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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

"Terminator 3" Destroys Big-Screen Competition; Will Gray Davis Suffer Similar Fate?

Aired July 7, 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 heat is on. Some presidential candidates find summer campaigning isn't as simple as a walk on the beach.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My line of work, if you see a problem, you address it.

ANNOUNCER: The two faces of Howard Dean. Is he more like John McCain or George McGovern?

"Terminator 3" destroys its big-screen competition. Will California Governor Gray Davis suffer a similar fate?

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: "The Terminator" might be back, he might not be back. We'll just have to wait and see on that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

The saying goes, "Never let them see you sweat." But that may be easier said than done for presidential candidates twirling away in these dog days of summer.

President Bush is preparing to leave for Africa tonight, weighing a peacekeeping mission in Liberia and facing more American bloodshed in Iraq everyday. We'll talk about the political toll on Mr. Bush ahead.

But first, the Democrats have their own summertime blues. Senator John Edwards is in New Hampshire today unveiling his plan to encourage corporate accountability and dealing with a political dilemma.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is with us. All right, Candy. What is this problem that Senator Edwards has?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly in the short one, John Edwards's dilemma is which race to run. As many of his '04 rivals spent their Fourth of July weekends in presidentially productive places like New Hampshire and Iowa, Edwards was on the North Carolina shoreline, beach walking among constituents. Technically he has until February to file papers declaring that he's running for re-election to the Senate. But politically a lot of people think he may have to decide much sooner. The longer he weighs his options, the more it looks like what it is: the Senate is second choice.

On the presidential trail, Edwards' dilemma is pretty simple. He's shown he can raise money, and now he just needs to attract some voters -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Candy, right now what would you say is Edwards' overall strategy?

CROWLEY: The first two quarters of this year were basically about money for all of them and for Edwards. Now this third quarter, particularly for Edwards, is about voters. Tonight he's holding the first of several town hall meetings in New Hampshire. He's also going to some small-town Main Street tours in Iowa. They are backdrops, really, for Edwards' basic message, that he really is what George Bush only pretends to be, which is a regular guy who understands regular people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president is in a different place. He comes from a different place. He has a different view of the world. I have to tell you, at least from my perspective and the good old common sense that I learned here in North Carolina, the fact that you walk around on a ranch you just bought in Texas with a big belt buckle does not mean you understand what's going on in rural America, I tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Edwards is a Southerner with modest roots that he brings up quite often along the campaign trail -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, what is the general sense right now of how Edwards' campaign is going?

CROWLEY: It basically depends on who you ask.

Look, what's happened is, this is a candidate who made a splash the minute he jumped in. There were lots of great articles about his charisma and his smarts and his good looks and his Southern roots in a party that really could use some. Now he's one of nine looking for daylight, basically, and it's been rough by certain measures. Edwards just hasn't shown much in the polls. He's a single digit candidate.

Still, he can clearly raise money with the big boys. Rivals say, though, that Edwards is getting no real bang for that buck, that much money as he's spent in Iowa and New Hampshire, he should be polling better. But then you talk to the Edwards camp and they say, Look, we're right where we expect to be. Nobody except Dean is showing much movement, and check back in the fall, and if our numbers are still low, then we'll have some explaining to do. So we will, of course, check back with them in the fall and in between -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And between. And in the meantime, he may have a big decision to make.

CROWLEY: Right.

WOODRUFF: All right. Candy, thank you very much.

Well, Democrat Howard Dean today became the first '04 presidential candidate to be declared eligible to receive federal matching funds. Dean's sudden surge of money and enthusiasm has left some Democrats wondering: is he more like John McCain or George McGovern?

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, looks at the two sides of Dean.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Howard Dean supporters insist their campaign is different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have a candidate, we have a movement.

SCHNEIDER: Haven't we seen this before? Yes, say Dean supporters. They talk about Dean as "our John McCain."

McCain ran for the Republican nomination in 2000 as an outsider.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The Washington establishment is in a panic mode.

SCHNEIDER: He called his campaign:

MCCAIN: A fight to take our government back.

SCHNEIDER: In a TV ad which the Dean campaign labels not coincidentally, straight talk, Dean says:

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And it's time to take our country back.

SCHNEIDER: Which reminds some Democrats of another candidate who called his campaign a movement.

GEORGE MCGOVERN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secrecy and deception in high places, come home, America.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are asking themselves: Is Howard Dean another McCain or another McGovern?

Neither McCain nor McGovern got elected, but there's a big difference. McGovern won the Democratic nomination but got destroyed in the general election. Too liberal. Most experts believe McCain could have gotten elected president in 2000, perhaps more easily than George W. Bush. But he couldn't win his party's nomination. Not a real conservative.

MCCAIN: We will not let Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson run the Republican Party of the United States of America.

SCHNEIDER: Like McCain, Dean is critical of his own party.

DEAN: I opposed the war with Iraq when too many other Democrats supported it.

SCHNEIDER: But Dean is critical of his party from the left. Democrats don't ask what Republicans in 2000 often asked about John McCain: is he one of us?

BUSH: I believe the McCain-Feingold Bill will hurt the Republican Party and hurt conservative causes.

SCHNEIDER: Dean supporters know what happened to McGovern. They don't like to be depicted as left-wingers and certainly not as McGovernites.

PAUL MCKENZIE, DEAN VOLUNTEER: I was a delegate in Michigan for the George McGovern campaign in 1972. And so I have some experience, and I know what this is like. This is very, very different.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Dean supporters believe that unlike McGovern, their man is electable. Why? Familiar argument. There's a hidden majority of anti-Bush voters out there ready to rise up if you offer them what Barry Goldwater once called a choice, not an echo -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Hmm. Bill, my guess is Dean would say he doesn't want to be either McCain or McGovern. He wants to win.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider. Very good analysis. Thanks very much.

More news about the presidential hopefuls in our "Campaign News Daily." Bob Graham's decision to sponsor a truck in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is paying off. The truck driven by John Woods took the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway Saturday. Graham hopes to reach the mostly white and male NASCAR fans who frequently vote Republican. The campaign points out that while the truck started out in the back of the pack, it finished in first place.

Senator Graham also held another of his campaign work days over the weekend, this time as a conductor on a scenic railroad in New Hampshire. Graham collected tickets and greeted passengers as they came aboard.

Well, supporters who want to draft retired general and would-be presidential candidate Wesley Clark will hold a meetup in his honor tonight. Organizers are aiming for Clark meetup gatherings in about 100 cities. At 20:04 military time, that's 8:04 Eastern, the Clark supporters plan to raise a toast to their efforts so far using draft beer. Of course. We got that.

Still ahead, President Bush may have won the war in Iraq, but is the quest for peace there already costing him politically?

Plus, the buck is stopping with California Governor Gray Davis. Guests on both sides of the recall campaign will debate the effort to drive Davis out.

And later, he dons swimwear for a campaign ad. But who knew Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts would be called to duty as a lifeguard?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Ahead on CNN's INSIDE POLITICS, Senator Joe Lieberman speaks out on the question of sending U.S. troops to Liberia.

Also ahead, the drive to force the California governor from office. I'll talk with the spokesman for the Recall Gray Davis Committee and a Democratic strategist about the petition efforts to force a recall election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The still unsettled and dangerous situation in Iraq has claimed the life of another U.S. service member. One soldier died early today in a bomb attack on a military convoy. And four others were injured in a separate attack late Sunday on a convoy outside Baghdad.

Here in the U.S., meanwhile, the CIA says that last week's audiotape recording said to contain the voice of Saddam Hussein, is most likely authentic.

The continued difficulties in Iraq could pose new political problems here at home for President Bush. With me now is political analyst Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Ron, with the news coming in of another U.S. soldier almost every day being killed, is this having any effect on the president and on Americans view of the war?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": I think it is. Peace is proving more dangerous in Iraq politically for President Bush than the war was. During the war, we had enormous unanimity of opinion here in America. But since the war is over, the dominant two story lines have been the persistence of American casualties and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, and that is beginning to take a toll in polls. Last week a University of Maryland poll came out and they found that a majority of Americans now think that things are not going well in Iraq since the war. And in your own CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll last week, the percentage of Americans that were confident we'd find weapons of mass destruction have plummeted down to only about half.

So you can imagine as these two trend lines continue, you can begin to see some risk for the president. Not necessarily the country will say, Let's pull out. But there will be doubts about the effectiveness with which they're managing this post-war challenge.

WOODRUFF: Given all this, Ron, how with the '04 Democrats handling all this?

BROWNSTEIN: They're beginning to move back on the field, Judy. And interestingly, reprising the argument they were making before the war.

What you're seeing from Democrats across the spectrum from Howard Dean, war opponent on one hand, to Joe Lieberman today in "The Washington Post," war supporter on the other end, is the argument that President Bush is endangering the security of the troops by freezing out allies and not bringing in other countries to bear their share of the burden.

Joe Lieberman today, like Dean, called for NATO to be brought in, called for more troops. And this is an argument the Democrats can unify around, that Bush needs to rely more on others and not pursue his goals in a unilateralistic manner.

WOODRUFF: But can they get away with that? For those who supported the president on the war, can they now turn around and say, Wait a minute. I've got problems. Can they do that and have...

BROWNSTEIN: Well, they're trying to draw a very narrow line saying the war was the right thing to do, but we need to manage this post-war period a different way. And I think, Judy, they can. Because all the Democrats, really, before the war, whether they supported it or not, made the argument that Bush was giving (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the views of allies, they needed to work more closely.

That is going to be the central Democratic foreign policy argument in 2004 that we need to involve others more, that we can't try to do things on our own. And that this provides them another example.

I suspect that you're going to hear a lot more of this in the weeks ahead because it's something they can say really from any point in the spectrum in the party, make a point against Bush and unify Democrats.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron. Given all that what about the separate question of weapons of mass destruction? They still have not been found in any significant amounts. What effect is all this going to have? BROWNSTEIN: I think it's a warning signal right now president but not a dangerous signal.

If you look at the polling, you do not see very many Americans say they believe the administration deliberately misled the public or falsified information. But what you did have in that University of Maryland poll last week was a majority saying they thought the administration had stretched the truth.

If the two things really going on together, I think, are the risks for him. On the one hand, they don't find the weapons of mass destruction which calls into question the justification for the war and the post-war continues to go in a problematic way, those two things together could erode an important victory for the president in the sense that this was almost an unmitigated success.

WOODRUFF: All right. And it's interesting that some of what we heard Tommy Franks saying as he was turning over the reigns of Central Command, you could tell that he was addressing some of that concern as well.

Ron Brownstein, thank you very much.

Senator Joe Lieberman was one of the strongest Democratic supporters, as you just heard, reminded by Ron, of the war in Iraq. But the presidential candidate may be parting company with Mr. Bush on the subject of sending U.S. forces on Liberia. The president now has not made a final decision. but Lieberman told New Hampshire voters today that it would be premature to send troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It would be a mistake to send American troops into Liberia while a civil war is going on. I mean we can't stop all the troubles in the world. We can't stretch the American military too thin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Lieberman says once Liberia's civil war is resolved, he might support sending some U.S. troops there as part of an international peacekeeping force.

Straight ahead, what is behind the Gray Davis recall effort? An angry electorate or fewer politics? A top California Democrat and the leader in the Davis recall movement debate both sides when they join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In some ways, California politics is a lot like the movie industry. Both are dependent on the bottom line. Would-be gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger's new movie "Terminator 3" is the new box office champ, grossing $72.5 million just since opening on Wednesday. The current Governor Gray Davis still faces a record $38 billion budget deficit. State legislators rejected a GOP proposal that would have balanced the budget during a rare Sunday session. With the campaign to recall Governor Davis moving ahead, the governor isn't saying much about Schwarzenegger, but he does have some harsh words for GOP Congressman Darryl Issa who plans to run for governor if the recall campaign he's bank rolling gets on the ballot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: "The Terminator" might be back, he might not be back. We'll just have to wait and see on that.

Darryl Issa is a right-winger. He's against gun control. He won't support a moratorium on offshore drilling. And he's not for a woman's right to choose.

He is a right-winger, and he knows that his agenda would never get him elected governor of California if he ran like most people do when you're supposed to in 2002 or 2006, so he's trying to sneak in the backdoor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Well, for more on the California recall effort, I'm joined by two men on opposite sides on the issue.

Republican strategist Sal Russo in Sacramento. He's the spokesman for the Recall Gray Davis Committee.

Democratic strategist Darry Sragow in Los Angeles.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us.

Sal Russo, let me begin with you. I don't know how much you were able to hear of Governor Davis. He said yesterday, go ahead, bring this recall on. But he said he thinks most California voters are going to reject it because it's going to cost 25 or $30 million and California can't afford that.

SAL RUSSO, RECALL GRAY DAVIS CMTE.: Well, that's one of the silliest arguments, Judy, because every single day the state of California spends $30 million more than it takes in. I mean, it's really urgent that we get this recall on the ballot in October so we can get this governor out of office because literally, once you get a competent governor in office, we'll save that $30 million in deficit that we're running every single day. So spending $30 million one time for an election -- boy, that's the best bargain taxpayers have ever.

WOODRUFF: A good bargain, Darry Sragow?

DARRY SRAGOW, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, it's a terrible bargain. I mean, the state's in serious financial trouble, and this is a coup. It's a legal coup that I think will become known as Darryl Issa's coup. It's got a price tag of $25 million and if you look at "The L.A. Times" this morning, the Republicans in the legislature are talking about cutting off food for seeing eye dogs for poor people, cutting off funerals for foster children. I mean, let's take the $25 million and do something useful with it.

WOODRUFF: Well, Darry Sragow, let me go on to ask you -- you know, you've got a situation where if there's a recall, the winner could win by a simple plurality. Doesn't that leave Democrats lying awake, worrying at night?

SRAGOW: Well, Democrats are very worried. Right now, it's important that the party unify behind Gray Davis, stand with him. That's one of the elements of beating the recall if it gets on the ballot, and I think it will.

But politicians, after all, are human beings, and I'm sure that everybody in California who wakes up and looks in the mirror and sees a governor that's going to continue to revisit this question in the coming weeks.

WOODRUFF: Sal Russo, let me ask you that. I did interview Gray Davis yesterday on CNN's "LATE EDITION" and you heard what he said -- or part of what he said about Darryl Issa. When I asked him about you, he said, Sal Russo ran the campaign of my opponent in the last election. A lot of this is just sour grapes. He says there's nothing for campaign managers to do in odd years, and so he's just trying to gin this thing up.

RUSSO: Well, I appreciate the compliment from the governor. But, you know, we wouldn't be getting two million signatures, which is what we would have if we waited until September 2. We've already collected over 1.5 million signatures in just a couple of months. It just tells you the complete dissatisfaction of the job that Gray Davis has done. It's not just the budget, which, of course, is what's got everybody angry today, but his mishandling the energy crisis, allowing our roads to deteriorate to be the worst in the nation, our air quality is the worst, our school scores continue to be near the worst in the entire nation.

California is in a complete meltdown, and whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or a liberal or a conservative, I think everybody is pretty much resigned themselves that we do need a new leader in California, which why this overwhelming response to our signatures has occurred.

WOODRUFF: Darry Sragow, how do you answer the substance of what Sal Russo is saying?

SRAGOW: Well, I just find it ironic and hypocritical, because if you you -- if you argue that California's in a meltdown, then what Sal's doing, and what Darryl Issa is doing, is ensuring that we have a total and complete meltdown. I mean, what we're talking about here is ensuring that the state of California's government become paralyzed between now and the recall, whether it's in November or March, and then if Gray Davis is recalled and there is a new governor, you're guaranteeing...

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