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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Howard Dean Leads Democratic Race for White House; Can California's Gray Davis Survive Recall Effort?

Aired July 2, 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: Place your bets. Is there a new frontrunner in the Democratic race for the White House, or is the field still in flux?

It's the California version of outwit, outlast, outplay, but can Governor Gray Davis survive the anger out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some ways, politics is like this reality TV show. I mean, you're kind bored with it right now, it's not working out, and it's not going to take them too much to change the channel.

ANNOUNCER: Fresh political fireworks over gay marriage.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I do support is the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman.

ANNOUNCER: How deeply will President Bush be drawn into our debate?

And, which presidential candidate is drawing Willie Nelson into politics?

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Well, after stunning the political world with a huge campaign fund-raising haul, what is Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean going to do for an encore? Thousands of Dean's supporters are expected to meet up tonight at more than 230 locations around the country, part of the effort to keep building momentum for the former Vermont governor.

Dean's Democratic rivals are looking for the big Moe, too. Joe Lieberman's campaign said today that the senator raised $5 million in the second quarter. Now, that's about a million more than was expected, but 2.5 million less than Dean raised in that period.

Well, few would argue that Howard Dean has jolted the Democratic race, but just how much and for how long?

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is keeping tabs on the whole field.

Candy -- all right, what does Howard Dean's success mean, and in particular does it make him the frontrunner?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means he's here to stay, as one of the campaign said to me today. I think that's pretty true. He has very much solidified, if there were any doubters left, that he is in fact in this field to stay, and it puts him in the upper tier. I think despite the fact that he is the leader in the money, this is a bunched up field at this point. There are those at the top that we now know are going to have enough money to go into January. We're not going to see one of the things that we saw with the George Bush campaign, which was that he got so much more money than anybody else in the race that everybody went out. We saw Elizabeth Dole dropping out early, a lot of early dropouts.

But if you look now at Kerry and Lieberman and Dean and Gephardt, these are all people that, in fact, do have enough money now to take them into January and February when we have the caucuses, and of course the New Hampshire primary.

WOODRUFF: So, Candy, which of these candidates should be the most concerned about Howard Dean's success? Who has the most to lose here?

CROWLEY: Well, if you ask them, they're not the least bit concerned. But, look, having said that, everybody loses if you're all going for the same prize and somebody gets a little closer to it and makes a big buzz, which Dean has done, both in terms of his crowds on the campaign trail and in terms of money.

If you look at Iowa, there are those who think that this does hurt Gephardt, who is believed to be the frontrunner in Iowa, by some polls at least. And this gives Dean a boost there.

But, if you say that, then you still have to look at John Kerry, who seems to have had the most to lose in this, and that is that John Kerry and Howard Dean tend to fish out of the same pool for voters. That is the sort of, as one described it, Volvo-driving NPR crowd. So, the real liberal voters and those who are more liberal than not. So, a lot of people look at this as hurting John Kerry more than the others.

The Kerry campaign, though, says that this just means that the race is between Kerry and Dean, and they're glad to have that sort of definition.

WOODRUFF: Well, no matter what they're willing to say, Candy, do you think this does change the way his rivals look at him?

CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. The money race is very important, as you know, particularly at this time. This was a phenomenal showing. It has given him great respect for his prowess on the Internet. I had talked to one campaign today and said, listen, what has he taught you? And he said, I'll tell you, I made several more trips to my Web guy today. This man has shown that he has touched a cord in the Democratic Party, that there are voters out there who are quite willing to listen to somebody who they believe stands up against the president. This indeed will have the effect and has had the effect, even before this money, of pushing the field a little bit to the left.

So, in fact, the Democrats that are in this field right now look at Howard Dean and know that they're really up against a guy that could actually win this. And when it first started a year ago, as you know, they didn't all think that.

WOODRUFF: Well, we are a long way from the election, Candy.

CROWLEY: We are.

WOODRUFF: But we are talking about him all of the time...

CROWLEY: Yes.

WOODRUFF: ... Howard Dean. Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Well, in California, Governor Gray Davis has his own money and political troubles. Davis says that a newly extended hiring freeze is another step towards solving the state's budget crisis, but his critics aren't satisfied.

With the campaign to recall Davis plowing forward, our Bill Schneider is in California and analyzing the anger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Why are California voters turning on Governor Gray Davis? Start with this: Davis is a supremely tactical politician. That's how he got elected, say the experts.

PHIL MATIER, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": Gray Davis has managed to make a career out of being the last man standing.

SCHNEIDER: The voters say that, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted for him and I regret it, although the choices were so thin that he was the best/worse choice.

SCHNEIDER: But the may be on to his tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he knew that there was a $38 billion deficit before the election and basically kept it quiet.

SCHNEIDER: So, now the voters are behaving tactically.

ALLAN HOFFENBLUM, GOP POLITICAL CONSULTANT: What they want is change in Sacramento, and the only mechanism that's been offered to them right now is to replace the governor.

SCHNEIDER: The governor has plenty of passionate critics. In fact, they're standing in line. HOFFENBLUM: Never before have I seen card tables with petitions where people are standing in line to sign that petition. Bill, they're standing in line.

SCHNEIDER: Since Davis won a tactical victory last November, the voters have very little commitment to their choice. That's why they can turn on him so quickly. It's called "channel surfing."

MATIER: Well, in some ways, politics is like this reality TV show, and they're kind of bored with it right now, it's not working out, and it's not going to take them too much to change the channel.

SCHNEIDER: Can Davis survive the recall effort? Sure he can, tactically, by making his opposition the issue.

MATIER: There aren't a lot of people in California that wake up in the morning and say, Gray Davis, what a great guy; I can't thank God enough he's there. But there are enough people in California that will turn around and say, I have to live with this guy because the alternative is just unbearable. And that's what they're betting on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Bill Clinton was another brilliant tactical politician, but Clinton also had passion and vision. Shortly after he got elected, Governor Davis said about the state legislature -- quote -- "Their job is to implement my vision." You know, politicians here in California were dumbfounded. They wondered, what could he be talking about -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, the guy we can't live without.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

Well, there's new information about the man funding the Davis recall effort in our campaign news daily. The "San Francisco Chronicle" reports Congressman Darrell Issa was arrested twice back in the 1970s on weapons charges. Both incidents resulted in fines and probation. When asked about the charges, Issa described them to the paper as -- quote -- "30-year-old misdemeanors."

The group backing Gray Davis uses a new radio ad to raise questions about the recall effort by criticizing Darrell Issa's past brushes with the law. The California voter project ends its ad with some strong words of advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: His name is Darrell Issa, and he's got a petition for you to sign. So, the next time you see Issa or one of his petitions in your neighborhood, lock your car, get your kids in the house and go directly to www.stopissa.org.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Pretty tough. Well, later today, Congressman Issa is scheduled to meet with petition volunteers, who report collecting more than 5,000 signatures at the San Diego County Fair.

Well, now to another state where politics is on the ugly side today. Texas lawmakers called back to Austin for a special session are fighting tooth and nail over congressional redistricting. It is the second round of a few that prompted state House Democrats to go AWOL this spring, and it's a battle that may be repeated in other states.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call the House of Representatives of the first called session of the 78th legislature to order.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Foiled again. Texas Democratic state lawmakers thought they had pulled a fast one in May, when they fled to Ardmore, Oklahoma, to block a vote on a Republican redistricting plan. But GOP Governor Rick Perry called their bluff, and he convened a special session of the Texas legislature on Monday to redraw congressional lines.

Democrats in the legislature...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point should I object to this?

WOODRUFF: ... and across the state...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd rather be in Ardmore, you bet you!

WOODRUFF: ... are not happy.

The Texas plan is the brain child of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who's on a mission this year to consolidate GOP power in Congress. Part of his strategy: several highly unusual redistricting efforts. Typically congressional lines are redrawn once a decade on the heels of a census. But DeLay is aiming to shore up some Republican seats now, and ice out some Democratic ones.

Texas was the site of the first battle. Then Colorado Republicans pushed through their own plan. So, Democrats are threatening to retaliate by redrawing lines in New Mexico and Oklahoma, where their party controls the state legislatures.

And the battle for control of the Congress could provoke redistricting showdowns in other states, too, turning what has historically been a routine process into a serious game of political hardball.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

A story we will continue to keep an eye on.

Still ahead, what are rebel Texas Democrats have in common with presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich? Those bandanas should give you a clue.

Plus, will he be drafted? We'll re-ask retired General Wesley Clark the burning question: Will he run for president?

And, does America need a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage? Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan are eager to argue about this one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It turns out that a fireworks explosion this afternoon near Fort Myers, Florida, is a real tragedy. Four people are dead, and we are told at least two others injured, in an explosion that occurred just this afternoon. There was a fireworks display, it was being put together for a Fourth of July celebration, but the cause, the exact cause is not known.

Again, four people are dead, at least two others injured, one of them critically.

INSIDE POLITICS back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Retired Army General Wesley Clark, the target of not one, but two efforts designed to draft him into the 2004 presidential race. Draftwesleyclark.com is up and running on the Web, and a separate effort can be found at draftclark2004.com.

Well, even though the former general continues to insist he's not a candidate, his supporters have scheduled meet-up gatherings for Monday, like those made popular by Democrat Howard Dean.

For more on all of this, retired General Wesley Clark joins me from Little Rock.

General, before I ask you about the campaign politics, we're just learning today from our John King at the White House, President Bush expected to announce tomorrow that between 500 and 1,000 U.S. troops will go into Liberia, a very troubled East African nation -- West African nation, as peacekeepers. Is this the right move? Is it enough troops?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FMR. NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Well, I think it's a good thing that the United States will take part in the mission. The question is: What are the real parameters of the mission? How is the mission written? What are the rules of engagement? What is it we're expected to do in there? And how does the military piece link with the political piece? Those are important questions. We really don't know enough, but in principal, yes, I think we should have a role in there.

WOODRUFF: And is this enough troops?

CLARK: It's not enough troops in itself, but it's enough to make a statement that the United States is engaged. WOODRUFF: All right, let me turn now to the campaign for president. You've been saying publicly that you are thinking it over. Let me quickly read to you what the executive director of the Arkansas Democratic Party, your home state, just had to say this week. He said: "Some Democrats have not been pleased that he" -- meaning you -- "hasn't come out and said, 'I'm a Democrat.'"

Now, you're only talking to Democrats. Why be coy? Why not say this?

CLARK: Well, I've talked to Republicans. There are a lot of Republicans that talk to me all the time. But it's not a matter of being coy. It's really an issue of...

WOODRUFF: But we've already got a Republican president.

CLARK: That's true. And there are a lot of Republicans who talk to me who are very dissatisfied with the policies of this administration, and a lot of people, and not just on the Coast but in the interior of the country, who have come to me and said, I hope you'll run.

But for me, it's an issue of partisan politics. I mean, I have been in uniform my entire adult life. It's very hard to become partisan. I was part of the Ford administration. As someone asked me last night, have you ever voted for Republicans? Of course I have. I've got many good friends working in this administration now. To me, it's about the issues of where this country is headed, and that's what has me energized.

WOODRUFF: Let me just go on to quote something else. Again, the Arkansas state party executive director of the Democratic Party, he said, "It's almost too late." He said: "Wes Clark is already $10 million behind the other candidates. Money is very tight when you have nine candidates out there trying to shake the trees."

Is it too late?

CLARK: Well, Judy, I just don't know about issues like that. I'm not an experienced politician. All I know is that there are a lot of people talking to me who would like me to get into this race because of the ideas that I have and what I can represent. And they certainly don't think it's too late. So, I think that it's one of those things that you would have to decide without looking at that issue. I mean, for me, it's a question of, what's the best way to serve. How can I help the country? How do I take care of my family? Is this the right thing to do?

WOODRUFF: But how do people know that this isn't just a tease, General? With all due respect, you've got these two draft effort out there. You haven't told them to stop, to cease and desist. And you say you're thinking about it. How are people to know you're serious here?

CLARK: Well, first of all, I had nothing to do with the draft efforts, and they're the ones really that are forcing me to seriously look at this. And so, I said that I do owe them an answer, and I want to seriously look at it. And that's what I'm in the process of doing. But there is no commitment to moving ahead. And so, really, it's up to people to make their own judgments on this.

WOODRUFF: General Wesley Clark, we're going to keep talking to you and keep asking these questions. Good to see you again today.

CLARK: Thank you, Judy. Good to be you with you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

The question: Is Howard Dean the leader of the pack? And if so, what does that mean for the eight other candidates and one Republican running for the White House? A take from the left and the right when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With us now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

All right, what is Howard Dean? Is this man a flash in the pan, or does he have real staying power, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: First of all, I think he is the hottest thing right now in the Democratic primary. He's driving in the lane by himself, because he's been able to, not only generate excitement on the campaign trail, but he's brought together what I call the most unusual crowd of Democrats I have seen before. They're young, they're excitable, but they're also very hungry for leadership inside the Democratic Party, and right now Howard Dean is their man.

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: You have to give them enormous credit. I mean, what was it? Five or six months ago he was considered a no-name from a little quirky state. And just in that few months he's now at the top tier, and he has really energized the left. I think it's terrific he's way to the left, and that really helps distinguish the Democrats from the Republicans in a general election.

But because of that, and this is where his real concern should be, I think he's peaked early enough so that the establishment says, my golly, this could be another McGovern, this is the last thing we want. Those types of people that he is attracting are just the same that McGovern attracted. And so, they're going to put every boulder in his way so he cannot be successful in the exciting primary.

BRAZILE: But, Bay, before you typecast him as a liberal leftist, you should understand that he is pro-guns. He is also pro-death penalty, pro-balanced budget. So, he would fit in with a lot of right-wingers, in my judgment.

BUCHANAN: Yes, in those areas. But as soon as he lets those young people know about those things, they may not stay with him, Donna. They like the fact that he is against that war, and that's where they're coming from. So, I think that he really has attracted and energized the left of the party, and that moves him to left. That can only be helpful...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: That's a good thing, because I think it's important that we energize now as the left, but the right and center and everyone else, including Republicans, to come out and support Howard Dean.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to talk about some gay rights issues, in particular the whole question, which came up over the weekend with Senator Bill Frist. Should there be a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage?

Now, the president was asked directly point-blank about it, and in effect he punted and said, well, we have to get the lawyers to look at this. I don't know if it's necessary.

Donna, Bay, is it smart for the president to do this, to sort of say I'm still thinking?

BUCHANAN: Yes, you know, the president is just being cautious. Don't ask me why. He should have just grabbed that and said, absolutely, yes. That's where we're moving. We want to make certain we preserve the sanctity of marriage. We recognize it as something sacred in this country, a terrific standard. We are not going to let lose of it. We're not going to let any judges throw it out like they've just thrown another standard out. That's what he should have said, and that's where we all should go, because we should not let the possibility exist...

BRAZILE: The president should punt...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: ... gay marriages in this country.

BRAZILE: The president should punt on this. I mean, in fact, he should praise Bill Clinton for signing the DOMA law, the Domestic Marriage Act that passed during Clinton's term. We don't need a constitutional amendment. We already have a law. This is a cynical attempt. I smell what I call "wedge politics." And every time we amend our Constitution, we expand rights and liberties. And gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as all other Americans.

BUCHANAN: This country is not about group rights. There are standards, community standards that should be respected by the government. Marriage and family is the most important unit that we have. Its strength is the strength of the nation. Our nation has a real obligation to its own future to make certain that's established.

BRAZILE: We have gay families in every...

BUCHANAN: And the Supreme Court...

BRAZILE: ... gay families in every county, gay families that are paying taxes, serving our country as we speak in Iraq. And why not allow them to continue to have equal protection in domestic partnership rights?

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Bay, Donna, great to see you both.

BRAZILE: Happy Fourth of July, happy Fourth of July.

BUCHANAN: I stopped in mid-sentence.

WOODRUFF: Have a great Fourth.

This note, meanwhile, from the campaign trail. Democrat Dennis Kucinich has a new endorsement for his presidential bid from an outlaw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE NELSON, SINGER (singing): Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Country music star Willie Nelson says he is supporting Congressman Kucinich, because he says he stands for Americans -- Heartland Americans. Perhaps returning the favor, Kucinich plans to attend a concert this weekend in Texas featuring Nelson, Neal Young and the Grateful Dead. Wish we were there.

Still ahead, with the U.S. military already deep into rebuilding Iraq, why is President Bush discussing sending troops to Africa? We'll go live to the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BUSINESS NEWS BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: CNN's John King reporting just about half-an-hour ago, tomorrow President Bush is expected to announce U.S. troops will be going to the war-torn country of Liberia in Western Africa.

Let's go quickly to John again right now for the very latest.

John -- the timing of this is very interesting.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, we should be clear. We are told by some officials the announcement could come as early as tomorrow. Some are believing it will come later in the week. But we are told the president this morning discussed with his top national security aides plans to send between 500 to 1,000 U.S. troops to lead a peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Western African nation of Liberia.

The final details now being worked out, but senior officials telling us this process is moving very quickly, and that the president is poised to authorize this deployment. Some reports today that he has already done so. Officials tell us that is false. But they say the details are being worked out.

The main sticking points right now: urgent conversations with the United Nations, urgent conversations with other Western African nations that would take part in the peacekeeping force, and most of all an urgent effort to get President Charles Taylor of Liberia to step down and leave the country. All of those conversations, especially the focus on trying to get President Taylor to leave are expected to drag on. That is why most officials are saying they do not believe all of this will resolve itself by tomorrow. Some say the announcement could come that soon; others, though, saying look for it later this week. Again, 500 to 1,000 U.S. troops to lead a peacekeeping mission in Liberia -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's John King reporting from the White House. John, thank you very much, and of course he will be following that story in the hours and the days to come.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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