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Filtered: Matt vs. Matthews or, How the Bush campaign stays on message, no matter what

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Campaigning in Sioux City, Iowa [two Saturdays ago], President Bush had this to say about his opponent.

Begin video clip:

BUSH: And now almost two years after he voted for the war in Iraq, about [230] days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance.

End video clip.

MATTHEWS: Well, about [230] days ago, John Kerry was on Hardball, and I asked him about his views on Iraq. [Two sentences of the exchange were sent to Bush supporters by the Republican National Committee.] Let’s watch that exchange as it actually happened.

Begin video clip:

MATTHEWS: Do you think you belong in that category of candidates who more or less are unhappy with this war? The way it’s been fought? Along with General Clark, along with Howard Dean, and not necessarily in companionship politically on the issue of the war with people like Lieberman, Edwards and Gephardt? Are you one of the anti-war candidates?

KERRY: I am. Yes. In the sense that I don’t believe the president took us to war as he should have, yes. Absolutely. Do I think this president violated his promises to America? Yes, I do, Chris. Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable? You bet there was, and we should have done it right.

End video clip.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Matt. Do you believe that your candidate, the president of the United States, accurately reflected in his comment that John Kerry called himself — declared himself — the anti-war candidate is an accurate representative of that dialogue between myself and John Kerry?

MATTHEW DOWD, SENIOR STRATEGIST, BUSH-CHENEY ’04: Yes. Obviously. The impression John Kerry was trying to leave when he was up against Howard Dean in the primary was he was the anti-war candidate after he voted for the resolution. That’s obviously what he was trying to do. He was trying to leave the impression that he either was the anti-war candidate or was becoming the anti-war candidate.

MATTHEWS: Well, Matt, let me get back to what the president said in Sioux City, Iowa, last week. He said . . . that John Kerry declared himself the anti-war candidate. The question to John Kerry was about whether — let’s listen to him again. Let’s get his words now, John Kerry’s.

Repeats video clip of Matthews-Kerry exchange.

MATTHEWS: Matt, again, do you think that was a fair representation, what the president said about what John Kerry said to me?

DOWD: You asked John Kerry a yes or no question. You said, “Are you the anti-war candidate?” And at . . .

MATTHEWS: No. I said, “Are you one of those — are you one of the anti-war candidates?”

DOWD: Yes. And he said, “Yes, absolutely.”

MATTHEWS: No. He said, “I am, yes, in the sense that I don’t believe the president took us to war as he should have . . .” Let me ask you, Matt, are you going to have the president stop saying that John Kerry, on our show, on Hardball, are you going to get him to stop saying that John Kerry declared himself the anti-war candidate, which is clearly not what he said, because I used the word anti-war candidate, and I referred to a number of them? . . . Is the president going to keep saying that something that was said on this show wasn’t said?

DOWD: Of course, he is. Why wouldn’t he? It’s what Senator Kerry said . . . You just showed it on TV. I think anybody watching this on . . . tonight on TV would think that Senator Kerry declared himself the anti-war candidate. I don’t see how anybody watching wouldn’t tell that.

—from MSNBC’s Hardball, August 16

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