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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Interview With Joe Lieberman; Interview With John Edwards

Aired June 17, 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: The Democrats' prescription for Medicare.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The Republican plan contains a coverage gap so wide that to 50 percent of seniors would fall into it.

ANNOUNCER: But are Senate Democrats opting for a gimmick of their own?

Another take on the Bush tax cuts.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He values and honors wealth. He wants the people who own the most to get more.

ANNOUNCER: Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards talks to us about his plan to slash taxes on the middle class.

Can't they all just get along? Which '04 Democrat says he's sorry for dissing one of his rivals?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

Some Republicans who have been watching the recent stock market rebound are patting the president and themselves on the back. They say they believe the Bush tax cuts are behind the market gains. And the president says he's optimistic that the broader economy will benefit, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we need an increased demand in a sluggish economy. The jobs and growth bill came at the right time. And I want to thank the Congress for passing that bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: But Democrats are trying to steal some of the president's thunder. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards unveiled his own tax cut plan today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: I know this president wants to make the next election about taxes. That's why I intend to tell the American people the whole story. This president is the reason your taxes are going up. I'm going to cut them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Senator Edwards talks to us about his plan and its promised benefits for the middle class just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

Well, meantime, in the House, Democrats' concern about a Medicare prescription drug plan boiled over today. Two House committees started considering the legislation. And the tone was hardly bipartisan.

Our congressional correspondent Kate Snow is on Capitol Hill -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, House Democrats coming out swinging today. They are hammering an argument that we've heard before from Democrats. House Republicans, they say, are opening Medicare to competition, up to private plans. They are going to allow private plans to compete with the government program. They say, by 2010, that would effectively kill that entitlement for seniors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: It will wither and die, as they have wished, in the year 2010 because of the way that it is written. Take my word for this and warn the senior citizens that this is now a reality and it is coming if this legislation is passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Now, House Republicans respond, saying, all the Democrats are doing is criticizing something that they have been trying to do for years, something that Democrats don't have a plan for.

Here's what Tom DeLay, the House Republican leader, said. He said: "Democrats, what is their plan? All they can do is try to scare seniors. And that hasn't worked for the last 8 1/2 years. It's not going to work now."

In the Senate, meantime, Democrats have a bit of a different strategy: Senator Tom Daschle planning to propose a plan that would make drug benefits for seniors more comprehensive, more complete, offering greater coverage, but for a shorter window of time, Democrats talking about using the device that Republicans so effectively used during the tax cut debate. And that's the notion of sunsetting this provision, Senator Daschle talking about sunsetting the drug benefits, so that they would go away after some numbers of years.

And that is something that Senator Daschle, you might remember, called an inventive or imaginative gimmick just one month ago. So what's changed?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Our view is that the Republicans have now legitimized that process. If they can do it for taxes, then it seems to us you ought to be able to do it for benefits, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: So Senator Daschle talking about sunsetting the prescription drug benefits. Judy, that's something that's not sitting so well with even some of his Democratic colleagues. A couple of Democratic senators have said to us, they don't think it's a good idea, Senator Nelson saying that he thinks this is going to scare seniors, because seniors will see the prospect of their coverage going away -- back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate, Senator Daschle trying to tie that back to what the Republicans did on taxes for a while.

OK, Kate Snow at the Capitol.

Well, the Bush White House today is defending the president's megamillion-dollar fund-raising blitz that begins here in Washington tonight. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says the big bucks will be needed in part to counter expected attacks from the nine Democrats who want Mr. Bush's job.

Our Jonathan Karl spoke today with a major Bush fund-raiser -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we spoke with one of Bush's Rangers. These are the people that have agreed to raise more than $200,000 for Bush's reelection campaign. This is a fund-raising blitz that gets kicked off tonight at the Washington Hilton.

But it is the beginning of a two-week fund-raiser blitz, where, thanks to those Rangers, the Bush campaign expects to raise more than $20 million, an absolutely staggering sum that would literally swamp the fund-raising efforts of the Democrats that are hoping to run against President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WAYNE BERMAN, BUSH FUND-RAISER: I think it's possible that the president's going to raise more money in his first, you can say month, really, of fund-raising than the Democrats have been able to raise combined, all nine of them.

KARL: What does that say about our system now? Does that give him just an absolutely insurmountable advantage over his Democratic opponents?

BERMAN: It gives him a strong advantage. It's not an insurmountable advantage, Jon, because money gives you tactical flexibility. It allows you to organize early in certain states and allows you to focus on smaller swing states earlier on in the process than the Democrats are going to be able to.

I think what it says about the system is an interesting question. I think what it says is that campaign finance reform actually is working. At least, it's working for Republicans, because we have more individual donors. And the president has done this amazing job of expanding our base, both politically and financially, because he's motivated them to give, as well as to vote.

KARL: People like you raised $100,000 last time, $200,000 this time. What do you get in return?

BERMAN: Last time, you got a chance to buy some good cufflinks. I -- didn't -- I should have worn them today to show them to you. You had to pay for them, but they were very attractive.

And don't know what the goody is this time. I'm sure it will be cufflinks or maybe, this time, we'll get -- maybe get a necktie or something. But you don't get anything. You get to participate in the process. And you get to feel as if you contributed to supporting somebody you believe in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Now, the interesting thing there, Judy, is that Republicans are saying that campaign finance reform bill that was supported by Democrats is helping Republicans in this campaign cycle.

One other thing is, Senator Daschle today was asked about this fund-raising blitz. And he believes -- he says that he believes that Democrats, although they will not have anywhere near parity with Republicans when it comes to money, that they still can compete on a relatively level playing field, campaigning on their ideas. So Daschle is not complaining about the fund-raising blitz, but, you can imagine, some Democrats will try to make an issue out of it -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We'll also have some comments from John Edwards about that fund-raising effort on the part of the president in the next block.

OK, Jon Karl at the Capitol.

And we're going to have more from Jon's interview with Wayne Berman and more on the Bush fund-raising efforts tonight on "LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES." That's at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific.

Well, he's got the name recognition, but can Joe Lieberman win the hearts of liberal voters? The senator from Connecticut has been portrayed by some of his rivals as being too conservative to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Our Candy Crowley sat down a few hours ago with the senator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hear an awful lot about Bush-light. And they're talking about you, basically. Respond to that for me.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's really -- I am me. I'm Joe Lieberman.

I'm the one Democrat who can defeat George W. Bush in November of '04, because my record prepares me to take him on where he's supposed to be strong, on defense and values, and then to go ahead and defeat him where he's clearly weak, on his failed economic policies and on his social agenda, which is so right-wing that it really has divided America at a time when we most need to be united.

So, I'm Joe Lieberman, heavy and independent, not anybody else light.

CROWLEY: You know, you have -- you are leading in national polls. But then you look at Iowa and New Hampshire. And you have got the most name recognition of any of the other nine in the race. Why do you think you're not doing better in those state polls?

LIEBERMAN: Dick Gephardt lives next door to Iowa. And he's been going there for 15 years. His recognition is very high. In fact, he won the Iowa caucuses in '88, 15 years ago.

John Kerry and Howard Dean live right next door to New Hampshire. They're in there all the time and have been for years. I'm going to do well enough in both of those states. But then we move on to February's Super Tuesday: South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arizona. Those are states in which I'm leading in the polls. And then we move, a few days later, to Michigan. I'm ahead there, too.

And then, finally, what I think may well be the decisive day, March 2: New York and California, two big states, really big. And there, too, I'm ahead in the polls. So this is not going to be a nomination that will be decided after Iowa and New Hampshire.

CROWLEY: When you look at issues like affirmative action, which you once questioned, school vouchers, which you have supported in testing form, aren't those conservative positions?

LIEBERMAN: Some might say that my support of the death penalty is conservative, but I think it reflects not only the right thing to do, but the feeling of a majority of Americans.

On vouchers, I've taken an independent stand there. And I've taken it because I don't want to close any door that has a reasonable chance of better educating our children. I know it's not the politically popular position to take within a Democratic primary, but that's not what I'm about.

CROWLEY: Do you think you been portrayed fairly or do you think you've been portrayed as more conservative than you actually are?

LIEBERMAN: I have a feeling that the American people get this, that sometimes politicians and even, pray tell, sometimes the media, like to categorize you. But I'm independent, as most Americans are. They decide every issue by that issue and what they think is right. And maybe that means I defy description.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Joe Lieberman talking with Candy Crowley just a short time ago.

One of Lieberman's primary rivals weighs in ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. Senator John Edwards talks to me about his tax cut plan and the state of his presidential campaign.

Plus, how is the Davis recall effort spending its dollars? We'll get an earful about the California governor in our "Campaign News Daily."

And our Bob Novak shares his scoop about the effort to force Davis out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: These are live pictures we're going to be showing you from Plainfield, Illinois. That's about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, where police report that a gunman who was holding four people has now apparently released two of them, but he remains inside the bank, First National Bank of Illinois, in Plainfield, holding two people -- police, of course, on the scene. We're following the story.

We'll be right back with more INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is out with a counterpunch to President Bush's strategy of casting Democrats as tax-and-spend liberals. The senator from North Carolina wants to cut taxes on the middle class by $160 billion over 10 years.

A short time ago, Edwards talked with me about his plan. And I started by asking about his proposed cuts and elimination of some of Mr. Bush's tax cuts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But it's not the truth.

Actually, what I'm doing is cutting taxes for the vast majority of Americans. Over 95 percent of Americans' taxes will be cut under my plan. And what I'm trying to do, Judy, is move us -- the president has a clear agenda. What he wants to do is essentially eliminate taxes of wealthy people who get their income from investments, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes. And I think that's wrong.

I think what it does is, it values wealth over work. What I want to do is, I want a different kind of tax cuts in this country, tax cuts that allow people who work hard for a living, people like my own family, where I grew up, to be able to save money for retirement, to be able to invest in buying a house, to be able to get some stake in the stock market by reducing their capital gains rate. That's what this is all about.

WOODRUFF: But they're still going to zero -- they would still zero in on the fact that, at the upper-income levels, taxes would go up.

EDWARDS: So what is the explanation for why somebody who is a multimillionaire, who earns most of their income passively, by clipping coupons and getting capital gains, should pay less on their income than somebody who works hard for a living?

The basic -- my basic idea is, I do think working families deserve tax help, but I want to make sure that earned income, people who work hard for a living, that that kind of income is treated the same way as passive, nonearned income.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about your campaign overall. You have been working at this very hard at this for a number of months. You've gotten a good bit of publicity. You're still at the single digits in the polls, nationally, in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in your birth state South Carolina. You're behind the president in North Carolina. I know it's early, but some people are saying, why hasn't the Edwards campaign caught fire?

EDWARDS: Oh, we have got a very clear plan, Judy, which -- and disciplined plan -- for how to first get the nomination and then how to beat this president, both in terms of structurally making sure that we have the pieces in place on the ground in all the states that matter in the primary process, making sure that we have the resources for our message to be heard, the kind of things that I talked about today at Georgetown, trying to empower working families, middle-class families.

And I am completely confident in our long-term plan. The numbers will start to move. They'll start to move when we pivot out of doing all the effort that we've put into making sure we have fund-raising, making sure we have money, and spend a lot of time -- which, I intend to work as hard as anybody in Iowa, in New Hampshire, South Carolina, which is the state where I was born. I'm completely confident about this.

And, most importantly, I think the message of making sure that working families -- that -- the president says he wants to have a values debate in the 2004 campaign.

WOODRUFF: Right.

EDWARDS: I think we want to give him a values debate, because I don't believe his values are the values of the American people.

WOODRUFF: Well, then you have, in connection with what I was just asking you, Bob Novak, the columnist, saying on INSIDE POLITICS last week that Democratic operatives tell him that they -- that, because your campaign is having a tough time, they think you ought to get out of the presidential race and focus on getting reelected to the Senate in North Carolina.

EDWARDS: Well, let me tell you, the last people I'm going to listen to about what I should be doing are Washington pundits. They blow with the wind. You know, what happened yesterday? What's going to happen the next two weeks?

I have -- my feet are firmly planted on planet Earth. I know exactly what we need to do in order to fund this campaign, in order to have a message that is authentic, real for me, what I care about, and having a vision for the country. I know how to get the nomination and I know what needs to be done to beat this president.

WOODRUFF: And very quickly, on funding, while you're out there working hard to raise money, President Bush is showing up for 30 minutes tonight and will raise $4 million or $5 million.

EDWARDS: Yes, I think that is partially a result of the kind of policies he's promoted as president.

It's not a shock that a president who has consistently tried to move the country toward a place where wealth and the income from wealth is not taxed at all and that burden is shifted to working people, who can't afford to make big campaign contributions, it wouldn't be shocking that he is going to be able to raise a lot of money from those people. It is not surprising at all.

But it will fundamentally be his weakness in this campaign, because the problem is, this president, because of his own background, how he grew up and the kind of policies he's promoting, is not consistent with the values of the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator John Edwards.

Well, checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": Supporters say that the draft Wesley Clark campaign is exploding in a positive way after a weekend TV appearance by the retired general and would-be presidential candidate. They say people are flocking to their Web site, DraftWesleyClark.com. Donations are pouring in. And they say their membership has tripled since Clark appeared on Sunday's "Meet the Press." The draft committee filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission today. Clark says that he is considering a run for the White House.

Carol Moseley Braun's presidential campaign is downsizing. "The Washington Post" reports, Braun is consolidating her campaign in her hometown of Chicago, as she struggles to raise money. But her spokesman insists she is committed to staying in the Democratic presidential race.

And, in California, the campaign to recall Governor Gray Davis is launching seven new radio ads today, including one that is a game show spoof. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our final-round topic: California issues. Electricity. Melanie?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Davis allowed blackouts and huge increases in our utility bills for years to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

State budget. Roger?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Davis turned a $12 billion surplus into the biggest state deficit in American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The ads will run statewide for a week in California.

INSIDE POLITICS returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Despite what John Edwards said about pundits, we have invited Bob Novak back for some more "Inside Buzz."

All right, first of all, today, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, former California governor, has got a new twist on this whole recall effort in California.

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's in Washington this week, Judy.

And, of course, everybody was asking him, including me: Are you going to put your name up to run for governor on this recall? Actually, he said, absolutely not. But he said something very interesting to a friend of mine, one of his close friends. And that is, he think that Gray Davis, if it looks like the recall is going to succeed, and there's a good chance that it, will resign as governor of California just before the recall.

That would make the recall moot. It would make Cruz Bustamante, an Hispanic, lieutenant governor, the new governor of California. That would be an interesting twist and it would really put the recall people in the dust.

WOODRUFF: And it would put the end, complete end to the recall

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Absolutely. Make it moot.

WOODRUFF: All right, some senators have gone to Baghdad. The administration wasn't so happy about it. NOVAK: This is very interesting. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, a very independent Republican, and another independent Republican, the No. 2 Republican on the committee, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and the top Democrat, Joe Biden of Delaware, were going to a meeting in Jordan. They wanted to go to Baghdad to find out what's happening.

They're really not ready for those senators in Baghdad yet. But they insisted. They're leaving Thursday. They're going to be in Baghdad asking some tough questions. Very interesting to see what their report is going to be.

WOODRUFF: All right, back here at the Senate, you have figured out what the next filibuster is going to be in the Senate over a judgeship.

NOVAK: I think it is going to be on the attorney general of Alabama, William Pryor, been nominated by President Bush to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the 11th Circuit, headquartered in Atlanta.

Now, what makes this really interesting is that Pryor is an open enemy and a foe of Roe v. Wade, thinks it should be reversed in the Supreme Court. No messing around, "I don't have an opinion on abortion." So this debate will be a straight-out, overt fight on abortion, which has kind of been the behind-the-scenes issue on all these fights. But this could be a real preview of a possibility of a fight for the Supreme Court.

Abortion is the real issue that's causing all these filibusters. And, in the case of Mr. Pryor, this would be out in the open.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak, thanks very much.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: No pundit blowing in the wind here. OK.

Well, still to come: He said it. Now he's apologizing. We'll find out what Democratic candidate Howard Dean now says about the comments he made about fellow candidate Senator Bob Graham.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean apologized today for some remarks he made about fellow candidate Senator Bob Graham of Florida. The former Vermont governor said yesterday -- quote -- "At this point, he is not one of the top-tier candidates. I think that's widely recognized." Well, now Dean says he regrets the remark and he believes that Graham could be a top contender in next year's primaries.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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