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Democrats Take Hard Line Against Bush

Aired September 5, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: How vulnerable is he? Our new poll examines the president's soft spot and whether Democrats are hitting him where it hurts.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who says "bring 'em on"...


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: a miserable failure. Is a miserable failure.

ANNOUNCER: There's no debate about it. The '04 Democrats took a hard line against Mr. Bush. But did any of them score points last night?

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Howard Dean, for instance, is -- has a temperament that is unfit for -- to be president of the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Tom DeLay isn't one to mince his words. Wait until you hear what else the House majority leader has to say.

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


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

While President Bush is stumping for votes in Indiana, our new poll out this hour suggests that his re-election is hardly a sure thing. While 29 percent of Americans say they will definitely vote for Mr. Bush in 2004, 41 percent say they'll definitely vote against him. And 25 percent say they could go either way.

In head-to-head matchups with the Democratic presidential candidates, Mr. Bush beats them all, including the new leader of the pack in our national poll, John Kerry. Kerry apparently got a bounce from his formal campaign announcement this week, and has moved ahead of Joe Lieberman. Howard Dean is in third place, the only other Democrat in the double digits. The '04 Democrats and the president are doing battle today over the latest unemployment numbers. The jobless rate slipped to 6.1 percent last month, a slight improvement the White House calls promising. But at the same time, companies slashed 93,000 workers from their payrolls.

John Kerry issued a statement saying -- quote -- "George Bush insults every American who has been thrown out of work when he comes back from his vacation and claims that he is turning the economy around."

Our Congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl, has more Democratic reaction from the Hill.

Jon, have the Democrats found their rallying point against this president?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly have, Judy. And the figure that they are seizing on are those 93,000 jobs lost in the month of August. That's the seventh straight month where the economy has lost jobs.

Democratic presidential candidates -- you mentioned John Kerry. But it's not just Kerry. They all came out eagerly, almost instantly with statements on the job losses. One typical statement with a bit of hyperbole came from Joe Lieberman, who said that with all the job losses, quote -- "There will be only one job left to cut by November 2004, George Bush's."

And this eagerness to attack the president on the economy reflects the conventional wisdom among Democratic strategists that despite all the sound and fury we've been hearing about Iraq in recent weeks, if Democrats are going to beat the president, it is going to be because of his handling of the economy. That's why, in a strange way, when Democrats hear bad news on the economy, it's really good news for Democratic presidential candidates.

Here on Capitol Hill, Democrats dispatched senator and former CEO of Goldman Snacks -- Sachs, Jon Corzine, to give his response to the economic news.


SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: This is one of the worst sets of economic formulations anybody could ever imagine. And the real pain of this comes in human life who are unemployed or are losing economic buying power by a reduction in wage rates.


KARL: But Republicans point to other good news on the economy, including robust or newly increasing economic growth figures, a fairly strong stock market in recent weeks, and they say that the jobs figure is a lagging indicator that jobs will come soon enough.

Although, Judy, I can tell you, there is Democratic apprehension -- I mean, Republican apprehension about this. One senior Democratic senator -- I'm sorry, Republican senator told reporters privately today that he heard a lot back home over the August recess about people upset about the loss in jobs -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Jon Karl at the Capitol. And by the way, the economy was the first thing...

KARL: Judy?

WOODRUFF: ...I asked House Majority Leader Tom DeLay about. We're going to show that interview to you in just a few minutes.

The president's economic record was a top target during the first big Democratic debate of the race to '04. From New Mexico, our Candy Crowley tells us what party leaders are saying about the debate the day after.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: National Democratic Party leaders were all smiles after last night's debate, and why not? Their job is not to elect a specific Democrat to the Oval Office. Their job is to elect any Democrat to the Oval Office.

First step, bringing down George Bush's high approval ratings, and last night was all about that.

DEAN: This president is going to have to go back to the very people he humiliated, our allies.

GEPHARDT: This president is a miserable failure. He is a miserable failure.

CROWLEY: There is some Democratic Party uneasiness about all of this Bush bashing. After all, this is a sharply divided country, a pretty evenly-divided country, and some Democrats worry that swing voters will be turned off by the sharp anti-Bush rhetoric.

One of them, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who says he'd prefer to hear the Democratic message about homeownership and economic growth.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: I'm a little concerned just it reflects the criticism of the president. But nonetheless, it is starting to emerge with policies on manufacturing, high-tech, that I did hear from the candidates.

CROWLEY: Just before the debate, front-runner Howard Dean joked that he had brought his body armor, but he didn't need it. Only very soft elbows every once in a while.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd say that the Bush recession would be followed by the Dean depression.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can talk about balancing the budget in Vermont, but Vermont doesn't have a military. And if you're not going to cut the military, and you're talking about balancing the budget, then what are you going to do about social spending? Hello?

CROWLEY: It was obvious at the end of the evening that Howard Dean, win or lose the nomination, has already made a big imprint on the campaign of '04. No longer is President Bush's role as commander- in-chief a verboten topic, and anti-Bush rhetoric, the sharper the better.

KERRY: In fact, I think the only jobs created in the United States of America by George Bush are the nine of us running for president of the United States.

CROWLEY: There was some surprise in the audience and among the campaign staff that Howard Dean was not the subject of more sharp rhetoric. However, there are five more debates to come, and the closer those debates get to the all-important Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, the more likely Dean is to be the center of attention.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


WOODRUFF: More likely, indeed.

Well, now another target for Democrats, the president's handling of the situation in Iraq. Today, Secretary of State Colin Powell championed a U.N. resolution that would broaden the multinational force in Iraq.

Our Bill Schneider's been watching Powell and the administration's evolving policy -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, getting the Bush administration or any administration to change course is an accomplishment. It takes political skill and diplomatic finesse. With that rare combination of talents, you just might win "The Political Play of the Week."


(voice-over): Over the summer, more and more people have been asking, is the U.S. in over its head in Iraq? More Americans in Iraq have died since the war than during the war. Bombings of the Jordanian embassy, U.N. headquarters, a Shiite mosque, escalating costs, mounting criticism from Democrats.

DEAN: We cannot do this by ourselves. We cannot have an American occupation and reconstruction.

SCHNEIDER: For months, Secretary of State Colin Powell has patiently advocated bringing the United Nations into the reconstruction effort, an idea that makes some members of the administration nervous. DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: What is the likelihood of our forces serving under a blue-hatted United Nations leadership? And I think that's not going to happen.

SCHNEIDER: No, it's not. But something else did happen this week.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, the president has authorized me and through me, Ambassador Negroponte, to begin consultations with Security Council members on a new resolution.

SCHNEIDER: A resolution to create a multinational force, a move that would give the U.N. some political control.

That's quite a shift for the Bush administration. But it may be the only way to get other countries to participate and share the cost.

According to "The Washington Post," Powell did it by getting the support of his old military colleagues.

POWELL: There is absolutely no substance to this mischievous, fictional story about Colin Powell and the joint chiefs of staff colluding in it way. We didn't do it, and it wasn't necessary. We didn't need to put this pressure on the president.

SCHNEIDER: That's called diplomacy. Don't show off your clout, let others say, Why, what a good idea.

RUMSFELD: I think the idea of going to the U.N., seeking an appropriate resolution, possibly having the effect of broadening somewhat the coalition, although it's quite broad at the present time, is a good thing for Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: And a very diplomatic "Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER: Despite all the niceties, there's a consensus here in Washington, a good week for Powell, a bad week for Rumsfeld. And maybe a new direction for Iraq -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tells us how he sees a bright side on issues from the situation in Iraq to America's jobless rate.

Another action-packed week in the California recall. Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan will size up the race and Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign.

And later...


EDWARDS: The president goes around the country speaking Spanish. The only Spanish he speaks when it comes to jobs is "hasta la vista."



WOODRUFF: We will put an accent on the Democratic debate.


WOODRUFF: A panel of three federal judges today refused to block the California recall election, denying claims that the vote will disenfranchise minority voters.

Also today, Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to the California Chamber Of Commerce Board, and later received the chamber's official endorsement.

After his speech, Schwarzenegger denied claims by some interest groups that he is insensitive to women. Several women's groups plan to proceed test outside his campaign headquarters this afternoon.

Governor Gray Davis, meanwhile, repeated his claims that a new Schwarzenegger TV ad has false information about the state budget crisis.


GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: And that is a baldface lie. It shows how little he knows about the state's finances. In fact, we have a balanced budget this year that's generating about $6 million more a day than we're spending, and will leave us with about a $2 billion reserve at the end of the fiscal year June 30.


WOODRUFF: For his part, Schwarzenegger said yesterday that he -- quote -- "looked at the numbers very carefully before approving the ad."

INSIDE POLITICS returns in a moment.


WOODRUFF: Earlier today on Capitol Hill, I spoke with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. We started by talking about the economy and unemployment, and I began by asking him what he would say to those Americans who are either out of work or worried about losing their jobs.


DELAY: Well, anybody can find bad news. I like to look at the good news. And the good news is that all the economic indicators are better than anybody's predicting. And the second quarter, they were predicting a very low growth rate. It came out to be over 3 percent growth. People are talking right now that it might be 5 percent in the third quarter. When you get over 3 percent, then that's when the jobs are being created.

What I see is we're coming out of a sluggish economy. And it's very exciting. Yes, we have a manufacturing problem. That's partly because of the sluggish economy. But there are other factors that are -- there's a shift in what's going on in America, and it is undercutting some of our manufacturing base. And we have to address that. But -- and we are.

WOODRUFF: So you would just say to these people be patient?

DELAY: No. I'm saying these people work hard. Keep working. We are the best in the world at building an economy and sustaining an economy.

And that's what's happening right now. We're coming out of a sluggish economy and we ought to be excited about it and look forward to a bright future.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you -- turn to a very different subject, and that is Iraq. Clearly some implications for the economy, but a different direction. It is not only Democrats now, but it's Republicans also who are raising questions about the direction of post-war Iraq.

DELAY: Well, again, I look at the bright side. We're winning the war on terror. The battle of Iraq is part of that war. The progress that's going on the ground in Iraq -- I was in Baghdad and I saw it. It is amazing.

Yes, there's violence in the region, and the war on terror continues. The president has told the nation that we're at war, and we're at war with terrorists. We're at war with terrorists in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Israel, around the world. This war is not over. And we have had some problems. We're learning how to fight this war on terror.

WOODRUFF: Here's another thing Democrats are saying these days, and I know you're very aware of it. Some of them at the national level singling you out, Tom DeLay, as a polarizing figure, saying that your criticisms of the Democratic presidential candidates is helping them.

There's a spokesman for Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, who said -- quote -- "Every time Tom DeLay attacks us, our supporters rally behind us. "Among Democrats, these men," speaking of you and Karl Rove, "are despised. These attacks are going to crystallize, that we are prominent this race, and we welcome them." Is this the effect that you want to have on Democrats?

DELAY: The only thing I disagree with them over is they're prominent in this race. It may be energizing their base, which is very small, and I don't know. But you can't hide from the political arena. Howard Dean, for instance, is -- has a temperament that is unfit for -- to be president of the United States. Finally we have a president that is even-handed, very tolerant, shows more leadership, has brought class and culture back to the White House, and yet -- and Howard Dean comes on the political scene, and all he can do is call people names, rant and rave -- you know, that's -- that's a temperament that I think it's important for people like me to stand up and say, well, look at his temperament and look at George W. Bush's temperaments. Which one do you want to see in the White House?


WOODRUFF: Tom DeLay, the House majority leader. I spoke with him a few hours ago at the Capitol.

Up next, our regulars Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile sort through a very eventful week in politics.

Also, President Bush gets ready to increase his campaign treasury. We're going to preview his fund-raising plans ahead in our "Campaign News Daily."



WOODRUFF: With me now, Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause, Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore.

Let's talk about last night's presidential debate. Bay, did anything change in this race as a result?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRES., AMERICAN CAUSE: No, nothing whatsoever changed, which means that Dean wins it because if you're a front runner and nobody's taking shots at you and nobody makes a mistake, and he particularly made no mistakes, then he continues to be in a very strong position, I think.

Wouldn't you agree, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, FRM. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, you know, Dean has a lot of shine and no one took the gloss off him. Although they took the gloves off, I think, on President Bush. Democrats are united. It was a very spirited debate, it was almost like a revival, I thought, because the Democrats are energetic. And they all came out with one single focus last night, and that is George Bush must leave the White House.

WOODRUFF: But if these other Democrats want to challenge Howard Dean from his, as you say, glossy front runner, almost front runner position, Bay, don't they have to do something to shake the race up?

BUCHANAN: There's no question they have to do something.

Now, what I understand is behind the scenes during this debate, their staff was passing information that's not too favorable to Dean, exposing him for some of the things he said that may be hypocritical. But they're going to have to do that a little more publicly if they're going to bring him down, in my opinion.

So at some stage they're going to have to turn and take the gloves off. But the problem is the person that hits Dean may hurt him, but he also may hurt himself. So each one of them is waiting for someone else to do the dirty work so they might benefit as the third candidate.

BRAZILE: Well I don't think that hurts Howard Dean. Howard Dean has a following that really doesn't care what Washington politicians think of Howard Dean.

So in order for them to get some traction and put their peddle to the metal, so to speak, and get their campaigns back on the right road to the White House, they need to start talking about what they'd do differently and how they could win against George Bush.

Dean still has a problem with electability and convincing Democrats that he can win the general election. And until that time...

BUCHANAN: But he has real enthusiasm in that campaign. Unless they give those people a reason to turn and say, Maybe we should look somewhere else, no one's going to beat Dean.

And Dean's got an issue. I'll tell you, Judy, that issue on trade, that the president's policies are not fair on trade, is one that will resonate. He say it's cost us -- free trade has cost this country jobs. And there's no question it has. That will resonate in key states. And I think it's a winning issue in a primary as well.

WOODRUFF: Used to be Dick Gephardt's issue.


BRAZILE: Well, he's taken health care from a lot of candidates and they've taken some things from Howard Dean.

But I think overall John Kerry appeared last night to have the steady hand. He came -- I think he came across last night very presidential in trying to present somewhat of a nuance position, again, on the war. This time, I think, he got -- he made his point.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about California. You know, the man getting all the attention still out there is Arnold Schwarzenegger. But what's really going on the ground out there, Bay?

BUCHANAN: Well, the problem Arnold's facing now is the obvious one, is the Republicans are splitting their vote. He's going to have a hard time with conservatives, he's wrong on the social issues -- from their perspective. And there's a lot of conservatives out there that are really upset that people haven't gone with Tom McClintock because he's a first-class candidate, and they thought it was really his turn.

But I think Schwarzenegger's problem is he's not going to get some of those conservatives. He has to decide how he's going to get just a few of them so he can beat the Democrats. And the way I think he could do that is be stronger on no new taxes, much tougher on tax issue.

And on top of that is the immigration issue. That will start to peel off those conservatives because those are key issues for them.

BRAZILE: Arnold has peaked. I don't think he can afford to skip another debate and leave it to his handlers to put out statements rather than face people and tell them exactly what he'd do differently.

I think Gray Davis is back in the driver's seat. The recall has lost momentum. Now that they've seen that the strong man can't really stand up to Arianna and Bustamante in a debate, I think they're going to go back with Gray Davis.

WOODRUFF: You think he's been hurt by not participating?

BUCHANAN: I think Donna has an excellent point. I think a lot of people looked to McClintock and said, My gosh, this is a terrific candidate. And people became somewhat enthusiastic.

Arnold is not there to say, Look, I can compete with him. Next debate, everybody's going to be looking at those two candidates.

WOODRUFF: Quick last word.

BRAZILE: I think it's still a no on the recall and yes on Bustamante.


WOODRUFF: All right. Bay and Donna, this Friday.

Well, presidential politics lead the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." The Teamsters Union is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and about 4,000 of its members are gathering in Washington this weekend. Gephardt is scheduled to address the group. He has already won the union's endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sources tell CNN the teamsters' leader, James Hoffa, plans to launch an aggressive and unprecedented fund raising drive for Gephardt at this weekend's event.

President Bush wraps up his visit to Indiana today with an evening fund raiser to benefit his reelection campaign. Tonight's event is expected to raise about $1 million. Mr. Bush already has about $56 million in his campaign account.

Looking ahead, Mr. Bush also has September fund raisers scheduled in Nashville, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Chicago.

Still ahead, is anyone fluent in a language of Democratic debates? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Here's something President Bush in his would-be Democratic rivals have in common. They've been known to habla espanol in their appeals to Latino voters. The Spanish lines were flying when the Democrats debated in front of a Hispanic audience in New Mexico. Some uttered more fluently than others.


KUCINICH: Yo creo es muy importante.

EDWARDS: Hasta la vista.

LIEBERMAN: Muchos prolabras (sic) pocos obras.

DEAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) todos los ninos menos dieciocho anos en el cuidad.


WOODRUFF: Since I don't speak Spanish, I can't translate any of it. You be the judge yourself.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. On Monday, INSIDE POLITICS will be live at the Supreme Court where there will be a special session to hear arguments in the campaign finance reform case.

But for now, I'm Judy Woodruff. Have a great weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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