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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

9/11 Remebered; Interview With Hillary Clinton

Aired September 11, 2003 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We remember lives lost, we remember the heroic deeds, we remember the compassion and the decency of our fellow citizens on that terrible day.

ANNOUNCER: Two years of challenges, two years of change. On this September 11 our new poll shows many Americans see their president differently.

A famous face in the somber crowd. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton shares her concerns about what hasn't happened since the 9/11 attacks.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We need as high a priority on defending us at home as the president places on what we're doing in Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: Dean and Clark meet up. What did the presidential candidate and the potential candidate talk about? Did the words runningmate come up?

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. I'm at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.'s Ground Zero on this day two years ago. 9/11 memorial services here and in New York City were designed to honor the terror victims and to help comfort survivors.

But in the leadup to an election year, the political aspect cannot be overlooked. The attacks on America rallied people behind their commander-in-chief. Two years after public opinion has taken a sharp turn, apparently. Our Bill Schneider looks at our new poll out this hour, the first to measure the response of Mr. Bush's weekend speech to the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It didn't work. That is the unambiguous conclusion of a poll taken in the days following President Bush's speech Sunday night. Before the speech, the president's job approval rating was 59 percent in the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. After his rating dropped suddenly to 52 percent. That's His lowest rating since -- note the date -- September 10, 2001.

Why the drop? One word: Iraq.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We knew that it was going to be a lot of money and it was going to take a lot of time. But this was the first strong message that the president put out like that.

SCHNEIDER: Approval of the president's handling of Iraq dropped from 57 percent to 51 percent.

BUSH: Two years ago I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts and many places. Iraq is now the central front.

SCHNEIDER: People don't get that connection. Approval of the president's handling of terrorism remains high. Much higher than his rating on Iraq. And that rating hardly changed.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What President Bush gave the American people on Sunday night was a price tag, not a plan.

SCHNEIDER: The public agrees. Strikingly, after the president laid out his policy, the number of Americans who felt the bush administration does not have a clear plan in Iraq went up from 54 percent before the speech to 59 percent afterwards.

And what about that price tag?

BUSH: I will soon submit to Congress a request for $87 billion.

SCHNEIDER: Yikes, said the Democrats.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's costing a billion dollars a week. He needs to get the help from the international coalition that he should have gotten months ago.

SCHNEIDER: Yikes, say the voters who balk at the prospect of spending $87 billion in Iraq when the U.S. economy is shaky.

Our polls suggest President Bush is in political trouble. Before his speech Sunday night, he had a 12-point edge over an unnamed Democrat for re-election. After the speech, that lead shrank to 4 points. Too close to call.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: There is a little good news for President Bush. Nearly 60 percent of the public still says Iraq was worth going to war over. The public hasn't turned against the policy, they've turned against the game plan, and the price tag -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, which must be causing some talk at the White House. And so let's talk some more about the numbers with our senior White House correspondent John King.

John, what are those numbers likely to mean for the president's '04 strategy?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the White House and campaign, the Bush/Cheney campaign say they don't have to change the strategy at all. They acknowledge some troublesome numbers for the president in this poll. But they also say that they are taking and that we should take the long view.

The Bush campaign for example would cite that at this point in 1995 Bill Clinton's approval rating was just 44 percent. Ronald Reagan's rating heading into his re-election at this point for his first term was 47 percent. Of course, Ronald Reagan went on to win 49 states. President Clinton won handedly against Bob Dole as well.

They also say here at the White House that every incumbent president in the past 25 years has been behind against a hypothetical opponent at this point in their first term. Mr. Bush though quite narrowly is still ahead.

And what they are trying to say is that this president has durable poll numbers. Of all the public polls taken during the Bush presidency they have crunched them all together and they say Mr. Bush has an average approval rating of 55 percent. Not great, but not bad especially given the circumstances of the 2000 campaign election.

They note that President Bush still runs way ahead of the Democrats when it comes to the issue of terrorism. Judy, they believe in the long view, he's in pretty good shape heading into reelection especially if you look at a state-by-state analysis across the country. They acknowledge of course that one year from now the polls will be much more important and that this president's going to have to show the voters that the economy is better and that situation on the ground in Iraq is much better -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well as we well know, each poll its a snapshot of opinion on that particular day. All right, John King at the White House.

Well 9/11 was a defining moment in the Bush presidency. But a lot has happened since then. And on this anniversary, even the president may be wondering how voters will feel about him a year from now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): For George W. Bush, a low-key remembrance of a pivotal event.

BUSH: I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you and the people...

(CHEERING)

BUSH: ... and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.

WOODRUFF: September 11 is the nucleus of the Bush presidency. A rallying cry for an up-till-then unfocused administration. A justification of twin wars. An explanation for a foundering economy. And a chance for an untested commander-in-chief to establish himself as a strong leader.

9/11 also reshaped the nation's priorities. As Americans monitored color-coded alerts, foreign policy moved from the back bench of public concerns to the forefront, the threat of terrorism at home giving new resonance to events overseas.

And that created a dilemma for Democrats whose found it increasingly difficult to criticize the president.

BUSH: The Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Not interested in the security of the American people? You tell Senator Inouye he's not interested in the security of the American people. You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they're not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous. Outrageous.

WOODRUFF: Democratic critics of the war in Iraq were cast as unpatriotic and insensitive to the shifting goals of the nation. In recent weeks with the conflict ongoing, that began to change.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I question the judgment of those who led us into the conflict, this unfinished conflict, that has made us unbalanced not more secure but less so.

WOODRUFF: When pressed to defend his strategy, the president again summoned the specter of the attacks.

BUSH: There will be no going back to the era before September the 11th, 2001, to false comfort in a dangerous world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Now we turn to the Democrats whose want Mr. Bush's job. Dick Gephardt moves into first place in our national poll of registered Democrats. Joe Lieberman, who led the pack last month, has fallen to third place behind Gephardt and Howard Dean. This poll includes would-be candidate Wesley Clark who gets 10 percent support.

Talk about Clark's political future is making some headlines today. In fact, I talked to him just last hour. Let's bring in CNN's Jonathan Karl.

Jon, what about Wesley Clark? And what about all the Clark-Dean talk?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well there is that Clark-Dean talk. But first Wesley Clark himself, I am told by several senior Democrats who have spoken to him and who are close to him, is strongly leaning running for president. Many of the people I spoke to today expect that Clark will announce next week that he is running for president, becoming the 10th Democrat to get into the ring.

Now when you spoke to Clark you asked him about the organization he is building. I've told that Clark has been interviewing potential campaign managers and talking to other senior Democratic strategists asking them to come and join his campaign. Does that mean he is running? Well here's what Clark says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FRM. NATO SUPREME ALLIED CMDR.: Well in the military we do parallel planning. And that's the way I've always worked this. And we're going to have to make a decision soon. And if the decision is yes then we want to be ready. And that's the way we're working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So if he decides to run there will be an organization there. One person close to Clark said it is 90-10 that he will run. But there's still a chance that he ducks out of this.

Now, Judy, one of the people that he's hired on is Mark Fabiani, a veteran of the Gore 2000 campaign. I spoke to Mark a little while ago and he said, quote, "He's doing what he needs to do to put himself in a position to run. he'd be a great candidate, but at this point it is theoretical."

Two other names that are some what familiar to those in Democratic politics are Arkansas friends of the former president Bill Clinton. Bruce Lindsey down in Arkansas has said that he would support a Dean (sic) candidacy. And so has Skip Rutherford, who was there when Clinton announced back in October of 1991. Rutherford is now head of the Clinton Presidential Library.

Judy, as for those Dean-Clark stories about the vice presidency. The two men have talked. I am told by people familiar with the talks they talked about the vice presidency, but neither person -- nobody familiar with those talks expects that there's anything to that any time soon. That's way premature.

WOODRUFF: And, Jon, as we heard General Clark say himself just last hour he's focused right now on this decision on whether to run for president. All right, Jon Karl with the latest reporting on Wesley Clark. Jon, thanks very much.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has some tough word for the Bush administration on the 9/11 anniversary. Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile spar over the state of homeland security. And California Governor Gray Davis is set to get more help fighting the recall from big wheels in his party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: What's that?

The California recall leads the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." The three judges on a federal appeals court today appeared troubled by the potential use of punch card ballots in the October 7 recall election. Remember those chads? The judges heard an appeal brought by the ACLU, arguing that the election should be delayed because punch cards used in six counties could mean that thousands of votes will not be counted. All three judges were appointed by Democrats. No word on when they'll issue their decision.

Some big-name Democrats are heading to the Golden State to lend a hand to beleaguered Governor Gray Davis. Former President Bill Clinton will appear with Davis this weekend, starting with a Sunday church service in Los Angeles. Senators and presidential hopefuls John Kerry and John Edwards also plan appearances with Davis next week.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan says that he and Arnold Schwarzenegger had a deal that only one of them should enter the recall race. Riordan made his comments to CNN's Bob Franken just a short time ago. He also indicated that there was a time when he didn't think Schwarzenegger was going to enter the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD RIORDAN (R), FORMER L.A. MAYOR: Now, certainly when Arnold announced, it surprised me. But it pleasantly surprised me. I am so happy for the state, for myself, for everything, that Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: No sign (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that he got the word late. Riordan went on to say that he is eager to help Schwarzenegger win the recall election.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: I spoke with New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton a short time after this morning's service at ground zero. I started by asking her if she agreed with Rudy Giuliani who said this morning he's concerned that Americans might soon forget the events of September 11.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I do. You know, for nearly two years now I have been speaking out about the need for more homeland security. Not only more federal dollars that get directly to our first responders, our hospitals, our EMTs, our public health facilities, but also information that empowers our citizens to be able to act appropriately.

You know, here in New York I think we have demonstrated twice in two years, first on the horrible day of 9/11 and again on the day of the blackout, that, you know, we're able to deal with the reality that we have to confront. And I think it's a question of both financial resources, better deployed and attitudes not only in New York but across the country of being responsible, keeping our eyes open, figuring out what we need to do for ourselves and our families in the event of an emergency.

WOODRUFF: Who need to step up to the plate, senator, and -- and fill the gaps that you are describing?

CLINTON: Well, Judy, I think it's primarily the responsibility of the federal government. And I do think some positive progress has occurred. I applaud that. Because we -- we certainly have done better on our airline security, although we still have work to do there. We have certainly gotten some resources where they're needed with respect to bioterrorism.

But you know, we have a long way to go. And I don't think that the federal government yet has fully comprehended that this is a national problem that needs a national response.

I also believe that they have failed to recognize that we have got to invest a lot more federal dollars into security. You know, down at the ceremony today, I talked to a lot of firefighters and police officers. And to a person, each said, you know, we're not getting what we need. It's almost impossible to believe that two years after 9/11, when I know from the intelligence that is both public and that I see, that New York and Washington remain at the top of the target list, that we would have closed firehouses, that we would have laid off police officers, that hospitals and public health facilities wouldn't yet have what they need, whether it's decontaminant units or other kinds of preparedness, material, equipment and training. And yet that is the fact.

WOODRUFF: Senator, as you know, meanwhile, President Bush this week identifying Iraq as now the frontline of the war on terror, he's asking for $87 additional billions of dollars, to fight that war. Can you do that and at the same time take care of the needs that you are describing?

CLINTON: Well, Judy, I don't think we have a choice. Apparently the administration thinks we do. That number, $87 billion, was a shocker. It was far higher than any of us had been led to expect. But you know, I am going to do everything I can to support our men and women in uniform. I'm very proud that we are fielding not only the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drumm in northern New York, but many guard and reserve units. And, you know, New York, just like the rest of America, is really doing its part in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

But we cannot forget the homefront. And the reason that the president is making what I consider a false choice is because he has such bad economic and budget policies that we have driven our country into deficit and debt and we're not prepared to do what it takes to get us ready, to make sure every police officer and firefighter in this country has the equipment and the training that he or she need to make sure our borders and our ports are secure.

You know, I know we can't get to 100 percent. That's humanly impossible. But I want to go to bed at night thinking we have done everything we can. And when I listen to the experts who are the firefighters, the police officers, the other people who are going to be responding to those calls to action, I don't think we are ready. And we need as high a priority on defending us at home as the president places on what we're doing in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: And Senator, you've let the president know this?

CLINTON: I just did.

I have said this for two years, Judy. You know, I introduced the first legislation to ask for homeland security money to get to cities and counties. And so far it's fallen in on deaf ears. And I just hope that as we commemorate this second anniversary, we start paying attention to the real needs for defending ourselves here and our own borders.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton a little earlier today.

Coming up next, as Americans come together to remember 9/11, Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile draw battle lines over homeland security and more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Bay, to you first. Is Hillary Clinton right when she says president Bush, two years after 9/11, has let the country down when it comes to funding homeland security?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: She's absolutely wrong on that count.

I mean, the president has done just a terrific job. We have not had an incident in this country with these terrorists in the last two years. So obviously, this is an enormous success story. If you listen to what he's done, there's 2/3 of the al Qaeda operatives have been killed or captured. He's got their money all locked up. He's had-- uncovered cells across this country.

We've really done a great job. And there is no question -- I would agree with Hillary, more could be done. And there's a lot of dispute with governors and mayors as to who should get the money. That's going to have to be worked out. But you can't argue that the president has now done a great job when you look at the fact is we have not suffered from a terrorist attack since 9/11.

WOODRUFF: Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I believe the president and his administration can do more. They can start by creating a partnership with state and local governments to share with these governments the list, the terror list that comes out. Right now they don't even have the technology to share this information with state and local governments. We're only inspecting a tiny fraction of the ports that come into our cities every time. Six million containers come in. We're not even looking in all of those containers.

So I think the administration can do more by sharing information, by training, by giving first responders the resources they need so they can get the job done. The best way to honor those who gave their lives two years ago, is by putting resources right here in this country so that we can protect and secure our homeland.

BUCHANAN: You know, Judy, the number one...

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, let me-- very quickly ask you about these new poll numbers today. Has the glow worn off of 9/11 for President Bush? Very quickly.

BUCHANAN: No, absolutely not. He's out there talking -- has real inspiration talking about the spirit of Americans and the courage of our people. This will be a very good day for him. And it will be again next year. There is no question people remember him as a real hero, somebody that stepped forward and had real steel in his spine as a result -- as a response to 9/11.

BRAZILE: The shine is off. And the shine should have been off a long time ago, because this is not about the president's personality or his popularity. This is about protecting and securing the American people. And people want results. They don't want to just talk rhetoric. They want results. And it's time that the president work with both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill and resolve our situation in Afghanistan and Iraq so that we can go back to being a normal country, so to speak.

BUCHANAN: Well, there's no better results than having no attacks.

WOODRUFF: Bay and Donna, we're going to have to leave it -- we're going to have to leave it there. But we will see you both next week.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: And that's it for this special 9/11 edition of INSIDE POLITICS. From the Pentagon, I'm Judy Woodruff.

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