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Interview With Ron Brownstein

Aired August 25, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: The Bush administration rallies its troops, faced with widening attacks on its handling of the chaos and terror in Iraq.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There are some today who are surprised that there is still pockets of resistance in Iraq. And they suggest that this represents some sort of a failure on the part of the coalition, but this is not the case.

ANNOUNCER: What a trip. Why is Howard Dean's latest presidential campaign tour audacious?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the last two and a half years under this president, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) every middle class person in this audience is far behind where they were before.

ANNOUNCER: New takes on the California recall drama. Can Arnold Schwarzenegger muscle out more Republican rivals? And are brighter days ahead for Gray Davis?

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld scheduled to hold a news conference after a town hall meeting at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. We're ready to go live to Texas when the secretary starts to take questions.

Rumsfeld is set to speak as national attention and anxiety are refocused on Iraq and the Bush administration's response to the ongoing danger there. As of today, 138 U.S. service members have died in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat back in may. Now, that is the same number that died during the war phase.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry today accused the administration of failing American forces in Iraq, due, he says, to a lack of planning and a lack of candor. Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is with the president in Crawford, Texas. Suzanne, how is the president? how is the administration responding to all of this criticism?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, they're coming out really and taking on the defensive about all of this. Really saying that this is something that the American people, they certainly want their support in this war on terror. Tomorrow the focus is going to be not only the war on terror, a little different, there's going to be some campaigning.

He's going to be traveling to St. Paul, Minnesota as well as St. Louis, Missouri, as you know, two battleground states for election 2004. He's not only going to be raising money for his own campaign, but also for Senator Christopher Bond. That is going to be a hotly contested race. But we are told that the president is going to be giving an address before the American Legion.

And essentially what his aides have come out and said over the past 48 hours is that yes, they recognize that there is a greater terrorist threat inside of Iraq at this time, but it does not require additional U.S. forces. Rather they are hoping that foreign military will contribute, will be allowed to rotate in and allow some of those American troops to rotate out.

Another thing the administration is working on is a U.N. Security Council resolution, some language that might give those countries some political cover to get involved -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, reporting for us from Crawford. Thank you.

And we're going to go directly now to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld taking questions from a group there.


WOODRUFF: We're going to right back with INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment, focusing on Howard Dean and other criticism of Bush administration policy in Iraq.

We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: We just heard from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in Texas. And we stay in Texas for the top headlines in our Monday "Campaign News Daily."

Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean is campaigning in the Lone Star State this afternoon. Dean's stops in the president's home state, include a fund-raiser in Austin and an evening rally in San Antonio. Howard Dean has some kind words for the would-be presidential candidate and retired Army General Wesley Clark.

Dean tells CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he were to win the Democratic nomination, he would consider Clark as a potential running mate. Dean described Clark as, quote, "very bright, very capable and very thoughtful." General Clark has said that he'll make a decision soon about his own potential run for the White House.

Well, Howard Dean has provided one surprise after another for members of his party and for political observers. Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" is with us now from Austin, Texas.

Ron, with Howard Dean making a number of campaign stops around the country right now, how much is he shaking up this Democratic race?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Judy, this is a very imposing demonstration of nationwide organizational strength that Howard Dean is in the midst of. Starting Saturday night in Falls Church, Virginia, Sunday into huge crowds in Oregon and Seattle where maybe as many as 8,000 or more people that turned out to see him, he is really putting on a demonstration of nationwide reach that it's not clear any of the other candidates could match at this point.

You know, historically the outsider, dark horse candidate the way Dean began this race, they were forced to focus all of their energy virtually and all of their money on Iowa and New Hampshire. And what Dean is doing with this trip is making a statement that he is a nationwide candidate who can compete everywhere.

WOODRUFF: So does that make him the frontrunner?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, not quite yet, but certainly he's putting together a lot of assets.

Look, I don't think any other candidate in the field could generate the kinds of crowds that we're seeing on this tour. And Judy, the other thing that's going on is that once again they are showing their ability to raise money on the Internet. As part of this four-day "Sleepless Summer" tour that he's engaged in, he set a goal of raising $1 million on the Internet. And as of 3:00 today, they had posted on their Web site they had exceeded $600, 000. Many people in the field feel that he's going to raise even more money in the period that ends September 30 than he did in the period that ends June 30. And if that's the case, there may be people out there calling him the frontrunner by the end of this financial quarter.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, so in any event, whether he is the front-runner or not, what effect in his candidacy and what he's doing -- what effect is that having on the other Democrats?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it's really putting them on the defensive. As you know, I mean, the most recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show him now ahead in both states. Now that's in part because he's advertising more heavily than the others. But if Dean can go ahead and win those two, it really puts everyone else back on their heels. IT might become very hard to stop him.

I think all the campaigns are trying to figure out how they position themselves vis-a-vis Dean. Kerry has been attacking him on taxes, saying that by calling for the appeal of the entire Bush tax cut, Dean would hurt the middle class.

Joe Lieberman has been going at him from the other direction on the right, saying that Dean's opposition to the war in Iraq would make him a weak general election candidate. I think you're going to see in the next few weeks, as a result in part of what he's demonstrating over these few days, all of the candidates looking to position themselves vis-a-vis Dean.

WOODRUFF: What do you make of Dean's remark about General Clark? Does that -- is there any significance to that?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think all -- look, to all of the Democratic candidates, I think General Clark is going to be attractive as a vice presidential possibility.

I thought what was even more significant in what he said yesterday on Wolf's show was he didn't close the door, Judy, on opting out of the public financing system. Right now, all the Democrats are scheduled to participate in this which would limit their spending to $50 million during the primaries. Dean seems to be so confident in his fund-raising that he left open the possibility of opting out, which would deny him matching funds, but allow him to spend unlimited sums through the spring and summer if he is the nominee to counter what President Bush is doing, who has already said he's not going to participate in the public financing system. That to me was a really dramatic statement of confidence in where they're going even more than musing about who his vice president might be.

WOODRUFF: Right, but that would assume that he would raise a heck of a lot of money between now and the end of the primaries.

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely, Judy. Look, if he is willing to think about opting out of the matching system, that would be extraordinary because he is generating almost all of thinks contributions in small matchable amounts.

I mean, he'd be get giving up a lot of money. That would make a statement that they believe that they have created an ongoing ability to mine money out of the Internet that would be worth giving up millions.

Maybe they don't get there but the fact that they're talking about it at all, I think, is an indication of how confident they are of their financial power.

Some of the other Democrats are worried that he's going to blow the doors off the field in the third quarter. They're still downplaying expectations. But as I said, they're indicating they believe they can raise as much as they did in the second quarter when they out raised everyone else in the field.

So really it's an extraordinary transformation at all from the outsider darkhorse candidate to the one who may have the most financial and potentially organizational resource of anyone in the field, though not yet the endorsements.

WOODRUFF: All right. Ron Brownstein out on the campaign trail in Texas. Thanks, Ron. Appreciate it. Talk to you later.

Political help for Arnold Schwarzenegger out front and behind the scenes. Up next, the high-profile governor and the former mayor expected to endorse Schwarzenegger. And the campaign adviser known for helping political outsiders.


WOODRUFF: Now we turn to the California recall, which is proving to be a lot like the state, new trends pop up all the time. Arnold Schwarzenegger's camp is more eager than ever, apparently, to see his top Republican rivals drop out of the governor's race, just as conservative Bill Simon did over the weekend. That's after "The Los Angeles Times" poll showed Schwarzenegger trailing Democrat Cruz Bustamante by 13 points.

Meantime, Schwarzenegger's camp is getting some high-powered help. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is expected to back the actor's campaign now that Simon is out of the race.

CNN has learned that New York Governor George Pataki's team is planning a $1,000 a person fund-raiser for Schwarzenegger in Manhattan.

And the Schwarzenegger team announced over the weekend that former McCain campaign official and veteran advertising guru Mike Murphy has joined the campaign.

As for California Democrats, we have confirmed that former President Bill Clinton plans to stomp with Gray Davis when he's in California next month. It's another boost for Davis after that "L.A. Times" poll suggested the effort to remove him may be losing some steam with support for the recall dipping to 50 percent among likely voters.

Still ahead, presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman joins a growing list of candidates using contests to reel in supporters. We'll explain when INSIDE POLITICS continues.


WOODRUFF: These are pictures coming in to us just now from Boston where seven people were seen jumping off of a cargo ship in Boston's harbor. Five of those seven people have been detained and are in custody. Two others are missing.

We don't know much more than that in terms of where the ship is from, that apparently is the ship now docked at Boston Harbor.

Again, seven people were seen jumping off the cargo ship. Five of them have now been detained. They are in custody. Two others are missing. CNN bringing you more information as we get it.

Well, Nevada Republican Congressman Jim Gibbons has decided not to run against Democratic Senator Harry Reid next year. A potential Gibbons-Reid matchup had promised to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races. Gibbons says his desire to work on House committees against terrorism prompted him not to seek the GOP nomination for the Senate. More politics in a moment. But now let's turn to Mary Snow for a check of the numbers on Wall Street -- Mary.



WOODRUFF: It seems the thing to do this campaign season is to have contests. Well, now presidential hopefuls Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt are having their own.

Lieberman's "See Joe's Car and Go See Nomar" contest asked New Hampshire residents to call in if they spot the famous "Joemobile" before Saturday. Those who do can enter to win tickets to see Nomar Garciaparra and the Boston Red Sox play on September 14.

Dick Gephardt is calling on Iowans to help him find the most delicious slice of pie in the state in unveiling "The Great Gephardt Iowa Pie Challenge," Gephardt is asking Iowans to offer suggestions on where to find the best pie. His Web site will feature pie recipes from all over the state.

Surely you know baseball better than I do. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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