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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Battle Raging for Heart of Democratic Party; Bush Over Baghdad

Aired June 5, 2003 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: A battle for the heart of the Democratic Party. Will the moderate and liberal wings of the party see eye to eye?

ROGER HICKEY, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE: We're not interested in having a fight with anyone except George Bush and the Republicans.

ANNOUNCER: What was the real reason behind Hillary Clinton's memoirs? Money? Politics? Or a motivation for the former first lady to tell her side of the story?

President Bush gets a bird's-eye view of Baghdad, as Air Force One flies over Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney, stand-up comedian.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That, except for the occasional heart attack, I've never felt better.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington: JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

Most of the 2004 Democratic presidential hopefuls are making their best pitch today at a Washington conference for leaders of the political left. There's no shortage of enthusiasm at this gathering, where activists are energized for a 2004 election showdown.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, reports that the true believers would prefer that the Democrats nominate someone who shares their views, but it is clear that ideology may not be the deciding factor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's a time and place for everything.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot, in an effort to protect ourselves, in an effort to fight this war on terrorism, let people like John Ashcroft take away our rights, our freedom, and our liberties.

CROWLEY: This was the time and this was the place for red meat, the tougher the better. And if it's about war in Iraq, that's gravy.

CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This unelected president acting on an illegal grant of authority that the Congress never should have given in the first place.

CROWLEY: Before Ronald Reagan made it a dirty word, these people were called liberals. Now they're progressives. And they've had it with all this pussyfooting around the president.

HICKEY: There have always been Democrats who feel that the Democratic Party ought to be sort of a Republican-light. We think that, especially in these times, that's not a winning strategy.

CROWLEY: Republican-light is code among progressives for the Democratic Leadership Council, a powerful group of moderates credited, along with member Bill Clinton, for reclaiming the White House in '92. The DLC calls progressive the Ben and Jerry wing of the party, with a leftward agenda that turns off the swing voters needed to win.

AL FROM, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: What the Democratic Party needs to do to win is, it needs to win those people who identify as Democrats, but it has to win a lot of voters who don't identify as Democrats, who are independent. Some are even moderate Republicans.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those folks at the DLC are wrong. The way to get elected -- the way to get elected -- the way to get elected in this country is not to be like the Republicans. It's to stand up against them and fight.

CROWLEY: Noticeably missing at the three-day progressive bash, '04 moderates Joe Lieberman and Bob graham.

Much has been made of this intraparty struggle, its short-term meaning, its long-term effect, a debate which overlooks the obvious.

HICKEY: This is a very, very pragmatic crowd. They want to see progressive values championed by someone who can win.

ANDREW GILLUM, TALLAHASSEE COMMISSIONER: I think, at the end of the day, we all are Democrats. And today, we are stronger Democrats. President Bush has had a great effect in helping to galvanize Democrats behind one position.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And so, in the end, there is really only one faction in the Democratic Party. And that's the faction that wants the White House back -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Although these little divisions beginning to echo those little divisions in the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: They do, indeed, but they all got around George Bush in the last election. So...

WOODRUFF: They sure did. Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Well, checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, whom you just saw, was among the White House hopefuls to address that progressive conference. But the long-term future of her campaign is in question, Moseley Braun telling the Associated Press that she'll decide in September if she wants to remain in the race. She says she may skip the New Hampshire primary. But she still believes, she says, that she can win the nomination.

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is considering a run for her old House seat. McKinney lost to fellow Democrat Denise Majette in a bitter party primary last year. And Majette cruised to victory in November. "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reports that McKinney has filed a statement of candidacy for the 2004 House primary.

Democratic hopeful John Edwards has unveiled his plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. At today's progressive conference, Edwards proposed a six-point plan. It includes the use of government purchasing power to buy drugs at a lower price and a new effort to investigate claims of industry price-fixing.

Well, efforts to rein in the costs of prescription drugs have languished for years on Capitol Hill, with few signs of any progress. But today, however, key senators from both parties have reached a deal that would add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

Our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seniors are a step closer to getting long-awaited Medicare prescription drug coverage, now that the top Democrat and top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee have struck a deal on the issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been at this point before and it's passed us by. This time, it's going to be different.

KARL: The details aren't final, but the deal promises to provide drug coverage to seniors for $35 a month beginning in 2006. There would be a $275 deductible. Half of costs up to $3,450 would then be covered. There would be no coverage, however, for costs between $3,450 and $5,300. Above that, Medicare would pay 90 percent of all drug costs. Total out-of-pocket expenses for seniors would be limited to $3,700.

The plan would also set up a program called Medicare Advantage to encourage seniors to enroll in privately-administered managed care programs. Senator Ted Kennedy hailed the deal as a -- quote -- "major breakthrough in our effort to give senior citizens the prescription drug coverage under Medicare they need and deserve." But Kennedy, the Senate's liberal icon, is at odds with Tom Daschle and other Democratic leaders, who are denouncing the deal as inefficient and a hidden effort to privatize Medicare.

A top Democratic aide says Tom Daschle is -- quote -- "apoplectic" at Max Baucus for striking the deal with Republicans. Baucus was lambasted about the deal at a private meeting with top Democrats, including Daschle. Sources at the meeting say Kent Conrad, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, stormed out of the meeting in anger.

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: The mood of that meeting was very bad. It was very angry.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Republican Leader Bill Frist says he likes the deal. But some conservatives are not so sure. There's concern among some conservatives in the Senate that the deal would cost too much and do too little to reform Medicare.

But, Judy, with the support of the top Democrat and top Republican on the Finance Committee and senator Ted Kennedy, it looks like this has a very good chance of passing in the Senate. And, as for the president, the White House has put out a statement today saying that he's encouraged by the deal -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: It's head-spinning, Jon, how quickly all this has come about.

KARL: It's amazing. And especially with Ted Kennedy there against Tom Daschle, it is going to be very interesting to watch.

WOODRUFF: No question.

All right, Jon Karl reporting for us from the Capitol -- thanks, Jon.

Well, President Bush is now on his way home from a key trip to Europe and the Middle East. And, at every stop, he aggressively defended his reason for going to war against Iraq. After taking off from his last stop in Qatar and to visit with American troops, the president got an unusual view of Baghdad. Air Force One flew over the Iraqi capital at 31,000 feet, as Mr. Bush pointed out various sites of the city.

Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is traveling with the president and has more on the failure so far to find any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The final stop was a pep rally, the commander in chief thanking the troops and dismissing those who say there was no reason to go to war to begin with.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the Iraqi regime is no more.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Bush faces scrutiny in Congress from some Democrats who question whether the administration exaggerated the extent of Iraq's weapons programs. And Parliament is putting even more heat on the British prime minister, Tony Blair. But as he visited the U.S. military command post in Qatar, Mr. Bush was anything but apologetic.

BUSH: This is a man who spent decades hiding tools of mass murder. We're on the look. We'll reveal the truth.

KING: U.S. public support for the war remains high. And administrative officials say they see no political damage from the fact that no banned weapons have been discovered so far.

The Iraq war was an issue at every stop of the weeklong that included fence-mending with Russia and another prominent war opponent, France. Mr. Bush sees the war as part of an ongoing evolution in the Middle East and was upbeat about the post-war transition, despite festering complaints.

BUSH: Day by day, the United States and our coalition partners are making the streets safer for the Iraqi citizens.

KING: U.S. troops are leaving Saudi Arabia, but are welcome here in Qatar. And Mr. Bush called on Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to say thanks.

The new Israeli-Palestinian peace effort is the most dramatic change. And as he heads home, the president says he is optimistic his hands-on diplomacy will quickly bring progress.

(on camera): The president used an old cowboy term to describe his personal role in the peacemaking in the days ahead, saying he will not hesitate to pick up the phone and -- quote -- "ride herd" if either the Israelis or the Palestinians are slow in keeping their new commitments.

John King, CNN, Doha, Qatar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Meantime, President Bush was criticized again today over Iraq's weapons program. The Senate's senior Democrat, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, called on Mr. Bush to dispel what he described as the perception of deception about Iraq's banned weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Saddam Hussein is missing. Osama bin Laden is missing. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are missing. And the president's mild claims that we are on the look do not comfort me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Bush administration officials continue to deny assertions that they distorted evidence to justify going to war.

Well, the war in Iraq may be technically over, but the killing of American troops continues. A member of the 101st Airborne Division was killed in a grenade attack in the city of Fallujah earlier today. Five other soldiers were wounded.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's book has already made big headlines. But question: Why did she write it? Up next: A new poll asked New Yorkers that question. And the answers may surprise you.

Howard Dean masters the Internet meet-up. We tag along to find the secret of his online success.

And later: Vice President Dick Cheney, public servant by day and stand-up comedian by night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The search continues for weapons of mass destruction. Is the lack of evidence a crisis for the Bush administration?

I'll ask Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With all the fuss over the new Hillary Clinton book, "Living History," a new survey shows that New Yorkers believe money was the main motivation behind the book. One-third said money was the main reason; 28 percent said Clinton was setting the stage for a future presidential run. And 27 percent said it was just to tell her side of the story. The Marist College poll also showed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani beating Senator Clinton in a hypothetical 2006 Senate matchup 56 percent to 39 percent. That's some interesting numbers.

With us now: former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and American Cause President Bay Buchanan.

Let's talk about Mrs. Clinton's book, first of all.

Donna, some personal revelations in there. Is that going to have an affect on her future political future?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, I think that it's an important story that she had to tell. And she couldn't write a 500-page book without talking a little bit about some of her trials at the White House. But, overall, I think it's a page-turner. It's moment in history. And Hillary had one of the best seats in the house. And she's going to let it rip.

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Terrible mistake, Judy.

And, quite seriously, as a woman, she's first the mother of Chelsea, and she has chosen to remain as a wife of Bill. And to reveal these secrets, to reveal, really, what happened, her emotions, her -- is, I think, a terrible mistake. Basically, she sold secrets. She violated her trust of the marriage and she sold these secrets for money. And I just think it's very demeaning.

WOODRUFF: You think she did it for the money?

BUCHANAN: Oh, there's no question. They would not have given her $8 million unless she was going to tell all. This is a tell-all. And it's her husband and it's the father of her child. You do not tell all under those circumstances.

BRAZILE: Bay, she starts this book about -- she starts this book by talking about her years as a Goldwater girl back in the 1960s. She also tells us about her college years, marrying Bill Clinton, and, of course, her love and advocacy of children and public policy.

This is a great book. On balance, this is a very small chapter in the book. But I believe she had to comment on this, without distorting the fact that Mrs. Clinton is probably one of the most admired women in American history. And people want to read about her story and how she got where she is.

BUCHANAN: Donna, there was a mystique about her. She never talked privately about these things. And I thought that was to her credit. She didn't leave Bill. I used to think it was because she thought it would hurt his possibility of remaining president, or maybe it wouldn't be good for the country. And I think she was right in those choices.

But to now go and tell now is an awful thing. These are secrets. There's an intimacy in relationships...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: I want to hear her side of the story, not "The National Enquirer"'s side of the story.

BUCHANAN: These are words that should never have been out here. They hurt Chelsea. They hurt her. They hurt Bill. And this is a chapter that was closed that she's opened up again.

WOODRUFF: Last word, Donna.

BRAZILE: On balance, this is a very real look at a real woman who is very admired for the public positions she's taken. And it's about her values. And, ultimately, it's a good book. You should read it.

WOODRUFF: Quick change to a very different subject: weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Bay, if those weapons aren't found, does this hurt the president's credibility?

BUCHANAN: Not in the least. He relies on intelligence that comes to him, as did Clinton and Gore, both of whom felt that there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and as did the Senate and the House Intelligence Committee. They all felt that the evidence was overwhelming and they supported the president on that call. And he moved ahead because of what he understood to be the case.

I think it is an excellent idea, though, since there is rumors out there that maybe some of this was manipulated, to have an investigation, because the president of the United States has to rely on this information. And if there's somebody manipulating, it's criminal. And that person or people should be locked up and the key thrown away.

BRAZILE: Look, it's been seven weeks, and, so far, no smoking gun. I think there needs to be a public discussion, a public hearing. We know, in Great Britain, there will be a hearing. This is a very serious issue.

This, the weapons of mass destruction argument, was used to build a public case to go into Iraq without our allies, without the support of the United Nations. So I think it's important that we find out the truth, whether or not there was intelligence, was it fabricated, manipulated. And I think the Congress need to really get involved and dig into this issue right away.

BUCHANAN: And that's their job. That's their job. But it will not impact the president. He took it on good faith that the information was accurate.

WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, we always leave you guys wanting more. That's the way we like it.

BRAZILE: That's right.

WOODRUFF: See you next week.

BUCHANAN: Thanks, Judy.

BRAZILE: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: The never-ending hunt for presidential votes: why one Democratic candidate is having so much success on the Internet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM JEFFORDS (I), VERMONT: These tax cuts provide a $90,000 tax cut for millionaires, while millions of minimum-wage parents with incomes under $26,000 will see no benefit from the increased child credit at all. This is compassion?

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Strong language today from Jim Jeffords on the second anniversary of his defection from the Republican Party, which temporarily gave control of the Senate to the Democrats. The senator from Vermont also slammed President Bush and the Republicans for the dramatic loss of jobs the past two years.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In the hunt for presidential votes on the Internet, one Democratic candidate for the White House apparently is way out in front of his rivals.

CNN's Jason Bellini looks at Howard Dean's tactics and why he's so successful at doing it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON BELLINI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The meet-up location is Bohemian, the Java Monkey coffee shop in Decatur, Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look around the room tonight, there are 32,000 people across the country doing just what we're doing right now.

BELLINI: The feeling is very 1999, the peak of Internet hyperbole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The vitality of our country is based on information exchanged, not on a one-way flow of information, of being dictated to.

BELLINI: But their numbers are real, not virtual, and the Dean campaign considers the Web critical in enhancing the prospects of a candidate lacking in name recognition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, it's really exciting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My instinct says we need to pay attention to Iowa. I'd like to know that every meet-up group is talking about what we could do to figure out a way to carpet bomb Iowa.

BELLINI: Among all the Democratic contenders, 36,000 people have signed up at the Web site at Meetup.com for meet-ups like this one in Washington, D.C., in May, and this one in March in New York, where Dean himself showed up.

Though political analysts give little weight to the number, Dean's supporters take it on faith that the 32,000 people signed up for Dean, vs. the 1,300 for Kerry, who has the second highest number, means their man is the front-runner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reminds me of the kind of, like, meet-up for maybe like a state representative candidate or state senator candidate. This kind of energy is easy to get for like a local race. But I haven't seen anything like this before in a national race.

BELLINI: Who shows up? The Birkenstock crowd, of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody that goes to a meet-up is somebody that pays attention to what's going on, somebody that cares about the country. If that's a hippie, that's me.

BELLINI: The activist types.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would just encourage everyone to have something on you at all times to promote his name.

BELLINI: And the newly inspired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my 25-year-old daughter.

BELLINI: A crowd sour and cynical about the current administration is remarkably uncynical about the potential of the meet-up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because the grassroots have the power.

BELLINI (on camera): Do you feel like you have the power?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a grassroots woman, I have the power.

BELLINI (voice-over): The power to, at the very least, get one another excited.

Jason Bellini, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: That's a whole new take on presidential politics.

Well, up next: By day, he's the vice president, by night, a black-tie crowd pleaser, a sampling of Vice President Cheney's one- liners when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(FINANCIAL UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Vice President Dick Cheney got more than a few laughs last night at the 59th annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner. Some of his best lines took aim at his boss, President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: I know that you really wanted the president, not me. He probably would have canceled his overseas trip and come tonight if you had told him he could wear his flight suit.

(LAUGHTER)

CHENEY: He loves that thing. He even has pajamas that look like a flight suit.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: It was a great line.

The annual dinner here in Washington was supposed to be held in March, but was postponed due to the war in Iraq.

Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.

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