcome back everybody.
Now, YOUR MONEY, YOUR VOTE. From now until the November election, we're going to be focusing on key races around the country. In Tennessee, the contest for Majority Leader Bill Frist's Senate seat is neck-and-neck. This race could decide the whole Senate outcome. It's Democrat Harold Ford vs. Republican challenger Bob Corker. Both are here tonight. First up, House member Harold Ford.
Mr. Ford, it's good to see you again. You know, I've been looking through all the press clips. It's very interesting. Republican House member from Tennessee, Zack Wamp, he says you are a pseudo-celebrity. Now I thought all this time you were a real celebrity.
Representative HAROLD FORD (Senate Candidate, Tennessee, Democrat): I'm a candidate for the US Senate trying to make government work again for everybody in my state is what I am. It's interesting. I'm glad to hear my opponent will come on after I come on. I've not been able to find him in the state to challenge him or to stand before the voters and to talk about all the issues we're dealing with here, and I look forward to talking about tax cuts and fiscal policy and national security and even health-care policy with him when he's ready to debate those things.
KUDLOW: Well, I'm going to get down to some specifics on that. But I want to ask you another one from the news clips again down in Tennessee...
Rep. FORD: Sure.
KUDLOW: ...and all the newspapers. A lot of Republicans in general are calling you a liberal. So, I want to ask you, Mr. Ford, are you now or have you ever been a liberal?
Rep. FORD: You know me and have known me well enough. It's unfortunate that some of my friends at home and some of my friends here in Washington who really have no real viable record to defend and know serious vision to fight for want to engage in name calling. I voted for more than $1 1/2 trillion worth of tax cuts here in the Congress. They know that I'm a believer that the Ten Commandments ought to be displayed publicly. They know as well as I do that I'm not for abortion on demand. They know as well as I do that I've supported our president every step of the way when he's been right on national security. And I've opposed him when I thought he was wrong. And I will continue to do that if the voters give me this unique chance to represent them in the Senate.
KUDLOW: Did you vote for a ban on flag burning?
Rep. FORD: I did. I think there's some symbols that are so important and are so outside of the scope of speech in some ways. And I tell you, I didn't have this opinion all the time. I didn't have it during my race for the Congress. But I visited a military base and I visited a veterans hall and I listened, and it struck me what this flag means. It's something more than a symbol. And it may take another show for us to get through all of this, but I'm not apologetic about that position. I believe there's some things...
KUDLOW: We've only got one show. But, Harold, I want to get you on the record again. You mentioned tax cuts before.
Rep. FORD: Yes, sir.
KUDLOW: Income tax cuts, investor tax cuts on cap gains and dividends. How did you vote when they first came up, and would you vote to make them permanent?
Rep. FORD: You know I voted yes when they first came up. You know I voted to make them permanent. I've been on with you a few times with some of our other guests and even my friend Paul Ryan talking about it. I voted in favor of the estate tax reduction that came through the Congress. I even voted for the elimination of it prior times. I voted for college tax credits. I voted for extension of research tax credits. Again, since I've been in the Congress, I've voted for a little over $1 1/2 trillion worth of tax cuts. And I think even the home newspaper of my opponent noted some seven years ago that I voted--or six years ago, I voted for the biggest tax cut the country had ever seen since 1981.
I think what we're finding here is that it's unfortunate that we really can't have a serious debate about the issue because my friends back--some of my friends back in Tennessee are so opposed to me, that they just won't allow my record. I think we ought to talk about overhauling and simplifying the tax code. I think we've got to get serious about--I listened to some of your previous speakers and previous guests, I think this economy is growing. The challenge we face is how do we let it grow and make it grow for everyone and include everyone in this incredible thing called American prosperity and dynamism. That's what government has, I think, to focus on even more than we have in the past few years. And I'm hopeful that my approach to politics, and I think you know me for a little while, Mr. Kudlow. The only thing I'm interested in is solving problems. I take on Democrats when they're wrong. And I side with Republicans when they're right.
KUDLOW: All right. Harold, let me just get, if I can, some brief answers. I'm sorry time is never long enough.
Rep. FORD: Sure.
KUDLOW: But, first of all, the issues of CIA interrogation and the related issue of NSA warrantless wiretapping. Where are you on those issues?
Rep. FORD: I hope that we can pass a military tribunal commission that President Bush wants that is respectful of rights. You know John McCain is opposed because he says one day our kids may be captured by the Iranians and we certainly want them to be treated right. And when it comes to wiretapping, I think the president ought to keep doing what he's doing. I want to protect this country.
KUDLOW: Are you with McCain or with the president on the CIA interrogation?
Rep. FORD: Well, I want a resolution. Congress shouldn't leave until we work through this. The president, as you know, wants the Geneva Conventions only to apply to serious violations. We've got to define what that means. We should stay here and not leave until we get it done. And wiretapping...
KUDLOW: Not leave until we get it done. But how do you want to see it get done? I appreciate that you want to get it done. But do you think that the McCain amendments which don't look like they're going to pass, do you think that's going to bow under to a Bush--Bill Frist told us last night--Frist absolutely wants to get something like the Bush bill passed? Where would you be on this?
Rep. FORD: I'm closer to where President Bush is on this...
KUDLOW: All right. That's what I wanted to know. I appreciate it very much. Harold...
Rep. FORD: ...as I am on wiretapping as well.
KUDLOW: OK. You're in favor of the NSA warrantless wiretapping?
Rep. FORD: Yeah. I think we can--now, if the court is going to decide here in the next few weeks that the president's engaged in some acts that are unconstitutional, Congress should fix it. But I hope the president takes every step to defend me and everybody in my great state.
KUDLOW: And the last one, Mr. Harold--God, I can't--so great--Harold Ford. Harold, where are you going to be on Iraq? I saw somewhere you wanted to divide it up into three parts. That doesn't really seem to be a realistic option on the table. The issue is kind of `Do we stay in Iraq until the job is done or do we leave at a date certain?' Where are you on that, Harold?
Rep. FORD: I don't think we leave at a date certain, but I'm opposed to staying the course as we have. I think decentralizing it, dividing the three semiautonomous regions will help unify the country. I've been there for a while. I've been to Iraq five times and will go back before this election.
KUDLOW: Do you expect to win?
Rep. FORD: Absolutely.
KUDLOW: Are you optimistic?
Rep. FORD: I feel good. And God is in the blessing business, and voters want something different. I think they see this campaign as representing that.
KUDLOW: Harold Ford, thank you very much as always.
Rep. FORD: Thank you.
KUDLOW: Up next, we're going to go one on one with Bob Corker, Mr. Ford's Republican opponent who wants to keep that Senate seat in the hands of the GOP.
Tomorrow evening, by the way, Devon Energy CEO Larry Nichols is going to give me his take on the energy prices, the new find in the Gulf of Mexico and peak oil theorists who warn that production is going to dry up. But they are dead wrong. That's tomorrow night at our special time, 8 PM Eastern. Keep it tuned to KUDLOW & COMPANY. We're coming straight back for the other side of our Tennessee Senate debate.
KUDLOW: All right. Now, YOUR MONEY, YOUR VOTE continues. A key Senate seat is up for grabs. It's a race that could determine the fate of the entire Senate in November's elections. Recent polls show it's a statistical dead heat.
Tennessee Senate Race Your Money Your Vote
Poll Corker (R) Ford (D)
RCP 45% 45% SurveyUSA 45% 48% Rasmussen 45% 44% Zogby 45% 43%
Source: Real ClearPolitics Poll Average
KUDLOW: You just heard from Democrat Harold Ford. Now, let's hear from his challenger Republican Bob Corker.
Mr. Corker, welcome to the program. We're grateful you could come on. Let me begin with this. The Ford people, and I'm sure you know this, are accusing you of raising taxes. As mayor of Chattanooga they say you raised the property tax and that you attempted to raise the hotel tax. What is your response?
Mr. BOB CORKER (Senate Candidate, Republican, Tennessee): You know, I came into the city and we had tremendous financial issues, and after making a tremendous amount of cuts, cutting the number of employees, cutting all kinds of expenditures there, we were left in a situation where we had to raise property taxes. But I think the rest of the story is that for four years I was able to operate the city's budget with only a 1 percent increase in city expenditures. And because of that and because of the tremendous investment that took place in the city while I was mayor, our city today has the lowest property tax rates since the 1950s. So, I've also been the commissioner of finance for our state at a time we had tremendously difficult financial issues and made the cuts necessary to get us on a recurring, recurring basis. Our state was left much stronger. I'm very, very proud of my record as mayor and as commissioner of finance and certainly have a different view of the world than my opponent as it relates to taxes.
I heard him earlier, and as you know, he opposed the Bush tax cuts in '01 and '03. And sort of slides by that and for the average Tennessean here in '09 which he opposed...
KUDLOW: I thought he, just if I may, so far as I know, he voted in favor--I know at the very minimum, he voted to extend the dividend and capital gains taxes. I thought he actually voted for them in the first place in 2003. Are you sure about that?
Mr. CORKER: I am sure of that. And, as a matter of fact, he was opposed to the capital gains extension until he began running for the United States Senate. But the fact is that that tax will raise taxes on middle income Tennesseans by over 100 percent if it's not extended in '09. And if I'm elected, I will certainly vote to support those and extend those tax cuts.
KUDLOW: Will you vote to make the dividends, capital gains and the 35 personal income tax the kiddie credit and the marriage deduction--if elected would you vote to make them permanent as President Bush has requested?
Mr. CORKER: Absolutely. I believe that low taxes create growth. I've been in business all my life, Larry, and I think it would be great to have another person--there are few in the United States Senate that actually is a businessman. We've got a lot of lawyers there. I know my opponent is one. But I really think that having someone in the United States Senate that's met a payroll, that's built a business and dealt with frivolous litigation and regulation would be a tremendous enhancement to the Senate. And someone who shares those common sense conservative values that has made our state great, like people--Howard Baker, Fred Thompson, Bill Brock, Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist. And I think what I represent is a continuation of that type of leadership which Tennesseans have come to really like.
KUDLOW: Senator Frist was on this program last night and came out very forcefully for President Bush's version of CIA interrogation. Mr. Frist believes it's essential to winning the terror war and protecting the homeland. How would you vote on the CIA interrogation bill?
Mr.CORKER: Well, I strongly lean towards the Bush side. I'd rather have a chief executive that is trying to do everything they can to make sure that our citizens are safe and secure. I'm hopeful that negotiations will take place, and actually there will be something coming out of the Senate that will make sense, that will allow us to do everything we can to make sure that again the safety and security of our citizens is paramount. And I hope, as does my opponent does, that that will be resolved very soon.
KUDLOW: And on the NSA warrantless wiretapping. As you know, President Bush has said when al-Queda terrorists from abroad call people here at home, we ought to know about it. Where would you come out on that one?
Mr. CORKER: Again, I'd much rather have a president who is doing everything he can to make sure that families here in Tennessee and across our country are safe and secure, and I support him in that effort.
KUDLOW: And what about the Iraq war? There, of course, is a great division between that sort of. Some say it's immediate withdrawal or withdrawal time table. President Bush is saying we have to stay until the job is done. General Abizaid just said we're going to keep full troop levels for quite some time in order to deal with the bad guy problem. Where do you come out on the Iraq war, sir?
Mr. CORKER: Well, I have a hard time envisioning when I hear people around our state and around the country talking about some timetable for withdrawal. I have a hard time envisioning what Iraq would look like if we left there prior to them being able to secure themselves and people having an economic stake in the future of Iraq. So, it would be tremendously destabilizing for us to leave the country until Iraqi people can secure themselves. And certainly I think we need to listen to the military commanders on the ground there as far as what we need to do to make that happen.
KUDLOW: Where do you see the biggest division, the biggest difference between yourself and Mr. Ford?
Mr. CORKER: Well, you know, the congressman--first of all, we have three debates here in the state of Tennessee. I had five during the course of the primary. This may be one of the most--this is probably one of the most debated Senate races in modern history in Tennessee. And certainly I look forward to debating Congressman Ford. He'd like to put words in other people's mouths, and I know he's good at talking. But the fact of the matter is that Congressman Ford per national journal out of the last eight--out of eight of nine years is the most liberal member of our congressional delegation, just based on his voting record.
KUDLOW: In Tennessee? In Tennessee, you're saying?
Mr. CORKER: In Tennessee, that's what I mean. And the fact of the matter is, and this is a business--go ahead.
KUDLOW: And what specifically--OK. You make this liberal charge. Mr. Ford denies this liberal charge. And when you look at his voting record, for example, on the estate tax, on the investor taxes, on flag burning, on the Ten Commandments, on getting rid of handguns, it doesn't seem on the surface that he's a screaming liberal.
Mr. CORKER: Well, he is again out of step with Tennesseans, and whether it's tort reform, whether it's the Second Amendment where he's had two Fs by the NRA, whether it's allowing liberal judges to let felons out of prison early because of overcrowding, you could go on and on and on.
KUDLOW: All right.
Mr. CORKER: There's no question--go ahead.
KUDLOW: No, I appreciate it, Mr. Corker. We appreciate you coming on. It's hard to get everything out.
Anyway, we're going to continue to check the political pulse of America. Pollster Kellyanne Conway is going to tell us why President Bush is giving the GOP a shot in the arm as she predicted, and she might even have a thought on this Tennessee Senate race.